Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I’m not really sure what to call this blog. I considered Finding Family, but it reminded me too much of Finding Nemo. I considered The Prodigals, but how am I to say if the loved ones I have located are the prodigals or I am the prodigal. More likely it’s me… So, let’s just call it Lost and Found. It doesn’t really capture my feelings, but it’s the best I can do.

I must admit that some of my reconnections are due to Facebook. I know that many people have found old friends through the Social network sites. They have their upsides and downsides; but, overall, I think they are positive. At least they have been for me.

There are 6 people that I have been especially close to and have (in one way or another) lost contact with over the years. Close friends, those that are really considered family and those that are really a part of who I am.


The first that made her way back into my life is my dear friend and ex-roommate, Carla Clark. Carla has been so special to me and every birthday, she is especially on my mind as our birthdays are 2 days apart. We used to spend every waking moment together, but as we married and moved away, we lost touch. I remember when we would have an evening of “Champagne and Cookies”. I’d play piano and we’d sing and laugh and cry. What’s great about Carla is not just her absolutely beautiful spirit, but the fact that she always encourages. Not just me, but everyone she meets. Carla is one of those people, like the others I will talk about in this blog, that no matter how long we’ve been apart, when we reconnect, it’s like no time at all has passed. I love her and am so happy that we are once again in each other’s lives.


Joe was pretty much my best friend from 9th grade until my late 20’s. We’ve shared so much over the years. He will email me and say “remember the time?” and I will smile and send him a note back with the same question. I am so fortunate that I love his wife, too. Patti and I had an instant connection when we met. She is funny, beautiful and intelligent. She would have been my friend even had we met without Joe around. When I needed a friend, I would turn to Joe and he was ALWAYS there. I still feel that way about Joe and Patti. We may be 2,500 miles apart, but if we needed each other, we would find a way to be there. I had lost touch with Joe for several years. My mom, however, heard from him quite frequently and would fill me in on what was happening in his life. I “reconnected” with them through Facebook and am so happy I did. It’s like a piece of me that was lost has returned.


Coleen is another that I’ve found through Facebook. Actually, I think she found me. I didn’t know her new last name and was unable to locate her, although I tried. She found me, though. A close friend always will. Coleen and I are so much alike. We are both musicians and would spend hours playing the piano and singing. We even put on shows at Dad’s church in Anaheim. Coleen is also a friend that, when we reconnected, it was like no time had passed. She has helped encourage me during my recent health difficulties and I have tried to do the same for her when her sweet daughter had to undergo serious surgery. She has endured so much over the recent years, including the loss of her beautiful daughter-in-law, who was killed in action overseas. She continues to maintain that positive attitude that is so essential in surviving this world. It makes me smile just to think of her and the times we continue to share.


A very, very important part of my life has been with my “big sister”, Darlene Christy. Darlene always stayed in touch with my folks, but I had lost touch as I married and ended up moving so far away. Darlene was my Dad’s secretary at our church in Portland, Oregon. I was about 6, I guess, when we first met. She was single and immediately became a close part of our family. When I was about 10, we moved to California. Eventually Darlene moved down to Long Beach. She was the big sister I never had. She would let me stay with her at her apartment on occasion. I remember one time in particular that we put on Fats Domino and Chubby Checker records and danced the twist in her living room until our sides hurt. We would fall onto the couch laughing and then get up and start again! She was also never far from my thoughts, but it wasn’t until this past year or two that we began communicating more frequently. Such a joy to have her back in my life!

The next 2 that I have “found” are actually due to the efforts of my sweet husband, Charlie. He knows how long I looked for these guys and he was able to find both of them just after Thanksgiving. I can’t express how happy I am that he was able to succeed at what I had been unable to do for so many years. The parts these two men have played in my life are totally different, but both very special to me.


Peter was my boss at WED, the design arm of the Disney Company. He was the VP of Project Management Support and I was his Executive Assistant. Peter was immediately less a boss and more a friend. He taught me so much about how to navigate in the murky waters of Corporate America. He also encouraged me in many areas and we laughed a great deal. (I’m starting to notice just how important laughter has been, and continues to be in my life.) When I was engaged to Charlie, Peter threw me a Wedding Shower at the office. Not many people can say that their boss, the VP, did something like that.

Peter left WED for a position at Universal Studios in LA. I tried working for the President of WED, but really didn’t like it, so Peter hired me as his assistant at Universal. We had a blast there, too. We used to drive down to the sound stages and watch filming. He is so creative, it amazes me. He also shared his home life with us. When we moved to Virginia, we lost touch. It’s VERY hard to find someone named Peter Alexander via Google. Not a unique name. After moving to Florida to build, open and run Universal Studios Theme Park there, he started his own company. Charlie happened upon it while doing one of his Theme Park searches on the internet. Peter’s company is called The Totally Fun Company. Perfect name. Describes his company and how I always felt about him. We’ve reconnected and will keep in touch now, I’m sure.


Last, but definitely not least, is someone that will delight my entire family. I’m using this blog to let them know about this special person that Charlie has found for us. He is definitely my brother in every way that counts and has never been far from my thoughts for the many years we have been apart. Rodney Noble was a young man with a voice like an angel. He came into our lives so many years ago and became such an integral part of our family that I cannot even remember when he wasn’t there. During one of his searches, Charlie happened upon another old email address for Rodney on the internet. We sent emails, but did not hold out any hope that we would succeed in finding him, or even that it was the right Rodney Noble. The absolute BEST Christmas present I received this year, was a response from Rodney on Christmas Day! We had found our brother! Rodney has had some tough years and we had not communicated in any way for about 15 or more. You can only imagine how long our emails are to each other. We have so much to say after so long apart.

Rodney has been with us in the good times and in several difficult times. He always has been encouraging, supportive and always loving and positive. When I think about those long years when he must have felt he was alone, I want to hug him close and remind him that he has always been loved, just out of touch. Now that he is back in our lives, I know we won’t let him go.

In all of the difficult times that I’ve had over the past few years, the highlights have been finding these people who are near and dear to me that helped get me through. I see some similarities in the personalities of these dear friends: positive, encouraging, loving and the sharing of laughter. I guess if I can share anything with my readers it is to remind you to be the type of person that others would miss terribly if you were not in their lives. Be positive. Be encouraging. Be loving. Share the gift of laughter with everyone you meet. As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, remember that others will have different thoughts, beliefs, passions than you may have. This does not mean that you should be critical, judgmental or negative toward them. Embrace the world with love. You’ll be the one who benefits.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


LANGUAGE WARNING: The following post contains exactly one word (used twice) which may offend, but if you look at it in context, you will see that it is not simply included to shock or offend, but it just happens to be the correct word for that scenario.

I, like so many other entirely weird people in this world of ours, enjoy, among my other annual celebrations of Christmas, seeking out and watching as many different versions of Dickens’ Christmas Carol as I can. There are venerable favorites, like those starring Reginald Owen and Alistair Sim, more family-friendly interpretations featuring Kermit the Frog and Mickey Mouse, and some less mainstream versions which are particular favorites of my family, such as the 1999 made-for-TV version with Patrick Stewart and the musical Scrooge starring Albert Finney. I could go on to explain the vast appeal of this story over the decades and expound on my personal feelings about it…but I’m not gonna. Instead, I’m going to talk about something which is important to the understanding of Scrooge’s story, but which is largely misunderstood by contemporary audiences:

The meaning of the word “Humbug.”

It does not, as many people believe, simply mean “nonsense.” Nonsense has too nice a connotation to do the word justice. Lewis Carroll and Dr. Seuss dealt in nonsense. That’s too playful a word for Ebenezer Scrooge.

