A Visit With A Remarkable Man

I have got to go back and get something recorded.  And there’s not a lot of time.

I visited an elderly acquaintance in a nursing home’s medical center.  We’ve known each other around the theater for several years and, while we’ve had a few fun conversations and I’ve always found him charming, witty, and talented, we’ve never been close.  But I heard that he had been ill, and I had opportunity to go see him, and took it.

He has prostate cancer that has metastasized to the bones.  His mind is quite sharp and he says he’s not in too much discomfort, but he’s not going to get better.  He’s at peace with this.  But the time is short.

He mentioned that it had been his habit for several years to recite “A Visit From St. Nicholas” on Christmas Eve to a tour group he and his wife went with.  Health precluded it this time but he had performed it at the nursing home and the small audience was reportedly very appreciative.

I told him I’d be very honored if he’d do it for me.  And so, for an audience of myself and his wife, this elderly, smiling, frail, wheelchair-bound old actor delivered Clement C. Moore’s classic poem.  And did it brilliantly.

I absolutely have to get him to do that again, and record it.  Jaw dropping.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring……

God bless, friends.

Advice for Red-Nosed Reindeer

  1. When all of the other reindeer laugh and call you names, just remember that they’re really acting out on their own insecurities.  Reindeer can be cruel, and it’s partly their own fear and inability to empathize influencing them.  They don’t mean any real harm by it.  The important thing is that you believe in yourself, and don’t let their insincere insults define who you are.
  2. When they won’t let you play games with them, look on it as an opportunity to develop self-sufficiency in yourself.  Develop some outside interest, work on a skill, exercise.  Better yet, go find someone who needs a friend or some compassionate support and make a difference in their lives.  Don’t waste your energy trying to force yourself in–there will be too much temptation to fake it.
  3. Speaking of which, don’t ever wear a false nose.  God made you beautiful and special.  Embrace it!
  4. If they only love you because of what you can do for them, it’s not real love.  But it’s important to remember to stay true to yourself and your friends, and your true value will shine through.

Oh, and by the way, if you really are “the most famous reindeer of all,” why was it necessary to ask if people recalled you after listing the other eight bucks on the team?  Sounds like a little savvy marketing and promotion to me.  Keep that song writer around.

Hobbling Around

I’m using a crutch.  Strictly speaking, it’s on doctor’s orders.

Practically speaking, I find it helpful.  A cane would be less obtrusive, but it’s not as easy to manage and doesn’t quite give me the desired support.  Plus, a crutch looks temporary and canes look like something you’re going to use permanently.  That’s not an image I want to convey.

My bad knee is acting up.  It’s pretty sore and very unstable–it’ll just give way without warning.  I don’t NEED the crutch, per se.  If I’m paying attention to how I walk and keep the muscles tight I can manage okay.  But the doc says he wants me using it as long as there’s any risk of instability.

I’ve got some physical therapy exercises I’m doing more or less faithfully and I’ll almost certainly have an MRI in the near future to see exactly what’s going on in there.  MRIs are a little tricky to get scheduled this time of year, especially for something not at all life threatening.

It’s not a big deal.  I can do pretty much anything I want to do–it’s more an inconvenience than anything else.  But it generates lots of compassion and interest, and people keep wanting to not let me do things.  I have to sneak around to do the heavy lifting.  Which I’m still entirely capable of, thank you very much; I just have to be careful how I move.

When people ask me about it I tell them “the doctor said I needed more sympathy.”

Hope all’s well out there, friends, and God bless.

Waking Up Early

Happy Thursday, friends!

I won’t exactly say Thursday snuck up on me this week.  It came right after Wednesday, as is its regular custom and habit, and certainly I have no legitimate complaint that I didn’t have fair and reasonable warning that it was coming.

Nonetheless, the past several days have been rather full and it doesn’t seem that there’s been quite enough Henry to go around, and I do believe that under the circumstances Thursday might have given me a little extra notice.  Cleared its throat noisily before showing up, for instance.

