Category Archives: healing

Do Not Crush the Butterfly…


Art on the bedroom wall, with Christmas lights being used as a night light.

Talking to a school administrator the other day about the challenges my children and I have been facing in the last year, I had one of those experiences where you get a look at your own life through someone else’s eyes.  “Wow, you have really been on a difficult journey,” he said.  I just nodded in response.  Financial difficulties, health problems, dealing with depression… life has been tough.  But you get through things like that by being centered.  Meditation tricks.  Things you can do to smooth out the wrinkles and keep moving forward.

I always return in the theater of my mind to a moment in childhood where I learned a critical lesson.  My life has been one of learning how to build rather than destroy.  It has been about creating, not criticizing.


Electric lights have come to Toonerville, helping to light the darkness.

When I was a boy, I was a serious butterfly hunter.  It started when Uncle Don gave me a dead cecropia moth that he had found in the Rowan grain elevator.  It was big and beautiful and perfectly preserved.  Shortly thereafter, I located another cecropia in the garage behind the house, a building that had once been a wagon shed complete with horse stalls and a hay loft.  I tried to catch it with my bare hands. And by the time I had hold of it, the powder on its wings was mostly gone.  The wings were broken in a couple of places, and the poor bug was ruined in terms of starting a butterfly collection.


A cecropia moth

Undeterred by tragedy, I got books about butterfly collecting at the Rowan Public Library and began teaching myself how to bug hunt.  I learned where to find them, and how to net them, and how to kill and mount them.

I discovered that my grandfather’s horse pasture had thistle patches which were natural feeding grounds for red admiral butterflies (pictured top left)  and painted lady butterflies (top right).  But if you wanted to catch the rarer mourning cloak butterfly (bottom picture), you had to stake out apple trees, particularly at apple blossom time, though I caught one on the ripening apples too.

swallowtailBut my greatest challenge as a butterfly hunter was the tiger swallowtail butterfly.  They are rare.  They are tricky.  And one summer I dueled with one, trying with all my might to catch him.  He was in my own back yard the first time I saw him.  I ran to get the butterfly net, and by the time I got back, he was flitting high in the trees out of reach.  I must’ve watched him for half an hour before I finally lost sight of him.  About five other times I had encounters with him in the yard or in the neighborhood.  I learned the hard way that some butterflies are acrobatic flyers and can actually maneuver to avoid being caught.  He frustrated me.

The tiger swallowtail was the butterfly that completed my collection, and it was finished when one of my cousins caught one and gave it to me because she knew I collected them.

But then, one day, while I was sitting on a blanket under a maple tree in the back yard with my notebooks open, writing something that I no longer even recall what I wrote, the backyard tiger swallowtail visited me again.  In fact, he landed on the back of my hand.  I dropped the pencil I was writing with, and slowly, carefully, I turned my hand over underneath him so that he was sitting on my palm.

I could’ve easily closed my hand upon him and captured him.  But I learned the lesson long before from the cecropia that catching a butterfly by hand would destroy its delicate beauty.  I would knock all the yellow and black powder off his exquisite wings.  I could not catch him.  But I could close my hand and crush him.  I would be victorious after a summer-long losing battle.

But that moment brought an end to my butterfly hunting.  I let him flutter away with the August breeze.  I did not crush the butterfly.  It was then that I realized what beauty there was in the world, and how fragile that beauty could be.  I could not keep it alive forever.  But it lasted a little big longer because I chose to let it.

So, here is the lesson that keeps me whole.  Even though I had the power, I did not crush the butterfly.


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Body Image Advice for Truly Ugly People

Mickey nude

Yes, I, of all people, should probably not be trying to give advice to ugly people.  I have some wisdom about ugliness to share, but only by participation in the world as a member of that class of people that ordinary folk would really, really, extremely importantly not want to see naked.  I am not Boris Karloff’s Mummy unwrapped, but I am in no way pretty under my clothes.

So why would anybody with six incurable diseases, one of which is a skin disease that involves reddish pink bleedy spots, ever contemplate becoming a nudist?

