The Whistler's Dream

Everybody needs a dream...
Mine is to go to Oklahoma and play whistles for The Pioneer Woman. (Having been invited, not in a "creepy stalker" kind of way, for the record.) Heck, I'd play in a pup tent in the backyard for the joy of the cows and critters. What can I say? I'm a fan.
Everybody needs a dream...

Random Fluffy Foto!

Random Fluffy Foto!
Writing in bed, and Beka editing by ear. Really. The ear typed some letters. Really.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Music = Screwdriver

Although this is a music-related post, there is a broader point of application or at least reflection... Feel free to skip to the end, or strap on your waders and dive in. Your choice.

Dedicated to my musical friends from college and at First Cov, with whom I make sweet music indeed, and to Amelia, Tina, and Suzie - friends who know the joy of jamming on the keyboard that uses letters instead of notes.


A while back, a friend asked me to come over, hang out, and jam. No, I'm not talking about a session of laying down fruit preserves, but rather laying down some tuneage just for the sheer joy of playing music.

One of my favorite e-card pictures from Facebook has a surgeon writing a note, and it says:

"Cause of death - laid down the boogie and played that funky music 'till he died."

Hee hee hah hah ho ho hee haw *snort* woo...

Anyhoot, a jam session was in the offing. And although other factors meant I couldn't go, I realized something when thinking about going...

I have no idea what to do at a jam session.

Ok - I know "what" to do. I do have some fleeting proficiency at a couple of tooters and twangers, and could add some various and sundry sounds to the festivities.

Perhaps it's closer to say I don't know "why." Why jam, why just hang out and play?

"Huh?," I hear the assembled masses cry... "Have you slipped a gear or 20? Why make music, you ask? Why just play for fun, Cal ponders? Why not enjoy something that many folks would love to be able to do - just sit and noodle around with a musical instrument, oh fount of ponderings? Why ask why??"

'lemmie 'splain.

Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember - it's one of those things that comes so naturally to me that it's like breathing. Which is a good thing, really, since I lack the discipline to actually work at it and improve my craft - the Lord knew that when He installed such a huge natural gift that I can slide by and be adequate in many settings.

But like so many things that come easily to us, we sometimes make a disconnect. What should be a wonderful, enriching, passionate pursuit instead becomes a tool - one of those basic, routine, everyday things that we can take for granted.

I'm not saying that's a good thing, by the way - not at all.

For me, what gets lost along the way is a love of playing, just for the sake of making music. Instead, I tend to look at the purpose - am I 'shedding for a gig? Am I working up some new songs to add to my setlist? Is this a potential addition to a CD or a single?

Music is a tool, and the only time I really reach for it is when there's something to be hammered, wrenched, chiseled, or otherwise wrangled. I practice for a purpose, not to enjoy the process or even see how it develops me as a musician.

I can't blame the psych meds, either -  I've had this disconnect for some time now. But now in my bipolar world, I need to take a look at it. Extremes are a no-no, and things need to be re-defined - how do they fit into the "new normal."

The heights and depths that the creative process contains can be dangerous ground for me, and I'm exploring how those can be accommodated without losing myself in the extremes - so that I don't get so excited about something I've created that I get overwhelmed with mania, obliterating reality and being consumed with it; or having a session where nothing is coming out nearly as good as I hear it in my head, so I throw everything under the bus, convinced that it's all crap and I'm never going to go near music again - sunk in a black well of depression.

And yes peeps, these extremes are very real for me, they're waiting around most every corner if I'm not careful, and they can rule my life if I'm not mindful and aware.

Somewhere along the way, music lost its role as art, as joy, as something to be played with and experienced, and became something I wield. I use it to help, to serve, to fill in a gap, or even as a source of income.

Now, in the moment of performance, there's a connection. I am present, listening, responding, and enjoying those joyful collisions ("happy accidents") that are a part of making music. I think I can say, with abundant modesty intended, that my playing is expressive and comes from my heart. I don't think that you'd listen and be thinking, "Dang - it just lies there. There's no passion, no emotion. Just a bunch of notes with no feeling."

On more than one occasion, I've been accused of blasting the cobwebs out of the organ pipes, not just for the sake of seeing how much volume I can get the thing to put out, but because whatever song I'm playing demanded a massive response - the sheer weight of the words drew it out of me.

Frankly, sometimes it'd be nice to be able to just lay back and not put everything I have into the music - I'd be able to just float along and not hang myself out on a limb, because my ear and my passion drove me someplace that my abilities and technique couldn't quite pull off.

I musically paint myself into a corner. A lot.

(Especially with a certain couple of hymns that are my archnemesisessusses - ones that I simply have a mental block about and that always give me fits when I try to play 'em. My dear friend Betty knows which ones they are, and always kicks in a few extra horses on the piano to help carry me through them. I love her.)

But as much as I might think about just playing it safe, doing the basics, and thus covering my utter lack of chops (or my previously-huge-but-now-deflated hiney), my heart takes over and kitty climbs the giant redwood once again.


So when I play in public (I hate using the word "perform," since usually I'm not trying to show off, but lend my music to whatever event I'm at, especially when offering my gifts to the Lord in worship services...), I'm there. I'm putting it all out.

I also realize it depends on what role I'm filling - if I'm doing solo stuff, then it's on. Everything I've got, in the moment. (And kitty climbs the tree... again and again and again...) If I'm playing keys or organ for worship, I'm all there but it's a different type of putting everything in - it's all about serving the congregation, being a part of worship, leading where necessary, backing off when needed.

Kitty doesn't climb as many trees. Unless I get really excited, that is. Then it's every cat for himself. Meoooooouch.

If I'm rockin' the bass, I step even further back. I really think the best bass players have enormous servant's hearts - they have to. My job is to create, maintain, and ensure the foundation. I set aside flashy licks (unless that's the exact right thing for that exact right moment, then BRING IT!), I back out of the spotlight, and surrender my individuality to become a part of the structure - the rhythm section.

Can you tell I love to play? Yeah, I thought so.

So why do I draw a blank if I contemplate just sitting down at the keyboard and noodling around? Why do I see just making music for fun as pointless?

Hanging out at a jam session? Why?

