Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Don't take life too seriously. No one gets out alive.

Where do we go when we die? Is there only a here, a hereafter, or heresy?

In my religion of raising, I was taught an elaborate outline of eternity. Don’t worry; I won’t go into the details and bring out all the flip-charts and what-not. It sufficeth me to say that I was taught of a continued existence, one of retained Earthly knowledge and experiences that will lead to rewards based on behavior -and potential for eventual godhood.

It’s a pretty awesome concept.

Problem is, you know… stuff like no evidence. I am a very logic-driven person where hormones are not involved. I agree with non-religious peoples that nothing after death makes a lot of sense. I agree that tests, wherein people die in order to tell a waiting group about life after death, are unsuccessful. I agree that bodies decompose and Egyptian pharaohs never took their gold with them to the afterlife and that most humans do not see dead people.

I’m just a little hung up on those who have had visions, on stories of people coming back from Death’s door, and on personal spiritual experiences.

Not all of those who exhibit faith are crazy. Many of my neighbors are level-headed and intelligent. They pray, and speak about knowing that life after death is true.

For me, my most major of quandaries is how special human beings are. We are inventive, able to learn, intelligent (overall), social, observant, dynamic, versatile, etc. Most of all, we are self-aware. am self-aware.

I just can’t get around the idea of absolute non-existence after dying because of my logical sentience.

Wishful thinking? I hope not. I hope this life is not all there is because that is a very limited time, indeed.

What about someone whose life really sucks? What about a guy born into ignorance and poverty, who lives as a slave his whole life and dies from tapeworm at age 15? What kind of existence was that?

Are we but dust in the wind? Or, do we contain the essence of eternity?

 

Whilst we ponder on this lightweight topic, I’ll post what I did for the past week:
Wednesday, November 28: Oh My Flippin’ Heck, thoughts and a query into how acceptable cussing in literature can be.
Thursday, November 29: Skinwalkers, XLIII
Friday, November 30: Winner of The Third Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest announced. Congratulations at last, Bruce.
Saturday, December 1: Beginning of The Fourth Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest (Post a poem!).
Also, The Festival of Trees, with Children, a boring account of a neat event (with pictures).
Sunday, December 2: The Black Hole Beyond, a flash fiction entry for Carrot Ranch Literary Community.
Monday, December 3: Wilhelmina Winters, Seventy-Four,
and The Children’s New Clothes over at my motherhood site. I had a lot of fun writing this one, though not as much fun sorting laundry.
Tuesday, December 4: Inspirational Quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Wednesday, December 5: This post.

Oh My Flippin’ Heck!

Lately, I’ve been thinking about swearing in literature. I’m concerned about whether the exclusion of cussing in my written words might be seen as inauthentic or inaccurate.

As writers, we need to convince our audience that a scene happens. The characters are real, even if they can conjure a blue flame or fly on a dragon. The character conversations also need to sound humanoid so that readers follow it.

You may be wondering what the big deal is, since I probably talk or listen to talking all the time. Right? Well, the ‘big deal’ is that I am not around a lot of colorful language. A lesser-known fact about the LDS peoples I am part of is that they/we don’t swear. I kid you not.

In overhearing a group of teenagers at McDonald’s the other day, I heard plenty of, “I know right”‘s and “What the heck?”s but nothing stronger.

My children will sometimes pop out a, “Holy crap!” (surely picked up from their father), and said paternal figure sometimes gives me a reprimanding look.

When I type or say, “Gosh dang it!” I really say it. There was even a point in my life at which I could count on one hand the number of times I swore. Then I turned 15….

In my mind, I take the high road. Classic literature and timeless works also do not contain much in the way of low-class utterances (Mark Twain aside), particularly those aimed at the children’s market. The books I enjoy most have little cursing, plus only allusions to sex or violence instead of First-Person Agony.

Do you, the other writers out there, feel swearing is necessary? Can two people have an adult conversation without it?

