Learning to Relax, and New Habits

So, it’s nearly time to head back to work after a long span of time off. Delicious. And I also feel very lucky to have a job that I like – and that affords me a living wage as well as the feeling that I am doing something worthwhile. But unscheduled time still has to be about the best thing going.

One of the things that I learned about myself — perhaps most especially when I was entirely alone up at ‘the lake’ — was how difficult it is for me to relax. When you’re busy you don’t notice it – but alone, with absolutely no demands on my time, I found myself often thinking that I “should” be doing something else or more of whatever I was doing.

2015-11-17 16.22.12The sunset is a great example. So many gorgeous sunsets and sunrises … and I was almost uncomfortable in their presence. How could I appreciate them enough? I’d take a photo … then go back outside five minutes later to take another. But what was I trying to do or get? Could I not just sit still and let the beauty wash over me and appreciate it and let it be?

Apparently not. There was something more that I should be doing or thinking or feeling.

To my way of thinking, “should” is not a word that’s a happy accompaniment for any sort of a vacation — or any moment of my time, for that matter. But there it was, quietly insistent. And I can’t blame anyone or anything else … it was coming from inside of me!

So, I’m gonna be keeping an eye on that in the days ahead. Just observing how often I start to relax, only to be jolted to attention by that impulse, that “should.” It’s a habit of longstanding and I’m glad to have noticed it so I can set about changing it.

And since it’s a habit, I started thinking about what I could replace it with. Meditation came to mind. Simple and of the moment – the idea is to relax and do nothing. To just focus on my breathing is a perfect answer to my “should.” So I am making a concerted effort to meditate more.

Writing is another ting that I did a bit of on my vacation and would like to continue … another habit to get back into. And then of course there’s exercise. The older I get, the more I notice how much ground I lose when I take a few days off and stop exercising. So maintaining and building capacity is high on my list. The FitBit has helped on that front, and there’s lots more to do.

So, guess what? Being the geek that I am, I was very pleased to find an app that is aimed at helping you develop new habits … reinforcing them by giving you a place to set goals and track what you’re doing.

It’s called HabitBull and it’s looking like a fun way to give myself a boost toward getting healthier, digging a little deeper, and letting myself be still in the moment.

I’ll keep you posted … blogging, after all, is one of the things I’ll be tracking.

Posted in Living Skillfully | 6 Comments

Yes, By All Means, Let’s Expand the War on Terror

Terrorism, according to Merriam-Webster, is “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.”

It’s what we witnessed with horror in Paris this past Friday. The world is riddled with terrorism and it’s heinous. There’s no arguing the point.

But I have a huge problem with the bellicose outcry from those who are all about bombs and borders. If that’s the answer to terrorism then let’s at least expand the war so we go after all the terrorists … not just the ones who aren’t Christian or aren’t Jewish or aren’t us – whatever ‘us’ is.

So yeah – let’s go after the KKK and the neo-Nazis. And oh yeah. let’s go after those folks who believe it’s okay to murder doctors and bomb clinics in order to impose their values on women and achieve their political goals. Let’s go after the right-wing, ‘home grown’ terrorists who have killed significantly more of ‘us’ than ‘they’ have.

Despite public anxiety about extremists inspired by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, the number of violent plots by such individuals has remained very low. Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.

In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012.

Oh, and then there’s this – for those who think that terrorism is our main threat:

Meanwhile, terrorism of all forms has accounted for a tiny proportion of violence in America. There have been more than 215,000 murders in the United States since 9/11. For every person killed by Muslim extremists, there have been 4,300 homicides from other threats.

Surely more guns will help solve THAT problem – because look at how well it’s worked to date!

Interestingly, it sounds like the government’s hands are tied when it comes to the militias and white supremacists and other dangerous folks who fly great big “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and call themselves “patriots” and have huge caches of weapons and ammunition and hate Obama and walk amongst us. Apparently, though they have killed and continue to threaten to kill, they can’t be arrested or tried as terrorists.

