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Friday, June 26, 2009

We are the Dreamer; The Astronaut Farmer and Awards X's Three


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Have you seen the film, The Astronaut Farmer? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you want to tease yourself into dreaming again or get yourself a shot of dream adrenalin, spend some time with this story, which was filmed in New Mexico in 33 days. The Polish brothers, Mark and Michael, team up to co-write the screen play about a man who builds a rocket in his barn and dreams of becoming an astronaut. The brothers direct (Michael is the primary director) the quirky Charles Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton) and the sincere Audrey Farmer (Virginia Madsen). Charlie and Audie's three children are made up of an older sensitive, intelligent and humorous brother, Shepard (Max Thieriot), and two young adorable sisters. The girls, Stanley (Jasper Polish) and Sunshine (Logan Polish), are not actors at all but the children of the film makers, Mark and Michael Polish, and their presence lends a remarkable credibility to the film. One such real moment is when the little girl, Sunshine, brings a donut to her grandfather, Hal (Bruce Dern), who is sleeping in another room. She first yells to his reclining form, "Grandpa here's your donut!" Then she repeats in an emphatic whisper, "Grandpa, here's your donut." When she returns to the kitchen and says, "Grandpa no wake up," her innocent matter of fact authenticity nearly breaks my heart.

[Photo: Neutron Star 2004 NASA ]

There are no stop signs up there. There is no defining space. We've always defined our space. A wall here, a room there, a hallway, a road. We have this way of dividing our space until it equals a direction. We even created a space for the dead. Space is a difficult thing to grasp. (Charles Farmer)

I think we all place boundaries on our dreams. We all have some limit that we consciously or subconsciously place upon ourselves. Sometimes that's okay because the dream faded away but other times the influence of that dead-weight dream is pulling us back. We cannot fully live until it is addressed. Is there some dream that you are holding yourself back from? Can you dust off the dead past and set it into your alive future? Can you give yourself permission to have dream space? I hope so...may you continue to dream, and may those dreams come true.

This may not be a true story but it is indeed true that we need supportive relationships with people who know that our dreams matter.

The Astronaut Farmer teaches us that it's important that dreams are fulfilled.

May we all surround ourselves with supportive people who know that they love our 'dreaming selves'; and, may we love others in a way that fully supports their own dream visions.


In that spirit of open support I want to acknowledge the people who have given Oasis Writing Link (OWL) blog awards lately, and also pass them on to the dear bloggers mentioned below. (If I missed you, please feel free to accept the award from me.)

Normal is a Cycle on a Washing Machine, Sarah LuLu 's blog out of Australia, gives readers a taste of real life including the wash, spin, and dry cycle. Her experience as a foster parent supervisor, mother and seeker encourages her readers to reach out and share their own life struggles and celebrations. I am honored that she thought of me for the Love My Friends award:

The Love My Friends award is bestowed onto blogs that are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers.

*Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.*

Here are 8 + 2 to make a nice even 10!

Love My Friends Award is passed on to:
Carol @ The Writers Porch
Catherine@ A Thousand Clapping Hands
Tessa@ An Aerial Armadillo
Elizabeth@ About New York
Jude@ Cariad in Crete
Fhina@ A Woman of No Importance
Bogey@ A View From the Fairway
TPC@ The Pink Cowboy
Linda@ Psyche Connections
Pat@ Mille Fiori Favoriti

Woman of No Importance, Fhina, who cleverly writes about music, art, fashion from the UK while interspersing her life realities was kind enough to consider me for the Palabras como rosas award, which is for sharing "words that are like rose pedals" (according to my husband's translation). The open-hearted, intelligent and contemporary, Fhina, writes this about the Palabras Como Rosas Award:

"a lovely golden book with light leaves called Palabras como rosas, which translates into Words Like Roses." She writes that it is "my obligation to give this award to 9 people whose words are truly like the lingering and sweetly scented petals of a perfect rose".
Here are my 9 + 1:

Reya@ The Gold Puppy
Miriam@ Miriam's Art Journal
Amy@ Amy (Uncensored):
Linda@ Vulture Peak Muse
Ms Lucy@ Enchanted by Josephine
Janice@ Drinking the Moon
Mrs. French Fancy@ French Fancy
Lisa L@ A Really Simple Life
Natalie@ Musings from the Deep
R.Ramesh@ Global Madrasi


View from the Fairway, Bogey, the clever poetic guy "up north" in Canada surprised me with this lovely acknowledgement as he writes:

Uber (synonym to Super) Amazing Blog Award is a blog award given to sites who:
-Inspire you
-Make you smile and laugh, or maybe give amazing information
-A great read
-Has an amazing design
-Any other reasons you can think of that make them Uber amazing!

