miles to go…

New-Year-Resolution-quotes-...-day’s-resolutionsSo you’ve got this piece of sand that you’ve been sitting on…this piece of sand that you’re trying to decide whether it would be better to just let it rub you raw…or to figure out how to turn it  into a pearl.

On New Year’s Day, we are desperate to suddenly develop the ability to turn it into a pearl.

All the rest of the year-long, we’ll complain about the worn patch.  We could brush it off…move to a different chair…but it’s easy to say that something’s chafing us and just let it ride.  We are sitting on something we can hardly see and it’s driving us crazy.

In the beginning, it wasn’t like this.  In the beginning, we said “hmmmm…..scratchy”.  Later on it might have been, “What the heck?  What’s wrong with this chair?”.

By the time New Year’s rolls along we’re screaming in discomfort ( low pain threshold, you know)….yelling about how “some changes gonna be made!” even if we don’t really understand the problem.

If we’re either really brave…or really close to the person we are questioning….we might ask, “Do you see this raw place on my behind?  Do you think it’s a rash?  Where do you suppose it came from?”  They’ll try to look away, maybe….or burrow in and bring out the magnifying glass.  It’s easier to see the problem on someone else’s behind.

So maybe you get an answer to your question….”Oh…that’s bad…you should do something about that”. So you smear the creme…cry a little…back up to the mirror for a second self-obsessed look…and then go sit back down in your favorite chair to ponder how things are going to be different now that you’ve identified the result of the problem.

But in spite of the creme and the soothing words, that chair still just doesn’t feel right.

Now it’s New Year’s Eve…and you bandage and sooth your posterior and go out into the world to change it.

You tell yourself, “I resolve…I resolve….I resolve that in the coming year, I will work at feeling better.”

Mission accomplished…sooth your soul….you made the effort, stayed the course, you’re right on track…you made a RESOLUTION.

Now what?

It is a real bugger to find a piece of sand in an easy chair. It’s work to clean and vacuum up the irritation. It’s a lot easier to just keep smearing on the creme.

If the darn chair wasn’t my established favorite, I might just move to another one and solve the problem…even if I never understood the trouble, this might be a solution.  I suspect that sooner or later, though, I would be right back in it…it’s my favorite, after all.

We can’t understand the deeper issues.  We don’t look for the “sand in our chairs”.  Maybe it’s time to go to Costco and buy a barrel of creme.

Ring in the New Year.  All hail RESOLUTIONS!

don’t make promises you can’t keep

01 Track 1 Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep by Tim Hardin


Coming up with a good New Years resolution is like figuring out what to blog about every morning.  Sometimes you just have to pick something.

Sometimes it’s something easy and obvious…like writing about resolutions…or resolving to eat breakfast every day.  Sometimes it’s more nebulous…like telling yourself you’re going to be kinder in the coming year…or that you’re going to work at drawing closer to God.

The resolutions that are harder to pin down are easier to “fudge”.

It’s strange that we have this marker of the jump over into a “new year” to make our promises.  I guess it’s kind of nice to have a year-long buffer before we have to figure out something else to improve…it usually doesn’t take long before we’ve forgotten that we had changes to make.  Manana….what a beautiful word.

I like the resolutions like “I promise to eat less poptarts…and more bulgur”…who’s going to be able to track my progress with something like that?  If you can figure out how to define your conviction with “soft words” you can get away with a lot.  All the things that we can “sort of” accomplish…”maybe” something will come together for us in the new year….I “might” be able to handle that.

The promises that we probably can’t do anything about…but that remind us that we have something to feel bad about in the coming year…man…those are the worst.  “I resolve to remember every day that I did something bad in the past that I can’t change or erase.  I resolve to feel bad…I resolve to feel defeated…I resolve to remember my powerlessness to fix the problems that I can’t touch.”

I am going to go into the New Year with a couple of hard resolutions…not difficult, but hard and fast…attainable and enjoyable…life affirming and positive.  I resolve…and they say that to write anything down is the surest way to take it all seriously….well, I resolve to grow my beard every day and to always remember to breathe in the coming year.  There…I jump in with both feet and proclaim before the world that some changes will definitely be made in the coming year.

I’ve heard that every day we lose (and replace…don’t worry, Skeltor) about a million skin cells. We are constantly changing…so even if we hit midnight with some angst about the changes to be made…in some respects it’s already happening whether or not we can read a calendar.

I had a camp friend who used to say that his Dad’s motto was “Do something…even if it’s wrong!”  So….I guess that we all need to make some promises…and then move on with our lives.  Forge ahead…even if we’re doing it wrong.