So that’s partly why I want to expand the war on terror – those people really scare me.

The other reason has to do with a more inclusive — and I think equally meaningful — definition of violence.

“Violence” or to “do violence to” — according to the OED — means “to damage or adversely affect.” So we’re not just talking about sudden death. Maybe we’re talking about slow death. Or perhaps that species of damage that stunts and contorts the soul, or takes years to have its effects fully appear.

This introduces a whole new category of terrorism — doers of violence. So, I’d sincerely like to expand my war to these terrorists, too! They are doing more violence to the good citizens of the USA (and the world) than any of the groups that we are so worried about.

I don’t minimize the damage done and the losses suffered at the hands of groups like ISIS. But these other ‘terrorists’ are operating on a MUCH larger scale. The havoc they wreak is insidious, long-term, highly profitable, generally socially acceptable … and as lethal as the activities we decry from ISIS et al.

Who are they?

  • I’m talking about folks like the NRA and the gun manufacturers they support in the guise of protecting people’s Second Amendment rights.
  • I’m talking about the big banks and the big insurance companies and the big pharmaceutical companies and the big oil companies.
  • I’m talking about the fast food chains and giant food manufacturers that offer non-nutritious-or-worse food at ‘affordable’ prices.
  • I’m talking about the insurance companies and the Monsanto’s and the Halliburton’s of the world.
  • Hell, I might even be talking about the NFL!

Who has destroyed more lives and done more damage to the USA than the tobacco companies? Their profitability is a boon to their shareholders – and at what cost? It’s self-interest run amok. Blindingly entitled … and it’s the same for the rest of them – each in their own way.

But I know we’ll never actually label these folks as anything other than upstanding citizens. These are powerful groups with powerful lobbies. We won’t even call them evil-doers, as Dubya used to like to say about those other terrorists – the ones who look different from ‘us.’

But I surely do wish we would — call them what they are, I mean.

It would be, at the very least, cleansing.

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Johnny Mouse

Johnny Mouse was a favorite!

Visiting with my sister last night we got to talking about some childhood books.

These are ones that were read to us – as well as a set of books that we got to see once a year when we went to our Great Aunts’ house for New Year’s Day dinner.

Funny – it’s the illustrations that I remember most clearly, not the stories.

The images evoke times, places and people long gone. Other voices, other rooms.

So now I’m here in this old house while the wind whistles and sings as it comes off the lake, tending the fire and thinking about those books and the humans who held them.

Raggedy Ann

Raggedy Ann isn’t as clear a memory.

Guess I’m thinking about legacies, ultimately. Reflecting on how complicated they are and how, as I get older, I find myself coming at my history with more compassion for (most of) the players – and more of an appreciation for the mysteriousness and the daily-ness of the lives we weave.

I mean, looking back there was drama and fear and hurt – things that go to my core – things that shaped me in ways I’m still exploring. And at the same time there were laughter and happy surprises — warm times.

And there were hundreds upon hundreds of bills paid, sandwiches made, diapers changed, lessons checked, stories read, appointments made, appointments kept, shoe laces tied, waste-baskets dumped, clothes washed, clothes hung on lines … and on and on.

Wooden Willie

Wooden Willie I definitely remember … but the stories? Not so much …

It’s a great big mixed bag and I no longer have one summative idea or assessment of the whole thing.

And maybe it’s not compassion or wisdom that drives that so much as my realization that I really wouldn’t want anyone making any ‘summative assessments’ of me!

Whatever drives it, I think I like that I’m outgrowing any need to make pronouncements.

That definitely leaves a lot more space for the truth to gently emerge and let us glimpse it once in awhile.

Moments of grace – usually they surprise me – always, they are a boon.

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What an inspiring outcome in the Marriage Referendum in Ireland yesterday! Love how so many people went #hometovote.  Love how politicians and companies stepped up and were supportive.



I’ve been off and on grinning and in tears since Friday night, and the final tally was a stunning commentary on change, on human decency, and on the loosening grip of the Church in Ireland.