In any event, this particular blog post, rather than being written comfortably ahead and scheduled to go live on the mighty World Wide Web on Thursday morning, is being composed in real time.  I woke up at two AM with quite a few things on my mind, one of which was “I didn’t write a blog post.”

I wasn’t too hugely worried about it but, given that I was wide awake, I thought I might as well get up and get a few things done.  One of them being this.

Hope all’s well out there, friends, and God bless.

Google Images Treasures

I love Google Images.  For instance, the other night we had some power outages in our area.  A friend posted on social media, after a few hours with candles and kerosene heaters, “I Have Power.”  I immediately thought of the 1980s He-Man cartoon, in which he raises his sword when he transforms and says “I have the power,” so I searched for that on Google.

What I found was even better: 

So naturally I posted this picture to her post.  There’s nothing particularly creative about Google Images–anybody can do it, and a little copy and paste work and you’ve got all kinds of interesting stuff.

Be careful, though, because when I say you can find anything on Google Images, I mean literally ANYTHING.

But you can also Google Image search “baby giraffe” and come up with this:

Hope all’s well out there, friends, and God bless.

Shel Silverstein–Advice for Doing the Dishes

I’d like to welcome to the blog the late Shel Silverstein, one of my all-time favorite poets.  Mr. Silverstein, it’s an honor to have you with us.
Please, call me Uncle Shelby.

Thank you, Uncle Shelby.  May I mention that I’m a huge fan of your work, and anybody wanting to see more of it could look here.

Can I ask you what’s in your refrigerator?
There’s a Polar Bear
In our Frigidaire –
He likes it ’cause it’s cold in there.

Thank you, and good luck with that.  How would someone go about being friends with you?
I know a way to stay friends forever,
There’s really nothing to it,
I tell you what to do,
And you do it.

Um, okay.  Have you ever found any magic in the world?
All the magic I have known, I’ve had to make myself.

What do you think about impossibilities?
Just ’cause somethin’ ain’t been done
Don’t mean it can’t be did…

Fair enough.  What would you suggest as sensible behavior for birds and worms?
Oh, if you’re a bird, be an early bird
And catch the worm for your breakfast plate.
If you’re a bird, be an early early bird–
But if you’re a worm, sleep late.

….right.  What would you like people to say about you?
Tell me I’m clever, Tell me I’m kind, Tell me I’m talented, Tell me I’m cute, Tell me I’m sensitive, Graceful and wise, Tell me I’m perfect – But tell me the truth.

Gotcha.  Can I ask you to offer some advice for drying the dishes?
If you have to dry the dishes
(Such an awful boring chore)
If you have to dry the dishes
(‘Stead of going to the store)
If you have to dry the dishes
And you drop one on the floor
Maybe they won’t let you
Dry the dishes anymore.

Well, that’s one way to look at it.  Shel, or Uncle Shelby if you prefer, thank you so much for bringing so much joy and laughter into the world during your time here.
Although I cannot see your face,
As you flip these poems awhile,
Somewhere from some far off place
I hear you laughing, and I smile.

And may that indeed be so.  Hope all’s well out there, friends, and God bless.

Elizabeth Busey–Advice for Finding Beauty In Your Backyard

I’d like to welcome Elizabeth Busey to the blog. Thanks for being with us. Can you tell us what you do with your time?
I am an artist, specifically a printmaker. I studied government in college and got a master’s degree in public administration, but when I was caring for my two children at home, I discovered art. After my younger child was in first grade, I began taking classes at Indiana University, and now have a printing press in my basement. I have been making prints now for about ten years, and of course trying to find homes for some of them.

How old are you, and where do you live?
I JUST turned fifty, and I live in Bloomington, Indiana.

Where can we find you on the internet?
You can see my artwork and read my blog at elizabethbusey.com

I love your blog, and spent way too much time playing around it. What would your favorite meal be?
Pacific Coast salmon, freshly caught and smoked over an alder wood fire.
(We try to create this in the Midwest with flash frozen salmon from the Farmer’s Market, but it really tastes best when prepared in the Pacific Northwest.) Complete with cranberry relish and some sort of fancy green salad.

