Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Lost Childhood!

As a teacher in a public school system I often wonder about our society, what it values and it's impact on our children. It seems to me that too many kids today are not allowed to be children. Too many are not getting their basic life needs met. They are driven away from their basic qualities of spontaneous play and youthful vitality towards the goals of our society's desires driven largely by capitalism! Those goals seem to be to control and educate to remove unpredictability. (All text in italics are from Dark Nights of the Soul) This process can do much to inhibit the creative child not only in childhood but in adulthood as well! Thomas Moore says this about our repression of the child....

We repress the child by forcing children into religious and character building camps, by excluding them from social life, by containing them in poorly equipped and dispiriting schools, and by demanding that they grow up quickly through extra lessons and limits on play, and by surrendering them to too many au pairs and babysitters. In repressing the child, we keep the troubling human soul and specifically it's child qualities away from adult pursuits.

I remember studying Karl Marx in Philosophy class in college! I was fascinated that he wrote in the Manifesto about how he believed that man was innately creative and that capitalism and it's drive to mass produce and compete (the mechanized assembly line) would eventually be the downfall of capitalism. The man fastening the same part on the car on the assembly line over and over again would have no creative input and thus be dispirited! (Never mind that men and women would be replaced by robots.) I think, in this age of high stakes testing of our kids in schools we seem to be treating children much like a car on an assembly line. We feel that if we extend the academic day, make then all dress alike, (my school system is toying with a very strict dress code akin to a uniform) and teach them more, faster without play time they will better be able to help us compete with other countries! We even have a PACING GUIDE to make sure we teach what we need to teach fast enough to cover it all. Where is the joy in that. In fact, it seems to me that the harder we push these children whose basic needs have not been met the more they rebel and push back!

Just to emphasize where our priorities are in our capitalistic culture, the government stimulus plan includes millions and millions of dollars to bail out greedy corporations and banks while schools grapple with cuts to programs and loss of teaching positions. But no matter where each kid is in life, they had better meet those test score requirements. Oh yes, and how about all those needy kids in a school of over 750 with one school adjustment counselor. We are concerned with just the brain (well sort of) and not the heart and soul! I saw a great bumper sticker that said something like this...What if schools had all the money they needed and the air force had to have a bake sale to buy the planes they need.

Thomas Moore writes prolifically about the child and it's connection to creativity. We are coercing many children too soon into adulthood and their creative essence defined as vitality, spontaneity and joy are lost.

"Many people live in emotional darkness because they have never fully enjoyed a child spirit in their overly serious lives."

He is trying to tell us that the child plays an important , but not exclusive role in living a creative life! Perhaps Michael Jackson in the ultimate representation of the lost child struggling to come to grips with a dark night of the soul.

"...that somehow we have to resurrect the childhood spirit in a way that is fully compatible with a mature, adult life." Maybe this is what Jackson was struggling with. "He was like an old person trying too hard to look young instead of aging gracefully with youthful spirit! "

There was clearly a massive tension in Michael's life, a tension beyond our understanding because his life was always so much larger than life and probably a life long dark night! His dark night produced brilliant art and at the same time his search and suffering became an obsession. He was in a dark night trying to reconnect with his childhood but in that search he became stuck in that phase of his history rather than finding a balance that would let him fully realize his adult potential. Michael lost his battle...but many fail to realize he did fight to try to succeed. If he didn't struggle he would have never been able to produce his music and do the charitable work that did make a difference. Most of us would rather avoid conflict, while Michael lived it and yes it produced brilliant music and dance and sadly painful preoccupations. Can't we pause for a moment, put our own discomfort aside long enough to see the bigger picture!

The big picture for me is that we are creating the most distressed and disconnected generation of kids ever. I know it is a stretch to connect Jackson's life to today's' children because the stage is so much more grandiose and almost surreal but maybe Michael Jackson's legacy can be a warning to us to embrace children and our child like quality that the Zen master calls "beginners mind," the spirit of the child who is relatively free of cultural contamination. So we can embrace all of ourselves, the good, the bad....if you are going to be creative, you must live the whole story. You have to take the dark nights with the brilliant successes. You have to endure criticism and failure.

