Gutter Language: Going Off the Rails

   Photo: Andrew Riggs/The Collegian/Cal State University – Fresno

Yesterday we signed our six year old son back up for Saturday league bowling.  Last year he was in the “Bumpers” league, but this year he has moved up.  Translation:  He will not be bowling with bumper rails anymore.  He loved it last year, but after his first day this year?  Meh!  Not so much.

Here’s why.  He rolled a lot of gutter balls.   At six, when the bowling ball weighs about 1/6 of your skinny body’s weight, it is kind of hard to muster up the strength to get the ball rolling fast, stay centered, and annihilate the pins at the end without the aid of some bumper rails to help you along the way.  Several times the ball rolled so S-L-O-W-L-Y, it came to a complete STOP just shy of reaching the end of the alley.

So my little munchkin did what any child who is embarrassed would do:   He deliberately rolled another ball in the gutter to push the stalled ball out of the way.  It too stopped.  As did the third one.  Help was summoned.   Yes my child was the recipient of attention when the cavalry was called in to relieve him.  The attendant at the desk carefully made his way down in league-sanctioned shoes, as not to damage the floor, and with a whisper of a push, drove all three balls to their rightful destiny.

Remember when you were a little kid, if you were fortunate enough to have a bunk bed, your parents wouldn’t dream of letting you stay on the top bunk without rails to keep you secure.  Never mind the fact that they felt totally safe letting you sleep the two or three feet off the ground without benefit of rails previously.  Falling six feet onto a barrage of plastic toys beneath is just too dangerous. 

As a little kid you are taught to hold the rails on everything!  Staircases, escalators, you name it!  Somewhere around age five, you realize rails are more fun to hang on, climb on, and weave in and out of when standing in boring long lines.  Their original purpose to keep you safe becomes obscured as you grow and learn to either ignore them, or hang all over them as if they were jungle gym equipment.

Since everything is a metaphor in the mind of Liz Logic, I quickly made the connection yesterday how bowling resembles life.  Profound, no?

We spend our days trying to knock down the pins and get the highest score.  That is to say, we are driven to reach our goals, walk the straight and narrow, or preferably run (for the ultra-ambitious) the (rat) race with endurance, and “get ‘er done”.  Don’t deviate from the path.

Don’t go off the rails!

     Everybody knows someone completely off the rails .  As soon as you read that, you are thinking of someone fairly cuckoo, maybe kind of crazy.  They probably were attracted to seeing what’s on the other side of the rails, or made some choices that took them to the gutter of life like a magnet drawn to steel.

Yes, when we live life without benefit of rails, if you are prone to temptation, you might wind up in the gutter.  That being said, if you are curious, and prone to innovation, then maybe you should risk walking just past the gutter, into the other lane and see what answers or fortunes await you.

Taking risks, asking why, and thinking in terms of “I wonder what would happen if I….” are the dominant thoughts of great scientists, inventors, artists, and technology creators!

Life is full of danger both externally in the world around us, and especially internally by the choices we freely make.  Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, you become aware the rails are slowly lowering, until one day they are level with the ground.  Soon it’s up to you baby!

  • Sink or swim.
  • Straighten up and fly right.
  • Color inside the lines.
  • Walk the straight and narrow or else!

A little caveat here—this same son who has experienced the embarrassment of a stalled bowling ball (several of them, several times actually!) is also the same child who once when playing skee ball threw the ball so badly, it not only deviated from the walls of his lane, but actually skipped over into the neighboring lane, rolled up the hill, and landed in the 40-point bin.  Score!  Even if it’s for the other team!

What can I say?  That’s my boy!  I love him.  I’m proud of him—even when he veers toward the gutter or jumps the track entirely.

Here’s to you and the choices you make today.  Enjoy life, aim true, and navigate safely when the rails are lowered!

Post script to story:  So I’m surfing Facebook today (8/19/12) and I run across this lovely gem of a pic.  Since I also have a daughter who dances, I had to put this in here.   Stay UNIQUE!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge

Wet merges into dry.  Sunlight merges into shadow.  Sea life finds human life.  The ferocious fictitious shark on the right can’t harm the real, yet tender Harbor seal on the left.  What separates our life from those who call the sea home?  Glass?  Air?  Water?   Whom should we fear in life?  Whom should we love?  In this photo, Curiosity and Life merge into Understanding though they live in two different world elements:  Water and Earth

I took this picture with a Canon Eos Digital Rebel camera f/4, 1/80 sec., ISO 400, 75 mm lens, and no flash.   That’s the “stats” but the TRUTH of the matter is, I just clicked the camera and got lucky.

Place: NC Zoo in Asheboro, NC — Rocky Coast Exhibit

Hope you enjoy and please check out my blog if you have time!  Liz Gray

String Theory

“A World Without String is Chaos”

The framed motto on the wall of the recently deceased father, Randolph Smuntz
“Mouse Hunt” (The Movie)

Liz – Circa 1987 – At (that time) The World’s Biggest Ball of Twine in Cawker City, Kansas

Barefoot, pregnant, pink plaid maternity top, black Hawaii print shorts

I am living proof that chaos exists on a single thread!