I'm honestly asking these questions, by the way. I'm not snarking about it or trying to drag you along as I ramble - I truly don't understand why I don't connect with making music for the sheer joy of it. And if I'm going to have any chance of puzzling through it, this here journal is where that happens.

Aren't you glad?

So here's one thought that I'll kick around my noodle for a bit and see if it bounces...

I love to play, not for music's sake, but for a purpose. And I don't love to make music alone - I prefer the company of others. Whether they are playing along, listening, or we're joining together in worship, I prefer company. Otherwise, I see the whole thing as a little pointless. I'm not sure where along the way I lost the wonder of creating music just for the joy of creating music, but there it is.

It wasn't that long ago, for example, that it was very difficult for me to sit through a service where I wasn't participating musically. I was antsy, I was fidgety, I was unsure of what to do, or what NOT to do. I didn't know how to just dive in and BE.

So, again, there's the disconnect. I was fine and dandy during the message, at least as fine as someone with ADD tendencies but not enough to really go the distance and turn pro with it can be. Sometime, we can talk about focus tools and how I use crochet to keep my head in one place.

"But it is not this day!"

(Yup - that's a movie quote. From the third of the three. That's all the help ya get - but most of my friends already knew where it was from as soon as they read it.)

And, being the wise and wonderful guy he is, Jeremy (our worship leader and master of the subtle art of teaching old dogs like me new tricks...) encouraged me to take a Sunday off once in a while - not to sleep in, but to just BE instead of DOING. And slowly, I'm learning that habit.

With lots of crochet.

("But it is NOT this day!")

So, even though I need and enjoy those times of just being present in worship, instead of doing, the disconnect remains - why do I feel no compulsion or desire to just make music for music's sake?

As I mentioned, I think one factor is that I prefer making music for a purpose, with an objective in mind or an audience to serve. But as all who play know, that's only a part of the wonder that is music...

Perhaps another factor is my instrument of choice for noodling around - keyboard.

I don't play guitar, unlike my friend at Biggby Coffee who often works with a guitar strapped on his back so that when there's an idle moment, he can spin it around, and noodle around to the delight of his loyal customers. Or innocent bystanders. Or complete strangers. Whomever.

I play whistles and such, which are fairly portable, but for some reason I don't find it compelling to aimlessly play around with a lonely melody - seems like pointless wandering to me. I tend to think in harmony - I like interesting chord combinations and the places they go, and the melody usually finds its place as the chord structure weaves its way along whatever path I find.

So one note at a time? Not so much. Same with bass - I love the role the bass plays in the foundation of music, but that always comes later, not at the beginning of a song or arrangement.

So, it's keyboard. That's my axe of choice for noodling. Ever try to carry a piano or organ to a jam session? Not exactly spontaneous-making.

Did I ever tell you about breaking a Honda station wagon by carrying a Fender Rhodes piano and its two companion speakers to gigs? Not to mention the lifelong spinal turmoil from such a pursuit?

Oi to the Vey.

So, maybe I've wound my way to the center of this maze...

I look to the piano or keyboard when I think of just messing around with music. My keyboard is lodged in my studio at home, surrounded by computer, technology, and chaos. Not an ideal setting to just sit down, fool around, and make music for music's sake.

One more log to throw on the pile...

I was thinking about when I WOULD just create, when I would just play for no other purpose than to see where the path would lead - because there was indeed a time like that, and not just in my younger days, when it was all new and fresh. A few years before my first CD came into being, and before the layoff that claimed my sanity for a few months, I would just play and see what happened. And I actually wrote some original songs in that time - ok, as original as I ever get.

(One of my friends teasingly called me "Predictable Cal" in college since, when jamming on keyboard, I'd tend to go with the safe and predictable chords and harmonies. I'd like to think I've moved a little beyond predictable, but one never knows. Being stuck in a rut means never having to say "Where the heck am I?")

Out of that time came the song I'm most proud of (in all humility, I hope), my one-hit-wonder, never to be matched or exceeded - Angelica's Waltz.

It's arguably the best song on my CD of the same name, and the only one that gets played regularly by someone other than myself at gigs, thanks to Musician Maximus Roger MacNaughton. (As for how many people play it off the CD regularly, I have no idea.)

In fact, if I was wise, I'd probably do a Mike Oldfield and release "Angelica II" - basic format, same order of tunes, some new material since your record company owns the rights to the original and you can't duplicate it; then Angelica III, wherein you get the rights back and reproduce the original with fresh new sounds; then The Orchestral Angelica, where all of it is done with an orchestra complete with horribly out of tune tympani, and The Millennium Angelica, some new, some old, and some weird.

(Refer to Tubular Bells, Tubular Bells II, Tubular Bells III, Tubular Bells 2003, The Orchestral Tubular Bells, and The Millennium Bell to see what I'm talking about... it's all the same album for the most part, slightly different in each incarnation.)

Anyway, there was a time, not so long ago in my adult life (or as close to "adult" as I ever get) where I did create music just for the joy of creating music.  But the 2 CDs tanked, my world collapsed, and I guess a lot of creativity got killed. I imagine that I've tried to awaken it, but so far it's conspicuous in its absence.

Can it be recaptured? Not sure. But at least I'm aware of the void left behind...


Now, would you mind if I spin this a different direction that occurred to me a day or two ago as I pondered these things?

Too bad. My blog, my rules. (He said with all lovingkindness to all personkind...)

And just as with all the above ponderings, I'm asking these questions of myself. You're welcome to climb in the coaster with me as we drop down the steep hill...

How's your walk with Christ?

Is it something that you find pleasure in? Just hanging out with Him for the sheer joy of His company? Do you noodle around with the harmony and melody of a life of faith just because it's wonderful to think about?

Does spending time with the Lover of your soul bring a satisfaction, an interlude of perfect beauty to your spirit? Something that happens in the moment, spontaneous, never to be re-created just that way again?

(Yes, there will be other beautiful moments, but they'll all be different - wonderful, but not identical to this moment, this time, this place right here and right now. This is a time that will never have an identical twin.)

