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.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Eye Gate

This is what it looks like when I write.  Biggby beverage optional... Not really. The fingers don't function without it.
By combining some wise words from our pastor about idolatry with part of a re-telling of Bunyan's Holy War by master storyteller Ethel Barrett, I arrive at a resoundingly firm butt kicking from my loving Father.

Um... Thanks?

My idols enter through the Eye Gate. In fact, I'm forced to admit the the Eye Gate is my number one weak spot. If I'm going to be defeated, the battle will be lost at the Eye Gate.

I shall elucidate...

In "The Chronicles of Mansoul," by Ethel Barrett, the city of Mansoul is  surrounded by five gates - Eye Gate, Ear Gate, Smell Gate, Taste Gate, and Feel Gate. 

(I'm probably mangling the names of them, since I can't find my copy of the book, but I know I'm right about the Eye Gate, and since that's the one I'm working through, well, there ya go.)

And Mansoul can't ever be conquered from the outside - the gates can't be breached... 

Unless they're opened from within.


I'm not a gossip, so my Ear Gate pretty well stays shut. I do sometimes use my Mouth Gate in ways that I'm not happy about, so I guess there's a doggie door on that gate or something. My Smell Gate got bricked over years ago, so nothing gets in there - unless you count the hand soap at my favorite Biggby... For some odd reason, I can smell that stuff and it smells wonderful to me. 


Can you tell where I am right at this moment?

Feel Gate isn't really a problem for me - I'm not apt to be knocked over by the velvety feel of BekaV's lovely fur or the soft feel of my beloved's cheek. I appreciate those things, but they usually don't cause me to lose a battle.

But, the Eye Gate...

Ah, the Eye Gate.

I might as well take the gate off the hinges, open up the doorway, and post a sign - "Walk right in."


I'm in a different Biggby than my normal one, and this one has a television. Now, I turned the sound off (and no one has complained, so that's all good...), but still - I find myself looking up at the screen every once in a while, taking in the images, pondering what they're about, wonder what's being talked about, or being shocked at just how trashy the soaps have gotten.

And none of this adds anything to my life. It doesn't assist my writing, it doesn't enhance my mental balance, and it doesn't produce any lasting good.

For a "normal person," this probably isn't a big deal. Just chilling in front of the tube, taking in some shows, checking out what's on, no big deal.

But for me? There are profound reasons why we don't have cable, and aren't likely to get it anytime soon. There are also good reasons why I generally don't go to movies. Sadly, movies are one of my beloved's favorite things, and I hate disappointing her, but she understands the reasons, and once again proves just how perfectly God designed us for each other.

The Eye Gate is my weakest point.

No television, no movies, no problem, right? Um... no.


Wham. Thud. Crash. I done been mangled.

An infinite number of things to see, all which can lead to other things to see, which take you to other things to see, and some things that no sane person should ever see, and yet I see them because my Eye Gate is weak and I can't look away. 

So yes, I can easily lose an entire day just reading blogs, looking at funny videos, or checking out crap on eBay that I don't need, can't afford, and really don't want. But I look all the same.

To extend myself a little grace (Just a tad, anyway...), obsession can be a part of bipolar. And as I've said before, sometimes the demon wins a battle. So when I come back to reality after a day lost, I can accept it and move on, instead of dropping into depression. 

But what causes me angst is the times I just lay down and give up - the times when I don't even try to resist. 

Oh, I may tell myself, "Now I'm going home, I'm going to do some writing, I'll listen to the DAB and crochet, and I'll get some time in on that music project I'm working on. Oh, and do some dishes too."

This is a lie. 

The pathetic thing is, I know that it's a lie. I'll head home, intending to do some of the good stuff I've been yammering about, may even go through the motions of getting out my crochet or writing gear, but it usually ends with me in front of the computer, getting flooded through the Eye Gate, and losing an entire afternoon in useless surfing.

I've tried some strategies - setting a timer for example, and putting it across the room so I have to get up every so often to shut it off, thus hopefully breaking the obsession and letting me come up for air. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

I usually go write at a coffeehouse - preferably one without a television - and that increases the chance I'll actually do what I came to do.

