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So – what turns you on?

Me during a conversation about gender & sexuality issues (not really in my cis-gender WASPy wheelhouse) with an old friend who doesn’t “get it.”

Me: “Do you know how an ignition switch works?”
Him: “Not really”
Me: “Yet you use it every day, and you trust that it works?”
Him: “Yeah”
Me: “Well, it’s kind of that.”
Him: “But I can find out how that works”
Me: “True, but you trusted it to work for years without knowing.”
Him: “But I can find out, and then I’ll know.”
Me: “Right, talk to an expert, look it up on line, if you care you can learn right?”
Him: “Right, so it’s different.”
Me: “Not really – If you care enough to learn about it, talk to some experts, you can learn about people who are LGBTQ and then you’ll have an idea of how that works too.”
Him: “And you’ve done this?”
Me: “Not as much as I should, but like the ignition switch, I know that it’s more complicated than I think. But once I accept the fact that it works, I can care more about the whole car.”
Him: “What?”
Me: “I care more about the whole person than just worrying about what turns them on.”
Him: (laughs) “Fine, but what about the people that switch genders.”
Me: “Hey, I used to be a Ford guy and you were a Chevy-head. But now I drive a Subaru.”
Him: “Yeah, I’m still a Chevy guy.”
Me: “Hey man, whatever turns you on… Did I tell you I just bought a motorcycle?
Him: “Harley?”
Me: “Kawasaki.”
Him: (expletive deleted)
Me: (explained my decision, price-style-etc. especially the “dirt look”)
Him: “I guess you got the right bike for you.”
Me: “Yeah, can’t buy a bike because of some one else’s opinion. Have to get the one that fits me.”
Him: “Yeah, but still, I like that low and slow chromed out full-fender fat-boy look.”
Me: “Yeah, that’s not me – I guess you could say I’m trans-fendered.”
Him: “You (expletive deleted)
Me: (laughing) “Yeah but you love me anyway”
Him – more cursing

And that’s how I know he’s thinking about it. He’s trying to figure out how to deal with a family member struggling & accepting a lifestyle he doesn’t understand. But we may NEVER understand. But we cis-gendered WASPy folks can care more than ‘know’ and that’s the point. We are incapable of “hating the sin and loving the sinner” because we are still putting ourselves in a position of pridefully judging ourselves “better” & that.ain’t.love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails”1 Corinthians 13:4-8

So – If you find yourself lacking understanding, struggle to love anyway. Put down the pride and protect those struggling with identity and sexuality, trust that God is working within them, hope it doesn’t take long to resolve, but even if the struggle changes – persevere in love. Don’t let your love fail. And remember, when God works, it may not be the outcome we thought we wanted, but it may be the outcome God foresaw and worked toward.

Too many of my friends have self-medicated with drugs & alcohol, committed suicide, been turned away from churches, family and friends – been denied love, while struggling to find where God is in their lives.

So let us each be a representative of God’s love and Love our neighbors, our family members, our friends, because be they gay, straight, lesbian, pansexual, monosexual, asexual, transgendered, cis-gendered, non-gendered, trans-fendered… THEY are US.

Let us trade in our ignorance (lack of understanding) and our hard-hearts (lack of caring) for the bold and persevering love modelled for us in Christ.

“Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

And if you are so ignorant, so prideful, so vain to be sure you know the mind of God to the degree of condemning one of God’s children, throw that rock my way, and I’ll do my best to keep from returning it tenfold – because I’m called to love you too.

Loving people I agree with – that’s easy.
Loving people you can’t agree with?
That’s Godly.

And that’s why it’s hard on “both” sides.

And that’s why most people don’t try.

But that’s how God loves us. All of us. In our pride, in our ignorance, in our contraryness… It’s as if God said, “I have the key, I turn the lock, I ignite the spark, that triggers the battery to turn the starter to…”   You get it right?

We’re not the driver – we’re the car, or the bike. Different brands, different makes, different models, some built for hauling rocks, some for hauling… other things. Different colors, Made in different countries, changing over time. Getting broken, the occasional dent, dirty, scratched up – some of develop smells… And all of us end up totalled (but some donate their parts). But we’re all made by God.