Well, horrible as I am, I have had a lifelong yearning for a life lived naked.  I recently found an online quiz thing that asked the question, “Should you become a nudist?”  Here is the result it gave me;


So, apparently, I have nudist tendencies.  I have been concealing a long-standing desire to throw off all my clothes and walk around naked all the time.  And I have been doing it all my life.  But I am not some mentally ill pervert, or even an exhibitionist.  I just have an innate feeling, as I suspect most people do, that I was meant to live a more natural life wearing only the things that God clothed me with.  When I think of myself naked, I try to think of myself more like the boy I have drawn here to picture the feelings I have about nudity;


There is a certain innocence and rightness involved in being nude.  I don’t generally push it in people’s faces.  I don’t plaster a bunch of naked pictures of myself on the internet.  Some nudists do.  I see a lot of naked people on Twitter now that I have written articles for nudist blogs and joined a couple of nudist websites. But they are not Playboy magazine nudes.  They are more often than not the slightly overweight, blobby sort of people that look like oddly bulbous stacks of uncooked pancake dough.  They are the kind of unfettered and unashamed personal body images that go a long way toward making me feel better about my fat old blobby-spotty self.  If people like that can be proud of their naked form, then my bugged-out eyes help convince my stupid head that I could do it too.

I have been to a nudist park precisely one time.  As chronicled in this blog last July, I visited the Bluebonnet Nudist Park in Alvord, Texas.  I have been naked in the presence of other naked people.  And it really is a liberating experience.  Being seen naked by naked girls is not nearly as soul-crushingly embarrassing as I once believed.  Especially since being a nudist is in no way about sex.  In fact, lewd behavior of any kind gets you kicked out of a nudist park faster than if you were doing the same thing at the Ballpark at Arlington for a Texas Rangers baseball game.  (Most of those lewd dudes, admittedly, were fueled more by alcohol than hormones.)  Those people at the nudist park did not look at me, scream in horror, and run away.  They looked me in the eye, smiled, and talked to me as if I were the same as they are.


So my advice to sincerely ugly people, based on my own experiences as a bug-ugly human being is… become a nudist.  Learn to accept your whole ugly, horrible self as an ordinary human being with no artificial veneer.  Do not cover up who you actually are.  Then, you may begin to see that what you always thought of as ugliness and horribleness is really beauty and grace and healthy human-ness.

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A Poem Written on a Picture


-a poem written by Mickey and pasted on a picture.

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Fighting Back


The sad truth is that as this world progresses in the days since the Trump election, it becomes harder and harder to stay positive and happy.  It becomes easier and easier to figuratively stub your toe on the bad news each new day brings and fall into the deep dark pit of black depression.

Just after signing the paperwork for the bankruptcy, I get a couple of explanation pages from my health insurance, assuring me that I will have to pay somewhere around $4500 for my emergency room visit and 3-day hospital stay.  After I earned my first $100 dollars as an Uber driver, I ran over a glass bottle and punctured a tire in its sidewall, costing me over $100 to replace it.  And my bank account, in spite of scraping and saving and spending money like Scrooge McDuck, a thoroughly squeezed nickel at a time, does not contain near enough money to pay this year’s property tax.  In spite of the blood, sweat, and money put into this last summer’s pool crisis, we may still lose the house.  I may soon fall off of that cloud that I stand on.

The Trumpinator hasn’t been helping.  He got the tax plan passed that benefits him to the tune of $12 million dollars every year, and may give me $50, or nothing, or I may even have to pay more.  His tax plan removes the mandate from Obamacare that was its tentpole, probably causing its imminent collapse.  $4500 may only be the first wound in that battle.  And none of the terrible things he says and does get him even a hint of condemnation from the Republican Toad Army that backs him.  We are headed for even greater levels of income inequality, possible revolution and civil war, and general chaos, assuming North Korea doesn’t begin nuking us first.


But the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune do not find their target completely undefended.  I have ways of dealing with double-danged downers that are all but unknown to those who are basically unartistical.  (Yes, I know that is not a word in English, but I am creative.)

