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Sardonic Artery
Bright Like an A-Bomb Sparkler!
Usually I try to save my best words exclusively for my wife and daughter, but sometimes you gotta brag on what you’ve got. I’m going to skip the obvious things like Amanda being a great wife and mother—because, really, it’s obvious: she is a great wife and mother—and dig a little deeper. We’ll skip the part about her being really, really ridiculously good looking, too, because… well, you get the idea. I’m not going to say what I could give to anyone with a Hallmark card.

One: Her Heart for Animals: My wife packs a 20-gauge shotgun in her car. That way, if she ever hits an animal on her travels and it’s suffering, she can put it out of its misery, pray, and then bury it. My wife hopes this does not happen, and though she hates to see animals suffer, if she has to, she will pull the trigger and bury the beast. She does this because there are more important things than how she feels. That right there is more than the reason why my wife’s family takes in broken animals—dogs with three legs, cats with one eye and twelve toes—that’s what makes her a great wife and mother: My wife is a selfless woman.

Two: She’s Still the One I Try For: After you’ve been together for a while, you have so much day-to-day stuff in common that it can be hard to talk about new things: Q. “What did you do today?” A. “Work” and/or “You were there.” But still, when I drive home, I think on what to talk to my wife about. Doesn’t matter if it’s stupid; I still want to connect with her. Don’t get me wrong, some days it’s easy: Sit down with her and a couple of hours later the conversation has reminded me why she’s my best friend. Other days though, it takes more work. Last night I was telling her about how when people get shot, the reason why they fall over is not because of the force of the bullet, but because of what they’ve seen on TV. (Dudes who are plastered have been known to run around guns blazing for fifteen minutes because they didn’t know that fatal shot to the heart was supposed to put them down five minutes after the bullet struck the beat.) There’s no great insight to that fact; I just want her to know me a little bit more. My wife is a woman you want to have know you.

Three: She Fights Fair: I figured out when I was younger that I could be with just about anyone when things are going great, but when you strip away all the activities, all the sweeping emotion and you’re having a period when you’re fighting constantly, then what? My wife’s idea of a good date is grabbing takeaway and watching a show. It’s not about some grand activity we experience within the vicinity of one another; it’s just shutting up and enjoying each other’s company. And when we butt heads, she doesn’t drag out past botches (and I’ve got some good ones), calls me out when I’m unfair and holds herself to the same standards. She says she does this because she believes in me. She says if I wasn’t worth it, she’d put up with all kinds of garbage from me, but since she knows who I am, who I could be, she holds me to a higher standard. Sure, there are times when you’re both just avoiding the shrapnel, but I always come out wishing we’d sorted things through hours ago. My wife is a woman who still looks out for your best, even when she doesn’t much like you at the present time.

Four: She Smashes Through the Muck and Mire of Philosophy and Situational Ethics to Rip Out the Heart of the Matter, Spike the Bloody Organ to the Floor and Says, Calm as Can Be, “Here’s the Truth”: (Eh, so much for short and punchy titles.) Where I’m willing to explore the vast dynamics of a situation, sometimes to a fault, my wife is able to cut through the complexities to bottom-line the truth. It’s that type of steadfastness that strengthens me to make hard decisions. My wife is a strong backbone that will keep you upright and on your feet.

Five: She’s Still My Proverbs 31 Bride: Back when we were dating, I read Proverbs 31—written by a mother to her son, the king, about what he should look for in a wife—to see how she measured up. I wondered how I would compliment her if she had everything in the list save one thing, but she nailed every part. She gets up in the night for her kids, works hard, is wise with her money, takes care of our home, cares for the poor, is clothed with strength and dignity, is wise and faithful, etc. You pick a scripture from that chapter and I’ll tell you how she meets it. I was so excited then that I had to lift the phone and tell her right away. I’m so excited now that I wanted to tell you here: We have our high periods and low periods, nice nights and quick spats, but at the core of who she is, my wife is relentlessly wonderful.

Happy birthday (redux), love. Thanks for keeping a list of five things I love about you severely limited.

You are of noble character; I have full confidence in you.

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Got interviewed about 'The Ocean Thief' over at The Midnight Diner: http://www.themidnightdiner.com/blinded-by-the-light-spotlight-on-colin-mckay-miller%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Cthe-ocean-thief%E2%80%9D/
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Maybe you heard the President announce a couple of days ago that Osama Bin Laden is dead.

Maybe you’re on social networking sites and have heard easily a hundred opinions on the matter. Some people are happy that he got killed; some people believe that it’s not right to experience joy over the death of another, not even someone like Osama Bin Laden. I see quotes from Martin Luther King and quotes from Gandhi. I see scriptures about justice prevailing and then I see scriptures citing the need to leave judgment—and the emotions of that judgment—for God alone (although not both types from the same person). I see comments praising the President and I see an outcry over him not giving the brave soldiers their due. I see a lot of opinions from a lot of angles.

