Personal Ramblings

To exercise my brain and drain excess estrogen.

The Van Gogh Portrait of Gratitude

Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 3.32.35 PMMaybe you’ve heard this story before, but I learned of it just few weeks ago,  and was fascinated by how the inability of one person to see value in something cost a family a fortune.

Very early one winter morning in 1883 Félix Rey, a young medical intern who had yet to graduate, worked hard to save a hallucinating patient who had suffered blood loss. The patient was Vincent van Gogh and the blood loss involved a severed ear and a prostitute—but that’s another story!

For several weeks young Félix cared for van Gogh, saving him from infection and possible death. When he finally recovered and returned home, van Gogh painted this portrait of Félix Rey as an expression of his eternal gratitude. While Félix became both a friend and advocate of van Gogh, he wasn’t really a fan of van Gogh’s artistic representation of him. So the painting was left propped somewhere inconspicuous in his home—that is, until his mother noticed that her chicken coop had a hole!

For the next two years of so, this van Gogh original did nothing more than keep chickens in their place—until one day an admirer of Van Gogh’s work heard about the painting in the chicken coop and bought it from Félix’s family.

Today the Félix Rey portrait hangs in the The National Pushkin Museum in Moscow. Its estimated auction value is $50 million.



Making the Most of Life

Today is the day after Election Day 2016.

Today began with little sleep last night. And it continued with every hour adding a new deadline, more stress, and more pessimism.

My to-do list was not getting done and my creative energy was at an all time low. One task on my list was to find a creative way to tell a story. My search led to this serendipitous discovery! And my soul has been recalibrated.

Michelle Phan concludes her video, “Every great dream begins with a dream. And every dreamer has a story. So don’t settle for a happy ending because ‘… to be continued’ is way more fun.”

But you have to watch it from the beginning to really appreciate the end—which is not really the end :)

Monotony of Monogamy

A commentary I wrote for the Adventist Review back in 2007 when the Ashley Madison Agency had only a million or so in membership.

The Ashley Madison Agency “is committed to protecting and enhancing principles of personal freedom and social justice” and makes donations to causes such as civil rights and women’s health.” Basic membership is free and allows you to browse and observe; active membership costs $80 a month.

Behind the doors of this seemingly noble enterprise is a service industry fueled by its slogan “When Monogamy becomes Monotony.” It caters to married men and women who don’t want a divorce yet want an affair. One happy customer says I  . . . met a truly wonderful man. . . We have been together for over a year . . . We learned so much and will carry it on to our marriages.”

From Genesis to Shakespeare to television’s Desperate Housewives, infidelity spikes interest and conversations. Something about the forbidden and morally wrong is fodder for primetime news and hometown gossip. The media has given Ashley Madison airtime, albeit unfavorable press. Yet the more negative attention, the faster the agency grows: From just a few thousand members five years ago, it now has over a million!

The founder says, “I’m a marketer, filling a need in the market place” His clients are all affairs waiting to happen; he is merely providing a safe platform where they can be “honest and open” (about their infidelity)

Satan’s new approach is not to dissolve the marriage but to de-sanctify it and make it meaningless. He aggressively zeros in on the lonely and the discontented and uses books, talk shows, and therapists that promote self-indulgence in today’s I-need-to-take-of-myself society. As a result, what used to be taboo is now harmless indulgence. And it’s so easy for us to be drenched in self-pity and cry out “Poor me” rather than be draped in the righteousness of Christ and “not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:14, NIV)

toast on pretty plate

If toast were a conversation starter, it would be the drably simple, “Hi.”

Toast is my obligatory minimum dietary sustenance. When I am too busy, too sick or too tired to sit down for a satisfying meal, I have toast.

Similarly, “Hi” is my obligatory minimum social interaction. When I am too busy, too impatient or simply can’t be bothered to care about anybody, I say “Hi” and keep going.

Both these obligatory minimums were completely obliterated with the epiphany I had whilst unpacking my precious stack of mismatched china: Years of random scavenging through garage sales have yielded me a pretty assortment of china, tea towels and knick knacks.

I never pay more than a dollar for anything, so I really shouldn’t be so stingy in my use of them. But, I am. I store them safely in the corner of the tallest shelf in my pantry, cushioned by sheets of newspaper. And the only time I touch them is when I clean the shelf or move from one home to another.

“Such a waste.  I should be enjoying these pretty little things,” I said to myself as I unpacked the box of china yet again. And it’s no big deal if one breaks. A few dimes under my sofa cushions and a sunny Sunday at a flea market is sure to get me another. Perhaps one even prettier.

My china reminded me of my words. It’s a gift I’m told I have–People, strangers even, often tell me their darkest secrets and despairs with great ease. And I seem to always find the right words to say. Yet I don’t enjoy these interactions and avoid them with a hurried hi. Instead of being generous with my words, I stash them on an emotionally-detached shelf for use only in emergencies.

That’s just bad. Wasteful. I really should couch my “hi” in a mouthful of words that express genuine interest. With that, I decided to dress up both my toast and my greeting.

With that epiphany, I sat my too tired self down for a bare minimum of dietary sustenance on a pretty white plate filigreed in French blue. My toast never tasted so good :) 


budgie smugglers

Like junk mail, tedious epistolic family newsletters that arrive in my mailbox in pretty fat envelopes are immediately discarded. I love my family and friends, but don’t really want to know about their vacations, illnesses, and or the extra thimble added to their vast collection.

But, there is one exception–the Archer epistles. While they are probably the longest I receive, they are sprinkled with the wit and perspective that’s uniquely Julian Archer. As a bonus, I usually learn a new phrase or two. Today, it’s “budgie smugglers.” (I can just see where my American friends are going with this phrase.)

Got a three-page, single-spaced letter today–the latest in a series about the Archer family’s road trip across Europe. It begins:

“Greetings from a haggis-throw north of London. After months of meandering through the halls of castles, the gilded extravagance of cathedrals and the pomp and stuffiness of royal courts, it was SO refreshing to see this coat of arms above a doorway in Copenhagen. I have no idea what it represents, but the two blokes in the budgie smugglers are just wonderfully casual on this very formal continent.”

Julian's Email 13 May 2013

my one-a-day’s

Oh, to have all of these every day!

  • One oatmeal raisin cookie
  • One 15-minute (or longer) massage
  • One hour alone
  • One glass of almost-frozen diet Pepsi
  • One tropical fruit (anything but the ordinary banana)
  • One hour in a jacuzzi (this hour may not be combined with the hour alone)
  • One good hearty laugh
  • One bar of dark chocolate
  • One 20-minute nap