Do you have a Jam with Jesus session, not for a purpose, not because church is coming up on Sunday and you have to make sure your chops are ready for the gig, not because your friend is hurting and you have to bring a well-polished and poignant song of faith-as-life to reach their troubled spirit, or because the folks in your small group / Bible study / gang-around-the-water-cooler-who-know-you're-a-Jesus-follower-and-expect-better-of-you are going to be watching, so you'd better bring your A game?

(I apologize for using the phrase "Jam with Jesus." Sounds like something out of The Big Book Of Pithy Phrases For Your Church's Changeable Letter Sign Or High-Tech Display Sign. *shudder*)

(And if a big ol' sign is how your church rolls, I again apologize. Really.)

(Don't bother looking on Amazon - The Big Book Of Pithy Phrases For Your Church's Changeable Letter Sign Or High-Tech Display Sign doesn't exist, as far as I know.)

(If such a book does exist, please let me know in the comments - I'm SO getting it for my Church secretary Mother-In-Law for Christmas...)

Do you dive into your walk with Christ, not for some purpose or goal, but to just spend time and see what happens? To see your life in Him as an opportunity to create beauty, or to acknowledge the beauty He creates in you?

(At some level, I think that's one of the things that draws me to this little table at Biggby... not just to do the work that brings clarity and resolution to my mental state, but to jam, to improvise, to see what happens and where I meet Him along the path. Maybe my Jam with Jesus sessions happen right here, at a keyboard with letters instead of notes.)

(Oops - there it is again. Sorry. Refer to the section above for the expanded version of that apology.)

(I almost wrote "Oops, I did it again." I've never quoted Britney Spears in this blog, and with the Father's kindness, I never shall.)

(Oops - I almost did it... again.)

So, with whatever the Father has placed in your hands, maybe it's time to go noodle around, play for joy, and indulge in time spent with Him.

As for me, I'll set this keyboard aside for today. But I'll be back tomorrow, to see what happens next. In the meantime, my head and heart and imagination will continue to play in the background, thinking of new adventures and conversation.

Hmmm... perhaps it's time to go to my studio, take the dust cover off the keyboard that uses notes instead of letters, and play...

Just to see what happens.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

2,500 Tabs and Lots of Boxes

Ladies and Gentlebeings, we are about to speak in generalities. And of things that might possibly relate more to men and women in a marriage relationship or something along those lines. It might not apply to singledom, it may not apply to you, and it might not be worth your time to stumble through, unless you're reading this on the throne and don't really have anything else to do anyway.

(What? Am I the only one who reads blogs with the iPad balanced on my knees? So I guess you don't want to know about the whole "responding to my email while I have some extra time" thing, huh?

Suffice it to say that if I ever include the secret phrase "from the throne of grace" in an email to you, you'll know to use hand sanitizer after reading it. 

Too much information. Yeah, I know - it should be the subtitle of most everything I write. Yup.)

So much for the prelude of Fluffy Goodness... Let's saddle up, kids.


A cute picture on Facebook explains the mystery of the female mind to men - "It's like a browser with 2,500 tabs open. All. The. Time."

(My beloved has now flipped open her "Cute stuff I've read on FB tab, and is checking because she's pretty sure the number was more like 2,7something something something. Let it go, dear... just let it go.)

And women sometimes smirk or roll their eyes at men, since they are usually thinking about, relating to, or making connection with that many things all at the same time, and the simple male mind just can't. (Or won't.)

"Men..." The long-suffering sigh of advanced intellect putting up with the savage race of a First Contact situation.

Men, on the other hand, kind of scratch their heads, wondering why the heck their wives insist on the kind of documentation that would make the IRS blush when simply considering if it's alright to go out for supper tonight, and what one might be in the mood to eat if we indeed are given the green light to proceed with that plan.

And don't forget about the utter selfishness of having considered such a plan without informing them at least a couple of weeks in advance, so that the male's desire to spontaneously go out and grab a bite might have been considered in the light of schedules, budgetary constraints, possible social inclusions or repercussions, and the other multi-layered filters such an act must be strained through.

"I wish I had known you were thinking about that... I would have _____." (Or, "I wouldn't have ______ if I had known you were going to want to _____.")

(And, for the record, he hadn't been thinking about it for a week or two, he wasn't thinking about it until about 3 minutes ago, and if you were to tell him that it'd be lovely, but you'd already made this plan so you can't, 85% of the time he'd go on his merry way, and wouldn't be thinking about it 3 minutes from now.)

I think it's pretty obvious whose perspective I'm speaking from, by the way. I don't claim to have the slightest understanding how the female mind, the mightiest supercomputer in the universe, capable of making HAL from 2001 say, "Um, dude - I got nothing," functions. At least not well enough to speak from that perspective.

I have enough trouble speaking from my perspective. Even with the able assistance of pharmaceuticals. 

So if the female mind is a browser with 2,500 tabs open, (All. The. Time.) then I think the male mind is at least illumined (but not necessarily) by another Facebook picture that says:

"There are two kinds of people: Those that can extrapolate from incomplete data."

Yup. Pretty much like that.

To put it more succinctly, I'll use the best illustration I've ever heard from the FamilyLife Today Marriage Conference. We went to it many, many years ago, and of all the things we covered, this is the one that stuck:

Men think in boxes. Women think in circles. 

As Professor Praiseworthy used to say at First Cov, "Let's break it down!"

1) Men Think In Boxes

Ok, ladies - get this: Men think in boxes. They think in one box at a time. Does that make them simple-minded, or incapable of multi-tasking?

Nope. Because the kicker is this - they can think in ANY box at ANY time, and switch to ANY OTHER box at ANY time without having the slightest need to know where they just jumped from or how many boxes they jumped over to get to this one. They don't have to get their bearings when they jump into this box, they don't need to figure out how this new pursuit relates to their previous one, and they don't consider how going from box 21 to box 473 makes them feel.

They. Just. Jump.

So instead of women snarking about how simple the male mind is, how a guy can't seem to hold on to a complete thought, how he claims to have not heard something that she told him (or asked him), and how a male will ask the dumbest questions out of the blue, and not even give her any context or preparation to get on the same page with him, women can consider this and appreciate the difference in design.

They. Just. Jump.

A man can think about anything at any time, instantly. No baggage, no considering where he is or the ground he has to cover mentally to get there - he's on the new page right now. You can see the amazing potential in that - he can come alongside you at a moment's notice, he can jump into your thought or question and be right there right away. Unfortunately, there's a problem with that...

