The Man in The Black Fedora

“Happy Hour” Painted by Traci Dalton

It was the night of my twenty first birthday.  Not content this time to spend another Saturday evening absent mindedly watching my pitiful hand-me-down TV, complete with rabbit ears, in my flat, I reluctantly agreed to a night of drinks and mingling with my former suite mates Collette and Petra.

So here I was then.  Freshly twenty one sitting on a bar stool at Philospher’s Jazz, a swanky uptown restaurant and bar known for its good food and live jazz bands on the weekend.

Only two weeks ago I’d turned my tassel and received my sheepskin from Wellesley.  Fresh out of Ivyville, I finally had my liberal arts degree in Anthropology after spending four grueling years to finish.   So here I sat with no job or job prospects and no prior history or possibility of a single relationship with a male.  At twenty one, all I had were my two loose friends that abandoned me four seconds after we walked in.

Fine then!  I ordered a 7 and 7.  My first, but I tried to look like it was habit.  I drank it fairly quickly, and then realized my dilemma.  Inexperienced at drinking and everything else for that matter, I could not continue at this pace or I’d be out cold on the floor in under an hour.  I contemplated ordering a hydrogen bomb—on the rocks, please!  Yes, water is what I needed now.

Then I saw him!

Six heads away to my right, he was seated and slightly hunched over putting down the last of what I assumed was a scotch.  He was wearing a black felt fedora wrapped by a wide band of red silk.  A single black and white dotted peacock feather was tucked inside the band.

Fabulous I thought.  I tried to turn my head before he could look up and glance at me.  Too late!  In a flash, he looked to his left and instantly our eyes locked.  Three of them did anyway.  His right eye was concealed by a black patch but his visible left eye was the darkest truest brown I’d ever seen.  Despite the dimness of the bar, it was unmistakable.

I felt a chill of what exactly is this run through me.  He was lean and tall and was wearing a dark gray Italian silk suit that was clearly custom made for him.

I raised my hand, “Bartender, I’ll have a…” “Dance with me,” I heard a voice say as a strong hand grabbed my wrist and put my hand down.  How had he transported himself to me so quickly?  Please I thought don’t do this.  Not tonight.  Not on my birthday.   He was not like the nerdish college clowns and cheating husbands that were everywhere else hoping to get lucky with random strangers or secret loves.   No, this one was a fish out of water and did not belong here.  I wanted no part of it.

“Uh, I have two left feet; I’m not so sure that’s a good idea,” I replied.  My objection was overruled.  I was suddenly being pulled towards the floor.  “Ah, they’re playing our song,” he whispered in my ear, “Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango.”  Feeling less than inadequate by now, all I could do was take hold of his hands and stare into his deep brown eye and patch.  I began memorizing every feature of his tannish face.   After all I was a bona fide anthropologist now; it was my job to get to the root of people.

He pulled me in close to his chest and leaned his chin close to my left ear.  “You,” he said with a low accent peppered in Spanish, “are exquisitely beautiful.”  Boom!  In an instant he had pushed me out and away from him, leaving me almost orphaned, save for my hands still holding his as if he were my lifeline.    How much time had passed?  Ten seconds?  Twenty?

In, out, left, right he pulled me.  Whose feet are these?  They couldn’t be mine.  I was dancing, but not of my own volition.  He spun me, and alternated pushing me out and pulling me back in.  Each time he whispered something profound in my ear.  His voice was low and smooth, and he hooked me deeper into whatever trap he was setting with each turn and quiet whisper.

I was no longer bound by earth’s gravity; instead an invisible string kept me connected to this man of mystery and also from making an utter fool of myself on the floor.  He exuded a heat that startled me and made me nervous, but he kept me moving so that I wouldn’t be paralyzed by this fear.  Thirty seconds, maybe forty now had passed.  Maybe even a minute, I lost track.

He pulled me close to his right side and this time it was my left ear as he paused and whispered this:  “I envy the man whose destiny is to plant his lineage here” and like a whisper he put his right hand on the flatness of my belly.  Out he thrust me again!

Who are you I didn’t dare ask.  Who even speaks like this?  That eye, the fedora cocked just so, almost obscuring the patch.  Who calculates their appearance to such degree?

“What do you do?”  I asked lamely.

I fly all over the world from corporation to corporation.”

“Doing what?”

“Consulting,” is all he said.  I’m sure he was probably a ringless married man or some other Casa Nova, but he was good I tell you.  I’m not a gullible person.  I spent the last five years turning down almost lawyers, physicists, astronomers, and neurosurgeons.  Pedigrees don’t impress me.  Hell my own, or the process of it, began boring me two years ago.

Suddenly, I found myself wanting something more.  I did want excitement in my life.  I didn’t want to spend the rest of my weekends reading Jane Austen, or the New York Times, petting my adopted cats Lemon and Lime.    For the first time, I wanted a man.  I wanted this man.

The tango was winding down.  Laughter and smoke and couples behaving discreetly and singles mingling loudly surrounded us, but my awareness of it all was minimal.

I’d always dismissed my girlfriends who spoke of love at first sight as kooky.  Disturbed and kooky twits.    This is not possible.  You can’t just fall.  Yet here I was, me, an exquisite beautiful dancer with the man in the Italian silk suit and black fedora.  I’m either dreaming or in a parallel universe.

