Tuesday, June 21, 2016

712 More Things to Write about.

I discovered this book on a road trip I took with my son last fall. We were in Portland and had gone to see Powells Books. If you don't know about Powells, let's just say it's the biggest book store I have ever seen. It's an entire city block of books. Over 1,000,000 books under one roof.

I'm a book junky, so I could have easily spent several hundred dollars buying first editions, rare books and other things that struck my fancy. In a fit of self discipline that may take a long time to best, I bought only two books. One was The Rifle Book by the late Jack O'Conner, and the other was 712 More Things to Write About

As someone who likes to write, I don't have any books on how to write. Which must be quite evident to my readers. It is easy for me to get stuck in a rut, and find myself going back to visit themes I've touched on before. I don't know what drew me to this book, but I cracked it open in one of the hundred isles at Powells to this assignment: 
"Imagine you are on Yelp. Write a review of the restaurant everyone is talking about. In the fourth paragraph, admit you've never eaten at the restaurant, but argue why your misinformed opinion is still more important than the other reviews." 
I had to buy this book.  (I'm usually not this crass, but I didn't think anyone would ever read this, which is kind of liberating, but here's what I wrote)
Zero Stars. 
I absolutely hated the Inverted Penguin. (I think I made that up. I don't know of any restaurant by that name) The food was sub standard fare at best. The wait staff were not exactly rude, but definitely not friendly. 
The decor is an ill attempt at Shabby Chic. Seriously, you just can't buy a bunch of crap at the flea market, throw it on the walls and call it a "homey atmosphere"; it's still just crap.   
The prices seem very steep for the low grade slop they serve. I can think of a lot better ways to spend my money. Throwing it at the bums lurking outside, or just dowsing it in gasoline and using it to light the Inverted Penguin on fire would be putting it to far better use. 
In all honesty, I have never eaten at the Inverted Penguin. When I drove by at lunch today, I saw a guy I know walking in. He is an asshole. Not just a regular asshole; he's a first class, blue ribbon, certified gold plated asshole.  If he eats there, the place must be horrible. Trust me on this one folks. Stay away, it will only lead to your ruin.
 So, these are the little things in life that keep me sane. Or at least at some acceptable level of sanity that keeps me out of an institution.

If I can't think of anything else to write about, I'll crack this open again and pick an assignment. Here are a few I just picked at random.

  • Pick a pop song you loved as a child. Listen to it and write for at least five minutes without stopping. 
  • Write the scene about the first time someone other than your family or friend told you they loved you.
  • Nixon's deathbed.
  • Describe someone receiving a gift that you made for them by hand and they loved it. 
  • Write a letter of forgiveness to someone who is unforgivable. 

I feel better when I write, I should do it more often.

Friday, March 04, 2016

"If there is anything I admire more than a devoted friend, it's a dedicated enemy."

That line is from one of my favorite movies of all time, The Big Country. It's one of my favorites because it's one of my mom's favorites. She would play the soundtrack on the turntable while cleaning the house when I was a kid. The score is wonderful with its soaring themes and dynamic tension. Like I said, it's a great movie.

The line is delivered by one of the two main antagonists in the movie, Maj. Henry Terrill. His old nemesis Rufus Hannassey, has just crashed his daughter's formal engagement party to protest a raid on his home by Terrill's men earlier that day. He says about twenty year's worth of built up animosity towards Terrill in front of his invited guests before throwing his shotgun down at Terrill's feet and walking out daring him to shoot him in the back.

Terrill is taken aback, and a bit embarrassed, but apologizes for Hannassey's behavior and delivers that classic line.

Now, I am not one to hold a grudge (see my last post) for the most part. I can't think of a single person who I am holding any ill feelings toward.

Now, animals? Well, that's a different story.

There are a few animals who I have hardened my heart towards, to steal a biblical metaphor.

The mule who ran away with me at full speed for two very interesting, if not terrifying, minutes would be on the list.

I'm not sure why I even threw a leg over that beast, but I must have had a reason.