See, the box is only so big. So trying to fill it up with all the background, details, processing, or relationships so essential to your thought processes will simply bury him. He can't process the details, and doesn't really need them.

Also, it's hard for us not to just jump in and try to solve your problem the minute our feet hit the box, while you're just saddling up to explain (in depth) the nature of the problem, the complexities of the situation, and the details of the emotional and relational attachments that are essential to understanding the conundrum you find yourself in and are seeking a satisfactory resolution to.

Jump into box. Solve problem. Jump out. That's pretty much the drill.

So if you want a clear, quick perspective, a fast answer, and an immediate solution (including a pair of strong arms to help you execute that solution), point to the box and we'll jump in.

If, on the other hand, you need to sort through the options, consider the details, linger over the emotions attached, and take your time to fully consider it, all the while leaning on a compassionate friend who will allow you to vent all these complexities and deeply listen to each and every nuance, um, sorry. Time to hit Pinterest or Facebook, or call up a friend and chat, to work through those things that are absolutely essential to how your mind works.

(No, ladies - I'm not smugly pointing out flaws or taking a jab at the very complex female mind. Hang in there - your time is coming...)

Men think in boxes. And they can jump from box to box without considering what box they just jumped out of, or caring how many boxes they just jumped over to get here. And there's no extra room in the box for baggage - one item per box, please, with total focus on that one item.

Men can channel surf. Most women can't. 'Nuff said.

2) Women Think In Circles

It wouldn't be too far of a stretch to say "women think in spider webs," but I'm guessing that would be a tad offensive, not to mention the queasy feelings it would produce in this arachnophobe just thinking about it.


If it wasn't so outdated, the better picture would be "women think in Spirograph."

Anybody remember the Spirograph? The circle and gears drawing thingie that went round and round, putting circles within circles, adding layers upon layers and producing such complex designs that the eye has difficulty seeing them?

Yup. Just like that.

See, to a woman's mind, it's all connected. And it's connected in layers upon layers. Each beautiful thread leads to a host of others, the tensions and paths striving for balance. To jerk hard on one throws off a shock wave that upsets the whole design...

And brings a huge spider to entangle and suck the life out of its prey.

Sorry - I just couldn't get away from the spider web analogy.


In all honesty, that's kind of what it feels like to a man, when trying to navigate the complex curves and threads of the female mind. One wrong step, too hard of a footfall on the wrong thread, and ZAP - the stinger goes down, you're paralyzed and getting your fluids sucked out of you.

But that's not the case. At all.

When a woman considers a question, there's a whole realm of sub-issues that must be sorted before she can clearly see the thread that she's considering. To use our example, "Do we want to go out and grab a bite to eat?"...

1) What was I planning thus far in this day?
2) Could it be set aside, since he would like to do this?
3) What about plans later this week? Or next week? Does this change those?
4) How does this change our budget? Do we have the extra coin to do something like this?
5) Where are we going? And how expensive is it?
6) Will I need to change clothes to dress appropriately? Is my hair / makeup / etc. in any sort of shape for such an outing? Or can I whip it into shape in time?
7) Do I even feel like going out? Would it be worth our time and money to do this, if my heart and head aren't fully engaged?
8) Have I been wearing heels all day? That can be a HUGE factor.
9) Is time out in public a good thing right now emotionally? Or would some relative peace at home be better for how I'm feeling?
10) Why didn't he let me know he was thinking about this? I could have gotten ready this morning to do something this evening.
11) If I had known, we could have asked _____ to join us - we're overdue to spend some time with them.
12) If I even mention a headache, he's going to roll his eyes, throw up his hands and say "just forget it!" And I'm still not over the last time he said that.
13) Am I ok with him? Or am I still sorting out something from earlier / yesterday / a month ago? Maybe alone time in public isn't the best thing right now.
14) I wish he'd just suggest going home, snuggling on the couch and watching a movie - I could totally go for that.
15) Of course, if he suggested that, and we went with it, he'd get a little too "snuggly," and then get all disappointed when I tell him I just want to be cuddled and nothing else.
16) Can't he understand that sometimes a hug is just a hug?
17) If I say I don't feel like going out, I'm gonna hear the whole "You never want to do anything fun or spontaneous" speech.
18) How can I get out of this without having him get all hurt and disappointed?
19) Do we have any chocolate at home?
20) Why can't he ever understand how I feel?

Now, you'll notice one huge gap in this list - children. I can't even imagine the threads they add to the web... um, pattern.

And for the record, I have no answers to the aforementioned questions, I have no idea if those questions or statements are even in the neighborhood of what might pass through my beloved's head, and yes - the whole "chocolate" thing was a brief humorous interlude, with some slight basis in reality.

So men throw up their hands in frustration, muttering something about "Why does the whole dang thing have to be so complicated? Do we want to go grab a bite? Yes or no - simple as that."

No. No, it isn't.

See guys, all of those factors and about a thousand more pop up as soon as you ask the question, "Do we want to go grab a bite?" And they all have EQUAL validity - they all get a vote, and every vote counts. And although women have all the browser tabs open, even HAL has to take a little time to process that much data.

And every one of them needs an answer or resolution. She can't help it - those connections, and keeping the tension between them even, keep the design in perfect balance and symmetry. Want to see your beloved happier and more at peace? Then see what you can do to keep the pattern even and balanced.

Otherwise Shelob decends.

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

So why do I, a think-in-a-box male, care about all that? Because from all those connections will come insight and wisdom if I'll take the time to wait and listen. Or if I'll take the time to look ahead to box 2457, maybe even plan ahead, and give her the advance warning and time to think through the threads, then the result can be a joyful time for us both.

Is it possible that "Women's Intuition" is simply their ability to see all the facets of something because of all the deep connections one thing touches off? And as single-focused men, wouldn't it be very, very wise of us to develop the intentional habit of listening very carefully to those insights? Even when our brains are screaming, "OVERLOAD! DETAIL OVERLOAD! Captain - she canna'  take no more!!!"

There are beautiful advantages to the way the female mind works - the balance, the symmetry, the perfection in detail... but having that many threads also produces some tough stuff.