You, too?

So what am I supposed to think? I mean, feelings you just feel, regardless of what you think of them, so it doesn’t really matter if I understand someone else’s feelings on the matter. I don’t even understand my own feelings half the time. I have feelings that tell me to be fed up with my kid or split from my wife, but they’re not completely accurate, are they? Feelings are great indicators that something is right or wrong, but they are not reality. The feelings that tell me to be fed up with my kid might simply be pointing to the need to recharge my batteries; otherwise I might unfairly punish my child for what is more of a burnout factor on my end than some monumental increase in her misbehavior. And that feeling that tells me to split from my wife, isn’t that just an indicator that we’re both not getting our needs met and it’s causing us to argue more? Often it is, but my feelings still want to run to an end result that I’ll feel different about later. Feelings aren’t worthless, but they’re not the complete picture either.

But what am I to think about the death of a man who allegedly masterminded the 9/11 attacks and who claimed credit for several other acts of terrorism? Is there a way to be objective here? Is Martin Luther King the foremost authority on how to respond to the death of Osama Bin Laden, and would he even apply his own quote to the death of this terrorist? It’s not like I can go ask him or read his blog, regardless of how many people copy and paste his quotes (some of which may, in fact, be dubious) and apply them to the situation. Maybe if I get a Super Team to all agree on this I can win by some sort of quotable people consensus. If I want peace I pick Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, John Lennon and Eleanor Roosevelt. If I want justice, I take Solomon (quoting Proverbs—because God gave him wisdom), Winston Churchill, Sun Tzu, Clarence Thomas and George Orwell.

But what if my Super Team doesn’t agree? What if they’ve even said things that could be used to retort against their initial quotes? What if I don’t even quote someone famous? Maybe I prefer my neighbor’s quote to Garrison Keillor’s, but no one knows who she is. Maybe not enough people know who Garrison Keillor is.

When it comes right down to it, I don’t believe we have to choose as if only one viewpoint can win and they somehow have to battle it out. I believe in the scriptures that call for justice and the scriptures that remind me to not gloat over the death of my enemy. I agree with the quotes of both of my Super Teams (otherwise why would I have chosen them to being with?). I believe that most issues in life are a complicated stack of Venn diagrams, a series of seemingly irreconcilable angles that overlap, regardless of whether or not we think they should go together. God has taught me that life if often more paradoxical than we give it credit. With Jesus on the cross for the sins of the world I see justice and mercy together where they should not be. With the death of Osama Bin Laden I see the need for justice, the need for forgiveness, joy, sadness and a plethora of other emotions together where they should not be.

I know a man who stabbed a guy on a street corner, left him clutching his guts while the ambulance came. I could tell you why this happened, maybe you’d even think it justified, but inevitably, this guy I know, he had to go to prison. Even as someone I like or have some understanding of, he’s still staring at a cell right now. So what about someone I don’t like and don’t even know? What should I feel and think about him?

Mostly, I am not sure what I’m feeling, but I recognize I feel my emotions different than others feel theirs. When I feel a lot of things, nothing much comes out. It’s like repeatedly turning over a Magic 8 Ball and seeing nothing but ‘Reply Hazy: Try Again.’ Others go through several emotions one after the other. Others just feel whatever emotion is dominant, regardless of what else is in there. So feel what you feel—it’s not like we have a choice at that fundamental level anyway—but we have to recognize the limits of these emotions.

I believe we also have to recognize the limitations of our communication, especially in today’s world. I mean, if I’m intentionally keeping this below a certain word count, can I really grasp the breadth of the situation with any form of eloquence in 140 characters on Twitter (especially if I just blew 6% of those characters on ‘eloquence’)? Even with abbreviations—if you can appropriately abbreviate ‘eloquence’—how can I not sound like I’m missing the point? In turn, how much can I really say in a Facebook comment or even this here blog? I know I can’t squeeze in every angle—haven’t even touched the conspiracy theories—and though it’s easy to pick apart my arguments, like Ted Bundy said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

(Kidding, it was Bill Cosby, but you should probably still check the sources cited.)

Bottom line: This is a complicated issue. People are going to feel and think a lot of things; you’re going to feel and think a lot of things; and it’s okay to have too much everything and not enough ways to express it. As for me, there are gaps in my knowledge, my opinion is tainted by my experiences and limitations, but I believe it, I really do, even if I can’t even begin to understand (let alone justify) why that is.
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An old one for you LJ crowd, but it's new to The Midnight Diner:

My friend, John, says he’s going to kill himself.