You can click HERE for referendum results.  It’s too beautiful a morning to write more now – but Ireland certainly did itself proud on Friday, May 22nd, and I hope what goes around comes around!

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An Unhung Cutpurse

2015-05-09 12.47.13-2This is a passage that I was trying to remember while in Ireland recently. Or should I say, “whilst in Ireland”?

Yes, that sounds much better – plus I like it that I get to repeat the fact that I was in Ireland recently (something that never ceases to amaze me – on so many levels that you can’t even begin to imagine!)

So, back to the point, whilst in Ireland I was trying to remember these lines, from Look Homeward Angel:

Each of us is all the sums he has not counted: subtract us into nakedness and night again, and you shall see begin in Crete four thousand years ago the love that ended yesterday in Texas.

The seed of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin of our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a Georgia slattern, because a London cutpurse went unhung. Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years. The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time.

One of the things that I loved from the start about Thomas Wolfe was the rhythm of his language. It hardly mattered what he was saying sometimes – just the lilt and sway of it was enough.

“…haunted by a Georgia slattern because a London cutpurse went unhung …” It just sounds so lyrical — and authoritative — and maybe a little bit dangerous. But checking out the meaning is interesting, too.

  • alexin =(biochemistry, dated) A protective substance that exists in the serum or other bodily fluid and is capable of killing microorganisms; complement.
  • slattern = a untidy, slovenly woman; Origin of SLATTERN probably from German schlottern to hang loosely, slouch; akin to Dutch slodderen to hang loosely, slodder slut
  • cutpurse = “one who steals by the method of cutting purses, a common practice when men wore their purses at their girdles” The word continued after the method switched to picking pockets.

Every moment is a window on all time. And happenstance is the warp and woof of our days, however much we try to protect ourselves from letting that in.

So what’s to be made of all that?

I don’t know. Perhaps I’ll go back to Ireland and see if I can find out whilst I’m there!

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Spring is come again …

Listening to peepers and birds not-quite-ready to let go of the day, I breathe in the soft scent of lilacs and crab apple blossoms as night settles into every nook and cranny of these hills. Spring is such a gentle season, and yet so powerful – tender shoots thrusting themselves through packed soil. Every year the same. A million tiny miracles.

Cong AbbyI’m reminded of one of my favorite Easter anthems – one that always seemed more grounded and sober than all the joyous hallelujahs that are ubiquitous at that time of year.  It’s the kind of Easter anthem one might sing in Cong Abbey … just sayin’!

The hallelujahs generally left me uninspired and a little out-of-sorts, honestly.  But this one song, sung slowly and in a minor key, I really liked.

It begins:

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
love lives again, that with the dead has been:
love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

It goes on, with more traditional religiosity than I believe readers of JordanCornblog are generally up for, so I’ll forego the rest of the lyrics. The main draw for me was that each stanza ended with “love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.”

I really liked that – a kind of hopefulness that was small enough to be possible. Not pie in the sky, but something I could wrap my head around.

And just like clockwork, again, this spring, the green blade riseth.  I like that!

Here’s a modernized version of the song – sounds different from the one I remember, but pretty close.

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So, I was Just Thinking …

JLC Contemplating the Future in 1956Yesterday I realized that I’ve now experienced 61 April 19ths in my life.

Thought of that way, it really doesn’t seem like that many, does it?  It certainly makes me want to live each one of these days as fully as possible.  No pressure … but today I find myself wanting to be more mindful … what am I doing with my 61st April 20th?  Definitely don’t want to fritter it away.

Thinking back and trying to remember, I can say the following about my April 19ths so far:

  • 6 of them were spent on East Benedict Avenue in Oakmont;
  • The next 12 I was living on East Park Road in Llanerch – both in Havertown, PA;
  • After that, came 4 April 19ths in Swarthmore, PA – bringing me up to age 22.
  • The next 2 years, I believe, were back at Park Road, after my mother died, although I lived in Philly for part of that time, too.
  • Next I lived my April 19ths in Ardmore, Rosemont, Ardmore again, Narberth, Manayunk and (briefly) Havertown;
  • In 1985 my April 19th was lived on West Road in Canterbury;
  • 1986 and 87 that day was lived on Wyven Road;
  • Then Abbott Road for 1988-90; and
  • From 1991 to today, my April 19ths have been lived here on Baptist Road.