Uber Amazing Blog Award
The rules of this award are:
Put the logo on your blog or post.
Nominate at least 6 blogs
Let them know that they have received this Uber Amazing award by commenting on their blog.
Share the love and link to this post and to the person you received your award from.

Go visit these amazing blogs!

Becky@ Behind Blue Eyes
Artist@ Artist Unplugged
Fire Byrd@ Fire Byrd
Lake Viewer@ Sixty Five What Now
Sandi@ Holding Patterns
Chrisy@ Sophism Press

There are many bloggers who are wonderful and inspiring but I think that they do not want to participate in the blogger award fun. (I'm sorry if I misunderstood and/or missed you -please accept the award of your choice.) If you want some other blogs to visit, check out my sidebar or the blogs I follow for more exciting blog reading adventure!

Thank you for these awards, blogger friends, and may we all remember to dream...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

You are a Wonder

I have so much to be grateful for, Blogger friends. When I listen to Natalie Merchant's song, "Wonder", it reminds me to celebrate my life. I hope it does the same for you. Recently, I underwent a scare because of a suspicious lump found on a routine mammogram. How many of you have gone through this anxiety of retests, waiting for results and interpretation? My heart goes out to you. Yesterday, I received the news that it's probably normal, and I have no cause to worry. But during the week of waiting I started to remember my life so far and suddenly I remembered...

In 1992, when I was seven months pregnant with my daughter, Amber (she is singing with her boyfriend, Rafa, in the photo), when the doctor said:

"I'm afraid you have a blood disorder, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. No, there is no cure. You will have to take steroid treatment for the rest of your life- otherwise, if you get cut, you could bleed to death. I'm sorry but there is some more bad news. Your baby could be in danger, and we will have to monitor the case carefully. She is underweight and could be born with the blood condition, too."

When I got the news, I was in shock, I understood it was life threatening. The shock was enough to change my life. I have a confession. I was over-ambitious. I was working full-time at a correctional facility (medium level prison) and was a full-time graduate student striving for another certification- this one in applied linguistics and language teaching. I was also working on an Adult teaching credential and some of the linguistic credits would transfer to the credential. I had to finish before the baby was born!

I'm afraid that I was set for the lesson of my life. I realized that nothing mattered more than taking care of myself and my baby physically, mentally and spiritually. Yes, I knew it before but I forgot. I think we all forget to do what we must. And don't you forget about the fact that you are alive? I did and I don't think my circumstance is so rare. We take life for granted. We forget that it's only here, now that we have the opportunity to realize we're alive and to :
Celebrate Life!

Fortunately, I understood the circumstances that created the problem and I changed everything I could. I read that only one in one hundred thousand people have spontaneous remission. Through excellent health care, visualization techniques, exercise, health supporting food and a burst of joy, I overcame the condition. I am the one (1), the exception, the survivor. Even now, I'm cured, my platelet count is in the normal range. I am ever so grateful.

I am a wonder! My daughter rapidly gained weight once I changed my life style and orientation. Whenever, I hear this song, I think of my daughter, the Joy-splasher, who smiled and laughed so early in life. In my heart, she is connected to all children who undergo a physical challenge, and through some miracle, "through love and faith" they overcome these challenges. She has made her way. May all children make their way...and may you, too, celebrate the wonder of yourself and your own life.