Do you remember that little perfume-bottle figurine that I bought at Goodwill and vowed in this goofy blog to repaint to express my artistical madness and creativiticockle?  (Yes, I know that isn’t a word in English either.)  I broke out the enamels and the acrylics and the brushes and the other stuff, and invited my daughter the Princess to paint with me.  She got out her ceramic dragon, a middle school art project that she never yet finished painting, and we both set to work.

We talked and joked and laughed at the table in the family room.  We talked about art styles and painting techniques.  We talked about art classes at school.  We talked about many important father/daughter artists sorts of things, and the regret we both have for never seriously trying to learn to play music.


And the result was the healing of many old heart-wounds and the painting of many spots of very nice paints. You can definitely fight back against a world of darkness by creating rebellious little acts of artistry.


Filed under artwork, autobiography, battling depression, commentary, daughters, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, grumpiness, happiness, healing, new projects, photo paffoonies, strange and wonderful ideas about life

An Unexpected Gift 


This post is a movie review for Thor : Ragnarok , though I don’t really plan on talking about the movie very much.   It was an excellent comic book movie in the same tongue-in-cheek comedy tradition as Guardians of the Galaxy.   It made me laugh and made me cheer.   It was the best of that kind of movie.  But it wasn’t the most important thing that happened that night.


You see, I spent the weekend in the hospital thinking I had suffered a heart attack during the Thanksgiving holiday. I thought I was facing surgery at the very least.   I knew I might have had an appointment to play chess with the Grim Reaper.   It is a lot to worry about and drain all the fun out of life.

Well, one of the things that happened that day, Tuesday, my first full day out of the hospital and, hopefully, out of the woods over heart attacks, was that I received my new replacement bank card because my old one had a worn out, malfunctioning chip in it.  So, I took my three kids to the movie at the cheapest place we could find.  I tried to run my bank card for the payment, and it was summarily declined.  I had activated it previously during the day, and there was plenty of money in the account compared to the price, but it just wouldn’t take.  So I had to call Wells Fargo to find out whatever the new reason was for them to hate me.  It turned out that it had already been activated, but a glitch had caused it to decline the charge.  While I was talking to the girl from the Wells Fargo help desk, the lady who had gotten her and her husband’s tickets right before us put four tickets to the movie in my hand.

The middle-aged black couple had lingered by the ticket stand before going in to their movie just long enough to see a sad-looking old man with raggedy author’s beard and long Gandalf hair get turned down by the cheap-cinema ticket-taking teenager because the old coot’s one and only bank card was declined. They were moved to take matters into their own hands and paid for our tickets themselves.

That, you see, was the gift from my title.  Not so much that we got our movie tickets for free, but that the world still works that way.  There are still good people with empathetic and golden hearts willing to step in and do things to make the world a little bit better place.  The gift they gave me was the reassurance that, as bad and black as the world full of fascists that we have come to live in has become, it still has goodness and fellow feeling in it. People are still moved to pay things forward and make good on the promise to “love one another”.  I did not have a chance to thank them properly.  I was on the phone with Wells Fargo girl when it happened.  The only thing that couple got out of their good deed was thank-yous from my children and the knowledge that they had done something wonderful.  I plan to pay it forward as soon as I have the opportunity.  Not out of guilt or obligation, but because I need to be able to feel that feeling too at some point.

I do have one further gift to offer the world.


After we got home from the movie, I opened an email that contained the cover proof for my novel, Magical Miss Morgan.  Soon I will have that in print also if I can keep Page Publishing from messing it up at the last moments before printing.  It is a novel about what a good teacher is and does.  It is the second best thing I have ever written.

Sometimes the gifts that you most desperately need come in unexpected fashion.


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Weekend Fun with Heart Attacks


I’m not sure why I decided to have a heart attack over the holiday, but my body decided it was time and didn’t really give me a chance for input.   I should qualify it a little bit. I didn’t have an actual heart attack according to the final tests, but the preliminary tests were all red flags and shouting.


So, I woke up in the middle of the night on Wednesday night with a pain in the left side of my chest.  My left arm was hurting and tingling with numbness.