Have a great New Years celebration!






my son’s new robot

power ranges robotMy son has a new robot.

It may not even be a robot, I don’t know.  It’s not a doll…even a three-year old boy is offended by that.  I suppose that it’s an action figure…that’s the politically correct way to describe it to a little guy. To me, though, it looks like a robot.

I don’t think that this is a picture of the robot that my son has.  This robot may be offensive to him if he had a chance to see it.  It may be a villain robot. I don’t watch the Power Rangers with the intensity I’d need to remember something like that.

The thing about his new robot is that his new robot is actually becoming the sum of many parts.  Apparently, you buy the big robot first.  It is easy to put together…about 6 parts (the legs, arms, torso…head, helmet, etc)…not threatening to a parent at all.  It comes with a large sheet of instructions.  If I’d brought my “A-game” the day I assembled the big robot, I would have known that something was up.

“This is too easy” I thought.

My son studied that big sheet of instructions like he was preparing to take the SAT.  After a while, he came out of the bedroom and reeled off the names…in three year old English…of about 5 other little robots that he needed to complete his big robot.  These little robots (purchased separately, of course) attach to the body of the big robot.  I don’t know if the big robot will ever be complete.  It looks like there are hundreds of potential attachment points.

Last night, we were at Wal-Mart and bought another piece of the robot.  The robot looks pretty good to me already…my son loves playing with the robot right now…but there are other parts that we need.  I’m starting to wonder if it’s not like getting a brand new crack pipe…or a shiny new razor….for Christmas.  The big robot was just the conduit for a bunch of new little robots…there’s always going to be something else he needs to approach making it complete.

I think that there’s probably a limit to how big this robot can get.  At this point, he can carry it in his arms…take it to bed with him…put him in the car and go to town with him.  I suppose I could make a custom designed cart for the robot if need be somewhere down the line.

This toy is genius.  I don’t remember anything I’ve ever owned that caught me so unaware.  Who would have thought that a little plastic robot would have so many needs?  Who would have thought that an inanimate object could make so may silent demands?  Apparently, my little boy hears every one of them.


“But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.”

Between my first and second years of college, I had a job at a country club in Marietta, Ga.  I was the beer cart driver, selling sandwiches and soda, crackers and candy…and probably most important to the high rolling golfers….beer.

It was one of the best jobs I’ll ever have.

I went to school with most of the kids who lived in the development…so the country club wasn’t too exotic to me…but my family wasn’t a part of the “horsey set”.  I had friends who lived in big houses…I had friends who lived in little houses…all I knew about any of it was that it was nice to have friends.

That summer I got used to the phrase “keep the change”.  I liked that phrase.  Every work day, I’d go home with the pockets of my blue corduroys bulging with quarters.  The job was something I could get used to.

One week, we had a horrible heat wave.  I think it was about 110 degrees for the whole week.

Atlanta can be beastly hot in the summer…but this was beyond beastly.

I’d go out for my “beer circuit” in the cool beginnings of morning…and by just a little later in the day, it would already be unbearable.  I think that in my 8 or 9 hour shift, I’d typically see two or three golfers out on the course.  It was too hot for even the dogs to be out.

But I’d be there…under a shade tree by the thirteenth hole…too hot to even enjoy sweating…reading “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck.

I went through a big Steinbeck phase that summer…read “Grapes of Wrath” sitting on the golf course, too.

I think I read East of Eden in three really hot workdays.  It wasn’t hard to get some reading done on the surface of the moon.  I felt like Charlton Heston in that Omega Man movie….wondering where everybody was.

East of Eden is a great story. I love that book.  When you are working your way out of adolescence, books with a well-defined moral core are pretty appealing.  It is part of being young to need to be outraged…to be challenged by the “hypocritical world”…to be moved by grand moral dilemmas.

One of the central themes in the book is the idea of timshel…the thought that we have the privilege of being able to choose. If the Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi Shamalamadingdong had dropped some truth hard on my head it wouldn’t have been an idea that made more of an impact on me.

Timshel.  “Thou mayest”…and, alternatively, “thou mayest not”.  What a mind expanding concept for a young guy!  It wasn’t “you better not”….or “you can’t”…it was the choice between good and evil….the chance to  rise or sink depending on the path we choose…that was what was most important.

God could have created a world of grey automatons…pre-programmed for obedience, with a constant and instantaneous response to every situation in line with what He desires.  Instead, He made us messy…and fragile…and weak…and prone to fall down.  It’s just the way we are.

But He gave us the power to choose.

