Posted by: ritagone | March 18, 2020

What’s Going On Here?

In the year 2000 Broadway

musical “Aida,” there’s a song called “Elaborate Lives,” sung by Heather Headley, who played Aida brilliantly and sang even better!!!  The lyrics keep haunting me now, today, as I curl up in my comfy couch/chair/lounge in my office, hardly 

ever leaving my house because of the coronavirus quarantine.  (I did leave yesterday for about an hour for, of all things, a teeth cleaning.)

The lyrics, in part, go like this: “We all live such elaborate lives,” and then they go on to describe what that looks like in the culture of Egypt.  Another pertinent line in the song: “We all live in extravagant times, playing games we can’t win.”  You know, when you’re hibernating, quarantined, whatever you want to call it, when stores are closed and restaurants also, when all of the activities which you normally participate in are on hold, you have plenty of time to think about the lyrics of songs and how they apply to your life and the world around you.

We do live elaborate lives, most of us, don’t we?  We’re complicated, layered, so entangled in very many things.  We go places, we do things, our schedules are packed, most of us, with activities and people.  And when that all comes to a screeching halt for whatever reason or reasons, we’re bewildered and stunned.  When it comes to a halt because of a health scare, a pandemic, that makes it all a lot more frightening, like a futuristic science fiction movie that we somehow fell into the center of and can’t extricate ourselves from.

It’s worldwide.  I have talked recently to friends in France, Dubai, the Netherlands, getting the pulse of what life’s like for them.  The story I hear is the same: quarantines, shortages, a bit of fear and a little panic.  These are occurrences most of us have never experienced in our lifetimes.  Unprecedented. Terrifying. Worrisome, to say the least.

And here’s my main thought about all of this, as I sit at home for days at a time, reading and relaxing and processing and wondering what happens next: this is the time that all those easy-to-make statements, about God being in control, about trusting God no matter what, about my faith, my trust in Him, are really being put to the test.  Do I really, really, truly believe what I say so glibly during the easy times, now when times are tough, when life isn’t easy, when I can’t have things smoothly working the way I expect or want it to?  Do I really believe that God is in control of my life, of my circumstances, and of the world around me?  Of the world at large?  Or are they just words easy to say but meaningless?

And will I let what’s happening overcome me, or will I be an overcomer, because I know who’s in charge and where my future lies?

This is something worth pondering while you’re quarantined, sitting in your house or apartment and wondering what’s next.

Posted by: ritagone | February 19, 2020

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

If you’ve been reading

my blog for even a short amount of time, you probably know that I like a certain kind of tv show, particularly well done crime dramas.  I’ve fallen into watching a British series called “Silent Witness” that recently finished its 23rd season; it is the precursor to the American series “Bones,” which is about forensic (relating to or denoting the application of scientific methods and techniques to the investigation of crime – because I kept hearing the word but never really knew what it meant!)  pathology after a murder.  The series started way back in 1996, and because I accidentally watched the 23rd season first, I didn’t want to go way back to the beginning, so instead I’ve been watching it backwards, starting with season 23 and then going to 22, 21, and so forth.  Each season is 10 episodes, each story is two episodes, so they do five stories a season.  I’m in season 16 now.  It’s a very weird way to watch a tv show, I give you that; nevertheless, it is a very well-done show.  The “science” of it seems to be accurate, the pathologists seem very believable, the forensic guy, while a hunk, is also quite good at what he does forensically (whatever that means!), and all in all, I feel that by now if I were needed by, say, the LAPD to help solve a murder, I’ve got enough information and data to be of solid assistance to them.

Which leads me to my story for today: there’s another rather new show on American tv called “Lincoln Rhyme: the Hunt for the Bone Collector,” about a “brilliant” (they’re always brilliant, aren’t they?) policeman or detective whose focus in life was catching a criminal they called the Bone Collector for reasons I won’t go into.  During his pursuit of the Bone Collector, he fell and was rendered paralyzed, meaning that he could no longer physically pursue the criminal.  Instead, he functions out of his apartment in New York with a nurse watching over him constantly and a team of forensic people and a NYPD detective and officer at his command.  (Would this really happen in real life? Is there a budget for this sort of thing?)  The latest technology is available to him in his office/lab. Of course. And so from his office/lab, he directs everyone like an orchestra conductor, with a tv monitor one would kill for in one’s own living room, obviously unlimited funding, and knowledge that would put him way past anyone who has ever competed on “Jeopardy.”

