Saturday, April 30, 2011

Intention

“Be all whom God intended you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

--St. Catherine of Sienna, quoted by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, April 29, 2011.

Today, as in every day, my challenge is to put that intentionality in my own heart, and to go about my day seeking to live my intentions. The real challenge comes in opening myself up to be aware of those intentions, and to see the possibilities that lie within each moment of the day.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Today's Choice

Each day offers me the gift to make a difference, not only in my life, but also in the lives I touch. It is up to me, then, to decide what that impact will be. I can choose to do nothing, to be destructive, or to build something that is worthy of my time, and worthy of this unique day.

So what will it be today? I hope I choose wisely.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

April 17

Forty, the calendar says,
and I cannot believe it.
Not all that long ago, you were walking Linda’s dog
after your day in fifth grade,
your smile wide on your face, as you came in for dinner,
music ready on your Walk-Man.

Not all that long ago, you drove your car to school
your senior year, ready to go off to college
and be a radio rock star,
after years of you and Brian running your radio station
in your bedroom.

Was it the next month we helped you move from one apartment to another,
one warm spring day, boxes of CDs, and a couch
up to the second floor, my back sore
for days, but happy you had a better place.

Was it just last year we flew to Reno,
standing beside you as you became a husband,
that fifth grade walking the dog smile
still wide across your face.

Last month, I dropped you off at the airport,
you telling me about work, and your dreams,
serious talk, between father and son, just like
our trips to the orthodontist
not that long ago.

I’m not much older, am I?
Just because the man in the mirror has gray hair
and looks just like my dad,
and I have a son who’s
forty?

Neal Lemery 4/2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stretch Time

My masseuse told me again, the other day, I need to stretch. A guy at the gym who gives me workout advice once in a while said I need to stretch. Yeah, sure.

I hate to stretch. I don’t know why. My tendons get tight, and my muscles crave a good stretch. The older I get, the more I need to stretch out. And, the more hours at the gym should mean that I also need to spend some of that effort into stretching. I see other people do it, but, well, I guess the simple answer is that I’m lazy.

My first task in the morning is to make coffee. From a husband’s perspective, its probably the most important household task I do. More important than picking up my clothes, doing the dishes, or cooking dinner on the weekends. More important than garbage night. It also starts the day going and allows us to be civil with each other as we start the day with the paper and COFFEE.

I always use filtered water, and it takes a few minutes for the water to run through the filter into the pitcher. It doesn’t take too long, and I’ve tried to occupy that time by fumbling through assembling the coffee pot innards and emptying the dishwasher.

Now, though, I’ve incorporated coffee making into my daily fitness regimen. Once I fill up the water filter pitcher, I use that time to stretch. I stretch upward to the ceiling, making my arms, back, and shoulders find their kinks and aches, and work out some of the knots. Then, I work on the legs and the butt, pulling on the tendons a bit, and feeling the resistance of all the tight leg muscles. I finish it all up by grabbing onto my ankles and stretching out my quads.

I’m sure its not a pretty sight, my butt up in the air, or me trying to imitate a flamingo in the Everglades, pulling back on my leg with one hand gripping the edge of the kitchen sink, those tight muscles in the front of my leg aching and pulling. No one is around, thank God, and even the cat has the grace to be eating his breakfast or finding his favorite perch in the living room, so he won’t have to look at my contortions.

All this stretching and moaning doesn’t last too long, and the coffee water moves fairly fast through its filter. Its just a few minutes and I can endure it, I think. I’m not really awake, anyway, and maybe its just a bad dream, before I really wake up and have coffee.

Its good to get the worst of the physical exercise part of the day out of the way early, before I am fully awake, before the caffeine hits the blood system. I’ve made my masseuse and my buddy at the gym happy, and I can actually feel the difference in the old body after I’ve done my gyrations in the kitchen.

And, maybe my cat really is laughing at me, behind my back, as I push my face down close to the floor, close to the toes I rarely get to see, as the sacramental water drips down, ready to be turned into the morning reward for all this work.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Mirror and the Drawer


An empty mirror and your worst destructive habits,
when they are held up to each other,
that is when real making begins.
That’s what art and crafting are.

A tailor needs a torn shirt
to practice his expertise.

The trunks of trees must be cut and cut again,
so they can be used for fine carpentry.

Your doctor must have a broken leg to doctor,.
Your defects are the ways
that glory gets manifested.

Whoever sees clearly what is diseased in himself
begins to gallop on the way.

There is nothing worse than thinking
you are well enough. More than anything,
self complacency blocks the workmanship...

Don’t turn your head.
Keep looking at the bandaged place.
That is where the light enters you.

And don’t believe for a moment
that you are healing yourself.


