Fessin' Up


There's a tornado watch until 1:00 a.m., and a severe thunderstorm warning along with freshened flash flood warnings for already above flood stage rivers and streams.

It never just rains here, it storms. The typical rain here in Arkansas is what we used to call a cloudburst in upstate NY. The rain coming down is too heavy for windshield wipers to clear your vision, so you drive slow or you just stop.

I don't do so well in thunderstorms. Right now, lightening flashes and there are no seconds to wait for the huge thunder claps. This storm is different in that it has pauses between downpours, which makes me stop and hold my breath while straining to listen for signs of a tornado.

For the life of me, I don't get the benefits of this kind of fear. It's not like I have many options. I'm inside, and that's as safe as I can get.

The wind just whipped up now, shuddering the walls and the windows in their frames.

The last day of the month, and it is lion-like. No doubt about it.

I think I'll go hide under my covers.


First Show of the Season

North Central Arkansas Appaloosa Horse Club had it's opening show Saturday, March 29 at the White County Fair Grounds in Searcy. Pictured above is the Colored Halter class, and below is the Leadline class. Even though it was cold, windy and wet, everyone had a good time.


Published, With a Lesson

Right now, newspapers with my first feature story are coming off the presses. I am marking today as the day my new career starts. And, it all came about because I decided to do this blog; tuning my research and writing. The lesson learned in the process of doing today's feature article for the paper was one from a different angle, and an important one.

It all started Monday when a man came into the paper to place an ad for his new business. He was an everyday sort of guy, excited about putting his idea in motion and had it all straight in his head. It didn't take long to get caught up in it and want to go along. The whole premise of his idea was that it would save money. That's hard to resist, especially during this recession.

I don't doubt for a minute that his purpose for starting this business is based on what he believes is a viable solution and business opportunity. Just like anything and everything out there, the usefulness and legitimacy of a product is based on a scale, or a curve. He may have something here. So, he tests it, but not on a large scale, and not in a scientific way that would limit outside variables - in other words, it would be impossible to say for sure that his gadget was or wasn't responsible for improvement or any harm done. His answer, and what he is banking on, is that yes, there is a web site that says the research has been done, it says it's safe and legitimate and viable. "Go look," he says, "it's all there!"

Back in the office, I type in the site's address, and without reading a word of what the site said, my heart sank. It was one of those long, long pages, full of advertising jargon that says nothing but one thing over and over, complete with a cheesy background graphic and juvenile looking design of flashing images, big red underlined words and mile long paragraphs. Not for the faint of heart.

He fell for this crappy site. He bought into it. Now he's hoping to launch a business based on the ideas on this horrible site.

How a site is designed makes or breaks an idea or product. Think of it like the difference between Time or Life magazines compared to your local community shopper or pennysaver. It's like the difference between handing out business cards vs. scratching out your name and phone number on a napkin. It's like the difference between your 2 year old's finger painting and a Monet or Van Goh. Would you think a diamond ring is really a diamond if it came wrapped in aluminum foil or a cardboard box?

Sure, it's possible for a legitimate idea to be presented on a crappy web site or a community shopper, but it would be far more effective of a business strategy to have a good site designed and an ad run in the NY Times. A good site, a good presentation validates the idea. Yes, it's possible to find a legitimate idea on a crappy site; it's just not probable.

That horrible site led to more research, and the Internet served up a lot of other sites that debunked the idea. So did the professionals I called and asked. The article I wrote was balanced, presenting his ideas and the responses, the pros and cons - let the readers decide. That's my job.

I suppose that this is my introduction to "hardened reporter." My lesson? Do the research before getting your hopes up.


My, How Puppies Grow!

On March 13, I brought these two home, and already, you can see how much they've grown!

Saki (top) is quite fearless. He will not take into account his size when it comes to walking right up to anything. Yesterday, he walked right up to both big dogs, wagging his tail and sniffing all over them. And he was right on their heels when they walked away from him. It didn't matter that yesterday was the first time he'd ever had his paws on Mother Earth.

Hiro is fearless as well, though he's a little more conservative in his approach to new things. He sits back and watches for a few moments, then digs in. I watched him run full tilt while outside and belly flopped when there suddenly wasn't any ground under his feet. It didn't stop him though. He wasn't quite as interested in the big dogs as Saki was, but he was the first to discover sticks and plants.