The music stopped.  He turned me a half-turn.  I acutely felt the openness of my backless dress against the heat of his chest.  “Close your eyes,” he whispered and then softly kissed my right shoulder.   I did as I was commanded.  I felt the softest of silk being tied around my eyes.  Classic, I thought.

“Hold out your hands” he said and he let go of mine, “behind your back.”  Okay.   The nervousness was near full on shakes now.  My right ear again felt the breath of his whisper.  “Now close your eyes and count to ten…..slowly.”

I felt what seemed like a thornless rose being softly placed in my hand.  “Slowly,” I heard his voice a little further out.

“One.   Two.   Three…..”  I counted as slowly as I could.   Another jazz song began to play.  I heard the brush on the crash symbol and the dripping melody of a piano, and an accordion—in and out, in and out.  “Eight.  Nine….”

Then I heard an unmistakably horrible sound outside.  Pop.  Pop-pop.  Pop.   Sirens ensued.  Impossible I thought.  Only in the movies, does something so surreal happen.  I quickly ripped off the silken hanky as I pulled the gift placed in my hands in front of me.     People were still laughing.  No one made their way outside.  Everything was left the same. 

       I was holding a rose.  A black rose with a white ribbon wrapped up the stem like a candy cane’s stripe.  At the base of the black beauty, a platinum ring was encircled.  In the middle was a diamond.  It had to be at least two carats—at least!  What?!!!!!!!  

     I pushed the ring over my left finger for safekeeping.  My head was spinning and my heart was pounding.  Everything was happening at once.

     Within seconds of the piercing popping sound I ran towards the heavy oak and glass doors.  I looked outside.  Nothing.  No sirens now.  Only a foggy mist loomed.  It was hot and steamy and late enough that new patrons had quit coming in.  A lone semi whizzed by.  After it passed, I noticed something in the road.  I thought it might be an animal.

Quickly I looked left, then right.  The coast was clear.  In a reflexive response to save the wounded and a futile attempt to find the vanished, I ran to the middle of the road.  It was the black fedora.  And that was all.

I picked it up and looked at the top and then the inside.  Then I saw it.  There was a message written on the silver satin lining in what I assume was black sharpie.  In beautiful script, were three words:

Wait for me

I ran back into the bar.  I found my sleazy friends.    I was nearly out of breath.

“Have you seen him?” was all I managed to get out.

“Who?” demanded Petra.

“The guy I was with!  The guy with the black fedora!”

“What have you been drinking?” was all stupid Collette managed to say.

“Didn’t you see us dancing?  The tall man in the Italian silk suit and the black Fedora?  Come on.  How could you have missed it?”  Chuckles slipped from both of them.

“Look!  He gave me this! I showed them my left hand.  I thrust out the Fedora in my right hand.”

“SHUT UP!” Petra said.  “No way,” Collette said simultaneously.

That was seven years ago.   I spent the next four years waiting and drinking at Philospher’s for my ghost husband to return to me.  He never did.   Finally, three years ago, a friend of one of my professors at Wellesley contacted me about an expedition to Cape Verde off the western coast of Africa.   It was time to move on.  I couldn’t wait forever.  My parents were past tired of subsidizing me and I was getting tired of trying to comprehend what happened in the span of a single dance.

I’ve spent the last three years with dirt under my fingernails, sometimes nearly blinded when the sun hits my diamond just right, as I try to unearth the secrets of the ancient Phoenicians who discovered these volcanic islands.  I’ve fed the grateful mouths of hungry children with bloated bellies.  I’ve published articles and pictures in the National Geographic.  At twenty eight, I’m what some would call successful.  I’m professional.  I look good in khaki and reasonable without any make up on.

Sometimes I lie in my cot under an African sky with my black fedora covering my tired eyes and I can almost hear smooth jazz a continent away.   I wait.  I wait and I wait and I wait.  I still pine and wait for my ghost husband to find me somehow.  I wait for him to return to claim his black fedora and carry me home.

 
Suggested Listening:  Astor Piazzolla – Libertango

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUAPf_ccobc

 

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I Woke Up Channeling Woody Allen

Anxiety.  We all feel it sometimes.  The big questions in life plague us:  Why am I here?  Why did this happen?  What’s wrong with me?  Why am I feeling like this today?  Why can’t I just get happy?  How in the world do I solve this?  No biggie; just a momentary existential crisis; it will probably pass—or will it?

I’m no psychiatrist, just another person like you on the journey of life who tries to maintain some control and mental sanity.    It’s hard though.  There are so many things we have to navigate through—daily, and hardest of all simultaneously!

  • Relationships with spouse, parents, children, co-workers
  • Stress of job demands
  • Stress of finances
  • Prioritizing responsibilities—what can I reasonably accomplish today?
  • Health concerns
  • Spiritual dilemmas

As Madame Morrible states in the Broadway musical, Wicked, it’s easy to feel a bit despondiary.  That’s because life can all be so confusifying!  We deal with more and more situations and our feelings towards them with each passing day.  We quickly learn our sands of time will run out much faster than reaching the solutions to all that ail us.   Utopia doesn’t exist and nirvana rarely lasts more than a few minutes, a day at best, depending on what floats your boat.