Doctors have come from distant cities just to see me

Stand over my bed disbelieving what they're seeing

They say I must be one of the wonders of God's own creation

And as far as they see they can offer no explanation

Newspapers ask intimate questions want confessions

They reach into my head to steal the glory of my story

They say I must be one of the wonders of God's own creation

And as far as they see they can offer no explanation

I believe Fate smiled and Destiny

Laughed as she came to my cradle

Know this child will be able

Laughed as my body she lifted

Know this child will be gifted

With love with patience and with faith

She'll make her way

She'll make her way

She'll make her way

People see me, I'm a challenge to your balance

I'm over your heads, how I confound you and astound you to know

I must be one of the wonders of God's own creation

And as far as you see you can offer me no explanation

I believe Fate smiled and Destiny

Laughed as she came to my cradle

Know this child will be able

Laughed as she came to my mother

Know this child will not suffer

Laughed as my body she lifted

Know this child will be gifted

With love with patience and with faith

She'll make her way

She'll make her way

She'll make her way

If it weren't for my daughter, I would have been unable to deal with my mother's murder. Of this I am certain. She has filled my aching heart with the celebration of love and joy. An infant savior that was given to my care. May I be worthy.
This song is from the collection, "Retrospective", which came out in 2004. In the accompanying CD booklet, I read that the song has become an anthem of sorts for hospitalized children who are in need of a miracle.

Natalie Merchant wrote: (reprinted in it's entirety)

I was asked to present an award during the annual benefit dinner for an organization funded by the family of Woody Guthrie. He had died of Huntington's disease, and this foundation funds research to find a cure. The year that I attended the event, the scientist who has isolated the gene that causes the disease was being honored. During his acceptance speech he said that, in spite of all the advancements in modern medicine, there was still a mysterious and powerful part of the healing process that no one could understand or quantify. He had seen seemingly hopeless cases that survive for years while much less seriously ill patients died in months. He said that there was no explanation for why love, laughter, or music should have healing power, but they did. Then he quoted some "Wonder," lyrics he had seen taped to the wall over a sick child's bed. Nurses in the pediatric hospital where he worked told him it was a sort of anthem for the patients there. I was stunned by his acknowledgement and touched by what he had said. I felt happy to have made something so useful.
Natalie, I hope I am useful, too!
If you feel compelled to celebrate your own life in a concrete way, please click on one of the Compassion Opportunities posted on the sidebar (@ Braja's Lost and Found in India or Julie's Tangobaby) and share a little- "pay it forward" through PayPal. You could also lend a few words of support (in the comment section) to the intuitive artist, Dianne, who has been spending all of her time nurturing her husband through his most recent back surgery. Or go visit Paris of "Remembering Paris" and let her know that she is not alone in this life. You could leave a little love at The Pink Cowboy, where he is undergoing a challenging setback. Or leave a comment for dear loving Lori Ann of Lori Times Five who is sick and is being treated for malaria. Or? You know where your love is most needed. Don't resist being "the Wonder that you are."
I celebrate life! I celebrate you! I celebrate "the wonder of God's own creation."

A tender slow version of the song "Wonder" by the braid-wearing, wondrous, Natalie:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Protection: Clint Drives the Gran Torino

I have just finished watching the Clint Eastwood film Gran Torino, and find myself in a conflict. Living in Puerto Rico where homeowners with guns are not common, I see this vigilante figure in a comforting light. I know it's surprising because I am a known peace lover and I strongly resist the illegitimate use power. And yet my character has a conflict; I discovered this years ago when I was in the Navy. I realized that many people need protection because of various reasons- lack of education on the offender or offended side, misunderstood cultural and social differences, and many other reasons...the truth is that some people who have power are power-drunk.
[Photo note: Aunt Wynoka Hicks (Dad's sister), Richard A. Pittmann, Sr. (Dad), Susan G. Pittmann Doleto (Mom). Aunt Wynoka has a black eye from her husband. Dad feels protective here with his arms around both women during a seasonal visit to Dad's family (back home) in Banner Springs,Tennessee. You can see the little bit of Cherokee that runs in our family on on the faces of Aunt W. and Dad-especially the eyes.]

These individuals (and sometimes groups) haven't developed their ability to have compassion for unknown (or know) others. I've seen strangers, friends, and families in this powerful vs. powerless dynamic. Sometimes, it's expressed as a harmful act of will, a compassionate-less decision, or violence.

Have you seen this film, Gran Torino? Confession: I'm suffering from both projection and transference (forgive my psycho- babble) when it comes to this icon like man and this character, Walt; he shares a lot of behavior, and attitude traits with my father. I read that the story has a simple (simplistic?) plot, but I cannot agree. Clint's character is realistically placed in a Midwest house on a block undergoing a population change, and in my experience it resonates as historically and socially true.

