Cranberry

Cranberry: (n) a red, acid fruit or berry of certain plants used in making sauce, jelly or juice

 I have gotten in more trouble in my life by pretending to be cool or passing myself off as something I am not than I ever did by just being bumbling or incompetent.

That’s the truth.

I don’t know whether I’ve ever actually allowed that realization to sink into my soul and find a home there and build a warm fire of awareness. I may still be susceptible to wanting to blow my trumpet, even though I actually have no horn.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

But this was certainly true when I was in my twenties and I was trying to get well-known in the music industry. I immediately found that I was surrounded by drugs—mainly cocaine and marijuana—but for those who were not willing to pursue a narcotic, alcohol was the name of the game.

I hated alcohol. I still do.

I don’t hate it because I think people who drink it are evil. It just smells like a hospital to me. And the idea of drinking something that isn’t pleasant to swallow to gain an effect after it’s consumed just totally escaped my reasoning.

So whenever I went out to a party, in order to appear hip, I would always order a cranberry juice and tonic. It wasn’t an unusual request, but it was a signal.

Usually my order of the cranberry and tonic would cause those at the party to look at me with sympathetic eyes and assume that I was a recovering alcoholic.

Now, here’s the damnable part of it.

There were nights that I was so immature, so foolish, so tentative, that I would allow them to believe that I was two hundred and thirty days sober.

I liked it. It gave me power. It made them believe I had a problem, but also had lived a life they didn’t understand, and in some ways, I sat there as a cautionary tale.

It all came to a head one night when a friend of mine who was fairly well known in the music business turned to another gentleman nearby and said, “This is Jonathan.”

Then he leaned in and whispered to his friend, “He’s a recovering alcoholic, too.”

Now I was down for the count.

Not only was it assumed that I was “working the twelve steps,” but everyone at the table was waiting for my back story.

And God forgive me…

I sat there, on the fly, and made up one that would have torn at the heart of any grizzled sinner.


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Compile

Compile: (v) to produce by assembling information

Sobering.

It’s too bad we associate the word “sober” mainly with being free of intoxication from alcohol–because “sobering” is a great word.

To me, it describes those moments in my life when I am struck with the magnitude of the importance of the journey instead of allowing myself the audacity of complaining about the seating.

I had a friend–not really a close friend. Unfortunately, I think he viewed me as his best friend. I never had the heart to contradict him.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Not many people liked him–and that included me. Maybe I was just a better liar, or perhaps I believed there was something noble in feigning affection.

He was an aspiring something-or-other. I guess he fancied himself an artist.

I don’t know if you can actually be an artist until someone appreciates, enjoys or even purchases your art, but that’s a conversation for another time.

When my friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he picked up a cardboard box at the local grocery store to compile his writings, songs, thoughts, journals and work.

An avid cigarette smoker since he was sixteen years of age, he sat puffing away, faithfully putting this material into the container.

All of his accomplishments filled about half the box–with plenty of room to spare.

He handed it to me and said, “I want you to have all of this. Please do something with it.”

About two weeks later he died, leaving me his papers and cassette tapes, the distinct odor of cigarette smoke permeating the cardboard.

I sifted through it once.

I wondered what my responsibility was to what he had compiled. I felt guilty.

And then a realization came to my mind.

If he didn’t have time to do something with this material when he was alive, vibrant and caring, what significance does he think it should have now–for anyone else?

My thinking seemed cold and heartless. I rebuked myself.

Time passed.

I never did anything with his material. Honestly, I’m too busy working on my own compiling. Every once in a while I think I should take the box out and look at it again.

You see, the only problem is… I don’t know where it is.

 

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Clot

Clot: (n) a thick mass of coagulated liquid, especially blood

We bleed.

If punctured–if the skin is pierced–blood comes forth.

It’s red. Some people would say maroon. I’ve heard crimson and burgundy also. It’s in the red family–as we are all in the human family–which bleeds.

Here’s the amazing part–we certainly want to stop the bleeding, and we can do so with confidence. Because if we just buy some time, the bleeding stops by
forming its own clot.

It is a study of nature–the Natural Order has its problems, but also offers solutions.

Such is the case with bleeding and clotting. It’s a reassuring thought.

Yesterday I looked down at my arm and saw that I had scratched myself. The only reason I knew was some blood had erupted to the surface. It was dried and clotted.

I took some alcohol, washed it off and finally got down to the original, tiny scratch, which then threatened to bleed again. But with a few swipes of alcohol, it was encouraged to stay home.

It is greatly comforting that even though I am a creature who bleeds–spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically–built within me is the benefit of the clot.

I probably won’t bleed to death unless the blood comes out much too quickly. Then, if I can stop the gusher, I can set healing in motion.

In many of my relationships, I have the evidence of wounds which are scabbed over.

It’s not pretty–but it’s not bleeding.

And the memory of the scab, which is later followed by the scar, reminds me of how foolish it is to jeopardize well-being in an attempt to usurp my authority.

We bleed. We clot. It is a magnificent example of self-correction.

It’s what makes me believe in a Universal Physician, who realized how we might get wounded, so placed within us the first fruits of healing.

 

 

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Bunting

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Bunting: (n) patriotic and festive decorations made from cloth or paper, usually in the form of draperies,

I was only eighteen years old, and I drove to Columbus, Ohio, to see President Nixon. He was passing through town.

I wasn’t a particularly political teen, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity–to see a President of the United States. It also gave me a chance to get off school so I decided to go.