My point?

I compare “Lincoln Rhyme,” the American tv show, to “Silent Witness,” the British forensic show, and find the former vaguely amusing and so off in its accuracy, so inane in the way its crimes are solved in 60 minutes (minus the commercials), that sometimes I can hardly stand to watch.

And then I’m struck with a profound realization:

What do I really know about any of this?

Am I truly comparing one fake tv show against another and claiming that one show’s forensics are better?  That I could learn more about pathology watching “Silent Witness” than I could sticking with the American Lincoln Rhyme?  What?  That’s like saying I should watch more of one medical doctor on tv than another to be a better real-life physician.  Sometimes I actually amaze myself with the stupidity of my reasoning.

G.K. Chesterton said: “Thinking in isolation and with pride ends in being an idiot.”  More than everything else, this all points to a truth that bears repeating over and over again: we don’t know what we don’t know.

So enjoy whatever shows you watch, British or American, take them at face value, and stop thinking you’re going to be eligible to be a professional in whatever field they represent.  (I’m talking to myself here.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m starting Season 14 of “Silent Witness.” I might be able to finish the series back to Season 1 by the time I’m 80.

Posted by: ritagone | February 5, 2020

What I’ve Accomplished This Week So Far…

I studied to teach about the name of God that is El Shaddai, and so learned about our impatience when we ask God for something, when He

doesn’t answer our prayers almost instantly.  It’s been a great lesson for me.  I’ve found that studying to teach others usually results in my learning more than anyone.

I’ve spent a lot of time tracking down usernames and passwords for my husband, because once a year we do this thing entitled “If I Die,” where we have to provide that kind of information “just in case.”  In our household, my death would be more disruptive financially in terms of knowing where the accounts and investments are, because I take care of all of that stuff.  It’s nice to feel wanted.  Like my friend Iris, whose portfolio I’ve managed for many decades, who always says to me when I try to tell her what equities are in that portfolio, “Don’t die!”  As I said, nice to feel wanted.  Not nice, however, to spend hours finding passwords and account numbers and such so they’re available if I get hit by a bus.  Which is a euphemism, you understand, for dying.

I must say that my reading has taken a back seat recently to watching a British series called “Silent Witness,” which just finished its 23rd season!!  Do the math: twenty-three seasons, 10 episodes per season, and that’s a lot of TV to watch, but I’m intrigued: it’s a series that is very similar to “Bones,” a team of forensic doctors and scientists who deal with bodies after a crime has been committed.  But they’re British, so the show is much classier.  And addictive.  Which is why I am reading less and watching more.  The weird thing is this: I started in Season 23 and have been working my way backwards, 22, 21, 20, etc.  I’m in Season 19 now.  Don’t ask me why I’m doing it this way.  The only reason I can give you is that the earlier seasons are so dated, back in the mid-90’s, that I felt very old watching them.  So I’m stuck in this “Memento”-like situation of my own making and, OCD about such things that I am, will plod on until I’ve watched all 230 episodes.

Which means that for the foreseeable future there’s little chance that that bus is going to hit me, since I’m pretty much glued to my TV unless I have to be elsewhere.

That’s about it.

Maybe next week there will be more exciting news to report.  I think I will most likely have finished watching “Silent Witness.”

Thanks for listening.

Posted by: ritagone | January 22, 2020

The Bird Bath

Outside my home office window sits a cement birdbath.  When it’s full, which unfortunately isn’t as often as I’d like, because we keep forgetting to put water into it, and there’s never enough rain to keep it full naturally, but when it is full, birds come and bathe and splash in it.