--Rumi

I look into myself, into the mirror, and sometimes, I don’t like what I see. And, sometimes, there is something I haven’t seen before, haven’t bothered to notice. Or, maybe it has just come to the surface, and I have made the time to discover it.

Each day is a new adventure, each glimpse into the mirror a new event, a fresh look, a fresh start. I am a bit different today, than yesterday. In that journey, I hopefully have grown a bit, and maybe improved with age. And, maybe something new has come to the surface, or I have found the courage to crack open some heretofore hidden drawer or cubbyhole.

Perhaps this is the day I pull open that drawer, and rummage around, taking inventory, discovering some new treasure, or array of junk, something that needs to be sorted through. Maybe its all destined for the garbage, but first, I must see what it is.

The other day, I came upon one of those well hidden drawers in the back of my childhood closet, the drawer pull rusty with time and neglect, the wood warped enough that I had to give it a sharp pull, the long neglected grooves shrieking with the new demands of movement and opening. A swirl of dust danced around my face, a few cobwebs gritty on my fingers, the silky threads dusty and brittle with age.

Inside were memories, long hidden, stuffed away. Yes, painful, sharp, making me gasp, and choke. Grime and rust coated the bent nails and rusted on nuts and bolts, and a bit of my heart blood from childhood splattered over the rusty metal, its once bright red color faded to a dingy black.

A tear ran down my face at the memory of it all, that afternoon so long ago. And, I remembered crying that day, too, crying at the pain and knowing that no one would hear me, or wipe away my tears. That day, I put that pain, that memory, in the drawer, so long ago, and slammed it shut, not able to figure it out. Later, I thought, when I’m older. Maybe, then, I’ll know.

Until today, so many years later, I was finally ready to yank open the squeaky, warped drawer. In the strong light of this morning, I see the rust, and the blood, and the contents of the drawer, soaked with my soul’s blood and my tears so very long ago, on that summer day.

Today’s tear falls on the rust, and the dried blood, and lets me see that junk in the drawer, for what it is, and what it means. The sharp metal now glints again, in the light of this discovery, and I see it for what it is. It has a name, now. Its spell on me lies broken, finally.

I can move on, now. Now that the drawer is open. Now, that the rusty junk is thrown in the garbage, now that the grit and cobwebs are gone, and it is, finally, what it is.

Looking in the mirror again, I can smile at myself. Good work, today, I say out loud. You cleaned out that drawer. You moved on. And, its about time.

Neal Lemery, April 2011

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Day at the Legislature

The room was crowded: lobbyists, attorneys, legislative staff members, and about a half dozen state representatives and a senator, waiting to testify about their bill. The committee’s clerk helped me sign in and filled me in on how the process worked. My bill was last on the agenda, so I had plenty of time to see how all this worked.

The deputy sheriff I’d driven over with looked sharp in his freshly ironed uniform, but a bit out of place, with his pistol, his taser, and his handcuffs. I could tell he’d rather be out in his pickup, driving around the sand dunes, dealing with ATV riders and crushing crime. But, still, he was up for the adventure, of doing something bizarre: going to Salem with a judge to try to make new law.

I had teased him a bit, wondering if the Sheriff had sent him to escort me over here, so I wouldn’t get into trouble and embarrass the county. We’d driven by the state hospital, and we joked about maybe it was really time for my own commitment hearing.

I was a bit out of place myself, wearing the suit I usually only wear to funerals or big events at the courthouse. But, today I was at the Legislature, and I needed to make a good impression. I might be from the sticks, but now I was in the Big City, and sitting here, under the Capitol dome, wanting to change the law a bit.

The last time I did something like this, I was the district attorney. I’d come to Salem to get the Legislature to change the definition of rape. I’d had a case where a woman had raped a teenaged boy. But the rape law then defined rape according to gender, and I had to charge her with a lesser crime. The committee liked my bill, but it didn’t pass that session, as one senator tabled it, along with some other reforms, simply because he didn’t like the other bills.

It was a good idea, though, and sailed through the next session of the Legislature, after that senator had retired.

The deputy sheriff and I walked around the Capitol, looking at the murals and the paintings of the former Governors. We ran into a friend of mine, who is the lobbyist for the justices of the peace, and he gave me some tips on how to testify and present my case. We didn’t see the Governor. I guess he had more important things to do.

The committee members filed in, joking a bit with each other, and waving to a few of the folks in the audience. The chairman gaveled the room to order, and they heard the first bill. The state senator from our area sat down at the witness desk, joined by the mayor of the city where the police chief had been killed a few months ago. They wanted to name a part of a highway in his memory. The mayor’s words were sad, and he choked up a couple of times, remembering a good man, and a tragedy. The committee somberly voted to send the bill to the House.

