life in general

as close as i get to a religious post

The past few days have been wrapped up in some dumb workplace drama, but I breathed a heavy sigh yesterday morning and let most of my anxious energy go as I drove in to work, and thanks to Taylor Swift, I had “players gonna play, play, play, play, haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate. Shake it off” running through my brain for most of the morning.

I am generally a positive person but good lord it is so easy to sucked into the negative. Sometimes it seems there is nothing around me but the negative — both the petty little things at work and the horrible big things in the world. How to find the balance? At work I try to “lean in” and I practically get my head chopped off. I think “leaning in” correctly requires an incredible amount of self knowledge — I sometimes joke that I’m going to “channel” a couple of different people whenever I have an interpersonal challenge ahead of me. My brother, aka “Mean Dave,” is one. A successful career, I think he’s gotten where he is today through both his smarts and his aura of confidence. (He once made my dog pee on the floor just by saying “Dog.”) Which is not to say he doesn’t have his own insecurities or worries, because I know he does, just like everyone else. And he’s really not mean, but he often does not sugarcoat his opinions. But we each need to be true to ourselves, as corny as that sounds, and what Mean Dave does will not work for me. On Good Friday, I found myself thinking about how many people hide behind religion as a way to cover their own insecurities and therefore their actions. Which is very different that those who live out their religion through their acts.

Before I started channel surfing and ended up listening to Taylor Swift, I heard  on NPR two very different stories about religion — frankly I was surprised that the striking differences weren’t mentioned when introducing either story. The particular religions mentioned in the stories don’t matter — you really could swap out any organized religion and it would be the same. First came the story of the murder of over a hundred young people simply because they did not believe in the same religion as the murderers. In the second story, the tenets of the religion to love everyone no matter how different led people to fight back against a discriminatory law. One set of actions borne out of fear, the other from love. Now, I don’t think of myself as a particularly religious person, although I would say I am very spiritual. But honestly most of my prayers consist of, in the words of Anne Lamott, “Please, please, please” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”  But I do have a long line of ministers in my family, and I understand the good that can come from a religious person, and from a group of people organized around religion. (Time for a shameless promotion: A Golden Glow in the East, the collection of my missionary grandmother’s letters from China is available from Amazon.)

Whether you celebrate Easter, Passover, Solstice, or just the arrival of snowdrops in the front yard, this is a time of renewal and rebirth and fresh starts. Whatever your beliefs, I challenge you to be true to them each and every day, to be honest to yourself and to your beliefs. And also, when needed, to shake it off.

Wednesday Poetry Break

I had planned to write a post about how fast the weekend flew by, and here it is already Wednesday. I’m starting to understand that you can’t count on big chunks of money or time being there later. Every year when I wait for my tax refund I think “This year [insert large trip, expensive remodeling, lasik surgery]”  but then once the bills are all paid there is no surplus and we’re back to thinking: “Next year …” .

Weekends are kind of like that for me. As Friday approaches I always think about 99 bazillion things that I will be doing on my two days off from work and from commuting. But then, there is a car accident (not me, and no one was seriously hurt), and a drunken bender (also not me, and not related to the car accident), there is shopping, there is cleaning, there is an all day affair on Sunday for my father’s 90th birthday.

Don’t get me wrong — any day you can kiss your father on the cheek and wish him Happy Birthday is a good, good day. But all these other things of everyday life, they put me in a sort of a daze where there’s very little room for creativity. How does anyone do it? And the of course, I begin perusing poems for today’s post and am once again reminded that the lack of time itself has been a subject for creativity souls — probably since the first humanoid picked up a stick and drew a line in the dirt. And then there’s Shakespeare.

Sonnet XIX: Devouring Time, Blunt thou the Lion’s Paws

By William Shakespeare

Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger’s jaws,
And burn the long-liv’d Phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleets,
And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one more heinous crime:
O, carve not with the hours my love’s fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen!
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men.
Yet do thy worst, old Time! Despite thy wrong
My love shall in my verse ever live young.
From The

Like a fish out of water


I always thought that phrase was a bit hyperbolic. I am fairly uncomfortable in Las Vegas, but to say that I am like a creature gasping for air and destined to die if I don’t return to my natural environment is a bit over the top.