I grew up around guns and I learned to handle a rifle in my early teens, which is when I noticed my own value conflict. My father was a hunter; I was against hunting; though, I shot pumpkins carefully balanced on fence post with a 22 caliber rifle. I also shot a BB gun in the backfield with my brother and cried over the occasional bird he and our cousins would shoot. "C won't let you shoot birds...you can't even burn a spider when she's around," Richie would tell his buddies. He was both proud and amused at my 'animal protector' stance. My younger brother, Richie, "my Buddie", I sometimes called him, would occasionally hang out with me. As an outdoor type "tomboy", I valued his friendship. I think he felt a lot of pressure to be "powerful" like our dad. He was wild and controlled by his temper; and yet, he was sweet and took care of me. too. In anger, his face would turn red, and it spread all the way to his ears. I would hold him down until he promised that he wouldn't go crazy and hit the offending person -sister, usually. I would release him when his ears returned to their normal color. He hated to be teased; and being the youngest and sole boy in a family of girls, we couldn't help playing pretty girl dress-up and re-naming him "Regina Sue"-as all four girls were middle-named Sue after our mother. My brother's actual name was Richard Alfred, Jr. as he was named after our father. Do you remember that Johnny Cash song "A boy named Sue?" (video posted below) It took on a special significance in our house.

My father gave me a feeling of strength and confidence in a distant and safe manner. He was respected as a powerful authority in our home, "Just wait until your dad gets home" were the dreaded words of my childhood. When I was about 14 years old, he changed. He gave up the throne of discipline. Both social and family life had changed, it was the 70's and Mom became a "women's libber" as did her girls. I suppose the gender role shift impacted Dad, too because he did not want to be the corporal "arm of justice" in our house anymore. But the imprint of a father's power stayed with me. And this father power-surprisingly found it's way into me when my children were born. I identified with his strength and became strong in that protective manner.
Yet, I must acknowledge that my mother had that fierce fight-for-the-underdog-sense but it was directed to society more than family. In my case, my own will to forcefully protect came as an instinct after having children. Hurt my children and you will have hell to pay. Now, I know this is mostly and emotional feeling because I am law-abiding. It's just that I feel a fierceness in me, a kind of uncompromising protective quality when it comes to children, my students, my rescued dogs. I use words and will for my battles, but I see the connection with Walt's attitude. I also know that it is just this over-man attitude that was the operative emotional force that allowed our neighbor, Brooks to murder my own mother. (click on sidebar, mother's murder, if you want to read about this tragic event.) I hope that people will use words instead of violence to settle disputes but rationality is a learned thought-habit; whereas, violence is an emotional reflex. When will we as a society learn to use both judgement and compassion in our conflict negotiations?

Back to the movie: A bit of a plot summary is necessary here: the unfriendly Korean Vet Walt, instinctively protects his Hmong neighbors who are threatened by a local gang, and in gratitude they make him a hero. He despises the heroic yoke but to no avail. The community continues to bring him gifts of food and flowers. Eventually, he befriends the intelligent neighbor girl and takes on her brother as his protege. He teaches the teenager how to fit into male culture in the United States. Okay, here is where many take offense but I know the exact type of person he is portraying. Factory workers who celebrate being a man's man. I was related to them. Also, I admire strength of all kinds so I have patience with this kind of person. Walt's language is peppered with racial, gender, and cultural slurs. Did I miss anything? He is offensive but in the way that I know and understand. Underneath his foul language resides a code of honor. A code that says, I will not let the underdog be violated. Walt discovers that he has more in common with the struggling neighbors than he has with his own family. We see them from his perspective: Silly, well established in the material world, and weak.

'Gran Torino' Stills - Photo Gallery on Yahoo! Movies

I am not going to ruin the conclusion because the movie is relatively new and many of you may not have seen it yet. However, I will contend that the ending is true to life. As I mentioned earlier, my father underwent a similar transformation in his attitude towards violence and prejudice. Now that both of my parents are gone, I so miss having a Protector (in the form of a person) in my life. I will leave you with Johnny Cash and "A Boy Named Sue."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

They think I'm Paper Mooning them...