The next bill was about airspace for drones in eastern Oregon, and asking the Legislature to urge Congress and the FAA to change some of the rules, so the state might attract the drone industry. Well, we seem to have lots of airspace that goes unused, especially east of Bend, so the bill sounded like a good idea. I learned that drone test flights are best about a mile high, and can go up to about five hundred miles on a tank of gas. And, some folks worry that drones will be used to spy on them. But, none of those folks showed up to talk about the bill today. I kind of wanted to hear what they might have told the Legislature.

The next bill seemed a little weird. Weird in that we didn’t seem to need to make any new laws on the subject.. But, apparently, when freeways are built with federal money, there are some rest areas where you can’t sell food or do any other business.

The lawyer for trucking industry and the owner of a big truck plaza near Eugene testified, saying the bill attacked their ability to make a living, and that it would put a lot of folks out of business.

Then, a blind man shuffled to the witness stand, folding his white cane, as he told the sad story of blind folks barely making a living by servicing the limited number of vending machines at rest areas and how they’d all be starved out if the bill became law, and WalMart and Safeway would take over the rest areas. Oh, what an evil bill!

One member talked about not feeling safe at night at the rest areas, and how he was propositioned one night by a guy at the rest area near Baker City, a cowboy town in eastern Oregon if there ever was one. The other members looked at him, cocking their heads, and he stopped his story in mid sentence.

The deputy sheriff and I wanted him to go on, and tell the rest of the story, as it was the best one of the day.

The new legislator who had introduced the rest area bill tried to make his way to the stand again, wanting to salvage his bill that had been strafed and set afire by all the other witnesses. The chairman just looked at him and shook his head.

Most of the folks in the room were there for a bill that would extend a tax credit to the big boys from Hollywood, who came to Oregon to film movies. There was a lot of discussion about how much money movies brought to Oregon and how much it costs the state to have a tax credit. Yet, the committee danced around that for a while, and punted the ball down the field, sending the bill to yet another committee, with a name something like the Tax Credit Allocation Subcommittee, to figure it all out.

The real entertainment in all of this was when one member moved to send the bill to the other committee, but with no recommendation on what to do with it. Apparently, that was a new animal in the zoo of legislative procedure, and the committee agreed to “rest” and go into a huddle to discuss the odd motion.

In a few minutes, the chairman gaveled the committee back to order, and asked the legislator to amend his motion. He amended it and then the chair asked him to withdraw it. He did that, and then all was well. Apparently, that cleared the procedural deck for another member’s motion to refer the bill to the new committee, with a “do pass” recommendation.

My state representative, who had introduced my bill after I’d written her a letter, had sat down beside me and was enjoying the parliamentary procedural snarl. This is her world, and she hadn’t seen that one come up before.

It was finally our turn. The room was noisy, as all the movie industry folks were shuffling out of the place, ready to call it quits and go have a beer somewhere. I was ready myself, but it was time to do what we had come to Salem to do.

I handed my fifteen copies of my written testimony to the committee clerk, and sat down at the witness table with my state representative and the deputy sheriff. He hadn’t planned on testifying, but had told our representative “sure” when she asked him to say a few words. Now, he was really out of his element. Still, he’s an adventurous kind of guy and was ready for another new experience in the life of a deputy sheriff in our county.

We introduced ourselves, and the state representative handed it over to me. I had been told that I shouldn’t read my testimony (three pages on the need to change “and” to “or” in four different places in statutes that talked about dangerous operation of all terrain vehicles and parental responsibility). It seemed a bit mundane now, after all the discussion about drones, and rest area businesses, and movie making. Well, then, maybe not.

So, I summarized, and gave an example of a trial I’d had, with the deputy sheriff, and how the statute was limited, and we couldn’t make the sand dunes as safe as they should be, and why “and” should change to “or”.

The committee members seemed to be pleased that a real judge had come to talk to them. I guess they usually see the lobbyists for the truckers and the auto club enough that talking with a traffic judge was a pleasant diversion. And, the bill was nice and uncontroversial. The chairman was expressing delight we’d come so far to talk with them.

They all liked our idea, but couldn’t vote on it that day. Apparently, the Legislature has a rule that they need to have a “cooling off period” of a couple of days, after public testimony, and then vote on the bill at a “work session”.

The committee ended its work and everyone poured out of the room. It was Friday afternoon and the week’s worth of committee meetings and legislative work was done. No one minded that thought.

In a week or two, I’ll find out if my bill will move on to the full House and hopefully pass. If it does, then it goes over to the Senate and I get to come back to talk to a committee of senators.

Maybe my bill will become law, and maybe not. But, it has been fun to try and to see how the Legislature works, and what their world is like.
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