Between 1964 and 1980, many of those April 19ths would have involved either a lacrosse game or lacrosse practice.  Down in Pennsylvania, the buds would all be bursting and spring would be in full sway!

Here in NH, between 2000 and 2010, it’s quite possible that April 19th could have involved attending a track meet.  (And in NH chances are it would be raw and wet … with the buds still making up their minds as they shivered through the latest brief snowfall.)

Easter fell on April 19th in 1981, 1987 and 1992 and 2011.  Interesting that, prior to those dates, it hit the 19th in 1908 – and that was it for the 20th century.

The first of many April 19th Boston Marathons was held on April 19, 1897 … but I have never spent one of my 61 April 19ths running in it.

Can I specifically recall anything that I have actually done on April 19th?  Hmmm … not without checking back to jog my memory, that’s for sure.  I’ve checked Wikipedia, and it appears that there’s been an awful lot going on on April 19th – much of which I’ve not been aware of … but some of which I (sadly) have – like the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

Last April 19th was a Friday … and I went to watch Mo in action on the pitch in a match between KUA and Proctor in Lacrosse.  It was an outing with WeatherDewd on a brisk evening – and we had a very LONG wait at a funky little place on the way home for a late supper, as I recall!  (This, I gleaned by checking my calendar … although the slightly annoying dinner part is straight out of my memory.)

So, what’s my point?  That time is precious and limited, of course.  But also something about how the river of my life flows along through these days with billions of other lives – all particular and precious – all experiencing events large and small and remembering (or not).

So how many April 19ths have you had?  And what do you remember about them?

Yeah … and what will you remember about today?

PS  For your listening pleasure … Pink Floyd on Time (thanks for the suggestion, Bob)!

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Wow – Here It All Is, in a Frigging Nutshell!

Infuriating … so blood-boiling infuriating.  (This dude reminds me of my Uncle Malcolm – an entitled, condescending, alcoholic asshole whose dark secrets the family tried to keep hidden … and whose toxic presence we were subjected to … blessedly in only brief spurts … as kids.)

and heartening …

Thanks, Larry and WeatherDewd … you’ve started my day off with a little jolt of angry adrenalin followed by hope … and I needed both – but especially the adrenalin – after staying up listening to that Michigan State UVA game)!

Oh, and by the way … here’s last week’s (audio-challenged) WeatherDewd … while you wait for the next installment!


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Home Again

Irish Sea from Brittas Bay Beach

Irish Sea from Brittas Bay Beach

Lovely to be home and LOVED seeing RPE and her home in Ireland!

The weather was lovely the entire time we were there and the scenery was breathtaking!

Oh, and the food was excellent and the pubs friendly.  Walking, whether in the city or the countryside, offered endless delights!

Graves in the twilight at Glendalough

Graves in the twilight at Glendalough

I think that one of my favorite places, if I had to pick, was Glendalough.

St. Kevin went there seeking solitude to pray … but his apparently exceedingly charismatic spirituality led to the founding of a monastic settlement there, at the foot of two lakes in a spectacular valley.  It’s definitely a place to explore again sometime!  I highly recommend doing so when there’s a slant to the light!

Then there was Powerscourt … the hotel, the gardens, and the waterfall.  Spectacular, all!

Powerscourt Hotel - cloudy evening.

Powerscourt Hotel – cloudy evening.- taken from the helipad!

RPE on a Powerscourt Garden Path
RPE pausing on a Powerscourt Garden Path

RPE at the Powerscourt Falls
RPE at the Powerscourt Falls

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We’re Going Away to Ireland Soon!

Yikes – the Roches in 1983 – we were wee lasses then – all of 31!

Can’t wait to see Dublin, County Wicklow … and RPE!

