Brother’s Keeper… October 24, 2012

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Live from October 1st filming

Mary and Russell had five children.

I was the fourth intrusion. I do not characterize myself in that way to be mean-spirited. No human being is good at parenting. Even Adam and Eve were not “Abel” and ended up raising “Cain.”

Here’s the problem: By the time we figure out babies, they become toddlers. We graduate that phase, and suddenly they’re children. Just when we grasp the concept of childhood, they escape into the great tunnel of adolescence. Some brave souls actually try to follow them into that cave–and are never heard of again. The intelligent ones stand on the outside of the deep, dark hole, pray, cross their fingers and wait for their dear offspring to emerge about eight or nine years later.

Feel free to purchase books on the subject of raising children–although some piously insist that the term should be “rearing.” Your little darlings will be more than happy to dash all theories and bring to rubble great plans for household advancement.

So it was no different with Mary and Russell. Their particular skills were stuck somewhere between the McGuffie Reader and Dr. Benjamin Spock, causing them in their confusion to be too mean when compassion was required and too gentle when my four brothers and myself were desperate for discipline.

The only regrettable conclusion of this situation is that the five brothers grew up not particularly fond of each other. We were too competitive. We were too self-involved. We were too much of everything that is associated with the word “too.”

My oldest brother passed away before he and I were able to make peace with each other. Sad.

The third son and I made a truce which lasted until the day he died.

My younger sibling expresses affection in my direction, which is never followed up with any connection.

But Brother Number Two has become my project over the past twenty years. He was an intelligent, promising student many years ago, who had a vision for becoming a high school English teacher extraordinaire. He pulled it off for many years, but in the mid-1980’s he had a nervous breakdown and has lived on disability ever since.

I have great devotion for him. You notice I am careful not to call it “love.” To me, “love” is reserved for those excellent earthly moments when true connection is made between souls and an unearthly understanding of the universe unfolds.

No, I am devoted to him. For twenty years I have written him. For twenty years, I have visited every chance I can–whenever I get within a hundred miles. And every week I also receive a letter from him, ranging in tone from the kindness of mundane to the anger and virulence of vicious.

I endure.

So imagine my mixed emotions this week when I arrived in Central Ohio knowing that I needed to see him, but realizing that there was a reluctance in my heart to be confronted–especially at this time in my journey–with such a malevolent presence. I always have to remind myself that he strikes out at the world around him because he feels struck. But it’s not very comforting in the moment.

So I made a plan to pick him up at 9:15 yesterday morning, confirmed it with him by phone, and drove into his driveway to discover that his entire front yard had been transformed into a giant garage sale, strewn with trash and old junk. I thought to myself that at least we had a good topic for opening conversation. As previously agreed, I tapped my horn to let him know of my arrival.

There was no response.

My present physical condition does not permit me to leap from the van and go to the door to pound upon it with urgency. So I waited five minutes and tapped my horn again. Nothing.

My mind flashed back to the last three times I tried to connect with this dear brother, and had been stood up by him with a nasty letter from him following, explaining that it was my fault that he didn’t appear because he knew deep in his heart that I don’t really care anything about him.

So I started to wonder how long I planned to stay in his driveway, tapping my horn, before leaving with the realization that once again I was to be viewed as the ugly girl at the junior prom.

Yet I persisted. After five horn beeps and twenty-five minutes, he appeared sleepily at the door and told me he would be right out. Ten minutes later, I was rewarded for my perseverance by the appearance of my brother at the side of my van, and we were off.

The next two hours that I spent with him are a study in human behavior and an exploration into the definitions of feeling helpless. For you see, the reason his front yard has been turned into a flea market is that he has allowed two vagabond young men to come in and live in his home, and they have completely taken over his abode, and are beginning to fight with him to such an extent that the police have actually had to be called to the scene.

I resisted running away in horror.

He explained to me that these same individuals have chased away his beloved cats, which are really his only family, leaving him without feline protection. One of these young intruders has also brought a homeless man into the house to stay, further complicating the chemistry brewing in the cauldron.

Then my brother explained to me that he is trying to evict one of the squatters, while said squatter is also taking him to court for reimbursement on construction supplies that the young fellow purchased to build in a living quarters–for himself–on the back porch. (Now, I realize that all of this is very confusing when written into a story form, but let me comfort you by telling you that it was no easier to understand in the original telling.)

