jimowenswrites

Reflections on Life, Leadership, Mindfulness, Change, and other Important Stuff

Month: February, 2016

Cookies for Breakfast

They say that it’s
The important meal;

I’m not too sure

It’s how I feel;
But when there’s cookies, 

I will admit;

I do devour

more than just a bit;
Not Girl Scout

Or from some box;

Homemade ones

Make breakfast rock;
Oatmeal’s okay,

Chocolate chips the best,

They call to me,

Won’t let me rest;
So I’ll indulge,

And have three more;

Now this is a breakfast,

I can adore!

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The Sculptor’s Tale: A Parable of the Soul

He considered the rough hewn block, assessing where to strike his first blow.  Heat and pressure and time had transformed limestone into marble.  Now, he would transform it into something remarkable.  With mallet in one hand and chisel in the other, pitching away large unsightly pieces at first, trying to find the vision within the stone that had dwelt within him for so long.  This would be his masterpiece.  The stone imprisoned a myth and he would release it.

 

His hands ached from gripping the steel chisel as every blow he struck shuddered through his bones.  His shoulders hurt.  Occasionally, he would pause to wipe crystalline drops of salt and moisture from his eyes.  Whether he was working during the burning heat of August or the bitter cold of February, it was always the same.  The perspiration came more from the tension of creating than from the swinging of the mallet.  This was no artist creating from some well of inspiration. This was a battle.

 

Sometime, he wasn’t quite sure when, the stone had become an enemy, something to be vanquished.  The stone had become an adversary, but his assaults would overwhelm it—until something beautiful and perfect and worthy could be set free.  After carving away the worst of it, he began to refine his work, taking away smaller and smaller pieces until he could begin the polishing.  The rasps and emery would file away the final imperfections.

 

As the vision emerged, his benefactors and others praised him, spreading word of his genius.  In the beginning, he fed on their praise like a hungry beast.    Remarkable, they said of the lucid eyes and noble nose he had carved.  They praised the perfection of it, noting the strength in its shoulders and neck.  And the hands, what a delicate power they revealed.  Yet amidst their reverence, the man with the hammer and chisel found no longer found nourishment.  There was no longer any solace or comfort here.

 

He realized the stone was not his enemy.  The battle he had waged had been against himself alone.  This myth of perfection had driven him, been his master—vainly, relentlessly hammering and chiseling and trying to polish his own soul.  He thought he heard something, cocked his head to listen.  Nothing.  What was that?  Silence.  Odd, he thought.  Somewhere deep within him, for the first time in so long, he heard the white noise of peace.  Something had died, yet there was nothing to mourn.  The myth was dead.

 

And he was completely alive.

 

The Tower Princess: A brief fiction

“What an awful day!”

 

Her mind was a boiling pot of emotion. Anger. Frustration. Hopelessness.

 

“Why?” She asked herself again.

 

She knew she wouldn’t sleep well tonight. And the bitter wind and rain were just making things worse.

 

She tried to comfort herself. She had a good job. She was healthy. At least physically.  But on the inside, where no one could see, she was sick. Sick of the heartache. Sick of all the bullshit. Sick of trying to be strong.

 

“Don’t be sad, Mommy.”

 

Damn. She was crying again and Cara had seen it.

 

“Mommy’s okay, baby girl.”

 

Cara touched her mother’s damp cheek, offering a halting reassurance.

 

“Don’t be sad, Mommy.”

 

“Have you brushed your teeth?”

 

Cara nodded an “uh huh,” and climbed alongside her mother and announing, “Tell me a story.”

 

The faint hint of lavender wafted from Cara, a sign the girl had once again pilfered her mother’s body wash.  The girl was warm and soft and unsullied by the chaos of her mother’s noisy brain and heartache.

 

“What kind of story would you like?”

 

“A scary adventure one with a prince and a princess and a bad monster—but make it funny.”

 

The woman laughed.

 

“That shouldn’t be too hard,” she smiled, lifting her eyebrows in mock disbelief.  “Anything else, Madam?”

 

“There should be a storm—and a rainbow.  I want there to be a rainbow.”

 

When she finished telling Cara the bedtime tale, the woman walked to the kitchen. The microwave dinged and she removed the cup of boiling water, dropping in the final bag from the box marked “Zen.”  She watched the water slowly morph from clear to cloudy, as the steeping grounds relinquished themselves. She had to remind herself to wait on the tea to finish brewing, for the water to cool.

