Touch

Have you seen the premiere of Touch, the new show starring Kiefer Sutherland? I’ve been a Sutherland fan since his role in The Lost Boys, but I just couldn’t get into 24.

His new show, however, hooked me from the start. Sutherland plays the widowed father of an autistic boy who has a very special gift. He can see the future. Literally.

This is not your typical Medium or Ghost Whisper supernatural drama. Eleven-year-old Jake sees what we cannot. He sees the mathematical patterns in every aspect of life, positioned purposely by the Creator. Everything…EVERYTHING…happens for a reason.

While I don’t believe we will ever comprehend God, I do believe in Intelligent Design. I believe God made us in His image. That’s why I’m so thankful for having a creative soul. I used to love numbers, but a academic scheduling mishap pointed me in the direction of words, and now I write.

I’m blessed to be a writer. The disciples were among the first journalists. Jesus spoke the world into being. Words bless. Words curse. Words are my acrylics, my pastels on the canvas of life. Words change lives.

I’m not so arrogant to believe I have God all figured out. I’m humbled now more than ever. But I’m fascinated by all the mysteries of the world. I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe there is so much more that the mind is capable of doing. God knows. Whether or not he gifts us to be able to use these parts of our brains is up to Him. But I’m not so sure I could handle it if I knew more than I do right now.

Dreams are one of those phenomenon that intrigue me the most. Even when we are not awake, our subconscious takes over and sends us messages. Dreams reveal the answers to questions that perplex us during the waking hours. And the Bible tells us God speaks to us in dreams.

Once I had a dream about a little girl holding the hand of an other brother. The dream was in black and white, and at the time remembered the details. I nonchalantly went to school the next day and told one of my friends about the dream. The look on her face frightened me. She said everything I dreamed about was a scene from her childhood. It was as if I had dreamed an image of her and her brother. Why? I don’t know. How would I have known these things? She grew up in Louisiana. I’ve lived in Tennessee all my life.

Oh, and by the way, the colors of my dreams have special meanings. Black and white always feels “weird,” almost ominous. Colorful dreams are always happy and rarely give me the heebie jeebies like my B&W dreams do. But I do believe God has a purpose in making our minds work this way.

That’s why I think it’s imperative we have a quiet time to listen to God speak. When I have a writing assignment, for example, I can’t always sit down at the lamp top and produce. I usually pray and then let my mind wander and just think.

The other night I woke up after having a movie dream. I’m not a script writer, but occasionally I dream movies. On other occasions as I lie in bed on a lazy Saturday morning, an entire book outline will fill my thoughts.

But this particular movie dream–in color–astounded me. My mind created an entire cast of characters I had never before seen. They each had personalities. The dream had a plot, and there was one particular scene that was hilarious. I woke up laughing.

And yet none of this was real. My subconcious mind created the characters, the setting, the plot, the dialogue, the humor. God made me that way.

I believe there is much ablity within us that we aren’t aware of.  I believe in a spiritual world that’s separated from us by a veil. We are not equipped to see it. But what if God gave some people the gift?

The TV series Touch may or may not have a spiritual twist. The premiere didn’t give me enough to make a decision, but it did evoke thought.

I believe in miracles. I believe in divine intervention. I believe people come into our lives for a reason. I believe there are supernatural mysteries we cannot explain.

I wish I had paid more attention to the stories my grandmother used to tell, but apparently the Bell side of the family had something passed down through them that made them more sensitive to what was about to occur in the future. Frankly, the stories freaked me out as a little kid, and maybe I purposely forgot them. But the Bible does mention discernment.

I risk convincing my blog buddies that I am a true psycho chick, but I will confess to experiencing an “odd” moment in my life. I cannot explain what happened. I don’t know what it happened. But I do believe it was a God thing.