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Snow, Sunshine, and Taxes

Taxes … … taking … ………. longer ………. ……………….. than anticipated! ……………….. But DONE now (sort of).  How’s your Sunday going? Morning LightIt’s a glorious winter’s day here in Canterbury.

Here’s the view from quite-a-few-hours ago (before taxes intruded).

See … there’s the new morning light on the dormant garden, and the shed, and the picket fence around JBD’s cottage garden … and the railing of the deck … all covered in our most-recent bit of snow. Love it! Morning Light 2

And here’s the morning light on the inside of the house – glowing across the cabinet wood and the glasses and plates inside.

Small, everyday scraps of beauty (from before taxes intruded). But now the taxes are done so I’ve really nothing left to complain about.  (And even the process of doing them wasn’t that painful … just time-consuming on a beautiful day).

And then in the midst of it all, a quick Skype call from RPE about travel plans … and the day stretches and expands into all kinds of exciting new possibilities!  😉

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Lots and Lots of Moving

So, after we moved to Park Road I didn’t do much moving (except within the house) ’til it was time for college.  And there began a period of portability that continued pretty far into my adulthood.

Yup, bricks, boards, and wooden crates about summed up that period for me.  And truth be told, it’s a decor that I still kind of fancy, though I no longer have crates in my room.  Well, that’s not entirely true … but I think the fact that they are small … and painted … seriously diminishes their authentic crateness (or cratenicity).

CatboxWe do have a few crates in the basement, still … and some bricks, too.  And this past fall Ms. JBD and I had a seriously genius-like idea about how to create a cat box enclosure that our dogs couldn’t get into.

If you live with dogs and cats, you are probably aware of their rather disgusting symbiotic relationship. And while the dogs did save us the chore of bending over and scooping out the poops in the cat box, their hobby certainly made me disinclined to accept the dog kisses that they so enjoy doling out.

Catbox1So yes, those old crates continue to come in very handy.  As you can see, that cat box is now neatly locked away. (And I can only presume that the dogs have found other ways to assuage their appetites – ways that I don’t want to know anything about.)

PS  It’s a good idea to apply varnish to the bricks and at least the portion of the wood that is closest to the ground.  It was awhile before we realized that we needed a cat box with higher sides (the one pictured here is no longer in use).

So, if you’re using a regular box, be sure to seal up anything that’s porous … just sayin’!

I’ll get into more detail about moving in future posts.  For now I apologize for the highly misleading title.  I just didn’t realize I was going to get sidetracked so quickly.

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Another Moving Experience

So, I’ve been wrestling, for quite a few hours now, with trying to move a WordPress blog/website to a local host so I can do some testing.  In the process, I am discovering some things about myself:

  • I absolutely love it when things work (be they digital or otherwise).
  • I get a tad cranky when they don’t.
  • But I am persistent (some might say stubborn).
  • It’s good for me to step away for a bit before I break something.
  • Caffeine doesn’t help, after a point.
  • Food does help (see cranky above).
  • I am not very good at following directions!
  • When I get whatever-it-is working I move quickly from cranky to euphoric.
  • Right now I am still at the cranky stage …

I shall keep you posted!


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A Moving Experience

Since helping move a friend to new digs this past Saturday, I’ve been musing a bit about moving. It’s been a long time since I moved (in more than a few senses of the word, unfortunately).  But what I’m musing about here is the kind of moving that involves transporting beloved objects, usually right along with objects we don’t-know-what-the-hell-to-do-with, from one place to another.

My very first move was from one part of my hometown (Havertown, PA) to another.  After 1st grade our family moved from Oakmont to Llanerch … and I made no decisions about objects or anything else having to do with that move, as I recall.

It was like magic; I went to our grandparents’ house in Ridley Park one day, and came home to a new house the next. Maybe it wasn’t actually the next day – but you get the picture.  (I think ChristopherCornblog went to a friend’s house … and maybe HollyCornblog was with me … really can’t remember a thing about it … and sure hope I wasn’t supposed to be responsible for her!)  It was June and it was Philly-hot, I DO know that much!