I had an idea that was how things rolled before I read this book…a loose concept of the world and of Heaven and Hell, good and evil, man’s struggles,etc….as much of an understanding as a nineteen year old beer cart driver can have….but I loved this book…loved the idea of timshel.

I loved the idea that we were given the option of making our own way.  We weren’t abandoned…God didn’t set this all up as some sort of weird cosmic test so he could laugh at us when we failed. I don’t think that it was some tenuous battle with the Devil…the outcome always hanging by a thread.  Maybe instead…it’s the chance for Him to rejoice all the harder when we make the right…the loving…decisions.

I spent a lot of time feeling bad about myself because I never felt that I could be “good enough” for God.  Now I’m at a place where I’m seeing that God created us to be human beings …with all that being a human being involves…in the world completely now…but ultimately not of the world. Being “in the world” isn’t something to be transcended …it’s not something we need to aspire to escape…to bliss out and “spiritualize” our way out of.  Instead, maybe it’s something to embrace and explore.  While we’re here…why not choose to enjoy what we’ve been given?

The old song that goes something like “soon and very soon, I am going to meet the Lord” makes me wonder if God ever thinks, “Oh no!!  Enjoy what you have while you have it!!  I look forward to seeing you…but try and bloom where you’re planted for a while…OK?”

It’s a big responsibility to be able to choose. I think it’s a lot easier if someone else is making all of our decisions for us…but that doesn’t strike me as the way it was set up.

I love the idea of timshel. I love thinking that we are given the gift of being able to choose our own path.

I love that I can still remember what it felt like to sit in a golf cart in the Atlanta heat and to be introduced to the Jewish concept of timshel…and that it resonates so strongly with me today.


to quote Steve Martin, “And the most amazing thing is…”

victor wooten…I get paid for doing this!”

I deliver mail.  I went to art school. Delivering mail is the kind of job a snooty bunch of art punks laughed about when I was in school (like working at a grocery store…or in a warehouse…or at a chicken hatchery…all of which I’m proud to say I’ve done).  We laughed about it because it was a long way from anything creative. It was how the “other people” lived…the ones without the gumption to dig a little deeper and find their “bliss”.

I’ve mentioned before that one of the things I do while I’m delivering…in addition to giving the mail my full attention like any other good government employee…is listen to audio books. I almost said “books on tape”…but that would date me.  I listen to mp3 audio books that I’ve burned to cd.

It’s a great way to pass the time…a welcome addition to a route that starts to feel pretty familiar after years of making the same circuit in the same order at the same speed.

The book I’m listening to right now is called “The Music Lesson” by Victor Wooten. It’s kind of like a really funky Carlos Castaneda book….the metaphysical lesson of how Victor not only learned to play the bass better…it’s the story of how Victor Wooten learned to play music.  His bass became the medium that he used to release the music inside him.

One of the sections of the book that I’m listening to is about vibrations…how music can affect us physically.  This morning as I write this I’m listening to a NewAge keyboardist named Steven Halpern who talks about making music that is designed to promote healing and inner peace.  I’m drinking my coffee, moving my fingers (people used to complain about Kerouac…”he’s not a writer…he’s a typist!”)…moving my fingers…and listening to healing music on I don’t know if I feel any different…but it’s pleasant.

Anyway…back to Victor Wooten.  This audiobook I’m listening to is the story of his friendship and interaction with a teacher named Michael.  Michael puts him through his paces…lots of questions and illustrations that aren’t always just about playing the bass.

One of the revelations that I loved was the illustration of only being a half step away from being “right”…that if you landed on a note that didn’t sound “right”, you only needed to move up or down the fretboard a half step and you’d be OK again.  What a great revelation…don’t panic, just make a minor adjustment…works in a lot of ways in my life.

I have a couple of decent basses.  I screwed around with playing the bass for years.  At this point in my life, I think I can see that my real skill is maybe in buying instruments…not really in playing them.  This book makes me want to get out my bass and start playing again.

This is an inspiring book if you are a musician…I think this book would be inspirational if you weren’t a musician,too.  Like the lesson of playing music…letting the music come through you and recognizing that the instrument of choice was just a vehicle for the music…we have the opportunity to let our own music come through whatever we are doing at the moment.  There’s room for creativity even in occupations like delivering the mail.  “What we do” doesn’t define us…but “how we do” speaks loudly.  This is what I’m taking away from the book at the moment.

Google Victor Wooten.  Listen to some of his music…read some stuff about him…and then read or listen to this book. He’s probably the funkiest bassist you’ll ever run into…and this book, while not really a traditional “music lesson”, should add to any musician’s knowledge about making music.  It’s an interesting comment on life and creativity by a very talented musician.


watch out for the snakes

unbelievable-6-year-old-boy-lives-with-anaconda-petI have been running off and on for the last 37 years.  These days it’s mostly “off”….but a year ago, I was getting up every morning at 5 and putting on my running stuff and going out to run in the dark.

