Fix

pink stars

Take me back

To the child who feared everything that wasn’t to be feared

But feared nothing that had the power to destroy the world

Take me back

To the moment when emptiness and disappointment

Erased everything but the wrong answer

Take me back

To a closed door with no lock

When too much time was spent looking for the key

Take me back

To a place when courage rose up like a phoenix

Before raging fear brought it down

Make me believe

That God isn’t cruel

That God understands

That God made the puzzle and can make the pieces fit

Make me believe

That love is honest

And what is honest is not evil

And what is evil will not prevail

Make me believe

That all things happen for a reason

And reason is and always will be

Even if forever begins tomorrow and not today

If suns collide and pink stars fall and the world becomes unplugged

I will stand in my dimension and wait

My mind whispering honest

Words few have the ability to hear

Going postal

Dearest Readers,

I have another confession to make. I hate being the bad guy. I will if I have to, but it is not something I relish.

Today I was the bad guy. I didn’t choose to be, but sometimes life just puts you in unfortunate situations.

See, it all went down this way. I am on fall break, my VACATION from school. It’s been a stressful year so far. I had to take 12 graduate hours during the summer—no break. I missed the first week of school because I was still in grad school. Then I developed bronchitis, almost pneumonia. Whatever. I was really sick.

I also had a newspaper to publish, a new class to develop, a new email system to learn, a new grading program to learn. Papers to grade. MOUNDS of papers to grade from four preps. I found myself struggling to keep up.

My most stressful incident  had to do with boarding an airplane for the first time, well, a big airplane for the first time, not counting the kiddie rides at the fair or the four-seater I rode with my parents when I was a terror-stricken elementary school student. That plane ride changed my whole outlook on flying, and I found Biblical scriptures to back my belief.

Matthew 28:20. “Lo, I am with thee.”

That’s what God said. Low. Not way up there. Right? The Bible offers no proof we have any business soaring around the clouds on wings attached to high-powered engines that can suck up ducks and eagles and then send the craft crashing to the ground. Nope. Scripture does not back that.

Nevertheless, I flew.

All my life people have told me what to do, and I usually listen and do as told. Not this time. For years I remained adamant that I would not step onto a plan until I felt the time was right.

I had a plan. I am going to Ireland—someday. I figure the world is in great turmoil, and perhaps the rapture will happen soon. My plan was to fly to Ireland and to “live” Ireland for a short time and then to fly back. If the plane crashed, well, then, I would have crossed off my Number One item on my bucket list. I was at peace with that.

I have never felt at peace about stepping aboard a plane otherwise.

But then something very cool happened. I was named a Genesis Finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers contest in the Young Adult category. I had to attend a gala in Dallas to find out the results. I didn’t win, but that’s okay. The experience was worth it all. I am confident God has a plan for my writing. Many other cool things did happen.

Being named a finalist, however, put me in a dilemma. If I went to Dallas, I would HAVE to fly, and I would have to miss my son performing with his band at the county fair. Flying was no problem. I had a definite peace about that.

“Lo, I am with thee.”

I made up my mind long ago that the only time I would step on a plan was when I felt a peace about it. For the first time I felt peace, and I wasn’t even flying to Ireland. However, I was really sad, to the point of tears, that I had to miss Michael’s performance. I have always been there for him.

I have coached his Little League teams, his Upward basketball teams, and his soccer teams. I’ve put on catcher gear to help him when he tried to pitch. I have thrown footballs for him to catch. I have escaped with him from wild animal attacks on nature walks. We’re a team. I have always been there for him.

But this time I had to go by myself and let him go by himself.

I walked through the airport doors alone and made it all the way to security where I had to empty my pockets. I almost made it through without incident except for the can of Mink hairspray I was packin’ in my carry on. I had a choice—toss it or check it. I tossed it. Grumble. That stuff isn’t easy to find, and it was  a new can. I don’t like throwing away money.

Oh yeah, my jean pockets were too sparkly too. The scanner didn’t like that either.

Once I made it to my waiting area to board, I was scared, just a wee bit, but I was ready. But then they announced that my scheduled plane had problems. In other words, it was broken.

Broke? Broke was not what I was expecting to hear.

I had to board another plane. At this point I was in official freak-out mode. When I get nervous, I either sit in a catatonic state, or I talk nonstop. My students think something is “wrong” with me when I go into nonstop talk mode. But most journalism advisers understand—they too have experienced the “I gotta make deadline, but the computer’s crashed, the picture’s not there, we forgot to write that story, and Dear Lord, please, don’t let me get fired over something I missed” panic attacks.

So in my non-stop talkative mood, I started interviewing people waiting in line. We were in Nashville, so there were lots of people with guitars. Naturally, I sought them out. I listened in on their conversations and then inserted my comments into their conversations. I don’t usually do that, but, hey, MY AIRPLANE BROKE!

I noticed a couple of guys having a nice chat. One of them carried an acoustic case, so I turned my antenna in that direction and heard one word—Ireland. And so I interrupted.