Watching birds of every size and color come do that – exult in the joy of a short and frivolous bath time – has become one of the major joys of my life.  I can sit at my desk and stop everything and just watch.  Just watch.  There is much joy, I’ve found, in just watching.  Just stopping everything – because nothing is as important as spending a moment to watch those lovely birds taking a bath.  The small things in life have become just so: very significant, very happy, very life-giving to me.  Why is that?  I imagine it’s because as we get older, we have hopefully learned to appreciate the small things much more than we did when we were younger and were always searching instead for the larger things: the big events that we thought would shape our lives in dramatic ways.

And they did, of course.  The graduations, the births, the weddings, the promotions, the awards, the deaths.  Those are the stuff of life that we look forward to, that we talk about, that we mourn and laugh about and remember with others.  Those are the stuff of novels and movies.

But a bird taking a short bath on its way to wherever birds go after they bathe.  That’s nothing.  That’s inconsequential.  Except it absolutely makes me smile and love my morning a bit more, makes me appreciate life and breath and existence and just being alive. Because that’s what that bird portrays: the zest and joy of just being alive, of being able to splash his (or her) wings, get wet, clean off a bit whatever grit or grime acquired in flight or in a day’s work, and then go on the way satisfied and ready for the next thing.

And that’s a pretty significant reward for just sitting at my desk and watching a bird splash in some water for 30 seconds!

Posted by: ritagone | January 15, 2020

Come On! Get Happy!

I watched the bio-pic movie “Judy” the other day.

It’s based on the life of Judy Garland.

It’s terribly depressing and very sad.

Don’t watch it unless you have something bright and cheery in your life to make you smile once you’ve finished with the movie, or you will be despondent for hours afterward.

I knew from past reading that Louis B. Mayer, part of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer name for MGM Studios back in the heyday of the big studio moguls, was not a nice man, to say the least.  He would have made the Weinsteins and Epsteins look like Boy Scouts, most likely.  But the abuse he handed out to teenaged Judy Garland was criminal: ordering her “handlers” to deprive her of food to keep her slim for the cameras, feeding her pills to allow her to sleep, pills to wake her up, which created her life-long addictions, keeping her from normal social interactions with her peers.  Because he saw her star power, that was all that mattered to him, and apparently her family, especially her star-struck mother, agreed totally with him.  How betrayed would a young girl feel if she knew in her soul that her mother wasn’t coming to her rescue at all?

Five marriages couldn’t rescue her.  The pills and alcohol didn’t help and eventually led to her early death at 47 from an overdose.  A tale heard all too often, but sad, sad, sad each time we hear it nevertheless.  And her talent so prodigious, that voice, those soulful eyes, made it all seem an even more tangible waste, because so many people around the world had attached themselves to her emotionally.

In the movie version of the part of her life beginning her descent to the end, Judy is in London doing a series of “Talk of the Town” live shows, but she is erratic and unprepared, and those who are working with her are frustrated and/or concerned almost all the time, if not always for her, certainly for themselves and their own jobs and positions which depend on her dependability.

Coming to the concerts regularly were a gay couple (and this is during an era in which gay couples were not particularly “out,” so they came inconspicuously together) who had been great fans of Judy Garland’s for many years.  They maintained that she and her music had gotten them through some rough patches in prior years, including a prison term for one of them for being caught as homosexual.   They meet Judy backstage, adoring and oblivious at first to the fact that she is in dire straits and lonely and alone.

They wind up bringing her to their flat to feed her, an honor which blows their minds!  The Great Judy Garland is in their apartment, is eating at their table, is talking to them!!  In reality, though, she is so happy to have someone to talk to, to share an evening with, that she is the one more blessed.  She sits at their tiny piano and begins to play and sing.  Now the look on their faces is beyond belief.  Judy Garland – the legend – is singing to them!!  The camera captures their astonishment, their joy, as if they could just die happily right at that moment.  She has made them happier than they could ever have expected or thought of.

And they have no idea that she would have gone back to an empty hotel room, alone, sad, depressed, so they had done something for her that was temporarily life-giving.