I write on a 1st gen iPad that crashes if one tries to surf the 'net too much. The smaller screen also seems to capture my attention and limit it. Again - it increases the chance I'll actually write and not get lost.

But one can't always work in a coffeehouse, especially when working on music projects. One can't do everything on an iPad - there are things to be done that the ol' tablet just won't deal with. And there are times when I need the whole computer, not just the iPad.

And those are the times when the forces gather outside the Eye Gate, wait patiently, and walk right through as I open the gate from the inside.

So, this is my challenge, today and every day. How to do the creative work that I do, using technology that has a wide-open door to obsession, without opening the Eye Gate for all to enter. 

Ok, that's the connection to The Chronicles Of Mansoul... What about the wise words from Pastor Craig, he of the cool bowties and the awesome bass playing? 

Through Craig's sermon one Sunday morning, I realized that the struggle is more than just wrangling with the Eye Gate, more than just a war with bipolar obsession...

The screen is my idol. 

Where did I cross that line? 

When I found myself turning toward the screen when I'm bored. Or sad. Or lonely. Or frustrated. When I turn toward a screen (iPad, iPhone, iMac, or Kindle, just to name a few...) to fix what ails me, it becomes an idol. 

Which pretty much smacked me into a brick wall at about 60 miles an hour. Ouch.

The struggle has now been kicked up a notch. It's about obsession, it's about developing self-control when being flooded with the very stuff that is your own personal Kryptonite, but most of all...

It's about kicking an idol to the curb. 'cause ain't nobody got time for that.

(I feel so hip, cool, and trendy for using that phrase. Really. Ok - not really. I just like the phrase.)

I've already been a contestant in Big Time Idol Wrestling, and still do battle with the idol of food addiction. The hold that food has on me continues to be a struggle, and probably always will be. "My chains are gone," but I'm fully capable of laying down where they used to hold me and not moving. My mind can always grab a hold of me if I'm don't stay aware.

I just hadn't realized that the screen had a hold on me too. 

But now I do. 

It'll take some time, it'll take prayer, it'll be hard, hard work, but I know one thing...

I don't want anything - not food, not the screen, not anything - to take the place of God in my life, and become the thing I turn to for my needs. 

And I don't want anything to take Herself's place in my world either. The screen can easily become my emotional partner, and that's just wrong.

Ain't nobody got time for that.

(Hee hee hee...)

There are things that I love, things I want to give my time and effort to, but none of them will ever see the light of day if the idols are blocking the light.

I have no answers - yet. 

I'm not going to quote some pithy little phrase, designed to leave us (all 4.78 of us...) feeling warm and fluffy. I'm simply becoming aware of the idols, how deep their hold is on me, and how desperately I need to seek the One who can continue to set me free...

If I let Him. If I ask Him. If I follow Him.

(Sorry - that was borderline pithiness.)

(Ain't nobody got time for that.)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saturday Humor - Week From Sheol Edition

It's been one of Those Weeks...

And the days to come won't get a whole lot easier, making a certain Calbert want to retreat to the Fortress of Solitude (blanket fort) for a little while...

Like, the next couple of months. That sounds about right.

Sometimes sitting in the sun is a decent substitute for the Fortress of Solitude (blanket fort)...

But, the major drawback is while the sun is indeed warm, it's not as snuggly as a Beka.

The problem this morning is, as every parent knows all too well, on a special day there is NO sleeping in...

"Pssst! Are you awake yet? How about now? How about now? Now? Now? NOWWWWW??"

"For the love of tennis balls! The alarm went off at 6:30, you've snoozed to 7:30, now let's get GOING!!!"


"Wakey, wakey, eggs and (doggie) bac-ey!! GET UP!!"

To be fair, she does have some justification in her excitement... Today is her birthday, and our dear Beka is now a two year old. Terrible Twos? No - at least not yet. But she IS a little excited today...

(Or I'm having some fun at her expense, to bring some laughter to the end of a trying week... You decide...)

"I don't care what you're doing - do it out of that Fortress of Solitude (blanket fort)... GET UP!!"

She has good reason to be excited, even though she doesn't have a clue why... She's spending her birthday at the Chuck E. Cheese's of the canine world...

