Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Notes from the Couch

I'm on the poofy couch listening to Doc and Lucy play Lego Indiana Jones and Riley reading tongue twisters. The yard has been tended to, but the flower beds are asking "What about us?" And I'm telling them to relax because they now qualify as Jungle Chic.

Here's a summary of my vacation:

  • I love my job, but I think the stress of it all was getting to me. These five days were needed for me to recharge my brain and soul a bit.

  • Buster Keaton's
    Buster Keaton Face
    I've laughed and I've cried...I don't like to cry. I usually can't stop if I start. Doc complains about my "Buster Keaton" face, but sometimes, it's either that or Niagra Falls.
  • Things are tough vis a vis ye olde bank account right now. Doc and I are trying to figure out what to do next. We are definately at a crossroads, which people keep pointing out to us. I'm trying very hard to listen well to advice I'm getting from trusted sources. But any move right now is a risky one.
  • I'm going back and forth wondering if there really is a God or if this is all just some grand accident of chemistry.
  • Riley and I had a disagreement where we both dug in our heels and got mad at each other. But it was nothing a little homemade pizza offering couldn't cure.
  • Mostly, even though things are tough, we are all finding ways to laugh a little, sing some, and hug it out.

So, I get back on the merry-go-round tomorrow. I hope when the alarm clock goes off, I'll find that spring in my step again that was missing last week. I know it's just needed oiling.

Oh, and Riley just said, "By the way, Mom, don't come into my room..." I'm off to investigate.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

FFF #37 - Clown College Commencement Address

As with juggling, the key to life is to keep the procession moving steady and don't look down. There are days when you're not going to feel like putting that makeup on or pulling on your giant pants. But these are the things you are called to do. You've spent four years here in this safe place, testing your abilities and studying the masters. Now is the time for you to gather your glee and set forth into our sad world to spread joy.

And don't be mistaken; people are going to laugh at you. And not just because you're a clown. They're going to say, "Why be a clown? Why not do something more productive, more practical." Artists everywhere have had to face this question. And you must dig deep into your souls and sort through your own internal prop trunk to find this answer.

But we the faculty at Cleveland Clown College won't send you off without a bit of advice on this matter. We have been here for you these past four years and we can give you some pearls of wisdom that you can carry around under your rainbow wig to rely on when you're feeling like your seltzer bottle has lost its fizz.

In these dark days of bubbles bursting, oil spilling, and war, the world needs a pie in the face. And it needs to be delivered by someone who takes clowning very seriously. We need to be the ones to demonstrate the ridiculous so that people can stop being so serious about everything and see the situation as it is. Once we have a laugh together, we can shrug off the sadness, pick up our rubber shovels and get to work making the world a better place.

We need to bring smiles to faces lest the oppressive weight of it all crush the spirits of our collective souls. It is our duty to make farts visible with powder and to apply our acrobatic prowess to pratfalls to lighten up this universe. For if we do not do these things, the doomsayers win and we are left with a world where flowers don't squirt and handshakes are de-electrified and sadness reigns. These bits of whimsy brighten the world a little bit at a time. And if we continue to brighten the world together, the dark forces lose their grip and we can all shake our heads to clear them and face our problems with spirit and aplomb.

Tell those people who shake their heads at you and mock your life's calling that they can go ahead and scoff. They'll be tied to a desk, while you get to see the world, either in small scale at backyard birthday parties or in the Big Tent. You'll rub elbows with acrobats and lion tamers and ride elephants and unicycles to work while they carpool with grumps and drudge away in a cubicle. And you are charged with producing laughter in the hearts of children of all ages.

But the best part about it is to bring hope and happiness in such an intimate and face-to-face way. And hope and happiness are our beacon that will light the way to a better world. You have been prepared by the best and you are ready to pick up this standard and carry it forth. We the faculty wish you all the best and will be here for you as you face the challenges of clowning.

Thank you, Cleveland Clown College Class of 2010. You have strengthened our numbers and enriched our hearts so that we may all face the darkness with our balls in the air.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mirth Finding

So, God bless Some Guy, right? I mean, his exhaustive list of blurbs about the people on his blogroll was really wonderful. It brought back memories of a golden age, when blogging was new and exciting.

When I started blogging, it was scary. I had a really tough job where outrageous things would happen to me but if I talked about it to anyone in a format that could be traced back to me, I'd be toast. But I needed to write and I wanted it public. So, I started this blog and called it "Prone to Whimsy" so that I would remember that this is a place for the fun, silly, random stuff that crosses my mind and capture the small moments in my life that reverberated meaning. Things that floated into my day, dipped down and rested in my hands, then floated away again.