I feel as though I was handed the moon and I don't know what to do with it.

Anne of Green Gables

I was watching the Gilmore Girls series this past week and I started pondering the way words are creatively changed -specifically how the word "paper moon" undergoes a transformation. If you've never watched the series or just don't remember, Rory says "They think I'm paper mooning them" to Lorelai when she is persuaded to return a shirt for a third time to the same store. I appreciate inter-textual references and the layered feeling of deftly handled language. This led me on a journey... first, I had to look up criticism about the series, to locate any references to the phrase. I found that some fans tried to watch the movie, Paper Moon, and were put off by the 1970's style filming, which is strange because it is set in the 1930s. If you clicked on the GG link above you may have read some offensive criticism about the show. I write "offensive" but only to those of you who are serious GG watchers. (I know I may be speaking only to myself here.)

I like the show in part because it nostalgically reminds me of the twenty or so years I lived and worked in a little village town in Coronado, California. I admit, I am also highly critical of the inconsistencies or false historical (story-wise not the anachronisms, which can be funny) references in plot, the way a character is changed by whim and perhaps discarded (Lane's first boyfriend), and the occasional (or frequent) bad acting of a couple (here unnamed) characters. But enough!! I've heard the collective sigh surging from the depths of the OWL family, and I'm well aware of my reader's lack of interest in the dead-put -another-nail-in-the- coffin series. (Just to let you know-it's still alive for me. You certainly can argue your points in the comment section and I will engage!)

After my search that lead to the linked above Chicago Tribune articles and another to their GG series blog, I knew it was time to watch Paper Moon. I had seen it in the 70s and remember trying to understand what the big deal was about...I was a teenager and couldn't fully appreciate the black and white style filming. Caution: as a mother and thereby conditioned to be responsible person, it's shocking to see a nine year old Tatum O'Neal (smoking and inhaling!) a cigarette.

In sum, the film is about a young motherless girl and her mother's former "boyfriend" (Ryan O'Neal) who end up taking a road trip together to deliver the girl to her conservative aunt-who strongly disapproved of her now dead 'floozy' sister. Along the trip, it turns out that the young girl is a protege in the art of scamming people out of their money. Consequently,"they think I'm paper mooning them" is a creative evolution of the meaning "they suspect I'm tricking them," in the Gilmore Girls series.

Paper Moon the movie (clips)

Ella Fitzgerald's lyrics to Paper Moon...

I never feel a thing is real
When I'm away from you
Out of your embrace
The world's a temporary parking place
A bubble for a minute
You smile, the bubble has a rainbow in it

Say, its only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me

Yes, it's only a canvas sky
Hanging over a muslin tree
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me

Without your love
It's a honky-tonk parade
Without your love
It's a melody played in a penny arcade

It's a Barnum and Bailey world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me

Naturally, I remembered this song and searched YouTube for the familiar Nat King Cole rendition but I realized that we have a father/daughter theme going here with Ryan and Tatum O'Neal. Why not keep it going with another father/daughter pair, Nat King and Natalie Cole, in honor of the approaching Father's Day?

The Dapper Dad:

The Lovely Lady:

The next phase of my research took a philosophical turn as I looked into the Persian mystic, Omar Khayyam's, Rubaiyat:

Ah, Moon of my Delight who know'st no wane,

The Moon of Heav'n is rising once again;

How oft hereafter rising shall she look

Through this same Garden after me-in vain!

Paramahansa Yogananda writes in Autobiography of a Yogi that the Moon of Delight is God or one who is eternally free and that the Garden is earth or ordinary life. Hence, there is no more rebirth for this seer. (346) So I'm thinking about the paper moon as a symbol of the transient body except the song keeps plowing it way through my brain...another association:

What do you want? You...you want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey! That's a pretty good idea! I'll give you the moon, Mary. ... Then you can swallow it, and it'll all dissolve see, and the moonbeams would shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of you hair ... am I talking too much?"(George)
"Why don't you kiss her instead of talking her to death?" (man on porch)

Nate again, this time "Fly me to the Moon"...

These far reaching (too?) associations could continue towards infinity (or at least Jupiter and Mars) so here, I must stop.

Enjoy swooning to the June moon...