Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Touching Base

Response to my interview on “The Story” has been gracious and incredibly kind.

Two hours before it aired in Vermont, fear buckled my knees, wondering what insanity had possessed me to expose such business incompetence to so public a forum?! People later complimented my courage, but at that moment it felt like such foolish behavior. Having done so poorly to provide for my family, clients and staff, I should more likely hide my head in shame, especially remembering Dick Gordon’s shocked question, “You didn’t even consult a lawyer?”

At the last minute, I considered the comfort of friends to listen to it (share the embarrassment), but all were wrapped in their own lives in the middle of the day. The interview with the baker I heard while unloading asphalt shingles at the dump, feigning non-chalance. A few minutes later, I pulled into a parking lot over-looking a small pond and quietly pondered my own voice aloof and alone.

We all know our recorded voices sound differently than what we hear so familiarly in our own head, but this sounded even more different than that. I pictured a white haired codger in basball cap, pencil tucked behind the ear, something like (I realized later) Paul Newman in “Nobody’s Fool”.

The editing was fascinating. Technically, they spliced separate sentences together and created a flow out of a conversation that had been somewhat bouncy when it was recorded a week earlier. I was pleased with the coherence.

To me, however, the interview ended abruptly at the bottom of that tar-pit, that forlorn place where the wretched carpenter covers his homeless, shameful losses with a thin shroud of dignified resignation. “We make our own mistakes.” He was no one I recognized. No wonder the calls and emails are so full of consolation and re-assurances.

The second half of the interview, the part that never made it to air, the piece that really excites my interest, is the tale of the man I do know, the man who is taking charge of his life and learning to live with more authenticity and integrity, less desperation for the wrong reasons. Here is a story with a happier ending, a tale of inspiration and enlightenment, something I think is worth sharing.

I have no interest in pity, nor undeserved flattery. My heart appreciates, but does not require, emotional bolstering at this point (but please, folks, keep those cards and letters coming!). Learning to nurture myself, my own voice sustains me right now. My mind explores the mysteries to discover easier paths to reach the resting places each day, always moving forward to opportunities just over the horizon. Glances back on the landscape left behind are for guidance, not instruction.

No over-wrought or deranged ego has forced me to reveal these failures of my business, home and family. Rather, I share the journey with an extended hand, a move, in fact, towards sanity, offering a place where we can stand together in understanding; naked truth allowing us to feel compassion and heal our hearts.

I am so proud of the embraces this foolish bravery seems to inspire.
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Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Tale of Two Kitties

It is clearly the best and worst of times in our family.

Each morning this week, I have checked the website of “The Story” to see if this day will be the one they broadcast my interview on sub-prime mortgages (not yet). Happily, the powers in Washington are beginning to look past their own pocketbooks and realize that direct aide to the people who are losing their homes may be an important medicine for the economy.

Twice this week, my face has appeared on the local page of our newspaper. The missing cannon became a 24 hour hot topic around town as people wondered how such a thing so useless, but precious, could be stolen right out of a neighbor’s yard. With the first article, our grief changed to a glimmer of hope.

Amazingly, the publicity worked its magic and another neighbor called to say they believed it might be resting in a nearby cemetery. My son and I raced to the scene (well, limped, actually, since the poor fellow is on crutches), and gloried in the celebration that something lost has been recovered.

The hooligans apparently lost their will to make mischief about 400 yards up the hill when the 200 awkward pounds of cannon robbed them of their bravado. They abandoned it for the night in the cemetery where it looked like just another monument. When the liquor wore off, I suppose, if they remembered it at all, guilt kept them from returning to and completing their crime.

For us, the discovery was jubilant affirmation that despite swollen knees and broken homes, there is compassion and good fortune in the world. The odd little cannon from my mother’s childhood had stood guard nearly 50 years at my parents’ home. To bring it to my new place at Riverside was punctuation both of closing chapters in their lives, and the re-structuring of our own small family here. Since it also represented the time when it might grace the lawn of my son’s children, the loss colored a landscape bleak, while the recovery inspired fireworks in our heart.