The atmosphere was festive. They had a band from some high school, a female singer to do the national anthem, and hundreds and hundreds of feet of bunting–red, white and blue as far as the eye could see, draped over everything in sight.

From a distance it was very impressive. But being the curious type, I inched my way forward.

As I got closer, I realized that since it was a hot day, the band members had unlatched the top buttons of their uniforms and unfastened their hats, losing some of the magnificence of the visual.

So I moved a little closer.

In no time at all, I wiggled my way within twenty-five feet of the girl in the prom dress and the tiara, who was about to sing the national anthem. She was dripping with sweat–I assume from a combination of heat and nerves. She didn’t look nearly as lovely.

Somehow or another, perhaps because of my honest-looking face, they let me get all the way up to the stage, standing two feet away from the colorful bunting. I inspected it carefully and saw that it was held on by staples, scotch tape and was wrinkled in many places due to being put up in haste. It was not very attractive.

The backstage area, where the President was to come through to give his speech, smelled like sweat with a hint of alcohol. And because there were two or three dogs wagging their tails nearby, there was a whiff of the woof.

I thought to myself, the closer I got to the experience, the less impressive it was. I registered that deep in my soul.

For perhaps the whole secret to our journey on Earth is realizing that the closer people get to us, the more real and genuine it should be.

The bunting was put up in minutes to last for a few hours, to be ripped down and thrown away.

It is frighteningly symbolistic of our political system, and the way we sometimes regard the important values of our culture.

 

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Brew

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Brew: (v) to make beer

The truth of the matter is, whatever I choose not to do becomes suspect.

I don’t like that. Matter of fact, I try very intensely to counteract that through my actions.Dictionary B

But if internally I have made a choice, generally speaking I think it’s a right one, and therefore have a tendency to flirt with intolerance.

Yet maturity is the process of realizing that our thoughts are not supreme.

This has always been my problem with alcohol. I just never jumped on the “rum run.”

I’ve never had more than a few sips of beer.

I’ve choked down a few glasses of wine.

And maybe once or twice I had a mixed drink simply because I thought the inserted umbrellas looked really pretty.

I found all of those experiences to be unfulfilling.

So the prevalence of alcohol in our society–especially since it’s tied to being an adult–leaves me baffled.

Many years ago I did a tour of Lutheran churches in Wisconsin, and discovered that most of the parishioners brewed their own beer.

Please don’t misinterpret my sentiments. I’m not saying that drinking or not drinking makes you a good or bad person.

Or maybe, in some silly, immature way, I am.

I’m not sure.

But I am grateful that I have never carried through to completion a judgment on someone based on whether they partook of the brew.

Over the years, I have tried to adjust my thinking … without actually drinking.

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Breathalyzer

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Breathalyzer: (n) a device used by police for measuring the amount of alcohol in a driver’s breath.

Intolerance always enters our lives when we fail to recognize our own weakness as being equally pathetic to the vices we condemn.

I have never been a drinker. Yet I don’t want to be a self-righteous tee-totaler.Dictionary B

It’s so easy to be critical of those who drink too much, drive, and are prosecuted because of the results of a breathalyzer. Driving while intoxicated is dangerous–often lethal.

Yet by the same token, I find myself somewhat bewitched by food.

They do not have a breathalyzer test for pork chops–but I have driven home from a buffet many times having eaten to the point of nausea, getting sleepy behind the wheel because my blood sugar was soaring to the stars. But no policeman would ever insinuate I was endangering the lives of others.

Please don’t misunderstand my point. Alcohol is dangerous.

Yet there are many people who can eat three-and-a half ounces of meat and be completely satisfied without becoming intoxicated by a caloric binge.

I just want to keep my tolerance available to me when I run across those who fall victim to vice and depravity.

I, too, am weak.

The fact that my consumption does not end up in a courtroom does not alter the situation.

Thank God for breathalyzers because they do keep people off the road who are primed for an accident.

But the piece of humanity we need to always keep in mind is that each one of us has peccadilloes–which if we pick at the wrong moment, can end up being anything from a sin to a crime.

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Mr. Kringle’s Tales …26 Stories ‘Til Christmas

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An advent calendar of stories, designed to enchant readers of all ages

“Quite literally the best Christmas stories I have ever read.” — Arthur Holland, Shelby, North Carolina

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Booze

Booze: (n) alcohol, especially hard liquor.

“A small piece of cake.”Dictionary B

Being an obese man for most of my life, I have used that phrase over and over again.

When offered the confection at a wedding or a birthday party, in order to communicate to those around me that I am in total control of my appetites, I ask for a small piece of cake.

Then I usually follow the cutter over and watch carefully, whispering in their ear, “Just a little more than that.”

Why? Because I don’t want a small piece of cake, but can’t admit it openly without appearing to be “Gluttonous Maximus.”

I laugh at myself.

It’s the same tickle I get in my soul when I realize that the young folks around me who talk about “a glass of wine with dinner” or “a beer with pizza” are often finding themselves moving on to a cocktail, an evening of drinking and eventually, just having to admit they love their booze.

Since alcohol is not particularly tasty, and normally used for cuts and bruises, the motivation for drinking it is at least an acquired sensibility–an agreement to tolerate the swill to achieve a sensation.

Now, I have to admit that I am a tee-totaler, so my opinion has to be viewed as obsessed with prejudice.

But it is astounding that the difference between “a glass of wine with dinner” and “booze” can simply be the time we have on our hands, our perception of our problems, or whether some friend is willing to sit down…and get sloshed with us. 

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