It can cause ladies to be very impatient with men. After all, they're so simple and sometimes crude - they never really listen, they sometimes don't seem to think, and they never really plan (or give me time to plan). They just fly off into something without really thinking about it.

So some serious guy bashing can result. (For balance, it can cause gal bashing on the other side too...)

And it's sometimes hard for a woman to see the forest for the trees - she'll get lost in threads, tied up in detail, and caught in concerns and emotion. She'll lose the joy and immediacy because of the deeper connections. It's hard for her to just let go and be in the moment.

It also (at least in my experience) leads to men feeling like women don't really listen to us. Sometimes when I'm trying to explain something, to give her (what I think is) the detail she seems to really want or need, she'll suddenly get tired of me trying to wind around the whole story of what I'm thinking and why, and just want me to get to the point.

And sometimes in those rare moments when a man is actually talking about his feelings, his thoughts, his heart, nothing kills his spirit faster than having his beloved suddenly pop up another tab, see something that she needs to think about RIGHT NOW, and head off in, what feels to him, like a totally different direction. She's listening, she still hears him, but at the same time she's also considering something else. She's multi-tasking, and unfortunately for a one-box-only man, that seems like she just ditched him and he's left twisting in the wind of her passing.

So he clams up. It's easier than either having her flit off on him, or hear some of his least-favorite words, "Would you just get to the point?"


Quick reminder - we are speaking in generalities here. And these things may apply more to men and women in relationship together, than to singlehood or other attachments. They may speak more to Yin Yang - a harmony between opposites.

Or may just be a bunch of bunky. Which will make you glad that this crapola is free. 

Unless I publish it in a book. Then I apologize. Feel free to tear these pages out.

Unless it's an ebook. Maybe you could ask the Proofreader for a custom copy sans poopy.

Which would only leave the cover and about 4.89 words. Enjoy.


So, as so often happens, time passes between when I start writing something, and when it finally pops out of the oven, golden brown and delicious.

Or moderately brown and mildly interesting.

Or slightly underdone and potentially repulsive.

Why is it green? Ewww...

Anyway, this whole thing of trying to supply the detail that my wife seems to need, only to have her get a little exasperated with me, saying something like "I get it already!" has been confusing me a tad. If women need all the connections, all the threads, all the circles, all the dead flies marinating in their own juices for a tasty treat later, *shudder*, how is it possible to elicit a response of "Get to the POINT!" from her, the Queen of Detail?

(Which may or may not be an interesting name for a rock band...)

I have a theory, but it only works if you're me. If you're not me, then your mileage not only may vary,  but for the sake of your sanity, I hope it DOES vary, 'cause otherwise you really should be taking extra medication and seeing some highly competent professionals...

Anyway, when I want to discuss something with Herself, I tend to think of it as preparing to go off to war. I gather all my arsenal - the facts, the related facts, the possibly related facts to those related facts, the potential problems and flaws with those facts that might possibly be brought up, the remedies to those problems that might be brought up, the documentation for those remedies thus lending support to the belief that these remedies will actually solve the potential problems that the possible facts might generate from the subject being discussed.

And you ladies call us guys "simple" and "immature." HAH! We seem simple to you only  because we always have to be wearing multiple layers of body armor and Kevlar undies to make it through the day. That'll slow down anybody. 

So there. Nyahh nyahh nyah.


Alright - you got me there. Moving on...

Where was I moving again? Oh yeah - Box #2147...

So in the recitation of my well-crafted defense of whatever it is that I'm wanting to discuss with her, things are hopping along. I'm presenting the material well, heading off some of the points of divergence with my diligently prepared defenses, navigating the waves and currents well...

And I jump boxes mid-stride. 


Yup - my greatest strength becomes my main weakness. My head goes into box shuffle mode, I see something related to what I'm telling her about, realize that I really should have included that in my original preparation, and it gets thrown in there without anything to guard its fragile little soul.

And the lioness, detecting a weakness in her prey, brings it. Her intuitive senses have observed a weak link in the pack; she knows that extra data is making its way into the stream without having been carefully prepared and integrated into the whole; she can see I'm throwing stuff in from many boxes at the last minute (kind of like watching a juggler when they added one too many chainsaws, and you know the train wreck is just around the bend and can't wait until it gets here, you sick puppy, you.); she can feel the disconnect from my carefully crafted discussion and the new arrivals...


And carnage ensues.

(I'm not sure that image is better than the spider sucking the fluids out of the little bug, but it's what I had, so I went with it. Thanks to Box #14279.3 for the assist.)

If she senses that I'm box shuffling as I go, juggling away and adding something from different boxes as I go along while trying to keep everything in the air, adding more and more, that's when she says, "Check, please."

And the balls hit the floor. Because I may be the Village Idiot in many disciplines, but I gots enough smarts to leave the chainsaws on the ground. Or not to even bring the things in the first place, lest I be tempted...

And dismembered.


Am I over-generalizing here? Are you itching to say, "Well, that may be true for you - you might be a box thinker married to the Spider Queen, but that ain't the way things work around these here parts. Nope. No sir. Nosirreebob."

Fair enough. Perhaps you're one of those detail-loving dudes, knowing all the connections down to the nth degree. No simple mind here - you lay down patterns that would make any dudette dizzy.

Or you're like my friend, Alex, a gal who lets her yay be yay and her nay be nay. Yes, no. Nothing in the middle. No pondering, no thread spinning, no mulling it over. Quick, clean, the blade descends and "Off with their heads!"

(Alex would never preside at an execution, by the way. She's a sweet soul, tenderhearted and kind. She even admits in public that she knows me.

Pray for her.)

Anyway, getting once again to the point, riddle me this, bat-friends...

Is your masculine detail connection super power fueled by your ability to go from box to box without any ground between them, and your mad skillz allow you to actually sort the boxes so the ones you need are all next to each other?

Whoa. In awe am I.

Or is your feminine decisiveness powered by an intuitive sense that sees the pattern as a whole? So there's not a time lag between hearing something and understanding how it fits into the pattern?

Whoa squared. Awe in am I.

(I suspect, by the way, that this last is Alex's super power - seeing and recognizing the pattern without a time lag. But hey - she's young. She'll slow down a bit as she gets older.