Meanwhile, among the logistical decisions required to divide a home, and the 20 years of belongings it contained, our two cats faced various scenarios of disruption themselves. However much I would have welcomed and appreciated their company in my home (especially the orange haired Mookie who seemed cognizant and sympathetic to my transition, curling up quietly beside me in hard times), my children feared for their lives (the cats’) between my acre of woods and the busy road.

Sadly, from the day of transition to his new home at the other place, my favorite has gone missing. Still hopeful after two weeks that he might just wander back from some long adventure, or arrive at his original home after an incredible journey, we have not adequately considered his loss.

Last night, however, the sweet rapscallion Zahdie collided with her fate, the wheel of a too fast car on a quiet street, and was suddenly gone. It would seem no matter how much we try to control our precious possessions and beloved relations, so much is actually out of our hands. Rarely do we get a second chance. The gifts must be appreciated each and every day.

Through all the tough changes in these past months, my son has endured stoically with good spirit and quiet self-determination. Last night it broke my heart, and was comforting relief at the same time, to finally cry with him.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sounds of Silence Abandoned

Now the piece I wrote on the loss of my cannon has generated a full featured article in our local newspaper.

It was my wish that such publicity might appeal to the guilty parties and bring about the return of the heirloom in my sleep, but I submitted the words with little expectation. In light of the NPR story, it was actually forgotten.

A good friend, meanwhile, confronted me the other day around my revitalized energy towards creativity. Observing me from our relationship with many angles, he probed my enthusiasm with pointed questions that uncovered points of tenderness.

Likening my movements to a cool cat, a cartoonish feline with whiskers, a beret and long cigarette holder, he sensed a façade that really masks a tar-pit of ugly soulful work still to be done. Complimenting my intellect and eloquence, still he challenged me to ask more of myself. Dare to go to places that feel like certain death, he encouraged, and explore the revelations discovered that will eventually fulfill your longings for prosperity and celebration.

Blinded by an emotional exhaustion, I retreated from his doorstep, unwilling to accept this challenge. I have worked too hard in these last months, in these many years. I would rather relish these small victories beginning to come my way.

But the seed once planted...

Another friend agreed that given all the losses, my grief has only partially been exposed and expressed. My external façade shines forth as one of hope, optimism and good cheer, while deeper inside, the murky blood of grief reaches a boiling point and must be stirred to be truly released.

Soon after, I was cheered by an email unsolicited from my sister, saying while she knows I have more emotional work to be done, I am just where I should be right now (loving praise so like my mother's!). My creative energy had flowed freely 30 years ago, a portfolio of successes beginning to thicken. Truth be told, however, how much veracity and depth could realistically be found in the fingertips of one so young, with so little Real Life experience? A firm believer that all happens the way it should, she congratulated me on now speaking with more clarity and knowledge, having lived and suffered some.

I am beginning to understand that this many years of creative retreat cannot actually be blamed on marriage, children and the relentless demand of a construction business. Although legitimate cause for attention, these would not have to be impediments to creativity.

Fear rears its ugly head, caught momentarily dead center in the searching light.

Years ago, in another marriage, with as much distraction, I was still producing stories and songs with a fervor, and risking judgment from editors and promoters with mixed results. Articles were published and I played on the radio and sizable stages back then.

There was, in fact, enough success to make encouragement begin to feel like a Demand. There began to be expectations around the quality. I had deadlines and pieces were returned covered with red ink (literally red!). I was tender, sensitive and gullible enough to read the criticism as if it were an attack. Praised so much as a child, the exposure to these hurts was enough to make me stop dead mid-sentence. Like any child once burned, I chose to not go any closer to the fire.

But the real truth is that I could handle that external criticism. It was my own voice that struck such fear in my soul, fear of its unmined power and depth. Not believing in myself, I silenced myself.

So today, I sing with a voice revitalized, and write with a pen and keyboard that can no longer concentrate on spreadsheets that do not add up, or sign checks with no money. Lessons have been learned. I have loved and lost.