After that, there were no more moves, per se, ’til heading off to college.  But I engaged in a great deal of moving within and around the house – creating-little-spaces, creating nooks and crannies, re-arranging rooms, moving furniture, arranging shelves, etc.

In retrospect, it was very much an effort to wrest small islands of order out of the chaos of home life.  Making something orderly, or changing it around, allowed me to gain a sense of control … or agency, to borrow a sociological term that applies nicely here. Indeed, today, when I feel stressed and/or my life feels just-a-tad out of control, one of my immediate urges is to rearrange my room.  (And if my room offers no possibilities, others’ rooms are at some risk!)

And yes, it was quite a lot like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  But it served me well at the time.  That and AM radio saw me through!  (And, if I wanted to use it, it’s a  pretty marketable skill that I developed all those years ago, compulsively organizing shit.)

I remember creating a study space in the basement of our house in Llanerch.  Another spot a remember fondly was a ‘reading place’ out in our sun porch … basically a sleeping bag on the floor.  It was cold out there and so there were very few interruptions.  We had a fireplace out there and I remember reading The Count of Monte Cristo with coals glowing in the grate … a pretty fond memory among other late elementary and early junior high school reading adventures in the sun porch.

You see, it was hard doing much of anything uninterrupted at our house, so I liked finding places where I was more or less inaccessible – at least temporarily.  I seem to recall reading Louisa May Alcott up in our magnolia tree.  (Am guessing I wasn’t perched up there too long – can’t have been comfortable!)

My spaces were always makeshift and created out of whatever was at hand. ChristopherCornblog would sometimes come along afterward and take it to a whole new level.  He made the sun porch into something that would qualify as a real, additional room – whereas my creations were more like a bedouin’s temporary digs – slipshod and portable.

So anyway – I haven’t gotten too far into my history of moving. In fact, I haven’t left the house yet.  So, to be continued … sooner rather than later, I hope!

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Brrrrrr …

BrrrrrrIt’s just not right.
Too cold tonight.
So being brief
I’ll say, “Good Grief …
“It’s just not right;
“Too cold tonight!”

How’s that for breaking the blogging ice, as it were?

Last time I posted I was feeling a tad grandiose … thinking … and probably proclaiming … that I was going to post at least every Sunday.  (It’s on my weekly schedule and everything – has been since whenever I made that oh-so-public promise to the 7 of you who saw that post.)

But then you know what I think happened?  The Eagles started doing well … and my sister, HollyCornblog sent me this silly hat that I proceeded to wear during Eagles’ games … and they continued to do well, so of course I couldn’t change anything I was doing.  And it was a pretty complex ritual.

What was amazing was that it all kept working, right up until the first game of the play-offs.  And for reasons that I’ll never ever understand, I confess that I changed things just a wee bit for that game.  Horror of horrors … I watched it downstairs (NOT on the upstairs TV where I had witnessed all those wonderfully unexpected victories).

Yes, I screwed up everything and watched the most important game of the season on the wrong TV!  And of course we all saw what happened.  Shady never got going.  DJack hardly caught a pass … Foles looked human … and this is a burden I will carry to my grave.  (I was too young to have caused the Phillies ’64 meltdown … pretty sure about that.)

I sincerely apologize to the City of Brotherly Love and to HollyCornblog … and to all readers of JordanCornblog who probably felt abandoned after I made that heartfelt (at the time) promise about posting every week. See, I am letting everyone down.

So about this blog post … you definitely shouldn’t trust me yet.  This could just be another tease – another flash in the pan – to be followed by another 3-month silence.

Don’t get your hopes up … it only makes me feel that much more despicable when I let you down.

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Not Posting Today

I am writing this post to say that I won’t be posting today.

Thought I’d come up with something, but there are simply no original thoughts to be had in JordanCornblog-land on this October Sunday.  So I am not going to pretend or dress up something old as if it were new.