Besides Scrooge, one of the most well-known users of this now-defunct word was P. T. Barnum, the great American showman who used the word to describe the…less-than-entirely-truthful descriptions of the performers and attractions he would present to his gullib—I mean, “eager” audiences.

By way of an example: He once sold a cartload of white salmon with the slogan, “Guaranteed never to go pink,” which is actually pretty clever.

The word was also commonly employed by the great magician Harry Houdini who, in the latter part of his all-too-brief life, dedicated his time and talents to debunking frauds and charlatans, such as those who held phony séances and claimed they could communicate with the dead. Practices of this sort were referred to as “humbug” and they angered Houdini to no end. When comic magicians Penn & Teller created a TV series in which they, following in their hero’s footstep, go around debunking frauds, hypocrites, phonies and other assorted liars, they originally wanted to call it “Humbug.” They chose instead a word which is more common in contemporary language, but which conveyed the same basic idea:


You see, when Ebenezer calls Christmas “humbug,” he isn’t merely saying that Christmas is stupid or a waste of time…I mean, he is saying that, but that’s not all he’s saying. Because in Scrooge’s mind, not only is Christmas a stupid waste of time, but everyone else in the world is fully aware of the fact, but that they simply pretend that Christmas is something more meaningful and important in order to get something for nothing or to avoid work and responsibility. To Scrooge, that’s all life is: Work, responsibility, and the accumulation of wealth. And he believes that to be common knowledge which people simply ignore and disguise with false sincerity in order to get away with throwing a party for no reason.

No villain thinks they’re a villain, someone cleverer than I once said, and that is true of Scrooge. When he looks at himself, he doesn’t see the squeezing, wrenching, grasping, clutching, covetous old sinner that Dickens describes. He sees a hard-working, pious, honest man. The only truly honest man in London since the death of Mr. Marley.

So, to sum up, when Fred comes into the counting house and says “Merry Christmas, uncle. God save you!” and Scrooge says, “Christmas? Bah! Humbug!” he is not only dismissing the importance and the meaning of Christmas, but also calling his nephew a liar and putting those who wish to celebrate this joyous season on the same level as con artists who trick people in mourning into thinking they can talk to their dead relatives again for a nominal fee. This is why Fred is so shocked when he hears the word: “Christmas a humbug? You can’t mean that, Uncle, I am sure.”

After all, wouldn’t you be a little shocked if your elderly uncle announced casually that Christmas was bullshit?...well, maybe not, but it's still a great way to ruin a family dinner. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Best Christmas Ever

We’ve had some “good” Christmases and some “rough” Christmases. I know just about everyone has experienced this as well. It seems like it was more important that there were gifts galore when the kids were young. So we would buy the gifts; which just made the tough times even tougher. As I remember it, though, gifts never really made good times better. (Yeah, I almost said “gooder”, but knew my kids would never forgive me!)

I’m happy that the family has grown and I don’t just mean in years. As most of you are aware, Charlie and I are extremely proud of our offspring. All three are intelligent, funny, well-educated, loving, kind, gentle and tough. They are in their mid- to late-twenties, but they have not stopped learning and seeking their understanding of the truth.

This year is probably going to be the toughest we’ve had financially in a long, long time; but, that is not going to ruin the holidays. Not in my house!

I don’t know how many of you have been on Short Term Disability. Receiving only 60% of your pay – before taxes – is ridiculous. I can certainly understand why people return to work before they are truly able. Survival is tough in this economy in the best of circumstances. Having such a large chunk of your income stop at the same time as you are physically and mentally incapable of dealing with the stress of the situation…well, you know what I’m saying.

This blog is going to be much shorter than usual. I just want to say that I believe that the circumstances that prevent you from giving gifts to your loved ones often make the Christmas Season better than the ones when you are able to give gifts. It puts more value on what Family is all about. Not just the love that you feel for one another, but the understanding and support.

I am so blessed. Time shared together is, in my opinion, the best gift of all. This year I get to have Charlie, Lauren, Templeton and Dashiell with me. There have been Christmases when all of us haven’t even been in the same country. Those were the toughest. Hopefully, I will also be able to spend some time with my brother, Tom; his wife, Michelle; and their amazing kids, Dylan, Brenna and Macklyn.

This Christmas Season surround yourself with those you love and stop worrying about where you’ll get the money to buy gifts. You will not only find that you have less stress in your life, but you will find that it is the most wonderful and rewarding Christmas ever!

Monday, November 21, 2011

What Now?

I received some rather disconcerting news at the neurologist last Monday. He let it slip that it was a probability that I would never be able to return to work. Now, I can understand his thinking. I have permanent left temporal lobe brain damage. Damage in that specific part of the brain will cause difficulty understanding spoken words; difficulty communicating verbally; disturbance of selective attention; short-term memory loss; difficulty identifying and categorizing objects; and difficulty recognizing faces and visually locating objects. I also have damage in the occipital lobe. This damage inhibits visual perception and visual processing.

My brilliant nephew, Sean Flannery, posted a video on Facebook that was fascinating and actually helped me to understand the ramifications of my problem. The video was by Dr Iain McGilchrist, a well known psychiatrist in circles where I don’t normally don’t run. In this video, Dr McGilchrist explained how our brain actually works. I’m placing the link to this amazing video here rather than trying to explain it and will wait for you to watch it: http://IainMcGilchrist

♪♫ ♪♪♫♫ - (elevator music playing)

Are you finished? Good. So, Dr McGilchrist is saying that unlike what people believed in the past, one side of brain doesn’t only deal with reason and the other side imagination. The brain is profoundly divided; however, both sides of the brain do (and must) communicate directly with each other in order for us to correctly function.

Very basically, the left hemisphere handles details and the right hemisphere deals with global or the overall world. [I say “basically” because they really do much more than this.]

I especially like the Albert Einstein quote: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant…”

My problem is that the communication between the two hemispheres has been hampered and, in some ways, completely blocked.

I won’t get into too much more detail; but, in a nutshell, I have great difficulty understanding things people SAY to me and, conversely, have trouble making myself understood verbally. What I believe is extremely interesting is that this does not involve the written word. Fortunately, in the era of computers, email and closed captioning, this does allow me to live in a fairly normal manner. What it may not allow me to do; however, is return to a work environment where verbal communication is not only involved, but necessary.

So you may now understand my trepidation, apprehension – actually, downright fear, that I may not be able to return to my job.

Add to this the fact that the brain damage has also affected my short-term memory. So, I often have to read something a few times to fully embed it into my brain. When I write my blogs, I have to read them several times and still need to have someone else read through them to check for words I think are there, but aren’t.

So where does that leave me? I’m not sure. Thus, the title of this piece: What Now?

I’ve had friends tell me: Become a writer! That’s not as easy as it sounds. Yes, I can write, but getting someone to publish a manuscript, in order to actually receive payment for the work, is much more difficult than you would think.

My eldest son, Templeton, is a prolific writer. An amazingly, gifted young man, who has been writing since he was able to hold a pencil and understood the concept (about 5 or so) and has written plays, screen plays, television series, short stories, novels…well, you get the idea…and, as yet, has been unable to successfully get something published. In fact, other than an outstanding Christmas play that was produced during his time at the University of Kentucky and another play that was in the process of being made into a movie by a local group (this didn’t finish due to financial constraints), he has received rejection after rejection. This is something I truly can’t understand. I’m not just stating this with a mother’s prejudicial viewpoint. Many, many others feel the same way.

If Templeton can’t get published, how do I expect to be published with my lowly gift of verbiage?

I feel as if I’m on a threshold. I’m waiting to see what door or pathway opens up to me. I know something will do. It always has in the past. The fear is always in the back of the mind, though; isn’t it? What if I am stuck on the country’s dole? I am only 57. I am aware that to some readers this may seem ancient, but it really isn’t. Not in this day and age.