Forgive me, then Dear Reader, if I seem to bask in the pleasure I receive from your generous comments. I use them to arm myself against my own very palpable and ever-present fear that I have nothing worthwhile to say.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

A Tall Tale Told

OK, I’ll admit to having an incredible weekend of fantasy around the idea of my music aired nationally on the radio.

Locked away in my lowly cave, I practiced for hours to get the notes and fingering just right for today’s session. I played sitting down, standing up, leaning back and thrusting forward, changing tempos and reworking phrases. Because, living so long unplayed in its case, my guitar needs serious adjustment, I borrowed my friend’s handmade beauty to better caress the perfect action in hopes of playing the Perfect Tune.

More to the point, I reveled in an emotional bliss, ecstatic, I confess, that my star feels to be rising after so much troubled dark times. Music has always been an outlet of pleasure for me, but beyond gigs in smokey bars and local festivals years ago, never have I truly imagined music as a seriously mountable stage professionally. These last 20 years, I hardly played at all, so this opportunity coming so quickly upon the revitalization of my voice was just too exciting to remain humble.

I let it get to my head.

Imagine then my disappointment when the engineer’s Email arrived to say they were all set for the interview, but would not be recording any music. POOOOOOOF!! I could hold onto the last gasp of hope that no recording was necessary because they were satisfied with the songs I had dispatched after our conversation on Friday, but I knew this was wishful thinking. This is National Radio, afterall. Last week they played Dave Mason on the program, while I am just an out-of-practice amateur from Vermont.

A deep breath of release, and I regained my composure, recognizing that it is honor enough to speak my version of the sub-prime mortgage fiasco. I had a pretty fancy soapbox from which to emphasize the truth that our humanity, our connections to ourselves and each other, is more important than any elevated interest rate or the erratic swings of the stock market.

And, for the sake of drama and good writing, I exaggerate the span of my ego and its deflation. In actuality, I had already been sobered all weekend by the bravery and good humor with which my son has endured the pain of a knee damaged seriously in a soccer game also on Friday. Whatever levels of fortune we may attain in pursuit of our own self-absorbed lives, all falls quickly into perspective when told our child may need surgery and six months of rehabilitation.

I have already handed one drugged and limp toddler over to a surgeon’s care. No matter how grown is my son, that vulnerability of a parent so helpless is no less of an incapacitation. A mighty pen can fall silent contemplating the surgeon’s sword, and no amount of musical accolades could really distract me from the worry.

Still, I exhaled that deep breath of relief and drove to the studio. Dick Gordon of “The Story” patiently asked pertinent and probing questions that stimulated my tale of transformation into this new life. In a sound proof booth, isolated with headphones, surrounded by the reds and greens of the equipment’s blinking lights, I answered his distant voice, and learned more about myself and what really matters in this strange, terrifying and glorious world.

Still, the show must go on, and the story continued.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Time To Tell

Like an alternate suddenly elevated to the Olympic pool, my toes curled over the starting box, desperate not to mortify myself by a false start, I have been longing to make the announcement. Patience has been a challenge, a virtue in short supply as my mind raced ahead to imagine the spotlight that might shine.

And when official word was completely silent for a week, just this morning, I turned to my son to say it probably was not going to happen.

Within the hour of giving up, surrendering the ego in the dream, the producer calls to ask if I can be at the studio Monday afternoon. My sub-prime tale and transformation to the life of a bloggery musician will be the subject of a half-hour interview on NPR’s “The Story”.

And they might actually let me play a song.

This new one (Broken Mirrors) is strongly in the running for me, but when we had talked last week, this much older (but revitalized) song was the one I was planning to play.

Time to Tell

I think it’s time to tell you
How I love your being here
Sitting all together with our faces aglow.
The breath of your good feelings
Makes my worries disappear,
Upbeats the tempo when I’m singing slow.