Both pups seem intensely aware of everything around them. They play hard and sleep soundly. It didn't take them long to figure out that Jake growls and barks, but doesn't bite. They've taken to teasing Jake. It's funny to watch.

When I get home from work, I'm greeted by the big dogs outside, and they'll get Odin running to greet me too. The cats will run to me from all directions, and then when I get up to the door, I can hear Hiro and Saki yipping away. When I come in, they're jumping at my legs and yipping and their tails are wagging. I get this huge welcome every day. It's the greatest feeling.


Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

Say what you mean, mean what you say. I ran into this powerful saying again while reading up on journalism. The last time I ran into it was while learning American Sign Language. I'd say it goes along with the intense discussion on Pet Peeves II - i.e., political correctness.

It's amazing how often we don't say what we mean and mean what we say. Think of what you said when your husband supposedly cleaned the house, or when someone gave you fruit cake for Christmas, or when your friend's new outfit looks like something out of a Barnum and Bailey garage sale.

Then, the old saying, "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" comes to mind. That's when you have to weigh how your response would best help the person asking for feedback or a pat on the back.

The fruitcake, I'm sorry to say, you're stuck with. It's the thought of giving that counts. Your husband tried, and later on, you can throw in a few remarks about how you clean.

But, the circus outfit is another story. If your friend looks ridiculous, how much of a friend would you be if you let him or her wear that clown outfit out in public? If the outfit is for Halloween or a child's birthday party, it's not an issue.

"I really think it would be best if you considered a different outfit to wear to the office party today" instead of "Wow, is that outfit the stupidest thing I've ever seen!" is a bit easier - and more helpful - to take as genuine feedback.

There are other times when "say what you mean, mean what you say" needs consideration too. If someone asks you directly for an honest opinion, give it. Take care with your delivery, but do not dilute your honesty by beating around a bush. Check your "pulse" by taking note of what you think and feel, determine the true reason for your reactions, and own what you think and feel as a main component of your honest opinion.

White lies are still lies.

Peaceful Easter and Life Changes

Happy Easter!

It's a quiet day around here; it's sunny, cool, and everyone is napping peacefully. I wish everyone everywhere could experience this same peace, within and without.

The other day, I hinted at major changes. The good news is that I found my "dream job" and started last Tuesday, March 18. I am now a copy editor for a medium sized newspaper. Writing is now my life. I couldn't be happier! There's a lot to learn and even more to experience.

As always seems to happen, there has to be a few things that happen to remind me to keep at least a toe on the ground while floating around on Cloud 9. On the way home on my first day, I deer ran into the side of my truck and caught the flare around the back wheel well. Luck was with me (not so sure about the deer though) and there's only a little 2 inch ding to show for it. Then Friday, I was pulled over and given a ticket for expired tags. C'est la vie.

Interest was compounded by Odin, who decided his pasture wasn't where he wanted to be all week. Yesterday morning, the Sheriff pulls in to tell me I am now on the list of folks that don't contain their livestock. Boo. We ran new wire that restored the jolt to the electric fence, and hopefully, that will do the trick. Odin hasn't touched the fence yet, but I think he can tell it's working at optimum levels again.

Saki and Hero run the house. Literally. These two wondrous little pups have discovered the joys of human life and mark their territory constantly. It smells like a puppy farm in here.

March 29 is NCAApHC's first horse show of the year. Rumor has it that a lot of people plan to attend. This show will be the first time the club has speed events, and it will be exciting and fun.

While I adjust to giving up my long afternoon naps, posts may be a bit erratic in coming. But, stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!

P.S. I guess Odin's idea of optimum volts going through the electric fence and mine are different - he got out again, and the Sheriff stopped by again. I just spent the majority of the day running more wire and walking the entire line yet again to see if there were any spots being grounded. I led Odin the entire time, juggling the roll of wire, the bag of insulators and his rope. Ah well. I'll sleep good tonight.


A Quick Note

This has been a wonderfully crazy week, and the beginning of some major adjustments for me. There's lots to share and celebrate!

But, these changes may mean that posts become less frequent, and may be limited to weekends. I've had my camera out a few times, so I'll get some photos up soon.

There's an intense discussion going on my last post. I hit a few nerves! Click on the article title to view and participate. You won't regret it.

