Break Time


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A-Minor Pentatonic

My assignment from this past week was to work on improvising against this backing track. I demonstrate my proficiency (or lack thereof) today at my weekly lesson. Hope I make it.

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Bad Stories

leyeI wish to share a reality – for me, anyway – that I am continuing to deal with. When a person is alone – like me – with little accountability to anyone, it is very easy to lie. There. I said it.

I’m not sure if this is a problem for others who are alone. I haven’t talked to anyone about it and no one has talked with me about it.

The secondary problem with being tempted to lie about things is to wonder more if other people are telling the truth. The problem of lies seems to further develop into a case of mistrust – is everyone else telling false stories, too?

Here’s the thing. There isn’t anyone who knows my schedule, finances, plans, motivations, private thoughts, or hardly anything else about me. I don’t tell them and they don’t ask. It might seem nice to some of you (I wondered in the past what it would be like to be alone) to be unaccountable to anyone, but for me, I am finding it brings up more than the obvious issues that might be associated with being alone. I would have never thought.

Yes, I have lied and I feel bad about it. I don’t think anyone has been hurt somehow but this makes it even harder – if there aren’t any apparent victims, then it makes it easier to lie? See what I mean?

It’s like a disease. I acknowledge my weakness and I am working on it, praying about it, and hoping that I won’t lose the trust of my family, friends, and acquaintances.

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Two Things

Alzheimer patient Tomaz is caressed by husband Dos Santos in their house in LisbonI visit with my patients on a regular basis. What I see and hear often can be emotional and moving.

Harold (not his real name) sits in the memory unit of a local facility every Fri morning holding the hand of his wife. They sit together in the common area – her in her wheel chair and he on the couch. She can’t speak nor does she seem to recognize Harold. They’ve been married 43 years. She became a resident this past Jun after suffering a massive stroke which mostly immobilized her and left her unable to communicate or remember much of anything.

His touch is tender, he talks to her as if she understands everything he is saying, and he smiles at her all of the time.

I went to a movie a few days ago. I had peeked ahead to see what it was about. I knew it would be hard to watch but I felt I needed to see it for a number of reasons.

Vincent goes to the assisted living home every week. Before entering a room down the hall, he puts on a white doctor’s lab coat. Upon entering, he greets the woman in the room with a strong “Good morning, Martha. You look beautiful as always today.”

Martha responds, “Hello doctor. I feel good today. Aren’t the tulips wonderfully colorful outside?”

“Yes, so amazingly colorful.”

After what appears to be a very cursory check-up, Vincent declares, “You check out excellently again today. As incredible as ever.”

“Thank you, doctor,” Martha says.

Each time that Vincent leaves the care facility, he takes Martha’s linens and clothes with him in a laundry basket. The aide at the front counter says, “You know we can take care of her wash, Vincent.”

Vincent says, “No, it’s okay. I want to do it.”

A few weeks later, Vincent (as the doctor) and Martha are outside sitting on a bench next to a pond looking at the ducks. As usual, the two are talking about the pretty settings and splashing ducks.

Martha says, “Vin, do you see those ducks diving?” Vincent’s voice catches and his eyes well up with tears.

He responds, “Yes, Martha, aren’t they something?”

Martha casually responds, “Yes, doctor. They are truly amazing.”

The moment passes quickly and without notice by anyone except Vincent.

Vincent and Harold are in the same situation. Their spouses are aware – but not of them. In story or in real life, it is heartbreaking to observe.

Two things. What is worse? Having a loved one who is present but not aware, or simply not being able to sit in the presence of a loved one?

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Highlighting Light

hugliteI spent another day yesterday working on my icon at the studio near St. Maximos the Confessor Skete. I know I have been discussing the writing of my icon quite a bit in the last month or so but it has been, for me, a moving experience and an experience of much learning and education. I’m happy to report that I probably have another 3 – 5 hours to go and my icon will be finished.  I then can bring it home for display and discussion.