A fire burns within me
And you fan the flames
That brings the light to the night.
I never want to be in the dark;
I never want to feel the cold;
Most of all I never want to lose you,

‘Cause I’d be hard pressed to know
What I would do without you;
Hard pressed to know what I would do alone.

There’s been days when Life’s been gentle,
There’s been days when Life hasn’t cared,
And days logged in temperatures of mediocrity.
Oh, I could sit on top of mountains
And sing my songs to pure air,
But to only live in dreams is to miss the reality

Of a fire burning within me
Where you fan the flames
That brings the light to the night.
I never want to be in the dark;
I never want to feel the cold;
Most of all I never want to lose you,

‘Cause I’d be hard pressed to know
What I would do without you;
Hard pressed to know what I would do alone.

May the Universe bless you one and all.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Balancing the Unbalancable

On the site Createabalance.com, Stacey has invited bloggers to connect by writing essays on the theme of balance in their personal lives. Here's a little ditty that goes something like this:

Since I was very young, random phrases have struck me as a bolt of lightening or like being covered with a blanket on a cold night. Inspired to explore their boundaries, some of these ideas I have determined to grow into a story or song.

Rarely has this been planned or committed with specific intention. In fact, if ego becomes involved (or the vision of a book jacket arises), the process stutters painfully, or halts completely, and that particular idea is usually abandoned.

Raised in a practical home of comfort and sensibility, however, although artistry was celebrated, I have not been able to dare myself in actuality to pursue this passion with all my heart. My head in the clouds has been balanced by feet on the ground, hands earning a living as a contractor while my fingers ached to strum and type.

Amazingly (and probably predictably), this balance has been most unhealthy.

As construction has often served to put food on the table, for me, it has been only marginally more stable than a life envisioned as a freelance writer. Prone to recession and the whims and satisfaction of clients, it has paid well when it pays and other times suffered devastating droughts of dollars, the roller coaster creating a tension that contributed greatly to the dissolution of my marriage.

Still, a balance was carefully struck between writing contracts and creating stories and songs. While I always anticipated taking time to truly express the creative passions, day in and day out, the choice has been made to renovate and repair homes; my contribution to the economics of the World going round. Music and stories, if they happened at all, happened at night, and after awhile, dried up to nothing. Such is life, I cheerfully lamented.

While I have easily blamed my financial struggles on slow markets, disappointed clients, and the challenges of running an all too (for me) complicated business, I am beginning to understand just how unbalanced my life has actually been. It is a vicious handicap to prioritize an occupation while continually telling yourself you really want to be doing something else.

In these past months, I have been listening to my heart. So many mornings now, I head for the door, only to pause at the computer…and discover 2 or 3 hours later how fast time has flown. If an idea sings loudly enough, I pull to the side of the road, or sit on a bucket of mud, to scribble pages of yellow pads.

Today, I strive for less and create so much more. Instead of running a company building $200,000 additions, I make some money on little necessary projects for people needing the hand. Balancing that physical skill with an emotional talent to organize thoughts out of an ethereal mist, Life is charged with an excitement I have little realized.

Daring myself to be off-balance, I have never felt better, nor been more productive.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Broken Mirrors

Well, I didn't really think it was possible, but apparently there may still be a song or two left in this Old Dawg:

Broken Mirrors
Who was that stranger standing just in front of me?
Was that really someone I used to know?
Shoulders stooped, he was no one I ever wanted to be;
He looked so brave, but I know it was all just for show.
That’s alright; he can come round any night
I can’t really see him anymore;
I can leave him in pieces on the my floor.

Seems like I used to work so very, very god-damned hard
But life didn't get easier no matter how hard I tried;
Love dies quickly when you don’t water the grass in your own back yard;
And pain doesn’t stop just because you’ve cried.
But it’s OK: I’ve learned to keep on anyway
I can’t let it stop me anymore;
I don’t have to keep on keeping score.

Been so long since I stood this free and clear on my own;
Seems like I’ve never felt this strong.
A lion’s roar grows out of the seeds I’ve sown.
You can hear it in this song.
It’s all fine! Sunlight is on my mind;
I don’t have to be afraid anymore;
Love can heal this heart so sore.