Michael sang about his Dark Night on the Cd entitled HIStory...

Tears for Fears made the best CD about childhood trauma and it is one of my favorites. As an adult child and first born child, I knew the pressure of being adult way too soon! I'll post this song for all children (and adults)!

Monday, June 29, 2009


I'll just let this video speak to you in whatever way you feel moved!

Be sure to view the credits at the end.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Just like life today's church service at The First Church of Christ on Park Square was both enlightening and surprising. I certainly experienced what was honestly, and I mean truly honestly, the most touching moment I have ever experienced in a Sunday church service. Rev. James (R.J.) ending his sermon titled, "Taking Ourselves More Lightly..." with a touching and heartfelt acoustic version of Michael Jackson's Man in the Mirror. He explained and I realize that Michael was a broken and in some ways a twisted human being. But at the same time he was at times able to rise above that brokenness and thrill us with his art and bring joy to millions. What a surprise to hear such words and experience such a heartfelt piece of contemporary music in a church service. I could barely contain my emotions!

Here is a piece of today's sermon to give the essence of the message....

There seems to be a connection between humility and wholeness and I have come to believe that humor is one of the best ways we can cultivate and nourish a holy humility in our ordinary lives. Not only does gentle humor turn the tables on our culture of cynicism, bringing us closer to joy, hope and trust, it does so in a way that is festive and satisfying.

With these words in mind, a wonderful congregation member stood up and played a song he wrote for a class that was supposed to be humorous! It was fun as the rest of the congregation was invited to sing a part! Just another surprise in a church service that felt more like joyous life than mundane dogma that does nothing to enlighten the soul! Today's service gave me a lift. I left feeling better than when I went in! Yes, I am still grappling with a hand that life has dealt me, but on this day my church made a difference! Then there was the beautiful song performed by Dianne and Jenna! BEAUTIFUL! If you would like to experience this kind of spiritual light please join me some Sunday at 10:30! My blog has a link to the church web site.

ALL I CAN SAY NOW IS THANK YOU.....For a church where after being seated I never know what aesthetic wonder may envelop my senses. Today was truly a Service of Surprise!

One more rendition of Man in the Mirror!

I love this song of off HIStory...look at the amazing dance moves!

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Back in 2005 Vicki was named Wal Mart Teacher of the Year and after rereading Vicki's memorial service notes on Rev. Lumsden's Blog, I thought again about Vicki and her desire to do good without fanfare and attention to herself. In fact, Rev. Lumsden's blog has several recent posts on humility and Vicki was certainly a humble servant of GOD! RJ, (Rev. James) starts his notes for this Sunday's sermon titled, "Taking Ourselves More Lightly.", with the following quote, "The Roman Catholic theologian, G.K. Chesterton, once said that the “reason angels can fly is because… they take themselves so lightly.” Vicki truly did fly and yes she was an angel. In fact, ironically RJ said this in his spoken tribute to Vicki during her memorial service last December....

"The prophet Isaiah told the people of Israel living in exile that God would send them angels to bring them comfort and peace – Vicki was one of those angels, I think, she certainly was to me. And I think she was to her school and her family and her church. She knew how important it was to quietly and consistently bring comfort to those who needed it the most – and her testimony has a lot to teach us who remain about how the words of God become flesh."

What has really stirred me today is the irony in the connections between Vicki, her memorial service, RJ's new sermon, and Vicki's handling of her teacher of the Year Award! She seemed almost embarrassed by the attention. She spoke to me about it and I tried to convince her that it was a good thing and attention she deserved. I don't actually think she thought she was undeserving of the award. I just think she was, as always, uncomfortable with the attention paid to her. She just enjoyed doing what she loved and making a difference without fanfare.