I hope to become a deeper person, but in lieu of that, I hope you’ll accept the confession of an honest person … 😉

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Just Another Sunday

Ready for the gameNot a lot to say … except that Daddy Cornblog, wherever he is, is enjoying his anticipation of the Eagles’ victory over the Gnats today!

This photo, was taken in 1980 – the first time (at least in my lifetime) that the Eagles made the Superbowl.

I have some regret about not watching the game with him, in retrospect – though it totally made sense for me to be watching with my friends. (And in reality, we were all bummed and cranky by the end … so it wouldn’t exactly have been a good memory.)

He sure did love his Eagles, though … and his football in general.  It’s mostly Saturday football that I remember with him.  Saturday afternoons of raking leaves with him and then watching college football (as I madly made potholders to give to relatives for Christmas).

Peaceful islands of time in what was otherwise a pretty loud and chaotic place.

So yes, I associate football, oddly enough, with peacefulness.  Guess I always will.  And as an Eagles fan, I also associate football with wrenching roller-coaster rides of hope and disappointment … so I am prepared for the worst today, even as I hope for the best.

Being an Eagles fan builds character … 😉

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Excruciating Beauty

Beauty1The past string of days have been so beautiful that I hardly know what to do with myself.

So that got me thinking, because there is a certain discomfort that comes, for me, with wondrous beauty. I think I feel unworthy of it – like it’s not possible to appreciate it enough.

Add to that the fact that it is fleeting, and a beautiful day can almost put me into a panic.  A small panic, mind you, but I am definitely challenged by all of this.

Can I simply relax and appreciate beauty? Now there’s a good question for JordanCornblog!

Beauty2I think my problem is that I approach beauty as a consumer – as if it is a thing that I somehow need to take in.  But there is far too much of it on days like we’ve recently had … and I don’t know where to put it.

I race around, taking photos as the light moves and changes.  I look and look and look.

It’s disappearing, even as I try to capture it.

And I absolutely know that this isn’t really capturing anything … and in fact, I am missing the beauty, peeking at it through a camera lens.

It brings to mind Martin Buber – and I think I should probably read I and Thou again (but I can pretty much guarantee that I won’t … unless it’s available for Kindle … ;-))

Beauty3Consuming beauty makes it into an “It” in Buber’s terms … I am the subject and beauty is the object.  It is not satisfying. And it is the way of the world.

The other way – the more satisfactory and meaningful way (IMHO) that Buber proposes is to relate to the world as a “Thou.”  I am the subject (I) and beauty is also the subject (Thou) – and that changes the interaction entirely.

Beauty isn’t something that I use or consume … it stands on its own and I stand in relation to it.

Beauty isn’t an object of my personal experience – it is separate and complete. It doesn’t need me to see and appreciate it.  It just is.

I can’t quite wrap my head around this, but it feels important to me. I interact with beauty.  I accept it gratefully and am not responsible for it and can’t hold it or let it go.  I open to it and it gives itself to me, somehow.  The more permeable I let myself be the more I can feel it.

Excruciating beauty, terrifying beauty.  To fully experience the I and Thou-ness of life it seems we have to let ourselves be open and permeable while also letting in the bottom-line separateness of everything and the kind-of-ultimately-challenging fact that we are not the center of the universe.

Doing all of that … I think … somehow opens the door to a level of relatedness and connection that is the stuff of mystical ecstasy.

So that’s what I think today … that and the fact that the Eagles are going to shock the Broncos this afternoon!

Oh … and I and Thou actually is available for the Kindle.


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Drumbeats, Heartbeats

The September nights shorten as the twilight slips down the western sky, coating trunk, branch, leaf and frond with liquid gold. Darkness falls to the crazed yips and yowls of coyotes just one hill over. Sylus, my new best friend, stirs on the bed … I’m glad she is indoors.

These days I am reading a biography of Karen Carpenter.  She was one of those guilty, secret pleasures that I indulged but never told friends about in the ’70’s.  White bread.  I wasn’t about to admit to liking anything so mainstream … not with Tricia Nixon still living with her father in the White House.