So What Now? I guess I’ll have to wait and see. In the words of Willie Wonka: “The suspense is terrible…I hope it lasts.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The "Twilight" Moan (By Templeton Moss)

Stories about vampires and humans loving one another are hardly new. In the consummate vampire tale, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the Count falls madly in love with the human Mina, and tries to make her his bride, only to be thwarted in the most anticlimactic final scene in literary history (they stabbed him while he was asleep. Very heroic). In popular culture, this motif was applied most successfully by Joss Whedon when the remorseful Angel (the first vampire in history to have a human soul) falls for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Their relationship, like all other such relationships, is ultimately doomed making it a popular vehicle for tragic romance in modern literature.

And, yes, TV shows count as literature. If a writer wrote it, it’s literature. Especially if that writer is Joss “Oh my God!” Whedon.

But today, in these early years of the third millennium, the vampire/human love story has taken on new life thanks to the pen of Stephanie Meyer who, with her Twilight books and the subsequent film adaptations, has re-imagined the story as a teen-friendly melodrama with action and romance. She has, claim many, taken some unacceptable liberties with the mythos and laws governing the habits and practices of vampires, changing them, through the character of Edward Cullen, into soft, cuddly, sparkly animals who are very spiritual and loving.

Needless to say, these stories have been widely ridiculed by peoples in all walks of life.

I admit, with no small amount of shame, that I too joined in the lambasting of Ms. Meyer’s world and works. My main complaint was the fact that Joss was able to do the same thing without totally rewriting the rules of vampirism and it was excellent writing. As the books are often found on the teen lit shelves at Barnes and Noble, I assumed I would not find the same level of humor and sophistication from the chronicles of Edward and Bella.

But then it occurred to me: Isn’t it totally unfair of me to criticize these stories without checking them out for myself? Of course it is, and I didn’t want to be one of these people who jump to conclusions about someone else’s artistic efforts. I know that if someone judged my writing without at least reading it first, I would feel myself ill-used. So, I recorded a cable screening of the film adaptation on my DVR and sat down to watch it yesterday, keeping my mind open to what I might see and hear.

Again, in the interest of fairness: Here be spoilers.

The film opens with moody outcast Bella Swan who moves from sunny Phoenix, Arizona to a small town in rainy Washington State, which is almost perpetually under cloud cover. There the attractive (if unusually pale) Bella is immediately welcomed into the community with open arms. The first person her age she meets is a very nice Native American boy from the local reservation called Jacob, but he doesn’t go to her school. Luckily, when she does arrive at school, lots of nice kids make friends with her and include her in their group. Putting aside for the fact that, no matter how hot someone is, nobody makes that many friends on day one at a new school, you would think that this would make Bella happy, right?


For no reason that the film explains, Bella doesn’t seem to care about being well-liked by her classmates, loved by her father and otherwise made to feel accepted. Since acceptance is the main ambition behind most teenage action, it is a mystery how these stories have reached such a wide audience.

It is at this point in the story that we are introduced to the Cullen family. Evidently, Dr. Cullen is the patriarch and he had adopted a lot of kids who are all mysterious, pale, and generally unsettle the population of the school (especially as some of them seem to be “together” which, even given the knowledge that they’re not biologically related, is a little icky). The exception is Edward, described by one of Bella’s new friends as “gorgeous, obviously!” This I don’t understand because, to my eyes, Robert Pattinson looks like someone who has just gotten over a terrible, debilitating disease and was then immediately struck several times in the face with a two-by-four. Of course, I’m writing this from a male perspective, so maybe women are seeing something I’m not. In any case, Bella becomes fascinated with Edward, though he seems openly disdainful of her.

After seeing a few examples of strange behavior from Edward, including traits that can only be described as “super speed” and “super strength,” Bella begins to suspect something. Her research leads her to the self-evident conclusion which it nevertheless takes her close to forty-five minutes to reach: Edward is a vampire. She confronts him on this and he tells her the story. How Dr. Cullen is a vampire who, on several occasions since the early 1900’s, has been “rescuing” people on the verge of death by turning them into vampires. This is not easy, as the taste of human blood effects vampires in much the same way it effects sharks, and it takes a lot of restraint to just turn someone, rather than going to town on them like a big, person-shaped juice box.

Yeah, that was kind of gross, huh? Sorry.

Anyway, Edward explains that he and his “siblings” eat only animal blood and never kill humans. “It’s like a human living on tofu,” Edward explains. “It gives you strength, but you’re never really satisfied.” He also takes Bella up a hill, above the clouds, so she can see him in direct sunlight, which is the point where most vampire aficionados (and me) first begin to cry foul…

He sparkles.

In direct sunlight, Ms. Meyer would have us believe, a vampire’s skin sparkles like diamonds. Every other writer in the history of vampires says they turn to dust in the sun, but Edward looks like the front window of Tiffany’s. This, he explains, is why his people avoid the sun. Because everyone would know what they are.

Really? If I saw a dude sparkling, I wouldn’t think “vampire.” I’d just assume he rubbed himself with that diamond stuff from Arrested Development…remember? That body lotion with diamonds in it? Tobias covered himself with it to spy on Lindsay? Anyone? Okay, never mind.

So Bella finds herself hopelessly in love (or what melodramatic teenagers call love) with Edward…Who, in the space of exactly one dialogueless scene depicting he and Bella lying on the grass together, has completely changed. Before he was very brooding and serious, “We can’t be friends,” and “I don’t have the strength to stay away from you,” and “I’m a killer.” Now, all of a sudden, he’s joking about how he’s going to hell and making light, careless remarks about his family of vampires. One is inclined to hope that there is at least a chapter or two in the novel which explains this transformation but which, somehow, didn’t make it to the film. But, for whatever reason, the idea of her new boyfriend suddenly losing control and devouring her is laughed about, despite having been established as a very real possibility.

Their increasingly disturbing relationship continues to develop as only a relationship between two moody teens in a movie can. Meanwhile, Bella’s father, the local chief of police, is investigating what looks, at any rate, like an animal attack. It's not until he discovers human footprints in his investigation that the trouble starts. It just so happens that there is a group of “evil” vampires (led by, apparently, the only black person in the city) who frequently cause trouble for the Cullens. When they discover that Bella is hanging out with Edward and his family, one of these bad guys, name of James, decides it would be a lot of fun to hunt and kill her.

At last! Over an hour into the movie and something exciting finally happens.

So, the chase is on. The Cullens split up to hide Bella and prepare to fight and kill James the Bad Vampire and his girlfriend (which, admittedly, is pretty cool of them to do for someone they only just met). Quite how they decided that a luxury hotel was the most logical hiding place, I can’t say. But, in the end, it doesn’t matter where they decide to wait for the inevitable gruesome death at the hands of a killing machine because Bella is lured out of hiding to save her mother who, it turns out, is in no danger whatever. It was all a trick to lure Bella to her old ballet studio in Phoenix, which looks more like a cathedral than the kind of studio a public school student could afford to go to.

Also, since Ms. Meyer decided that vampires do have reflections (again, in flat contradiction to virtually everything ever written about them before now), it’s unclear why a studio full of mirrors was chosen for the final battle scene, except that the broken glass makes it easy for Bella to get cut and bleed, though the same thing could’ve been accomplished in a rose garden or any number of dangerous locations. In any event, Edward and his family defeat the evil vampire, but not before he gets a bite of Bella. His venom (which is a thing vampires have all of a sudden) is coursing through Bella’s body and she’s losing a lot of blood…

So there’s a choice to be made.