I could not find a headstall that would fit that suitcase of a head he had, so I rigged up a draft horse bridle for him and that was too big. He just put his head straight up so I couldn't get any leverage on him and decided to launch himself down between the pastures at the ranch. The barbed wire fences on either side of us seemed to blur by as he ran with the reckless abandon of a escaped maximum security convict. At the end of the road we made a very nifty sliding stop and turn back, worthy of finished reining horse, and we ran the gauntlet once again.

As we were coming back to the barn area, where all the people, cars and kids were, I decided to take one for the team and muscle that not-so-guided missile into the side of the plywood covered round pen. Again, with much more grace than I would have thought possible, he came to a sliding stop as he smacked his nose against the round pen wall. I stepped off and led him back to the hitching rail. He followed behind me like milk pen calf.

My wife took that mule to the auction before I could have my rematch. I will never know what great catastrophe would have befallen me if I were to have climbed aboard that long eared rocket again, but I'm sure it would have made for a great story; or my death.

Then, there was Sharky.

Sharky was my real nemesis. That horse had it in for me. Luckily he was not my horse, or one of us would have killed the other in short order. He was our friend Kristen, or KK's horse. KK was a teenager at the time and Sharky was a big 16+ hand appendix quarter horse. He was a two year old, the same age as my new horse Dash, who was similarly built and only slightly less crazy. Dash was a dark bay and Shark was a dappled gray at the time. Big, dumb teenagers is what they were. Doing big, dumb teenage stuff.

Shark claim to fame was as an escape artist. He would chew and play with every latch, snap, lock, and knob within his reach. He could get out of anything. If he had opposable thumbs, he may have taken over and become the dictator of a small Central American country. He was diabolical.

Much like many psychopaths, Sharky could lull you into a false sense of security with his playfulness and seemingly kind disposition. This was all a ruse. He was just waiting for the right time to strike. He wanted no witnesses or physical evidence. He just wanted them to find you dead in a field with him in the next pasture happily eating grass, looking innocent. He almost got away with it too.

One night, I heard the unmistakable sound of horse hooves on the pavement out in front of the house. It must have been about 3AM. I put on my pants and slippers and headed outside to find Sharkey. He was in the barn with his head stuck in a garbage can full of oats. I muddled under breath something about finding him a nice home in France where they eat ill-behaved horses, and took off my belt to use as a lead rope. I wrapped it around his neck and started to lead him back to his stall. As we turned the corner, he bolted straight ahead and fired both back feet at me as he sped off into the night. I could feel the air from those hooves as they skimmed past my head.

Once I was able to stand up without my limbs shaking uncontrollably, I found a halter and lead rope and headed out to find Sharky. He was running all over the park, having a grand time. When I was close enough to swing that rope around his neck, he would bolt off kicking up his heels, and if horses could laugh, I'm pretty sure he would have.

The only way I was able to catch him was when he ran into a cable stretched around the parking area. It hit him about the knees while he was in a full run. He turned a complete somersault and landed on his belly. I thought to myself, I hope you broke all four legs you blankety blank, blankety blanking blank. (I am not proud of this behavior, I am just being honest)

So when Shark made it to his feet with just a minor case of road rash, he must have thought it was time to quit all his shenanigans. I walked up, put his halter on him, walked him back to his stall, put him inside and double locked both doors.

When I came back to the house, my wife rolled over in bed and asked, "Who got out?" I said, "It was Sharky and I'll tell you the whole story in the morning."

Shark mellowed with age. While most people loved the big gray who would eat from your hand, rub his head on you, and enjoyed a good petting, I was not buying his 'reformed' act. I knew in his heart he was still out to get me. I could have been wrong, maybe he had changed, maybe he had turned into a 1,200 pound Labrador retriever. Maybe.

Twenty some-odd years later, my wife sent me a text today saying they had to put Sharky down. He had a bad colic.

I feel bad for Kristen and her mom Sandy. They loved that big lug his whole life and would scoff at my proclamations of his malice towards me.

