stumbling into meaning

i'm always doing pablo picassoA french press is a wonderful exercise in patience.

When you want coffee in the morning, it’s hard to wait for it to brew a while before you depress the plunger.

It is hard to wait for your coffee when you think it may be the only thing keeping you away from discovering some grand meaning in life…like a jolt of caffeine could kick-start something in your brain and suddenly you’d be allowed at least one decent idea out of your measured quota.

My back doesn’t hurt this morning.

Yesterday I dug a pretty good-sized ditch for a home improvement project.  It was hard work.  Clay soil and a mattock….down in the bottom for the last of it, throwing out spade full after spade full…and then…the job was done.  Now I have to do a little more work on it…and then fill it in again.

It’s funny, though, how there never seems to be as much dirt to fill the hole as what you had to take out to make the hole.

It was kind of a strain to make that long hole…it made my back tired, made my arms tired…but this morning my back doesn’t hurt and you really have to wonder if it wasn’t the exercise of digging that is the cause of my comfort…


This revelation made me wonder if the only measure of comfort we have is the contrast with something that made us uncomfortable?

There is a bon-bon eating King somewhere in the world, maybe in one of the smaller countries…I don’t really know…sitting on a brocaded mound of pillows, waiting for his servant girls to peel another date for him…thinking, ” I AM SO FREEKING BORED.”

He doesn’t have any thing to contrast his life of luxury with…no ditch to make him remember how nice it will be when the hole is filled in.

The Picasso quote at the beginning of the post is a good one…but re-reading it now, I wonder is he saying that he does stuff he’s unable to do?  Or is he saying he does things he’s not allowed to do?

I have friends whose philosophy is that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to ask permission.

Hey….I’m down with that.  If you’ve built a certain amount of good will…and presented past efforts with a well defined sense of willynillyness…you really can get away with a lot.  A well-timed  “Oh, maaaan….I didn’t know…I AM SO SORRY!!!”   can get you out of a lot of jams.

Not that I’m a proponent of that method…I wouldn’t recommend making a habit of it, either. And I guess it works better if you pick the apples in a vacant field than if you run over someone with your golf cart.

You really have to have at least a small measure of judiciousness in this life.

Ten feet away from the end of the ditch, it starts to make sense.  The first shovel full you take out at the beginning of the ditch feels a lot different than the last bit of dirt you lay up on the side of the hole.

You don’t know how any of it is going to feel until you actually have the shovel in your hand, though…no matter how many times you’ve dug the ditch inside your head.

I guess that I’m a fan of “forced serendipity”…you have to do the work to realize the blessing.

Stumbling into the hole helps you appreciate the sky again.


i want to be little

To encourage our three-year old son, we frequently tell him, “You are such a big boy!”

We tell him this when he hits any of the milestones that define “big boy” for a three-year old…like not yelling during a wedding or staying with Mommy in a crowd.

Lately, when we tell him how big he’s getting, he yells back, “I WANT TO BE LITTLE!!!!”

Man, I think, join the club.

I wonder if he knows something I don’t remember.

There is a certain strong cache in being a mature member of society…it greases the wheels somehow to just fit in…to accept that along with all the grown up toys there comes a certain responsiblity to “dress the part”. You really have to learn how to play the games to get to join the “successful club”.

You wouldn’t want to draw too much attention to yourself by being the kind of fellow who always has people commenting, “What’s his deal?!  Who does he think HE IS?!!”

It freaks people out if you go too far outside of what they can understand.

That was one of the interesting things about ART SCHOOL ( I capitalize and highlight because it feels like some kind of hyped up myth to me at this point…we become different people as we move from being “little” )….one of the interesting things about art school was that if you weren’t trying to go at least a little bit outside of the understood…it freaked people out.

“Who does he think he is?”  What a loaded question…I don’t know if I could define myself these days.

Occupation helps some…I could say “I am a mailman”…but that feels so weird I couldn’t stand to say it.  I’m a guy driving the mail around.  As a courtesy, I do my best to make sure I do it all correctly, but I wouldn’t say that I’m willing to be defined by my job.

Parent and husband come a lot closer to defining me…it’s something that matters, something I can really and continuously sink my teeth into.

But even that doesn’t completely define me…just like it doesn’t completely define Jenny.  There is more to us than “just” being parents.

Good grief…some days I “just want to be little”.

Here’s a poem by Jim Harrison from a book called “In Search of Small Gods”


Back in the blue chair in front of the green studio
another year has passed, or so they say, but calendars lie.
They’re a kind of cosmic business machine like
their cousin clocks but break down at inopportune times.
Fifty years ago I learned to jump off the calendar
but I kept getting drawn back on for reasons
of greed and my imperishable stupidity.
Of late I’ve escaped those fatal squares
with their razor-sharp numbers for longer and longer.
I had to become the moving water I already am,
falling back into the human shape in order
not to frighten my children, grandchildren, dogs and friends.Our old cat doesn’t care. He laps the water where my face used to be.

I love that line “I had to become the moving water I already am…”

I guess that we are all oddly shaped pegs that can’t be driven into the round holes that people expect.

