The Quest for the Illusive “They”

My twin brother, Jim has a great sense of humor. He can be extremely quick with a comeback and is very witty at times. He’s had me rolling on the floor with laughter more than once. A particularly memorable time in Branson comes to mind when I laughed so hard at one of his off-handed comments, I about peed my pants. Sometimes, it isn’t what he says but more the way he says it that sends me into a fit of guffaws. Through the years, Jim has sent emails that made me laugh out loud and marvel at his insight and wit. At one time I was printing these little gems out and saving them but, alas, two moves later I’ve lost them.

Recently, Jim had a bout with pneumonia. He’s recovering now but still has health issues that make me cringe. We were emailing back and forth last Friday discussing this very fact when I made the comment, “They say it takes time to recover from pneumonia but then again, who are “They?” Here is Jim’s reply:
Exactly???? Who are they???? Inquiring minds want to know, who are they, why are they, where are they? I want to meet “they”. Shake hands with them, talk to them, kinda a meet and greet kinda of a meeting. Are they old? Are they young? Male? female? Kids? Adults? Professors?

This sent me into a fit of giggles. I admit it’s funnier if you know Jim and his voice, which I do. I could hear him in my ear as plain as if he was sitting beside me. We decided the Burkett Twins needed to go on a quest. The Quest for the Illusive “They.”

Quests have been around for centuries. Don Quixote went on a quest for the “fight for the right without question,” and ended up finding the Impossible Dream. Of course the quest for the Holy Grail is quite well known. In fact, this “Grail Quest” was the basis behind the movie, The Da Vinci Code with Tom Hanks. Indiana Jones went on his own quest for the grail as well. He even found the illusive vessel, but as quests so often go, the cup was lost again. Why? Because in my opinion, it’s the journey and the search that is more important than the actual finding.

But back to question: Who are “They?” Why do we put so much stock in what “They” say and think? Who came up with “They” in the first place?” Is “They” just a convenient way of explaining the hows and whys of things? Is “They” fake news? What happens if we don’t follow the rules and regs of “They?”

Hmm . . . think for ourselves?” Now, that would be a quest!

Jim and I probably won’t be fighting any windmills is this “They Quest” but that doesn’t mean we won’t be challenging the norm. Perhaps we’ll even uncover the mystery behind “They.” Of course, “They” say this can’t be done and we’re just wasting our time. We draw our swords and charge forward anyway. Because, after all . . .

What do “They” know?

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Karma and The Golden Rule

Daddy was a Christian Scientist, therefore my brother and I were raised in this religion. Mama was a Methodist. How did this work? Well, if my brother and I became sick, Daddy prayed over us while Mama poked pills down our throat. The best of two worlds to my way of thinking.

Now before I go any further, I need to add this disclaimer: even though I was raised in Christian Science, what I actually know about the religion is very little. As a child the phrase, "oh you don't believe in doctors" was the standard response when asked what faith I was. This is not true. Christian Scientists know doctors serve a very important cause, they just choose to seek healing by prayer instead of medicine. Also, please know, I am in no way, shape, or form bashing the Christian Science religion. I have received numerous healings from Daddy's praying and diligent work and while I don't embrace the religion whole hog, I do agree and practice parts of it. Christian Scientists all around the globe work daily for peace, harmony, and enlightenment. How can I not embrace this?

However . . .

In every religion, or more accurately, in every aspect of life, there are fanatics. While I won't go so far as to say Daddy was fanatical about his beliefs, I will say he was extremely devoted. To my knowledge he never argued with Mama when she went to the doctor but secretly he wasn't thrilled about it either. The fact that my brother and I received the polio vaccine or that we took aspirin for headaches and fever was a closely guarded secret. I never heard him ridicule anyone who didn't believe the way he did, but deep down, at least in my opinion, he laughed at them. He didn't understand nor did he want to.

So, where am I going with this?