I can’t even honestly say that everyone should come here once in their life because, no. There are so many nicer places. on this planet. The only reason to come here is if you are on your way somewhere else, like Red Rock Canyon, just outside the city, or Hoover Dam up the road. But Las Vegas itself?  Save yourself the effort of travel and just drink a lot and then literally flush your dollar bills down the toilet. Have the Las Vegas experience — without the annoying time difference!

Some readers may be getting a little upset with me now, because I understand there are people who actually enjoy Las Vegas. Maybe I just haven’t found the right things to do here. I was here once before and saw Penn and Teller, and yes, that was fun. But incredibly expensive and not a ticket I would have purchased on my own. Maybe if I was a big Celine fan, but no.

All I see when I look around is ordinary-looking people sitting in front of slot machines, inserting a dollar, pushing a button, and repeating the process over and over again. Hey that looks like fun!

And then nothing says Americans value the sanctity of traditional marriage like a wedding party trooping through the casino, drinks in hand, the trail of the bright white wedding dress dragging across the casino floor.  Good thing kids can’t see this.

But wait! They can!  Because you can’t get to anything without going through the casino, kids CAN walk through on the way to the restaurants and shops. “Daddy why is that man kissing his dice and crying?”

If I were a millionaire and wanted to experience luxury, I would go to Paris, or London, or New York. But I am not a millionaire and I don’t have money to throw around. So to me, playing these games and acting this way as if we were all loaded just seems … silly! But what do I know — many years ago, some very nice people set up shop out here in the desert just so others could have a little fun and enjoy themselves. What nice, selfless people they were.

Flush.  Wheeeeeeee!


Must. Write. Something.

Why is it that as soon as you announce your grand intentions, everything seems to conspire to blow up in your face?  From the man behind the house who was banging around in his shed at 1:30 am today (and the dog barking which followed that), to the web site I manage suddenly going down at some point last evening — this has not been the most peaceful and reflective of times.

Sometimes previously I’ve used the long drive of my commute to mull over topics for the blog. Today I was so deep in thought about the website and about my Dad’s birthday and about getting cat food before I leave on a business trip in a couple of days, that I drove right past my exit off the Parkway.

Well, I promised to write something every day.  I did not promise it would be profound.

And so we begin a new year

A new year, a (re)newed pledge to start writing again. Not like last year, when I felt a sense of foreboding after Christmas Day 2012. That’s when I decided to start a new blog about living life to its fullest after sitting by my father’s side in the hospital, a team of nurses and doctors fighting to keep his blood pressure from plummeting as he battled the flu and then pneumonia. How he hung on through that we don’t know, but he did. He then experienced about 6 months of a health rollercoaster, getting better and then suddenly crashing down again. He somehow made it through last year.

Unfortunately my Mom did not.

Although her health had been frail for several years, things seemed pretty stable last year. It was hard for her to go up and down the stairs, and her dementia was making her evermore confused about everyday things. But she always was so happy to see her children and grandchildren, and always asked me “And how’s Fritz?” So it was quite a shock when my brother went to help her up one morning last July and found that she was having a stroke. My next three days were spent shuttling my Dad to be with her as she went first to one hospital then to another where the doctors thought there was a slight chance that she could be treated. But the damage was too extensive and she very peacefully passed away on July 9 with my Dad and me at her side.

Many of my friends lost parents this year. Mom was 2 months shy of her 92 birthday, and with her failing health I have tried to gird myself for this inevitable time. But when I arrived at her hospital room and the nurse handed me my mother’s wedding and engagement rings in a little plastic baggy, well, it was all I could do not to fall to my knees. But of course Dad was standing right behind me and I had to be there for him. So I did what you do in that moment, and tucked my emotions along with the baggy into a pocket to be dealt with later, and escorted Dad into the room.

There are moments and emotions from the past year that I want to write about, and I will in the coming months. Twelve months ago I guess I knew it was going to be a tough year, and I abandoned this trusty old blog for a new one that would focus on living life to its fullest. But maybe there is a personal marker that  makes you someone who writes about that stuff, and I don’t have it. It’s not that I don’t believe in it — I absolutely do. But there is something different about saying “I am going to live life in the moment,” compared with actually just doing it.  There are two phrases my Mom always said: “Don’t borrow trouble,” and “We’re chugging along.” These are my new mottos.