Goodbye Sharky, my dedicated enemy, I will in fact, miss you.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The burden of rocks.

In the community group I attend, through my church, we recently spoke about the story of Jesus, and the adulterous woman in John chapter eight. If you know the story bear with me, if not, it's a great view of Jesus' love and non-judgement.
 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”  This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.  But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Now before you think this was some type of schoolyard bully's rock fight, realize the scribes and Pharisee (scholars of the religious law) were wanting this woman killed by smashing her in the head with rocks. Stoning was a brutal way to punish someone for breaking the law in that time.

In the story, I always wonder what Jesus was writing with his finger on the ground. I like to think it was the names of the people up front ready to hurl the biggest rocks. Maybe it was a list of sins Jesus knew these people had committed. Anyway, Jesus had the perfect opportunity to judge and condemn her, (it seems she was truly guilty) but he didn't. He used her situation to point out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders and those who were so quick to judge and demand 'justice'.

Justice is a tricky thing.

We want justice when we have been wronged. We want justice, we demand justice, and maybe even something more, something closer to revenge. Not just an eye for eye, but wanting two times, or ten times as much punishment for the offender. When we are on the receiving end of pain, be it physical, financial, or emotional; we want justice. We demand it. We want to start picking up some rocks.

What about when we are on the other side of that equation? What about when we are the ones who caused pain for others?

Oh, I didn't mean to do it, it was an accident. Oh, I'm sorry for what I did, I was just having a really rough day. Yeah I was pretty mean, but they deserved it.

When we hurt someone or do something wrong, or sneaky, or manipulative, or just plain mean, we start losing interest in justice. No, when we are the ones on the defendant's stand, we're not terribly interested in justice; we want mercy.

Later, when you think back on your actions, you should start to feel bad. That's your conscience working in you. It might also be the Holy Spirit convicting you of your bad behavior. However this manifests itself in you, your reaction may be to rationalize the situation. You start making excuses for your actions, your temper, your outburst. Believe me; I am great at this. I can justify my terrible behavior with a laundry lists of excuses.

I am never truly at fault, because no matter what I did, there must have been a good reason. Even when I have no excuse, I can always fall back on, "Well, I'm basically a good person and I just had a bad day, I lost my temper, I won't do that again." It's one of my favorite excuses, I use it all the time.

The problem is, it's a lie. If I don't change my heart, I will do it again.

So, to sum it up; When we wrong someone, we want understanding and mercy. When we are wronged, we want justice and punishment. That is a double standard for sure. It is also the text book example of hypocrisy.

So what are we supposed to do when we are wronged? Here is what Jesus said;
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunich let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 
Now that is hard to do. It's almost impossible for me. As much as I like to think I am hard to offend, I do get upset at times. To be honest, I usually handle being wronged in one of three ways; I can act against it right then and there, I can ignore it, or I can forgive.

It's hard to list all the situations where you might have a confrontation. They are all different. Someone calling you lazy tub of crap is different than a person smashing you in the face with a chair. I'm probably just going to ignore you if you call me a name. Those kinds of things really don't bother me. I will try my best to ignore it if you hurl that same insult at my wife or kids. However, I'm probably going to confront you and ask you to apologize. What I let slide personally is somehow much more of a problem when it comes to my family. I'm trying to work on that.

All that being said, I am going to stop you from smashing me the face with the chair. I know I'm supposed to turn the other cheek, but if I can't get away from the situation, I'm going to stop you from injuring me or someone else. If you get hurt in the process, I am going to be okay with that.

Sorry. It's just one of the many, many failings I have a Christian.

Thankfully, most confrontational situations we encounter are not the life threatening kind. However, we live in an imperfect world, filled with imperfect people who can be an absolute pain in that ass. (language is another failing if you haven't caught on) If we choose to be offended and hurt, the world will oblige us with an avalanche of anger and pain.

Back to the ways we choose to handle these situations. One of the things we do when we're hurt, is we look around for a rock.