That scene in the movie, more than any other, captured for me the sadness of this person, Judy Garland, born Frances Gumm, beleaguered, abused emotionally and physically, mistreated, and yet held in high esteem, almost worshiped even to this day, by millions of fans and devotees around the world.  Looking for love in all the wrong places, as the cliché goes.

Her story is not unusual in show business, unfortunately, but the movie “Judy” and Renee Zellweger’s performance really made the reality it of come home to me.  I had a nice little stack of tissues beside me as the film ended.  And I just sat there; couldn’t move.

That’s my movie review: four tissues and temporary paralysis and emotional upheaval.

 

 

Posted by: ritagone | January 8, 2020

Get Me To a Cave!!

It’s a new year, and I wish

my computer (an iMac, not too new but not that old) would revamp itself.  I’m very sick of that multi-colored ball that keeps spinning and spinning, telling me that something is just not working right in Rita’s Apple-land. In fact, there are quite a few things around the house that we are wishing would start out the new year 2020 fixed and in better shape: the roof (which has a few leaks), the pool equipment (which was supposedly fixed and has now mysteriously stopped working yet again), and something else that I’m sure will break down by the time this is published.

I guess the option is to move into a cave where you own nothing, so, therefore, nothing is capable of breaking.  You then don’t have to call repairmen, you don’t have to sit waiting on your phone listening to Muzak for 45 minutes while you try to amuse yourself until someone answers.  You don’t have to figure out when is a good day – morning or afternoon – for someone to make an appearance on your doorstep to fix whatever it is that has broken.  Or worse, to set up the appointment and then not show at all.

Do I sound frustrated?

Because I am.  Definitely.

I know these are 1st world problems, as people like to tell us in order to…what?  Get us to stop complaining, because we have a roof over our heads and therefore we should be happy with our leaking?  Allow us to appreciate what we own that occupies so much of our waking hours because something always seems to be on the blink?

I’m not quite seeing the benefit here of 1st world problems.  Again, that cave is sounding awfully good.  Just some nice dry walls and a few reeds to throw on the ground for sleeping.  A bunch of sticks for the fire that will heat the cave when necessary.  Oh, a grocery store needs to be somewhat close by, because this gal ain’t going hunting, but that’s not such a difficult thing to ask for, is it?

So if one more thing breaks or needs attention in my house in the month of January, 2020, I may be cave hunting.  You can count on it!!!

Posted by: ritagone | January 1, 2020

The Goodbye Barbecue (Christine Caine)

This is my first Rita’s Ramblings of 2020, and as I finished my devotional readings for last year, I was struck by the message on December 28 in “Unshakeable” by Christine Caine, a devotional book which I used in 2019 and was blessed by.  So I thought I’d start off the new year with her message called “The Goodbye Barbecue,” because not only did it speak to me about ending the last year properly, but it said a lot about beginning the new one on the right footing.  So think about Elisha and his new ministry as Elijah handed off authority and responsibility to him, ponder what God has in store for you this year, and get prepared as best you can for 2020!!!

 

The Goodbye Barbecue

 

Elisha took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them.  He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate.  1 Kings 19:21

 

To get to your purpose, you’ll need to leave some things behind.  Once you feel the pull of the possibility of where you’re destined, you’ll never be satisfied with where you’ve been!

When the great prophet Elijah called young Elisha to his destiny, Elisha first kissed his family goodbye (v. 20).  Then he said goodbye to his livelihood: he broke up his plows, butchered and barbecued his oxen, and fed the people with the meat.  Then, he “set out to follow Elijah and became his servant” (v.21). There was no Plan B for Elisha! And there’s no Plan B for us when we set out to follow Jesus.

Are there some things or people you need to fondly kiss goodbye today in order to follow Christ? Do you need to bust up some plows and barbecue some cows?  Whether it’s a relationship, a habit, a sin, or even a redistribution of your time and resources, you will undoubtedly need to set some fires and give some goodbye kisses in order to set out after Jesus and become His servant.  Ask God today what you need to let go of, and for strength to light that match.

 

Lord God, I want to follow You without a contingency plan.  Show me what I need to say goodbye to today.