Not long after Vicki died I had the most difficult task of having to go to Vicki's classroom to get her stuff! I was grateful that her best friend and fellow teacher Cathy, was there to help me. Thank you again, Cathy! I'll tell you, after twenty plus years she had lots of stuff! I hated dismantling this part of her life, but I have saved every bit of it and sometime soon it will be comforting to go through again. I pondered the whereabouts of that plaque and you can see at the top of my blog. I certainly wanted it, but thought it was probably at home in a closet or other important memory storage spot. But NO, I found it wrapped in the blue apron Vicki is wearing in the photos on this blog from that day, stuffed into the middle of a giant cabinet filled with art supplies in her classroom. Just stuffed in there like it really didn't matter! Well, that plaque is here in my home and it is an honor and tribute that she deserves for her service to humanity, for her quiet and kind approach to living every minute of her life, for always looking for a way to help instead of a way to say no, for always transcending herself in the interest of others, for never, ever being selfish, and simply because she was, and is an angel. I am blessed to have been in her life and can only hope to be a fraction of what she was in her her short but fulfilling life!

One last Quote that I found after Vicki died and just seemed like her talking to me!

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within."
- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Vicki's Memorial Service

I have had a few people ask about Vicki's memorial service and so I am going to provide a link in this post to Rev. James Lumsden's notes on his blog. I can only tell you that I couldn't have heard a more acurate, heartfelt and reality filled testimony to Vicki and her life! I am including the link to the post rather than coping and pasting the entire work in my blog!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Man in the Mirror

A late afternoon I won't forget took place today. Sitting with a friend talking, ironically about music and life and out of the corner of my eye I see a BREAKING NEWS story about Michael Jackson suffering a cardiac arrest and soon after the announcement that he in fact was dead. We were both in shock and for moments silent. The fun conversation lost it's momentum and turned to sadness for a while before we began to speak about Michael and how amazing he was as an entertainer. I loved his music and when he danced I was simply in awe! Hearing Thriller for the first time and Eddie Van Halen playing that killer guitar on Beat It just sent me into a musical nirvana! Yes, like a lot of us, but in a much more public and sad way, Michael was broken deep inside and we may never understand the reasons why. In spite of his brokenness, he brought joy and excitement to millions through his art. I certainly will continue to listen in awe and I pray that his legacy will allow the good stuff to rise to the top and let his soul rest in peace! This live video says it all!

This was always one of my my favorite songs from the album Off The Wall...

I am not ashamed to say that as I posted this last video I cried! I am sure this death scratches up against my own loss! Micheal's art will reverberate it's beat throughout the universe forever!

One more song....

Monday, June 22, 2009

23rd Wedding Anniversary! JUNE 22, 1986

Vicki and I were married 23 years ago today, so Bailey and I went out to dinner. One year ago the three of us went out together and enjoyed a fun dinner to celebrate! (Oh yes, Bailey gets his surgery tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m.) We picked the band that played at our wedding reception because they could play Talking Heads songs and while Vicki never cared much for them, they were, and are one my favorite groups ....They played this song especially for us that day 23 years ago!

I also want to post a Paula Cole song because Vicki loved her voice and loved many of her songs! I bought Vicki her latest CD, COURAGE, last summer and this is one of my favorite songs and expresses lots of real feeling for me today and every day that Vicki is gone! Vicki also commented that she thought our minister's wife Dianne sounded a lot like Paula and I have to agree! Her comment to Dianne really sticks in my head from the last week of Vicki's life. I uploaded this song to You Tube using a Christmas picture of our front hallway looking festive with holiday lighting and candles!

Today, just like Father's Day yesterday are difficult thresholds to cross on this journey into a completely new life.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

P.S. I Love You

I watched this movie last night, P.S. I Love You and wow what tears. Streaming, gut wrenching tears brought on by a movie that connected as deep as can be! I copied the overview from an online review.......