Or maybe we can be driven into the expected hole…the process just leaves a piece of us behind when we don’t completely fit?

Maybe when my son yells, “I WANT TO BE LITTLE”  I should just give him a hug and tell him “sounds like a good plan to me, buddy”.

Sounds like a plan.





If you are ever paid to do something, you are a professional.

At least that’s my understanding of what it means to be a pro.

I’m a pro.

If the definition of “professional” that I found this morning holds true in all cases, I’m sure I fall a little short in some parts of the description.

Part of the definition is “exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace”.

Man….I guess I’m still a pro…I think I’m pretty consistent, but there have been times when I felt like losing it.  Maybe “feeling like” and acting out are two different things.

If I’m to understand that payment equates with professionalism….then I guess that I’m a professional lobsterman, a carpenter and sanitation expert, nutritionist, nurseryman, mechanic, farmer, day care worker, landscaper, policeman, set designer, beer cart driver, warehouseman, bookstore worker and literary critic, engineer, disc jockey, hatchery worker, pizza chef, veterinary tech and …sanitation engineer, mailman, retail specialist, painter of refrigeration cases, painter of portraits, media specialist, counselor, driver, courier, movie critic, proofreader, musician…what else?

My resume is kind of disjointed.

If you include all the positions I’ve held that had non-monetary forms of payment, it opens up a lot more possibilities.

One of the ones that springs to mind most easily is PARENT.

I am a true professional in that capacity.

My wife and children can tell you that the part about courtesy always holds true when it comes to my parenting skills.

“Value added” is a term I hear thrown around a good deal, too.

I can’t think of anything that I have done in my life that has added value to it like marrying Jenny and starting our family together.

I don’t make any money being a husband and father… but I am paid.

Value has been added to my life because of what they have brought to it.

I am a professional…one in a line of successful acolytes…apprenticed to good people who did their best to be good to each other.

I hope that my children…after serving out their own version of an apprenticeship… get the chance to be professionals in their own time.






new chickens


We have some new chickens.

A month ago, I would have said, “we have some new baby chicks”….but a bit into a short maturation process I can now say that we have some new, though still young, chickens.

I’m glad our children don’t grow as fast as those chickens.

When our babies were little, one of the best pieces of advice that I got was to pay attention.

Even if they grow more slowly than a baby chick, it’s easy to miss things if you don’t slow down to notice.

Of course, the conundrum of the whole situation is that life seems to accelerate when children come into the picture…so it kind of has to be a focused effort to slow down enough to see what’s going on.

Our first batch of chickens were carried off by an owl or something big in the night.

Our children sleep inside the house…so there isn’t much chance of that happening to them…plus, they are a lot bigger than the chickens so I don’t think I have much to worry about in that department.

I still worry about a lot of crazy stuff…just not owls carrying the children away.

Chickens are pretty cool.  Dollar for dollar, they are a great, stinky amusement.

The eggs are nice, too.

But I think that I like my children a whole lot more than I like those chickens.

Stay away from my kids, you steenking owls!

image from

I’m in the movie


There is a film crew making a movie around the lake in our town.

I drove my mail jeep into the middle of a scene…and when I stopped to ask one of the crew if it meant that I was in the movie, he said that I needed to get a SAG card before they could let me show up on screen.

How do I get one of those?  I want to be in the movie, too!

Actually, in my head I’m the star of my own movie…all the time.  I can’t help it.  It’s just a subversively huge ego at work up in that grey matter.  Things roll better if I present a face of concern and humility…but like an angry co-worker once yelled at me, maybe it really is “ALL ABOUT MEEEEEEEEEEE!!!”

I don’t know if that crew member was just yanking my chain or not…but if I was in it, I know I’d go see it…just so I could nudge my children and say, “there I am…did you see Daddy?!!!”.  That’d be a cool moment.

Any break from the norm is fun…but to come around the corner into a world of glamour and sophistication (THE MOVIE BUSINESS!!! Tinseltown comes to the country!) is pretty darn cool.

What can I say?  The rube is impressed by the shiny lights.

honesty is dangerous


I’ve mentioned before that I have a lot of books.

A good percentage of my books are nonfiction…and a good number of those are self-improvement books.

Who wouldn’t feel like there was something in their life that needed some improvement?

Why not work at being better if some book might help you along?  Like anything being sold…you have to make sure that there’s a strong need to sell your product.  Most people have needs…it’s an easy sell.

But the thing about need is that it’s not always real…my wants and my needs run together without much awareness or effort on my part.  Most of the time, I don’t know where one starts and the other begins.

I used to feel that I needed to be up front at every altar call.  Until I started to figure out that my efforts would never be enough…and that I needed to settle down and just relax a little…and trust a lot more…I always wanted to make that long walk to the front of the church. I guess that’s where faith comes in…and ego flies away.  It’s just another part of my self-depracating nature, I suppose.