Posted by: ritagone | December 18, 2019

Merry Christmas!!!

I have nothing new and exciting to say today except to wish each one of you reading this

a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful celebration of the birth of Christ.  Enjoy family,

friends, gift-gifting and receiving, delicious food, community.  But most of all, forget

about all the strife and dissonance going on in the world (and in our country) at this time,

and just find things to be positive about at least for the next week.

That’s my Christmas wish for all of you!!!

Posted by: ritagone | December 11, 2019

Perspectives

I watched (for free, thanks to Michael’s Writer’s Guild screeners) Clint Eastwood’s “Richard Jewell” the other day, based on the true story of the man (Jewell) wrongly accused of planting the bomb at the 1996 Olympic park in Atlanta, killing 2 and injuring dozens of others.  Jewell was a security guard at the park that night who had had aspirations of becoming a police officer, and an ill-advised and overly ambitious newspaper reporter wound up naming him before the FBI and other authorities had any evidence at all against him.

It’s a chilling movie in many ways, least of which is how frightening it can be when the media and the government in the form of the FBI and other departments of the law are so eager to build a case that they create evidence where there is none, build a bank of accusations where none exist, and literally railroad an innocent man into a guilty position.

So in this movie, the print media in the form of the newspaper which jumped the gun and the FBI were the villains, and I could feel my blood boil as I watched them operate against this man who had done nothing criminally wrong.

And then I realized that if I were watching a different movie, there would be a different villain: perhaps the judiciary, or the police, or whatever.

Another perspective on perspective: watching a movie (I get a lot of my insights watching movies or tv shows, I realize) filmed in London, a dark and tense murder mystery, I noticed how the cinematography made that city look scary and off-putting.  I wondered that anyone would want to walk its streets or explore it, or even visit it on a vacation, given that it looked so bleak and foreboding.  Same thing with a different movie set in New York City: another crime drama, which necessitated lots of fog and dark scenes, and which meant that, if I were seeing the Big Apple through the eyes of this film and had never visited it, I would probably pick Des Moines as a travel destination instead.  However, pick another film that was a comedy set in New York, with lots of sunshine and great lighting, I’d be packing my bags to get to my holiday time near Times Square.

Perspective is everything.

Where is my perspective – and yours – in need of a tune-up?  Where do we need to see that how we look at things is often flexible and dependent on the lens through which we look?

The only reliable perspective we need is through the eyes of Jesus, who is always fair, kind, gracious, and righteous.

Posted by: ritagone | November 27, 2019

Thankful For…(Fill in the Blank)

I spent yesterday

morning at my grandchildrens’ school celebrating Grandparents’ Day, an annual occurrence where grandparents are invited and honored, served a light breakfast, spend about an hour watching and listening to a program that consists of very touching and endearing speeches and some amazing music – instrumental and vocal – to entertain

and amaze (with much of the vocal music put together by my talented son-in-law, Ed Rouse, I might proudly add).

Then, after lunch is served where you can eat with your grandkids (without their parents, which is a great deal of fun and not often occurring), you go off to classes with one or several of the kids, hoping that in your family you have enough grandparents to cover the grandkids. I got to see some dear friends, also there as grandparents to their own grandkids, catch up a bit with them, and enjoyed the day for that also.

At the end of the school day, I came away tired but entirely thrilled with my senior granddaughter Olivia’s classes, teachers, classmates (who politely looked me in the eye, introduced themselves to me and shook my hand, no less), and so proud of Olivia that had I had buttons on my blouse, they would have been bursting.

With Thanksgiving looming, it made me want to stop and give thanks to God for my four grandchildren, among so many other things that I know I often take for granted.  If ever there was a time that we can and should reflect on the blessings we have from God, it’s Thanksgiving.

So this is short and sweet: an admonishment to take time this Thanksgiving, if you’re cooking, setting the table, planning the games or festivities, whatever tasks loom before you in the next 48 hours, that you stop and take a minute or two to ponder the gifts in your life that God has given you, thank Him for them, and fill in the blank of the sentence in the title of this particular post:  I am thankful for …..

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