But from the first, something about her compelled me. (Karen, I mean … not Tricia!)  Of course, there was that amazing, clear and melancholy voice.  Then there was how awkward she looked in the dresses that someone was dressing her in (Richard, I suspected). I could so totally relate. It was painful to see – endearingly so.

But the icing on the cake came when I learned she was a drummer, and a damn good one at that.  It was soooo out of character with what was being presented. I was fascinated and felt absolutely confirmed in my suspicion that there was much more to Karen than the white bread persona we saw.

So, accompanying my bio reading has been a bit of YouTube exploring.  There are some amazing videos out there.  Here, for example, is a melange of some of her drum performances. The sound and video quality is quite variable, but what comes through is her skill (starting at @ age 16) along with her palpable joy and comfort behind the drum kit. (And if you’re reading this via the e-mail feed, you’ll have to click the link at the end of the e-mail to be able to see the videos.  Sorry – and lesson learned!)

She started playing the drums in high school – so that would have been @1964. Very unusual stuff for a girl. Her singing was really an afterthought. The drumming was her passion.

This next video shows her in the studio performing “Close to You” – at about age 20. Watching this, I wonder about being thrust into fame at such a young age.  What were you doing at 20?

This next is a performance from The Tonight Show in 1973 – so now she’s @ 23. (Hmmmm what was I doing at 23?). The tempo changes in this piece seem complex and difficult to navigate (to my uneducated ear) … and she looks like she is having a great time with it all!

I just wish she’d lived long enough to ditch the weird dresses!  Or get back to where she wanted to be … like in this video from a 1970 performance on The David Frost Show …

I’m at the point in the bio where fame has arrived and, along with it, lots of pressure. Apparently the audience doesn’t know where to focus during a Carpenter’s performance, so Karen is being asked to step out from behind her drum kit, stand out front and just sing. She hates the idea … feels awkward and afraid … but does it.

And if it hadn’t already started, this must have been the beginning of the end. Too much exposure.  Too many eyes with no buffer. No longer doing the really heartfelt, joyful thing. Standing front and center singing … sacrificed to success.

Ultimately unbearable. That’s how I see it. No more drum kit or drumbeat – except as a funny novelty on TV specials.

But this is the terribly sad, weirdly predictable, haunting part – the part that I keep coming back to.  In the report from the Los Angeles coroner, while anorexia nervosa was the clear underlying cause of her demise, the proximate cause of Karen Carpenter’s death was listed as “heartbeat irregularities.”

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Girl Interrupted

SylusThe other evening our cat Sylus decided that she needed some pats just as I was finishing up some intricate budgeting work on my computer. (Okay, maybe I was fiddling with one of my Fantasy Football Teams … the main point is, she interrupted me.)

I was immediately annoyed and shooed her away.  She came back, I felt more annoyed, and shooed her away a bit more emphatically.  Then I sighed, expelling the frustration and making space for guilt to flow in and pool in the empty spot.  So then I reached down, scooped Sylus up, and gave her the pats she was craving.

There was a very familiar rhythm to that interchange.  And so, that small episode got me thinking and remembering. Those knee-jerk reactions don’t come from nowhere. And for me they usually come from the same place … my growing up years.  The deeper I go into those years, the more amazed I am at the terrible and tender complexity of human growth!

1953 MeSo … remembering now I go back further than I used to.  It takes practice, faith, and courage. I know I won’t see or experience anything I’m not ready for, yet still, the journey inward always feels a tad perilous. And these days, to get to where I want, I need to shed words along the way. It’s the wordless that I’m after … the memories that are hardly memories, yet that are as foundational as cement and re-bar when it comes to how I live my life.

It reminds me of a poem by Wendell Berry that I think I’ve shared here before …

To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.

So here’s to the dark, the wordless, the foundational moments that, no matter how old I get, remain to the mined for information and insight.

Oh, and here’s to win #2 for the Iggles!  (Daddy Cornog, are you watching?)


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