"Open the door - this door. Right here. Open the door. Please please please open the door!"

For this is the Wardrobe Door, and beyond lies Doggie Narnia...

"I'll sit pretty. Open the door. See? I'm good. I'm pretty. Open the door. Please? Pleeeeese??"

The dog park awaits, with friends to romp with, balls to chase, ropes to tug on, and lots of space to RUN!!

"Ahem... Ready for take off. Beka in a locked and upright position. Ears stowed away. All paws checked and ready to hit the runway..."


Yes, pretty girl. Off you go.

Now, the fine and friendly folks at Green Paws, besides taking such great care of every one of the furbabies in their charge, also take pictures, so we doggie parents can check on the kids... Actually, it's a great way to see our dogs in full-tilt play... So here's some pics from this morning, as our birthday girl gets her puppy on...

"Oh HECK YEAH!!!!!"

Stuff to chase...

Stuff to catch...

Stuff to drink...

"NEXT!!" "Thanks, Beka." "You are welcome, my peep!"

And buddies to do it all with.  Well, "Ace," actually. His name's not Buddy - it's Ace. She has two buddies that aren't Buddys - they're Aces. Just to be clear.

To every play day there is a season... a time to romp...

And a time to refrain from romping.

"Hey Beka - what the heck is 'romping?'" "No clue. Just smile, pose for the paparazzi, and when they're distracted, run away. Or lick yourself. Either works. But don't try them both at the same time - not good. Believe me - not good..."

Thank you, amazing folks at Green Paws. Our girl is having the best birthday ever, thanks to you! 

Happy birthday, BekaDog. See you tonight, in the Fortress of Solitude (blanket fort).

Thanks for helping us end the "week from the pit of sewage" with some laughs. Tune in next time to hear Beka say...

"Best. Birthday. EVAH!"

Thursday, April 24, 2014

TBT: The Ugly Clock

Having once again received a pop quiz in Sovereignty 101 - Do You Believe It Or Not?, I'm going back to a lesson that allows me to follow in David's footsteps, and ask my Father if He really IS in charge of it all, or should I change my middle name to "hosed?" Tough days, my peeps... tough days.

(Note to my Aunt - I'm really alright. And I'll email you soon. So don't worry - just pray. Thanks!)

"Broken Time" by Andrew Van Zyll
Check out his creative pursuits at 
his Etsy store

God's timetable: the clock is always 100% perfectly on time, but it's an ugly clock.

I'm sorry - was that a little impious? Should I couch it in more Psalm-esque language? Yelling stuff like "HOW LONG, O LORD??" Nope - I'm stickin' with hows I sees 'em.

I do not doubt God's timing - in my limited, narrow view over the past 52 years...

(Come to think of it, it was more like 51, since that first year is pretty much a blur, an "eat, cry and poop fest.")

(Come to think of it, that first year wasn't so bad, except for the whole diaper thing...)

(Come to think of it, that'll pretty much sum up most of my final years, I should think - up to and including the whole diaper thing...)

(Come to think of it, I think we've discovered that Cal really shouldn't "come to think of" anything. Especially sitting in front of a computer keyboard. Ever.)

Anyway, I've seen God's timetable work its perfect way in too many places to ever rail against it or deny its existence. Everything falls to His sovereignty, willingly or unwillingly. We can accept the roaring flow, go with it, or we can try to buck the tide and end up on our hineys, flying downstream, producing the kind of facial expressions captured for all time in those photo thingies they always take at the most horrific moment of the most mind-numbing amusement park rides, then sell you at a "bargain" price for this souvenir that will bring back wonderful memories for generations to come. (Like panic, screaming, and bile, to name a few.)

But just because I accept and surrender to God's timetable does not change that fact that, in my limited and narrow view, it's an ugly clock.

Maybe I see it as ugly because I simply have no way to read it or understand it... It's like one of those LED clocks that tells the time in binary code, thus prompting smug looks from geeks and geeklets in the room, sharing their secret knowledge of being able to read the thing while us lower mortals wander in confusion...

Until we look at our phones, see the time, and get on with our uncaring agendas, leaving the geeks and geeklets frustrated, their lake of superiority dammed up with the concrete of indifference. Hoover dam, baby. Deal with it.