I know John from Thursdays at the halfway house. I pick him up at the nearby bus station and I drop him back in Denver at the end of the night. That way he can clear up his stuff before the trash men come in the morning.

His wife, Toni, died a decade ago. Cancer didn’t care that they’d been together for 21 years and he still wears a black ring to this day. He got destructive afterwards; burned his house to the ground and binged on anything he could get his hands on. Hated the devil, hated God. Didn’t see any difference between them. Hated people, too. Says he still does, but he called me anyway.


The rest: http://www.themidnightdiner.com/all-the-pathos-and-pain/

The live version (complete with rabid intro): http://www.welcometothevelvet.com/podcast/2010/04/episode-016-live-%E2%80%93-colin-mckay-miller-reads-at-leela-european-cafe/

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Second piece about my time at the halfway house is live at The Midnight Diner (though I've been crashing the site lately with my rad popularity):

Manny’s dead brother kept calling the house until he got his tombstone.

This dead brother, he didn’t speak, but he’d beep over the phone: One beep for yes; multiple beeps for chili rellenos (his favorite meal); no beeps for the sister. She’s the one who didn’t buy the tombstone and his anger would not be quelled. While the beeping might not convince some people, the dead brother’s number popping up on the caller I.D.—even after the phone company insisted it was disconnected—is certainly worth a cock of the head, but then the dead brother got his tombstone and the calls immediately ceased.


The rest: http://www.themidnightdiner.com/do-the-dead-call-collect/

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Still unplugged most the time, but a while back, I was invited to blog for The Midnight Diner, and the first of my pieces regarding my nigh-five years at the halfway house just went live:

Xavier almost got his head cut off.

This is not like in the movies, where some eternal man (who has survived centuries, but not the update from Victorian fashion), wielding an ancient sword worth more than your house, cuts his opponent’s head clean off, and then stands in some ridiculous pose as a city block explodes around him with low-budget electrical currents and the awesome power of 80s-era Queen shooting throughout his body. No, Xavier was a drug runner cruising through the wrong part of town. Upon spotting him sitting at a red light, a rival gang yanked open his driver- and passenger-side doors, started swinging their switchblades with as much leverage as an open car door could give them, and Xavier, strapped down by his safety belt, had little mobility to block or avoid the incoming blows. The defensive wounds on his hands kept getting deeper; the light in front of him stayed red, and stream of traffic in front of him stayed steady. Xavier was frantic, pushing his assailants off the best he could. Kept his head thrashing, too, even as the blades tugged across his neck and bashed into his skull. Finally, a gap appeared in the traffic, and Xavier left the gangbangers rolling along the asphalt.


The rest can be found here: http://www.themidnightdiner.com/a-few-more-inches-one-less-head/

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My fiction piece, "The Ocean Thief" (formerly known as "The Man Who Put the Ocean in a Book"), is in an upcoming issue of The Midnight Diner. They've put up an author's page for issue #3 -- my ego / noggin is barely contained in the fourth picture frame from the bottom -- and they're accepting pre-sales here: http://themidnightdiner.com

Since it's a short piece, I'll only excerpt the first paragraph here. Yes, it reads like allegory:

The man who put the ocean in a book put it in there when no one was looking. How he did this, no one knows, because someone somewhere is always looking, but that's what he said. People expected this man to not be a man at all, or the book to be larger than the earth, opening up its large pages to absorb all that water, but both appeared normal. What normal meant when it came to the ocean, however, had changed. Beaches kept going, the sand getting deeper where the ocean used to push it down. All sea life was gone, sucked into the pages, seaweed and all. Those in boats or submarines had to call to get helicopters to come pick them up. They had not noticed the ocean draining around them; they did not know how they got left out of the book. Naval forces disbanded. Fishermen went back to being men. The desert of the ocean was a popular vacation spot until people realized they didn't need any more deserts.

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But this makes me want to write again:

http://jenniferlawler.com/wordpress/?p=747
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I’m stepping back from a lot of things, this here LJ included (though, in truth, that's been happening for a long while). I’ll be interested to see what reboots in my life and when. Until that day, friends, fare thee well and God bless.
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My reading of "All the Pathos and Pain" (9.5 minutes, about a homeless friend going to kill himself) is available here: http://www.welcometothevelvet.com/podcast/2010/04/episode-016-live-%E2%80%93-colin-mckay-miller-reads-at-leela-european-cafe/

The complete list of readings is here: http://www.welcometothevelvet.com/podcast/2010/04/

Fair warning that everyone but me is (most likely) explicit. Really liked Bradley Sands reading about the anarchy of pee-wee soccer and Axel Taiari's reading (it's French and dreamy) about a dying grandmother.

Current Mood: blah AWP'd out

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