Edward does manage to save her life without turning her into a vampire…for some reason. Personally, based on her previous behavior, I can’t help but wonder if Bella wouldn’t be happier as a vampire. I mean, heck, she’s almost there already. She’s a pale, moody outcast (by choice, mind you), a vegetarian, and she has what is, apparently, the most important part of being a vampire: A bountiful supply of estrogen! I kept hoping Sarah Michelle Gellar would turn up and put Edward out of my misery, but, let’s face it, Xander could take this wimp!

When she wakes up in the hospital, Edward says they have to be apart. He’s obviously been thinking about it for a long time, feels very strongly about it…so, it makes perfect sense that Bella is able to change his mind by saying “No!” sixteen times. I’m not even sure why they included that scene if that’s all it was going to amount to. But Bella and Edward go to the Monte Carlo themed prom (cuz that has symbolic relevance to the rest of the story!) where Jacob warns her about Edward, and there is some fairly clumsy foreshadowing to Jacob’s role as Edward’s werewolf rival in future installments. Then, at the dance, Bella says she will always want to be with Edward and basically agrees with my point from before that she wants to be a vampire. Edward, finally showing the wisdom that comes with his advanced age, refuses to turn her into a monster, but not after some dialogue which could’ve been a watered-down version of about seven episodes of Buffy.

Thus, the movie (and two precious hours of my life I’ll never see again) comes to an end. The events are wrapped up neatly, the story arc is complete, but the groundwork for the sequels has been laid and those who wish to can enjoy many more adventures with Edward, Bella and the other stultifying boring teenagers they are, for some reason, so entranced by. I am given to understand that Ms. Meyer wrote another novel, which is basically this first one from Edward’s point of view rather than Bella’s. I for one would rather see the story from the point of view of Bella’s friends at school who, while not possessed of special powers, or as hot as the two leads, are at least interesting.

The truth is there’s really nothing technically wrong with the story. And the casting is actually ideal. I was also impressed to learn that British actor Robert Pattinson was able to perfect his American accent without coaching. Plus that bit with the apple was pretty cool. It’s guilty of a few “teeny-flick” transgressions, but the same can be said for any drama aimed at pubescent boys and girls who don’t understand Shakespeare because his plays are taught wrong in our schools (which is another tirade for another day). So why am I not rushing out to buy my copy of the sequel and jump on the bandwagon?

Because, while the story works on the most technical of levels, it fails artistically. How much of this is due to the transition from page to screen, I can’t say and, honestly, don’t care. The casting may be ideal, but that’s because the characters are, almost without exception, entirely two-dimensional and thoroughly dull. At no point did they engage me on any kind of personal level and even when Bella was hanging between death and becoming one of the grateful undead (yeah I did) I didn’t really care one way or the other. Call me old-fashioned, but I feel that, at the very least, a writer should see to it that the audience cares whether the good guy lives or dies.

Also, and I realize that I’m not exactly an expert on the mythology of the vampire—I’ve seen the movies and read the stories, but I haven’t made what could be called an “exhaustive” study of the—but I’m more than usually certain that, if there were such a thing as vampires, they would not play freaking baseball!!

In conclusion, the movie was not as terrible as I was expecting, but still pretty awful. On the other hand, that’s all it is: A bad movie. It’s not exactly dangerous, and, if anything, it might encourage young people to read and seek out more vampire stories (like the oft-cited and infinitely superior Buffy, for example). And, as Craig Ferguson so wisely said on his TV show lately, he’s done getting mad at stuff that’s not for him. At twenty-seven, I’m outside the scope of these stories’ target audience, so I can’t get too pissed off about them (though, as this essay will show, I have no trouble getting sarcastic). If dumb teenage girls (cuz, let’s face it, you won’t see this book in too many football players’ lockers) want to waste their time on these stories, I’m just going to have to live with that, and hope that they’ll grow out of the “I kissed a vampire and I liked it” phase as they get older. The best way I, as an artist in my own right, can fight this wave of highly-acclaimed mediocrity is to keep producing quality fiction, as I do every week at my own site, “Once Upon a Time and Long Ago.”

I know, maybe fairy tales aren’t your cup of tea, but put it this way: It can’t be worse than Twilight!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The One Thing I Know For Sure Is That I Don't Know For Sure

I remember being in my early 20’s and thinking that I knew everything. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that kids in their early 20’s are arrogant and stupid, just that they haven’t lived long enough to realize that it is not possible to know everything. You can argue that there is “too much stuff” to be able to learn everything or that our inability to use all of the brain’s true capacity makes it impossible to know everything. I simply think that we are not supposed to know everything. But, I don’t know for sure.

As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, I believe we are on this planet to LEARN. As that belief implies, if we have learned everything, then what purpose is there to our further existence? And would Mankind simply cease to exist should we obtain “total knowledge” or is there another a deeper purpose to our existence? Maybe we are here not only to learn, but to use what we have learned. But, I don’t know for sure.

Many are disgusted and disappointed in the current common use of the English Language. Words that many would call “expletives,” “rude” or “cuss words,” have increased greatly. As Stephen Fry has written, “There is no right language or wrong language, any more than there are right or wrong clothes. Context, convention and circumstance are all.” Further, he stated in a recent interview:

I’ve never met anybody who’s truly shocked at swearing. Really. They’re only shocked on behalf of other people. Well, that’s preposterous. Or they say it’s not necessary. As if that should stop one doing it. It’s not necessary to have colored socks. It’s not necessary for this cushion to be here. Yet, no one writes in and says, ‘I was shocked to see that cushion there. It really wasn’t necessary.’ No. Things that aren’t necessary are what make life interesting. The little extras in life. (

Is it possible that the increased use of such words is just the natural evolution of the English Language? But, I don’t know for sure.

There has been much discussion recently about the end of the Mayan Calendar on December 21, 2012. Will the World, as we know it, truly come to a grinding halt on this date? Does the ending of the Mayan Calendar at that time mean that they had special information? Did they just figure they’d add more dates later and died out before they had the chance? As noted by Dr Karl Kruszelnicki:

The claims for 21 December 2012 cover a lot of ground. They range from 'nuclear holocaust' to 'Harmonic Convergence of cosmic energy flowing through the earth, cleansing it and raising it to a higher level of vibration', and along the way they include 'the death of two-thirds of humanity' and 'the north and south poles will split' - you get the picture.

But there are two problems with this.

First, when a calendar comes to the end of a cycle, it just rolls over into the next cycle. In our Western society, every year 31 December is followed, not by the End of the World, but by 1 January. So in the Mayan calendar will be followed by - or good-ol' 22 December 2012, with only a few shopping days left to Christmas.

And the second problem is that it is always remarkably difficult to make predictions, especially about the future, and things that haven't happened yet. (

Food for thought. End of the world, or 4 more days until Christmas 2012? Maybe it is silly to think the Mayan people could predict the end of the world, but couldn’t predict the end of their own civilization. But, I don’t know for sure.

I am currently (and not surprisingly) taking more of an interest in others who have epilepsy. To name a few: Julius Caesar, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens, Alexander the Great, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Aristotle, George Frederick Handel, Martin Luther, Peter Tchaikovsky, Robert Schumann. Does the “misfiring” of the brain, which causes epileptic seizures, actually awaken areas of the brain that lead to increases in mental capability? I like to think so, of course; but, I don’t know for sure.

What about other “disorders” of the mind? Is it possible that, while they are considered “disorders” or “illnesses,” they are examples of the next genetic upgrade of the human species? Possible. But, I don’t know for sure.