On my spiritual quest I learned about Karma. Simply put, Karma means, "what goes around, comes around." Do bad things, bad things will come back to haunt you usually three times worse than your victim's. Of course the flip-side is also true, good deeds work the same way. It dawned on me that Karma and The Golden Rule are the same thing: "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
I am a firm believer in Karma because I have experienced it's essence to the fullest, both good and bad. In thinking over my childhood it also dawned on me that while secretly resenting Mama's belief in medicine, Daddy created bad Karma.

And it bit him in the ass. Daddy had a stroke.

He sought healing through his religion but never received it. The faith he so vehemently defended and practiced failed to heal him. Why? Because, in my opinion, he had very important life lessons to learn. Lessons that all through his life he turned his nose up at. The lesson of forgiveness. Of tolerance. Of humility. Of understanding. A few days before his death he confessed to my oldest brother, he now understood why Mama and others turned to the medical profession for help and how much he regretted not telling her this when she was alive. In the end, this realization did heal Daddy as his suffering was brought to an end. I like to think, he is progressing even more in this understanding on the other side.

I am very close to an individual who made fun and had no tolerance for Daddy. "I don't understand why he can't walk better. He's so slow. He can't do anything. He's a pain in the ass." I cringed inside for many reasons but mainly because I knew Karma was riding his way. This person now suffers from ataxia and nephropathy. Daddy could've run circles around him. He's in constant pain and nothing seems to help. Ironic, isn't it? Of course, the urge to say, "Karma" is overwhelming and I have hinted at this, but he doesn't get it. It is my belief until he makes the connection and asks for forgiveness, relief will be slow in coming.

Do you know someone who is suffering and can't receive healing? Maybe even yourself? Perhaps going back and examining their or your actions throughout life may help. Did they or you "do unto others as they would do unto you?" Just food for thought.

I try not to judge others as I have no idea what they're going through. It's a difficult lesson for me. I don't always succeed. However, I am grateful that I'm aware and am working towards this goal. Some people don't have a clue. I feel sorry for them. I hope they wake up and try to abide by the Golden Rule. Because, believe me . . .

Karma can be a bitch.

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Body and Soul

In my youth I was a lean, mean fighting machine.

I was a sport’s nut. Softball. Basketball. Track. Even football. In fact, a High School football coach once told Mama if I were a boy, I’d be a star running back. (Alas, at that time, girls were only cheerleaders or majorettes. Too boring for me.) I was in the best shape of my life when I was a Girl Scout camp counselor. All that climbing hills, walking, swimming, and canoeing plus the sun’s rays sculptured me into a tanned, buff goddess. Ionic, at that time in my life, I was not aware of my lean, hard shape. I could less. I took my great health and frame for granted.

Today, however, my slim, muscled physique is kinda . . . well, squishy. I look in the mirror, and hate what I see. I tell myself, “Ruth, you’re so fat. Look at those legs, short, fat stumps. You’re disgusting.” I tried dieting. Didn’t work. I just gave up. Then, my brother went into the hospital with pneumonia. Two weeks later, with one of his lungs drained, three new heart stints, and 32 pounds lighter, he got to go home. I visited him every night in the hospital. One evening, after a particularly disturbing visit, I had an epiphany:

God designed and created the human body for one very important reason: to protect the soul.

Right then and there I made the decision to stop tearing my body to pieces and to start showing it love. How? Well, for one, I got up from the couch and started to move. I joined a gym and swim and workout every week. Second, I began to eat better, to cut back on sugar. More veggies. In moving and eating more healthy I am able to aid my body in its prime directive— to keep my soul safe.

Third, at night right before falling into sleep, I pat my heart and tell it how grateful I am that it pumps life into my lungs and organs so that my soul can continue grow and glow. I tell my lungs how grateful I am that they are able to take deep, cleaning gulps of air. True, my legs may be short but they carry me everywhere I want to go. I thank them for that.

Fourth, when I look in the mirror, I tell myself how grateful I am for my perfectly engineered body.

As a writer I know the importance of “showing, not telling.” By doing these little things, I am showing by body how much I love it. In return, it will continue to love me back.

So, instead of bitching and moaning about what your body cannot do, turn that thinking towards the light: tell your body how thankful you are for what it can do. Maybe your legs don’t move as well as they once did, but they still move! They’re doing the best they can. Appreciate their effort. Perhaps you can’t run a marathon, but at least you can walk. Show gratitude for that. Instead of losing weight to look good, get rid of those extra pounds to help your body not work so hard.