Now, it is not something new.  I have arthritis in my rib cage and I tend to sleep on my left side.    So, although the pain was concerning, it was not reason to make a middle-of-the-night dash to the emergency room.  I eventually got back to sleep on my right side.  I was sluggish and ill the next morning, but I got a lot of house cleaning done and the chest pains were gone.

Thursday night the pains returned, but still not different than the arthritis pains that sent me to the cardiologist before, and not nearly as harsh and painful as the night before.   Again the pain went away in the day.

Friday night I picked up my son the Marine at the airport.  He was home on holiday leave.  We talked about my chest pains over a meal at I-hop.  He pulled rank on me and vowed to take me to the ER.  I talked him down to Primacare because it’s cheaper, still not believing it was real heart pain.


The next morning Primacare didn’t go so well.  The EKG machine there predicted a major earthquake… or a typhoon, or something… and the Prima-doctor got all serious in the face.  “Do you want me to call an ambulance?  We are required to make the offer in these situations.”

“No, no.  My son is with me and can drive me to the Emergency Room.  I promise I will go.”

And so I did.


At the ER they are very concerned that you don’t have anything in your pockets.  They quickly dressed me in a hospital gown and then surgically removed $200 (due to the wondrous way my insurance company has of not paying their portion of the bill).  So, lighter by that amount, they immediately hooked me up to their own EKG machine.  I had so many patches attached to the hair on my chest that I was guaranteed to be bald-chested when it came time to rip them all off again.  Then they  repeated the EKG testing done earlier in the day.  I swear, the same squirrel that was visiting Primacare when I was there earlier, sneaked into their EKG machine too and vigorously jumped up and down.  So, there it was.  The proof they needed that I had too much money left in my bank account.  And so they put me inside the hospital.


Once inside, they rigged me up so one arm could be crushed by a BP sleeve every two hours, or more if they felt like it, and the other arm could be drained of blood so that they could tell if there was any further money in my bank account.


Three days later, the enzymes in my blood said that what I had was mysterious and not a heart attack.  The stress test I had on Monday nearly killed me, and told them that I didn’t have enough money left in my bank account to keep in the hospital any longer.  I got out still wearing my arm band and allergy warning band as reminders that I really, really didn’t want to go back, but life is like that, and I still don’t know what caused it all, or if I will have to return to deal with it later on.


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Veterans day is here again.  It means something different now that my son is a Marine.  It was always a solemn and somber occasion in the past.  My great uncle on my father’s side died in World War II, a training accident inside a Navy gun turret.  My great uncle on my mother’s side was part of the second wave on the beach in Normandy.  He was injured by a German grenade and moderately disabled for the rest of his life.  I never got to hear war stories.  He was too damaged to ever talk about anything that happened in the war.  My mother’s cousin was flying a plane in the Viet Nam Conflict.  It went up, and didn’t come down again.  You think of those things, and wish it could be different.  You pray that it will be different for your son who is a soldier.

But when the worst that can happen comes to pass… there are no regrets.  Whatever future we have is rooted in the past.  Pain and suffering are difficult to manage, but when you manage them, it leaves you stronger… better as a person than you were before.  So I don’t take anything for granted.  I was not a warrior in this life.  I was a teacher, a story-teller.  And I made some mistakes along the way.  I have lost some whom I cared about very deeply.  Ruben, Fernando, and J.J. are all gone tragically.  I will always feel I should have done more to help them when they were boys and needed help.  Miraculously with the Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Iraq I have lost no former students to war, though many of mine have fought.  I pray that my luck continues to hold.

But there are no regrets.  And “you can listen as well as you hear”, so listen to this.  I love you.

Yes, I am talking to sons and daughters, to former students, to former colleagues, to everyone I have ever known.  And even if I don’t know you, never met you, even if you never get a chance to hear this message… I am talking to you also.  We are all one.  We all live and love and strive together, and even if we disagree to the point of war… we still belong to each other.  Thank you for being you.  You needed to hear that at least as much as I needed to say it.

My son is coming home on leave for Thanksgiving.  I will be giving thanks.



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