Do you ever wake up feeling like Woody with the weight of the world on your shoulders?   Wanting to be a pacifist in a world that demands you stand up and fight?  Lamenting relationships that are far from perfect with those you love the most?  How do you come to terms with your youth fleeting and the possibility of your life ending?  What about the dreams you didn’t fulfill yet?  What if you haven’t even clarified to yourself what your dreams even are?  What if your time runs out?

Like Woody, we can get stuck in “analysis paralysis” and suddenly our feet feel like they are planted in cement, and our decision process feels about as stable as a ball trying to find 37 on a roulette wheel.  We keep spinning, the world keeps on turning, but are we getting anywhere?

Yes, like Woody so candidly and humorously often illustrates in his movies, it’s easy to feel like this on a given day:

  • Agorophobia – Fear of heights
  • Atelophobic—Fear of being imperfect
  • Autophobia – Fear of being alone
  • Cacophobia – Fear of ugliness  (also related:  Catoptrophobia – Fear of mirrors)
  • Claustrophobia – Fear of confined spaces
  • Hypochondria – Fear of illness
  • Nyctophobia – Fear of the dark
  • Obesophobia – Fear of gaining weight
  • Sociophobia – Fear of social evaluation
  • Technophobia – Fear of technology
  • Xenophobia – Fear of strangers or foreigners

Don’t laugh!  There’s tons of phobias!  You may even have some of these:

  • Barophobi – Fear of gravity
  • Coulrophobia – Fear of clowns
  • Ephebiphobia – Fear of teenagers
  • Porphyrophobia – Fear of the color purple
  • Selenophobia – Fear of the moon

We’re afraid to fail in life, and sometimes we’re even more afraid to succeed.  We spend too much time thinking about what we could have/should have done when thinking about the past as well as too much time thinking about what if related to the future.

So?  What to do?  Rush to the doctor and get a frontal lobotomy?  Even if you’re not iatrophobic (afraid of doctors), you already know you can’t stop your thinking process.     People can spend many hours and dollars trying to get to the bottom of what’s in their head.

I’m not convinced it can be done.  I’m not sure we were designed to have all the answers.    That’s why people with pedigrees have never impressed me that much.  Yes, I’m amazed at what people specialize in as a profession, but in their personal lives, they are sometimes messier than less educated people.  Sometimes a little bit of ignorance can be bliss.

Is there a way to move past thinking so much about things, and instead start doing things?

I’m convinced the answer is yes—sort of!  We can’t eliminate that which bothers us or we don’t understand entirely.  Instead we have to embrace it.  Can you let your doubts sit beside your knowledge and what you have faith in, until they decide to get up and leave?

The realm of psychology and faith and science all claim to have answers and infinite books to explain.   Only you know what works for you, but I’m convinced the mind grows on what you feed it!  So feed it well!    These things don’t work perfectly, but the more you combine them, the more likely life can improve.

  • Run!  (Walk, swim, or any form of physical exercise) – NOT AN OPTION in life!  Hormones, weight, and especially thoughts come into balance and focus when we exercise!
  • Eat Healthier – You know this.  More veggies, fruits, less processed food, less fat and sugar, healthy protein choices.  It’s true you are what you eat.  I find if I eat according to what I believe, I have more peace and don’t feel as guilty about my choices.  For everyone that’s different, but start eating with awareness of your beliefs regarding food.
  • Sleep!  Oh, it sounds so simple.  But trying to establish a regular bedtime and adequate sleep time is essential.  Everyone is different.  Not enough you’ll be a bear.  But I find, if I get too much, I’m a bear.  I want so much out of life, and I find I can be optimally happy with about 5-6 hours IF I’m eating, exercising, and utilizing my faith simultaneously.
  • Find something to do that you love!  Hobbies or things that give you joy are as essential as oxygen!  For me reading a great book, falling into the sound of music that I love restores my soul.  Do not rob yourself of finding something you love.  Make time to do it!  Schedule it!
  • Find Faith.  Life is long; trying to exist only on reason can be complicated indeed.  I’m not knocking people that do, I’m just saying for me, and many people, too much in life is mysterious, and if I had to have a concrete explanation for it all, I would go out of my mind.  But faith is a verb, it doesn’t work well, if you simply want it to exist in your head.  You have to put it in action,otherwise it’s just a bunch of words.
  • Identify and eliminate the toxins in your life.  You already know if you drink, smoke, or put other toxins in your body too much.  So I won’t lecture you!  Know the difference between moderate and abuse is all I’m saying.  Know whether or not you’d be better off if you totally abstained.  Enjoyment and enslavement are too different things.
  • Equally important:  Learn to eliminate toxic people!  Walk away from an argument.  You don’t have to prove you are right.  You only have to have peace with who you are, you don’t have to change others to think like you do.  If you are exercising faith, this becomes easier because you don’t have to figure other people out or fix them, only you.
  • Accept life on life’s terms not yours.  We all die.  We all suffer.  We all lose sometimes.  Life is not fair.   Once you can accept that, and move past having to know why, you can focus on how you can LIVE your life now without wasting precious energy and thoughts on that which can’t be explained.
  • Be thankful and loving!  It’s true, if you can wake up and first thing focus on all there is that is right in your life and the world, it sets the perspective for how you will go out and view the world today.  Treat others with kindness and a loving heart.