Thanks for reading!


Pet Peeves II

My purpose of writing is to make this a better world, one person at a time. Is that lofty or grandiose? It may sound that way at first, but I believe that if I can make things better for one person, I haven't lived in vain. So, on that note, I'm going to blast away at a few things that I feel get in the way of this lofty, grandiose goal.

What has gotten under my skin lately is this thing of political correctness. Specifically, if a non-white person is involved in anything, it becomes an issue of race. Has everyone forgotten the history of America? It's not that long of a history, just over 200 years, so it shouldn't be that difficult to remember that every person that now is an American has ancestors that called some other country home. Except for Native Americans (which I grew up calling "Indians"), this is probably a fact. Is it too much of a stretch to say that, if you were born in the U.S of A., you are an American, same as all the other Americans? Can't there just be one race?

Born during the Industrial Age, I remember that all the technological advances in manufacturing were supposed to free humanity - free up our time, work less, learn more, evolve more, etc. Now that we're in the Information Age (if that's what we're calling it now), there are more and more technological advances at breakneck speeds of advancement and adoption, yet we are less free, work more, learn less and we've regressed in development. When is it that we will no longer find it necessary to kill each other over differences of opinion? When will we stop thinking that color of skin, age, creed, religion, gender, attractiveness, height and weight are attributes of worth and value?

Speaking of gender, what can a man possibly have that I don't that automatically makes him more valuable and worthy? I don't walk around thinking that I am a female, therefore I can and can't do this or that. I am a person, period. Humanity has come eons past the point of physical strength as a necessity for survival, and the only time that comes into play in the 21st century is when a man is dominating or abusing a woman. Why is it a woman's fault when she becomes pregnant? Why isn't the other half of that tango just as responsible for the child - for at least 18 years? Why is it more difficult to get child support out of a father than it is to get that 'little donation' in the first place?

Then there's this thing about immigration. This wouldn't even be an issue if it weren't for an invisible line between Mexico and the US. Suppose that one day in the not too distant future, the borders we close now to prevent more competition for few jobs become prison bars that we cannot break through to escape the third world country that business creates. What then? This isn't the first time this card has been played. Don't you remember how we resented the Chinese, the Italians, the Polish and the Irish for coming to the US and taking our jobs? Was that true? It wasn't then, and it isn't now. This dissension keeps us separate from each other so that we won't get together and discuss how things can be better for all of us, not just the few. As long as we hate each other, it's business as usual.

What in the world are kids learning in school these days? It not the English language, based on the way that kids spell and construct sentences on blogs, text messages, emails or instant messages. The greatest power we have, the Internet and the ability to communicate with many, is frivolously thrown away. If there is a message in the drivel they call writing, I don't understand it. Just like brushing your hair and teeth are signs of your sense of self-worth, so is how you present yourself in writing. Learn the language and communicate your value. You are valuable!

That's my list of pet peeves for today. Tomorrow, I'll think of more.


The Other Addition: A Camera

Hero and Saki are such a joy to me, despite the piles and puddles they leave behind. These two little bundles of joy have filled the house in a way only animals can. I find it amazing that they seem to have changed my perspective in a way that I can't yet quite articulate. In a slightly different way, potted plants bring more of life inside, and having this one on the corner of my desk reminds me of that life, even when it's dark outside my window. I wax poetic.

I did some research on the latest digital cameras, and decided that the Canon Powershot S5 IS is the camera for me. To continue my poetic waxing, this camera seems to be exactly what I needed to round out (or top off) my creativity. There's quite a bit more to this camera than the usual point-and-shoot, and it is going to take me awhile to learn.

This photo is a nice surprise. My office plant stays quite still, unlike the puppies, and has been the subject of my learning as a result. As always, I took the photo into Photoshop for the usual round of adjustments I always seem to have to make, and found I didn't have to do anything besides crop, resize and compress. Unfortunately, I have no idea what I did to take this photo! Beginner's luck.

Ah, the joy of a creative outlet!

The State of Creativity: How to Tap Into Your Fire

Marx, Darwin and Freud are the three most crashing bores of the Western World. Simplistic popularization of their ideas has thrust our world into a mental straitjacket from which we can only escape by the most anarchic violence. ~~William Golding

Creativity is in our nature, yet it is nearly squashed out of existence by our laws and by our culture. Let's look at a few of the trends that support this statement.