Love is the key.
The Spirit is the fuel.
The scriptures are the map.
And God guides us on the road.
Stop being a pothole.
Stop being a STOP sign.
Stop trying to be a member of the highway patrol trying to enforce the law when God is driving.
Just let God open up the throttle and love.
Don’t put the brakes on God’s love and mercy.
Let God be in control & you’ll discover something. The road will be smooth, but it’s going to have some turns. The straights may be a measure of your strength – but God works best in the turns.

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The unintended consequence…

There is a tent in my living room. Inside it are: my XL sleeping bag (with washable cloth liner) on my inflatable bed roll (for my 49 yr old back) with two pillows (one for my big head, another for my knees – I’m a side sleeper), my mess kit (pot, pan, lid, 2 bowls, flatware, cooking spoon, towel, 2 cups) and my backpack. Just outside, two propane tanks & my burner (with fold-out prongs for pot or pan). Along side, my 300lb rated camp chair. Why? Because I’m going camping and before I pack, I lay everything out & practice setting it up. I want to know that I can set up & breakdown/repack everything on my own.

This is all “new” gear to me because my focus has shifted. I used to pack for “glam-ping on a budget” as a friend called it, but I don’t camp that way anymore.

Gone are the days of bikes and skateboards, pop-ups and screen tents. Now it’s Xbox-x and high speed internet, projectors showing movies on the sides of RV’s, I know I sound old, but I don’t want that. I don’t like rugged camping either (although Blue River has the nicest out-house I’ve ever seen).

I want to go camping. Not pretending to be a member of the Donner party, not driving a land-yacht to an RV park. Just camping. Enough electricity to charge a phone & a couple battery packs. A lake to swim in. Water from a spigot. But there are a few “concerns.”

My son hates camping, So, as I’m staring at my phone, about to pull the trigger on a pre-wired X-Box X carry-case with built in screen, the sheer weight of all I was going to take with me bent my shoulders. “I’m not getting away, I’m just relocating. I’m moving the same stuff around while adding more and more stuff.”

This is not what I’ve been doing with my life lately. Seriously, I’m “whittling” Beau out of Rob. I’ve let guitars go (to friends), I let my slowly-killing-me job go, I let my anger go, I’ve even thrown out perfectly good T-shirts!! I let comfort and stability go. I bet God and me against a miserable life…

Which brings me to concern #2, to make the beautiful woman who will be my wife and her 68 degrees or crying daughter and my son enjoy camping, I’m going to need more than a plastic case of wiring with a 19″ TV glued to one side. I’m going to need an air conditioned/heated camper with a private sound-proof room. I’m going to need satellite TV and high-speed Internet and a private bathroom with a human-sized shower. I might as well buy one of those travel-busses & paint the side movie-screen white.

I mentioned retiring and travelling the country in an RV once – and her response was kind, but questioning. An RV to my specs would run an easy 80 grand and she’s right, We’d have to stay in hotels or cabins more than 4,ooo nights to justify that expense. (Considering she gets 2 weeks vacation every year, it would take us more years than we have).

So, that takes care of that. Can’t go big, but I can’t stay home. So, I went to the garage and started looking at my bins. I’ve got some swag in there. My 14x10x8 instant up “cottage” with the external frame, my dual burner suitcase grill, which was replaced by a tailgate grill with dolly-wheels & can cook 6 steaks at a time, a foldable rack for grilling over fire, 4 sleeping bags that could zip together in pairs, my 7×4 cot, inflatable mattresses (now that the latex powder has been washed off), a good sized igloo that doubled as an air conditioner with a battery powered fan, center-mount ceiling fan with LED lights, my 4 person mess kit, my solar shower bag, my 5 gallon water bladder… Basically whatever luxury I could stuff in the back of my Subie.

I sighed. I hated the “bigness” of it. I can sleep 8, but I don’t know 4 people I’d share a tent with. It was just too much, too much to fool with and honestly – it KEPT me from going out by myself. bringing with me kept me from going. It needs to get – smaller, more manageable.

Like my diet, like my work-week, like my stress level…

When I camp, what do I need?

Something to do: My phone (books, music, maps, audio recorder, contact) and battery packs.

Something to sit in: A comfortable chair (one of my biggest complaints of camping is picnic tables).

Some place to sleep comfortably.

Some food & a way to prepare it.