It was beautiful….so peaceful running under the moon…so meditative to be out before the rest of the world woke up.

Except for the occasional car flashing their high beams at me, or a deer crashing back into the woods, I was alone.  There is something about repetition and solitude that I love…it seems to just open something inside of me and I can think without any distractions.  I’ve run in the rain…I’ve run in the snow…sleet…any kind of weather…and the response is always the same: running makes me feel free.  I love it.

I told my co-workers about my morning runs…didn’t get into any of the philosophical stuff with them…and I think it was more of a curiosity than anything else.  It wasn’t part of their experience so they couldn’t really relate to why someone would get up so early to do something like that if they didn’t have to.

One of my co-workers asked a question that changed the experience of darkness for me.  She’d grown up in our valley…had been with the post office for a long time…and was a practical woman.

She asked, “Aren’t you afraid of the snakes?”

That was something I’d never thought of.  Of course the giant rattlers would want to lay in the warm summertime night road.  It only made sense that they’d be out in large numbers.

From then on…in spite of the fact that I’d never seen a snake (in the dark, of course)…never heard the rattling warning as I plodded through the night time…from then on, every stick and shadow I passed was a python ready to wrap…a diamondback ready to strike.

DANG IT, MABEL!!! I wasn’t afraid until you told me I needed to be.

I’d seen bears on a few of my morning runs.  I’d seen wild turkeys, deer, racoons…other animals, for sure…but never a snake…but suddenly they were everywhere I imagined them to be.  I gave every stick a wide berth…running out of my way to avoid every silent and still piece of wood that could maybe just metamorphosis into a slithering death muscle.

There have been so many things that I wasn’t afraid of until someone told me I should be.

There’s a line in one of David Wilcox’s songs that says, “afraid of the darkness in the morning”.  It’s pretty true…we’re paralyzed with expectation…dreading the snake that just might be lying in wait.  Most of the things that I fear have never happened to me.  I can think that it’s because I was watchful…a successful guardian, prepared for the worst and able to cut it off before it got to us….but the truth is probably that in reality none of the bad would have happened.

We support each other in our paranoia.  Without someone to remind us of what we should fear, we’d probably miss a lot of things to be nervous about.  “Watch out for the snakes!!”…the fiscal cliff, high wind and falling trees…predatory lenders…lions, tiger, and bears….there is always going to be something to fear.

I have an artistic daughter who’s getting ready to go to college.  I majored in art…spent a lot of time in a studio smudged with paint and graphite…and I have a family now and deliver the mail to make money.  My counsel to her was to get a degree in something that would make her employable…and pursue her artistic interests on the side.

I find the snakes for her to be afraid of.

She would love a studio art degree…love pursuing something creative…but like any parent I want things to be easier for her. There’s nothing brave about my counsel to her…maybe something very practical…but she should be able to pursue her own bliss…like I was given the opportunity to pursue mine.

It’s beyond my abilities to keep anyone safe.  I can grab their arm before they step out into traffic,  we can teach them to use their turn signals…not eat poison…wear a warm coat on a cold day…but in the end we’re all on our own.  We take what we’ve learned and use it to survive.

It is in my power to not encourage the fear of things that won’t affect them.  Fear radiates…so when I get my own under control, I’ll work at not letting it spread.

I want my children to see the possibilities in the world.  I want to raise positive people.  I want to give them a chance at seeing how wonderful this world can be.

I haven’t seen any snakes for years.




They say that God is in the details.

Our new roof is leaking.

Our new roof is leaking around the old chimney.  You never notice the old as much as when you start to spruce things up.  Every new bit of trim…every new roof panel replacing a piece of rusted out old tin…every length of fresh siding up against the old…reminds us that things we didn’t notice when that was all there was are looking pretty decrepit.

It is pouring outside this morning. It is raining hard on the day after a holiday, when I’ll be delivering handfuls of absorbent paper soon… it’s setting me up for the expectation of an awkward time of it.

Back to the chimney issue.  The chimney is old and has cracks in the masonry.  When it’s dry it’s not a problem.  When it rains hard enough, the water follows the cracks and migrates its way into the house…and I wake up and step in a puddle when I make my way across the floor to go downstairs to start the coffee.

It’s not really fair to say that our new roof is leaking.  It’s actually our old chimney that’s leaking…to blame the new isn’t really accurate.  It really has to be pouring outside to even notice that it’s leaking…so the project of fixing the chimney is easy to put on the back burner…easy to postpone addressing the problem.