Body and soul work hand-in-hand.

Love yourself for that very reason.

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The Power of Music

William Congreve said, “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast (sometimes beast), to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”

Sometimes I wax philosophical, usually after a couple of drinks. There are times, however, I get deep without the aid of good bourbon and in the most unlikely places. For example, Monday morning driving to work.

I’m not a morning person. Never have been. Never will be. If I could work 10-5 and get paid for 8 hours, I would be in seventh heaven. Alas, my employer isn’t as enlightened, so I am on the road at 7:30 more grumpy than any cat could ever imagine. Road rage runs amok. My brow tightens into a frown so intense it hurts. I swear at the radio. I bitch and complain out loud to no one. I am not a happy camper nor do I wish to pretend that I am. Then it happens. A song comes on the radio that instantaneously calms my soul.

I marvel at the power of music.

“What’s the deal, God?” I asked. Understand, God and I are great buddies. I ask him many things, because, after all, inquiring minds want to know. In addition, my curiosity keeps Him on his toes. Sometimes He answers, but secretly I think He finds great amusement in most of my inquires and is more-than-likely chuckling into his morning coffee. This morning, He didn’t answer right away so I re-phrased the question.

“Did you plan it this way, God? When you created all that is, did your blueprints include notes, beats, treble clefs, harmonies, major and minor keys, or did you throw Man into the mix and say, “Let them figure it out? If the latter is true, how proud you must be! You must wonder at times, ‘What’s the deal with Man?’ I mean, we are capable of such hatred and violence, it must break your heart. Yet the flip side is just as true. Man paints beautiful pictures. Man’s written words inspire and motivate. Man writes music that transcends the soul. So, I ask again. Did you plan it that way?”

Another thing you must understand, when God talks to me, it’s in my own voice. It’s a more powerful, authoritative voice that comes swift and silent, but it’s still me. I don’t need to wonder about this. The answer came to me one philosophical late night with Jack Daniels on my breath. It’s because I’m made in His image which means my higher self is Godlike, thus His voice is mine. Too deep for y’all? Drink a shot of bourbon, it really helps. Anyway, His answer comes in a still, small voice:

“Ruthie.” (He has always called me Ruthie.) “Ruthie, you knew the answer before it was asked. Mothers sing to babies in the womb, rock them to sleep with soothing lullabies. Didn’t you sing hymns to your dying cat? Music inspires. Music calms. Can bring tears to your eyes and memories to mind. Music says things the heart feels that the tongue can never explain. Music inspires, invigorates, and motivates, transcends the soul to higher realms.

“Music is love. So am I. Anymore questions?”

I am a writer. Music plays an important part in my writing process. When searching for descriptions of certain emotions or deeper internalization, I put-in a favorite CD. Beautiful soft, moving music soothes my inner beast, quiets the mind, wraps my soul in tranquil, harmonious peace, and the words flow.

So, did God really plan all of this? Hmm . . . what do you think?

But, seriously God. Rap? What were you thinking?

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Be the Oak

Y’all know that saying: “If it’s too loud, you’re too old?” Well, if this is true, then I’m ancient.

A few days ago the chaos in the office wore my nerves to a frazzle: phones ringing, office doors slamming, co-worker’s voices raised in frustration, edged with sarcasm and aggravation. I looked forward to the peace and quiet of my lunch hour sitting outside. However, this temporary “cone of silence” was not to be. Train horn’s blared. 18-Wheeler’s screeched. Siren’s wailed. Builder’s drills drilled, saws screamed, and hammers pounded. “Calgon take me away!” My stomach tightened. Teeth clenched. I struggled to keep from curling into a fetal position. In the midst all of his racket, it dawned on me crystal clear: little wonder why people are constantly stressed. Why so many are on edge and hateful. Why there is so little God=like behavior toward their fellow man:

They can not hear God’s still, small voice.

In the spirit of self=preservation, I turned my back on this Demon of Turmoil and walked away.

