jimowenswrites

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

Tag: children

November Tune

Winds gently blowing

cross oat covered dunes,

I hear the sweet sounds,

of her November tune;

The ocean still rocking,

Against the white shores,

The sea’s tide calling,

A song all the more;

A gentle babe crying,

this unfettered delight,

I listen in wonder,

Pricked ears in the night;

Bare feet keep padding

Across the boarded walk,

A strange symphony rising,

This whispering talk;

I strain in the darkness,

Make no better choice

Than awaiting the morrow,

And longing for her voice;

Advertisements

After Christmas

The evergreen lingers,

Sweet spices too,

The floors have been swept,

There’s little to do;

I sit in my chair

Earl Grey in my cup,

And spot the last remnant,

The steam rises up;

There under the couch

Some silver and red,

I smile and I laugh,

While shaking my head;

The presents all shared,

Gratitude all around,

I remember the chaos,

This heavenly sound;

Songs of the season,

Some furious joy,

The children now playing,

A girl and a boy;

Sugar she sits,

At peace in my lap,

She’s finally appeared,

Wanting her nap;

The boarders all gone,

But never too far,

They’ve all headed home,

In over-full cars;

My thoughts a bit scattered,

Another twelve come and passed,

How many will come?

They go by too fast;

Remembering the ones,

That held me so dear,

I long that once more,

Their voices I’d hear;

These memories of Christmas,

I quietly sift,

It seems to me truly,

They’re really the gift;

Voices: The Unusual Case of Eliza James–Part II

Author’s Note:  If you haven’t read Part I of Eliza’s tale, be sure to scroll back to the prior entry.  

 

The floor of her closet was strewn with an assortment of toys.  Legos.  American Girls.  A Game Boy.  It was just how Eliza liked it.  Everything was in plain view.  No need to sort through the clear plastic boxes her mother always insisted she pile them in.  Order was over-rated and almost an impossible achievement for her eight-year-old mind to accomplish.  Why have to put them away when you just wanted to let them inspire you to mix and match them in unexpected ways?  That was the best.

Eliza was sitting in the floor when she heard her mother calling.  Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew it was nearing time to get ready for school, but she could pretend she hadn’t heard her.  She estimated she could play another five minutes without invoking her mother’s disapproval

“Eliza,” her mother called again.

Eliza decided she decided she’d better see what her mother wanted.  She put down the doll and wandered into her mother’s room.

“’Mam?”

“What is it, Eliza?” her mother asked impatiently.

“What do you want?”

The blank expression on her mother’s face surprised Eliza. She’d seen the look before.  Experience had taught her not to decided not to challenge her mother.  Later, when everyone else called her Liza, she would remember this as the first time it had happened—hearing something that wasn’t really there.  “I didn’t call you Eliza.  But it’s time to get ready.  I’ll make you some oatmeal.  Now, hurry.  Get dressed.”

After Eliza swallowed the capsule her mother handed her every morning, medicine that helped Eliza sit through seven hours of school, not interrupt her teachers, and pay attention.   The same medicine that also made her feel oddly detached from the world—the medicine that everything she saw seem gray and everything she heard sound hollow.  She plodded to the car waiting on its effect.  She would need to hurry if she was going to talk to her mother before the medicine took hold of her.

“Are you okay, Mom?” she asked, watching her mother’s futile attempts to will the car in front of them to pull into traffic.

“Why do you ask, Eliza?”

“When I came to your room this morning and asked why you called me, you just kinda looked at me.  Like maybe you forgot you had called me.”

Her mother made it clear she hadn’t called Eliza and that she must have been hearing things.  Maybe it was the radio or the television, she said. Eliza winced.  Like so many other conversations with her mother, both before and after that morning, Eliza knew her mother wouldn’t be convinced.

But neither the radio or the television had been on that morning. Eliza was certain of it.

***

The table of contents read almost like her biography.

Chapter One—A World We do not Understand

Chapter Two—Psychosis

Chapter Three—Physiological Disorders

Chapter Four—Footsteps in the Hallway, Bumps in the Night:  Physical Causes

Chapter Five—Dreams, Visions, Angels, Demons: Is that you, God?

Liza thumbed to Chapter Five.  She had grown up believing in the gifts of The Spirit.  The interpretation of dreams.  Healing.  Speaking in tongues.  Prophecy.  She had known them to be true as surely as she knew the sun rose in the east and set in the west. And she had understood spiritual warfare too—that angels and demons fought for the circumstance and souls of men, women, and children. Before she reached the age of five, Liza had seen into the spiritual realms and had been a witness to the deeds of spiritual beings.