 

“Patience, grasshopper,” she muttered.

 

When she finally found the courage to turn off the light, begging sleep to come gently and quickly, she thought about the story she had told Cara.  It hadn’t been a difficult tale to imagine.  Hell, it was her life.  There had been a prince and monsters and a storm.  Well, lots of storms, actually.  There were funny moments, times when she had laughed so hard she thought she wouldn’t be able to stop.  But rainbows?  Was there some magical place where a pot of gold awaited her?  In the darkness she whispered, “I wish I could make up a story like Cara’s”

 

The thought startled her.

 

She sat up, flicked on the lamp and grabbed her journal. She realized all her past entries in the journal were just a story.  There were plenty of storms and monsters and even someone she once thought was a prince.  But there were no rainbows.  Rainbows come after the storm, she thought.  She was going to write a new story.  It would be difficult.  She would need to be patient with herself.  Maybe even forgive herself for the monsters and storms she had invited into her own life.

 

“Once upon a time,” she wrote, “there was a princess locked in a tower…..”

 

 

My First Time

I remember my first time like it was yesterday.

 

I was twenty-two; just a few months out of college.  She was a beautiful young coed, perhaps nineteen.  The first time our eyes met she smiled that beautiful unforgettable smile on a sunny afternoon in Birmingham. I’ll admit I stumbled over my words, not quite sure what to say.  But somehow I managed to string together an intelligible sentence.

 

“Would you like to go for a walk,” I asked.  “I can show you around.”

 

My heart was swelling with anticipation.  Then she said it.

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

Yes, sir?

 

Even though there was little difference in our ages, I was suddenly being accorded the respect my father always received.  I was an Assistant Director of Admissions at Birmingham Southern College and I wavered between pride and dismay.  I’m 6’7” so people have always thought I’ve always been older than I am.  Even bought my first beer at the age of 14, much to the irritation of my parents.  I didn’t have to produce and ID.  When you’re 6’4” and fourteen there are a couple of perks that compensated for the bitter irony of being only a 170 pounds and unable to dunk a basketball.

 

But this?  Sir?  I had arrived.  Soon, the world would bend at my every whim.

 

Now, fast forward 33 years.  Because it happened again yesterday.  I was picking up my mail when a young man greeted me at our community boxes just inside the gate of my apartment complex.  He turned the corner a little too quickly and almost crashed into me, copies of Men’s Health and Maxxim in hand.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry.  Excuse me, sir.”

 

At first I appreciated his courtesy.  But as I jumped back into my very youthful looking 4Runner I was a little irked.  “Excuse me, sir,” I whined in mock bitterness.  Little twerp.  I but I can do more push-ups than him, even if burpees are beyond the cooperation of my back, knees and neck.

 

It happens more and more.  People even ask me if I’m an AARP member.  (I’m not.  Never!).  The first time someone offers me a “senior coffee” at McDonald’s there’s gonna be an incident.  I suppose I come by my defiance of growing older naturally.  My Dad is 83 and refuses to go on the “Golden Years” Sunday School trips.  Most of my parent’s friends are at least 15 years younger than them.  Many are my age.  Dad says “everyone has to get older, but no one has to get old.”

 

Several years ago I gave Dad a a new chain saw for Father’s day.  I drove up to the house and heard the saw running in the back yard.  I noticed Sergio’s truck there.  He “helps” my Dad with yard work.  When I came into the back yard Sergio, who is in his forties, was sipping a glass of iced tea while Dad ran the saw.

 

“Sergio needed a rest,” Dad said.

 

“A rest? Sergio needs a rest?” I asked.

 

“Yes, sir,” he replied with a smile.

 

 

Wing Night: Just for Fun

I like burgers

with curly fries;

Ribeyes, potatoes

Sour cream and chives.

 

Give me a biscuit

With butter and jelly;

Maybe some bacon

To fill this thick belly.

 

If there’s a cookie

It don’t matter much;

I’ll lick up the batter

Chocolate chips and such.

 

But if I’m honest

About such things;

Sometimes I just crave

‘Bout a dozen chicken wings.