 

Think about it and let me know. Meanwhile, here is my Week in Review:
Wednesday, November 21: The Truth About the Holidays, my crotchety old lady post, plus a weekly review.
Thursday, November 22: Happy Thanksgiving!
Friday, November 23: Winner of The Second Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest announced. Congratulations, Babbitman.
Saturday, November 24: Beginning of The Third Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest (please enter!).
Also, Everyone Feels This Way?, a ‘poem’ about social anxiety.
Sunday, November 25: Re-blogged the announcement about Susanna Leonard Hill’s children’s holiday story contest.
Monday, November 26: Wilhelmina Winters, Seventy-Three,
and Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Price Tag over at my motherhood site.
Tuesday, November 27: Inspirational Quote by Stephen Black. He’s a mean old miser humble, inspired person who is mean mean mean has great thoughts and observations.
Wednesday, November 28: This post. 🙂

Depravity, an Answer

Man is no longer subject to an original sin.

No, he’s sinned quite enough on his own to go far beyond what an Adam may or may not have done.

He walks the streets full of money and glances this way or that but not down to where his money might be spent.

-To fill the empty void in another’s life with drink and drug and possibly the warm blanket: proving the beggar no greater than the man walking, for the man walking is fueled by substance as well.

He and his family (if he has one) all walk while empty inside, trying to fill themselves with pulsing, flashing, instantaneous media. They hide behind their screen, almost-tickled by dopamine, while Mom and Dad take a cold one after a day run by warm ones and a few breaks filled with smoky ones.

And the world is filled with varying levels of success, yet all are depraved of what will really fill their soul and leave them sated with light.

Written in response to The Literati Mafia‘s essay prompt.

The Eye of the Beholder

Good day, fellow art-lovers. On this fine morning, as you are all well aware, we gather to consider the latest artistic offerings one might find in his local market. Our pieces this day are all found in a curious shop named KSL Classifieds.

Without further ado, then, ladies and gentlemen, let us begin.

Our first sample is titled “Orange.”

Orange

Yes, yes it is. ‘Twould seem the artist felt no other explanation was necessary, and the seller as well. For $45, this… erm, orange, may be yours for the picking. (So sorry; it was too tempting.)

 

If obvious statements are your cachet, then our second item (for a mere $10) will leave you feeling …fabulous.

Fabulous

No, madame, I will not pronounce it as written. Anyone who cannot spell, nor include a photograph instead of a screen shot deserves to be shot. What’s that, sir? No, no. I was simply mumbling about the weather. Terribly hot day, this.

 

Of course, we are not simply purveyors of paltry paintings at this establishment. Those who wish to open their pocketbooks slightly wider may appreciate an original …print of an artwork, crafted by a man known as The Painter of Light.

Kinkade

I can’t help but feel the vendor did little to forward that reputation, by want of a clear lens for photographing. Ah, well, perhaps you may all picture its beauty, and thereby feel compelled to pay the $250 price tag.

 

Although I have studied and promoted creative works for many years, I’ll admit that some popular items still elude my personal preferences. Therefore, if any here express interest in Colombian paintings for their bathroom (as suggested by the seller), I’ll do my best to back them up.

Bottom

I’d say to move quickly on this $135 oil painting, but I imagine she’s not going anywhere in a hurry.

 

Our organizers thought this wall “art” might do well to follow the woman at her toilette; I can’t imagine why.

Moon

 

But really, what better place to rid oneself of an entire paycheck than on secondhand art? Take this print, for example, at $300:

Urn

“(B)eautifully framed urn artwork in pristine condition” advertises the owner. I agree. Tai Pan Trading did an excellent job purchasing framed and glassed-in Chinese merchandise, selling them to willing buyers, then closing down once said buyers could pick up their own through Amazon dealers.

 

Esteemed collectors such as you fine people know the value of a good piece. You know, for example, that a Renoit or Rembrandt is worth its sticker -provided one may prove its authenticity.

Therefore, you also know that a piece by an up-and-coming artist no one has heard of (and a name the vendor himself will not list) is most certainly worth $7,000.

Expensive

Since it is also un-titled, we will refer it is as Bird Merchant with an Extra Hand in the Shadow of Random Nudity. Don’t be shy, now; step up and part with the minor sum post-haste.

 

All you fine patrons who have held out for true genius, this final artwork will not disappoint:

Twilight

Twenty-five dollars, ladies and gentlemen. Twenty-five United States currency is all that separates you from artistic perfection.

 

As our session draws to a close, I wish to thank you all for your kind patronage and generous manner. Please feel free to join us in future, whenever we may have material enough to promote once again.

One Country

“Over hill, over dale, as we hit the dusty trail…”

I can’t remember a time when my husband didn’t like discussing politics. Even at 16, he and his best friend would incessantly “converse” about an issue, its counterpoint, its counter-counterpoint; ad naseum.