I was in high school. I must have been a senior because I had my own car, an olive green Impala I bought from my uncle. I was driving to a taco party, hosted by one of my favorite teachers. Allow me to stress that this was a G+ rated party in which NOTHING remotely inappropriate would go on. My friends’ band was playing the party, and I was ready for a fun night.

But on the way there, I was stopped dead in my tracks. I pulled my car up to a giant hole in the road. It was if a backhoe or other heavy machinery had dug up the road. There was no passing, no getting through. The dirt was piled up, and a huge pipe protruded from the hole.

I didn’t live far from the party, but I was bewildered. How was going to get there? I pulled up to the pile of dirt and put my car in park. I sat there for a moment and eyed it. I finally put it in reverse and drove home.

My parents were concerned, so my daddy decided to drive me to take a look. We drove to the spot, and nothing was there. Nothing. No dirt. No pipe. No leaf pile that I might have interpreted as a dirt pile. Nothing.

Was I seeing things? I don’t know. Did God send me a vision? I don’t know. Was he keeping me off the road for a particular length of time? I don’t know.

Back during the mid seventies there was a rash of UFO sightings across the nation. Middle Tennessee wasn’t spared. One night my dad and I were in the car together, and we looked up as saw three spheres in the sky, all different colors. We watched and watched and watched, and they went away. No explanation.

This time I had a witness to the strange phenomenon I experienced. Neither of us was the type to seek out weird experiences. We weren’t intoxicated, drugged, or subliminally seduced. We were just father and daughter returning home from a mundane errand.

I believe there is more to this universe than meets the eye. Jesus spoke in parables because He communicates best with us on a deeper level. I believe in order for us to truly understand Him, we must make time to listen and to meditate on His word.

As a creative person, I know that without Him, I would be nothing. And like a little child, I will be, gazing in wide wonder at all the mysteries that surround me. I pray that I never, ever, take them for granted.

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Skinny flowers

I could never work as a gossip columnist or a hard news reporter. I’m too sensitive. I don’t like offending anyone, intentionally or not. I’m also hesitant about dropping names, especially when I know all the interviews I’ve ever had, all the celebrities I’ve ever met, are gifts from God, not rewards. I didn’t earn them.

During the last year I have taken my relationship with God to a different level. I don’t think we can ever reach an ultimate level of intimacy with our Creator. The more we seek, the more He reveals about Himself and about ourselves. Honesty is the key. We can’t lie to God. He knows what we think, how we feel whether we confess it or not. Confession frees us.

I have had a rough year. I have retreated. But I’ve learned when we’ve had more than our minds can take in, we need a quiet place to reflect and to be still. That’s where I’ve been. And in my quiet place, God has not forsaken me. He has sent me flowers, skinny flowers.

“Skinny flowers” is actually a phrase from a song by Three Crosses, my all-time contemporary Christian band. And yes, God came through on that one too and gave me an opportunity to write a story about this bluesy rock band for a national music magazine.

I never dreamed I’d talk to the members, but God is good like that, giving me the desires of my heart. One of my favorite songs is about a band member’s daughter who picks skinny flowers for her daddy, little bouquets of love.

I liked the album so much that I bought one for one of my best friends who had a little girl of her own. Rhonda played the “skinny flowers” song almost every time they were in the car, and little Emily, who is now a freshman in college, could sing every word.

The irony is God recently picked a very special skinny flower for me, one that makes me say, “Wow. Who would have though God was planning this all along?”  Of course, we never know what God has in mind, how He can make anything work for our good.

The little girl in that song, April, is now a beautiful young lady and recording artist with a voice like an angel, and my son Josh just shot  a music video for her yesterday. I never would have dreamed it. What a sweet gift!

I’ve seen parts of the video. It’s beautiful. I’m not at liberty to post anything else, but I can tell you I’ve heard her singing the song at least a hundred times this weekend via video, and every time I have had to stop what I’m doing to listen. The song is a cover tune, but I refuse to listen to the original. April makes me believe the song, makes me live the song.