We search around and evaluate each rock to find the perfect one. Just the right size for the amount of hurt you feet inside, maybe even the next size bigger. Once you find that rock, you write their name on it, the time, date and situation that caused your pain, and put it in your pocket. You will wait for the perfect time to unleash this rock at them. You're a strong person, with a lot of hurt. You can carry around plenty of rocks for a very, very long time. You're just waiting for a chance to do the maximum amount of damage. Like the saying goes; Hurt people, hurt people.

That jackass at work? Oh I have four or five big rocks with all the times he screwed me over. My spouse? Oh yeah, I have a dozen or big ones and a few handfuls of smaller hurts to give back. My neighbor who always parks in my spot? Oh yeah, I've got one for him. The guy who cut me off on the freeway? I've got two for him. My family? I may need a truck to haul around all the rocks I have stored up for them. You get the point.

The problem is we pay a huge toll for carrying all those rocks around with us. We are worn down by the burden of all that pain, all that anger. It makes us miserable. There is little room for joy in our life. There is little room for Jesus in our life.

That burden, that weight, it destroys marriages. It destroys families and friendships, and it can turn you into the person no one wants to be around. The person where everything is about them, and what crappy thing happened to them today, and what terrible offense is waiting around the corner. After a few years, or decades, they get used to carrying all those rocks and start to wear them as a badge of honor. They are on the constant lookout for new rocks, new offenses to add to the collection. It's a very difficult way to go through life. 

Here's the thing, we're almost always given the opportunity to put our rocks down. The problem is, we don't. Most of those opportunities come when we sit down and communicate with the person who hurt us. Not the everyday chit chat of our daily routines, but a real dialogue where you have permission to drop some rocks.

Now, fair warning, if you have a lot of rocks, and some especially big ones, there are going to be some smashed toes when these hit the floor on both sides. I like to call these Difficult Conversations. I don't have nearly enough of them with the people in my life and I really need to work on that.

How do you have a Difficult Conversation? You start by asking permission. Both of you need to know that things might get heated, feelings will probably be hurt, but no one is going to die. Get this straight up front. You need to tell your fight-or-flight mechanism to calm down and just relax for a while. Everything is going to be okay, we are just talking.

We are trying to find some clarity. Clarity is a wonderful thing. It's not, I'm right and you're wrong. It is to know a situation clearly, with no misunderstandings, no hidden motivations, or unspoken expectations. At the end of the day, we don't have to agree on everything, as long as we have a clear understanding of the situation and the other person's point of view.

The temptation when having a difficult conversations will be to start dropping those rocks a little closer to that person's feet. You want them to experience at least a little bit of the pain you've been holding on to. However, if you get too wound up, you will find yourself firing those rocks at point blank range.

Like I said, you have to go into this with the understanding that you care you for the other person and you want to make your relationship better. Remember, they will be carrying plenty of rocks too. It's not easy, but it gets easier the more you practice.

Here is the best way (hint: it's Jesus' way) to handle conflict and dealing with pain and anger caused by someone; Forgive them.

If you can, if you have the strength, you can simply lay those rocks down at your feet. You can forgive them for the hurt they did to you. Intentionally or otherwise.

The feeling of setting that burden down is incredible. I have felt it myself. That knot in the pit of my stomach was untied. That gloomy state of mind that I had seen my world through was lifted. It is a freeing sensation that makes you feel lighter, for lack of a better word. It is a game changer, it is a life changer.

The goal is to become very hard person to upset. The goal is to not pick up any new rocks.

Once you get in the habit of forgiveness, you will find yourself searching your life for rocks you may have hidden. You will recognize the minute you pick one up. You will find yourself thinking, "Oh, I picked up this rock for that guy back at the mall didn't I? No biggie, he was probably having a bad day dealing with all those people, I forgive him."


That is the sound of you dropping a rock. It's a wonderful sound.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Exclusive interview with Doland Trump.

First off, I'd like to thank my special guest tonight, in his first, and I imagine, his only interview here in Yolo County, Donald Trump. 

