Finding Beauty in the Dark - Obey the Little Rules

Dear Henry,

One of my dad's biggest pieces of wisdom was to obey the little rules, no matter what.

That simple statement has become one of the biggest tricks in my pain management/PTSD arsenal and one I wish I had embraced much earlier in the process.

What do I mean by little rules?

These are the rules society (whatever society you live in) expects you to live by.

In other words, wash your face, comb your hair, say please and thank you, pay your bills, and above all, never appear in public braless or wearing pajama pants.

I will be the first to admit that following the little rules can be a challenge, especially when I don't feel well, but they are non-negotiable for a few reasons.

Because pain is a constant companion of mine, people always worry about my "state of mind".  People tend to worry less about that if I look presentable, so I do.

Also, I occasionally require special accommodations and, let's be honest, anytime anyone asks for anything outside of the no…

The Shrine of Our Lady of the Ozarks - A Tribute to Our Lady of the Smile

Dear Henry,

I decided to go for another day trip pilgrimage, this time to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Ozarks in Winslow Arkansas.

The shrine is located alongside Highway 71 near the top of Mount Gaylor.  The parish began in the early 1940s after two women Ann Gulliott and Elizabeth Sublett, tired of traveling to either Fort Smith or Fayetteville Arkansas for mass, petitioned to establish a parish for the rural area of the Boston mountains. The building site was offered to the diocese by Clara Muxen, a retired nun and teacher after she had raised the money to purchase an abandoned gas station.

The first mass of the new parish was said on October 25, 1942, by Father Lawrence Schaefer, who traveled in from St. Joseph's parish Tontitown Arkansas.  The church itself wouldn't be built until 1945, with its official dedication by Bishop John Morris occurring on August 25, 1946, although the parish's first resident priest, Father Francis Matkin, arrived in January 1944.

The statu…

What's New - June 27

Dear Henry,

What's new with you?

I had big plans on Monday and was full of all sorts of ideas.  The list was huge and I was sure I had enough energy to conquer it all. 

And, I probably did have enough energy, but I had so many flowers bloom and, well, let's just say that the list of images that need to make it to the shop is growing larger by the minute. 

Speaking of the shop, you should stop by and check out all of the new coffee mugs and other kitchen accessories that have recently been created. 

Despite the distractions, I did get a couple of "big" projects done.  I  finished a post about how I manage pain and PTSD called "Finding Beauty in the Dark - Does Pain Have to Be Ugly?". 

It is in this post that I talk about the beauty of water, and how much it has taught me, and, like the great Frida Kahlo did with her self-portraits, I discovered a way to both express my tears and make them beautiful through the photography of flowing water.

I also discovered …

Finding Beauty in the Dark - Does Pain Have to Be Ugly?

Dear Henry,

Have you noticed that pain isn't ever represented as something beautiful?

Pain is something that we run away from and hide from. We try, unsuccessfully, to carve it out of our lives and it is always portrayed as something disfigured, something ugly.

It took the study of water for me to see how incorrect those beliefs are.

Water has always enthralled me. I love to swim, I love to find hidden springs and water flowing over bluffs and I absolutely love to photograph it. Seeking out beautiful waterfalls and peaceful lakes to contemplate and shoot has gotten me through some of the toughest moments of my life.

That's because water is amazing.

Did you realize, that all of the water currently on the earth has been here pretty much since the beginning of the earth itself?  And, did you realize that with the constant cycle of evaporation and rainfall that a single drop of water has, by now, circumnavigated the globe millions of times over the millennia?

Water is a major com…

What's New - June 20

Dear Henry,

What's new with you?

This week has been an odd one for me, full of surprises and serendipity and I am really glad I experienced it.

For some time, I had been getting requests to write about how I manage my pain and PTSD. 

The decision to actually start writing about it was a hard one for me to make. Mostly because I don't think I have always handled it well, but I also subscribe to the theory that "anything without remedy should be without regard" and since there is no cure for either, there isn't much reason to talk about them, although sometimes (often?) both conditions crop up enough to be noticeable to others.

I decided to wade into the waters when I heard things other survivors were saying. I feel that many get great catharsis from sharing their experiences and I also feel, after reading several of these accounts, that other opinions of "life after a traumatic experience" need available.

I still struggled with writing anything, though,…

Finding Precious Moments, An Accidental Pilgrimage

Dear Henry,

Have you ever heard of the little porcelain figurines called Precious Moments?

The other day, while looking for a road trip that I could actually tackle with all of the current COVID restrictions, I stumbled across information about the Precious Moments Chapel a mere hour away.

I really wasn't sure what that was, but it sounded interesting.

I had vague memories of Precious Moments, the doe-eyed figurines that were really popular in the 80s and I had somehow connected these figurines with the overdone 80s style, floofy weddings, and expected this road trip to be an adventure in kitsch and nostalgia.  I even qued the Wedding Singer soundtrack up for the drive there.

I was so wrong.

The Precious Moments figurines are designed by the artist Samuel J. Butcher and while, yes, the enjoyed a period of immense popularity during the 1980s, they aren't trivial and floofy.  The figurines are angels and the chapel he built is a prayer and I ended up going on an accidental pilgr…

Finding Beauty in the Dark - Can Anyone Cry Job's Tears? (A Tragicomedy)

Dear Henry,

Have you ever felt like your story was just way too much and so you choose never to tell it?

Fish and I suffer from that scenario and, most of the time, we won't tell our story.

Lately though, because of the (obvious) physical limitations imposed by my accident, I have been getting a lot of questions about how I handle chronic pain and PTSD, because, most flatteringly, people seem to think I handle my conditions well.

Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult to talk about "just" the issues I have from that one tragedy because really, there has been far more than that.

I will try to be brief.

Fish and I both had extremely challenging parents. Fish's story isn't mine to tell and I will leave the story of my childhood to my parent's public records (I would never be able to run for Congress, the media would tear my parents to shreds).  I will only mention that this was a hard taint to overcome, for both of us. Terrible parents rarely teach appropriat…