I stare at God's clock with no comprehension. I can't even see the whole face of the thing. The hands move in ways I can't perceive; the units they measure have no meaning in my existence; and the outcome of its progress is beyond my understanding.

Now, I do admit that I've never been the sharpest chisel in the tool box when it comes to clocks. I didn't learn to read the clock until fifth grade, even though I started reading at age 3. There was always someone around to tell me what time it was, so no need to learn the significance of "the big hand is on the 3, and the small hand is on the 8."

Yes, no digital clocks. I am indeed that old.

Anyway, I came late to the party with the whole "learning to tell time" thing. I did make up for it later, when I started working in broadcasting. When one is responsible for every second of every minute of every hour of an air shift, you start to gain a sense of time passing, really understanding just how long it takes to do some things. Learning to read something out loud, so that it comes out to exactly 27 seconds (to allow 3 seconds for the music hit at the end) teaches you a lot about time. So does having to vamp the weather forecast when you have 30 seconds to fill, and a forecast that says "partly cloudy, partly cloudy, repeat repeat repeat..."

So I do understand how time feels.

And I think we all understand how time feels in the long, long silences when we think God has gone south for the winter. Those stretches of darkness where we wonder if we've ever really heard from Him at all. The heavy night curtain that falls after a long, sunny, extended period of His blessing, when things go from bright to dark faster than the switching off of a lamp in a basement room. We all, or at least most of us, understand how the dark rises up, immeasurably fast and overpoweringly strong.

At times, we believe that not only is God not in the same time zone as us, but that He's changed over to another calendar, one where seconds, minutes, hours and even days and weeks are graded on a sliding scale. Where time itself becomes elastic, and it ebbs and flows in harmony with the One who exists outside of its steely grasp.

Time is NOT finite in the hands of the Infinite.

But we feel every dragging second in our small world.

Right now, I'm in a place where the clock is very ugly, moving so slowly that I have to fight the urge to keep replacing the battery, and it doesn't show signs of changing anytime soon. I'm on the other side of almost two years of very fast change, where time flew beyond my ability to catalog it. I tried, vainly, to grab some small pieces of it, to note the events in these pages, to be aware and keep reminders before it all blew past, never to be seen again.

Then it all stopped. We got stuck in a holding pattern while the runway is being cleaned by three Oompa Loompas with toothbrushes. It's gonna be awhile.

Meanwhile, to stir the pot of ugly clock soup, throw in a few years without employment, add in someone not wise enough yet to learn to live within his means, and whip into a financial frenzy.

** before Vicki or a few others jump in here, I probably should have said "gainful employment," or something like that. I have been pursuing an occupation - learning my new life so that all the things that come with it become habits, a part of my normal life. It was necessary, it's equipped me to live in this new body and keep it working well, and everything is happening exactly when it should. I just didn't learn the bigger lessons, and I took a little longer to grow up, so it'll take a little longer to dig out. **

Always on time, but it's an ugly clock.

Sometimes, some of that ugliness is self-imposed, I'm discovering. The clock is ugly because it has a highly polished surface and shows me all the mistakes I've been making while the timetable moves on. Maybe the ugliness I see in the clock is just the choking regret I feel for lessons not learned, time lost, resources wasted, failures committed. In the mirror of the clock, I see my own ugliness.

I don't think God intends us to look at ourselves in that harsh, unyielding place. With nothing between our limited viewpoint and infinity, how could we ever stand the sight? How could we perceive anything but LOSS... LOSS... LOSS...

"In the fullness of time, God sent His son..."

"God works all things together for good..."

"If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed..."

"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen."
Romans 11:33-36 (TNIV)

By itself, God's timetable is perfect, always on time, always on track.

From my limited view, it's an ugly clock.

From His view, He makes all things beautiful, even where I only see ugly...

In His time.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Beginnings and Endings

I think I have way too many beginnings and way too few endings. Too much starting and not nearly enough finishing.

Anybody able to relate to this?

I find my morning conversation with Herself laden with a multitude of, "I should... I need to... I'd like to... I wish I could..." or similar phrases. Some connect to things I'd really like to begin or to investigate, others connect to many, many things that I've begun, attempted, or engaged with and allowed to fall by the wayside. 