“Stand navy, out to sea; fight our battle cry…”

Driving in the car together at 19 years young, we would occasionally listen to AM Talk Radio. Callers to the program voiced something, anything; and inevitably got cut off by Rush Limbaugh yelling. I had never seen the man; yet saw his red face, smelt his heated breath, and felt his spewing spittle.

“From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli; we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea”

The introduction of social media, overall, lent a paper-thin mask to that same sort of angry vitriol I heard over a decade before. In our 30s, now, I see good people typing political observations they’d never say to their own mothers.

“From north and south and east and west, the coast guard’s in the fight…”

My own “news”feed is often split down the middle. One man literally wrote that anyone approving the separation of children from parents is a piece of shit; a relative, meanwhile, pointed out that children are being used as free tickets into the U. S. of A. I get the feeling my “friends” would start a nuclear meltdown if accidentally mixed in the same chamber.

“Off we go, into the wild blue yonder -climbing high into the sun!”

A person in the military standing next to their boots and backpack on a sidewalk

This past Sunday morning our family watched the live feed of The Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing from their tour in California. Theirs was a patriotic program to honor our nation’s birthday, today. Anthems played, singers sung. I typed, using it all as pleasant background music. Then, the choir began singing each song of the various armed forces. I looked up.

“Then its Hi! Hi! Hee! in the field artillery, shout out your numbers loud and strong!”

Apparently, representatives of the various armed forces were attending the concert. The front rows of folding chairs held uniformed members -but they weren’t sitting. As was standard, each was standing in respect. Each man or woman in smart, white shirt and tie was at the appropriate attention.

“…First we fight for rights and freedom, and to keep our honor clean…”

Most were smiling broadly. All were singing. The camera panned over the crowd and I saw happy, proud people raising their voices together with the choir and band. I was struck by exactly what it meant to dress a certain way and take a certain oath and stand when expected and mouth the same words: Unison.

“Sail on to victory and sing their bones to Davy Jones, hooray!”

Uniformity is often said like it’s a bad word, a disgusting one. A That’s it, young lady, we’re washing your mouth out! word. Instead, I saw it for the word it really wants to be: teamwork, unity, cooperation, selflessness, union, LOVE.

“We live in fame or go down in flame…”

Thank you, Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Thank you more, proud members of the fighting forces in attendance. Thank you all for feeling so strongly that I couldn’t help but cry in response.

One nation. That’s what we are, and the goal we always need.

 

 

Children’s Songs That Don’t Suck

Some people are irritated by very specific things: nails on chalkboards, a supervisor’s voice, forks on a ceramic plate, or animals chewing with their mouth open.

For me, it’s children singing.

Now, now, now -don’t get up in arms and start defending anyone. Don’t ask me whether I’m a good mother, cringing whenever my offspring try to carry a tune. That’s not it at all. My real hate is when children sing what they ought not to.

Don’t believe me? Go listen to that devil’s creation: Kid’s Bop. Oh, wait. It’s spelled “Kidz Bop.”

Children singing off-key and innocently to pop songs would be my eternal torment. Actually -eternal torment would be facing a mundane chore like piles of laundry or dishes; and when I am literally folding the last sock or washing the last pan, something dumps another hour’s worth of work in front of me.

Wait a minute…

So, getting back to children doing terribly irritating things, I thought I’d save anyone else the trouble of torture by providing a list of songs geared toward young children that will not drive you completely batty (er… more completely batty).

1. Caspar Babypants
Did you ever listen to “Peaches,” “Lump,” or “Video Killed the Radio Star,” by The Presidents of the United States of America? If not, do yourself a solid and check them out. “Peaches,” alone is worth watching; I do so with my offspring frequently. Weird Al even parodied “Lump” with a song titled “Gump.”

That lead singer, whatshisname (Chris Ballew) went on to produce and sing a whole crapload of songs once he settled down and made mini hims. I like a lot of them; they’re cute, catchy, and have good lyrical and musical aspects.

2. Banaphone
This is an oldie but a goodie. I can’t allow the kiddos to replay this one as often as Babypants, but it’s still fun.

They also like the video, so win-win.