No one is perfect and no one is completely without fear at all times.  Embrace your fears, but don’t let them define you.

Love yourself enough to embrace life, and make right choices until they become habit!

And finally, a lesson from Woody:  Lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself!

From Love and Death – A scene with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton:

Boris: Murder’s immoral.
Sonja: Immorality is subjective.
Boris: Yes, but subjectivity is objective.
Sonja: Not in any rational scheme of perception.
Boris: Perception is irrational. It implies imminence.
Sonja: But judgment of any system of phenomena exists in any rational, metaphysical or epistemological contradiction to an abstracted empirical concept such as being, or to be, or to occur in the thing itself, or of the thing itself.

Boris:  … Yeah, I’ve said that many times.

Sonja:  Boris, we must be believe in God!

Boris:   If I could just see a miracle.  Just one miracle!  A burning bush, or the seas part, or my Uncle Sasha pick up the check!

Scene from Love and Death: 

Back In the Day: Life in the Twenty Fish Century

The Great One and Various Other Actors

My six year old son always keeps us in stitches!   Tonight it was announced during our family dinner of Stouffer’s lasagna, sweet corn on the cob, and sliced home baked pumpkin vanilla chip bread* (not made by me) that following supper there would be a performance play of epic proportions to be performed by:

The one, the only—–The Great One!   Our little six year old!

 He dictated to us the start time (ASAP) and length of our required attendance (one hour)!   So no TV tonight!

It was past 9 pm.  Most children are long asleep.  I’d already received six phone calls full of details that had made my head spin during the preparation of dinner.  My husband and adult children came in intermittently as they all got off work.  My mom came over.  My needy cats needed food and medicine.   So I was already a wee bit tired when my theatre star son announced the required play we would all be attending.    I really wasn’t in the mood for another play choreographed, produced, and acted by the same person who starred in last night’s play.

Alas, the emperor had spoken and my wishes were simply that—wishes.   Dinner was to be wolfed as quickly as possible so we could all see the amazing and fantastic play.  Oh, and audience participation would be required.

I got the dishwasher loaded.  I got off a long-distance call from my dad whom I hadn’t spoken to in months.  I took Tylenol for the migraine that was returning from the night before.

I sat down and tried to dig deep into my exhausted body and muster up some enthusiasm.  I was sitting beside my mom.  My husband was in a chair beside her with our cat’s Elizabethan collar upside down on his head.  This collar prescribed by our vet is used to keep animals from licking injuries, but my husband calls it “The Collar of Shame” from a movie I clearly never saw.  His lampshade-attachment like choice of accessorizing made him appear to be a rickshaw driver.  Do not ask me why he was wearing the cat’s collar.  I have learned in my world it is better not to question some things.  My six- and-a-half foot tall adult son stood beside me near the door in case he needed to make a hasty exit.  My daughter was given a pass by my six year old since there was no more room for people or pets to sit or stand in our sunroom that doubles as a Toys-R-Us, when it’s not being used for off-Broadway plays.

The house lights were darkened.  The conductor (my son) flipped a switch and the programmed organ began to play a classical rendition of Deck the Halls sung by tonight’s soloist (my son). Then the star of the show (also my son) made a compelling announcement to the audience!

Welcome Everyone!  This Play is About:   

Back in The Day of the Twenty Fish Century!!!!!!

Dun Dunna Duh Duh he trumpeted!!

Well okay then!  Maybe this play won’t be so bad after all.  I’d love to hear about life in the TWENTY FISH century.  I wonder if it’s better than the twenty-one-ways-of-communication century I’m living in every day!    I figured I was about to be entertained by a riveting story similar to the times our Lord and Saviour lived in.    A story where people baked bread with yeast, and made loaves that fed multitudes.  A place where the roads were made of dirt and only the prosperous or the greedy had sandals or donkeys anyway.  A story where fish really had a starring role and where fishermen fished for real men AND fish.  Regrettably, I was about to be disappointed.

Where’s the concession stand I wanted to know!  I would like a Moonpie and an RC Cola please!!

Ain’t happening.  Take your seat I was informed!  My tall grown up son was roughed up a little bit and tapped on the back with an umbrella hook by security (my son) for attempting to leave in the middle of the play, which sort of (okay—a lot)  was lacking in plot, character development, and believability.    It didn’t matter.  This displeased the emperor (my son) and so security (also my son) was called in for non-compliant patrons.

The rest of the obedient audience, that is my mom, husband, and myself, continued to endure the show:  a mixture of a laser light show (a light from a broken electronic slinky), a frightening song about ghosts being on the ceiling and inside of our head which was penned and performed for the first time ever, on the spot, by the singer (my son).  Then we were treated to a stirring rendition of Für Elise set to a backdrop of an electronic metronome.

Occasionally the actor in his limited reading ability did seek help from his grandmother to help him read the verbal script that she had helped him prepare prior to the show.  He stumbled on one line, quickly gained composure, and then delivered this line perfectly:

     Okay, this is the part you are really going to freak out!

