Monday, June 2, 2014

What Do You Say When You Don't Have Anything To Say?

Garrison Keillor described it as 'The ability to say things while you're thinking of something to say."

Some people do this better than I do, Mr. Keillor, notably.

I was going to write about personal tragedies, but certain folk would prefer that
I don't share 'family business' ( I suppose even saying that much is saying 'too much'). So, let me just say that it's been a tough couple of years, and let it go at that.

Now that that is done, how are all of you folks? Keeping on? Still keeping the New Years' Resolutions?

I have only one this year: 

"Survive" 

That one will be tough enough, I expect. If that word is a contract, then there are a lot of subordinate clauses that will need to be met as well.

Like:

'Stay healthy'
'Make more money'
'Have more fun'
'Keep loving the family'

And:

"Non Illegitimi Carborundum"*

And, if I can, you can, too.

Yes, You Can!


* You'd best 'Google' it

Sunday, October 6, 2013

I shouldn't take it so personal.


In fact, the fact that I am taking it so personal should give me a hint to back up and look at the critter in question, and look at him with cool detachment.

Sorry. I should let you know. My current "Keep the lights on and food on the table" job is customer service. Those of you in such roles know that there are good customers, then there are ...

Mr. J. L. was one of the latter.

And the biggest gripe I have with the man is this:  While I was trying to help him get connected, typing madly to keep up with his tirade as well as trying to find the purchase he purportedly had made, he called me:

                           "USELESS."

Yes, I know. I shouldn't let it get to me. With that single word he placed himself beneath contempt in the eyes of those of us who try, the best way we know how, to solve the problem.

To such people, I would like to remind them, despite the Staples ad,

           "THERE IS NO MAGIC EASY BUTTON!"

He wanted to talk to my supervisor - who would not be on the floor for another two hours.

He wanted another agent - yet any other agent would have needed to consult with me to solve this person's problem. In short, I was the best person to solve his problem. And he had the stupid idea that the best way to get me to help was to call me:

                         "USELESS."

I got him connected. And this, in spite of his insults, and despite his working against me, I got him connected.

Polite language would not do to properly describe Mr. J. L. However, since I like to leave these pages clean I will leave it up to your own imagination to supply the description. I'm sure you'll do a better job in any case.

To bring myself back to reality, I need to remind myself of a few facts:

My wife of thirty-five years still loves me and thinks that I am:

                              "USEFUL."

Our bundle of joy of the past nine years thinks I'm pretty:

                         "WONDERFUL."

And, in our house of all of fifteen-hundred square feet, we have a hard time squeezing in all of the:

                             "LOVE"

                                       that is shared amongst us.

Mr. J. L. most likely hasn't got the least idea of a clue.

Mr. J. L., you are certainly aware that words hurt. You are a craftsman of insults. You use a single word to wound, and to make it all the harder for the helper to help you, simply because the method of helping is not to your liking. You would rather spend extra (but only with the promise of a refund) than to use the solution that was easier for all concerned, even yourself.

And a put-down was the tool of choice for you.

How sad.

How sad that you are so small that that is the only way you know to be large. So, my one word definition of you must be:

                     "PITIABLE."

Please, sir, have the best life you are capable of. It must be very cold where you live.

As I said, I should not take it so personal.

As Always,

Dana "The Madman" Hansen

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Shoot Your Arrows

Arrows are amazing things.
Such a small, narrow thing, yet it flies far and can have great effect at its point of impact. A good arrow is well balanced, with a sharp head, and with true fletching to keep it directed toward the intended target.

A bow hunter (those who most commonly use arrows nowadays), make sure the arrowhead is sharp, sharp enough to shave with. Sharp enough to pierce the tough hide of the creatures they hunt. They may practice with the bow, but once they know the bow and where it shoots, they turn their attention to the arrows.

In days gone by, before there were sports shops for the bow hunter, an archer made his own arrows. He found the straightest materials for the shaft, not too stiff, but not too springy either. He forged his own arrowheads if he had the metal, or knapped his own from flint or obsidian if he did not. He found the best feathers, often selecting eagle tail feathers, if he could get them.

He would test them, to see if the results of his efforts had given him what he sought. If so, he would repeat the design.

If not, the arrow was broken. Or, if not too off-the-mark, used in practice sessions where accuracy was not the focus, but rather the training of the muscles and eye to the effort required in the bending of the bow and the releasing of the string

And, taking just pride in the result of his labors, he would often mark them in such a way as to be identifiable as his. His brand, if you will.

Then they would be placed in his quiver for the time of the hunt, or of battle.

Because that is the whole point: to shoot the arrow.