But rarely in these ponderings do I find things like, "I'm done with... I've finished... I've wrapped up..." or the other ways one can sum up a job well done. (Or at least 'done' - I'd settle for that at this point...)

I have too many beginnings, and not enough endings.

It's easy to do - we all get really excited about beginnings. New starts, new things to learn, new skills to try, new new new... When it comes to starting, we're all fiercely ADD - "OOOOH! NEW! SHINY! PRETTY!" 

Which lasts right up until the next new shiny pretty thing gets on the radar. Then the previous new shiny pretty thing ends up under the bus.

Dost thou doubt the veracity of my words? Then ponderest thou this...

How are those New Year's resolutions working out for ya?...

The prosecution rests, m'lord.

"So how are YOUR resolutions working out, smug little writer boy?"

Fine - because I haven't made a New Year's resolution in a good 30 years. I have more than enough stuff thrown under my bus - the poor thing is 6 feet up in the air, wheels spinning futilely. Sad, really.

Too many beginnings, not enough endings.

"Hold on, buckaroo," I hear you cry. "Not everything is supposed to have an ending, right? Some things endure, they go on, and they become habits, right? So no endings needed, right?"

Point taken. 

But... ("Dang. I KNEW there was a 'But' coming...")

For those things that should endure, that hopefully make their way into habit and part of life, there's still resolution. They may not have an "ending," per se. But they should have a resolution. Or, at the very least, when we're reminded of them, we won't feel ashamed, thinking of them as one more thing we started, and let fall by the wayside.

Example 1: Tai Chi.

I've kind of thrown Tai Chi under the bus. When I began with an introductory class a few years ago, I thought I had found my forever friend. Tai Chi gently stretches my joints and makes them stronger in the process. The arthritis that impacts my daily life, especially my legs, and makes me into a big ol' bag of crunchy-style stuff seems to be lessened through the gentle practice of Tai Chi. 

(How big of a deal is it? In March of 2011, I went out for my first trike ride of that season...

And went and went. I racked up 30 miles that day, not having touched my trike since the previous fall, and not having ridden even a stationary bike all winter. That's the longest ride I've ever done.

What made it possible? Tai Chi, strengthening my legs. Yup - it's a big deal.)

And yet... 

I stopped going to class - it wasn't "convenient." I just didn't have "time." I'm too "tired." 

THUMP. Another one under the bus.

Too many beginnings, not enough endings.

Anybody able to relate to this?

Example 2: Life 2.0

My surgery was March 30, 2010. And in the first months, I was amazed at how little I would eat. Herself and I could make a meal out of a 5 layer burrito from the value menu at Taco Bell... Yup - one burrito fed the both of us, and I was STUFFED.

But, my capacity has increased. My range of food I eat has increased. And so has my weight. I began well, I hold my own day by day, but little by little things slip. 

I've begun well. And I'm not done yet - nothing headed for under the bus here. But certainly something to keep an eye on and to pray over.

Anybody able to relate to this?

Example 3: The DAB - sometimes it works...

I'm into my third year of listening to the Daily Audio Bible, making our way through the Bible in a year. And it's a part of my life - that gentle daily orientation to God and His word has become as essential to me as my first intake of protein in the morning.

It's one of those things that's simply part of my day. Yes, there are days when I might miss my listening time. Even a few days when life gets a little crazy. But every time, I'm eager to catch up and continue on, rather than shrugging my shoulders and giving up as something else lands under the bus.

Even if I get a week behind (Like I am right now, for example...), I know I'll catch up. Because it's too important to just let it fall. So, yeah - sometimes there ARE endings, or at least resolutions. 

But still - far too many beginnings, not nearly enough endings. 

Example 4: Riding the Trike - And sometimes it doesn't...

Yeah, my days as a Stone-Cold Trike Rider (Death from Beside - and Slightly Below...) have been too few for the last few years. Gone are the days where I thought of a 10 mile ride as "short" or "easy." And gone are the days where I'd hope for a sunny day, to be able to ditch the car and trike everywhere I needed to go.