The recent political push for the ideal of "no child left behind" has turned our education into little more than a mass manufacturing process that produces conformists. Every individual "completes" the education required, success is based on a norm or curve compared to every other individual, and what is taught is based on the content of standardized tests. A tightening budget means less monies available for art and music, yet regimented sports remain untouched. Classrooms are controlled with deviations punished. There is no room for critical thinking and creativity. Socialization follows in the same rote pattern. Individuals conform to select groups of "nerds," "geeks," "jocks," "preppies," etc. in order to fit in at the expense of individuality. Clothes worn, food chosen, books read and the ideas held all conform to social norms.

Leisure time is spent on either passive entertainment or structured group activities. Watching TV or videos, playing video games or computer games have replaced creative activities. The result of this is far fewer scientists and an abundance of technicians. Creativity is reserved for upper management and designers, while everyone else's positions are lacking in responsibility, originality and creativity. It seems as though popular art and music are mass produced instead of creative as well.

But, creativity is still there, within each of us, and a little awareness can pull it out and into constructive expression. No matter what you call it, a part of your character, a personality trait, a specific talent or an uncanny ability, creativity comes from within. Others may inspire us, but creativity's origin is within. Here are a few things that may help you tap into the fire that is your creativity.

Be open to experience.

This is the direct opposite of being psychologically defensive. To be open to experience is to be aware of everything going on within of thoughts, feelings, urges, sensory input; and aware of everything without, going on around you. The more aware you are, the more fully you will be able to be a social being and an individual at the same time.

Have an internal locus of evaluation.

What you do, what you create, how you feel and how you judge what you've created is what has value, not what others say or believe. This is all that really matters, this strength and individuality. Holding onto what you value opens the door for all of your potential.

Become confident.

As you become more aware and open to all that you experience within and without, and the more that you trust those experiences, the more you will trust that what you value is worthwhile. You will find a confidence that is real and valid, and it is because it is truly you.

Become playful.

As more of what is within you comes out, you will be less rigid in your thinking, and you will see more possibilities than what is the old tried and true. You'll find other solutions, new ways of looking at things; you'll have hunches and you'll be open and spontaneous in trying new ways of doing things.

Take risks.

Being open to experience, having an internal locus of evaluation, being confident and playful is "thinking outside the box." It's also the opposite of the way you've lived so far. It is a bit of a risk.

Now is the time when creativity is badly needed.

It will take tremendous creativity and "thinking outside the box" to bring stability to this country and to all of our day to day lives. Just putting gas in our cars and food on the table is a challenge that requires creative bookkeeping. The issues we face today are new to us, and it will take major changes to our social structure in order to come out of this global mess we're in. And, it will take each and every one of us becoming and realizing our creative potential.

Thanks for reading.

Referenced Carl Rogers' article "Toward a Theory of Creativity" (1952), taken from his book "On Becoming a Person."


Family Addition: Puppies!

Introducing Hiro and Saki. They are six weeks old, two brothers, and quite a challenge to get photos of since they wouldn't sit still for a half second at a time. Their mom is a really cool dog, intelligent and sweet, and she didn't seem to mind that I took two of her babies.

While Tim and I were coming back from Little Rock, we decided on the names. It wasn't easy to name them. Saki is quite the rascal, adventurous and mischievous. Hiro started out as a shy, nervous pup, but is now catching up to Saki's energy. I have a feeling their puppy-hood is going to be a challenge.

If anyone has any good tips on paper training puppies, please let me know!


Spring: Tips for Healthy Horses

It's a great time of year for horse owners. The spring in the air means it's almost time to get back into riding, really riding, again. The great weather means more time outside, and less time at the computer, reading horse articles or chatting with other horse owners. So, what I thought I'd do is start a list of things I think are important to think about before it gets too nice and you're outside with your horse.

Grass again!