Fortunately, these guys were nice and told me they had just returned from a gig in Ireland. And what style of music did the guitarist play? Country blues.

Ah. The anxiety levels dropped considerably. Good enough. I felt as if it were a sign. It was time to board the new plane.

I lugged my carry on, and a nice person helped me store it in the overhead. I was too short and too wimpy to load it myself. I hugged my laptop for dear life, but the flight attendant made me store in upon take off. I got it back asap.

My security blanket.

The flight itself was a breeze. I even asked to sit by the window. I looked out and saw a patchwork quilt of earth below. I saw the topside of clouds. It was all cool.

Landing was fine.

It was all fine.

Until I got back home and flipped on the TV and saw all the reports of American Airlines plans having problems with the seats coming unbolted.

Well, it just figures.

So what does all this have to do with me being the bad guy?

Not much. Not really.

I didn’t fly today, but I had a minor mishap in my doctor’s parking lot. I kind of crashed. Not bad crashed, just itsy, bitsy, “I still feel like crying” crashed.

You see, I had a check up today, and I overslept. My doctor’s office has a new rule that says we have to be there 15 minutes prior to the appointment time. Well, I got there by the appointment time, but I was not 15 minutes early.

The poor lady in front of my looked as if she should have been in the hospital, and she was three minutes late according to their clock and missed being 15 minutes early. She was going to have to reschedule. So was I.

I was ready to be the bad guy. To take my punishment. To reschedule. But I felt so bad for her. She was distraught. They finally relented and let her see the doctor after receiving permission from the office manager.

Me? No, I was sent away.

I was upset because I had failed. I had messed up. I always feel bad when I mess  up. I was distracted a wee bit. And then it went from bad to worse as I was leaving. I backed up my truck and felt a slight crash.

I took out a mail truck.

To make matters worse, by-standers jumped out of their truck. They checked to see if we were all right, but they were ready to identify me should I try to make a run for it. They told the nice mail man they would tell the police everything that happened. They liked him. They didn’t like me. I was the bad guy.

Criminal. I felt like a criminal.

To make matters even worse than that, the mail man had come into the doc’s office in such a happy mood. Leave it to me to dent his good cheer.

And then the police came. And the rescue squad. And I couldn’t find my insurance card. And I didn’t have my phone. And I wanted to cry. But I didn’t. The policeman was really nice—a former student. I pictured myself in the back of this squad car. I was hoping for dear life I was a nice teacher to him.

I was ready to pose for my mug shot. Be finger printed. Get cuffed. Get maced. Get clubbed. Wait for the noose around my neck. I was ready for whatever I had coming to me. I felt pretty bad.

All I could do was tell the mail man, “I’m sorry I ruined your day.”

So here I am—the bad guy. Not much I can do about it now.

And as I write this, I’m thinking, “What in the Sam Hill do flying and crashing have to do with each other?”  Well, obviously if it’s the airplane that’s both flying and crashing, there is a connection. But flying in plane and denting the door of a mail truck really have nothing in common, except maybe for this scripture.

“Lo, I am with thee.”

Maybe I’ve been misinterpreting that scripture. See, my nickname forever has been Tee, but when I had my short run of kick (my butt) boxing classes, my friends gave me a new nick name—Jet Lo. You know, kind of like Jet Li, the martial arts champion?

So, I can hear God saying, “[Jet] Lo, I am with thee. Up. Down. High. Low. Good days and bad. I’m right here. Always.”

I am still stubborn enough to believe I will know when God calls me to do something. I don’t have to be guilted into doing something I don’t feel a peace about. But I’m also reminded that God understands my fears, my hurts, my triumphs, my let downs, my failures. He loves me just the same.

As a writer, I hope I can convey that message to my readers. There’s only one thing I really want to get across—love, love, love. THAT’S what I feel called to do. And a little laughter doesn’t hurt either.

So, my dear friends, take it from me, the Fearless Flyer. a.k.a. the Mail Man Mauler, God has got you covered. All you have to do is believe it. Go seek the truth, the whole truth, and believe it. It doesn’t matter if you are the good guy or the bad guy. God loves you just the same. Seek him and find out for yourself.

I wouldn’t say if it weren’t so.

Sincerely yours,
Jet Lo

Memphis metaphor

“Blues is easy to play but hard to feel.” ~ Jimi Hendrix

What do I know about Jimi Hendrix? What do I know about playing the blues?

The truth? Nothing. Not really. But I do know how to feel the blues. I’m not talking about sorrow. Both of my parents passed away in the last three months, my father on June 27. I’m immersed in sorrow.

But the blues is more than sorrow. The blues evokes a yearning, a wanting. The blues evokes every feeling imaginable, even that twinge of hope that resolution is just a note away. Everybody wants resolution. Everybody feels the blues, but I think writers, artists, and musicians truly get it. It’s like another dimension of communication.