Holly Kennedy is beautiful, smart, and married to the love of her life--a passionate, funny, and impetuous Irishman named Gerry. So when Gerry's life is taken by an illness, it takes the life out of Holly. The only one who can help her is the person who is no longer there. Nobody knows Holly better than Gerry. So it's a good thing he planned ahead. Before he died, Gerry wrote Holly a series of letters that will guide her, not only through her grief but in rediscovering herself. The first message arrives on Holly's 30th birthday in the form of a cake and, to her utter shock, a tape recording from Gerry, who proceeds to order her to get out and "celebrate herself." In the weeks and months that follow, more letters from Gerry are delivered in surprising ways, each sending her on a new adventure and each signing off in the same way: P.S. I Love You. Holly's mother and her best friends Sharon and Denise begin to worry that Gerry's letters are keeping Holly tied to the past, but, in fact, each letter is pushing her farther into a new future. With Gerry's words as her guide, Holly embarks on a touching, exciting, and often hilarious journey of rediscovery in a story about marriage, friendship, and how a love so strong can turn the finality of death into a new beginning for life. (Warner Bros.)

While reviews were mixed (who cares) this movie spoke to me on many levels. At the end of the movie after receiving 10 letters over a period of one year from Gerry after his death, Holly is finally OK and she says that Gerry brought her back from the dead. In the last scene it has been one year since Gerry's death and Holly says, "This is my one and only life and it is a great and terrible and short and endless thing and none of us comes out of it alive!" I cannot embed the closing scene but you can see it if you click the link here....please view this link and enjoy the Irish landscape before going on...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuDzjt3x944

Here is the song by Flogging Molly...

After seeing part of this movie on HBO or Showtime I knew I had to see and own it so I bought it! I called Vicki's Mom to tell her about it and while I clearly was bothering her she said she hadn't seen it, but that Vicki had told her about it and recommended that she see it! WOW! Vicki watched this movie while she was sick..I am sure cried just like I did and she never shared it with me. I am not mad or upset...it was just Vicki being Vicki and it was just to difficult for her to open that door! But as I cried I could feel her tears knowing she had seen this too. So, in the long run we did share it.

I am not even close to place where Holly is at the end of this film, when she can say, "It's OK , It's alright!". First of all, it has been only 6 months and I'm just not OK or alright. There are things I just cannot do and life is moving at a pace that I cannot keep up with. I have a pulled muscle in my neck from tension that is killing me! (I saw a doctor) In one tearful moment between Holly and her Mom, she is crying about not being able to breathe and that she is all alone. In fact, she says, ultimately we are all alone and her mother replies that if that is true then we are all in it together!

Lastly, there is this line in a letter from Gerry to Holly, "You were my life, but I am a chapter in yours! I will always love you Holly!"

If I have let people down, or not followed through in ways you think I should, I am sorry! I am doing my best and I need friends who can just sit with me. You don't have to solve a single problem for me. I feel alone and in a world that is only becoming vaguely OK! Some people are just too busy and I won't hold a grudge. In the same situation, I would probably be just as guilty!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Crash and Burn

There is so much I could write about but I am so tired I need to keep it brief! Bailey ( my 13 year old son) went to the orthopedic surgeon for an x-ray today and unfortunately the bones have moved more and he will need surgery! He broke his right forearm 10 days ago and after surgery for the wound caused by the compound fracture, and realignment of the broken bones, we had to wait and see if the reduction of the break would hold! Well, it has moved too much! They wanted to do this surgery tomorrow and scheduled it for 1:30 p.m. We had to visit his pediatrician for a physical at 1:00 today and even before we got there I could tell Bailey didn't feel well. He didn't eat breakfast, had a headache and was very tired and glassy eyed! At the pediatrician he had no fever, but his heart rate was a bit fast which the doctor felt might indicate that he was getting sick. Sure enough, by late afternoon today he was flushed and had a fever. So after a call back to the pediatrician ,it was decided the surgery will have to wait! I called the surgeon and left a message. He may be able to do the surgery Monday if Bailey gets well soon! My still new journey as a single parent is sure being tested, Vicki was sooo good at all of this!