Who would have thought that God would use the little girl who picked skinny flowers to help heal my grief?

The truth is during my retreat into the wilderness, God has not abandoned me. He has sent me several flowers, all in the form of special people who have changed my life and who have helped me heal.

I don’t know what’s next in life. Everything is changing—and some of these changes are good, exciting. I can’t help but think of the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

I don’t know what will happen next. I do know how I feel. I suppose I’ll just keep climbing in faith. They say never look down when you’re moving to higher places.

Despite my flaws and fears, despite life’s circumstances, I haven’t abandoned God. He hasn’t abandoned me, and the skinny flowers he sends are constant reminders He has a plan. He makes things work out. He knows our hearts. He knows the truth.

So whatever it is that God has me doing, I want to be a skinny flower (quite literally, I’ll admit. I’ve been living the Weight Watchers life, and it’s working!) But more importantly I want to be a flower in someone’s bouquet, a reminder of God’s love. I don’t want to be a rose. Roses have thorns.

I think I’d like to be a rare wild flower like the ones that grow on the May Prairie. We had a few of them to pop up on our land when we lived in Asbury, and they dazzled me with their beauty. I never knew their real names. They were like nothing I’d ever seen.

I think I’m like a wild flower because I’m not typical. I think God places me in the bouquets of people who do don’t conventional very well.

I want my life to have purpose, to have meaning. I don’t care about material riches. I just want my life to be rich, so I invest in people, and so far, thanks to the lovely bouquets God has sent me during these dark days, I’d say I’m blessed beyond measure.

Midnight in your imagination

Admit it. Don’t you wish you could escape reality, just for a moment?

I have. This weekend I faced returning to school, cleaning out my parents’ house, reorganizing my house, and making some other important decisions.

I felt as if my brain were spinning like a cage on one of the old Zipper rides at the carnival.

So I escaped…vicariously, of course, through a romantic comedy, my all-time favorite genre of movies.

I blame my movie adventure on one of my newspaper editors. We were planning the February issue of The Edge and found ourselves making a list of our top romantic movies. We both agreed on Leap Year, and I was determined to watch it this past weekend.

The luck of the Irish was not shining on me though. I couldn’t find Leap Year on any of my movie channels. But I serendipitously discovered another movie called Midnight in Paris that could possibly rank second in my all-time favorite movie list, falling close behind my top choice Serendipity, of course, and giving Leap Year a tight battle for the number two slot.

Midnight in Paris may be the most romantic movie I’ve ever seen. It’s as if someone tore a page out of my journal, tweaked a few details, and turned my thoughts into a motion picture.

Owen Wilson takes the lead role of Gil, a hopeless romantic writer, who pays the bills by turning out lucrative Hollywood screen plays. But he wants to write a novel. He’s written a manuscript, but he has shown it to no one, primarily because his finance Inez (Rachel McAdams) belittles him and doesn’t support his dream.

He wants to move to Paris and walk in the rain and reminisce about the past. Inez finds herself attracted to a pompous know-it-all pseudo expert in everything from wine tasting to art. As Gil grows closer to his dream city, he moves further away from Inez. Their ideas of romance don’t mesh. His imagination fuels his passion. She can’t see beyond dollar signs and prestige.

When Gil takes a midnight walk, his life changes forever. A strange car pulls up beside him, and the driver offers him a ride. He finds himself transported magically back to the Golden Age of the 1920s, where he meets a host of creative artists who re-ignite his own passion—F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Picasso, Dali, Gertrude Stein, Cole Porter, to name a few.

Gil must decide whether to live in the past, to stick with the status quo, or to change his present.

Admit it. If you had the chance, wouldn’t it be great to step back in time to meet the artists who fuel your passion for literature, music, or art? Wouldn’t it be great if that one moment breathed new life into your dreams?

