birthday

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01 Track 1

It’s 4:30 in the morning.

At 5:30, I’m going to wake my wife up so she can make some blueberry muffins and decorate the kitchen.

No…it’s not some perverse chauvinistic demand.  I don’t make her wake up early everyday so that she can make me some muffins. It’s not like that.

Today is a special day.  Today is our first baby’s birthday.

Today our first baby turns eighteen.

I don’t know if a parent ever completely makes the jump from “first baby” thoughts to “now we have a grownup daughter”.  I think that in my mind, she’ll always be little…at least in some corner of my mind, I’ll hold on to those memories like my life depended on it.

“Like my life depended on it…”  That’s kind of an odd and strong way to put it…but when you get down to it, I guess my life really does depend on all the good memories my family has given me.

When we brought her home from the hospital for the first time, it felt like she might break when we put her into her thrift store car seat for the first time.

It was terrifying and exciting.

How do you handle a baby?  How do you handle your baby?  She was the first baby I’d ever held that I wasn’t going to be handing back to the parents when I was finished holding her.

We were the parents.  There wasn’t anyone who we would ever hand her off to.

And now…she’s eighteen.

In some states, that means that she’s a grownup…

When we put her into her car seat in that old Plymouth Valiant, it was only that single moment that we were thinking about.  You can plan…and suppose…and expect…and maybe even fear a little before a baby is born…but when your child finally arrives and you’re holding her for the first time, it’s only that single moment that you’re aware of.

Now, eighteen years later, “that single moment” and all the other single moments fill a deep pool.  We have a lot of good memories.

There isn’t a lot more to say than that.

I love Jenny and I love our children.

They make me who I am.

Today our first baby turns eighteen.

Happy Birthday, Zoe!

You better turn off Yo Yo before you play this one….

01 Birthday

 

 

kenny rankin in the mole hole

I had a friend at camp who carved out a place to stay underneath the camp library.

He dug it out of the earth…and some rough sawn lumber and a used mattress later, he had one of the few private “cabins” on the property.

Smart idea.

Anyway, it was called the “mole hole”.

Kenny Rankin never made a personal appearance in the “mole hole”..but that was where I first heard him, playing on an old boom box.

Revelatory is a word that gets thrown around too easily sometimes, but in this case it probably applied.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone sing quite like this.

There are people who do anything they can to be a star.  Any gimmick is a potential option for them.  You can tell that it’s not really about the music…it’s about the marketing.

Unfortunately, the real artists seem to be few and far between some days.

Kenny Rankin was one of those “real artists”.  Just a guy and his guitar…and sometimes a full orchestra to back him up.  That’s all he needed to produce some really beautiful music.

I heard a lot of great music sitting outside the mole hole…even made some myself, or so I thought at the time….and it’s still a good thing to get a chance to hear some Kenny Rankin.

That’s the amazing thing about friendships….the good music that I’ve been introduced to by my friends is pretty priceless.

Mole Hole….Kenny Rankin…all the other musicians I wouldn’t have known about….Thankyou, my friends, for that!

 

Duff’s

Double-Quick-smorgasbord

Memory is a strange chain.

I guess it’s strange because it never seems to be very linear.  It has links that spread out to the sides, veering off into odd directions, randomly adding to the total length.

Until you start walking its length, you don’t realize how many weird diversions it takes…or how strongly some of the meanderings are stuck up in your head.

I heard from a friend from high school recently…and it got me thinking about a place called Duff’s Smorgasbord that we used to eat at.

I’m not sure exactly where Duff’s was.  I think it might have been in the old Woolco building….I don’t really know.  I do remember that the bulk of the building was an antique mall…and back in one of the rear corners was this buffet called Duff’s.

It was perfect for a bunch of teenage boys.  It was cheap and nasty with fried chicken and ham and pink foam jello and an ice cream bar.

All you can eat for 2.45.

What more could you ask for in an eating establishment?

I don’t remember it ever being very busy when we were there….but we never took that sign as any kind of warning.

I think that when you’re in your teens that quantity usually trumps quality, anyway. That was something that Duff’s excelled at.  There was always a lot of food out in the warming trays.

I remember this one time when we got off on some weird tangent, falling on the floor laughing, milk shooting out of our noses.  We were out of control.