A clean bathroom/place to shower.

Bugspray, first aid kit, rain gear, clothes… blah, blah, blah.

That’s it?

And that’s why there is a tent in my living room, next to a small burner, next to a chair rated for big people. This is my new rig, all I need.

Funny fact: All of it breaks down small enough to fit into my 40L backpack.

Fun fact: All of it combined weighs less than 20 pounds.

Freaky fact: Wearing the backpack, I am still physically lighter than I was by myself two months ago.

Fitting fact: the pack fits perfectly on the rear seat & mounting plate of my bike & has mounting straps to secure it.

Fantastic fact: That leaves my tank and side bags free for clothing, toiletries, food & water.

Final fact: I’ve already found 3 campgrounds within a 3 hour ride that have WI-fi so I can still catch a small-screen movie… but don’t have cell service.

Cue the music.

Lenny Kravitz, “I want to get away, I’m gonna fly away…”

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… Wait? There’s no WI-fi?…

I used to camp with my parents. We would pack up the van, put the bikes on the front rack, hitch up the trailer, pit the sailboat on top of that and Sanford & son our way to the North Carolina coast. There were a few incidents, like repacking wheel bearings on the road or when my dad’s buddy dropped a trailer on my dad’s foot and dad ended up in a cast, but it was filled with days of playing in the water, riding our bikes around the campground & finding new ways to permantly scar ourselves. It was grand.

At least I remember it grand. That’s probably why I continued to camp well into my forties, bought a few tents, really nice cooking gear, etc. and even figured out how to “air condition” a tent with a cooler, bag of ice & a battery-powered fan. My tent is an instant-up 14×10 two room cabin, my two-burner propane tailgate grill can cook breakfast for 4 while perking coffee. Sure it’s a tight fit for the back of the Subie, but it’s all good right?

It was, until I thought about it.

Blame the bike.

Because it’s a “mini-adventure” bike I had these dreams of riding from campground to campground, popping up my mini-tent, sleeping on my mini-mattress, and seeing America. I admit it – in my heart, I’m a romantic, even if my brain isn’t.

So as I searched for a tent that would fit in my water-proof back-bag, my brain reminded me that, near as I can figure, I haven’t really enjoyed a camping trip since about 1986. I’ve enjoyed the company, the stories, but as for camping, I just don’t have it in me.

I know that because I have a 14×10 tent that, if it wasn’t for the door, I could park my Subie inside it. I can put a 4-5 person tent inside my tent. It has two rooms – and weighs a ton. Why?

Because I once spent a windy 34 degree night in a 36″tall dome tent on an air mattress. I got “chilled to the bone” to the point where I honestly considered wetting myself just to be warm for a few seconds.

That same small tent once tried to kill me in a wind-storm. I was on the ground on a 12 inch tall cot and it kept bending until the fabric covered my face.

The whole time, I’m laying awake thinking someone was stealing our gear.

So I bought a tent that was the size of a suburban house bedroom. I could bring the gear in at night & get one of those queen-sized inflatable beds and really do it right. I can bring the gear in at night (I never have).

Did you know most of the cheap mattresses are either made of latex or use a powder to keep it bendy, but not sticky? I didn’t, until I woke up barely able to breathe. My son, still awake at 3am watching a Jake and the Never land pirates on the DVD player at least looked up from his screen. That same trip? I pinched a nerve in my back going off a diving board & spent hours on a folded out sleeping bag, on that mattress. It was 172.3 degrees and I considered wetting myself just to get cool. OK, not really, just because I didn’t want to try to get up or walk 300 feet to the bath-house.

Which reminds me. Apparently we decided as a culture that campground bath-house technology peaked in 1954. It’s somehow always “more” of the weather outside. If it’s 32 degrees outside, it’s somehow colder on the throne, and taking a shower above 90? Your Deoderant evaporates in the container before your shower is over. And fellas, if you not going to contribute to porcelain fund – find a tree – not the floor. I’m pretty sure that the mixture of hepatitis Z will be created in a campground men’s room & 28 days later, we’re all zombies.

Still though, the view… Is usually of an RV owned by a divorcee who “won” it in court, but is now too busy working to pay for it. It’s little grey satellite calls out to the campground children as the gather around, praying with their little tablets – just hoping there is free WI-fi, but there never is – there never is.