The Bible tells us that a man's children are like arrows in the quiver of a mighty man. And we ought not to keep our arrows in the quiver; indeed, we cannot. They will launch themselves willy-nilly regardless if we do not direct them. Even so, they are self-guided missiles.

This does not mean we can make of them what we want, if it is against their natural leanings. As a wise parent we need to be aware of our children's inclinations, and direct them along likely paths, and not try to make them into something they cannot be, nor do something at which they cannot be successful.

And we parents have done exactly the latter far too often. But I digress.

Those of us who write have other children: our stories. We work on them, lavish our most sincere efforts on them, and then we send them out ...

... Unless we are afraid of rejection letters.

The purpose of an arrow is to shoot it. Whether it strikes it mark, or it is lost, it must be shot. It does no good to make the perfect arrow then leave it in the quiver.

This bears repeating:

Once the arrow is crafted it must be shot.

Once a story is written, it must be sent, often many, many times, into the world to be published.

Otherwise, it is as prettily useless as the arrow in the quiver that is ‘too nice to shoot’.

Shoot your arrows.

Yes, you can.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

We The Living

(from an earlier post began may 21st, 2010, completed march 2nd, 2012)


Is this a field of dreams? We all have loved ones who died. What dreams sleep with them, that they would have wanted to see completed?

The worst place to start writing is from the position of not knowing what to say to them.

My father lies beneath a modest marker of marble with the shield of a veteran with a dark patina of age upon it, indicating his status as one who fought for this country's freedoms. My stepfather now rests in a similar state, having passed away rather more recently. Both men gave their best to this nation in its day of desperate need some sixty years ago. But what do the deeds of the past have to do with today?

I mentioned in passing to the grocery checker, as I was dating a check Dec. 7th, 20__, that this was an important day in history. I got an 'Oh?' by way of a reply. I elaborated that Pearl Harbor was bombed and got the reply: 'Oh, well I wasn't born then.'

That startled me. I suppose it should not have, but it did, nonetheless. Nonplussed, I said that neither was I, but we should know about them.

I have stood beside the graves of my father and my stepfather, each of whom fought in that mighty conflict, one in Europe and the other in the Pacific. Each stood in harm's way to repel and conquer those who would remove our freedoms from us.

It is interesting to note, historically, that both Germany (West Germany, before the wall fell) and Japan both became economic forces to be reckoned with, in part because we extended the hand of forgiveness that Lincoln taught us to use: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with power to do what is right, as God gives us the ability to see the right..." We helped bind the wounds of our enemies, having seen what the consequences of not doing so can bring; Hitler's rise to power might still have happened had not Germany been in such economic turmoil after the first world war, but he would have had a harder time of it.

So, what do we the living do now? Do we ignore what has gone before? Or do we do our best to learn from the mistakes and successes of the past?

The future holds a much different pattern than we have seen in the past. Some people say, and not without merit, that whatever the past can teach us, it has little to do with the current present, and the future, both near and far.

Yet, whatever our global connectedness brings, people are still people. Singly, and in aggregate, people have their own self-interests and desires; it is ever thus.

I haven't written much in this blog of late, mostly I haven't thought I've had that much of importance to say. I still don't. But the lighting flashes now and again, and I try, in the brief shining moment, to write down what I see. This moment's flash: learn of the past, the triumphs and tragedies, the loves and relationships. Learn from the past, throwing out the dross and gathering the gold an silver, not to mention the occasional pearl of wisdom.

Interesting; why is the pearl, of all gemstones, chosen to represent wisdom? I believe it is because that it is one of the few gems that have an organic origin (being made by shellfish) and one that takes time to create.

And, perhaps most importantly, it is what the oyster does in response to something that causes it pain.

It's the oyster's way of making lemonade from the lemons in its life.

What is in the long past that you can learn from? What is in your immediate past? What can you make lemonade with? What can you make a pearl with? Of what can you be proud?

I am proud of my ancestors who wore the uniform of this nation, who fought and won through.

Remember those who gave their best. Remember especially those who gave their all.

Yes, you can!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Day In June.

I'm writing this on a cold November morning. We've had snows, but like most first snows, even the ones that dump a foot-thick blanket of heavy, wet snow, they've largely disappeared in the Indian Summer days that followed.

This morning is cold, though. The sky is cloudy, but not ungraciously so; there's promise of the occasional beam of sunlight to break through. Still, my mind is not on today, with the prospect of tea or hot chocolate to cheer me. It is, instead, on a day in early June of this year.

"What is so rare as a day in June?" I don't know who first spoke that line, but if there was ever a June day that fit the description, it was that day.

