Last night, I received my movies from Amazon so naturally I indulged in a movie night, complete with popcorn! I’ve been obsessed with the work of actor Cillian Murphy since watching Peaky Blinders. Cillian Murphy is roughly a year younger than I am and has been acting since his 20’s, if not before. Before acting, he was in a band with his brother (The Sons of Mr. Greenjeans) and as he said in an interview, music is still a hobby and love of his. Cillian DJ’ed for BBC Radio 6 last week and some kind soul shared the link to the Peaky Blinders Facebook fan group I’m a part of. I listened to that episode twice so I could gather all the songs from his playlist. It was a fun musical education for me as I’m not up on any bands and know little about music apart from what I already like (jazz, instrumental chill music). I also decided to gather the songs used in Peaky Blinders and add it to that playlist on my Spotify. I’m currently loving Radiohead’s Pyramid Song and I want to hear more of their music. I did not know anything of Radiohead’s music before Thursday evening, believe it or not! I know I sound like I’ve lived under a rock for years by admitting this, but that’s the facts.

Last night, I watched the film Peacockย (click for the link to IMDB). I’m writing this purely because I watched this film alone, it was still on my mind this morning and I was moved by this film. Briefly, the film’s lead character is John Skillpa (Cillian Murphy), an unassuming clerk in a bank who lives in Peacock, Nebraska. As the audience learns early on in the film, John has a second persona which is “Emma” which he created in his mind to cope with the death of his mother (who was severely abusive, controlling and horrid to him his entire life). All in John’s life is going along without interruption until a train car derails and lands in his backyard as “Emma” is hanging the laundry. The neighbors flood to the scene to discover this woman they’ve never met, who’s just escaped death! Throughout the film, John assumes “Emma” to manage specific aspects of his life.

There’s lots more to this story and I’d encourage anyone to watch this film, not just for the story but especially for Cillian’s performance, which was really incredible. To watch him switch between the two characters was amazing to watch. As a fan of his work, I was in complete appreciation for the preparation it must have took to play such a different characters. Also, in this film, Cillian wore a pair of contacts which made his eye color brown. The first time I saw Batman Begins, the thing which stood out to me was Cillian’s brilliant, blue eyes. I don’t recall seeing any of his work before I watch Batman Begins. My first reaction was, “who is this actor??! I must see more of him!!”. Wearing brown colored contacts in Peacock truly transformed him into the character of John Skillpa. It was amazing to see the change in body posture and voice pattern when Cillian was John vs. Emma. Also, Cillian makes a beautiful woman (also evident in Breakfast on Pluto). God bless all the boys with beautiful eyelashes, longer than my own (my own two sons included in that number).

In the film, the audience never gets the full, detailed picture of the abuse John Skillpa endures as a child but what little is said paints a picture of heartbreaking horror. A horror one wouldn’t wish on their enemy. John mentions his mother held his head under water as a child and this is said to the sheriff. It’s also mentioned that he has a child by a local girl who was paid to sleep with him as his mother stayed in the room. That detail made my skin crawl and it helped paint the picture of how cruel his deceased mother was. If nothing else, those details gave the audience a place to direct some anger. I found myself hating his mother for the abuse she inflicted. Seeing the picture of John as a wee boy also made that anger and hatred for his mother hit home. What was most unsatisfying for me was the fact that John never is able to fully share what happened to him with anyone. The therapy alumni in me always wants people to speak their truth in a therapeutic way and for this to not happen in the film, it truly pained me! I never pitied John and the fact he was able to find a way to cope was incredible. Hearing the echoed words (of his mother) spoken at the beginning of the film and seeing that picture of him as a child is what broke my heart at the beginning of the film. No child should ever endure hearing the words, “I don’t love you” from a parent. As someone who is fascinated by psychology and one who is training in a field where empathy is paramount, this film really hit my heart. Well done, Cillian, for this amazing and touching performance. This film will haunt me for a while.

Meditation: Am I doing this wrong?

Every morning, we start our class with a guided meditation. Every morning during our guided meditation, I feel like I’m probably doing the exercise wrong. The thing is, if it works for you, it’s not wrong, even if it feels like you’re not getting it right. Let me explain further.

During one of our meditations, we were instructed to imagine our perfect massage space. We were invited to imagine the room, the door, see our surroundings, imagine an area where we could wash our hands and imagine any special and unique things in the room, ect. Afterward, we did our daily check in and sharing. A few people shared what they saw when they went through the meditation. Whenever the others share, they have lovely images of serene surroundings which sound magical. Mine are always so very different and much darker. It makes me hesitant to tell anyone what happens in my head because I don’t know what my thoughts might say about me.

When asked to imagine a room, I imagined an attic. The attic was dark and a bit damp with three long windows set between the beams where light streamed inside.ย  The ceiling was lower, as is typical in some attics and there was a huge fireplace with a roaring fire. There were candles in large candelabras around the space. There was a heavy, hexagon shaped table with a heavy, round backed chair with solid arms. This table and chair was sitting in a darker part of the room, facing the massage table which was set up in front of the fireplace with the roaring fire. The natural light from the windows almost reached the massage table but not quite. The room was wooden with dark, solid beams and had a heavy wooden door. There was an antique wash basin on a stand just outside the door, positioned in a corner. The basin had a large pitcher of water and a white linen towel for me to wash my hands. (I imagine there was soap somewhere too but I didn’t see it) The basin and pitcher set had a floral pink design, similar to the one my grandparents had in their guest room which was there, just for decoration.