I think the question that started all the hilarity was “So…what time do you get off?”

Teenage boys can turn anything into nasty.  I didn’t say witty…or really intelligent…just nasty.  But to a teenage boy, nasty can be hilarious.

So there we were, rolling and snorting, laughing our heads off because a simple question could be tweaked just a little and turned into something that to our sophisticated intellects became nastily hilarious.

Nasty hilarity at the food bar.  It doesn’t get much more completely satisfying than that.

Other than trying not to laugh in church, I don’t remember too many times when I’ve laughed as hard.

I guess “nasty” is relative.  If we had been confronted with real, full on nasty our reactions would probably have been less appreciative.  From what I remember, I had some pretty nice friends…more “silly nasty” than “disgusting nasty”.

Typical teenage nasty.

I don’t really understand how memory works.  I don’t understand what triggers the things we remember.

I don’t have these flashbacks every time I go back up to the food bar.

The memory of snorting milk out of my nose isn’t so strong that I can’t get another helping of garlic green beans without thinking about it.

Memory is a strange chain…and sometimes it gets kind of heavy to drag it around…but there are links that I’m glad are part of it.

Sitting with my friends, laughing our heads off, bellies full to bursting with cheap buffet food is definitely one of those links.

03 Unbroken Chain

 

image from here.

 

 

 

what is a weed?

Dandelion2

How did we ever get to the point of deciding which plants would be called weeds?

Was it all a matter of utility?  Did something get in our way one day…and suddenly, for the rest of time, it was to be called a weed?  Was it a weed because we couldn’t see any use for it?

How does something cross over into the “invasive” category?

How, how, how, and why.

There are a lot of questions that could be asked about weeds…but we’re too busy trying to keep the weeds out of a garden that we’ve visualized as being “weed free” to ask them.

We might marvel at the beauty of a bunch of dandelion seeds in flight.  It is fun to blow on a dandelion at the end of its lifecycle…to see the seeds scatter to the wind is a real simple pleasure.

But we’re still tempted to get the herbicide out to kill the dandelions in our lawn before the whole thing is “infected” with little yellow flowers.

We ask, “What’s that plant?!” when we see something beautiful but unfamiliar…and then our attitude about it changes when the answer is “Oh…that’s just a weed“.

When we see a person who is living a different sort of lifestyle…maybe some kind of nomadic or gypsy, some free spirit who skips through life without any apparent cares or attachments…and we look at them and think, “hmmm….look at that!  They look really happy!  Look how much they seem to enjoy life!” .. there is always going to be someone who says, “yeah…but they don’t have health insurance…they don’t have an IRA…they probably don’t even have a social security number.  What good are they to society?

In some of our minds, we’ve already decided that they’re just another weed.

They don’t fit in our picture of what a garden should be.

Maybe, when all is said and done, a weed is whatever doesn’t fit in our “gardens”.

I know a lot of people without any room for a business suit in their lives…and others who couldn’t see a place for a faded pair of overalls in their closet.

Everyone has a different idea about what’s right for them.  We all wear a different costume to make it through the day.

But it doesn’t stop with our questioning different choices of clothing.  A lot of times we decide that we don’t have any room in our lives for the person inside the clothing .

If it looks like a weed to us, then it must be a weed.

Case closed.

We humans are a funny part of the animal family.

For one thing, we’d probably dispute that we’re even a part of the “animal family”.

I’m no animal!  I’M A MAN!”  we think…but really, we’re just sniffing around each others rear ends like any other member of the family.

Except the things that we’re looking for… like status and social position, business success, material possessions, etc. …aren’t as easy to sniff out as some of the more obvious residue that the other animals are dealing with.

I guess I still haven’t answered my original question.

What’s a weed?

I suppose that it’s anything that I say it is….no matter how beautiful it looks at first glance.

 

image from here.

 

jiminez technology

brain

We got new scanners at work a couple of days ago.

Actually, what we got was an add-on for our old scanners.

It’s a bluetooth enabled cell phone that’s only set up to communicate with the scanner.

I guess it’s kind of like a Tracfone without any minutes added.

So now we have a few more steps to do in the morning before we start out with the mail.

I think the reason they did it was to be more competitive with all the other companies that have real-time scanning….instant updates to package tracking status, etc.