3. They Might Be Giants, for kids
TMBG has clever songs for all ages. The singer’s a bit nasally, but their lyrics are educational. Admittedly, we listen to much of the Apollo 18 soundtrack with our children as well; but those aren’t specifically for a younger audience (say, like when I mute that tiny cuss word at the start of “I Palindrome I”).

I respect a band that tries to keep things scientifically accurate. Like, releasing a new sun song when they felt the old one was misinforming.

4. Lots of classical pieces
My nerdy childhood was spent listening to the classical station on the radio and trying to be a snob of a higher degree. I listen to a wide variety of music now; and, by proximity, so do my children.

Still, music of this sort has the following advantages: clean, enlightening, traditional, timeless, and the YouTube videos don’t usually have some animated character dancing around and causing listeners to just stare at a screen.

5. Instrumental covers of awesome songs
Yes, the originals are better. For all the benefits I outlined above (like, no swearing or questionable video content), I will sometimes put these on to play while we’re cleaning the house.

And yes, these are not geared toward kids. It’s my list, though, so I make the rules.

6. Super Simple Songs
Now here’s a company who knows its audience. These are NOT songs to play if you don’t want small children staring at a screen, so maybe play it from computer speakers with the monitor turned off?

For a good half-hour or hour of needing to use the bathroom and text and adult, I am in favor of playing them as-is.

Super Simple Songs are almost annoying. I certainly wouldn’t pick them for an eternal playlist, but I will listen to quite a few without tearing my ears off my head.

7. Parry Gripp
If you have children, you have probably heard of “It’s Raining Tacos.” Don’t worry -I’m not going to suggest you listen to Parry Gripp all day long. I merely threw it on here because they’re fun, my spawn enjoy many of them, and I liked them back before they were annoying cool.

In fact, “Mr. Raisin Toast” was the first of theirs we listened to.

8. The Muppets
Again, these fall into the “watch it, too” category. But, you know -Sesame Street. Nostalgia. Subtle humor that doesn’t involve farting (always a plus when one has all boys, like me).

That’s about all I can remember for tonight. I’ll write another post about songs we all like (and are appropriate), in the mainstream music field. Besides those, do YOU have any to suggest? Don’t be shy; we’re always open to new songs and artists.

Grey Thursday

Suess

So, when all of the food
Had been swallowed and chewed,
The guests left the dishes and host
With their brood.

And, forcing employees
To all do the same,
They shopped and they grabbed
And they spent without shame.

 

Please, stay home on the holidays. Popular greed is robbing store workers of time with family.

Eat, Pray, Love, for Tomorrow We Die

Why does losing ourselves in the service of others help us find our true selves?

I don’t know. I’m with the view of the world: that our true self can be found Eat, Pray, Love style in a soul search involving a year off for pleasure, meditation, and sex (I think).

A glaring problem I’ve noticed with that approach is that I can’t get a $200K grant from my publishing company to pursue this idea. My husband (our current bread-winner) only fronted me his salary, and my children can’t even grant me two minutes off.

Another problem many people don’t seem aware of is: you may find yourself, but who is that and do you really want to be stuck with her?

Before anyone attacks me, please listen.

I really enjoyed reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book I mentioned. I could relate to her dissatisfaction, her depression (GREAT chapter, by the way), and addictions to needing someone.
The end, and follow-up reading about her, were what bothered me. Concerned me. Gave doubt to this approach.

I read some of the social media posts she’d made since. They were the same issues she supposedly admitted to and embraced and addressed a third of the way into the book. Back again to old habits.

I watch others and envy them. I’m not naturally sweet or optimistic. I worry that this is my core person; and, believe me, she’s not one you want to be stuck in long hours with -if she could get those hours.

I live in a community of people that are very service-oriented. Like any good thing, we can do a few things that should be better compensated from following this mentality.
However, maybe service is the better philosophy.

Just me in my corner gets nothing done except permanently imprinting the carpet.

In service, I’ve formed a human chain to move a truckload of sod to a rooftop garden. I pruned my great-aunt’s backyard roses with my cousins. I made meals that helped someone who couldn’t cook. I benefited far more from my neighbor’s social company than I know she did from me, by asking her to a weekly lunch after her husband passed away.

In this selfish world, the gullible serve. Helpful people get screwed out of their money. People accepting handouts often use them misappropriately.
The concluding lesson? Think of yourself, find yourself, pamper yourself. Teach the rising generation to give in to selfishness. Then, wonder at the results.