Again, however, the plot weakened.  I didn’t freak out, but I did look at my wrist praying a watch had somehow materialized.    That’s when the emcee (also my son) announced the play no longer had a set time to end.

That did it!  I revolted!  I turned on the lamp and thanked him for the amazing and exciting performance.  We were all affected beyond belief!  We would not forget this night ever.  We could not if we tried!     You see, we love the movie star who was in it.  Even though the entertainment can sometimes be sub-par, he really has a way of hooking the audience—literally!    Every star makes their share of box office flops; why should my child be the exception?  The point is this—it’s the passion and the intention of what he was trying to get across:

I love my family!  This is so much fun!  Thanks for coming to see ME in MY SHOW!  Creating this for you has been my supreme joy!  This audience rocks!

The truth is, we had lots of moments when we laughed.  There were indeed moments I thought I might cry.  There were boring parts and there were parts with music.  Not a lot different than when we shell out $11.95 at the theater to go see a movie on a Friday night after our tax refund finally arrives!  Okay, so the story was a bit lacking.  But you know?  You get what you pay for!

But spending quality time with a family you just might be too embarrassed to go out in public with anyway after a delicious dinner, in the presence of a rising star?  Well now, that’s priceless!

 

Dipsy and Doodle and Lil’ Officer Storm the Beach

God really blessed me the day he introduced me to my friend Andrea eight years ago.  I had just taken her prior job as a teacher assistant in Special Education.   She had moved up to a living wage job in a hospital and I was just crazy enough to accept the challenge of her former position.  Some days were hard; the difficulties these kids faced were incredible, but we both loved the job very much.  More than that, we became friends as we compared anecdotal stories about working with special-needs kids.    What bonded us immediately was our humor.  Because if you couldn’t laugh at yourself, you would not survive a job and the heartache of an entirely different world of kids that often made you want to cry.

I only lasted a year since I was suddenly with child at age forty!  Before you say woops, let me just say I’ve always been a non-conformist and leave it at that.  After my little guy was born, she was one of the first friends to come visit.  Up to then, we had only been friends in a professional setting, comparing notes and laughs that only people who work in Special Ed can understand.

We have an easy breezy way with one another.  Mostly it’s because we both passed forty a while ago, we both have three kids (both having two sons and a daughter), we both like to work out at the gym together despite our futility to “get ripped”.  About the only thing we ever ripped together was coupons from Sunday’s paper, but I digress.  We know we need to turn up the intensity of our workouts, but frankly that would be the buzz kill of our conversation time.  So we just maintain the status quo of our walkie-talkie relationship.

We are blonded together in both bottle and spirit.  Both of us are pretty awesome at not fixing what ain’t broken!  In fact, generally, we don’t give a seashell about things that are.  We’re both known for saying, “Pfftttt, who cares?!”

Together we are lazy and we laugh.  Between the two of us, we possess over one hundred years’ worth of wisdom!!    We both passionately love theater.  We both are willing to work triple over-time to see the  great Broadway plays that come to NC a few times a year.  Well, she is.  She works about 70 hours for each of my 30.  She is one busy worker bee!  And there’s this:

We always say that put together, we are the equivalent of one perfectly self-actualized, fully functioning adult brain.

      Here’s the thing:  We both have a lot, and I mean a WHOLE LOT, of what we refer to as “Dipsy Doodle” moments.    These are the opposite of Oprah’s “Aha” moments and more closely resemble the Three Stooges.  “Where in the world did I put my keys?  Did you take my keys?  Oh great, now I can’t find my wallet.  Hold the elevator.  Just a sec; let me run inside and pee!  Do you want me to grab you a soder on the way out?”     Too bad for the family of six who are all dripping sand and water and are anxious to get up to their hotel room.  They will just have to wait a second already!

See my girl Andrea is from Queens, and I’m a Taurus, and she’s nearly one (she missed the cut off by minutes I swear!) so we have this way of making things work out, well…..perfectly.

That’s because we both are barely bossy, yet easily pleased and generally happy.  If our hotel doesn’t have cockroaches or bedbugs, we are more than satisfied.  The important thing is did we get the cheapest one?  Like Trump, it’s all about the art of the deal in our mind.    We know the real secret of a good beach vacation:  Go south, get a cheap hotel with a kitchen and park super close to the beach.

Easy beach access and cooking in the room is great, but our favorite part is when the other guests are SO DANG interesting.      This weekend I told her we were blessed to be staying in what could only be deemed as Redneck Paradise.  It was People Magazine Polar Opposite in the flesh on steroids!  I don’t mean that as a slam; I was just so excited to be surrounded by so many people I hope to include in a future great literary work of fiction.   Real life often reveals people and characters begging to be described that you couldn’t normally even dream of when trying to write fiction.