I know that Odin is more than ready to have something other than that old, dry hay to munch on all day. I've noticed he's out scrounging around for anything green more often than not nowadays. Oh, that new grass is so sweet! Yes, it is sweet, and packed with carbs. That means a sudden sugar rush that will cause flaky behavior, and very rapid weight gain. While a horse's body can usually adjust, sometimes it's too much too fast. Some horses can develop mild founder every spring, while other horses, especially ponies, will founder completely. It all depends on the horse. During the winter of 2006-2007, there was no hay in my area, and I had to give alfalfa cubes. Odin gained so much weight that he was too fat going into the spring, and when spring grass was added, I was lucky that he didn't founder. Very lucky. It took all year to get his weight back down to almost normal. He was fat!

Time to trim.

This year, it surprises me to see that Odin's hooves have grown so much already. His feet are in very good shape with no cracks or chips, yet they are too long already. I'd rather he get those feet trimmed way before I start doing anything with him so that he's well adjusted to the new length beforehand.

Time for Coggins and vaccinations.

I know there's a debate about whether the Coggins test is worth doing, but I believe the purpose of testing every year (some states require tests more often) is to prevent the spread of a fatal disease. I'll go ahead and have it done along with vaccinations this year. There's a debate about the efficacy and frequency of vaccinations too, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. I expect a lot of mosquitoes this year, and it is far less expensive to vaccinate than it is to treat a neurological virus. It's a good idea to have teeth checked too.


You can't forget the wormer. Do you remember the last kind you used? If you used Strongid or Safegard, it's time for Zimectrin, or visa versa. Odin's about due now.

Clean, oil and check your tack.

I hate to say it, but my saddle is pretty dusty right now. I felt my headstall the other day, and it was stiff and dry feeling. It's time to drag everything out, give it a good cleaning and then a good layer of Neatsfoot Oil. While cleaning, I'll check everything for dry, cracking leather to make sure that nothing will break at the wrong time.

Start gradually!

No matter how nice it is, no matter how great it would be to head out for a full day trail ride, think about it first. If you're anything like me, you're not in the shape you were in last fall. I'm not even close! Well, neither is your horse. Start out slow and build up. I plan on doing at least a week of half hour rides, then increasing the time the next week. I might even saddle up and just lead Odin out, and when it's time to come back is when I'll get on him. That way, we're both getting in shape. I don't want either of us to be sore.

Time to itch and itch and itch and....

Odin is already shedding his guard hairs, if that's what you call the long hair on top on horses. I saw an Icelandic pony last week with thick white hair, and when I ran my hand down its neck, it was completely covered in white. I don't know why, but Odin has never shed out like that. It seems to take him at least a few weeks of twice daily brushing and a lot of scratching sessions. I can feel my arms getting tired just thinking about it!

That's all I can think of right now. I'm sure more ideas will pop into my head as soon as I hit that "publish" button! Do you have things you do to get ready for riding?


Spring Forward!

I don't know what it is about the change to Daylight Saving Time ("saving" not "savings" according to this article), but once I learn that it's time to change the clocks forward, I start getting Spring fever. It's time for the grass to grow, leaves to come out on trees, animals to shed and ride horses!

Aside from the excitement, I learned some of the history. Daylight Saving Time was first used during WWI and then again in WWII to save energy. In 1966, it became permanent for all states except Arizona, and the latest four week extension was put in place as a way to reduce the amount of energy used by businesses.

Since this extension just happened in 2007, your computer may not be up to date. Microsoft has a Daylight Saving Time Help and Support page to help you correct it.

Spring is coming! I'm ready!


Studying the Study of Extremes: Expectations

The best things in life are unexpected - because there were no expectations.
~~Eli Khamarov

In The Study of Extremes, I gave you a rough outline of the events of D's life that I felt would trace the path he took to reach an end result that particularly upsets me. There seems to be a lesson to learn here.

The lesson is a big one: Expectations. How many times have you expected someone to be a certain way, only to be let down in the end? When you're let down, you swear to yourself that you will never expect again, yet before you know it, it's there again, along with the disappointment that always follows. The good thing is that, most of the time, people are pretty much the same as you, so they don't let you down. Let me explain with another little story.

During my Associates level of study in Psychology, I had to do an internship, and I chose to do it in a Child Protective Unit in the Department of Social Services. I shadowed a wonderful caseworker in her day to day home visits. One particular case stands out in my mind. We knocked on the door to a rented house that was behind a large house. A young woman answered the door, and when it opened, the reek from inside threatened to bring my lunch up and out. Looking down, I saw what looked to be a dirt floor, but on closer inspection, I saw that there was actually a carpet under the dirt. The room was barely furnished with a ripped up stained couch and a small TV on a little plastic table. A toddler ran out of another room, and was filthy from head to toe, dressed only in a very dirty diaper. Two men were sitting on the couch watching TV, and it looked like neither had ever heard of the concept of a shower. The woman was the cleanest, though her long, thin hair was dirty and tangled and her shirt was badly stained.