In our devotional yesterday before we began working on our icons, we talked about the light that is highlighted in our icons. Coincidentally, I was completing my final highlighting (the third one) so as I was later working through the subtle highlights, I considered several items about light that we had talked about.

First, there is deified light that emanates from within each of us who live in faith. In our actions and words, the light comes from within and not only exposes us, but it also exposes that which is around us. As I was highlighting the creases and folds in St. Michael’s garments, wings, and hair, I was reminded that we have the ability and responsibility to let light shine from inside all through and over us in everything that comprises our being. It is often the light that many will recognize in us first before they even know us. It is important that we let light radiate from inside of us.

And second, I highlighted St. Michael’s garb in such a way as to also demonstrate the cosmic light that surrounds us all. God is in us but he is also all around us, too. God is the essence of the universe and, with this being the case, we all experience, so to speak, the influence of the cosmic ambient light of God. It’s as if we all are swimming in God’s light all of the time.

I am far from being an accomplished iconographer but I have learned this about the symbolism of iconography – God’s light is everywhere. It emanates from within the faithful and it pervades the universe that we exist in. We cannot escape the lighting influence of God.

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Communication Breakdown

Social-Media-ConfusionI can’t put my finger on it but, more and more, I find less satisfaction in communicating with friends via electronic communication. I grow weary of spotty, sporadic, and sometimes vague bursts of words from everywhere that somehow are meant to pass for conversation but often simply add to the otherwise ever-present droning din of continuous words all around me that have questionable meaning and value sometimes. Oh certainly, there is occasionally important and very clear communication that takes place so it isn’t all bad by any stretch. But sometimes I wish there was more.

Perhaps it’s because there isn’t anyone here at home to have a conversation with whenever I am so inclined. Or maybe it’s because I get tired of haggling over the meaning of words and sorting out confusion electronically when a few verbal sentences would take care of things. Or maybe I simply want some companionship.

Regardless of my reasons for thinking I need more, here is what I think I miss. First, it’s important sometimes to hear voice inflection and tone, isn’t it? How something is said is often as important as what is being said. I also like to see eyes during a conversation. Eyes also often say as much or more than what is being said. Volume in voice tells much about what is being said. It’s good to know, by observation, that someone is listening. A good conversation requires both appropriate talk but also concerted listening. And sometimes, when appropriate, touch is important to a conversation, is it not?

Maybe I simply desire more meaningful conversation and less ambient words. I don’t know. But whatever the reason, I am much more inclined to have a conversation over some coffee than having conversation in blasts of electronic words.

Just me…

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Choice Time

choiceThe idea is that the moral freedom given to us by God is meant to be used less as an opportunity to experience anything and everything in this world that we can but, rather, it is meant to be more of an opportunity given to us by God to eventually realize and come around to God’s way of thinking. God doesn’t change us without our awareness, permission, or knowledge. Instead, God gives each of us the freedom – to work over time – for each of us to realize that God’s ways are the better ways.

We’ve all heard about the erroneous thinking that some spouses think that their purpose and role in life is to change their spouse. The end of the story, of course, is that rarely can one spouse really and intentionally “change” his or her spouse. Rather, the better way to “change” a spouse is to exhibit love, patience, and understanding all while giving plenty of time and space to the spouse. With time and space and more often than not, two marriage partners will, over time, come to a much better level of relationship.

It’s the same with God. He isn’t going to strike me with a bolt of lightning and change me in an instant. Instead, he gives me love, patience, and understanding along with time to learn and grow to appreciate the ways of God. With God setting the world at my feet, he waits for me to understand God’s ways over time.

Freedom isn’t as much about making choices as it is about taking an opportunity – or not – to come to God’s way of thinking.