Which is why you wake up at 5am and find little children of the corn leaning on the side of the tent, there little faces pressed up against the netting, watching a 7″ wide screen from the outside. While you try to refocus, one will ask if you have any other DVDs, as if standing outside my tent like little Jason Vorhees at 5am and asking for a favor is perfectly appropriate behavior.

And that’s the another breakdown. When did campgrounds the gathering place of drunk Skynard fans? “Back in my day…” We had our own fields for bonfires, shenanigans & daring do. We didn’t pay $13 a night to howl at the moon next to a dentist that is trying to bond with the kids he never sees. If you’re going to throw .22L ammo into the fire, do it on your own land.

And THAT’s the real problem.

I noticed it yesterday coming in to Louisville. I grew up with my Grandfater’s farm, camping, day trips to the lake and long trips to the beach. I got disconnected from the land somehow. I don’t mean some “mother Gia is angry, so we shall dance to appease her” My mom & dad gave me that (and my first motorcycle). Pulling off on Hurstbourne Lane it took 2 minutes before I got my first honk – for not running a fresh red light.

Living on top of each other just makes us angry, anxious and stressed. It’s a living video game and people lose it. In parking lots, in lines, in traffic, in stores, we now live in a “whatayameanican’tgetfries!!” “Because ma’am, this is a bank” world. Where people pay $8 for coffee & complain about free WI-fi.

People think we’ve “nerfed up” the world with participation trophies and anti-bullying campaigns, while failing to realize it’s an attempt to improve the world. “They’ve taken God out of our schools” – maybe – but they’re trying to bring compassion, mercy, and kindness into the students.

They’re trying to create a world where the Dentist with the $80 adventure zip-off leg pants, luxury SUV and air-conditioned pop-up camper can walk over to a group of drunk Skynard fans and say “Turn it up man,” be handed a frosted beverage and sing “Sweet home Alabama” together at 2 am while some idiot in a mini-tent staggers outside to brave the palm-sized mosquitoes in the campground’s men’s room.

And that’s why I’ll buy a mini-tent, and figure out a way to sleep more comfortably. I’ll buy tiny things and pack them all into a bag that I can strap to the bike and just “go.” When possible, I’ll crash @ the houses of friends, but the preference will be with friends in a field.

Because, while camping hasn’t treated me well – My friend’s always do.

Just give me three steps…

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Faith and Fitness

On January 25th, my fiancé gave me my birthday present a month early (What you just thought should tell you a lot about your faith). It was membership into a fitness program that I’d been thinking about for about a year, but never pulled the trigger because I didn’t want 1) to spend any more money on fitness programs and 2) didn’t want another failure. You see, I’ve failed a LOT in the past. I’ve dropped weight by joining a gym and paying a very fit man to yell at me three times a week. Then, I quit. I dropped more than seventy pounds over four months twice – by liquid diets – and either gained most of the weight back, or ended up in my doctor’s office listening to explanations that the lumps found in my body were “most likely” deposits of calcium. Diet and exercise haven’t worked, so why would this?

Well, she bought it. I read the materials, listened to my inner-voice and realized, this was going to be another failure. It was going to fail because I was going to fail it. There was no way I was going to do three workouts a week and switch my diet to the “stuff food eats” diet again. I liked my chips, sodas, fries… (sorry faded off for a minute imagining fries) … and Krispy Kremes. And I’m right – the program is going to be another failure – because I can’t lose all the weight I need to (almost a hundred pounds) in the next 3 weeks. Well, it’s now been 26 days, almost the end of week four and this is what I have learned.

One – the bathroom scale is not the measure that is important. That “fundamental” element of every program I’ve ever tried is centered around this evil thing. Those numbers are the numbers of competitions, of the past, and frankly, will get my morning started off in exactly the wrong mental state. “I’m up .7 pounds from yesterday, what does that mean? What if I move it over to this part of the floor, and angle it this way, and step on it slowly, or what if I…” In the meantime my kid gets dropped off as school late because I’m obsessively trying to get every single tenth of a pound off that number.” That leads to failure. I know that about myself. I’ll starve to see that number come down, and then immediately run through a drive-thru to “celebrate.” This does not work long-term.