We saw someone I will call Pete the Pirate, or perhaps Pete the former Navy Seal with his super model girlfriend.  He impressed me on many levels, foremost his sheer comfortableness of removing his prosthetic leg and absolutely loving an ocean adventure!   He had super long jet black hair that whipped his face furiously as he crawled into a very windy and wild surf.    He pulled his personal Christie Brinkley look-a-like into the water where they took turns laughing and groping and majestically kissing one another and splashing in the waves.  It was like watching a dark-haired Fabio come to life in the ocean.  It made me wish I had a camera until I realized that would be tad bit purvey.  When the Pirate and Christie weren’t frolicking in the ocean, they were donning leather chaps sans helmets (it’s SC y’all) and getting ready to ride their Harleys.   It was what can only be described as his intensity and zest for life that made me observe more astutely than normal.

My little boy was quick to point out to a group of foreigners on our elevator that there was a certain smell coming out of their kitchen on our floor.  He also told two wrinkled twin grandmothers in the hotel hot tub that our room was destroyed, utterly destroyed when he was sitting just a few feet out of my hearing range.  I leaned over to Andrea and said, “I better go get him.  He’s probably spilling family secrets.”

Two second later:  The kindly grandmothers let me know, “He’s spilling all your secrets!  He said your room is a HUGE mess!”  Well that was a slight exaggeration, but still as is his custom and ours, he made an impression.  Later, when several grownups decided to take a dip in the tub, he was speedy quick to remind them that sessions are only to be fifteen minutes and they are not to drink ALCOHOL.  He knew that because he could read the signs.  Well then–it’s comforting that we have a six year old officer to maintain order and control!

Yes for forty eight hours, we laughed ourselves silly!  I read an old cheesy beach romance novel  in one morning and lamented the success of its writer who made the NY Times Bestseller’s List–multiple times!!  The entire book was built on sentences only a first grader could write!  We observed that Michelle Obama may possibly have a point in the fact that some people really can’t control their eating or their frequent German lover on the side–Hagan Daaz!    We rejoiced in the fact that we were the “skinny” moms on the beach—well, mostly.  Except for the occasional super model (translation: everyone UNDER age 30).   We laughed about our husbands who weren’t there to defend themselves, but reminded ourselves how thankful we are too.  We talked about dumb things we did in high school and rejoiced in the fact that is not who we are now.  We shared the burdens of being a mom and a wife and a worker, while accepting the realities of aging—being sandwiched somewhere in the middle of anxiety and grace, health concerns ranging from birth to death, aging parents, and children who’ve been known to cause a gray hair or two, and thereby justifying our blonde habit.

We played in the ocean and watched my son like a hawk in the stormy sea.  The caution flag flew the whole time and my back never touched the sand.  My little boy who is scared to fall asleep alone is absolutely fearless in the pounding waves.

       By the end of our short stay, my son newly empowered by taking on the force of the ocean, took his life jacket off and finally got the hang of swimming on his own in the pool.  What an accomplishment!  I’ve waited five summers for this day to arrive!

Our first night we went out for delicious Italian food at Travinia’s.  Later we eavesdropped on a group of French high school kids singing rap songs that sounded weirdly elegant, snobby even, as we ate ice cream outside the theater.  We saw dozens of smiling Batman and Joker imitators and one person dressed up, strangely enough, as a bottle of Mustard.  After words, during another Dipsy Doodle moment, okay make it twenty, we walked around aimlessly because we had temporarily misplaced my mini-van.   The next day we mourned when we heard about what happened in Colorado.  Our trip concluded with what had to have been a 5000 calorie buffet at Mammy’s Kitchen, where yet again, we almost were the skinny ones.

The beach trip went by in a blur.   We talked and laughed so much!  Sometimes we were quiet and just read.  We built sandcastles, jumped waves, and played in the water.  We made and ate good food.  We drank juice-box style Pina Coladas in the evenings.   We celebrated that though life is hard, it is also very good, if you are willing to appreciate the smallest of victories, kind deeds by others, and sheer beauty God puts before us every second of every day!

It doesn’t take money or an itinerary or an agenda to have a great vacation or be a great friend.  It just takes time—time enough to laugh, share, reminisce, pray, and love.    Laugh about yesterday, treasure today, and pray and hope for tomorrow.

    For Andrea—my friend with a GREAT heart!

Trying to Undertand Evil

Photo: Jeremy Papasso – Reuters

Courage is to feel the daily daggers of relentless steel and keep on living.  ~Douglas Malloch

    It’s been a tough week in America.  We are all having to come to grips, again, with another random, senseless act of slaughter and mayhem; this time it’s the Colorado movie shootings.  TV and Blogland is rife with details, and all try to answer the question everyone wants to know:

Why?

     Anyone who attempts to answer the question is going to fall short.  My six year old who is just barely old enough to process such horror is starting to realize the world of reality is far more sinister than the Disneyesque existence he’s experienced the first five or so years.  Somewhere around six he’s learned that people not only die and loss is unavoidable, but sometimes it’s even a result of something completely nonsensical that defies understanding.

     Evil exists.  That is what I told him, when he asked me the one word question, “Why?”   We were at the beach and I turned on the news only for a few moments late Saturday evening.   I had gotten word even while playing in the ocean tide and completely absent from technology.   When it comes to the sensational and dreadful, word travels fast.

But why does evil exist?  And a dozen other reasonable follow up questions that still, when boiled down to the core, come down to why.  I don’t know and it just does seems like such a lame answer.  Yet it’s the only truth I can provide.  This is where our faith is tested.  Many want to know how a good and loving God can allow this to happen.  It seems reasonable to me.