I heard rumors that all the drivers were going to get bluetooth dog collars so our status could be tracked at all times, too….but the Union blocked it.

Just kidding about the last part.

I’m such a creature of habit.  When I hear a new beep while I’m driving it kind of bothers me.

Usually the new beep is the updated scanner asking if I want to communicate with the new cellphone that’s not really a cellphone.

Sure I do…just not while going around a blind curve at 35 miles an hour.

I don’t want another button to ask me to press the button….but I will… because I obey my machines.

After watching all of the Terminator movies, you have to wonder if someone isn’t getting me ready for something to come in the not so distant future.  “Obey my machines” ?  Sheesh.

It’s a pretty minor thing, to punch a button on an updated scanner so it can talk with a new cellphone that’s not a cellphone, so it can communicate with a satellite somewhere and tell someone with fingers poised over their computer that the beanie babies they sent to Wisconsin are at the proper destination.

That’s all a pretty minor thing, really.  In the big picture it’s huge, though.  To be able to tell what happened almost immediately after it happens is a pretty big deal.

To be able to track your beanie babies with that level of precision is going to change lives.

Probably.

When you get down to it, like we said in the office, it’s really all just him and his technology.

I can get used to a few new beeps now and then…and I have my own Tracfone so it’s not a temptation to talk on the new one.

Any change feels like a forward movement.  Whoever “him” is, I’m sure he’s (or she?  don’t mean to sound sexist)  pretty jacked with the new cellphone plan.

I should share their enthusiasm just to be kind, I guess.

In the end, though, it’s just jimenez technology.

 

image from here.

 

 

enlightenment and the automobile breakdown

well there's your problem

It’s a bunch of hype to say “automobile breakdown”.

Let’s just get that out of the way first.  The phrase “automobile breakdown” makes it sound like I was stuck on the side of the road, resting in the shade of an irredeemable hulk of a broken down car, waiting for the vultures to start trying to pick me apart in the hot desert sun.

It wasn’t like that.

Yesterday, in the middle of the mail route, my alternator stopped working.  Just died….the gauge going to nothing on the readout.

When the gauge goes to the “no readout zone”, it’s all I can think about…I can’t take my eyes off of it.  It’s like watching a leak in a boat, thinking that watching it would slow the process of sinking.

There is a light on my dash…a bright red light…that reminds me to “check gauges” if I’m not already freaking out.

It was a hot, dry day yesterday.  I’d left the office early to run the route…the mail volume was light…and I anticipated getting home after finishing the day a little earlier than usual.

And then…the automobile breakdown.

Luckily, the junkyard…er, used auto parts emporium… had a used alternator they could pull off another car.  So…I bought it, drove home on the charge left in the battery, replaced the alternator in our driveway, and finished the route.

Now…I was thinking about it quite a bit while the whole “automobile breakdown” was happening.  I couldn’t help but think about it.  It was a confrontational situation.

I was thinking that my reaction could be “DANGIT…why does this always happen to me?!!!  Hot day like this and my stupid car has to break down in the middle of a mail run….no substitute driver in sight that I can call on…why do I get all the bad breaks?…it’s not fair…I get out of the office early and I’m still going to be behind…I can’t believe it….whyzit taking so long for them to pull my stupid part?….THIS REALLY SUCKS.”

I could have been thinking that, I suppose.  I guess that maybe a watered down version of that did cross my mind…if only just a little bit.

The conclusion that I arrived at was a different one from the negative “victim” one I described.

I shock myself sometimes with a trickle of maturity.

The spin I was able to put on the situation was this:

  • It’s HOT.  Thank goodness it’s hot…and dry.  Most of my automobile breakdown recovery seems to happen in the freezing sleet of a usually mild North Carolina winter.
  • I got out of the office really early.  Time wise I’m in great shape…I can do this…I can make it.
  • I know how to fix this.  I’m not stuck on the side of the road waiting for AAA to come drag me to some garage somewhere.
  • My car is still running without a working alternator.  That is amazing…I wonder why my car is still running without a working alternator?
  • I don’t have a sub available today…but I can do this on my own.  I remember being called up to “rescue” situations like someone elses breakdown…but this situation is one that I can figure out how to handle without anyone else helping me.  That independence is kind of empowering.
  • I’m really getting to know this vehicle a little better.  Each time something breaks, I’m learning how to fix it.  That’s pretty cool.
  • It is taking the guys at the used auto parts place a long time to get my part…but they’re a good bunch.  It’s interesting to talk to them while I’m waiting for my new “old” alternator.