My dear brother had no trouble whatsoever filling in 129 minutes of conversation on his own, only once asking about my doings, in passing. He has a life that is full … without having a full life.

You see, it’s what happens to all of us when we don’t decide the purpose for our breathing and moving; circumstance and crazy travelers can come in and fill in our empty space with their own trauma and terror.

This is why I pity grown people who make their children their lives. Your seed will be more than willing to destroy your garden of hopes. I am always careful to warn those who have retired to start a second career, finding a reason to get up in the morning. Otherwise, all of the insanity of the world will crash in on you, exhausting you with its nuttiness without ever granting you fruit.

My brother was exhausted but had nothing to show for it but sadness, exasperation, apprehension and defeat. They had broken his television set, taken his car and left him desolate. And because it appears that he has given these things over to them, it is impossible to prosecute the perpetrators.

I was so depleted. I remembered the lament of an exasperated brother from thousands of years ago: Am I my brother’s keeper?

It’s so easy to walk away from insanity and allow it to be turned over to the general asylum. You can disassociate yourself from it so easily, returning to your own peaceful ways.

But he is my brother. He would be my brother if we had not shared a common womb, because we share a common God.

I did my best to encourage. I did my best to bless. I did my best to promise him that I would return again very soon to renew our conversation. I did my best to give him some money so he could spend it on himself instead of squandering it on his emotional assailants.

I did my best not to cry.

Mary and Russell did their best, too. But like many of those born after the Garden, they grew some weeds. It is now the job of those stray children to find one another and make some sense of it all.

I am my brother’s keeper. It’s just that sometimes the most difficult part of caretaking … is cleaning up.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Top Ten Rejected Titles for The Wizard of Oz … June 6, 2012

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I got so inspired yesterday writing to you about Kansas that it got me to thinking about The Wizard of Oz, and in the spirit of always trying to bring something fresh to my readers here at jonathots, I was able to dredge up, through much painstaking investigation, ten originally proposed titles for the story, which, for some reason or another, were summarily rejected by those in power (I would assume to keep the “little man” down…) Knowing that you are always trying to expand your brains and have little pieces of useless information to pull out in party situations so as to make you even more obtuse, I have decided to compile these into a list for you today, which we shall dub The Top Ten Rejected Titles for The Wizard of Oz:

10.  When Monkeys Fly

9.  Dorothy‘s Purple Acid

Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland from the tr...

Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland from the trailer for the film The Wizard of Oz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

8.  Which witch is which and why?

7.  The Lizard of Ooze (don’t ask)

6.  Three Babies and a Lady

5.  There’s No Home Like Place(mats)–by Martha Stewart

4.  Goldbrickers and the Kansas Brat (an independent film)

3.  Dropping Housing Prices

2.  Toto‘s Tail (a K through 9 view)

And finally, the Number One rejected title, which, in my opinion, was a mistake:

1.  TORNADOES SUCK

   

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Re-Spend-Ability… March 31, 2012

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How do you make meat loaf? Well, on a good week, you have the confidence to put in more meat and eggs. On a bad week, you sheepishly add additional bread crumbs and onions.

Good weeks and bad weeks. They accumulate until they become months of struggle. The problem with the American dream is that it works really well until you wake up to the reality. And what is the reality? If you stay at a job and continue to work, eventually your finance will peak, but your expenses will continue to climb. This leads to conflict.

So those “you’re kidding” folks, twenty-five through thirty-six, who have now arrived between the ages of thirty-seven and forty-eight, so concerned about whether their kids were well-fastened into car seats, are now confronted with ever-increasing expenditures and limited finance. They also discover that babies are not the problem—it’s teenagers. Cleaning up a mess in a diaper is much more “doable” than paying insurance premiums after your new young driver has had that first accident.

So suddenly two words that should never co-exist collide, creating the new family dynamic. The two words?Love and money. Matter of fact, the Bible says “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Whenever those two words inhabit the same sentence, there is conflict. So people who were once in love are suddenly at each other’s throats because all conversations seem to be at the kitchen table, discussing the budget.

Here is the train of events: over-budget, overwrought, overwhelmed.

That’s right. Even when she decides to go back to work, the application of that decision drains more finance from the family and actually sometimes doesn’t even create a break-even proposal. After all, she needs a car, she needs a wardrobe, she needs gasoline, she needs lunch money… And meanwhile, the school system that used to be better-funded by a concerned government now has to ask more money from the family because the government has dropped the ball on public education.