Take heart, step into the playful light;
Dare to sing this song at the top of your lungs.
We’ll help each other celebrate days beyond dark night;
Climb the ladder hand in hand each and every rung.
It’s alright! Step into the Light
We don’t need the darkness anymore;
No, we don’t want the darkness anymore.

Once I have my new-fangled home recording software under control, and the words have slithered down into their most rhythmic form, I'll post the actual song.

Editors note: click here for a preliminary listen

Despite beautiful weather and magnificent mountainsides of fall splendour, I huddled all weekend in my home like a hermit, working on several projects. The creative energy is too strong too ignore. One just has to step aside and let it through.

Several times, I was dressed and ready to go forth, yet drifted back to computer and instruments, to polish, refine, play and explore some more, looking up suddenly to realize the days were done. I believe there is nothing special here, simply the willingness to follow my intuition, to listen to silence without judgement, to sit with humor and humility, to feel fear and pain, and notice how easily these feelings can be transformed, put to good use and made into gifts.

To offer them up to you, Dear Reader, is perhaps an act of foolish bravery, but I dare myself becasuse I am equally comfortable with being seen as a brave Fool (typically Shakespeare's most profound character).

For better or worse, each new post rewards me with encouragement (internal and external) to dig deeper and share further.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

The World Goes Round


The word itself sizzles with meaning.

For each and every one of us, there is an undeniable relationship. Whether of ease or dis-ease, or something moderate in between, how we relate to money in our lives is often an enlightening reflection of our life in general.

That this is a global issue, an important factor in the definition of Humankind, has been never more apparent than this week while the world markets quake and shudder around the clock to the nuances of news from all corners. How we, as a world, cope with this opportunity will have an enormous influence on the shape and content of our individual futures.

Often since 911, I have the blasphemous thought of actually missing those few heady days immediately after, when the citizens of the World were united as one in grief and determination to overcome the evil in our midst that had been revealed. The power of the internet was incredible to witness when by that very afternoon and evening, the natural urge for revenge was already being supplanted by the electronic buzz of union.

Wonderful, impassioned essays cautioning against hitting back, pleading for love, understanding and forgiveness, floated amongst the smoke and ashes. The catastrophe, which had shown us the worst in a few people, brought out the best in most people, whether as obvious as the firemen full of fear still determined to climb those tower stairs, or the woman in Iowa who gave a rose to her butcher as acknowledgement between neighbors that we are all more Human than we are Arab, Anglo, or Asian.

Today, as if disturbed and surprised by aliens from Outer Space, we have the opportunity not to panic, but to unite around the world as one people, lending our hand, our support, our money to our neighbors.

After a second World War, the League of Nations was reorganized to become the United Nations, another refinement of the slow process of joining together, that same force which had so primitively (and selfishly) launched Columbus and Marco Polo to explore. A few years later, John Lennon, through music and unashamed LOVE, inspired our imaginations to go beyond the boundaries of our own particular shores and skins, "...and be as One."

This process of passing paper that we call “money” electronically, of fastening arbitrary values comparing one dollar to another yen, and organizing our lives around accumulating more of it in whatever denomination of the moment; this out-moded process does not have to be a crisis.

We have an opportunity to move beyond our imaginations. Let us bravely go forth!
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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Stuff In the Corners

My apartment—like the rest of my life—is so full of clutter and half-packed boxes, it reminds me of the game where one piece must be moved to the open space to make room to move towards another.

The carpet and freshly sanded floors are covered over with boxes piled up, needing to be condensed and stored away for another decade. Each time reopened, a precious story falls out, a trinket outlived, finally to be tossed on, replaced by some new momento with a more powerful luster.

Since the walls of shelves are mine alone, this time several objects long stored away make it back to the light of day. Additionally, there is the added wealth of treasures from my mother’s collection, a bronze purse and sacred (to her) shards of glass.