Back at the office, the caseworker asked me what I thought and felt about the home visit, and I told her what I had observed of the conditions of the place. She asked me, "Did you notice what was on TV? A soap opera." She let me think awhile, and I told her I never watched soap operas because I didn't like them at all. She explained: You will see places like that with young mothers who's own mother's house was never cleaned. They are at home all day and watch soap operas on TV, and you'll notice that the TV characters never vacuum, mop a floor, wash dishes, clean, cook, change a diaper or bath a baby. They have never learned how to clean. This is one of the ways that the Cycle of Poverty perpetuates itself.

Everything from our basic behavior to how we take care of ourselves is learned from our parents and then teachers. Those important people so close to us in our lives represent all of society. It is likely that your neighbors, the family in the next block, the families of all the kids in a school system behave and take care of themselves pretty much the same. Behaviors and social norms are learned from teachers and peers, but the personal care is learned at home. If it's not taught or modeled, it isn't learned.

To return to our study of D, I saw nothing that suggested that there was possibly anything amiss in his childhood. Most of what he did and wanted to do was within acceptable limits of his peer group. I can only guess about his social life after he moved to Kansas, so have no way of knowing how he was accepted there. I know of two major, negative events in his life, his divorce and a car accident, but do not know of other ongoing, day to day life stressors or of the environments he lived in. My conclusions can only be based, retrospectively, on what might cause particular changes.

From my perspective, what upsets me is that I watched a dynamic, strong, creative, autonomous individual become one who blindly, passively goes along with others. This external motivation, as it's called, is the superficial adoption of the values and beliefs held by others in order to "fit in" or avoid loneliness or reduce stress. In several instances, I have seen "born again" fundamentalist fanatics take advantage of people in emotional crises under the guise of 'helping.' Their way of doing this is by adding to the crisis exponentially by insisting that the person is bad, a sinner and deserves the crisis; building on feelings of guilt and shame while defenses are weakened until the person is completely broken. Asking forgiveness of God is what will 'save' them, and 'bring your wallet to my church to be forgiven.' It is manipulation and exploitation of the worst kind, and occurs in religion based groups, political groups and cults with a particularly charismatic leader. I did not expect (that magic word) D to fall into this trap.

There is much to explore and learn. Group dynamics, personality types, character and temperament, personal relationships, social systems from the economy to institutions, life events and traumas all play a role in shaping a person, from birth until death. Though there may be mutually accepted social norms, there are many variables that influence us individually.

In order to begin to understand others, we need to first understand ourselves. In order to truly understand anyone, you have to see their world through their eyes. And, you have to understand how they perceive their world before you can find a place to start to teach or help or be with them. Most of all, you have to set aside your own expectations of what is and is not acceptable. Set aside expectations, both of ourselves and others, and consider what has the most impact. It is a complex task, but simpler to understand and do if you think of it as an ongoing process.

Thanks for reading!


A Study of Extremes

I met "D" when I still had braces on my teeth, back in 1974. It was during the time of the Hippy Counterculture with sex, drugs and rock and roll; and "cool" and "dyn-o-mite!" went hand in hand with hip hugger bellbottom jeans and throwing a Frisbee around for endless hours. I'd like to say it was at a party, but, back then, the party never ended. Blonde hair, full beard, blazing blue eyes and over six feet tall, he looked like a Greek god filling the doorway. It didn’t take long to realize his personality was as big as he was.

D cooked, did leather work, partied and made a few trips to Philadelphia to see friends. He had almost finished his Bachelor's degree before dropping out of college to work at a book publishing company. He lived alone on a farm his parents owned with two horses and a goat with twin kids. Even though his personality was "big," he was no different than any other 20-something man in that day and age. He had dreams of "living off the land" and didn't own a TV. One day he announced that his girlfriend from Philadelphia and her husband were moving into the farm with him. Not long after that, they all moved to Kansas.