I actually had the chance to do that once, well, kind of. I took a creative nonfiction class for my master’s degree in journalism education through the University of Missouri, and my professor asked us to incorporate all five of our senses as we wrote a piece about a specific place. Back then I hadn’t started my novel, and I was still doing quite a few celebrity interviews. My favorite band was the Eagles, and my chance of interviewing one of the original members was approximately one in a million. But what if I did interview one of them? Where would we meet? What would I say?

I threw caution to the wind and imagined myself in The Troubadour on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. Why? Because that’s where members of the Eagles band used to hang out when they first got their start in the music business.

I didn’t have the money to fly to California, and I certainly couldn’t go back in time. But that’s what I what I wanted to write about, and somehow I needed to get there. I researched the place and its surroundings, including the Italian restaurant next door, and somehow I found myself sitting next to Glenn Frey and Don Henley in The Troubadour, watching Steve Martin on stage, and drooling over the aroma of pasta dishes wafting in from next door.

It was one the best experiences in my life that never really happened, and I remember every little detail, despite none of them being true. That’s why I find it so ironic that a few years later Eagle guitarist Joe Walsh did call me, and we did have a real one-on-one conversation. This little incident just reaffirms my belief that ANYTHING can happen. Dreams do come true.

So if you had a chance to step back in time to meet someone who inspired you? Who would you meet? Where would you go? To what era would you travel?

I’ve occasionally written about creative escapes in my blogs. I’ve spent quite a few weekends in Franklin, perusing the Henpeck Market and eating at McCreary’s. As often as I can, I go to Memphis and hang out in Handy Park and the Memphis Music store.

But when I can’t travel very far away, I find myself in one of the quaint railroad towns like Normandy, Wartrace, or Bell Buckle—Bell Buckle, especially. There’s just something magical about that little town.

I have several readers from all across the nation. If you ever find yourself traveling down Interstate 24 toward Chattanooga, Tennessee, you MUST take a short detour to Bell Buckle. I’ve never had the pleasure of staying in one of the several bed and breakfast homes, but, hey, what a GREAT place for a writer’s retreat. Someone needs to organize it. It might just have to be me.

There’s one particular antique store in Bell Buckle that takes me back to the 30s and 40s every time I walk in. I can’t explain it, but I can feel it. I also like visiting the ice cream shop.

Now that I’m committed to a diet, I probably won’t see another ice cream soda until this spring, but every time I step foot in this parlor I feel as though I’m ready to order a strawberry phosphate or an ice cream soda with Emily and George from Our Town.

To me, Bell Buckle is enchanted. Of course, I’m a tourist, not a local. But you can find me there almost every week, strolling through the town, visiting the boutiques, or simply going for a ride through the country side. It is my escape.

So far I haven’t “met” any of my favorite writers in Bell Buckle although I wouldn’t be surprised in Edgar Allan Poe were to show up. I imagine he and I might speculate about the Victorian houses that appear to be haunted and the graveyard that sits in the middle of town.

Do you need an escape as badly as I do? Where would you go? Who would you meet? Why? When? Give me all the five w’s and throw in the h.

I really want to know.

Last Duck March of 2011

I spent New Year’s Eve alone in downtown Memphis watching five ducks parade down a red carpet. Before you feel sorry for me, let me reassure you I had other options. I could have gone with the guys and watched Vandy take on Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl.

Me and football? Nah. I don’t like football.

I didn’t want to ruin the game for them. Plus, I like alone time. I like thinking my own thoughts, and Memphis possesses just the right ambience for writing.

I had no transportation, a little money, and a notebook. I was set. I found a safe spot at the foot of W.C. Handy’s statue in the park and let my stream of consciousness form words on the page. I would have made William Faulkner mighty proud.

I made the trip to Memphis to rediscover myself. Amidst my recent tragedy, I misplaced my goals, my dreams, my desires. But in Memphis they began to trinkle back, one by one as I listened to music drift in and out of one doorway then another.