Great to be here Wolf. 

It's Walt Mr. Trump. I know the New Hampshire primary is just hours away from finishing up, so I'm sure you have been on a whirlwind media blitz today. I'm glad you could carve out some time for the people here in Yolo County.

 Wait, you aren't Wolf Blitzer, who are you again? 
Jim! Jim, I thought you said I was on with Wolf for a CNN piece, who is this guy?  Walt? From where? Where the hell is Yolo County, up by Manchester?

Fine. Fine, whatever, whatever, lets just do this, I'm on with Jake Tapper in ten minutes anyway. 
Okay, Walt is it? Go ahead, you have six minutes.

 Mr. Trump, I know you are ahead in the polls in New Hampshire, but there seems to be a bit of a chink in your armor after your second place finish in the Iowa Caucasus. Do you think the people of Iowa didn't understand your message or did they just not connect with your personality?

Well, look, everybody knows the people of Iowa are a little behind the times, am I right? I think they just got cable in some of those towns. I'm talking about just basic cable too.  I'm so glad to be in New Hampshire. You know I actually slept in a hotel where I didn't have to send some of my people out to get me a Kluft mattress to sleep on. Have you ever slept on a Kluft mattress? Luxurious, super luxurious, but they are $30,000 so not a lot of people have them. I have truck that follows me a round on the campaign trail filled with Klufts. Best bed ever. Ever.

No, but seriously, the people in the country areas of Iowa, which is most of Iowa, are great people. Really, they are great people, but the are kinda folksy if you know what I mean. A lot of them don't understand a business man like me. It's hard to tell them about trade and China, they don't even have any good Chinese food in Davenport. All they have is Chick-Fil-A and Jimmy's King Gyros, which has fantastic falafel by the way.

Hmm, never been to Jimmy's King Gyros, thanks for the tip. So you're saying they aren't smart enough to understand the subtleties of your campaign positions? Don't you risk alienating these same type of voters when the race turns to the south for what some are calling the SEC primaries? 

Alienating them? No way. These country folks love me. they've never seen anyone like me in their lives. I have people lining up in three feet of snow just to see me. It's great, just great. These people may be a bit dull but they know a winner when they see one, and I am a winner. I win at everything, and when I am president, we are all going to start winning again. I am going to make America great again.

What do you say to those people who claim you have changed your party affiliation 5 times, changed your position numerous times on a wide range of important issues and even given money to your likely opponent, Hillary Clinton?

Look, Ive been through this a million times. I'm a business man, I give money to whoever is in charge at the time to get what I want. It's just a good business practice, I don't care who gets how much, they are all the same, as long as I get what I want.

But what about all the changes in you positions? It seems you tell people what they want to hear at the time to get what you want, and right now it seems you really want to be the president. Should they trust what you're saying now, or look back at your record?

Hey look, whatever your name is, you're a nobody! A NO-BO-DY!
 I don't even know why I'm talking to you! I'm worth 11 or 12 billion dollars. How much are you worth?  I don't have time for your crap kid! I am going to win big here tonight, and then I'm going to win in South Carolina and I'm going to run the table. And not you, or that jackass Ted Cruz, or that little dweeb Rubio or that mamby-pamby Jeb Bush is going to stop me!

Wow, okay. Last question Mr. Trump, if you win all the time and everything you do is so successful, can you explain your four bankruptcies, and your numerous failed projects like Trump Airlines, Trump Vodka, Trump Magazine, Trump Casinos, Trump University, and Trump Steaks? Didn't you put your name on all these things, line up investors, sold them on how these were all going to be the greatest projects ever, and when they failed, you left them holding the bag, along with the debt?

Hey those were all great products, but they were ahead of their time. Those steaks were delicious. Best in the world. 
I got to go, Jake Tapper wants me in the green room.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Two Corinthians walk into a bar.....

I get the appeal of Trump, I do.

He says what people want to hear at any given time. He changes his marketing pitch, and party affiliation, depending on the times.