And so on…and so on.

I’m starting to figure out that I can focus on the “crack” until it finally breaks me….or I can appreciate all the parts of a life that aren’t broken.

I can appreciate what works…and try to fix what’s broken.

To me, that’s pretty enlightening.

image from here.

 

 

rear view

boy-riding-bicycle-out-of-fire-car-wreck-ashes-bmx-little-young

My first thought was, “Man….that guy is taking that off ramp a little too fast.”

My second thought was, “There’s no off ramp there….”

My third thought was, “That’s just like an action movie!!”

That’s a lot of thoughts in a few seconds.

I have a fast and freaking amazing brain to think so many thoughts that quickly.

I was watching a wreck unfold behind me on my way to work yesterday.  There was a box truck that caught my attention when I gave my rear view mirror a quick glance.  It was driving too fast…and it was going too fast in too many different directions.

A car or truck, because of how it’s designed, should have a pretty linear form of travel.  It should go forwards…or it should go backwards.  It shouldn’t be able to go sideways…or at a weird diagonal.

This truck could.

It could also go a little ways on its side…until friction stopped it…but I’ll get to that part in a second.

It took me a second on first glance to tell that the truck wasn’t on the highway at all.  It had gone off on the soft grass of the shoulder and that’s where the weird sliding and angles came in.  When the driver tried to correct his truck’s trajectory, he pulled it too far back up onto the road…at too fast a speed…and ended up on his side blocking both lanes of traffic headed towards Hendersonville.

Ending up on your side at speed is never a gentle thing. It looked like this driver and his truck really got slammed when he eventually crashed his rig.

I told my wife that it looked like one of the big trucks the Mexican guys use to get to the fields.

I hope not…a lot of people got hurt …got hurt bad….if that was the case.

It’s hard to really get a feel for everything when you’re rubbernecking in your rear view mirror. I don’t know anything about what happened after the truck flipped over.

You can’t ponder much at 65…or 66, maybe…mph.

It’s not safe to think about much more than your driving.

But, other than worrying about everybody making it out OK, the main thought that floated through my head was…

If ever get to watch an accident go down, my favorite place to do it would have to be my rear view mirror.

“But for the Grace of God…”

I’ve had a few accidents…and I’d really rather not have any more.  They aren’t any fun…they’re scary…they’re inconvenient.

When you can describe an accident as inconvenient, you know it was probably pretty minor.  I’ve been blessed so far with only inconveniences.

That’s a good thing.

It’s also a lot easier to figure out what happened when you only see someone else’s problems or accidents as you’re speeding away from the situation.

I don’t have any understanding of what went on in that truck yesterday.

Maybe the guys sausage fell out of his biscuit and when he grabbed for it.. and spilled his hot coffee in the process…and he wrecked his rig.

I don’t really know.

I’m not a detective.

But I do know that from where I sat….looking in my rear view mirror, driving 65 mph down the highway away from the carnage, I could say with all certainty…

“That’s not the way I would have done it.”

That’s the beauty of my rear view mirror.

image from here.

 

 

 

 

 

the monk in sheep’s clothing

Flock of sheep, New Zealand, Pacific

I think I’ve heard that in Texas they have a phrase… “all hat no cattle”…that means that someone is pretending to be something they’re not.

From all outward appearances, you might think they own a big spread…but the reality of the situation is that they only have a talent for playing a part.

They’re only good at shopping for nice hats.

On the other end of the spectrum is the person who is hiding a secret ability or achievement behind an unassuming countenance.

They might be a straight-laced hippy in a business suit…the theologian in a McDonald’s uniform…the physicist pushing a mop…anything really that would inspire a “you’re what?!!” reaction if we knew their secret.

I think that as I get older I appreciate the low-key, hide in plain sight approach a lot more.

It’s flashy and obvious to be one of the people who are “all hat”.  It’s the easiest part of a transformation to get the costuming part of it down.