With little rhymes and lots of reasons, these objects resonate with symbolism for an era, holding their places of honor to remind me of the boy I was and the man I wanted to be. My heart fills when my eyes land on the St Bernard’s brandy cask (she actually wore it at ski lodges), the boomerang (that took 45 years to circle back), the antique carpenter’s plane (that formed the logo for my new business), or my daughters’ artwork. No amount of dust obscures the force of energy these pieces inspire.

Outside, the ghost of the cannon still hovers, marking a place of grief and hurt for all that has been lost in these two years between packing up my parent’s lifelong home and my own of Marriage and Family. Come spring, this spot will be a garden, a shrine seeded with memories and bursting forth in colors of renewal.

Beyond this little oasis slowly transforming from cave to vibrant home, the details shift the open space elusively just beyond my sight. Boxes full and partial still are sorted and ferried from our house to my house, hers, the dump or recycling center. Tasks of complicated paperwork and a simple punchlist distract my attention from the limitless future to be created.

With each box condensed and stored, each task checked off, more light floods into the corners of my heart, even as the leaves burst and drop, and the sun races towards its darkening solstice and the long winter ahead. Music is always at my fingertips now my piano fills half the living room, my guitars hang on the wall within easy reach. A new network of friends are face-to-face, or just a finger-tip away through Emails, entering my home to keep me company.

And at any moment, a glance to the corner shelf, like donning a favorite jacket, slathers that exuberant teen-age boys grin with a St Bernard’s kiss, giant paws on the shoulders, or awes the young dad with his child’s wondering eyes and proud excitement, unquestioning trust.

Zenlike, we are only in the One moment, the Now, but it is colored—like the leaves on this brilliant Vermont crisp morning—with so very much more.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

A Loose Cannon

I was planning to write a blog entry celebrating my cannon and the family value it represents.

That’s right, a cannon; a 300 pound cast iron signal cannon that was taken off a World War I battleship and given in honor to my grandfather.

I wanted to tell you, dear reader, how my mother remembered it in her yard, her older brother allowed to light the fuse to fire it on the Fourth of July. I wanted to tell you all about the patriotism I felt one Memorial Day in my early years, after the parade, when we loaded it into the trunk of my Uncle’s convertible and drove with the top down, John Phillip Sousa blaring, and delivered it to our own yard.

For many years, it was sentinel to our home, central to the games I played with my buddies where the enemy marched uphill towards our cannon. Our Dads never trusted it to fire, but occasionally let us throw fire-crackers down the barrel, which worked just fine for us.

Then for years, it guarded us silently, nearly forgotten until grandchildren rediscovered it and fell all over it again. When they had moved on, ivy grew over it, covering it completely, forlorn and forgotten until the emotional upheaval of moving my parents and selling their home forced us to decide its future.

As the only son, I was tempted, but my wife understandably could not envision the little cannon on the front step of our city home, and I agreed. Once separate, however, I remembered the cannon. My son and I made the trip and happily brought it to Vermont, invested in the tradition, envisioned it someday moving on to his yard and children.

I wanted to tell you how we set it on the hillside, facing out to the river, over-looking the banks where Indians had actually fished and camped. I wanted to tell you the pleasure it gave me to see so many people notice it from the bike path, especially children who I would invite down for a closer look.

It was nothing high-tech and incredible, but it was a cannon, and no matter the age or culture of the male looking at it, he wanted to know if it would fire.

I wanted to tell you, dear reader, all of this with the happiness and pride I felt for this 300 pound funky, quirky family heirloom. Instead, I write with grief because over the weekend it was stolen.

Although it probably had value, I do not imagine it had enough to be worth a man enlisting buddies to help him brazenly steal from my yard. Someone suggested it might have been stolen for scrap metal. Probably, it was college kids on a drunken prank or senseless initiation task.

If they carried it away, they may have grown bored and tired, and tossed it into the woods two hundred yards up the road. If they came back with their car, it might sit on a porch somewhere until June, then be discarded carelessly with all the other junk left for someone else to clean up.