So many people see life in black and white. If you know anything about graphic design, you know photographs, if not in color, are best viewed in grayscale, not black line. Such is the blues, such is life. The blues finds itself somewhere between heaven and hell, and while the singers may stand undeniably on one side or the other, the fact is people are neither black nor white.

Read Psalm 51:5 and Ephesians 2:1-3. Then read James 1:17 and Romans 8:28. A war rages. Notes bend. There’s a need for resolution. Fulfillment. Redemption.

I just got back from Memphis. The first thing I did was visit Memphis Music, my favorite Beale Street shop. An elderly gentleman in his 80s, Mr. Clyde Hopkins, “the Godfather of the Blues,”  greeted me with his CD, Don’t Mistreat a Friend. He told me he’d autograph it if I bought it and said it would be special because I got to meet him in person. How could I resist? I bought it. My only regret is I didn’t get a picture of him. But I took plenty of others.

As soon as I stepped out of Memphis Music, I headed  to Handy Park, where I found the Juke Joint Allstars on stage. They’re so cool they autographed a CD for me right in the middle of a song and extended an invitation for me to join them on stage. Another trip to Handy Park, one of many, gave me the opportunity to snap pictures of a young girl in the audience who wanted to sing the blues. One of the band members handed her his guitar, and another set up a mic. The girl could sing.

Deciding what to eat on Beale Street is never a problem–catfish or ribs, occasionally oysters. Deciding where to eat is a challenge. The Blues City Cafe is a must for all first timers, but Miss Polly’s is just as good and has the best catfish around. The cornbread is good too. Ever tried it with a little jalepeno?

I asked the cook if I could take a few pictures inside the place. All the tables pay homage to the blues greats. The cook was quite gracious. He even offered me a chance to take a picture of him then and again when I saw him standing outside the restuarant. Memphis folk are twice as nice.

I mentioned oysters. My grandmother used to make fried oysters, and maybe that’s how I learned to like them so much. But you can’t get fried oysters around here. Memphis truly has it all, even an Irish Pub called Silky O’ Sullivan’s, and it serves delicious fried oysters. I didn’t make it there on this trip, but I was standing out front when the owner pulled up in his sportscar. Wow. I’ll probably never stand that close to a car like that again.

For the first time in years, I took a walk along the riverside, and I think the walk was the best part of my trip. It gave me a chance to think about life, about people in my life.

When I’m in Memphis, I do a lot of people watching and analyzing. Maybe that’s why I’m so interested in folklore–stories handed down from one generation to the next. Memphis is rich in tradition and lore. Some of the supernatural lore is commercialized; some of it is the real deal. But it’s nothing to play around with.

No matter where we live, everybody has a story. Everybody sings the blues. We may want to see life in black and white, but truthfully it’s all shades of grey. And if we want to see it in living color, colors we’ve never seen on this earth, well, we’ll have to wait for heaven for that.

 
 

Kaleidoscope

I am a self-confessed hopeless romantic. I see live people. And I imagine who they are, what they’re doing, where they’re going, and why they do what they do. Everyone has a story.

Occasionally I’m right. More often, I’m wrong. The downside to being a hopeless romantic? We get burned. There’s no way around it.

Most of the time, I like to imagine the best out of people. Oh, if only people just lived by my scripts. I love happy endings. But sadly, I usually find myself picking up the pieces of a broken heart because the people I invest in don’t live up to my expectations. Should they?

I teach. I’ve probably tried to intervene in two or three thousand lives in the span of my career. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried over a kid who refused to be reached.

People are more than characters, more than stereotypes. We are multi-dimensional, always changing with every twist and turn in life.

We are kaleidoscopes. All the pieces of our personalities and characters come together to create unique, ever-changing kaleidoscopes.

Why wouldn’t God see us as kaleidoscopes? He created us. He knows our quirks and whims and fears and desires. Sometimes the picture we paint for ourselves isn’t very pretty, but God constantly moves the pieces of lives so that we can be something new, something beautiful in His eyes.

Because I write, I feel as though I have a “license” to be a people watcher. I have an excuse. I’m “researching” people for my next work in progress.

What I really want to do is see people through God’s eyes, to see them as kaleidoscopes.

We humans can do and say some pretty ugly things, especially when we’re hurt. Remember one twist, one turn in our lives, can change the pattern of pieces of who we are and how people see us (and how we see others).

My heart’s desire is to never give up my “hopeless romantic” instinct. I want to find the beauty in each person, even if it means risking rejection, being hurt, or being disappointed. I hope that others will find me (and all my ugly flaws) worth the risk too.

WINNER     WINNER     WINNER

Congratulations to Kuby! You are the WINNER of the Christmas edition of the Chicken Soup for the Soup book. Please send me a private email letting me know where you would like the book sent and if you would like it to be autographed (by yours truly—I have a story in the book! Woo hoo. My first).

Hey readers, you’ve got to check out Kuby’s Korner. Oh, my goodness! YUM!

http://kuby2u.wordpress.com/