But something deeper…something with some long-term commitment to it…that’s what really captures my imagination.

Something beyond just some guy wearing a big hat.

I’ve known some really cool “counterculture” folks in my life….most of whom, except for maybe a well placed secret tattoo (on their skin…or on their spirit)… or a really eclectic book collection, wouldn’t seem any different than anyone else walking down the street.

I’ve known some “hippies” who were real uptight jerks. All they had going for them was a carefully cultivated crop of dreadlocks….they were “all hat”, for sure.

I guess that what I’m saying is that appearances really are pretty deceiving.  We can dress the part and sometimes that’s as far as it goes…a carefully manicured image that doesn’t have anything to back it up.

What’s kind of strange about this whole situation is that often times, even though I know what the game can be, the person who looks the part is the one that I suspect fits the part.

I’m fooled by a “good costume” just as much as the next guy.

I’m fooled because I just don’t have the time to try to understand what a person is really about.  I only have the time to make a snap judgement based on their appearance…or the part of them that they’re willing to portray….much like I have to decide if that dog wagging its tail is excited because he might have a chance to bite me when I step out of the mail jeep….or if he really is “just happy to see me”.

We don’t know who anyone is, really.  We know what we think they are based on appearances…we know what we think they are because of our conception of them…but we don’t know them.

I guess that’s what makes it all so interesting.  We’re given the opportunity on occasion to meet someone brave enough to share “who they really are”…and sometimes we still like them even after the “truth” comes out.

It’s hard to put a value on the invisible.  Spirit, intelligence, creativity, warmth, humor….the sometimes quiet parts of a person that lie somewhere underneath the surface…are qualities that are hard to market.

It’s harder to sell than a “big hat”…but that’s where the real value of a person can be found.

image from here.

 

 

 

burn it up

800px-Edinburgh_Beltane_Fire_Festival_2012_-_Bonfire

I bought a load of logs the other day.

Jenny said that when they delivered it in the tandem dump truck that the ground shook when the driver dropped the load.

It is a big load o’ logs.

Not only is it a big load of logs, it’s also a load that has some really big logs in it.  He must have had to kill a huge oak tree to bring me this giant pile of huge logs.

Now I’m “processing” this giant pile of wood….”processing” is a funny word…makes it sound so much more clinical than being out in the sunshine with a chainsaw and a gallon of bar oil really is….now I’m cutting up this big pile of logs so that I can split and stack and eventually, after it’s had the Summer and Fall to dry out, burn it up.

That’s kind of crazy, really.  It’s necessary…we have a little Jotul stove and one of those big logs wouldn’t fit if I didn’t cut it up to make it smaller…but what other activity do we do that ends like that?

Most of what we do is done with the idea of a somewhat permanent and positive conclusion.  We build a house so that we can live in it for a while…not so that we can burn it down when the appropriate season occurs.

We build our “nest” so that we…and any “little birds” that might find their way into it…can live in it.  We build to live…not to burn.

But what happens when it’s time for the little birds to fly away?  Then we realize that our nest was a place to live…and a place to launch.

It’s good that all this happens in real-time.  If it was like one of those films we used to watch in school ( before video tapes…before DVD…before downloaded files on a laptop hooked up to a projector….you know….OLD SCHOOL)…like one of the films of the flower growing and opening up in a couple of minutes it wouldn’t be a good thing.

If we saw our lives and the lives of our children happening like that it would drive us crazy.  I don’t think we’re designed to be able to see that far ahead…or understand what happened before so completely.

Being distracted can be sort of a gift sometimes.  Life is designed to be lived every day…each and every single day… but it’s easy to get ahead of our selves.  Planning too much can be a great distraction, sometimes…it’s the space between plans where the life happens.

A change is not an end…it’s just a change.

We process the wood so that we can burn the wood so that we can stay warm so that we can live to cut the wood another day.

That’s not a “Lion King” worthy circle of life…it’s a lot more simple than a cartoon movie deserves…but I think that everything we do really does have some kind of circular movement to it.

What’s the law of physics? ” For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”.

Well….

We burn the wood, we raise the children, healthy birds learn to fly…it’s all just stuff that happens around us in this life.

And that’s the way it is.

01 The Way It Is

image from here.