No one will know the honor with which it came into our family, the fun having it gave us, and the pride I imagined of passing it on. It can never be replaced.

I feel so stupid. Many people advised that it was too tempting and should be secured. I considered it, had a plan and even the materials in the basement. Nothing stopped me but a list of more pressing matters and a few leisure activities.

And my indefatigable faith that no one would harm such a valueless and precious object belonging to someone else, and so obviously cared for, grass cut carefully around it. Now, my cannon is gone, sadly, that barn door of optimism gets another lock.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Confessions of a Sub-Primer

I am a contributor to the sub-prime fiasco.

So much blame for the current economic crisis is placed on the shoulders of the mortgages made to people with less than stellar credit desperate to buy homes they could not afford. The rising rate of defaults on these so-called predator loans, it is explained, has shaken confidence around the world, and the entire economic system is on the verge of collapse.

This bail-out package has been rushed so quickly—desperately—to vote, one wonders if taking just a little more time might uncover better solutions. If, in fact, failed mortgages are at the root, why are we not looking at supporting those mortgages instead of bailing out the “evil” men who made them? This answer seems just as poor a decision as the one that made me sign that mortgage in the first place.

In the super-charged economy of pre 911, when contractors had all the work they wanted and not enough labor to get it done, I rushed along, putting unqualified people in place, making mistakes that tumbled my company into serious debt. Unwilling to face bankruptcy, over-confident that money alone would cure the shortfall, equity in my home seemed the best way to rescue my company, the men, and our families we were feeding.

My own credit had been destroyed in the decions to pay bills late instead of borrowing. Taking advantage of “No doc” loans available, we used my wife’s name, supported by my unproven income.

The interest rate was an affordable 6.5% for 3 years. The processor agreed enthusiastically that I could rebuild my credit and refinance by then, and rates were holding steady anyway, unlikely to rise. I even checked the index rate that would trigger an adjustment and was again re-assured.

So with hope and optimism in ourselves and our commitment to work hard, and in desperation to bail out a business on the verge of collapse that could turn profitable on the very next project, we met with the courier, and my wife signed the papers. What I did not see in the pages of fine, fine print--rushed through and signed in under 20 minutes—was that the link had enough points over the index to guarantee adjustment upwards.

It angers me to hear commentators speak with scorn of the people who made such decisions. We, The People, who are leading desperate lives to pay these mortgages of 12% are just as much “Main Street” as the citizen asked to pay for the bailout. In fact, we have to pay the mortgage and our taxes.
I chose this option when it was a rate I could afford, but as payments have risen more than $1,000 a month—money that goes entirely to the profits of the lender--my back has been slowly, painfully broken.

The demise of my business, the dissolution of my marriage, the search for a new career cannot be blamed on the sub-prime mortgage fiasco. The desperation to solve the financial problems was an imposing factor. I am fortunate to be able to sell my house and get out from under this pain. I know there are others in neighborhoods who have lost all value and are forced to just walk away.

Perhaps there could be a solution that simply adjusts these mortgages back to the original affordable rates, and supports those unable to pay that. People remain in their homes (perhaps other marriages can be saved), lenders see fair and modest returns, and confidence is restored.

Very simple, yes. But like a frightened child, I am listening carefully to the arguments and reassurances of our President and Congressionals sitting around the kitchen table late into the night. They want to leverage the perceived equity in our government’s home, and it sounds eerily familiar.
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Friday, October 3, 2008

Off the Hook

I admit it: my phone has been shut-off and there is no money to pay the bill.

Out of normal habits of communication, it makes it hard to coordinate with my son afterschool. I am unable to reach my daughter, even if she did want to hear from me. The anger and hurt of divorce can only be expressed through Emails, or better left in silence.

Work is not only inconvenienced, but threatened. Things are harder to get done, materials priced or ordered. Clients, unable to reach me, will call someone else. All of this makes it harder to get the damn thing turned back on again.

Yet, the quiet has its advantages.