Two – the tailor’s tape is my friend. I have this measuring tape that tailors use, all plastic and bendy. I wouldn’t use it build a book case, but here’s what it tells me. In 21 days, my belly is 8” smaller. My chest is 2” smaller. My hips are 1” smaller. Arms, legs – all the same. My doctor was apparently right (who knew?) I apparently carry all my fat around my heart, lungs, liver… all the really important parts. So, I may have lost “only” fifteen pounds – but my body has lost significant size.

Three – everything I learned about diet was completely and utterly wrong. Did you know there were “good” fats and “good carbs?” I didn’t. Here’s what else I didn’t know. I can have a couple of pieces of real bacon (which I slow down for, just to enjoy the fatty-goodness) every now and then, and enjoy them, just not a pound at a time. I can have a coke, a nectar-of-the-gods coke, but now I drink from a 12 oz bottle, and a few sips is enough to pass the craving before I go back to my trusted water bottle (but not until the taste gets out of my mouth, I want to enjoy that as long as possible). I still probably take in 1200-1500 calories a day, but I don’t obsess over them. The other night, in a little-tiny bowl, I actually took some of my son’s uber-cheesed macaroni and ate some. It was delicious – which made me think of how often I’d shoveled this stuff into my gullet without actually taking the time to taste it. I hated carrots, but put some salt on them (now that I don’t eat fast-food often, my body can handle it) and they’re salty and crunchy, so much for potato chips during the game. Switching to “real” steaks instead of processed meats, yeah it’s a little more expensive, my grocery bills have gone up $40 a week, but my eat-out expenses have gone down more than $70.

Four – can you tell I’m enthusiastic? Usually the first thing to go in one of these things is my sense of humor. It’s still what it was (I won’t say I’m funny – but you’re free to say it). I have more energy (mostly) and I have found something I didn’t have before. I had diet-friends, fitness challenge buddies, but for the most part, most of what I did was on my own. This program has facebook support groups that make me laugh, inspire me, and when I do get down (because every now and then, we all get sad), I post “Hey, in need of some inspiration here.” I get a couple-hundred messages of cheer and support.

Five – maybe this will work? After all, it’s “my” program, I’m making it my own. I’m adapting to it (sometimes the motions are a little close to “why I need my knee repaired again” for my taste) and making it adapt to become something permanent in my life. I can live with it…

This whole program is based on the concept of “having faith in yourself.” But in reality, you rely on the message boards, the owner/guru, the other leaders. I rely on the recipes, the movements, the dynamic resistance, and the charisma of 3-time WCW champion Diamond Dallas Page to get me through this thing that lets me kick my own backside with nothing more than my own bodyweight. I have to buy in, to trust… and the testimonies are what had me on the fence for so long instead of dismissing it.

IN that way, it is a faith, a belief and yes, a discipline. And a commitment to do it for the rest of my life. And now it’s time to bring this home. Do I know if I’m going to hit my doctor’s goal weight for me? (I’m 70 pounds away according to his BMI-based goal). No. I don’t, but I’m at least interested in trying to find out, and strong enough to move on into more challenging sessions.

Many times, we try to exercise our faith without preparing for the strain. In today’s news there was a story about a power-lifter that came upon an accident involving a Jeep and a small child trapped under it. He literally lifted that over-turned Jeep off the kid so the first-responders could save that child’s life. He’d probably been asked more than once, “Why are you trying to get so big?” and now he literally can say, “I saved a child’s life.” That’s superhero stuff (Hulk it up!).

But we don’t often work out our faith. We don’t take in the good things that we need to, like scripture and study. We don’t surround ourselves with a supportive network, like a church that accepts us where we are and cheers for us every now and again, encourages us rather than measuring us on some scale of fitness. We don’t let ourselves commit to it until we try it out for a bit and see if we can see the results, and our ability to measure changes is not realistic – like trying to lose almost a hundred pounds in a week. We look for the perfect program, or book to buy, or short-term fix to a larger problem (like wearing a knee brace because we’re putting off the surgery). But it doesn’t give us the substantive change we long for.

Because we lack two things – inspiration and discipline. Inspiration from hearing those testimonies and being a part of other people’s stories. And the discipline to practice the routines even if it feels like we aren’t getting the results that we want, or we aren’t getting them RIGHT NOW! One has to come from a community, the other has to come from within yourself. If you want a fit-faith you have to be willing to work and seek inspiration.