I keep thinking my true self is the person I’m stuck with. “You learn behaviors and follow those synaptic connections because it’s easier,” my counselor said. She thinks I may be negative, but I can change

I hope she is right, because not changing is slowly killing me.

Maybe I need to come out of myself to find the better me. We’re told our true self may be something divine, and it’s a valid idea that we need to connect to our family to uncover that heritage in all of us.

Whether we connect with something divine, recall our ancestry, or improve through true self-healing with a therapist; we still need to step out of ourselves.

I will not become different squatting forever in my carpet spot, lamenting my personal defects. I certainly will not feel loved.

Forget What?

September 11th in the United States of America was an emotional day for those alive and cognizant enough to recall it.

I was there. Or -rather, I was alive. I was also way out West watching on a small television during choir class with a group of peers, most of whom had never seen New York in person.

Ironically, it was a Spirit Week of sorts and the theme for the day involved wearing army fatigues. Looking ’round the room, I couldn’t shake a premonition of impending conscription.

However, life moved on for us. The world moved on.

I’m not saying we were not impacted.

For one thing, I felt a general coming together of peoples everywhere. The stranger at the store was a person for a while. A random guy on the freeway had a family. People thousands of miles away were in real pain, as they literally dislodged a spouse from the wreckage of an office building.

We have become more “connected” since then with the prevalence of social media and the ubiquitous use of cellular phones.

Just this year, these media were used to post même after image after poem after video about the twin towers.

Over and over I saw: Never Forget.

Forget what?

The last time my social media feed exploded was during a recent political event referred to as the presidential election. And guess what? It was ugly.

Strangers at the store? Cousins were enemies as my aunt-in-law literally unfriended and blocked her own nephew because of differences of opinion.

A random freeway driver? My neighbors wouldn’t talk to me in person because a close relative posted a picture of him wearing a hat about making America great.

People thousands of miles away were openly mocked, cursed, mud-slinged, disparaged, insulted, and intimately speculated about. Cities accused parts of themselves for viewpoints and states glared at other states.

Never forget, huh?

Unity must be a fleeting mistress in the face of actual tension. Or, perhaps she’s been silenced over a decade of numbing, self-pleasing behavior as we disparage the world and feel hopeless about solutions.

Whatever the reasons, I am saddened by it all.

If you want to never forget, at least make it real. Make it about doing something better, helpless, selfless, and loving and not about some sort of online potlatch of pictures.

For those who do, thank you. Please, keep on doing.

Reaching for the Attainable

I was sarcastic before it was cool, before I could even spell the word.

Adults told me people were good, I could be anything I wanted, and my peers would like me for who I was.

Let’s keep this under a few thousand words, and just say that I experienced a few examples to the contrary.

Let’s also clarify that I was never covered in boils, told that my toys all died under the collapsed roof of my bedroom, and that the plush ones ran away after their toy box caught fire.

I had a few of the usual letdowns, disappointments, and lack of any childhood friends to speak of. I probably should have hit less.

Mostly, though, I attained my worldview from watching and reading.
The point I want to make, however, is:

I have been happily jaded for a while and felt unique in this position. But, my complaints are drowned out in a chorus of many whining voices. My wry observations have already been mentioned by other dispirited souls.

Whether the world has slowly become embittered like me, or I just entered an adult world that was that way, I’m not sure.

The discontented dirge is depressing to listen to. I look around at mirrored expressions of frustrated apathy, and wish for a smile.

But, we all think we’ve had it. If any lonely optimists wander into camp, they’re seized upon and beaten down till they join us or die.

Recognition is the first step: yes, life sucks. I’m even okay with complaining about that fact, because I do.

This morning, I remembered a scene from the movie Enchanted: Giselle has just entered The Real World and needs help. In her ignorance, she climbs a billboard displaying a castle and knocks. Not surprisingly, no one answers. Robert and his daughter drive by, notice her error, and rescue her.

Sometimes, we are trying to repeatedly go somewhere we cannot and we do not understand why. Feeling discouraged, we complain. Another person, passing by, points out alternate options: change perspective, look at your accomplishments, realize that things get better, and have a hug.

Take the advice and hug the help. Heal, and move on. You can do it.

Just, don’t get stuck. If all we’re doing is seeking attention like an over-indulged toddler, the adults are going to stop helping and start leaving us pounding on an empty door.