Everything is over budget. What do we do when we’re over budget? We become overwrought. At this point, our minds go to disaster instead of possibility. (Even though we know there are no debtor’s prisons, we keep an extra toothbrush just in case.) And when we’re overwrought—since we do love ourselves pretty well—we start looking for someone to blame. How about that person we walked down the aisle with? They’re handy. How about those wonderful children we birthed, who somewhere along the line have seemingly been struck by a spirit of “brat?”

Yet, being over-wrought can seem cruel and put the household in a constant state of tension, so we try to cork up our feelings in a bottle and walk around morose, with a sense of dread etched across our features, completely overwhelmed.

We call this maturity. I call it “Suck on a Triscuit.” There has to be a better way.

Once you discover the truth about the American Dream—that it only works as long as you stay one step ahead of the increase in expenses—then you are better prepared to enter the years between thirty-seven and forty-eight, which I have dubbed Re-Spend-Ability – taking it on instead as a responsibility, which you can handle because you are prepared. Here are four suggestions:

1. Separate. I’m not talking about leaving your marriage.  I’m talking about separating love from money and never talking about them together. If you’re in the midst of a discussion about your relationship, never bring up money. And if you’re discussing money, don’t try to use it as a means to romance. (Can we be honest? Even mediocre sex is acceptable when the mortgage is paid.) Separate love and money, or be prepared for love and money to separate the two of you.

2. Negotiate. I’m talking about with your children. You cannot be a pigeon, flitting around your own household desperately trying to give your kids everything they want, and expect to keep your head above water. If they want something, they should be willing to investigate it, find the best price and work off “their half” of the expense in chores or tasks at ten dollars an hour. Don’t give into the pressure that your children are giving into. What they want has nothing to do with their investigation of good choices. It is a whim and a necessity to them of co-existing with other students at their school who are chasing what Madison Avenue has decided is the new “teen craze.” Negotiate. Will they be happy about it? Your children’s happiness is based upon your demeanor and solvency, not their wish list.

3. Regulate. Don’t yell at your kids to do anything that you are not already doing. Don’t tell teenagers to turn off the lights in the house. Just get a little exercise and walk behind them and turn them off yourself. Shop better. That’s why we have the Internet. Put in a request for a revision on your mortgage. Banks do not respond to applications, they respond to perseverance. Regulate your expenses in a way that the family is never aware of any change in your financial climate, but you benefit at the end of the month with the bottom line.

4. And finally, innovate. The American Dream is not energized by freedom. It is fueled by capitalism. Capitalism is a philosophy that unashamedly concludes “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” Since that is the way the American culture works at this point, learn it well. Have some sort of extra project with the family that you entrepreneur—maybe on a Saturday morning—that brings in a little extra cash. It could be anything from garage sales to a small Internet business to one of your children picking up trash for the neighbors and offering half of their intake to the family income. The more you create community with money the less you will fight. You cannot live in the United States of America working forty hours a week and think you’re going to get ahead. Your boosts in salary will never cover the explosions in inflation. It is a time to be creative.

A good number of divorces happen during this period between age thirty-seven through forty-eight. These couples think they fall out of love. Actually, they fall into the money pit and can’t find a way to love each other enough to get out of it. But if we had taught them to be a chilled-hood, respecting each other as boys and girls growing up in equality, and had not allowed them to enter addled essence—adversarial to each other in their teens—and had balanced out the duty of parenting and birthing during the you’re kidding era, there would be a much greater savings account of affection to fall back on during the hard times.

Re-Spend-Ability. It’s when we foolishly think that love and money can be mingled and still maintain harmony.

(We will continue our series on Monday, to allow time tomorrow for Marketing the Big TE)

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Listen to Jonathan sing his gospel/blues anthem, Spent This Time, accompanied by Janet Clazzy on the WX-5 Wind Machine

 

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Below is the first chapter of Jonathan Richard Cring’s stunning novel entitled Preparing a Place for Myself—the story of a journey after death. It is a delicious blend of theology and science fiction that will inspire and entertain. I thought you might enjoy reading it. After you do, if you would like to read the book in its entirety, please click on the link below and go to our tour store. The book is being offered at the special price of $4.99 plus $3.99 shipping–a total of $8.98. Enjoy.

http://www.janethan.com/tour_store.htm

Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

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