Not so much now. Too long from it, too much hassle, and the lovely feeling one gets from trying to start something over from scratch, having full and detailed memory of how things were when you were able to just get on and RIDE. The sheer memory of the number and steepness of the hills between home and anyplace I'd want to ride pretty much kills any glimmer of hope or thoughts of starting again.

Too many beginnings, not enough endings. And not enough good stuff that sticks, while the bad stuff stays.

BUT... ("Dang! Stop it with the BUTs already!")

After a long, some would even call it brutal, winter, spring appears to have sprung at last. Renewal. Hope. Light. And a living reminder that everything can start again.

So, beginnings... Some new, some familiar and needing a new start. 

And a bunch of endings... hopefully of the bad stuff that really needs to get gone, to give room for the new stuff to grow.

Too many beginnings. Not enough endings. 

But hope? Yes - always hope.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Silence - Good Friday, 2014

"He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet He did not open his mouth;
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so He did not open his mouth."
- Isaiah 53:7, TNIV


If I'm oppressed and afflicted, I run the gamut from heavy sighs to outright yelling...

Unless it's a spider. Then I scream like a little girl. Or a little boy. Or whoever screams like that. Yup. Right. That.

So, silent in affliction? Not so much.

Lots of us are familiar with Isaiah 53 - the chapter about the Suffering Servant. Or at least know these words:

"But he was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed."
- Isaiah 53:5, ASV

But last time through this passage on the Daily Audio Bible, the words that rang like a bell for me were about His silence in affliction. 

"He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet He did not open his mouth."

Silent? Ok - maybe if someone obnoxious were getting in my face someplace in the grind of daily life. Getting snitty as we stand in line at the store. Taking umbrage to something I unknowingly did, my appearance, or my general presence in the world. 

Silent, after another driver engages in a display of boneheadery that proclaims to all the world just what the riders of the clue bus look like? No... 

(Although I do try to do some ventriloquism, as I mutter about their habits, their intelligence, their heritage, and their general existence while trying not to move my lips, lest they see that I'm yelling... to NOBODY.)

Silent? In affliction? Nope. Can't pull that one off.

My beloved carries on arguments with technology. She holds debates with databases, takes umbrage to unruly laptops, and tells off the GPS in kind but firm tones.

Silent? Nope. Much quieter than me? Good gravy bones, yes. 

"He was beaten, He was tortured, but He didn't say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, He took it all in silence."
- Isaiah 53:7, MSG

I not only can't pull that off, I can't even imagine how to comprehend how anyone could do that. I can't at all understand how someone, anyone could be that afflicted, punished, humiliated, tormented, tortured...


And NOT say anything.

Now, I know - He DID say things. We have them recorded in the Gospels. I'm sure there were gasps and groans and cries. 

But did He pitch a fit? The kind of which I would have fully indulged in? The kind that would have made my voice go hoarse a couple minutes in?


"Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered and like a sheep being sheared, He took it all in silence."

One more twist, kiddos...

The one word that He could have uttered, that I, in all of my yelling, screaming, writhing, and general pitchy-fitting might have uttered without doing any good... 

The ONE word that He could have uttered, that would in fact have changed everything...

The ONE WORD that was His to utter, with all rights, with all authority, with all of Heaven ready to respond the very second it was upon His lips...


Of any of the sounds, cries, gasps, or words that He said, all through that awful ordeal, He never said the one word that would have ended it all.

And that made all the difference.

I could not endure in silence, yet I'm left with nothing BUT silence in response. I have no way to process this, so I close my mouth, hang my head, and am overwhelmed. Gratitude doesn't even begin to express it, no other words I could write will help, so as He accepted the pain in silence, I receive the gift...

in silence.

"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

Monday, April 07, 2014

Phunny Photo Phriday... Um, Phaturday... Maybe Phunday?... Dang... it's Monday - that's not Phunny...

Saturday morning is usually laid back around Bekahaus. We snooze, I tend to ignore my normal alarm time of 4:15 in the VERY AM, and allow myself the luxury of sleeping until, I dunno, maybe 6:30 in the VERY AM.

I'm a wild man sometimes.