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Dry Spell

Bored-bored-bored-baby-budding-politician2Admittedly, being in school takes up lots of time but, at least, I have something to do everyday. I have a schedule, plans, and work to complete. This sounds whiny, of course, but when school is out I feel dry. There is plenty to do around but my days are less structured and they have less purpose, it seems. It’s nice for awhile but after a bit of not having any school around to structure me, I get antsy and nervous. It’s weird.

Today is a nice day out and I’m waiting to connect up with a friend later but other than that, I am honestly feeling like I need to stir up something in order to be engaged and challenged.

“You have a real problem there,” you are saying with snark in your voice and as you roll your eyes. “Must be hard to relax and not be driven by a phone and schedule. Sure, I really feel for you! Too bad!”

Okay, I get it. I’m complaining about something that, not too long ago, was something that I wished for like a Christmas morning. Time off! Not having to think! Not being the tip of the spear! Ah, it all sounded so nice.

But yes, it’s all relative, isn’t it? You do your thing and I do my thing and, after awhile, we all get in the routine and, maybe even, rut and we begin to take things for granted and we figure the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

I’ll survive.

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Spacemusic Ending

spacemusicI was one of the many who first found almost ten years ago. TC in Rotterdam has been producing and publishing his electronic ambient podcasts since around 2005. His shows partly distinguished themselves because of TC’s light banter about cooking, walking through parks in the Netherlands, visiting other countries for vacation or to attend ambient concerts, or riding his bike. TC is not a native English speaker so, while quite a good English speaker, he often would create – for English speakers – some pretty humorous juxtapositions of words. He never became angry about his limited English skills – he actually took on a self-deprecating attitude which was endearing and interesting.

What did distinguish the Spacemusic show was the excellent electronic ambient music TC selected and mixed. I’m not sure how TC obtained the music and artist interviews, but every week was a combination mix of deep, tantalizing, and very enjoyable ambient music. In some shows, TC would do quite a bit of talking but in other shows – my favorites – TC would turn on his music for 90 minutes and not say one word.

I discovered many ambient artists listening to TC’s podcasts and was happy to support the ambient community by purchasing music from the artists over the years that TC played on his shows. One ambient group from San Diego was especially good and I really like them. In the years, I’ve purchased three or four CDs from them. All because of TC.

TC announced a month ago that he was ending his podcasts after ten years. He was almost apologetic but pressed ahead saying that times were different now, he was pursuing some other career options, and he hoped we all would continue supporting ambient electronic music.

This might seem odd but it’s with sadness that I acknowledge TC’s desire to stop his show. I’ve listened to Spacemusic on my iPod and iPhone while on travel, while driving back and forth to work, and I listened a great deal while waiting the many hours I spent in Regina’s hospitals.

I will miss TC’s Spacemusic. Thanks, TC.

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Color Signals

culoursBeing in mountains with colorful fall trees is, for me, one of the most beautiful experiences of the year. Of course, fall is about death and dying in nature – not being a bummer here but it is – but in the ending of a fall season there is always hope for a new season of growth and maturity. Thankfully, this is how our universe works.

Not only do I see the colors of leaves, but I can smell them, sense them falling from high up in the trees to the ground, hear them when they touch the ground sometimes, and taste the fall air that is often heavy with decay. Being in a forest – as I was yesterday – the experience of fall is a full-senses, multi-sensory experience. Along with the leaves and trees, of course, are the animals who are getting ready for winter – the squirrels storing up their last nuts, the deer running about like they do this time of year, the geese that are moving to other places, and, of course, the decline in buzzing insect population. Additionally, the summer always brings croaking frogs around here – but in the fall the nightly cacophony of amphibian harmony lessens and lessens until it completely stops in the late fall.

Somehow and to me, the colors in the trees signal what is coming. It’s like a flare launched up into the sky to tell others to be on the lookout for something. The color signals a profound change that is about to happen – a life-ending, life-beginning, temporary yet sustainable event that reflects and manifests itself, too, in who all of us are.

We are people of seasons. There is no reason why we can’t and shouldn’t look for signals in our seasons of life.

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