I’m convinced the physical laws that order our universe, are also the same laws set in motion in our own little universe– our puny little lives on this big green and blue marble we call home.  Scientists with brains bigger than cantaloupes have made some astonishing findings regarding string theory:  Allow me to be so bold as to compare myself with the universe:

The universe has quarks; I have quirks.

The strings of the universe have p-branes (among other membranes) and I’ve been known to have a pea-brain sometimes.

The strings of the universe contain flavor; I have a unique personality, understood not even by me on most days.   I guess the flavor of me could be described as a rich oak-like taste, with suggestions of almond, and strong hints of dark chocolate.

The universe’s strings contain charge.  I too charge bravely into the wide unknown most days with an energy that seems boundless when I’m tapping into the creative side; likewise, I feel depleted when I’m doing things I’d rather not.

The universe’s strings contain mass.  No kidding!  My mass is heavier than an ideal BMI chart suggests, but as long as I have particles, I can rest assured my mass is here to stay, and despite increased motion, growing stealthily I might add.

My favorite property regarding string theory?  The universe has spin!  Me too!  I spin my wheels everyday like a squirrel zippering around the yard on a frantic nut hunt.  I randomly flit from Facebook to mothering to cleaning to email purging to working a part time job to cooking to errand running to bill paying to writing when I really should be sleeping.  Whatever task I’m doing currently seems to rob from the other essential task that ought to be tended to, especially mothering.  Oh, there’s string theory in my world alright, but it’s more like a tangled ball of twine on most days.

String dynamics are governed by two things:  Tension and Kinetic Energy. Both of which I have an abundance of.  When I don’t know how to relieve my tension, I build up more kinetic energy and can’t sit still, focus, follow through, or proceed in an orderly fashion.  No, it’s not ADHD, it’s just Liz Logic at work.  Or as my dear friend Jana says, “Follow the bouncing ball!”  It all makes sense in the end–sort of.

There’s a bunch more information about string theory under said topic in Wikipedia…..yada, yada, yada, lots of science words, blah, blah, blah, and then this nugget:

“Einstein’s equations for general relativity mean that string theory is a quantum theory of gravity.    Since string theory is widely believed, to be mathematically consistent, many hope that it describes our universe, thus making it a Theory of Everything.

And there you have it folks!  We are all strings.  Pull us too tight—that is to say when too many hardships, or complex situations, or too much information to process, or too many feelings to deal with happen, our cosmological constant is thrown off.  It’s hard to put things in perspective (i.e. general relativity) when you can’t remember which way to plant your feet to find gravity.

Our internal universe can be as unstable and ever-changing as the universe around us.  Just like we can’t see it changing before us, sometimes others can’t see us changing right in front of them.  That’s because they’re lost too!  Why they’re busy  tripping the light fantastic in their “own little universe!”

So when life can be overwhelming with all we must process, what to do, you ask?

Start an on-line relationship with an astrophysicist?  Read your horoscope and then decide?  Buy a lottery ticket?   Increase your knowledge?

Perhaps.  Maybe it’s easier than that.  Try prayer!  Faith steps in when science quits explaining, is unable to explain, or is just too complex.   Prayer does something else:

  • It makes us get quiet.
  • It takes the focus off our self, the problems we have, and those of the world.
  • We can temporarily become unsuspended in time.
  • It helps us to unthink and unfeel.  It’s a chance to unwind and unload.

We can simply be.  We can rest all our quarks, concerns, atoms, shortcomings, electrons, anxieties, photons, problems, dualities, and thoughts.  We can lay it ALL down.    We are but a blip—a small micro-dot on a string in time and space.     But unlike theories, we are not merely relative, we are relevant.  We aren’t just matter; we matter.

And now you know Liz’s Theory of Everything!

Art on Display in American Tobacco Building – August 2012 – Durham, NC

Art Credit TBA (My Apologies—I didn’t write it down, but isn’t this amazing?)

A Prayer for the Strung Out, The Stretched-Too Thin, or in some other way Gravitationally-Impaired:

Thank you God for creating each one of us and for creating the universe, and for attending to all the problems each of us contains.  At any given moment, the world’s problems and our problems compete for first chair in our mind.   That’s because we live life under the physical law known as The Uncertainty Principle.  Since we have no choice but to trust that our immediate universe won’t fall out of orbit anytime soon, then maybe we can have faith just big enough to trust that you won’t let us fall completely out of orbit either.  May we find our stability and peace in you.   Amen.

The Intern of Inexperience


1960s Ad Campaign – David Ogilvy

     I once had a job where I didn’t know what I was doing.  Or rather, I vaguely knew what I was supposed to do, but I didn’t know why or how it related to anything else.

I was eighteen and a senior in high school.  It was my best year of high school and I had carefully orchestrated my junior year so that by the time I was a senior, I could participate in what was known as a “work-release” program.  Every day at 11:30 am, I got to leave school and drive promptly to my ultra-prestigious job where I worked as a—well, I’m not sure exactly, the title part evades me now, but I worked at IBM.