So, this Saturday past, after I had already gotten up, made some coffee, and come back to grab whatever oddities I had left on my bedside table, BekaV decided to move from her usual place of repose (taking at least 2/3rds of my bed...), to conquer new lands.

She ventured forth, into the uncharted lands of MommaBed, to lay claim to them for her own name and posterity.

"I claim this land, this person, and all connected allegiances, possessions, tributaries, and doggie bacon strips, in the name of Beka Valentine, Queen of all she surveys."

And there was much yawning in the land, even from the new monarch. I did mention it was 6:30 in the VERY AM, right?

Thanks for joining us for a Phunny Photo... something. Tune in next time to hear her majesty, Queen Beka, respond to questions about future plans of assimilation in the surrounding lands, adjacent rooms, and (perish the thought), the kitchen...


Thursday, April 03, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Now YOU do that VOOdoo that YOU DO so well...

From way back in the day when I was regularly playing the coffeehouse circuit. But I find it totally applicable to what I'm trying to admit I do as a... *gulp*... 


Did I really say that out loud?... Oi vey. 

Anyway, something for all of us to ponder.

Why do you do what you do?

Simple enough question, right? But it’s not about what you do - it’s why you do it. The question also leaves out any conditioners - “at work,” “for fun,” “on vacation,” and so on. Just the question, without much context. And for many of us, “what you do” becomes a multiple choice thing. We do a lot of do as we do things, and so which do is the do that the question wants to know why you do?

Still with me? Good.

In all of my do-do (*snicker*), I’m going to focus in on playing live. That leaves a lot of unexplored do-do (*snort*), and perhaps it’s better that way. A life with unexplored do-do (*guffaw*) is a life that shows the truth of “ignorance is bliss.”

Anyway, enough of that do-do. (“alright, stop that.”)

Consider what it takes for a performer to go someplace and do their thing... For example, since I just happen to be at one of my favorite coffee houses as I write this, allow me to take a look at what it will take in a few days when I return here to play...

Load the van with various instruments, electronic doodads that need to live in the house, and bodies to head to the gig. Allow one hour for setup, plus travel time.

Arrive at the gig, unload the following:
PA System - 5 pieces, also a mic and stand
Wind controller rig - two pieces plus connections
Stands and tables - three or four pieces
Instruments - 12-15 whistles, perhaps a few recorders, possibly an ocarina and a melodica
Computer and connections
Promo material, CDs for sale

Now put everything in place, in an ever-changing performance configuration

Connect all the devices, including power, setup all the stands, get out all the instruments, boot up the laptop and load the tracks.

Sound check, warm up the instruments, double-check the set list, and work out any issues with the wind controller

Check the cable runs, and tape down any cords that might cause litigation.

Play for at least two hours, with a 5-10 minute break between sets (at the place I’ll play in a few days, I usually play for three hours, sometime without taking any breaks)

Take it all apart, disconnect everything, put away all the instruments, fold down the stands and tables, pack all the cords, disassemble the PA and put everything back in their cases / boxes / bags

Put everything back in the van. Allow at least 20 minutes to take down, although it takes more like 30-45 minutes.

Drive home, unload the stuff that lives in the house

Repeat. Every time you play. Ad infinitum.

Why do you do what you do?

Honestly? Because I need to. I want to. I find that those weeks where I don’t play somewhere, that something seems to be missing. When too much time goes by between gigs, I lose something - my edge, my groove, whatever you might call it. Things aren’t as smooth, the songs aren’t as tight, and it’s just not as good. When I’m playing regularly, it keeps getting easier and better.

And because Vicki likes to hear me play. That’s enough reason right there.

I think this compulsion is common in musicians. We spend so much time in our little rooms or studios, playing our songs to the air around us, developing ideas, practicing material, and polishing it as much as we can. But if it stops there, and the music is never heard, there is something missing. We remain incomplete. The music changes when it’s played live - the reaction of the audience enhances it, clarifies it, refines it. How the music is received determines if that song will ever be heard again. The reaction of those that hear it has an impact on how I feel about that song.

Did you have any idea that an audience has such power over a musician?

Anyone can sit around in their living room, crooning little tunes and playing for fun. But for a performer, that’s never enough. The music is never meant to just sit there - it wants to be heard. The musician wants it to be heard.