Thinking back, Liza remembered she had decided the voices—especially that one voice—it must have been God himself, calling her.  After all, there was nothing really menacing about them.  They didn’t make threats.  They didn’t tempt her.  But there had been nothing comforting about them either.  There had been no instruction.  Why would God call to her like that?  At some point, she had begun to wonder if the voices were evil.

In many spiritual traditions evil is manifest in a being or beings.  The Vedic tradtions, while having no specific incarnation of evil, have their asuras. Buddhists see Mara as the tempter, the incarnation of evil.  And, of course, in Judeo-Christianity a fallen angel, Satan, is the one who disguises himself as an Angel of Light.  In short, these traditions teach that spiritual creatures are capable of deceitful deeds intended to distract the faithful from the proper path.  While Hollywood has made millions with frightening tales of possession, such examples of the occupation of a human body by some outside force appears rather infrequently, particularly in the Western world.  Yet plaguing the faithful with frightful dreams and physical disturbances—strange sounds and peculiar voices among them—are far more commonplace. 

 Liza snapped the book shut and shivered.

 

Half-Way Man

Daylight breaks,

upon the shore,

the emerald seas,

are calm once more;

 

Gulls soaring

cross bluest skies,

and children playing,

a baby cries;

 

Sea and sand,

waft on the breeze,

Creation yawns

her waking ease;

 

Along the shore,

this young man walks

perhaps with his gods,

he surely talks;

 

Pondering long,

His future bright,

Or could it be,

his worldly plight?

 

Bare feet washed

by the wave,

This solitude,

his longing gaze;

 

And from behind

he hears that voice,

tender she calls,

make now, thy choice;

 

A gray man fishing

there on the shore

Casting his lines,

surf’s gentle roar;

 

No sound makes he,

this wrinkled man

his shoulders bent,

his body tan;
He turns to watch,

the passing man,

and nods his head,

Some thing in hand;

 

And watching him,

this passerby,

nods in return,

and wonders why;

 

From the east,

the sun beats down,

This universe,

ever spinning round;

 

Footprints fading,

Behind his path,

Half-way now,

he’s done the math;

 

Waters creep,

the tides they strain

The voice draws near,

her clear refrain;

 

The dolphins diving

in their seas green,

Plumbing depths,

In dreams he’s seen;

 

The gulls they screech,

all filled with pride,

Sandpipers racing,

the relentless tide;

 

The sun now risen,

nigh at it’s peak

This half-way man

can finally speak;

 

Clouds in the distance,

Not far away,

The lightening cracks,

What does it say?
This half-way man,

must still pursue,

not something different,

yet something new.

We are one, you and I

I remember how you sobbed sometimes,

your body convulsing from learning just how hard the world can be,

I remember your tears and sadness and

how they were mine, and how somehow we were two,

you and I, and yet one;

 

I remember how I searched for you,

calling your name over and over and over,

pressing down the panic that made me tremble inside

when you played your trick, and

how I feared some terrible thing had befallen you,

and I remember my relief resolving into anger, when I finally

heard you move in your small, dark hiding place, and I found you,

silly child;

 

I remember how you were afraid

to come out from your hiding place and

how I held you and told you not to do that any more and not to be afraid,

and how tightly I squeezed you and how

I told you I wasn’t really mad,

Just scared;

 

When I watched you from the kitchen window,

tromping about in the woods, the dogs following you and

you wearing those black rubber boots that came up almost to your knees and

that little blue and green sundress, I remember thinking you didn’t know I was watching,

how I always watched over you, begging God or the Universe or just Fate

to keep you free from harm when I wasn’t there to protect you;

 

I still do, begging pauper that I am, even though you don’t realize it,

or maybe even want me to, but I do. I can’t help it.

We are separate, us two, or so you might believe,

but I think we will always be one, somehow;

 

Time and distance and life,

the choices we’ve made, you and I,

they keep us apart, for now, and sometimes,

when it is late, or I am exhausted, or when I have had too much coffee, or

I just can’t settle down to sleep,

I feel the cold, piercing, wonderful dagger in my heart

That reminds me we are one,

you and I;

 

Most of the time the sweet pain is just a dull ache,

like the white noise of traffic that you don’t even really notice any more,

because it’s just always there, but when I do notice,

I try to let it remind me of how much you’ve been through,

how much you must ache and I wonder if you

feel the same stabbing blade of separation;

 

And I remember that we are one,

you and I.

 

What do you want to be when you grow up? A Brief Fiction

“What do  you want to be when you grow up?”