After the meditation, I did not share about the space I imagined. I shared it later with a few of my classmates and our instructor during a break. I was telling our instructor that I always have very different imaginings during our meditations and usually feel like I’m doing the process wrong. I described the above to her and she liked what I’d imagined. She said a person who was into gothic things would love to get a massage in that sort of space! To be honest, I’ve been watching a lot of Taboo (on Hulu, it’s a dark period drama) and the room I imagined was that of the main character’s bedroom-which is in the attic with a large, round window facing the sea.

Whenever I imagine things during meditation, it’s usually of a building or a structure. Whenever we’re told to imagine a door, for me, it always goes to another room. If we are told to imagine a door going to the outside, it always seems to go to a covered area outside. One of the girls in class imagines everything outdoors. Her imaginings are always outside and her doors bring her to more outside-ness! I suppose there is no wrong way of doing a meditation. It is a tool in which to center yourself and draw your attention back from all the concerns around you. I do enjoy our daily meditations because it is a chance for my daydreamer mind to play. Often, I don’t want to share what I’ve imagined because what is in my head IS so different and not quite as warm and fuzzy as the rest of the group. Whenever we’re asked to imagine our awareness as a stone, I imagine a large, smooth, ordinary looking river stone. Others imagine their awareness as specific colored stones like obsidian or other crystals. They imagine beaches and serene places. I imagine somewhere dark, damp, with a cool breeze and lit by the moon. Everyone in the class is so different and unique and our minds definitely speak to that. Now, if only I could paint as detailed as my imagination!

James Ronald Houtz

Today was my uncle’s funeral. I was not able to be there and that fact makes me sad. Further still, the fact that my uncle is gone is far worse. I finally read his obituary that was in his local paper. It warmed my heart to read that all of my cousins were the pallbearers, just like how it was at my grandpa’s funeral. The obituary was just a snapshot of his life, as an obituary usually is. This snapshot does not begin to give the reader a decent impression of who my Uncle Ron Houtz was. So, I felt some elaboration on this topic was needed. My words could indeed fail but I shall do my best.

When I was little, we lived in Louisville, KY which is about an hour away from where my grandparents and my three uncles lived. I remember the times when my Uncle Ron or Uncle Frank would be driving through Louisville. They’d stop over for the night and my mom would sit up late with whichever one was visiting. I remember one New Year’s Eve, my Uncle Ron visited. Mom, my sister, me and Uncle Ron all stayed up to see in the new year. Uncle Ron was playing our keyboard, flowing from one song to the next seamlessly, waiting for midnight to arrive. When if was realized that midnight was here, he started playing Auld Lang Syne.

I always liked Uncle Ron because he was quieter than the rest. There was a gentleness about him and it was comforting. When it came to disciplining his children he talked to them instead of spanking. My three cousins have grown into fine people too. Uncle Ron had a quick wit and a fantastic sense of humor (like the rest of the Houtz family). I remember when the family would get together, there’d be grandpa, the three uncles, some of the aunts and my mom sitting around the long table in the dining room. Us kids would go off into the sitting room with the piano. We’d be brought back into the front room because of uproarious laughter! This was because everyone was telling stories and we’d just missed the ending. All the adults would be flushed red in the face and howling with laughter. Such a sight and sound to behold! One was definitely torn between hanging out with the cousins or listening to the adults tell stories. Either way, it was always a good time when everyone got together.

Every New Year we’d have a family reunion with my grandma’s side of the family. Everyone would gather at the old Portland Christian School’s gymnasium building. Inside the same building was the home economics classrooms which meant plenty of ovens for cooking and plenty of room for gathering. I remember at the end of these get-togethers, my Uncle Duane and Uncle Ron, always armed with cameras, would set up for the family group shot. Cameras on tripods would be set in place. Timers would be set and then the dash to get into the picture would be off! There were a few pictures where one or both uncles would be caught sliding into the lower corner of the picture. That was always entertaining for us kids because they’d slide in where we were on the floor! Ever the photographers and videographers, there are priceless home movies of my uncles when they were younger. The first time we saw then in bell bottom jeans, running down a snowy bank at my grandparent’s house, we had questions! (“That was the style back then!!” we were told)

My Uncle Ron was also a magnificent musician. Genuinely, there was not an instrument he could not play. I knew him to play piano and guitar first but discovered he also played the flute and then any instrument he touched. He even got caught playing a tune on the rungs of his office chair one day at work! He collected different instruments from all over and also designed an instrument (I think it’s currently in production). I have not know anyone else with such varied musical talent as my Uncle Ron. That being said, when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, I was…..angry. I don’t know who I was angry with but in my mind, to have this disease come to such a talented musician, it seemed very unfair. “Why HIM of all people?!”, was my first exclamation when I found out. Despite his diagnosis, he persisted and would still play his instruments.ย After the Parkinson’s diagnosis, two more ugly diagnosis’ followed. He always had a sense of humor along the way, once writing about one of his hospital stays last year. I’ve not met another person like him. Uncle Ron was well loved by his family and friends.

Living in Arizona, far away from Kentucky, I feel I missed out on a lot of time with this side of the family. I can’t change this but what memories I do have are fond ones and Uncle Ron will indeed be missed.