“It’s not leaking now that it stopped raining.”

This leak is the story of my life.  I don’t mean that I’m not blessed.  I’m blessed in ways I don’t understand…blessed in ways I take for granted…blessed in ways I never see until it’s raining.

What I mean is that I have a pretty good veneer…I take care of the roof…it’s shiny and new…but when it pours it’s not uncommon to feel the puddle in places unexpected.  My “chimney” is old and waiting to be fixed.  It has cracks that I can ignore unless it’s pouring outside.  It’s easier, too, to find fault with the people around me than it is to address the things that need fixing in my life. It’s a wonderful distraction to be able to pay more attention to what’s around me than to what’s inside me.

A masonry crack is easy to live with until the water finds its way in. My faults are easy to ignore until something tests me.

But who wants to think about the cracks?  Surely it will stop raining soon.



Parents are afraid

Parents jump in headfirst when they don’t know how deep the water is. Parents are afraid.

Can you imagine how afraid Mary must have been before she had Jesus?  She was given peace…but she must have been pretty terrified.  We homogenize the whole story for the most part….make it easy for the masses to swallow, take out the roughest parts, smooth it all over…but it couldn’t have been more scary for a young mother.

We parents don’t have a clue how a child’s life is going to turn out.  We run on faith and, if we’re doing our job right, hope for the best….and that’s if our child is “just” a little wild man…sometimes cranky, always sweet and loved.

If you’re parenting the future Savior of the world I imagine there’d be a lot more pressure to get everything right. God’s hand would have to be involved…the stress would drive you crazy.

We would never begin most things if we knew the end at the beginning of the story. Most of us wouldn’t have let Jesus out of the house if we understood what lay down the road.

Knowing the end of Jesus’ story makes the Christmas story the most precious story we have.

I hope that you and yours have a wonderful Christmas…and that, amidst all the presents and holiday cheer, you get the chance to remember our reason to celebrate the beginning.

celebrate me home

Christmas Eve…I’ll play Santa, delivering packages for the USPS during the first part of the day…and then I’m home for the evening.

This is my favorite Kenny Loggins song.

I had the chance to see him when he opened for Fleetwood Mac in the late 70’s…one of my high school friends who was at the concert said, “Who’s Kenny Loggins?”…I had to educate her about Loggins and Messina.

We’ve finished most of the preparations…ready for another Christmas.

Celebrate me home…

Have a wonderful Christmas.

I could drag this end of the world thing out forever

If I really lacked content for this blog, I could drag this end of the world thing out forever.

Of course, I don’t need to do that.  My head is filled with interesting topics to write about.  If a person is breathing…if a person has any of his senses…there will always be something to write about.  The world is too rich a tapestry to allow me to just stare at my computer screen and wonder, “what today?!”.

But if I was having problems with that…I could really drag out this end of the world discussion a long time…if not forever.

But…the world hasn’t ended yet.  So what’s the point of discussing it any further? To pick an angle on the whole situation and beat it to death would get tiresome pretty quickly.  Who would want to stick around for that? Not me, for one…count me out.

It’s a luxury…the endless discussion…that a real “extinction level event” wouldn’t allow me.  If I sat at our computer blogging away and watched the panicked exodus down our little country road…while meteors plowed into the mountains on the other side of the valley….rifts opened following the creek bed…my family would be P.O.’d with me.  It would be a time of action…not contemplation….time to rent an RV and get ready to do some major stunts to save the clan.

That isn’t the way any of this world ending stuff went down this time, though.  It is irrelevant to talk about any of it now…like jawing about exactly what I was doing when Y2K didn’t happen.  Nobody cares…nobody wants to hear it.

So I won’t talk about it.  What would be the point?  I guess I asked that earlier.  There isn’t any sense in repeating myself, so let me rephrase it: what purpose would it serve to talk about something that didn’t happen ad nauseam? The answer to that question is…no purpose at all.  It would grow hard to listen to and I don’t think I’d be able to sustain any interest in it.

To obsess over something that didn’t happen may just be a strong indicator of a deeper underlying psychological problem.  Think about it : someone talks about an imagined reaction to an event that never happened over and over and over and over…talks about it to the point where the reader or listener or audience feels like they’d do anything to escape it…they would do anything to extricate themselves from the hell of a pointless obsession…and this person doing the talking/writing never clues in to how hard it is to bear the discussion.  That is crazy!

We have bigger things going on in the world than the world ending.

How about Christmas? Now that’s something to celebrate…forget all this Stonehenge weirdness.