Why do people do what they do? What are their reasons? The Theory of Reasons is a field that Jonathan Dancy, Professor of Philosophy, has developed. As he says, “The theory of reasons has to say something about what it is to act for a reason.” (http://jonathandancy) In his book, “Ethics Without Principles”, he stated, “People do ‘have’ principles, and they do (sometimes, at least) appeal to them in making their own decisions and in judging the actions of others. They condemn anyone who fails to act on his own principles, or whose principles they take not to be the right ones.” Are we correct to judge others whose opinions or actions are different than ours? I don’t think so; but, I don’t know for sure.

To sum up: Let’s listen, rather than speak. Try to understand, rather than judge. Love others, rather than hate. Learn for ourselves, rather than just accept what we are told. But most of all, we need to realize that the ONLY thing we know for sure is that we DON’T know for sure.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Qaddafi Is Dead (by Ragean)

Qaddafi is dead. I have mixed feelings about this statement.

The first report I had of this fact was via an email update from I read the article (written by Julie Mason) associated with it and this statement became etched in my mind:

“The death of the flamboyant, deadly Qaddafi provides a welcome, definitive outcome for US leaders.”

It was the word “welcome” that struck me.

Next I followed a link provided on Twitter from Brit Comedian/Writer/Actor, Simon Pegg, which led me to this statement from a book written by Martin Luther King, Jr., called “The Strength to Love”:

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. So when Jesus says ‘Love your enemies,’ he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition. Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil–hate begetting hate, wars producing wars–must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

A comment was associated with this quote from Dr King’s book that really says it all:

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives; but, I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.”

This statement was written by an English Teacher by the name of Jessica Dovey. Ms. Dovey is a middle-class, American English Teacher. Yes, you read that correctly – an English Teacher. (I bring this specifically to your attention to support a side-comment that most American Teacher’s are underpaid!)

When asked about this statement, which was written after the death of Osama bin Laden, Ms. Dovey further stated:

“I just felt incredibly uneasy after reading the news and watching my newsfeed fill up with shouts of ‘Hooray! The witch is dead!’ I think we should begin thinking about why we are at war in the first place. Is it for revenge? For many, yes. That won’t solve the problem, though, for reasons that were so eloquently stated by Martin Luther King, Jr., himself. What we are looking for is an end to terrorism, right? I don’t know how to create peace, or hope, but I know in my heart that hate isn’t going to get us anywhere. I know that this terrorist is dead, but I know that his ideas are not dead, and that the lies and hatred that fuel them are fires that are fanned by our approach to the situation.”

Further research and reading brought me to a blog writer that pretty much summed it up for me:

“I believe that in the 21st Century, military force and violence is not an effective means of achieving political change. This is less a moral position than it is a political one. Political movements that assume a military orientation tend to be subsumed by battle plan, military exigencies and military order. They lose connection to their principal goal of building a movement and speaking for and to the interests of their constituents. Additionally, the ‘collateral damage’ resultant from the direct engagement of the Imperial militaries tends to fall hardest upon those already oppressed. Imperialism in the 21st Century has refined the tactic of drawing out the battle in which the conflict itself becomes a further weapon of oppression as it becomes the justification for still further oppression. Ours is to evade this cycle rather than to engage it directly.

“I do not begrudge the right of Nations to self-determination up to and including necessary acts of self-defense against Imperialism. I think that most of the greatest political mistakes and State crimes of the 20th Century involved various attempts to manipulate or interfere militarily or otherwise with the natural historical development of Independent Nation States. I think that it should be obvious enough to most people now that these mistakes and crimes carried over into the beginning of the 21st century and are at the root of the situation…at the present time. Rawlin's View (emphasis mine)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not questioning the courage, strength and great sacrifice of our Military men and women. They, unfortunately, are the tool that I feel is being used in the political-economic conflicts that continue to plague mankind. And to reiterate something that I stated in my very first blog, this is MY opinion, to which I am entitled under the Bill of Rights. You may or may not agree with me, which is also your right; and I will defend anyone’s right to their own beliefs.

Again a repeat from my first attempt at blogging: Let’s try to stop the repetition of history and write it anew. Let’s create a world of love, tolerance and respect for all mankind. Let’s stop fighting wars to make other Governments believe or behave as we want them to do. Let’s change the way other Countries feel about America. Let’s change the way Americans feel about other Americans.

And just to show the somewhat ironic side of this story, a tweet I received this morning from Australian Comedian/Musician/Activist, Tim Minchin:

“Bloodied corpse on front of newspapers clearly visible to passing kids. I get in trouble for saying ‘bastard’ on the radio. Funny.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Family (by Ragean)

Family (by Ragean)

Last Saturday evening, my hubby, Charlie, eldest son, Tempe, and I drove the hour out to Lexington to spend the evening with my brother, Tom, and his family.  My youngest son, Dash, was working late and my daughter, Lauren, is in Boston at the moment, so they were unable to join us.  Tom and I live so close to one another, but with such busy lives, we really don’t get to see each other very often.  

I was extremely honored that my beautiful niece, Brenna, and my two gorgeous nephews, Dylan and Macklyn, were there as well.  As I mentioned above, it isn’t often we get to see each other.  Michelle, my amazing sister-in-law made a great meal.  We mostly hung out down in “Flannery’s Pub”, listening to music, watching YouTube videos and chatting.  

What never ceases to amaze me is the way the kids have grown.  Mine are now 25, 27 & 29, and in my mind’s eye, Dylan, Brenna and Mackie are still about 10-14.  Then they walk into the room and I see again how grown up they are becoming, how independent, loving and intelligent they are.  

Being part of a large, loving family is amazing, but at times it can be very difficult.  I haven’t seen Danny, Ginny and Kelly (belonging to the family of my younger brother Tim and his fab wife, Donna) in several years.  I was fortunate enough to see my older brother Greg and his sweet wife Cindy a year or so ago and was able to spend one evening with two of their three sons, Sean (and his beautiful wife, Melody) and Cody (and his amazing love, Cassie.)  Their eldest, Bryan, is living up in Portland with his lovely wife, Lizzie, and the first “great niece” of my life, Jameson.  

Yes, we try to keep tabs on each other, and emails from my mom and Facebook updates do help, but there is nothing like sitting down with them, looking in their eyes and just talking with them!  

One thing that was reinforced Saturday evening is that each of the many members of my extended family is extremely unique unto themselves.  Each has their own, sometimes controversial, opinions and beliefs.  Each has chosen (or is choosing) the path of Life that they are heading toward.  How we can all look so much alike, be so extremely different and yet love each other so much is overwhelming!

I know that the main reason that our family is so close and loving is because of our parents.  My mom taught us all that we were NOT to leave the house or enter the house without a hug and kisses all around.  My kids will still get in very hot water (Dash…) if I catch them trying to leave quickly somewhere without coming to find me for a goodbye hug, kiss and an “I love you.”  

This isn’t really what I would consider a well-thought out blog; but it is a very important reminder to hold those you love close in your hearts and ALWAYS make sure that the last thing you say or do when one you love is hanging up the phone, closing an email or letter, leaving the room, etc., is to tell them how much you love them.  You never know when it will be the last opportunity you have to do so on this Earth and I think you will find that they come back sooner if they know – truly know – just how much you love them!

Let Them Eat Fries! (by Templeton Moss)

My Ma has invited me to post on this blog from time to time on any subject that tickles my fancy. As I have a fairly ticklish fancy, there are a lot of things I'd like to talk about which I just don't get to address in my blog, "Once Upon a Time and Long Ago" in which I write new, funny versions of classic fairy tales, as well as original stories for kids and adults alike. It updates every Friday, it's here on Blogger and that concludes the first of many shameless plugs.