 

The tow headed little boy, he was maybe six—big for his age—gave his mother a quick cautionary glance.  He kept banging at the controls of the game, his fat fingers, too large for the little hand held device, but somehow working the buttons with the delicacy of a skilled surgeon.

 

“Level five,” he mumbled.  “Hang on.”

 

Julia smiled. Her son, Peter was he name, was a shy kid; the kind that other children would whisper about and furtively point at.  Despite their cruelty, Peter never seemed bothered by them.  It was as if he simply didn’t notice their judgment.  Sometimes his mother watched him, her happy little Buddha of a boy, her heart aching that over the fact he was different.

 

“Come on, Petey.  Put it down and talk to me.”

 

“K.  Jus’a sec.”

 

He let out an “oh, man” and she heard the whamp-whamp-waaah emerging from the game and realized Petey had just run out of lives.  Peter blew out a sigh and gently placed the game on the coffee table before him.  He blinked her into focus and asked, “Now, what did you ask me, Momma?”

 

“I asked you what you want to be when you grow up?”

 

“What do you mean, Momma?”

 

It had been a busy few days and she hadn’t really spent much time with Peter.  Between her job and trying to cook and clean their little apartment, she often felt exhausted.  She often worried she wasn’t a very good mother.  Julia had managed to keep Petey clean and fed and safe, but there wasn’t much else she could do, except on the weekends when she took him to the park.  She loved her little Buddha with a kind of tortured desperation, wanting more for him than she could possibly give.  She had loved him from the moment she first held him.  But she wouldn’t recommend becoming a mother at the age of seventeen.

 

“I mean when you grow up, what do you want to be?  What do you want to do?”

 

Petey gave her a kind of perplexed grimace, his brow furrowed, chin cocked downward, his neck drawn back.

 

“I don’t get it,” he said.

 

There had been times before when she had seen this look.  Like the time she tried to explain where babies come from and why he couldn’t watch a particular television show.   Peter seemed to understand some things far beyond what a child his age should be able to grasp.  Then there were times like this, times when he seemed to make simple things difficult.

 

“I mean you want to be something when you grow up, don’t you?  What do you want to do?”

 

“Momma, you’re not making any sense.”

 

Julia’s heart quickened.  She wondered if maybe Petey was having some sort of problem thinking, if maybe he was running a fever and was delirious.  Then he explained.

 

“Those are two different questions, Momma.  Do you want to know what I want to be?  Or do you want to know what I want to do—like for a job or something?

 

Julia shook her head a little, dismayed.

 

“Now I’m confused, Peter,” she said.  “What are you saying—asking I mean?”

 

“You asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up.  Then you asked me what I want to do.  Aren’t those two different things?”

 

“Oh, I get it,” she said.  “Yeah, I want to know what you want to do.  What kind of job do you want to have when you grow up?”

 

“A betternarian.  I want to be a betternarian.”  Petey had always had trouble pronouncing his Bs.  Vacation was bay-cation and Vermont was Ber-mont.

 

“A what?”

 

“A betternarian.  You know.  I want to take care of dogs and cats and stuff.”

 

He had always wanted a dog or a cat.  At the park, Petey would always ask people if he could pet whatever beast he encountered at the end of a leash.  He was fearless—he wanted to pet them all, large and small.

 

“Or a baker.  I like the smell of bread and cookies,” he added.  “Maybe, I can do both.”

 

“You can be whatever you want to be, Petey,” said Julia, reassuring herself more than Peter.

 

He gave her the look again.

 

“You’re doin’ it again, Momma.”

 

Suddenly, Julia understood, her frustration resolving into understanding.

 

“So what do you want to be when you grow up, Peter?” she asked.

 

The boy paused, gently biting the left inside corner of his bottom lip, which made the right side poke out in a kind of vague thoughtful way.  He thought for a moment.

 

“Jus happy,” he said.  “I jus wanna be happy, Momma. Like now.”

 

Julia could feel her eyes become watery with profound gratitude.  This little boy, with such a grown up soul, somehow had eyes to see the world in ways that never stopped amazing her.  She begged God or the Universe or whatever omniscient power there might be over this world to protect Petey, to keep him unsullied by the sometimes harsh realities of life. Or maybe it wasn’t Petey that needed protection as much as it was her.  Maybe she just needed to understand the difference between being and doing like Petey seemed to know.

 

“Are you okay, Momma?  Did I make you sad?”

 

“No, Peter, you didn’t make me sad.”