 

Make’m hot and spicy

Oh, let me perspire;

Wash me over now with

That Holy Red Fire.

 

Dip’em in ranch or

Some chunky blue cheese;

Battered or naked

Just bring’em now, please.

 

It could be that I

Will later regret;

The choices I made,

And how much I “ett;”

 

Is she staring at me?

Is there sauce on my face?

She hurries her children

“Let’s leave this bad place.”

 

My diet is something

I dare not explain;

My fleshy waistline,

I could surely better maintain.

 

Yes, now it’s true,

That I’m getting older;

But mostly  I wish

my Sam Adams was colder;

 

Someday, tomorrow,

Or maybe next year;

My changing blood work

Might cause me to fear;

 

But it’s a “special” wing night,

Just a quarter for one;

So I’ll have twelve more

And then I’ll be done.

Storm Warning

The still grey sky hung above him.

 

“Storm’s coming,” he said.

 

Sitting there, alone on the deck, as he did every morning, Lex wondered if he should call his mother and tell her to check the forecast.  She was doing okay since Dad died, but he had always been the one to pay attention to such things and god knows Mike paid scant attention to Mom’s welfare.  He was too busy “being Mike,” as Dad had always said.

 

Mike was the successful one.  He wore the tailored clothing and drove the BMW, drank the best wines, and made everyone laugh.  When they were boys everyone knew Mike would grow up to be someone important, maybe even start his own company (which he did) or run for Governor (which he was considering).  Mike read a lot of Tony Robbins and Zig Ziglar.  He did Crossfit and drank those god-awful green drinks.

 

Lex took a long pull on the Marlboro Light and blew it out slowly.  He knew he should quit.  One day he would, but on his own terms, not because Mike or anyone else gave him grief.  Dad had smoked for fifty years and was never sick a day in his life.  Until one day he got up, said he had a headache, and dropped to the ground with a sickening thud.  Mom wouldn’t subject him to an autopsy.  She didn’t need to know what killed him.  He was gone and that was that.  “No point in putting him through all that,” she had said as if the man was still alive.

 

Mom would talk to his father as if the man was still alive.  At first it bothered Lex, but then he realized she wasn’t losing her mind.  He really was still there.  The man drank scotch every night, just two glasses, ran through Marlboro Reds like buttered popcorn, and cursed Democrats and Republicans alike.  He was a hard man, tough as hell; started working in the mines when he was fifteen.  But he was as tender as a kitten with his family.  Men like that don’t die.  They make too big a mark in their small corner of the world to be swallowed up by something as trivial as death.

 

Lex knew he should get up and get dressed but he wanted another cigarette and some more coffee.  As he lit another smoke, he thought some more about his father and his brother and what kind of men they were.  There were times when Lex had been tempted see their version of manhood as better than his own, as if there was some kind of cosmic scorekeeper who kept track of such things.  Maybe there was and he was screwed.  Maybe not.  But somewhere along the way, Lex realized that he couldn’t be his father or his brother and that he would never have washboard abs or be able to talk intelligently about investment strategies and bond yields, or drink Scotch for that matter.  Lex was strictly a Bud Light kind of guy.

 

He had a good job and the money wasn’t bad.  It paid the bills.    And there was Jenny.  She knew he was broken and still loved him for reasons he really couldn’t comprehend. Some day they would have a kid and he would love the little guy and probably screw him up some.  Maybe they would have a girl and he could just stay out of the way and let her do the important stuff.  He just hoped he was kind and reliable, wanted to live a simple life, and not get too caught up by all the distractions that were out there.

 

When the first blast of thunder cracked he sloshed lukewarm coffee on his jeans. Lex thought he should probably go inside but wanted to stay just a little longer. He liked to watch the beginning of a storm.  There was a kind of terrible order to it. He liked to see the front come in over the horizon and the clouds swirling.  He liked hearing the first few drops of rain fall, then more and more until the sound of it hitting the roof became a roar; waters rushing, washing away the dust and pollen.  These were holy moments to Lex.  So he stood there and let the wind and rain blow over him for a little longer until he heard Jenny behind him.

 

“It’s storming babe.  Whatcha doin’?”

 

He crushed the last embers of the cigarette to his boot then dropped it into the trash.

 

“I dunno,” he said.  “Just prayin’, I guess.”