Anyway, as this is my first posting, alduce me to introlow myself: My name is Templeton Moss. I am 27 years old, I haven't worn matching socks in over a year, my favorite current TV show is Phineas and Ferb, my favorite book is "Winnie the Pooh," and my favorite places to be are, in this order, my bed and Disneyland. Some of you may think that this points to a severe mental problem and while that is, undoubtedly, true, it's not really the point I'm trying to make. I believe that all of the world's problems can be traced back to grownups who have forgotten how it feels to be kids. I think reminding people of their childhood is a good way to make them happier, more lighthearted and, therefore, better people. And if we could just scrape together a few more "better people," maybe the world wouldn't be in such a mess. That's what I'm trying to do with my blog every week, by telling stories we heard as children in a new way, it makes the stories seem new and, suddenly, we're kids again.

Or at least that's the idea.

Cuz, let's face it ladles and jelly-spoons: Being a grownup sucks beyond the telling of it! No, really. With the work and the responsibility and having to watch the news and eat salads and wearing neckties and voting and bills and chest pains and all the other little annoyances that make people grumble and moan all day, much to the chagrin of the child inside of all of us who just wants to come out and play every now and then.

And isn't that what being a kid is all about? Playing? Getting out into the world, using your imagination, learning by opening your mind to the infinite possibilities our world has to offer. I promise you, the important lessons I've learned in life, the ones that stay with me every day and have seen me through the hard times, did NOT come from a textbook or a classroom. More likely they came from a game or a cartoon or (time for another plug) a story being told to me by an author, an actor or a parent.

So, I grew up part of the way, but I never gave up being a kid at least some of the time. I work and I meet my responsibilities and I do what's expected of me and I shave and try to stay up to date with world events. But when I'm done with all that crap I watch the Muppets on DVD (sidebar: How psyched are we for their new movie next month?) and play as Princess Peach in "Super Mario 2" (trust me: The game is much better if you only use the princess). Because growing up doesn't mean you can't have fun anymore.

Which is just as well because, more and more, it's looking like our society doesn't want kids to have fun either. Every month or so, I hear some distressing news story or notice something in my town that makes me dysphoric about the life of a kid in our nation. And now that Halloween is approaching, I'm noticing that yet another time-honored childhood institution is being challenged: Tricks-or-Treats!

When I was a kid, on Halloween night, we'd dress up in our part store-bought/part home made costumes (highlights from my own experiences: Raggedy Andy, Goofy, Darkwing Duck [twice] and the Riddler the year Batman Forever came out) and Mom and/or Dad would take us door-to-door around our neighborhood with our pumpkin buckets to collect free candy from strangers; the one night of the year when such behavior was not only permissible, but encouraged. And that's what Halloween was all about, Charlie Brown.

But now, scared parents want to ruin this fun, ever-so-slightly-scary activity with rampant safety precautions: Reflectors and flashlights? Sure, that's not a problem. Always go with an adult? Of course, we're not stupid. Trick-or-Treat during daylight? Wait, what? No! That's no fun. Only visit people you know? Are you crazy? And what are these Trick-Or-Treat parties where you only get candy from six people who go to the same church as you? What am I gonna do with this giant pillowcase full of twelve "Fun Size" Butterfingers?

And it's not just Tricks-Or-Treats under fire. Have you seen Happy Meals lately? Apple dippers? Milk or juice instead of soda? You're at McDonald's!!! If you want your kids to eat healthy, have them stay home and make them a PBJ with the crusts cut off. It's a "Happy" Meal not a "Just Eat It, It's Good For You" Meal. Then I see a Newsweek story extolling the merits of eliminating summer vacation?

Parents, teachers, nosy people: I know being a grownup is hard (in fact I said so just a few paragraphs ago) and I understand that you want the best for the little ones. But the best doesn't always mean rigid, school-like discipline twenty-four/seven. Even in school, kids get recess. Life is a balancing act whether you're ten, twenty, thirty, or some other different number. It's work AND play. It's serious AND silly. CNN AND Spongebob Squarepants. So teach your children, send them to school, prepare them for the job market of the future. But let them have fun on Halloween night. Let them take three months off from school every year. And, by God, let them eat fries! least, every now and then.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Flannery Paradigm - Part One (Ragean)

Just because you sometimes hear voices in your head, or occasionally hear cartoon characters speaking to you, or the “mystical orbs” (that Ghost Experts seem to think are spirits, but are really dust) appear every now and again, it does NOT mean that you are insane.  It may mean you have some slight brain damage or epilepsy (my excuses), but does NOT mean that you are insane.  According to Albert Einstein, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

According to Mr. Einstein’s definition, our Nation (possibly the entire World) is Insane.

I am sure you have often heard the phrase “History repeats itself.”  I believe that it is going to continue to repeat itself until we get it through our collective consciousness that things will stop ending badly when we actually cause things to be improved, be better, be acceptable:  when we change what we are doing!

Having been raised in the family of a Christian Church Minister who was exceptional at sermons, I have learned that the way to tell a story of any type is in a basic format:  Preface, Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Summation.  So, that is how I shall proceed.

Consider this the conclusion of the Preface.

PART ONE – The Beginning (or How My Upbringing Helped to Make Me Who I Am)
I am one of the fortunate ones.  The Family that I was born into was (and is) exceptional:  Loving, supportive, intelligent, kind, forgiving.  Let me give a brief summation of the participants:

My Father – Ragon T. Flannery
My dad was a most unique individual.  He pulled himself out of the hills of Eastern Kentucky, which I can assure you is quite a feat in itself, to become one of the most well-respected, well-known Christian Ministers in the Country.  Before becoming a Christian and subsequently a minister, however, he lived quite an interesting life.  But that’s another story. 

I have two very strong and vivid memories of my dad.  The first is when I was about 9 or 10.  I believe we were living in Portland, OR at that time and he had taken me with him to make some home visits to some of the elderly church members.  He told me that they loved seeing a young, bright, pretty face and that he just liked having me with him.  I also just loved being with dad, so I didn’t mind the cheek-pinching, musty smelling houses, and stale cookies.  Well, not too much. 

As we were between visits on this particular rainy day, we passed through a small downtown street and there was a young woman with her face in her hands, sobbing and running down the sidewalk.  Without any hesitation at all, Dad pulled to the curb, slammed on the brakes and told me to stay put.  He jumped out of the car and approached this young woman.  Standing in the rain in his suit (most memories of dad involve him wearing his business “uniform”) I heard him ask if there was anything that he could do to help her.  She started to turn and continue to run away, but he ran after her.  He got in front of her and simply wrapped his arms around her and drew her close.  She struggled for about 10 seconds, while he spoke softly in her ear, then settled into his embrace and sobbed onto his coat.  After several minutes, he handed her some cash and his business card, gave her a last hug and came back to the car.  We drove on toward our next visitation in silence until I finally asked, “Daddy, what was wrong with that girl?”  He said, “She was lost.”  I smiled and said, “I’m glad you found her.”  He just looked over at me and a huge grin broke out on his handsome face.  He said, “That’s what we’re here to do…find those that are lost.”

My other strong memory of dad from my youth is more personal.  I remember so many evenings when I would fall asleep on the sofa, with my head on Dad’s lap, and the television or radio on.  He would pick me up and carry me in his arms to my waiting bed, lay me down, pull the covers up, kiss me and say soft, “I love you.”  I can admit it now…I was usually awake and just loved the experience…and my dad.

My Mother – “Poochie” Joyce Flannery (nee Smith)
Mom will laugh at my including her childhood nickname in this subtitle.  At least I hope so, because it does fit her quite well.  Mother and Daughter relationships can be tricky at best.  Those of you who are a Mother, a Daughter, or both can understand.  I am fortunate that even through the rough patches, my Mom and I have a wonderful relationship.  My parents met at what was then called Cincinnati Bible Seminary in Cincinnati, OH.  Dad was a Senior and Mom was a Freshman.  The day before finals, they eloped and then came back to take their final exams. 