Saying to myself that I want to be a writer creates immediate consequences. Every morning I stop to write a blog entry drives one more nail into the door closing on my construction business. The less time I am out there doing the work on houses, the fewer calls I get for more work. That phone has actually been growing quiet whether I have paid the bill or not.

In that looming silence, my voice rises in tenor and action. I am writing more. While I am home, trusting and waiting for my son to arrive, in that silence, I am casting for ways to get paid to write more instead of imagining rotten homes in need of repair. With far too many bruises and scratches up my arms, a sore back from carrying too much plywood, a lifetime spent openly promising, then secretly wishing I was doing something else, I raise my voice.

This is no easy task: just knowing what you want and the Universe delivering. All sermons on DVDs, at workshops, and on the Internet, the countless editions in the profitable business of self-help books to the contrary, I feel mired in mud up to my waist, trying to move forward, and getting absolutely nowhere.

Panic rises more quickly than my own voice and threatens to drown me out.

Fortunately, there are markers along the way. Each page of yellow pad filled, each entry uploaded punctuates my determination. Each comment graciously given in response to my words arouses more blood to the passion. Daily analytics excite my confidence to see 10 or 20 readers consistently drop by my site, and challenge me to remain confident when I see others with thousands of visitors.

It takes hard work to remember that 2 years ago, the sludge was so thick, over my head, I was smothered, buried in an accelerating mudball rolling towards that same wall through which I have wanted to pass my entire life. No mere determination, no amount of jack-hammers, skilsaws or dynamite is going to break it down.

Only with authentic, consistent, thoughtful and heartfelt steps can I move along it, discover its end, and simply walk around it.

For starters, today, I will have to do what it takes to get my phone back on its hook.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Men Created Equal

When first seeing the list of who planned to attend our weekend retreat, I Emailed back a joke about “…mixing with the Big Guns.”

Since my initiation weekend a year ago, I have witnessed daily correspondences between members on a listserv. In most any new group, like stepping into freezing water, there is a hesitation to immerse oneself fully, particularly hard for me not being a “joiner”.

So easy to imagine others knowing more, fearful of appearing foolish, unconfident amongst such confidence, I still dared to share some short stories and blog entries relevant to men’s issues that were flowing through me. On that forum, trusting the promise that it goes no further than between these men, I even shared the other half, the ugly half, of the reasons for my impending divorce.

Several men I had not met supported me well, and I now looked forward to matching faces to their generous words. Others had familiar faces, being on staff at my training, which I could connect to names, and I looked forward to sharing with them the accelerating events that have so changed my life since that weekend. Largely, I expected to observe quietly, converse modestly, and, in my own corner, reaffirm some of the lessons gained a year ago.

To my surprise, I discovered the power and confidence in each of them burned no less within me. An air of complete equality lay between us all where bank accounts, resumes, and educational credits were completely irrelevant.

In fact, I was astounded to be greeted immediately by my corresponding friends, and complimented enthusiastically by a reader of my Artisan Workshop blog. Introducing myself to others whose names I recognized, it was gratifying when my name sparked similar recognition.

One of the facilitators at my training had just received national recognition and would lead a session in the morning. I wanted especially to connect briefly with him for a little better understanding of my process, if he could spare the time. Instead, I learned—when the Universe delivered my mentor to the bunk below me in a cabin of six—there is no more equalizing lesson than trying to avoid stepping on someone’s head in the darkness of night.

Actually, it made no real difference if these men liked me or not. I liked me. The power came all from within, not from their approval, judgments, or beneficence. There, I was a writer and musician, face-to-face with compassionate brothers, with no stigma of a failed business or marriage. Some men had read this story, and by the end, they all heard me sing it out fully.

A man with an open heart, the power came from deep within, and stayed with me upon my return to my tasks of turning my old home over to new owners and dealing with an economy that bodes badly for carpenters. The timing was perfect to feel strength, and then be so tested here, faltering only slightly as I watched the last remnants of my marriage dumped into the machine to be swallowed and crushed.

Then, wiping away a tear, I moved on.

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