He knows how the game is played.  He has even paid (both parties) for a few rule changes along the way to make it easier for himself.

He taps into the anger of older republicans who are looking for someone to take them back to the good ol' days. Those days are over by the way and no man, not even a president, will bring them back. This isn't 1980, and Donald Trump is not Ronald Reagan.

He appeals to younger people who look upon most Washington politicians as liars and cheats and want an outsider to change things. (he won't) He also has name recognition, which at this point in the race means a great deal in the polls for those who are not really paying attention.

My biggest issue with Donald Trump is he is not genuine.

I know it's hard to look inside anyone's heart and know what they believe, but I can spot a phony pretty easily.

You know that guy at the party, when you are talking about golf, and you say you'd be lucky to shoot under 100 at Pebble Beach. Then he chimes in and says he shot 66 there. When you ask him how he did this amazing feat, he says he had a couple of hole in ones that day, and he was driving the ball about 450 yards that day. Um, sure thing buddy.

Two Corinthians Donald? Really?

More here 

Look, I get it. You don't read the Bible regularly. That's not a big deal to me. Not a big deal to most people. But it is a big deal to some people who will caucus in Iowa in a few weeks. If you know anything about The Donald, he wants to win more than anything, and he will say anything to win. Anything.

He tries to talk like an evangelical when he in front of an evangelical crowd, but he doesn't come across as genuine because it's not who he is.  I'm sure he won't mention Two Corinthians when he heads to a much more secular New Hampshire in a few weeks.

Now I know some of you will see this and say, "So what?" There is literally nothing Trump could say that would make you change your mind.

You are mad at Obama, mad at the GOP establishment, mad at the direction the country is heading, and you have pinned you hopes on a real estate developer and reality television star. You're mad; I get it.

I changed my party affiliation from republican to 'decline to state' a few years back when the Washington GOP traded their loyalty from the republican base to the lobbyists on K Street. No one is more upset with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell than I am.

I also understand there are no perfect candidates. None. Everyone running has views and positions I do not agree with, and that's fine. For me, I want the most conservative candidate who can win.

I think Rubio has the best chance in a general election. He's young, speaks about republican values in a way that resonates with a broad spectrum of voters, and is the person Hillary Clinton is most frightened of facing.

I'm not a fan of his gang of eight immigration plan, but one very similar to it will be the law of the land in the next few years, no matter who wins the election. I would like to have someone write this legislation who is less concerned with bringing in millions of new voters to their party and more concerned with the best way to change our broken immigration system.

I would like to see Rubio or Cruz get the nomination, but I would even support Christy, or really anyone in the field. Heck, I will even vote for Trump over Mrs. Clinton. This election is that important.

All that being said; I don't want to put my faith in a candidate who changes his beliefs with the political landscape. I don't want to put my faith in a guy who has no clue what an average American has to put up with in their everyday life. I don't want to put my faith in a guy who has proven that the rights of the little guy, the private property owner, are subservient to the rich and well connected. I don't want to put my faith in a guy who is popular because he is the best at pitting 'us' versus 'them'.

Like I said. It is hard to know what a person believes in, especially when he changes his beliefs to fit the times. But I do know this. Donald Trump believes in only one thing: Donald Trump.

Is that enough for you?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015: A year of change.

2015 has been a year of change for me. Unless you were unfortunate enough to be frozen in carbonite by a galactic bounty hunter, it's safe to say, your life changed a bit as well.

I should start with the most apparent change; I have lost over 100 pounds since last January.

I would like to say that it was just a lot of hard work, disciplined dieting, and strenuous exercise that was the catalyst for this change. However, most of you know me too well to buy that story. No, the past several decades of poor eating habits, and a less than active lifestyle, let me put on 5 pounds a year and over that time my health started to decline. Starting to develop diabetes and high blood pressure was the tipping point for me, and I decided I had to do something. Something other than what I had tried in the past.