I drove south by west, skipping the main roads to take the lesser-used roads. I was ahead of my time, and the more relaxed pace suited me. The sun was warm, with the window rolled down to catch the cooling breeze, it was altogether fine. Through the open window I heard the song of red-winged blackbird, and meadow lark. It was a fine day.

As I turned to head west on this back-road trip, I saw Long's Peak, still patched heavily with white spring snow, in front of me. If I hadn't an errand to fulfill, I would have given in to the temptation to just head to the hills and enjoy the day in frivolous recreation. It was certainly a day made for it. It was a perfect day for a June wedding.

I glanced at my coat sleeves, and my free hand rose the knot of my tie, to loosen it a bit. There would be an opportunity to straighten it when I got to my destination.

When I was a few blocks away, I turned up a different street and drove by the local marble orchard. If you are not familiar with the term, a 'marble orchard' is a cemetery, so-called because of all the marble monuments that sprout out of the ground. This one was well-kept, and had the occasional visitor, leaving flowers and respects. Some do this out of a sense of duty, I expect; most do so out of love.

After driving by, I found a place to turn around and resumed my journey. The end was in sight: the church steeple was just ahead.

I found that I was early, even with my little side trip, so I waited in the parking lot until I saw a familiar face or two on their way in. I got out, straightened my tie, and went in myself.

It was cool inside, and the group was subdued. I found a seat near the back, myself being only barely acquainted with this group.

I forget the hymns we sung; they were from a different songbook than the one I grew up with. All about the far distant land where everything was light and peace.

Certainly, the guest of honor had found peace of a sort. For we had come to sing his last praises, our last love song, in fact, to him. His family was strong in their witness of their love, and that he had been met by family members who had gone on before.

And, while I empathized with them, I couldn't help thinking, "What a waste." Not of the efforts of the people in that church, certainly not. But the waste of this young life, the young man all of three months away from celebrating his twentieth birthday. His life, taken by his own hand.

In many ways, he was a cipher to me. We were on different work schedules, though on the same team. I was always rushing to get my set-ups for my job done before I had to punch the clock; not a lot of time for socializing past the automatic 'Hello, how are you?", and those mostly to familiar faces. I keep thinking, if I'd known a little more about him, talked to him. Asked the follow up question: "No, really, how are you doing?", that young man might still be alive today.

I have no idea what his despair involved; I shall not speculate. I only know that I've been deep down lost in my own despair, to the point of walking away from life. Had I known him better, I might have been able to say to him, in some way, "You can rise above this."

Instead, I walked to the grave of a young man, in that cemetery I visited earlier, on a most rare, fine June day. A day that he should have been thinking, "Maybe I'll go fishing."

That is what life is about. Not going fishing, necessarily. But choosing. Choosing to continue, to fight the fight, to enjoy the living of life.

He could have done so much, so much more.

I could have done so much more to help.

Monday, October 18, 2010

TEVYE HAD THE RIGHT IDEA

What was his good idea, you ask?

Talking to God.

If you've seen the movie "Fiddler on the Roof" you know what I'm talking about. His first person commentary/narration was partly the breaking of the 'fourth wall' and partly relating to God all of his troubles, whines, and thank-yous for being one of the 'chosen people'. A constant pouring out of his heart into the one ear who had all the time in the world to listen.

Understand, for a peasant farmer/dairyman in Czarist Russia, he was learned, at least about the history and tenets of his faith. He knew his was a history of 'Us against the rest of the world', and being poor was a way of life. Perhaps not the best way of life, but...

But he talked, prayed, if you will, constantly, about the big things, certainly, but also about the small things. He even had the kind of relationship that would stand up to wisecracks.

Do you have that kind of relationship with God?

After getting home from work this morning, I looked over the whole of the household, asleep, and started talking. Okay, since I was talking to the 'Big Guy' we can call it praying. But not that formula you were taught in Sunday School, but just an outpouring of one's soul to one's friend. He and I don't often do that. That is to say, I don't often do that.

I'm too caught up in the middle of the flurry of the moment, or the weariness of the world to take the time to just talk to God, much less listen to anything He has to say. And I need to take the time, like I did this morning. Time to read, time to attend worship, time to listen. Time to talk, like a son to his Father, and shake things out, and gain some perspective.

I apologize, but today's blog seems to be all about me. But, perhaps, I've touched a sore spot. My wife is in the other room, listening to a Bible reading, and reading along with it. It is well past midnight. My primetime, her sleeptime. We'll muddle through.

And tomorrow we hit it again.

Tevye had the right idea.

Time to take some time to talk with God.

Yes, I can.