I walked for three blocks. I paused under giant Oaks and Maples, looked up, and marveled at their strength, their greenness; their majesty. I shut my eyes and listened as the wind spoke to hundreds of leaves not in a loud, demanding voice, but a rather a soft, gentle swaying. I heard the robin’s cheep, the Cardinal’s chirps, the blue-jay’s thief. I felt the warmth of the sun on my back defrosting the air-conditioned freeze. My heart-rate slowed. Calmness blanketed my shoulders.

I walked on.

Wind chimes tinkled on porches. Water gurgled in Koi ponds and small fountains. A soft meow from a lazy house-cat greeted me as I rounded the corner. I began to hum. To smile. I stopped and smelled the roses—literally.

My ears swam in golden silence.

I returned to my desk in a tranquil state. The harshness of a man-made, dog-eat-dog, rush-rush, money-hungry environment tried to destroy my stoned-like mood one piece at at time. I defeated it by closing my eyes and picturing the Oak tree that stands in peaceful bliss and whose power and magnificence only needs the gentle breeze to speak loud and clear.

Silence is golden my friends. Drink it in.

Become the Mighty Oak.

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Find Your Neverland

Neverland . . . that faraway place where Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, and the Lost Boys live and more importantly, play. This magical fairyland, ruled by the motto, “I’ll never grow up,” can’t be found on Google Earth or any GPS. It’s not that the directions of “first star to the right, straight on till morning,” are difficult to follow, it’s just that only those who truly believe can travel the star-lit path.

Occasionally, however, (probably more out of pity than any other reason) Tinkerbell sprinkles her pixie-dust over the unseeing masses, the enchanted mist dissolves and the road to make-believe and creatively twinkles for those who dare to take that all-important first step.

This past weekend the opalescent path led straight to Oklahoma City and the OWFI (Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc) writing conference. For a brief wrinkle in time, all was well with the world. No politics. No racism. No famine. No disease. No hate. No fake news.

Cocooned in the glass and water-fountain folds of the Embassy Suites, like-minded people gathered to share their stories, visions, and ideas. Even those who fancy themselves unimaginative caught the fever and began to dream . . . to hope . . . to play.

Play. One of the most important, yet dishonored four-letter words in the English language.

Play stimulates. Play relaxes. Produces laughter. Spawns peace. Clears the mind. Heals.

Play keeps us sane.

Fifty-two weeks (except for nine days) I sit in a cube and stagnate. I’m not alone. Thousands of others are in the same boat. It takes the all-mighty buck to survive, right? Can’t eat dreams. Can’t put manuscripts in the gas tank. Laughter doesn’t pay the light bill, ya know.
Gotta’ work. Work. Work. Some are more fortune than others in the work area. These folks have found that allusive formula where play and work combine to produce both abundance and happiness. I bow to them.

But to those of us who haven’t yet found this blueprint, I say, “don’t despair. Don’t give up. Embrace every opportunity to run and play. Go to that conference. Take that trip.

Dance in the rain. Sing in the shower. Drink bourbon. Howl at the moon. Eat cake. Ride the horses. Kiss the babies. Pet the dogs and smell those roses!”

Find your Neverland.

Oops! Tinkerbell is calling. Captain Hook’s on the warpath. Gotta fly!

Thanks for the memories. See ya next year, OWFI.

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Book Launch for Dixie Dandelion

I love to think outside the box when it comes to promotion, book signings, and book launches.
For Dixie Dandelion I had a painting party at Pinot’s Palette, in Springdale, Arkansas. Pinot’s is a lot like Painting with a Twist. The owner/artist at Pinot’s, James bent over backwards to make this one-of-a-kind book launch a huge success.
For those of you not familiar with Pinot’s, everyone paints a same picture. All the painting supplies are furnished. Drinks, both non-alcoholic and alcoholic may be purchased as well. Everyone listens to music, drinks, and paints. James gives step-by-step instructions.
In honor of Dixie Dandelion which is a young-adult Western, we painted cowboy boots.
Here are pictures:
dixie-launch-1

dixie-launch-2

dixie-launch-4

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