Thanks, and sounds great. Pet peeve?
When businesses, especially airlines or utility companies, say things like “We apologize for any inconvenience.” I’m pretty sure if they need to use the word apologize, people are already being inconvenienced. The use of “any inconvenience” implies that if I was just a little less sensitive or a little more flexible, then everything would be grand.

Favorite move?
“Four Weddings and a Funeral.” I actually purchased it on my Amazon account, so I can watch it anytime I am having a rough day. The first part always makes me laugh until I am crying, and then the funeral scene makes me cry all over again.

Tell us about your family? Any pets?
I have been married to my husband Tom for twenty-eight years. He was a fix-up date to my first sorority formal when I was a freshman. (Yes, I had to ask him…) We have two children, Hannah, 22 and Owen, 20. They are both college students at Indiana University, but for the sake of their development and our sanity, have apartments close to campus. We do see them from time to time when they raid the fridge for leftovers. We have two grey and white female cats from the animal shelter. They are great companions for me when I work at home in my studio and have learned not to jump up on the table with the ink (for the most part.)

One thing many people don’t know you can do?
I can create ventriloquist style bird calls. This was a very useful talent in elementary school, when I could torture substitute teachers. No one in my classes ever gave me away.

That’s funny. Tell us some interesting things about yourself that aren’t already covered?
My first job – the summer after I graduated from high school – was to work for the United States Park Service in their Youth Conservation Corps. We were responsible for the park land on the Virginia side of the C&O Canal. I had to arrive at work at 7:30 every morning in jeans, a polyester shirt, hiking boots and a hard hat – which made for very hot working conditions. I learned how to clear & build trails, pick up trash, and work with young people with varying emotional and intellectual abilities. It taught me persistence and patience, and gave me an appreciation for people who work outside doing manual labor.

Thank you much. In the “Advice for Everyone” section of the blog interview, I was inspired by some of the material on your own blog. Can you share with my readers how to find beauty in your own backyard?

If you were to ask people to give you an example of something beautiful, you might get some common answers. Morning Glory Pool in Yellowstone National Park might be mentioned, or perhaps Leonardo da Vinci’s painting Mona Lisa. Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with famous or exotic examples of beauty, but actually beauty is something that anyone can experience anywhere.

Finding beauty is a spiritual or intentional practice. What makes experiencing beauty difficult in the everyday is the speed at which we lead our lives. Our need to multi-task and our fascination with all things media-related keep our brains from slowing down and becoming aware of what is truly all around us.

Humans are inherently visual creatures, so much of what we think of as beautiful comes from what we see. Practice looking with new eyes at your surroundings. Observe the patterning of bare branches against a moody sky. Or the patina of cracking paint on an old barn. Or maybe the soft, leathery folds of skin around an older person’s eyes.

In our visual search for beauty, technology can sometimes be an aid. Cameras on smartphones allow us to frame something so we can concentrate on it. Suddenly vegetables at the supermarket become a study about color, texture and abundance. Oil on wet pavement becomes a riotous colorful composition.  

You don’t have to focus on your visual system to seek beauty. When I want to listen to music or outdoor sounds, I will often close my eyes to concentrate on experiencing the beauty in sound. Whether it is a bird song, the rhythm of the local train or near silence punctuated by awakening insects, pausing to listen may reward you with a beautiful sound.

Don’t neglect your sense of touch, taste and smell either. Breakfast may afford you with many opportunities to find beauty. The aroma of the oils from your coffee heightens your awareness with rich, complicated notes. The bursting, tangy sweetness from the berries on your cereal or the pungent zing of cinnamon on your oatmeal are transcendent experiences worth celebrating, even if they are part of your daily routine. The silky smoothness of your shy cat’s fur is a reward for your hands. How often do you get to touch something beautiful?

Beauty can be created by artists, but anyone can find beauty at any time. The trick is to slow down, heighten your senses and notice things. Rainy winter days can be bleak and gloomy, but there are still raindrops clinging to dark branches that reflect the light. Beauty is yours, even in your own backyard.

Elizabeth, thank you very much, and thanks for being with us today. Take care and God bless.