Like me.)

All I know is that in the 30+ years that my beloved and I have been married, knowing this little truth has helped us keep from whomping each other upside the noggin, or crabbing about each other separately:

Men think in boxes. Women think in circles, spider webs, Spirograph, or (a new one to me, thanks again to my friend, Alex), balls of yarn.

Now how that works out in your world, doesn't work out in your world, or gets thrown under the bus as mindless wandering in your world, is totally up to you. Your mileage may and should vary.

A lot.

A whole lot.

A crazy huge ton of a whole lot with sprinkles on top.

Now get out there and suck the life out of some bugs. Or juggle some chainsaws. Or something. **

** Insert super-fast announcer voice kind of like what you hear at the end of every commercial involving covering their hiney, legally speaking...

The Fluffy Goodness Worldwide Domination Inc. does not endorse or suggest the juggling of chainsaws or the sucking of fluids from bugs without professional supervision and instruction. And psychiatric intervention. And perhaps some helpful pharmaceuticals. (We have some recommendations on those, if you need 'em.) If you choose to engage in these or other obscure or weird activities, you're on your own, kiddo. We didn't even vaguely suggest something like that. Don't do it. Period. End of tale. We're just writing with our usual way-the-heck-off-kilter sense of humor here, and you should really know by now that these things shouldn't be taken literally. 

Except when quoting from the Bible, that is. That you can take literally.

Now, let's all move along, shall we? **

Friday, May 10, 2013

When I Have No King...

"In those days Israel had no king, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes."
- Judges 21:25 (New Living Translation)

"At that time there was no king in Israel. People did whatever they felt like doing."
- Judges 21:25 (The Message)

Every time I come to this verse, I'm almost overwhelmed with sadness.

If it was the beginning of a story, I could accept that. It would set the stage for redemption, for realization and repentance. It would offer hope that things could be changed.

It'd be a Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come moment for sure - hoping that these shadows might yet be changed, that there is hope.

But kids, this is the last verse of the book, and that makes me so sad. The journey from Egypt, the failures, the longing, the waiting for a whole generation to pass on. The promise finally realized, entering the land, taking the land, and no one able to stand against them because the LORD was with them.

Joshua dies. And it all erodes away.

So begins the cycles of the Judges. Up, down, up, down, repeat over and over. Are they just thick? A little too much time in the desert sun? Their elevators don't go all the way to the upper room?

How does this become their story over and over and over again?

And WHY would God long for their return over and over and over again? Why does He continue to pursue? Why doesn't He leave them to be lost, to vanish, to come to the end they seem to desire with their actions over and over and over again?

What a bunch of boneheads...

And this is where my Father picks up the Celestial 2x4 to gently whomp a little understanding into His kiddo, Calbert.

If you line my story up with the story of Judges, are they all that different? Or do they both look like a roller coaster designed by someone who should never have been given a pencil?

How many times do I forget, do I do what is right in my own eyes, do I walk away and betray Him? How often do I forget that the story of Judges is not "their" story, it's MY story. My heart is no different, my actions and thoughts are no different. Bring the culture, the habits, the behaviors into contemporary life, and you can put my name anyplace in the narrative and I'm right there staring back, blind to my own ignorance.

Does Cal have no King, so he does whatever is right in his own eyes? 

There's an interesting contrast between the two versions quoted above, that gives me a couple of angles to consider the question from:

Sometimes I do "what seems right in my own eyes," 'cause hey - I have such a great grasp on the nuances of right and wrong that really, my middle name should be Solomon...

Said nobody about me, ever.


Sometimes I do "whatever I feel like doing." Whatever it may be. Because since we're all basically good people, we'll choose the good and right thing, right?

Yeah. Right. I always do. Yup.

I got to go collate something now...

I must admit, I are a bonehead too. I'm as guilty of doing the "follow God, turn away, follow God, turn away" thing as anybody from one of the 12 tribes.

OK - but at least I'm aware of it, I admit it, and I'll learn from these lessons and do better today and everyday, right?


Not so much.

How quickly after typing these words, putting the iPad and keyboard back in my bag, and walking out the coffeehouse door, will I forget them? How short of a time down the road will pass before I'm on to the next thing and leave this lesson behind, neglected and unlearned, until I happen to stumble over it while looking through the journal?

How many times does He lovingly plead for me to return to Him, instead of leaving me to the end I seem to desire, to perish, to vanish, to have a terrible end to the tale?

The end I deserve?

WHY doesn't He just leave me to sink away?

I have no way to process it. There is no human lens that can bring it into focus. It's a story of our constant unfaithfulness, not limited to one book but all through the Bible, and all through history right into our own backyards...

Where it sits in the comfy lounger, takes a sip from a big ol' iced tea, and says,"Yup. I'm here for a l-o-n-g stay!"


Fortunately, the Book that tells me of this sad story and mirrors it into my own story, also tells me the rest of the story: the passionate pursuit by the Lover of my soul. The provision of mercy and grace that I simply can't understand. The tender heart of God, who says again and again, "Return to Me - I will be your God, you will be My people."

After every failure, after every forgetting, after every betrayal. Every time.

EVERY time.

I have no words; I have no way to process it, and I have nothing to offer. Thanks don't even seem to begin to be enough. Not even a drop in the bucket.

I do the Job maneuver - putting my hand over my mouth.

"What language shall I borrow, to thank Thee, dearest friend, For this, Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end? Oh make me Thine forever, And should I fainting be, Lord let me never, never outlive my love for Thee!"

- O Sacred Head Now Wounded - J.W. Alexander

Monday, May 06, 2013

Q & A With Captain Cal!

So, often people have questions... and often I have answers.

Of course, most of the time those don't have anything to do with each other in any way, shape, or form, but that's not the point.

You gots questions. I gots answers. And sometimes the random factors align and they actually relate.

Don't hold your breath waiting, tho...

1) What's the deal with the references to "The Fluffy Goodness" on the blog? Don't you know that Twinkies don't exist anymore?

Ah, young Padiwan - to me, all goodness is fluffy. Fluffy is good. Good is fluffy. This is truth. This is art. This is...


Next question...