I elected to have gastric bypass surgery. From the initial consultation with my personal doctor, to the interviews with the Bariatric Surgery staff, all the lab tests, and monitoring, it took about four months to get a date for my surgery. For anyone who has been through this, or is thinking about having bariatric surgery, let me just say, it is not fun. At all.

Having you guts cut open and re-plumed is not for the faint of heart. It hurts like hell for the first week. Gradually, it gets a little better each day, until two weeks has passed and it only feels like you were hit in the belly with square nosed shovel. I won't bore you with the details, but you don't eat a lot, and by that I mean hardly anything at all. It's pretty much an all liquid diet for a few weeks. Slowly you get eat solid foods, like six string beans, or half a scrambled egg.

I am a terrible patient and did not follow the eating guidelines very well.  That will come as a shock to no one, but whenever I crossed the line, I paid a hefty price by throwing it right back up. Anyway, you get the idea; no fun, lots of pain, and some vomiting, kind of like a Nicolas Cage movie.

It has been eleven months since my surgery, and my weight has stabilized around 235. That was my personal goal, but I'm sure my doctors will want me down around 200. That would be fine, and I think I can get there over time. I'm much more active now, I ride my bike downtown four times a week, and my back and knees feel a lot better. My blood sugar is doing great and my blood pressure is just a tick over normal now.

It is strange to me how some pretty drastic changes can happen through a little bit of effort, while some require a herculean undertaking.

I stopped getting drunk 15 or 20 years ago. I just decided to stop. It didn't take a lot of will power to do it, I just made up my mind and stopped drinking more than one (of anything).

I won't say I quit drinking. I still have a occasional beer or a single shot of bourbon every once in a while, to the amazement of some of my friends who didn't know me in the old days. Today, I can have a drink, and don't feel the need to have another. Thank the Lord for that. I know many people who cannot stop at just one. It's better all together if they don't drink at all.

I guess that is how I was with pizza and cheese burgers. I still have those today, but I can only have one slice of pizza or maybe half a cheeseburger. I'm cool with that. I wish I could have just decided to stop eating pizza after one slice, but I couldn't, and if I had done nothing, it probably would have killed me.

Do you need to make a drastic change in your life? In your relationships? In your health? Do you need to take action in a certain area of your life that is slowly destroying you or your family?

I hope it is just as simple as making a decision. I really do.

If it's not, and if it's something you have decided to change many times in the past, only to fail; do something different. Reach out for help. No one will think you're weak because you need help. I certainly won't. I stopped drinking with little difficulty; I had to have to serious surgery to stop eating half a pizza at a sitting.

You can do this. It may take some serious effort, and yes, even some pain, but I can tell you from where I sit right now, it is worth it. Totally worth it.

If someone you care for needs help, support them, but get them help.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

50 is the new,,,oh Hell, 50 is still old.

As I sneak up on my 50th birthday, certain things are becoming sharper in their focus.

Time; which once seemed in infinite supply, seems more finite, much like my patience.

Purpose; which I once thought would somehow find me, seems to be lost, and without a GPS and distracted by pretty flowers.

And lastly Relationships; trying to sort out the ebb and flow of people in and out of my life.

Let's start with time. Time is a constant. It flows like a river, free of any restrictions as it marches unencumbered to its destination. There is no damming its path, no constricting its volume. It will follow the path of least resistance and we are powerless to stop it. Much like the growth of the federal government.

I like to think of time as the $5 bill I received as a birthday gift when I was around 7 or 8. For a child, (back in the early 70s anyway) $5 was an enormous amount of money. I remember getting that $5 bill and heading to the Oak Run Store with my friend Johnny. This was back when a candy bar was .25 cents, or maybe they just went to .35 cents, it's hard to remember. Anyway, we bought an obscene amount or sugar laden food items, which included a box of chocolate-covered, marshmallow pinwheel cookies.