I think I may have had a tad of over-inflated ego back then, because while my peers were stuck in jail class, learning how to conjugate verbs and learning useless theories of geometry, I was out and about in the world, co-mingling with grownups.  Yes, I was working with the same generation of adults, my classmates and I spent most of our time avoiding or lying to.

These elders were different.  They liked me.  They respected me and paid me!   I actually listened to them and did what I was told.  In fact, it made me fairly happy to do exactly what they told me, and do it correctly, and on time.  They complimented me on my youth.   They were eager to teach me.  Before you had to worry about being politically correct, or sexual harassment (both real and imagined) the older men found ways to flirt with me without being over the top or skeevy.   It didn’t bother me at all!   I liked the fact that perhaps I possessed feminine charms that others took note of.

Here’s what I did: I went through reams and reams of computer-generated legal-legal sized stacks of paper with alternating rows of green and white with the perforated strips on the side that you could spend hours tearing off!  Do you remember?  The kind that was printed on a dot-matrix impact printer.  Ah yes, the good old days.  Now on this paper were printed lines and lines and lines of code.  I don’t know what it meant.  But I know I did something where I read it, and either left it alone, or drew a line through it.  But I don’t know now what I was referencing as being good or deleteable.

    And another thing, I worked with microfiche and punched cards.  This was the really cool part.  I had to go in a room with a silver box on the door that had a secret 4-digit punch code.  Only “classified” people had entrance to this room.  Apparently, I had clearance to do this job of mysterious description.  It went something like this.

On the upper right-hand corner of the microfiche was a set of numbers similar to this:

F033-346B or BE77-795J or PA17-9946

You get the picture.  And do you know what I had to do with them?  Can you guess?  Let me let you hang a moment in suspense.  OK, I’ll tell you.  I held them up to the light, squinted my eyes as I strained to read them, and then I alphabetized them.   That’s right! I put them in ABC order, or allegedly I did, to the best of my high school ability.  I had mastered alphabetizing hyphenated names, French names with apostrophes and names with titles that nearly mirrored the same names without titles in my Office Occupations class.  But the real world was much more complex than what I had been taught.


     The last thing I did was visually scan the punched cards!  These cards were sorted, collated, and reproduced on a big computer and then I had the laborious task of visually scanning them and determining which ones were to be saved and which ones were to be trashed.  There was no green movement or recycling then, so don’t send me letters of protest please.  I was just doing my job. 

More complex then filling out a butterfly ballot or dealing with a hanging pregnant chad, I alone had the power to determine whether these cards were allowed to live in archives or were trashed, presumably to be incinerated.

Here’s the thing.  I look back at my first job rather fondly.  While my peers had to wait until after school to sling hamburgers and fries, I was working at an international corporation.  But like many CEOs of today, as well as much of the legislative, judicial, and some would claim executive branch, I didn’t know what I was doing!

    I was a cog in a wheel.  I did my part.  And that was all.  I didn’t understand it then and with the fading of memory, I certainly don’t understand it now.



     What I do remember the most is a woman I’ll call Blaire who loved dogs and shared dog stories.  I remember my boss, a woman I’ll call Grace who taught me all I needed to know with tact, kindness, and a motherly protectiveness.  I remember she shocked me when she told me of the days when she used to see Led Zeppelin in the 1970s when she was a teenager.

I remember a man way older than me, a tender 26 year-old Italian Stallion who flirted with me, and complimented me in Italian.  Perhaps he was cursing me, but I smiled and it seemed like flirting.  I remember Johnny the Comic Collector who had stashes of photos in his desk of a very famous supermodel.  He used to say I looked just like her.

Yes, back before the digital revolution where SEC members could spend hours and hours watching porn, I remember being both amused and weirdly flattered by the almost-retired sexagenarian (in every sense of the word) who spent vast amount of times pining for the super model whom he’d never meet, and telling me the tall tales of super heroes who came to life in his vast comic books collection.  He especially holds a special place in my heart and perhaps is the reason I’ve always loved Spider-Man.

Our lives mirror my first job.  We wake up every day and show up at life.  Most of the time, we have no idea what we’re doing.  We know at the end, we’re going to be let go.    We have to learn to deal with people of all personalities.    But the really cool and confusifying part is certainly the job itself.    Situations happen, and we are utterly clueless how to proceed forward.  More often than not, we spend our days like I did:  Staying extremely busy all day, but without a clear understanding of how our job relates to the others around us.    We are but a thread in a giant tapestry, yet if stretched too tight we break.  We become unraveled.

My prestigious job ended and it only went downhill from there.  Now I’m working FOR FREE but I’m doing what I love.  I don’t plan on retiring from this penniless position until I either go down in flames or wake up in foreclosure.  I’ve had plenty of jobs where I worked for money that were less than thrilling, but I usually am able to muster up enough positivity to make the best of even the less desirable jobs.

I agree with Oprah when she claimed, “Work at doing what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  I say even if you’re working at your job or your life with no clue as to what you’re doing:

  1.  Act as if you do; believe as if you’re promote-able.
  2. Enjoy the process; you’re bound to learn something.
  3. Cherish people, not position.
  4. Surrender the outcome—remember, you’re let go in the end anyway!

Now if you’ll pardon me, I need to go alphabetize my spice rack and CDs again.