Those who have never been a part of a Minister’s Household will possibly think my “shaky brain” has me remembering incorrectly; but, there are those who can vouch for what I am about to tell you.  A Minister’s Household is never truly JUST his home and his family.  It is the Church’s household.  At any time of the day or night, people would call, drop by, even stay for weeks at a time.  Now, there are people who get energy from being around others and there are those that have energy sapped from them by being around others.  Unfortunately, I am one of the latter.  Fortunately, my Mom is one of the former. 

I like to think of my Mom as a Hummingbird.  She is tiny, beautiful and in constant motion.  Yes, even at her current age, she hardly ever stops and is involved in many peoples’ lives and those, of course, of her family.  With Dad being so involved in the Church, Mom had to care for me and my three brothers, much on her own.  I didn’t know it at the time, but most people don’t have Campbell’s Tomato Soup and crackers for dinner 3-4 times a week or peanut butter and jelly nearly every day for lunch.  Mom did what she could to keep us happy, healthy and on track.  What made it difficult was one of the things that she loved (and I think at times hated) about Dad:  His generosity to others.  If he had $10 left in his pocket and it was all the money we had for another week, he would give it to someone who he felt needed it more than we did.  I’m sure you can see how this would get on a wife’s nerves.

Ministers don’t make much money.  This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it does me.  I think a good minister is like a good teacher.  They are the ones that are helping people and should be given the financial compensation they need to get by.  I can’t count how many times I heard people say, “You will get your reward in Heaven.”  Believe me, if you are in a position to give your religious leader (or teacher) a raise – DO SO.  They also need the reward now.

Sorry, I’m getting off track on a bit of a rant, so will reign myself in a bit. 

I have many wonderful memories of my Mom and am fortunate to still be making them today; but, in order to introduce her best to those of you who have never met her, I will provide just two.  My Mom taught me how to “hide stuff.”  I don’t mean emotionally, but physically hide stuff!  My kids learned it from me, though we are fortunate enough not to have to do it as often as I did as a child. 

As I mentioned earlier, people were always dropping by the house unannounced and unexpected.  Mom would just yell out, “Hide stuff!”  That meant that the dirty clothes, shoes or toys on the floor, etc., were quickly thrown into closets.  Being the Minister’s Wife meant, to my mother, that our home had to be a perfect reflection of Dad and his work.  Now that I think about it this may have been what made my older brother, Greg, such a good cop in his adult years.  He knew about people hiding stuff and where to look for it! 

The other strong memory of my mother was how I would get up in the night to get a drink of water and find her on her hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor or cleaning the bathrooms.  There were never enough hours in the day for this amazingly hardworking woman. 

She did our laundry, kept the house clean, cooked for us, made sure we did our homework, got us to school and home again, took care of us when we were sick, spoke at any Church function when asked (which was often), was a member of the Church choir and sang solos at Church quite often as well.  At a Woman of the Year award presentation dinner in San Diego a year or so after Dad died, I mentioned that at Dad’s Celebration Service, my older brother had called him “Indiana Jones.”  I stated that I agreed with that assessment of Dad, but that we also had “Wonder Woman” for a mother.  How could we go wrong?  Well, I’m sure we tried on occasion, but we were always lovingly brought back into the Family Circle.

The Siblings – Sub-Part One – Big Brother, Greg, my Hero
My brother, Greg, was born in Athens, KY.  For those of you unfamiliar with Kentucky-speak, that is NOT pronounced like Athens, Greece.  Here in Kentucky, the A is pronounced as a long A, or as if it had an “I” after it as in the word, “Bait.”  This was the location of my dad’s first church as minister and my mother’s first experience living in KY. 

My older brother put up with a lot from me.  I remember making him eat the actual mud pies I made as a small child and following him around everywhere as most siblings will do to an older one.  He never pushed me away or told me to go home.  We are quite different, Greg and I, but I am very pleased that we have just continued to become closer over the years. 

Greg has had a difficult life, but that is not what he focuses on.  I call him My Hero, because of his amazingly positive attitude in the midst of much adversity.  As a young husband and father, he was diagnosed with Hodgkins’ Disease.  I remember taking him to his chemo treatments and having to pull the car over to allow him to vomit.  He was so ill.  I had never seen him weak before and it was hard to see it then, but he would laugh it off and just keep going.  Fortunately, he beat the cancer and has been free of it for many, many years. 

That’s not where his turmoil ends, however.  After beating Hodgkins’, he decided to follow his dream of being a police officer.  It took hard work and much determination, but he succeeded.  He worked his way up the ranks and was well on his way to being the Police Chief of the World (a very slight exaggeration), when he was hit by a little old lady broadside, while on duty on his motorcycle.  He shattered his leg and scared us all quite a bit.  You see, his treatment related to the Hodgkins’ included removal of the spleen, which is the main organ in the body that fights off infection.  He now has a leg full of metal and managed to make a great recovery; again, because of his positive outlook and determination!  But it doesn’t end there.

Greg worked as a Life Guard for a few years when we were living in Redondo Beach, CA, and continues to surf today (despite doctor’s orders, but that comes later.)  Unfortunately, the heavy exposure to sunlight left him with quite a problem with skin cancer.  He has had more surgery removing skin than I believe he has skin.  He may be just walking around like a skeleton, I don’t know for sure, as I haven’t seen him in about a year. 

Greg was, like my other brothers, fortunate enough to have met the love of his life at a very early age.  He and Cindy met at age 16, I believe, when we first relocated to Anaheim, CA.  They have 3 happily married sons and one newly arrived granddaughter.

Ah, but I haven’t mentioned the infamous year of 2009.  While I was undergoing various surgeries, including two craniotomies, Greg decided I was just getting too much attention and, as siblings will do, had to outdo me!  He was golfing with some friends, who just happened to be fire fighters, and had a heart attack.  Fortunately, they knew exactly what to do, got him to the hospital and he ended up undergoing bypass surgery.  Apparently, the chemotherapy and radiation he underwent from the Hodgkins’ permanently weakened the heart muscle.  After the surgery, which (of course!) he bounced back from with the same courage and optimism for which he has become famous, he was told by his cardiologist that he should not do much strenuous activity if he wanted to remain around for more years.  This included his beloved surfing.  As I can attest from seeing photos, he totally disregarded that recommendation and I can only imagine what else he is doing that he really isn’t supposed to do! 

Basically, I guess the reason my big brother, Greg, is my Hero is his positive outlook and strong faith.  I’ve never met anyone like him other than my Mom and Dad.  What an amazing man.  And he is my brother.  What a gift!

The Siblings – Sub-Part One – Younger brother, Tim
I must honestly say that the main thing that comes to my mind when I think of my brother, Tim, is that doors always appear to open for him at just the right moment.  I know that is not always true, though.  I realize that hard work, dedication and determination has made him what he is today. 

Tim and I were both born in Tulsa, OK, where my father’s second ministry began.  We were the two white-haired kids of the eventual four.  We looked so much alike during our college years, that I was often asked if we were twins.  Other than the fact that he loved to pick on me (more on that later) and all three of my brothers share my passion for music, we weren’t that much alike.  Ever since he was a tiny boy of 2 or 3, Tim has wanted to play baseball.  Our Uncle Hal Smith (mom’s older brother) had been a professional baseball player and had, in fact, hit the 3-run homerun in the 1960 World Series for the Pittsburgh Pirates that tied the game allowing Mazarowski the opportunity to hit the 1-run homerun that won the series.  So, baseball has always been a strong part of our family. 