2) Does BekaV really shred your underwear? And if so, boxers or briefs?

2 part question, 2 part answer...

a) Yes. Yes she does, if I'm dumb enough to leave them where she can get her little (huge) fangs into them. She prefers them post-wearing, pre-washing, for the record. Her version of fluffy goodness.


She's a dog. 'nuff said.

b) You don't really want to know, do you? 

Didn't think so.

I will say that almost none of them are white. (Stop it - that's NOT the reason! Sheesh - shocked am I at where your mind wanders, really. Sort of. Ok, not really.) Way back in the day before newfangled fashion grundies, they never made anything but white undies for fat little kiddos, so I could never have "other than white" underwear.

(I'm not sure if we're allowed to use the word "colored," even when just referring to undies...)

And husky boy's Underoos never caught on... anywhere.

Now that I'm about 4.5 sizes smaller than I've been in a long time (grade school), I refuse to wear white undies. Color at last! I feel so...


Never mind. Next question.

3) What color or colorsssss? And are they delicious, my preciousssss?

Stop that, BekaV! You're not allowed to ask questions. Employees or family members of The Fluffy Goodness Worldwide Domination Inc. are not allowed to participate. Next question.

4) How's it goin', eh?

Nice to see my beloved's family checking in from da UP, eh?

Normally I don't allow family members or employees of The Fluffy Goodness Worldwide Domination Inc. to participate, but who's going to say no to their mother-in-law?

Not I.

It's goin' good, eh? Figurin' out dat dere life stuff an' such, takin' dem dere happy pills and such, tryin' to keep dem dere bills paid, failing a bit at dat, but we keep on tryin', eh?

Yah. Ya betcha. Next question, eh?

5) Youse gonna finally get off yer tuckus dere and get a real job, eh?

Nice to hear from my beloved's dad also. Next question.

6) What's the deal with you never answering your phone?

Ah. Well. See. Um...

Ok - I'm a tad phone phobic. (Proofreader exclamation - "A TAD? Are you serious? So Noah's flood was a mild cloudburst?")

Point taken.

I'd rather have a couple of root canals with no happy medicine than have to talk on the phone. Gives me the flying green willies. (Which would be a great name for a band, btw...) So picking up the phone and giving someone a call? Probably not.

Or not unless I've had some serious liquid courage.

And by "liquid courage," I, of course, mean coffee.

7) What's that odd three-wheeled contraption I see pictures of you riding? And if you were to rear-end a semi, wouldn't you just sail right under it and laugh?

Two part question. Again. *sigh*

a) That is a TerraTrike Cruiser, a recumbent tadpole trike and a force of awesomeness rivaling that of the Fluffy Goodness itself.

*pause for moan of "whoa..." from all 3.78 readers... *

Totally, dude.

"Recumbent" refers to the seating position, and to the big ol' honkin' seat itself. It's a comfy chair with pedals.

"Tadpole" refers to the shape of the trike - two wheels in front, one in back. A tadpole waving its little tail. Cute, huh?

For bonus points, a trike with one wheel in front and two in back is called a "Delta" trike, as in a triangle, like the Greek letter Delta.

Got that? Good.

TerraTrike is located right here in good ol' Grand Rapids, where there be some of the nicest people on the planet.

Their fluffy overfloweth with goodness. Amen.

b) If I were to rear-end a semi, the fluffy goodness would be smeared all over the pavement. No, I wouldn't be laughing.

For more bonus points, the seat of my trike is about 13" off the ground, which does make for a low view of the world. And sometimes visibility is an issue, which is why I always wear a helmet, have a big, tall flag (or four) waving in the breeze, and use blinky lights to make sure I'm as visible as I can be.

For the record, most of the time folks see the trike and give it a wide berth. I think it's because they haven't seen many of these puppies, especially on Leonard Street at 4:30 in the morning. Shame, really...

Next question.

8) Wasn't that actually a semi-serious answer to a semi-serious question? Isn't that a personal foul, with a 5 yard penalty?

*sigh* Two. Part. Question.

a) It was. It happens. Get over it, he said in all goodwill, affection, and brother/sister/personhood.

b) I don't speak golf. Next question.

9) If a train leaves the station at 5:47am, and...


(Insert sound of question-asking-person being dragged from room, given a slap in the face with a wet badger, and dropped into a pit filled with Beka-flavored gelatin-type-product-that-has-a-brand-name-I-shan't-mention-here...)

I also don't speak math. Next question.

10) Are you done?

Yup. The fluffy hath been brung. Go thou and do likewise. Amen.

And Amen.

*ahem* Amen.

What? Are you still here? AAA - MEEENNN!

*cue the organ intro...*

"Take the Fluffy Goodness with you, child of fluffy and of WHOA..."

(Go ahead - try singing it out loud, if you know that hymn - "Take the name of Jesus with you, child of sorrow and of woe." It works. And you'll have that stuck in your head for a few moments. Hee hee hee. Once again, the fluffy hath been brung.)

No portion of the preceding may be replicated, duplicated, propagated, disseminated, or perforated without the express consent and permission of The Fluffy Goodness Worldwide Domination Inc. And good luck getting that - they're not real friendly folks. Seriously.


Friday, May 03, 2013

When Passion Isn't Permitted

I feel like I'm becoming a little obsessed...

I've been dealing with bipolar disorder "officially" for a couple of years now, been taking the lovely little pills that help me achieve a bit of emotional balance, and that was pretty much it. I never really explored it - just accepted that this is something I have to deal with, complied with treatment, saw decent results, and trotted along on my merry way.


I finally wrote about it. Talked about it in public. Accepted the fact that although most people would say, " 'Taint no big thang," and some would say, "Alright - that helps explain a few things," there would be a tiny few who would think in their heart of hearts, "Mental illness! Danger, Will Robinson!!!"

I haven't met any of them, for the record. And that's okey dokey with meesa.

(Jar Jar Binks - Cowboy Poet)

But as I've been writing through what it means to deal with bipolar, or what it feels like to have bipolar disorder, I've been identifying the points in day to day life where I see it and how it shapes my world around it. The depressive part of the gig, well, I was already pretty familiar with that. Way too familiar, to tell the truth. But bipolar has a second side - thus the "bi" in bipolar.