Second, after reading my Ministers blog I thought of this song Crash and Burn by Savage Garden. I have posted songs by them in the past! I guess I was thinking about several things including how lonely life is and the importance of people you can count on! Secondly, his blog entry made me think about the process of reaching bottom (crash and burn) and realizing self driven, me first life is not the way to kingdom of God living and that we need to transcend ourselves and seek our own personal higher power to be humbly successful in this reality.

For those who are friends out there, please continue to keep us in your prayers!

Monday, June 15, 2009


If you read this blog you know what I have been feeling, but sometimes just a song says it all...the melody, the passion, the beat, the lyrics, or just a deep soulful feeling! Tears has always been that way for me. I went on You Tube just drifting around rediscovered a Tears song, FAMOUS LAST WORDS and man what a nice feeling! I've heard the song before ( I own every one of their songs) but something just clicked! I will post the link for the live version. The live version is an excellent video and Roland has such a great voice. I've always wanted to be him the way some would want to be Lennon or Bono :-).

First, here are the lyrics...

After the wash
Before the fire
I will decay
Melt in your arms
As the day hits the night
We will sit by candlelight
We will laugh
We will sing
When the saints go marching in

A for a heart
B for a brain
Insects and grass
Are all that remain
When the light from above
Burns a hole straight through our love
We will laugh
We will sing
When the saints go marching in
And we will carry war no more

All our love and all our of pain
Will be but a tune
The sun and the moon
The wind and the rain
Hand in hand we'll do and die
Listening to the band that made us cry
We'll have nothing to lose
We'll have nothing to gain
Just to stay this real life situation
For one last refrain

As the day hits the night
We will sit by candlelight
We will laugh
We will sing
When the saints go marching in
And we will carry war no more

Here is the link for the awesome live version!. Give a listen. Roland can really sing and live performances can really show who needs studio voice manipulation to sound good!

How about a tune from Tears most recent CD...a live version of Call Me Mellow!

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I am not being selfish or strange and no I am not looking for a girlfriend. I am at the end of my rope to say the least! I am dealing with the loss of Vicki and all that she meant to this family. I am dealing with Bailey and his badly broken arm and possible surgeries and that only magnifies the void! One of my last posts was CRAZY LIFE and yes life can be crazy. The day I wrote that post I talked about how good the day was and since then it is like I just lost a 20 game hitting streak and now I am in a slump, a four game,, no hit slump. Oh, and I didn't mention work and the crap being shoved at me there! Today at church I just didn't feel like being happy! I wasn't being a drag and yes being there was uplifting, even if Church School Sunday was a blatant reminder of Vicki being gone! It was the right place to be! I know God's grace and presence is close at hand. I know joy lies in waiting and in fact is closer than I can feel. Maybe it is sort of like a brand new suit that looks good...made of silk.... and you know how new clothes can make you feel so good, but life has the suit inside out. Inside out doesn't feel great, it doesn't look right and you don't really want to go out and be seen in such an altered state. My life is inside out, upside down. If you think about it though the perfect suit is still there, not visible to anyone or yourself, yet it is there and in fact it's beauty (best side) is even closer to your skin than before and you just need to remember and imagine what it felt like! OH well. I am not sure if that makes sense but that is my best effort as I sit here and type. Honestly tears are always at hand! I need a rest...literally!

I know getting through this requires effort. I need to laugh and feel good and there are good days, but the sun never shines the same. So I was joking with a friend over the weekend about a song by Taylor Swift. In fact I played it for them and said, "Hey I should post this song since it has my name in it." It is called, "Hey Stephen"by Taylor Swift. Every time I hear the song it makes me smile and feel good. I actually only heard it because it is on a CD that Bailey wanted me to buy for him because he loved the hit song, "Love Story" and he wanted it on his cell phone mp3 player. Actually, Taylor Swift was on a recent cover of Rolling Stone and in the article they mention how she was signed to a contract to write songs for RCA records at the age of 13. Now, that is talented. So, I'll listen to this song and smile even if it is my effort at feeling OK in the middle of all of this crazy life! It isn't often that I hear a song with my name in it! I'll use the lyrics as an affirmation that I have value even when I don't feel much like that lately! Everything is just so hard. It is like I am running a Marathon wearing ankle weights! Do you understand what I am trying to say? Am I being selfish?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009