The blues has a way of cutting to the core and making people move. You have to do something when you hear the blues. You just can’t be. You have to be something. I searched for what I was.

The first word that came to mind was crazy. My friends warned me not to go alone. They said I’d end up getting mugged or worse.

Nonsense. But a quick scan of a vendor’s wares reminded me how naïve I can be. For five bucks I could buy  a rhinestone Glock belt buckle. If I were in the wrong place at the wrong time, say just a couple streets over behind the Fed Ex, I could buy the farm.

I wasn’t afraid, but I wasn’t stupid either. I set my radar on high alert.

The wind picked up and rustled my pages. It was too chilly to stay outside much longer. I figured I might as well do a little shopping (loosely translated looking), so I headed to the Peabody Hotel to check out the boutiques, terribly expensive but free to browse.

Somehow I found myself in the lobby, awaiting the grand event of the day—The Last Duck March of 2011.

I had heard of the Peabody Ducks, but I never took time to watch them. As the story goes, after sipping a little too much Jack Daniels, General Manager Frank Schutt let loose three live decoys in the hotel fountain. The guests fell in love with the ducks. A former Ringling Bros. animal trainer took the official position of Duckmaster and trained the ducks to walk the red carpet from their pent house abode to the marble fountain and back each day. Thus, a tradition was born.

I am a writer who searches for metaphor, another level of meaning, both in literature and in life. For some reason, The Last Duck March of 2011 stuck with me. It had to mean “something” more than just a one-time event. Where’s the serendipity in that?

So I did a little research to unearth any symbolism associated with ducks. Because ducks can run, swim, or fly to elude their enemies, they are considered resourceful. Celtic legends also depict ducks as symbols of simplicity, honesty, and sensitivity. J.D. Salinger’s Catch in the Rye relies on ducks to convey a message of the motion of life.

But what about me?

Why did I spend an hour at the Peabody Hotel, notebook in hand, waiting, waiting, waiting to watch five ducks waddle down a red carpet to an elevator door?

Oh, it was a grand to-do, mind you. I snagged optimum seating, a red chair in front of the entourage. Children and adults lined the red carpet. Everyone toyed with their cameras, checking the flashes, waiting for the special moment.

The truth is I really didn’t care about the ducks. It was something to do. I watched. They waddled. I left.

It was getting late, so I made my way to Starbucks to finish my writing with the help of a grande three-pump, nonfat, half-caf, no whip mocha. Not that I’m picky or anything.

As I waited for my drink, I cast my eyes on a small table for two. But before I could sit down, some guy staked it out by setting his backpack in one of the chairs. I took a bar seat by the window. It was just as well. I could watch the carriages roll by. I looked over my shoulder. It figured the guy would be a writer. He gripped a pen and scribbled words in his notebook.

Inspired, I took out my notebook and wrote my own words in a frenzy, page after page. Then three street kids walked in. If I had to guess they lived behind the Fed Ex Forum, which is directly across from Starbucks. If I traveled a few streets over in that direction, I bet I could find a real Glock, not like the one with Rhinestone bling on the vendor’s table.

The funny thing was I knew these kids.

These were the kids I had written about in my first manuscript and the incomplete sequel. I watched them out of the corner of my eye. Unbelievable. The characters I created were so real to me I recognized them when I saw them on the street.

That’s when it hit me, and I almost said it aloud. “I have got to get my ducks in a row.”

My metaphor.

The year 2011 was very difficult for me, but 2012 doesn’t have to be, despite what people have predicted. I can choose to make the best of my situation, and if 2012 does turn bad, at least I will have spent my days living instead of hiding.

So if I have one resolution for 2012, it’s to get my “ducks in a row.”

I will polish my manuscript and send it to the agents and editors who have requested it. I will finish my sequel and plan out my other two story ideas that await being written. I will work on my lyrics and take a chance on a few dreams.

I have to get my ducks in a row.

What’s your metaphor for 2012?