Captain Cal - putting the "bi" in Bipolar since 2011.

Somehow, that doesn't dance off the tongue. Cancel the business cards.

Anyway, the other end of the spectrum is mania, or manic behavior. It can show up as giddiness, uncontrolled or obsessive excitement, even anger or frustration, and like the other end of the spectrum, can slam in like a freight train.

I was familiar with the depression thing, but the mania? Not so much. So I began looking at my behavior, my emotions, and my thoughts to see if there were any patterns or signs when I was headed down that path.

Like I said, I'm feeling a little obsessed. And perhaps am spending a little too much time in introspection, looking at all this poopy and trying to see a pattern in it.

(Like looking at the tea cup in Divination, all ye Harry Potter fans... Dang - the Grim again.)

I've noticed where mania shows up, what it looks like in me, and am learning to see the signs so I can be aware and careful at those times. Just as I do with the depression - learning behaviors and techniques to rein things in.

For me, excessive passion or joy can be dangerous, just as excessive sadness or darkness can be. My bubble can move slightly either direction, but can't be allowed to slap over to either side.

("You can always tell a man's on the level when his bubble's in the middle."  Can I get an amen, guys dealing with middle-age spread?

Get ye down. Amen.)

So here's the challenge - how does one get used to living in a place where passion isn't permitted? Where excessive emotion is thin ice? How do you give your whole heart to something when you aren't allowed the luxury of giving your whole heart?

Even to God?

I gave my whole heart, once upon a time, to a job I loved dearly. And when it was yanked out from under me, a piece of my heart went with it and never came back. So I'm not all that keen or eager to give it away again.

("Last Christmas, I gave you my heart. The very next day, you gave it away." 

So I tracked you down, yanked yours out, and stomped it into the dirt.

Now THAT'S the way that song should go...)

Our Pastor, while preaching through First Peter, talked about passion - zeal, deep commitment, intensity. (I'm sure I ostifagled some of his words and thoughts... the Proofreader might actually put a link here to the sermon I'm misquoting...

Pastor Craig Swanson, 4-14-2013

'cause she's fancy like that.)

(I'm not sure I ever tried writing the word "ostifagled" before. So I have no idea if the spelling is close. I've only heard the word pronounced, and that third-hand.

But I use it anyway. I'm fancy like that.)

The question I came away with is, "How can one have that deep passion for life in Christ when passion isn't permitted?" I really need to go out for coffee with him, so we can talk about it.

And drink coffee.

Did I mention the coffee? I did? Good.

Pastor said, and I totally agree, that sometimes we're a little too calm, a little too controlled. We should explode sometimes in our life of faith - there's a time to sit quietly, and a time to cut loose.

"Footloose. Kick off your Sunday shoes."

Who's Louise, anyway?

Our congregation, while of different backgrounds, makeups, and political agendas, is heavily influenced by Swedish heritage, a people well-known for their excessive displays of excitement, emotion, and passion...

Said nobody, ever.

(And before you load up the catapult, to fling all kinds of crapola in my direction, bear in mind two things...

1) I'm a full quarter Norwegian and, like our Swedish neighbors, the ice isn't the only thing that's frozen up there.

2) I have an unlimited supply of material for return fire - BekaV makes more every day. Just sayin'.)

So yes, there is certainly a time when we should be less controlled - when we should dive in with every part of our being to live, to love, to celebrate Jesus.

But what happens when passion isn't permitted?

How do I find that level of being all-in for Jesus, without the luxury of emotional expression? Deep response in worship - being profoundly moved - seems to be out of grasp for me, or at least kept at arm's length. A heart response feels more like a head response to me, controlled by the twin towers - awareness and medications. Nothing rings to my very core and being, because those deep responses, emotional responses, are muted and chained.

Vulcan am I not. But my emotions definitely have anchors.

Maybe I have to learn to perceive passion differently - not as emotional investment, but rather as wholehearted commitment. Sometimes, we don't feel all bouncy, bright, and shiny when dragging our soggy selves into church way w-a-a-y early on a Sunday morning. And yet, regardless of how we feel, God shows up as He always does, and He meets us there. We faithfully (albeit groggily and sometimes draggingly) show up, He faithfully joins us, and the act of obedience and submission to Him turns into worship and blessing.

And yes, I hear some of you muttering (loudly) about how that's the way it's supposed to be - response to God's voice isn't or shouldn't be all emotional response, just going wherever our hearts lead us without any foundation or structure for our life of faith.

Yup. Got that.

But a big ol' building looks pretty ugly without any walls or exterior finishing. Just a bunch of rusty steel, concrete, and rebar. The structure, the foundation is essential, but it's not complete.

Love God with ALL your heart, soul, mind, and strength - all of it, every part, seems pretty important to God.

My heart is His - but it never feels like it.

My soul is His - but there's silence when there aren't a lot of ways to feel a response.

My mind is His - but without a confirmation that rings through my whole being, the mind can get confused. And I'm not exactly working with an optimally tuned system here, folks...

My strength is His - and it'll have to be, because it'll take that strength to figure out how the "new normal" works.

Kind of like I've had to learn to deal with only 4 senses instead of 5, I guess I need to learn how to live faith as life with my bubble in the middle. It's alright, God is good, and He doesn't put anything out there that we can't deal with.

(For the record, 'cause I know some folks are wondering, the sense I'm missing is NOT common sense.

OK - I am missing that, but it's not one of the big five...

I don't have a sense of smell. Lost it years ago. A skunk can do the hokey pokey on my right foot, and I'll have no idea. And yes, I have tested that statement and proven it. Twice. Really.)

But it takes time to work around something that's missing. And a bit of awareness. And trusting Him when my awareness turns to obsession, so He can gently rein me in.

I'm a little obsessed.

Be patient with me (I know He is!) - I'll get it figured out so that I can live the "new normal" without having to look so hard at myself that my eyes cross. He's got this handled, 'cause He's fancy like that.

"Whoa there, big fella. Easy now. Good horse."

(Insert the sound of a horse raspberry here... and the sound of me wiping off my screen 'cause I actually made that noise and splattered it all over.)

(You're welcome for that lovely mental image. I'm fancy like that.)