We ate the entire box on our walk back to his house. By the end of the day, we had eaten enough candy to make ourselves miserably sick and I still had about $1.75 left.  Later that week I went with my mom to town where I bought some football cards (I was never a big baseball fan until later) and maybe a MAD magazine or two. My point being, the five dollars was gone and I had very little to show for it.

I think back to my teenage years, my 20s, even my 30s and wonder what my life would look like today if I spent less time chasing after pinwheel cookies and focusing on something of greater value? Who knows, if I'm not careful, I may look back on my 50s and wonder what the hell was I doing with all that extra time as well.
I wish I could take some of that time back. But I can't; it's gone. Spend your time wisely people. Spend it with the ones you love. Spend it doing what you love. In the end, it's your most valuable asset. 

Purpose. What is my purpose in life? If anyone knows, please feel free to let me in on the secret.

As I get older, I start to wonder if there is anything more important than figuring out my purpose on this spinning blue orb circling the M class star in the middle of our Milky Way galaxy.

For me, the easy answer, being a Christian, (and a terrible one at that) is to live the way Jesus would want me to. To love Him above all else, and love others as much as I love myself. Most of the time, I find this to be an impossible standard to live up to. It would be easy to give up and say, "Lord, you know what weak material I am made of, can't I just try to be nice to most people and not kill anyone?" I find these are the one-sided deals we pretend to make with God.

We always try to change the rules to fit our lives, and to keep ourselves as comfortable and safe as possible. That isn't what Jesus called us to do. We are to follow Him. There will always be risk, pain, and conflict when you follow Jesus; it's a certain as the turning of the earth. The reward? A truly priceless, yet free gift, given to us as a debt paid in full.

Is it worthy of my best effort? You bet it is. Even as I know I will always fall short, I will get back up and try to do better tomorrow.

I have other purposes that I am committed to, as a husband, father, friend, employee, etc.  I hope I have lived up to these endeavors, and pray I will continue to grow and learn as I get older. In all these things, what I always strive for in everything I do, is to help people. I know I'm not going to change the world, but if I can help a few people along the way, I would be satisfied with that. Make a difference, even a small one.

Relationships are tricky. I must admit, I am not very good at them.

I'm not sure if it was my semi-solitary upbringing on the ranch, or it's just the way the Lord created me, but I am content when I am by myself. It's not that I don't like crowds, or parties, or being with friends. I do. However, I am just as happy alone with my thoughts. Sometimes that comes across the wrong way to people, and I apologize. While I am outgoing, and can make friends easily, I am not very good at cultivating and growing those friendships. My best friends are the people I sometimes don't talk to for months at a time, but when we do talk, we pick up right where we left off. I should work on this. I will try.

As far as being a husband, I am far from perfect. You can ask my wife; she knows. I don't consider myself to be malicious or do anything to try to be hurtful or careless. I think mine are mostly errors of omission. Having been married for twenty seven years, there are many times I take my wife for granted. I get wrapped up in me, and what is going on inside my head and forget that she is the other half of this partnership. Her thoughts, feeling and concerns should be just as important to me as mine. I could write a book on all the dumb things I have done in our marriage, but let's just say, I love that woman to pieces and thank the Lord for her all the time.

I have written about my children on many occasions, and whatever I said still goes. (I think, I'll have to go back and read it again)

I am so proud of each one of them. Steven is a kind, thoughtful soul. He is intelligent, talented and will always do the right thing. Abbie has grown into wonderful young woman. She is hard working and kind. She is smart and funny, and has a goofy side to her that I think she gets from me. As talented as Steven is with a guitar in his hands, Abbie is equally talented on horseback. They follow different passions, but they both love what they do and it is joy to watch them. If I can only get Abbie to breathe when she rides in competition; I'm afraid she will pass out one of these days.

All in all, I have no right to complain. The first fifty years have had some wonderful highs, gut wrenching lows, and a lot of time somewhere in the middle. I am more than content to have my faith, my family, and my friends.

To quote Eddie Vedder,
"Oh I'm a lucky man, to count on both hands the ones I love.
Some folks just have one, yeah, others, they've got none, uh huh."