But something happened...maybe Facebook, which is so much more instantly gratifying. It allowed me to flit in and out without leaving much substance behind. I still feel kind of cheap when I reduce one of the meaningful moments in my life to a status update.

But back to this blog. I've always wanted my writing to be personal here. I wanted you to know me. I wanted to share the little things in my life, the marvelously mundane. The tag I use to categorize that kind of thing is "A Day in the Life of Flannery" and the last time I used it was in January. So, that's what, over seven months, right? Seeing Chris' post about me and my blog and reading the comments brought all that back home to me. In particular, my throat caught at this one:

"Flannery is one of those rare bloggers who, after you've read her, you'd run up and hug her on first meet because you just *know* her." - Beth

I was presented with proof that I've done what I set out to do. At least one of the people who reads my blog feels like she knows me. But anyone who has started reading this since Janurary probably wouldn't have the same reaction.

Fortunately, I've had Flash Fiction Friday to keep this blog from going completely defunct. But that's my fiction, not my facts. And while it's become very important to me, I feel a kind of loss for the other stuff.

Frankly, I've been resistant to sharing too much here. As you may know, my husband is going through a rough patch. Well, we both are. And I've circled the wagons, closed ranks. I've had to. What do I share here? How do I sort out my own head? How do I find the whimsy again amidst all this strife and angst. It's easier to just let it sit while I play Bubble Pop Party Island and shut out the world.

Well, I'm back, baby. I'm raising the windows and getting a little air in here. I'm shaking off the dust cloths and refilling the larders.

In short, I'm bringing whimsy back.

So thank you, Some Guy and Beth, for turning on the lights.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

FFF #36 The Visit

"In the distance I saw all kinds of birds circling over something, but I couldn't tell what from where I was."

"Yes," he murmurred, "Go on..."

"I started walking towards the birds...and then I couldn't see them because I was walking into the sun, but I could still hear them. Eventually the sun sank beneath the horizon and I could make out the shape of a ramshackle house."

"I see," he paused, "Did you enter the building?"

"Yes, I did." I replied.

"What did you see?"

"The house was made of pine boards and roadside signs. It was low to the ground and there was tumble weed. It looked very dark in side. In my dream I knew it was my house. I walked in and found the place overrun with drugged out partiers. There was food everywhere and trash. Some of the walls stripped down to the studs and the toilet was overflowing."

"Go on..."

"When I went into the main room, people were passed out and strewn on old nappy couches. I was very angry and I could fee the bile rising to the top of my throat. I turned toward the fireplace..."

"Yes..." he said, leaning forward, more than mildly interested now.

"Well, a fire started and smoke swirled up and then the brick began to melt away and I could see the sun for a moment."

"And then what?" he breathed.

"The most incredibly large owl swooped in, spread her wings and hovered over the fire. And she was briliantly colored, like a mandala of reds, blues and yellows."

"That's it!" he cried.

"That's what?" I asked, startled by his fervor.

"You have been visited."


"I thought that was the case when you came in're aura, it's different."

"My aura?" I asked, blinking at him. My therapist never vered from your standard Jungian stuff; I'd never believed he'd even heard the word aura before. Now he's reading mine?

"Yes," he said, standing up and tilting his head as he looked at me intently.

I fidgeted a bit, uncomfortable under his direct gaze. I don't think we'd ever formally made eye contact before.

"Yes," he repeated, "It is golden..."

"So?" I asked and blushed.

"So, Marina," he said, "A visit from the Mandala Owl...this means that your awareness has expanded and you're psychic powers can be tapped. That she visited you when you were in a state of righteous anger means that you are called."


"Yes, and your golden aura seals it. You psychic vision is clear and you can see for miles. You are integrated...mind, body and spirit and you are ready."

"Ready for what?" I asked, standing, arms akimbo. I was starting to think that Dr. Falk might want to take my place on the comfy couch.

"Marina, Golden Marina," he said, looking at me with a tilted head and a glimmer of unshed tears under each eye.

I blinked.

"Don't you see? Don't you see what a combination like that means? Psychic powers, spiritual protection, righteous anger?"

"I don't see," I replied.

"Ah, yes, but you do see," he said with the smugness of a Zen master. "Close your eyes and let your arms hang loose. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and just breath."

I obeyed. It was dark and I could smell a combination of dust and peppermint. The same smell I'd inhaled every Thursday afternoon for the past three years. My eyes remained closed, but the room lightened. I felt immense pride and hope as I began to see the room, see myself standing with my eyes closed, my arms hanging at my sides and my feet firmly planted on the floor.