Why do you do what you do?

Because God made me this way. He put these gifts in me to reach out, not to draw in. And when I play, I reflect Him. When I’m using the gifts He has given, and when I am doing the things He created me to do, that’s when I shine the brightest. And that’s when I feel the most joy, the most peace, and the most connected to Him.

The music is meant to be heard. When it is heard, it reflects the One who gives it. I do what I do because He made me to. And that’s enough for me.

Since this was written, things have changed. I don't do as many gigs, and now I write more than I play. Still, the reasons remain the same... I write, I tell stories because when I don't, something is missing. I'm compelled, because He has stories and ideas and thoughts and illumination to put out there... even if I'm the only one that ever reads it. 

He put these gifts in me to reach out, not to draw in. And when I play, I reflect Him. When I’m using the gifts He has given, and when I am doing the things He created me to do, that’s when I shine the brightest. And that’s when I feel the most joy, the most peace, and the most connected to Him.

The music is meant to be heard. When it is heard, it reflects the One who gives it. I do what I do because He made me to. And that’s enough for me.

Why do you do what you do?

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

"...And I Don't Know Why."

For the record, Neffypooh did NOT get me onto Thunderhawk at Michigan's Adventure... Maybe next time...
There are two ways of looking at the following statement...

" I never __________, and I don't know why."

The first way of thinking about this causes me to pause, sigh, and hang my head in gloomy reflection, because it reminds me of too many dreams I didn't even try to follow.

The second way just occurred to me today, right after pausing, sighing, and hanging my head in gloomy reflection...

The second way of thinking about this is to say, "Well, since I don't know why I never did that, and it's something that I really ought to do, something that I want to do, something that I need to do, then I guess I should quit messing around and do it."

Since I don't know why I didn't start, didn't follow through, didn't pursue, then there really aren't any good reasons (that I'm aware of) that I shouldn't or can't have at it now. After all, if I did think of an actual good reason why I never should do that, then I wouldn't get to say, "I never _____, and I don't know why."

If I don't know why, then why not?

For example, here's the usual sort of conversation I have with myself. Or as one of my favorite pics off of Facebook says, "I may be schizophrenic, but at least I have each other."

Self, meet self. Have a nice chat...

"I've not even started writing my book, and I don't know why."

Ok - well, there's nothing standing in the way, is there?

"But... I don't have time."

You do - you just spend it in front of the computer screen, staring at meaningless crap that produces nothing worthwhile, for literally hours at a time.

"But... I can't. I'm not a writer."

Um... I'm not even going to dignify that load of fertilizer with a response.


NO. You just said, "I don't know why." So you don't. There are no obstacles, no good reasons preventing you, no actual barriers. Nada. Zip. Nuttin'. 



"I haven't gotten around to finishing my first hymns CD, and I don't know why."

Ok - well, then...


Are we really going to do this again? Here - let me help... You DO have the arrangements for the most part - some of them you've been playing for a couple of years. You DO have both the technology and the instrumentation to get the job done. And you DO have any number of talented friends who would throw in if you simply ask. You don't know why not, SO...

"Um - so, just get going?"



"I've let myself get back up to over 250 lbs, and I don't know why."


"No - I DO know why. It's because I'm not watching my intake closely enough, I'm not doing any moving, and..."

And so, you do know why. Which means you know what to do to change it.

"So, again, just get going?"

Are you seeing a pattern here? Are you finally boarding the Clue Bus? 



My self isn't very patient with my self, just for the record.

So, there are no reasons why not, or at least no reasons I haven't identified that can't be overcome. My only obstacle seems to be the one I drop in front of myself - not even starting.

Just get going.

And so, it begins. I can't promise I won't backslide, I won't lose a day or three in front of the almighty (NOT) screen for hours at a time, or that I won't hear the doubts screaming in my ears every time I put my hand to the task.

But I don't know why not, so I'm going to. Now. Today. And tomorrow. And the next day, 'cause this is gonna take a while.

You too? Got something you didn't do, and you don't know why? Congratulations - you are unimpeded, you're unfettered, the road before you is clear, and all the lights are green.

If "you don't know why," then you might as well.

Meesa too.