 

“Is it okay to just want to be happy?  That doesn’t make you sad that I said that?”

 

“No Petey.  It’s perfect.  It’s absolutely perfect.”

 

 

Of Bubble Wrap and Cage Fighting: An Homage to Mom and Dad

Did you get my message?” she asked.

 

I had turned off the ringer on my digital leash—phone, I mean—so I hadn’t realized she had called.

 

“Everything is okay, but…”

 

We’ve all felt the ache in our stomach and racing of our hearts when the phone rings late at night.  If you’ve raised a child, worried about an ill family member, or have someone you love going through a challenge, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

 

I’ve had calls like that from my daughter,” I’m okay but, I’ve had a wreck.”

 

And from my son, “I’m okay but there’s someone pounding on my door.

 

But when you get that kind of call from your Mother, knowing that she and your Dad live an hour and a half away, well, it kind of makes your mouth go dry.

 

This time my 83-year-old father had attempted a full gainer off the high dive—no that’s not right—wait.  It was his night at Fight Club.  Nope.  Not that’s not right either.   Ah, it doesn’t matter.  The bottom line is that a quick trip to the ER and about 30 stitches later, he was raring to go again.  Well, maybe not raring.

 

When he called me from the car, doing his best Indian accent, he told me he was wearing his turban; a gauze bandage wrapped around his head.  I told him I was going to buy him a helmet and some shoulder pads.  He laughed, told me he was pretty banged up, but was gonna live.  But I digress.

 

When we swapped texts last night, he told me he appreciated me coming down to check on him.  He told me that he loved me and knew how much I care about him and Mom that he would be okay. He told me Mom was taking good care of him.  He told me not to worry.  And I thought how about how much both of them inspire me.

 

Life takes courage.  It takes determination.  It takes a sense of humor.  And the people I call Mom and Dad are full of all three.  Lord, they raised me.  Just feeding me and keeping me in shoes that fit took all three.  And it has taken them all for both of them as they have dealt with the unexpected challenges and opportunities of life; moving across country, career changes, family stuff, and some bad news from the doctor from time to time.  Plus, there was the whole Jimmy Carter Presidency.  But they keep going.  They keep laughing.  They keep staring into the face of difficult things and smiling.  As my Mother says, “you just do what you gotta do.”

 

I’m sure they’ve had their moments of fear, those moments in the middle of the night when you wonder how things are going to turn out.  I’m sure they’ve shed some tears I’ll never know about.  And I’m sure they worry about me more than they worry about themselves.  They are indeed made of stern stuff.  I hope I’m made of some of that too.

 

Now lest I end this little tome a maudlin note, you should know I’ve given up on the notion of a helmet and shoulder pads. I told Dad bubble wrap would be easier and cheaper so the next time he rides his skateboard, he’ll be ready.  And that scar over his left eye is just gonna make him even sexier with the eye patch and the pirate hat he’s getting for Father’s Day.  He’ll probably wear them while he’s running the chain saw I gave him a few years ago.

 

And Mom, if you’re reading this don’t cry.

 

 

I’m a Toys-R-Us Kid

Grow up.

 

Be serious.

 

Act your age.

 

This being a grown-up thing should have an NC-17 rating.  Adults only.  There are bills to pay, appointments to keep, and things to do.  Go to the gym.  Eat right.  Get enough sleep.  Wake up.  Start over.  Excited misery is what one psychologist friend of mine called it. You know, when you spend all your energy and time doing things you either have to do or feel you’re supposed to do.

 

Wait.

 

That’s it? That’s being an adult?

 

Nope.

 

There’s one more thing.

 

Mondays.

 

If we’re fortunate, our lives will be filled with about fifty years as a working adult facing Mondays.  Fifty years as a grown up.  And somewhere between being a kid and being old, life happens.

 

So many people greet Monday with an “ugh” because for some reason the weekend has become the only time grown ups play. For some, those two days are the only time of the week when we maybe, just maybe, we act like kids.  Sort of. Think about that.  Stand on the outside of your life and take a good hard look.

 

Like what you see?  Maybe you should act like a kid a little more.  (Not the “mine, mine, mine” kind of kid.)

 

Now, before anybody gets to cranked up about and suggests I’m advocating irresponsibility, hang on.   I’m not.  I just don’t wanna grow up.  I’m a Toys-R-Us kid.  I’m not letting go of the really fun stuff of childhood.

 

Playing in the rain.

 

Catching fire-flies.  (We call’em lightening bugs here in the South.)

 

Dancing in front of the mirror.

 

Wading in a creek.