Rev. James Lumsden has been writing about The Wisdom of our Wounds on his blog and you ought to read it...http://rj-whenlovecomestotown.blogspot.com/2009/06/widsom-of-our-wounds-another-try.html

Sometimes the wisdom can be a simple as my son Bailey telling me, "Dad I should listen to you more!" after he breaks his arm and needs surgery to repair it. Sometimes that wisdom is as profound as a man losing his life for his beliefs like Jesus or Martin Luther King or Sir Thomas Moore at the hands of King Henry VIII. These men died and their deaths have reverberations of meaning throughout time!

All we need is to be open minded and as John Keats said, "I AM CERTAIN OF NOTHING BUT THE HOLINESS OF THE HEART'S AFFECTIONS AND THE TRUTH OF THE IMAGINATION!" Imagination is the key and as Rev. Lumsden says, "Now, this is a faith claim because you have to have the counter-cultural eyes of God’s kingdom – and a true commitment to using your imagination creatively – to both See and trust the reality of this upside down kingdom. Which is why, of course, Jesus spent so much time talking to his disciples about the heart and soul of God’s kingdom. "

The following song by P.M. Dawn is incredibly meaningful for me and I think reflects some of the wisdom of wounds thinking that is the heart of reality in life! The song was a part of the memorial video that I made for my father which in and of itself was a wisdom of wounds life path for me. I actually tried to upload the section of that video with this song but after hours of upload failed so I'll post it later and for now play this one from You Tube! I love this song and it's deeper meaning with lyrics like, "The windows, the doors, the passage ways to the truth." Thomas Moore mentions that "the kingdom of heaven is like an open window, nothing in itself, and yet it allows everything." The Tao Te Ching says, "Cut doors and windows for a room; It is the holes which make it useful. "

Death is the ultimate and most spiritual experience a person can live in this life! It strips away a lot of junk and can reveal truth and deep personal meaning if you are open to see. We can all have a Lazarus experience and rise from death to see a new life. We can all live the Jesus way and be light in darkness and see through pain and fear to joy and victory. Victory does not always mean things turn out the way you would wish for. Sir Thomas Moore was beheaded, Martin Luther King and Jesus Christ were assassinated and a transformation took place that gave new life in so many ways and only limited by the limits of your imagination. We can try to avoid tragedy, and many of us do, or we can be open to a transformation of our soul! I once heard a wonderful preacher say this, "When you read the bible, take off your denominational sunglasses because they keep out the glare of the glory of GOD!" In other words, like a line from the P.M. Dawn song..."open up your mind and it will sing to you!"

Life is simply not about feeling good all the time or our own happiness. As we live and experience the light and dark, heat and cold, joy and sorow and the many flavors of life we become like that old cast iron frying pan. It may not look nice and perfect, you may have burned many foods in it and ruined meals, it may not even clean up perfectly but it has been seasoned to make the best and most flavorful dishes. Go to any 12 step meeting and you will find many lives that can attest to this Wisom of Our Wounds thinking!

Another song for the theme and one that spoke to me after Vicki's death, maybe even from Vicki that began my own spiritual resurgence is Windmills from the album Dulcinea...Dulcinea, an imaginary character! Hmmmm!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Crazy Life!

Today was one of the best days I have had in a while. I solved some serious issues at school and had 2 very important interactions that provided me with insight, clarity, laughs and meaning!
I discovered another Toad the Wet Sprocket song that I love, CRAZY LIFE. The cool thing is that my son, Bailey, was into the song too and requested that I play it over again in the car last night! I actually took a piece of a video that I made as a tribute to my father in 1993 and added this music. The first picture in the video is of Vicki and my father at our wedding! A very precious photo. The second is one of the few pictures I have of my Grandmother. The rest are of my father in Korea during the Korean war and also some of my mother and father when they were dating and even younger, including one of my mother before her junior prom! The last slide is of ME!