The next time I saw D was in Aspen, Colorado in 1979. He had let his hair and beard grow wild, was doing freelance carpentry, and lived in an old school bus. He had put a piece of plywood over the backs of a few rows of seats for a bed and built a wood burning stove for heat. He said he owned 100 acres of land deep in the Rocky Mountains and gave me a P.O. box for his address.

Some time in the 1980's, he gave up writing letters and would call. He finally found a woman he loved enough to marry, though there was never a legal marriage license, and they had two children. She convinced him to get a vasectomy after the second child was born. They were members of some sort of New Age group that sounded like sun worship. 5 years into the marriage, his wife left him and the children, and that phone call was a particularly tearful one. He suddenly realized that I was the only person that has known him for so long, really knows him and asked me if I would come live with him, he couldn't bear to be alone.

The phone calls became more frequent and I began to learn much more about D. He would take his two small children with him to soak in a nudist hot springs. He was a vegetarian, and that became quite a problem for his son when he started school and learned of things like pizza and hot dogs and french fries. His kids were only allowed to wear cotton. He started bringing women home, some who would stay a few weeks, some for a few months. Then, his x-wife sued for custody of the kids and won. The phone calls to me decreased.

About this time, the Internet came into being, and though D would still call once in awhile, he would also email. One particular email was about Heaven's Gate (http://psychwww.com/psyrelig/hg/index.html - a professor copied and kept the original site to use in his Social Psychology courses.) and how he felt that the headless owl that had hit his windshield the other day was a sign to him that he was meant to go with the Hale-Bop comet too.

Adamantly against cigarette smoking, the next time I saw him, he lit up a Lucky Strike and insisted he was "offering up a gift to the gods." His hair was almost down to his waist, and so was his beard. His teeth, those once beautiful, perfect teeth, were rotting out of his head. Wild and uninhibited, still a very big personality, he seemed to have lost his physical size and looked scrawny. The last time I saw D in person was a few years later at his family's reunion that he invited me to. He had been in a bad car accident and fell in love with the nurse who cared for him while in the hospital. It was obvious that she didn't like his two children who were now teenagers and they were not at all happy to be around her either.

The last time I heard from D was an email telling me that he was now "born again" and "following in the path of Jesus Christ, our Lord and savior," etc., etc. The mass email addressed to many sounded false, hypocritical, irrational and illogical. I wrote him back to say that I didn't want to hear from him again until he got over this particular phase, the first time I'd ever rejected his behavior in all the years of knowing him. That was ten years ago.

Writing just the facts, so to speak, does not do D justice. He was an intelligent, warm, caring person who was not afraid to let loose completely. He loved life and he loved enjoying himself. But, somewhere along the line, he became eccentric and groundless - lost. I miss him.

At the heart of this story is the root of fundamentalism and extremism, the possible result of the longing for love and acceptance. There are several clues that you can point to as possible reasons, which I'll talk about in future posts. For now, think about it, and let me know what you think of D.

Thanks for reading!


Jake and GIMP

I'd like to introduce my dog, Jake. He is a 5 year old Australian Cattle Dog that I am attached to almost as much as my horse, Odin. I've had dogs all my life, but Jake is the best I've known.

While I swear by Photoshop for all things images, I created this portrait of Jake using GIMP, which is open source and free. It is advertised as about the same as Photoshop for its features and strength. I'm far from able to support those claims as it took me a bit of hunting through its very different interface for basic commands. So far, it seems to use the same keyboard shortcuts as Photoshop, and that saved me a few times. Not all features are where you'd expect them, and some of the terms are altogether different, if you're used to Photoshop.

But, so far, I think it's a solid example of graphic software worth checking out. And, it won't hog your hard drive space. http://www.gimp.org/

Wanna Swim?


February Highlights

February was a turbulent month in many ways. I think it's amazing that so much can happen to so many, yet day-to-day life continues to plug on regardless. Writing about those chaotic events led to a major increase in syndicated content views for A Bumpy Path. Welcome to all new readers!

Here's a quick summary of February's most popular posts.

For a complete list of articles, check out the February Archive list.

As always, all feedback, comments and discussions are welcome! Click on the "comments" link below, or on the title of each post - that will take you to a separate page that includes the article and all the comments so you can join the discussion.

Thanks for reading!