 

Laughing at dumb jokes—you know, the ones that include references to—um, never mind.

 

Maybe even burp the alphabet.

 

Sure.  I have appointments to keep–grown up appointments, like annual vision examinations, and dare I say—uh, no.  I daren’t.   I try to eat right.  I do the grown up stuff.  Some of it I do well.  Some of it—well, not so much.  But in a world of doing, I hope I’m taking time to be–especially to be a kid.  Not just on the weekends, but on Mondays and every other day of the week. Maybe, you should too.

 

I have to go now.

 

I have some calls to Walgreens to see if they have Prince Albert in a can.

Epitaph: A Brief Look at Eternity

She said she knew what she wanted on her tombstone.

 

“She made a difference.”

 

It’s a noble goal.  And, I think, appropriate for her.

 

The truth is, dying isn’t something most people want to think about.

 

Being dead.  Here one day. Gone the next. The dirt nap.  Six feet under.  An empty seat at the table of life.   Now, if you fear this is some dark examination of existential angst, you don’t know me very well.

 

When she told me she wanted that as her epitaph, my mind did what it usually does.  It wandered to some irreverent thoughts.  I’m not afraid of death.  It’s the dying that scares me.  Like flying.  I’m not afraid to fly.  It’s crashing that I’d like to avoid.  But what of my epitaph?

 

See, I told you I didn’t feel good? That sounds appropriate.

 

I rather like the notion of someone unexpectedly coming across my headstone, amidst all the other deeply reverent ones, and having them laugh.

 

Pull my finger?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Not too subtle.

 

Here lies Jim.  And here.  And here? 

 

That one seems to fit me. I’ve been buying extra long clothes since I was fourteen and paying more for it.  I wonder if there is a big and tall section in the casket catalogue. Will I have to pay more?

 

Marco?

 

That one seems kind of fun.  Though I’m afraid it might bring a reply of Rubio rather than a reminder than children splashing in the pool calling back Polo as some pink water logged kid tries to locate his friends.

 

I’ve even considered some made up symbol, implying some mystical mystery.  Or maybe just a light bulb or a question mark.

 

Houston we have a problem?

 

I like that one.  Maybe Tom Hanks would stop by to visit.

 

Now, some of you are uncomfortable with such silliness.  Eternity is no laughing matter, you’ll say. But I can’t help myself.

 

I’m too busy living.

Big Man. Small World.

In 1988, he could still skip a day of shaving. He was a 185 pounds of bone and skin, stretched over a six foot six frame, and full of world changing ambition.   When the young man walked through the steel door, the Special Agent welcomed him with surprising warmth.

 

“Welcome to the FBI,” he said.  “Let me show you around.”

 

The office was quiet.  The furniture looked uncomfortable.  There was no receptionist.

 

“So, what makes you want to join the Bureau?”

 

The young man cleared his throat and tried to sound capable.

 

“My Dad,” answered the young man.  “He’s spent his career working for Treasury, working to make the world a better place.  I’d like to make a difference.”

 

I had just turned 27, had a young family, and the thought of becoming a G-Man was intriguing.  A few months at Quantico, then off to work in a major metropolitan area and I would be wearing Ray Bans, carrying a weapon and tracking down bad guys.  Cool.

 

Except, I chose a different path.

 

I stayed in banking.  I’ve had a good run.  I’m not done yet.

 

My career has taken me places, given me the opportunity to do things, and meet people, I could never have foreseen.  Just as I couldn’t have foreseen running in to the same FBI Agent who interviewed 28 years ago in Birmingham at a Writer’s Conference in Huntsville, Alabama today. He didn’t recognize me, but he had a name I couldn’t forget.  His name badge gave him away. Out of respect, I won’t share his real name.

 

Let’s just call him, Hoover.

 

I tapped Hoover on the shoulder and asked if he was a retired FBI Special Agent. He smiled and confirmed my suspicions.  It wasn’t long before we were laughing, sharing stories, finding out we had more in common than either of us would have expected.  He’s published a memoir.  I need advice about an FBI agent in a novel I’m writing.  Hoover was just as warm and he had been when Reagan was President. He said he would be glad for me to give him a call.

 

While Hoover and I were talking, I knew the look he was giving me.  I’ve seen it before.  People always want to ask it.  Little kids always do.  They gaze up at me and something like, “Man, how tall are you?”  Hoover wanted to ask, but we got distracted with the moderator calling us back to our seats. 

 I’m no longer 185 pounds. Now, I tip the scales at about 240—a big man in a small world.  Still hoping I made a difference.