One of my Mom’s last paintings, done in Spring of 2013

2014 holds many challenges ahead for me, including sorting through the grief for my mother as well as sorting through her belongings. But of course this is a condition of life, and comes with the bargain of parents and children. She pops up now in the most unexpected places, like when I’m standing in line at the grocery store, or when I see some nice pajamas in the store and catch myself thinking “I’ll bet Mom would like those.”

I like to think that one of the things I got from Mom, besides the thick hair and the dislike for math, is an enjoyment of writing. She wrote all her life, and actively sold her work and found ways to get it published (pre blogs, mind you). Short stories, poems, news articles, and a collection of her mother’s letters from China. She found a way to do all that while raising 3 kids that, ahem, kept her busy, shall we say.  I have an idea for a story. I have started writing it. That’s my big goal for the year. My little goal is to check in here regularly.

As in the early days, everything’s fair game at Nalling Jello to the Wall: politics, movies, music, poetry, snark and more. You don’t have to agree with me or anyone else here, but you can’t call names and you can’t be a jerk. Mom’s rules.

Day 30: Self Portrait

So, last year (yes, last year) I started this 30 Day Photography Challenge. Nobody ever said they had to be 30 consecutive days, and so it has taken me a while to complete the challenge with this final post.  Yes, I am in there somewhere if you look really hard:


Now, here’s the other thing. I have found it very difficult to focus my writing here at the blog, and after much reflection I realize that the interconnected, networked, facebooked, twittered world in which we live is kinda giving me the heebie jeebies. I really want to focus my writing, and I once read advice that a writer should treat the endeavor like they would dieting: either tell everyone about it, or tell no one.  I lean toward the telling no one, myself, and this instant publishing to the world of my blog posts that are not necessarily my best and brightest work is pretty intimidating.  I know many writers who thrive on it. It seems to have the opposite effect on me.

So here’s the deal. If you’ve read this far, you are likely to have been a follower of Nailing Jello to the Wall for a while, and are likely to make the slightest of effort to click here again. I mean, you’re still reading, right? After today I will be taking my link to Facebook off of here, so that new posts will not show up in my Facebook feed. Yes, I’m getting off the Zuckerberg train, as far as this blog goes. That means if you got here via Facebook, you won’t be doing that in the future. You can, however, still get an email notification of new posts here, by clicking over there on the left where it says “Email Subscription.”

I hope you’ll follow along in this less brave new world I’m working on here. Your thoughtful comments are always welcome.

Day Nine: Someone(s) You Love

So many friends and family to choose from, so few who would let me take their picture. Those of you who are long-time readers of this blog know that Unnamed Partner wants to remain anonymous on this blog, and I respect that. Also, I wasn’t about to ask to take her picture when she hadn’t even finished her coffee this a.m.  It’s a shame, because I love her so, and she was the first person I thought of, of course, for this challenge.  But here’s a photo of me and my boys, both of whom I also love with all my heart. Mean Dave is on the left (he’s not really mean, but he embraces his inner curmudgeon), Tom on the right, the oldest, the caretaker of plants and people. Of course we fussed and argued over the years, as all siblings do, I guess. But I love this picture, taken by my Dad I’m sure, from about 1963.  It sits in a frame in my living room, and it always, always makes me smile.

My Mom has told me many times that at about the age when this photograph was taken, I would wait impatiently for my brothers to get home from school and ask “Where are my boys?”

Day Eight: Bad Habit

So many thoughts come to mind on this one, but how does one photograph “conflict avoidance” ? Or, “procrastination” ?  Oh, I’m sure the Microsoft Office clips have some photo of a woman in business attire holding her head, or a man in a tie walking a tightrope, etc. etc.  But I went instead for the tangible vices, and was able to get a two-fer in this shot:  carbs and dairy. Otherwise known as “grab your breakfast and dash out the door to catch the bus.”

What’s your bad habit?