Startled, my eyes flew open and I took in Dr. Falk. He was crying in earnest now. He strode towards me and grabbed both my hands.

"Marina," he said, "Thank you...I haven't known the Mandala Owl's presence since your grandmother walked on to the spirit world. I was hoping that you'd have the gift too."


"In time, you'll understand your gift. I promise. But for now, we must start your training. I also need to let the elders know of your return.

"I thought I just had some clinical depression issues you were going to help me with." I said as I slumped back down on the couch.

"Those are side effects of your empathic nature," he said as he began throwing items from his desk into a satchel, "They must be treated before awareness can occur. I had to be sure that was the case and it wasn't just textbook twenty-first century angst."

He stopped searching and zipped up the bag. "Come, Marina, we must go."

"Where?" I asked.

"To meet your destiny."

Thank you to Wellesfan for such a compelling starter sentence!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

FFF#35 -The Inside Job

"I don't disagree with you, but you have to admit, this puts me in a delicate position," Father Willem replied.

Of course it does, you beast, I thought but didn't say. I shrugged and let him waffle there with between the safe limb he created for himself and the tempting fruit I dangled before him. If I knew anything at all about Father Willem, it was that he would always go for fruit he shouldn't take, especially if he believed he could count on plausible deniability.

"It really is rather clever of you, John," he said, turning his chair toward the stained glass depiction of the nativity and steepling his fingers under his chin, contemplating. "We could put cameras in all of the rooms in the school, including the dormitories...sure, it would infringe on 'privacy rights' but those are very much undefined in the charter, whereas it clearly states 'We shall err on the side of safety, always...'" He stood up.

"Just the presence of cameras alone should deter any student-teacher extracurriculuar contacts and that should satisfy the board that we are taking a tough stance on this issue. Besides, we don't want a full clerical inquiry. Of course the Vatican aren't letting the secular law enforcers anywhere near us, for now. But we can't afford to let a tinge of unseemlinees darken our purity. We don't want to encur the attentions of the Bishop; the red tape alone involved with one whispered accusation could set us back years. We have important work, here, John, to educate the Catholic youth and grow the priesthood. Otherwise, what shall become of us and our important role of religious leadership and moral fortitude? Who shall lead the sheep through the valley? Certainly not the Baptists..."

I could tell he was going to go for it now; he never speechified on a topic that he wasn't going to deliver on. Finally, after thirty years, I will have the upper hand over a man who has dominated my life since childhood.

"Very well, Father," I said. "I'll proceed with the requisition then, shall I?"

"Yes, yes..." he said, distracted as he sat back down and turned towards his computer. "Make it happen as you always do."

I stood up and made my way to the large oak door of his office. This office, once a hell for me was now starting to feel more like a hall of justice. I can remember counting the books in here and recategorizing them in my head while he abused me. For a long time, the scent of office supplies would make me vomit. I had to spend my first turn as an assistant pastor in a church so poor, office supplies were the last thing anyone thought about.

Driven by righteous anger, I graduated a the top of my class in seminary and had many offers to join the most influential churches in the country. My choice of such a poverty-stricken parrish surprised my friends and worried my mentors. But I had visited that poor place in the ghetto and I was moved by its sadness that seemed to mirror my own. I also believed that spending time in the trenches like that would bring me a unique credibilty since I was one of the few that had chosen to walk the walk of poverty and help the poorest among us. That way, fat priests whose indulgences made them walk a fine canonical line would find me a good proxy. They could hire me away so that I could bring my humilty and they could somehow co-opt it for their own glory.

This seemed like a fast track to the top. I had learned what the poortest among us needed and I could work the white-guilt of the richer perishes to create conduits of money and resources and point them to my ghetto of God's forgotten children. I knew this would set me up as an important figure, one who would be a jewel in the crown of any parrish. Having been a victim of Father Willem, I took it upon myself to meet him on his own turf as a peer and take him down for good in such a way that it will look like his fall from grace happened due to anything other than child molestation. Then, I'll have access to his network of other like-minded men without alerting them and foment their clerical demise one by one. I had long given up on the idea that the law, sacred or secular, would have the balls to solve this problem between priests and boys. It has to be an inside job.

Little did Father Willem know that I had been spending most of the term with my students talking about the constitutionality of privacy. We had worked over many Supreme Court cases on the subject. I had also spent the first part of every day with them on the Heroes of Civil Disobedience: Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandi, Rosa Parks. They are primed for a revolution. Father Willem will not see it coming as he never counted the students as anything other than his sheep for the taking. And I will walk away from here vindicated and ready to take out the next one.