I have pictures and vividly remember when, for his birthday present at age 2 or 3, he was given a catcher’s mask.  (Uncle Hal was a catcher.)  They didn’t make them for little kids.  I recall seeing him squat down in the backyard in Portland, put the full sized catcher’s mask on and struggle like crazy not to fall over. 

There was also the time when a policeman came to our door in Portland and very seriously told my mom that he needed to speak to her son.  She asked what about as he was sleeping and she didn’t want to wake him.  He said that apparently he had thrown a golf ball and had broken a window in a house 2 down from ours and needed to be reprimanded.  Mom just smiled and went upstairs to wake up Timmy.  He came downstairs, about 3 years old at this time, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.  The policeman was quite shocked.  Seems like Tim had been throwing some of Dad’s golf balls into the air and hitting them with a broom handle and one connected, breaking a neighbor’s window - two houses down the street!

Now to the picking on his big sister!  As my dear friend, Carla, will attest, Tim would frequently get goofy and decide to just pick the two of us up and put us in the closet.  Once, he “took me out in a double play” on the stairway of our home in Anaheim and I seriously sprained a finger.  (Not a good thing for a pianist.)  Never in anger; just Timmy being Timmy.  I guess it was just his way of showing affection at that awkward junior high/high school age. 

I remember driving Tim and his friends all over the place when they were too young to drive.  One summer in particular, I would go across the street to Boysen Park, where he would just be finishing a baseball game.  He would jump into the backseat of my little blue VW bug and change to his other uniform as I drove him to Fullerton College to play yet another game.  Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time at baseball games over the years. 

Tim was fortunate to meet the love of his life during his senior year of high school.  He and Donna are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year (they were married a few months after me and Charlie.)  I think “fortunate” may be too weak of a word to describe how Donna contributed and continues to contribute to the life of my younger brother.  You see, Tim signed with the San Diego Padres following his junior year in college.  Being a professional baseball player isn’t the glamour that many may think.  Tim was on the road at least 8 months of the year.  Donna was there at the homestead, raising their 3 children, taking care of the things that Tim was unable to handle while working in Baseball.  (Much like that of a minister’s wife, now that I think about it!)

Tim turned to music for solace on those long road trips.  Guitar in hand he began to write songs about his career, his family, his pain – his life.  He has so many CDs now, that I have lost count.  His lyrics touch the heart as they reach those emotions that all people have experienced at one time or another. 

“Retiring” from baseball, after a very full career with the Padres, Tim tried to stay away, but I guess it was just in his blood.  He returned as a minor league coach for the Padre organization and eventually as third base coach for the Major League team.  When his pal (and boss) Bruce Bochy signed to manage the San Francisco Giants a few years ago, Tim went along.  He is third base coach for the Giants now and has finally won the World Series Ring that is the “The One Ring” in that world.  (Sorry, I’m more of a nerd than an athlete.)

While several times in my life I have been extremely jealous of Tim and the opportunities that life has placed before him; as I have grown older, I realize that I was not made for that sort of life and I do feel sorrow for the days and months he lost with his family and the personal privacy that has been so greatly reduced as a result of his career.  I haven’t seen him in awhile.  Seems like we’re always on the other side of the Country, but I miss him dearly.  I even miss the middle of the night phone calls he would make to my apartment while he was in the minor leagues to tell me how he had done at that night’s game. 

One of my most vivid memories of Tim is sitting with mom and me at Dad’s bedside as Dad was leaving this world.  Dad had suffered from Alzheimer’s and prostate cancer.  The end was so hard on all of us, especially mom, in that he often didn’t know who we were or even who he was.  After he left this state of being, Tim called my other brothers.  When they arrived at the hospital, we sat around the hospital bed and sang a few last songs for dad. 

The Siblings – Sub-Part One – Baby Brother, Tom, My Baby
Okay, I know the subtitle here looks a bit strange, but I will explain in a bit.  We were living in Portland, OR, at the time of the “announcement” of the new baby coming to join our family.  Dad made the mistake of telling us that we had the choice of keeping our little dog, Peanut, or having a new baby brother or sister to join the family.  We immediately chose the dog.  I mean, what little kid wouldn’t, right? 

A year or so after Tom’s birth, we relocated again, this time to Redondo Beach, CA, by way of Inglewood, CA.  Dad had started a new business called the Church Development Fund.  This organization, which has since become Worldwide and helps churches everywhere, allowed Dad to do what he had done as a minister earlier in his career.  He would go to a struggling church; lead, teach and invigorate the congregation and community; get a new Church building built; then make sure a good minister came to fill his rather large shoes, and move on to the next needy location.  The Church Development Fund is a financial savings institution.  Individuals open savings accounts, even leave monies to the Fund in their wills, and the funds are used to provide loans to communities to start a church, rebuild a church, and support missionaries, etc.  I’m sure they do much more than that now, but that was the basic premise when Dad first started it. 

As this new venture kept Dad away from home a lot and the money coming into the Flannery household wasn’t as a consistent;y as that received as a full-time minister – Mom went to work.  Not only did she go to work, but she went to work as a Kindergarten teacher at a Christian Elementary School in Inglewood, which was about 40 minutes away in rush hour traffic into the Los Angeles area from Redondo Beach.  (Again, Wonder Woman at work.)  We would wake early in the morning, she’d get us all ready for school, drive through the traffic and after a hard day of dealing with kindergarteners, she would drive all the way home, fix dinner, make sure we did our homework, get everyone to bed, clean the dishes and start on laundry.  Most of the time, Dad was away, so I can only imagine how tough it was for her and don’t blame her at all for accidentally leaving the stove top on after frying up some bacon and nearly burning the house down.  (Another story for another day.)

Tom was just a little guy then and I sort of took him under my protective wing.  When we eventually moved to Anaheim, CA, as Dad had decided that he had the Church Development Fund up and running and wanted to return to full time ministry, Tom was elementary school age.  Mom continued to teach Kindergarten at a local public school.  I was now in my teens (Tommy is 9 years younger than I) and I could drive, so it fell to me to be a sort of surrogate mom, when our mother was either teaching, dealing with PTA stuff or doing her other work as a Minister’s wife. 

I admit that I probably taught “my baby” a lot of things that I probably shouldn’t have, but still love him today as if he were one of my own sons.  He saw every Barbra Streisand movie that came out as I was a big fan; was the only person under the age of 13 to see Cabaret, even though we got a lot of disapproving looks in the theatre; and was my constant “date” for dinner or lunch at my favorite Japanese restaurant. 

I missed out on a lot of his older teen years as I was off at college studying to be a Concert Pianist, which I decided after 2 ½ years wasn’t really what I wanted to do at all.  (More on that later.)

Tom also met the love of his life at a fairly young age.  He was at Chapman College studying Music when he and Michelle met.  They also have 3 beautiful, intelligent, loving offspring.  (“3” appears to be the magic number in our Flan Clan.)

I distinctly remember Tommy asking me one afternoon when he was about 13-14 to show him how to play a chord on the piano.  Never suspecting what that would begin, I showed him by using an old Elton John songbook how to play the simple chords that Elton always uses.  Within minutes, he was playing (with three fingers on each hand) the chords and singing along.  As many of you may know, Tom now holds a Masters’ Degree in Conducting and is teaching others the excitement, beauty and NEED for music in this life.  To this day, I have never heard a more beautiful rendition of Ave Maria or our National Anthem than that performed by Tom.  He can usually pick up any instrument and, after a day at the most, is able to play it like he’s played it his whole life.

Happily, he and his family moved out to Kentucky about 18 months after mine and we are only about 90 minutes away from each other.  We don’t see each other as much as I would likel but with our busy lives, that’s not surprising.  We do keep in touch quite often though, which delights me!

Thus concludes Part One.