If I went into the book store and asked for the self-delusion section, they probably wouldn’t know what I was talking about. If I started to try to identify the section that held the books that described a problem that, until I really examined things, I didn’t know I had…and that promised a solution that would help other people to like me…and maybe help me like myself again….the book sellers might steer me down the right aisle.

“You know…the self-delusion section.. oh, you call it the self-improvement section?”

The reason I titled this post “honesty is dangerous” is because I’m realizing that unless honesty (and conviction, too….it’s really about conviction) is pinned to something with a strong and true foundation…it’s probably one of the most dangerous traits we have.

Some of the people I know have great conviction that’s veered off into wacky directions.

I’ve noticed that the confidence they deliver their wackiness with has a big bearing on how it’s perceived.  A strong and confident delivery can be kind of seductive…”oh…wellllllll….maybe you’re right?!  WHAT CHARISMA YOU HAVE, WHACKO!!”

You have to make sure the thing you’ve chosen to be honest about…and the thing you base your deepest convictions on…is true.  It can’t be something that’s defined by someone else’s volcanic or demanding reactions…it can’t be something that some TV personality told you is the “way to live”…it can’t be accessorized with the latest new thing.

I don’t have many answers for myself…I have a few strong convictions…and I think I have a good idea about what truth is…but I don’t have a lot of words that I can spew out to support what I believe.

(If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking, “OH, REALLY!!!  THEN WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING FOR THE LAST 487 WORDS?”)

I guess that what I’m stumbling around is that there can be a big chasm between honesty and conviction…and truth.

I hope that I’m standing on the same side of the canyon.  It would be nice to be in alignment with my beliefs.

No matter what some book tells me is the right side to be on.

heroes? sometimes….

I really wanted Lance Armstrong to be what he said he was.  I guess that really goes without saying…I think all of us did.

I guess that now for every Prefontaine we expect a Lance Armstrong, for every Henry Aaron a Mark McGuire.

It’s kind of sad when you can’t take a hero at face value.


little big kid

little big man

Dustin Hoffman starred in a movie a while back called “Little Big Man” about a white boy raised by Indians.

It’s a great movie.

My sister’s birthday is today.

She wasn’t raised by Indians…she was raised by Norwegians.

I don’t think they’ve made a movie about that …yet.

There isn’t a lot of connection to the movie when a little Norwegian girl has a birthday…I just started thinking about the title…and then I started thinking about how no matter how old we get (I think she turns 29 or something today… but I really can’t remember…and women don’t discuss their age, anyway)…ummm, no matter how old we get, I think there’s always a part of us that is the little child we were when we were…a little child.

I’m not saying she’s immature…she’s one of the mature people in my life…but to me, she’ll always be my little sister.  It’s funny how that works…in our heads we carry a part of who we were, no matter who we become.

So…happy birthday to you, Beth!

My little sister…imagine that.

how’d you learn all that?

It’s a fun thing to see your children get to the point where they’re introducing you to cool stuff.

I think that it can happen at any age…our three year old teaches me fun stuff all the time…but it’s satisfying when your 17-year-old comes up with someone as good as this guy is….and it seems to come from out of the ether somehow.

This guy’s name is Josh Garrels…give it a listen.

clothes with other people’s names


I was helping our 3-year-old get dressed the other morning and happened to notice the name written in laundry marker on the collar of his shirt.

“I wonder who ‘so and so’ is?” I thought.

That got me thinking about all the clothes with other people’s names I’d worn over the years. I remembered all the clothing my family has worn that had a life before we had a chance to wear them.

I believe that I’ve been wearing mostly used clothing for about 35 years….maybe longer.  That’s a long time.  At first, it was a creative and economic decision…made me feel like I was getting away with something.  I had more money for guitars if I saved a bunch on the clothes I bought.

Later, it wasn’t hard to attach some kind of environmental significance to my choice if I wanted to.  It really was better for the environment to catch something on its second go round.

Mainly, it was more fun to buy something that had a little bit of a history and had a shot at being unique.  It was a good thing that it was usually very cheap, too.

My wife used to buy a bunch of “vintage clothes” before anyone had the gumption to jump on that bandwagon and join the “vintage club”.  She liked the way they were styled…like the way they were constructed…liked that the quality was so high and that she could find a bargain.

When you have an appreciation for the clothing of the 40’s and 50’s, it’s not hard to dress in a unique and creative style.

It’s harder to find the really cool old stuff now.  I think they must have an app that helps people without any knowledge or creativity cherry-pick the really good stuff…it seems like most of the good stuff is considered “vintage”…so instead of just being old, somehow it’s “desirable”, too.

I think it’s a wonderful thing that our children have never questioned why someone else’s name is written in their clothing.  It could be a point of contention…they could be against the idea of buying used clothing, but I think they get a kick out of finding something unique that’s also really affordable.

Clothes, guitars, cars…I like things with a little life in it already.  I wrote a post about patina a while back…and the clothing thing holds true to that sentiment.  It’s comfortable to wear something that someone else has already broken in.

What can I say?  I like used stuff.

Clothes with other people’s names are OK in my book.

image from CNN from an article about how our used clothing is keeping the African economy down…interesting article.