I am not a theologian, just a person who is trying to navigate life and keep believing and trusting in a God who remains in control, even when I am not, and clearly the world isn’t it either.  That’s where the rubber meets the road and your faith is truly tested.  This is where choice actually comes in to play.

It’s essential to choose well in life.  If we begin to doubt God’s goodness, it’s easy to then wear shades of cynicism and doubt.  This causes us to pull back in life, unplug, and lament rather than to seek ways to alleviate suffering or bring about peace.

Events like this are always our reminder to hug our own families, and not get out the door without reminding them of the three little words.  Eternal words our hearts can carry with us as a shield against the evils of this world!  I LOVE YOU!  Say it more.  Say it TO more.  Show it more.  Live it more.  Don’t hold back.  Find those in life who are isolated and intervene with love. 

I don’t know if the shooter James Holmes was adequately loved.  Plenty of people don’t feel adequately loved, and don’t respond the same way.  To me the scariest part is how someone can live a so-called normal life, and then something snaps inside them.  It starts with a one-second decision, but from that point on, they decide to follow and promote a culture of darkness, evil, and death.  It is one thing to acknowledge evil exists; I think that’s why so many people wanted to go see Batman.  We love a superhero who vanquishes evil!  It’s another thing to emulate evil and join it.

I’m sure in the days ahead media will analyze what caused this.  Was it lax gun laws?  Were the fictitious characters Batman or Joker responsible for his delusions?  In the end, it won’t matter.   Evil exists.  We can’t legislate it away; we can only choose which trait we wish to nourish in our own life:

  Good or Evil

      I find it interesting that EVIL spelled backwards is LIVE.  Even more true, is that when we speak and make our choices that value and promote LIFE by valuing others, even those that believe and behave differently than we do, we promote a culture that respects life.   Jesus said, “He that tries to keep his life will lose it, and He that loses his life will save it.”  (Luke 17:33)

The shooter will get his fifteen minutes of notoriety for his despicable act of evil. His potential for living a good and productive life are now completely over.  He will live in that reality much longer than his few moments of fame.

Yet the victims of his carnage and their survivors will have the last word, because of the way they lived.   Those will be the stories that the majority of people will remember:  When superheroes stepped in, when the brave successfully rescued the injured despite personal risk, or when one sacrificed one’s self so that another could live—these people and memories are the people we became inspired by.  They represent the love and hope we cling to.

Aurora and America will move forward.  The families of the victims have no choice now but to live life and see it and appreciate it in all its magnificence, and sometimes heartache, not only for themselves, but they will be required to see with a vision for their loved ones whose lives were cut too short.  In order to most honor their loved ones, they must rise above the evil, and truly live.

I pray the survivors can find ways to enjoy life again after their time of grieving, and even during.  I pray they can eventually not dwell on the manner in which their loved ones died, but in the ways that they lived.  I pray they can live without fear and love without limits.  I especially pray they can find big and small ways to forgive others so that they may live in freedom and not bondage to that which they never had control of anyway.  I pray they will know that God is good and that He loves them.  I hope they feel the prayers of America and the world surrounding them during this devastating time.  I hope every tear of sorrow will be redeemed and ultimately turned into tears of joy.  Above all, I pray they live.   I pray they live long, they choose to do good and love well, and that they live strong.

When we choose love and life intentionally in our own life, the oxygen is removed for evil to thrive and its roots shrivel until they die.  Choose life.  Choose love.

Isaiah 41:13
For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

How to Be the Coolest Mom Ever (in the kitchen)

Liz Logic is on vacation for a few days.  In fact, if you’re headed someplace sandy this weekend, you just may run into me.  So no posts for a few days, but wanted to share a picture I lifted off the internet, BEFORE, I started saving the exact photographer’s name/website info. etc.  So MY PROFOUND APOLOGY for not giving credit where credit is due.

REPEAT:  This is not a Liz Creation.  I wish I would have thought of it.  The best I’ve ever done is MONOGRAMMED PANCAKES.  Yes, I’ve been known to write my kids’ initials in pancake batter, so I could at least appear crafty.

Anyway, it’s super easy:  Get a banana, some mandarin oranges, and kiwi fruit.  Slice and dice and put all on  a plate shaped like this:

ImageYou’re kids will feel they are a FOOD RAVE.  Enjoy!!

See you next week!   Liz

The Cure for Paraskevidekatriaphobia

Yesterday was Friday the 13th.  For the third time this year!    I was suffering from a case of writer’s block.   Then I kept hearing all day long on the radio and TV about people that suffer from (hold on….let me go copy and paste):

Paraskevidekatriaphobia

Boom just like that!  After hearing about this for the thirteenth time, I got unblocked faster than you can say Ex-Lax!    Here are thirteen things in less than thirteen hundred words that may or may not have contributed to the way I am today.  Only those that know me, could say for sure:

  1. I was born in Omaha, Nebraska during a severe thunderstorm.  I heard the lights went out.   I’ve been fascinated by storms all my life and found safe haven in the middle of a tempest multiple times, both literally and figuratively.  Impending storms terrify me.  Once I’m in one,  things get crystal clear.
  2. Until I was two, I had curly hair like Shirley Temple.  Those were the good old days when I was wild and carefree.  Back then I still felt comfortable sunbathing topless.
  3. When I was three we moved to Raleigh from Washington State.  My mom always called it Washington state, so I was never unclear that we didn’t originally migrate from DC.  When my parents bought our first house in Raleigh, it had a full sized swimming pool.  It was like being the innkeeper at your very own Holiday Inn.  We moved to our second and last home of my childhood before I was old enough to invite friends over.
  4. I had two dogs before I turned four.  They were the only dogs I would ever have as a child.  One, a reddish spaniel named Rudy in Washington State and Muffin, a solid black puppy when I came to Raleigh.  I remember Muffin, but I don’t remember why I didn’t have Muffin when I was four or five.  I should ask my mom.  I hope this story doesn’t have a sad ending.
  5. I remember I had a doll named Miss Baird.  I’m not sure why I named her this.  She had short blond dreads long before I knew who Bob Marley was.
  6. When I was six, I met one of the Harlem Globetrotters at the airport.  I think it was the DC airport, but I’m not sure.  I remember I was eating oatmeal at the airport diner, and this tall, dark, and kind stranger sat down beside me and my mom and just starting talking to us.  He was real friendly.  Back then it wasn’t racist or politically incorrect of my mom to assume certain things so my mom said, “You must be a basketball player!”  He said he was.  He said he played for the Harlem Globetrotters.    He gave me his autograph, but what I remember most is he complimented me for making good choices and eating something as healthy as oatmeal for breakfast.  To this day, I usually eat oatmeal for breakfast; is this the reason why?
  7. When I was seven my dad built me a pair of stilts for Christmas.  I was so frustrated!!!  Then I got the hang of it on the same day.  Then I got really happy.  Because how many kids get a pair of homemade stilts for Christmas?  Plus now I could probably join the Circus one day.
  8.  I got a Polaroid Camera that year too.   A life long love affair with pictures began.  Once my own children were born, I became their personal stalking version of paparazzi.  Before my digital Canon, and 35mm Nikon, I snapped everything from cats to rocks with my Polaroid.  Until finally my parents quit buying me cartridge replacements.  Thus began my dark years, except for when I got to borrow my mom’s Kodak 110 instamatic.   My entire childhood is one big collage of fading yellow and green Instagram memories.
  9. My dad collected weird things.  I remember in our driveway we had two big metal barrels.  I don’t even know what  they were for.  Water containers ?  Fuel tanks  just in case because Jimmy Carter was President?  Anyway, one monstrosity was solid rust and was about 8 feet tall, the other was about 4 feet tall, silver, and non-rusted.  Both were about 4 feet in diameter, and they were just there.  This is one of those mysteries of childhood.  We had barrels of unknown origin and purpose in our driveway for  the longest time and then one day they’re just no longer there.  Childhood memory goes through weird time warps.  You grow up and wonder, “Hey!  I wonder whatever happened to those barrels?”
  10. When I was twelve, I remember I got a Coke-a-Cola AM radio.  It was an AM radio cleverly hidden  in an exact replica of a coke can.  I carried it with me on my way to play penny poker with the boys that lived at the top of our street.  I was just too cool for my own self.  “Hey, you wanna coke?” I’d say, and then I’d throw them a can of tunes!  I’m sure they were impressed for at least a nanosecond.
  11. Also in sixth grade I was good at foosball, I mean really really good.  My dad was in the restaurant business and he had an old foosball table from a pizza establishment that he was not using anymore.  He put it in our garage and I had foosball tournaments in the summer.  I could single-handedly take on two guys in high school any day of the week.   I still remember I’d get that ball, wedged up under the center forward, and then flick my wrist real hard as my ceramic man’s feet, which were really two feet that kicked as one,  positioned  backwards almost vertical with feet in the air,  and then like lightening I’d spin the handle and BULLSEYE!!   I’d have that ball in the goal faster than you could say “Bay City Rollers.”   The opposing goalie didn’t have a chance.  I had a word for it:  Snick It!  I’d take that ball and “snick it” into the goal over and over.  I still lust for the game whenever I see a foosball table.
  12. I never dated anyone who had a Ford Pinto in high school.   I didn’t have to spend my dating years worrying about whether or not I’d blow up, if I got rear-ended.   My now husband who was my then boyfriend had a yellow and primer painted Fiat X-19 that part of the key broke off in the ignition.  He just used a penny as the top part of the key or always parked it on a hill and let out the clutch.  I remember I thought that was so cool!  His brother drove an AMC Pacer, so together, they really rocked my block!  I knew as long as he owned that car, we’d always have at least one cent to our name.
  13. Thankfully I don’t suffer from paraskevidekatriaphobia .  In fact I’m not sure I know anyone who does reroute their day on Friday the 13th, but I’m sure there are some somewhere.  In all my years of living, I don’t recall a Friday the 13th of any significance.  My youngest son was born on Thursday the 13th, so the following year he turned one on Friday the 13th.  How could I be afraid and still throw a big party?

Life!  It’s so RANDOM!  Or is it?  (Play Twilight Theme song in your head now)