Now, I know the typical response is, “I get all the inspiration I need from…” and I get it. But let me clue you in on something. On the fourth day of this, I noticed I couldn’t breathe in one of the positions. It was a safe position, meant to lower your heart rate, and I was gasping and panting to the point where my heart-rate shot up until I could hear it in my ears. I was dizzy. So, I called a friend of mine who laughed about it. “Yeah, put your knees farther apart and your ankles closer together.” All that extra body I had? I was pressing it into my thighs, restricting my lungs. Next time I hit the position, “BAM!” my heart rate started coming down and I could breathe. I also dripped a lot of sweat onto the mat (anyone know how to clean a yoga mat?).

I needed the help of an expert. I needed the help of someone who had not only been down the same road, but had taken the time to learn how to pave it and make it smoother for others.

So, feel free to work out your faith on your own. But be aware, if you try to do it all on your own, you may be doing yourself more harm than good. You’ve probably tried many times in your life to do that and may even think you’ve failed. But if I can suggest something? Find yourself a community of people that will support and inspire you, and find some leaders that know what they’re doing to give you some guidance before you really do damage.

In my early faith, I used to believe a lot of things, and I didn’t work them out all that hard. Then life started punching me in the face, and I didn’t know how to take a punch, how to block it, or if I was strong enough to handle it. But I made a decision, to stretch my faith, to test it, to work it, and I’m still doing that – because it’s a life-long goal. I have more questions now than I used to because I’ve stretched it. I used to believe in a very limited God. For a particular people, in a particular time, in a particular place, with particular rules and behaving in a very particular way.

But then I realized something, on my knees, struggling for breath. God is more peculiar than particular. What kind of peculiar love extends to all? What kind of peculiar love involves a sacrifice so thorough? How peculiar, strange and unusual, weird and abnormal is this love God has for people that haven’t earned it, don’t trust it, and question it so regularly?

Those are my workout questions, and so now when life punches me in the faith, I try to remember that faith, that is strong, doesn’t come from me, but with my relationship with the Almighty. And then I remind myself, “I don’t know why – but I can’t wait to see how God is going to work through this.”

It’s not only a faith I can live with, but a faith I will die with.

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The Myth of Control

We don’t control a lot. We can’t. We think we can, and there are definitely people in the world that suffer from the delusion that they are “in control,” but they aren’t. You may have power, influence, wealth… but you are never, EVER, going to have total control. Right now in the US we have a president with enough money to make Solomon blush and control over most of the government – but yeah, even he can’t get the stuff he says he wants done finished. So if THAT guy, in THAT position, who cares so little about what people think can’t get it done, what makes you think you can? He’s “free” of needing money, free of a need of friends, apparently free of his wife’s influence if adult actresses are to be believed. He’s the world’s most jerkiest guy in supposedly the world’s most powerful position, and even he can’t get a fence put up because the HMO says no.

So why do we so desperately seek control? Because before we were two – and we figured out that screaming this way gets us fed, this way gets us changed and that way gets us a toy – we have tried to control our environment. And this goes on in life from “Ok, I had my food labelled in our staff fridge and someone ate all my thin mints!” to “If I rinse out this bottle of salad dressing and place it in the proper bin, I’m saving the world.” We think we have control, and so we stress out over it, but in the grand scheme of things, we don’t. And this is “pouring all the patience out of the bottle.”

I learned this watching motorcyclists and road-ragers. Do you know why drivers are so angry? It’s mainly because we’re doing something that we’re not designed for. When we go fast, weaving in and out of traffic, lane-splitting on a bike, or driving like we’re in a video game, we get amped up. Adrenaline rushes, we get focused (except for morons who still insist they’re good drivers that can text or watch TV while driving) and if we get hyper-focused (which we really should be while hurling a ton of metal around at speed) when that gets interrupted, we pop off. Add to it being late, trying to apply makeup, smoking, adjusting the radio, trying to open a bag of Cheetos… and we’re even more amped up. “I’m a good driver.” Yeah, but you know what you don’t control? The other drivers. They change lanes without signaling. They have blind spots (if they look at all). They think you should let them over, so they just come on over. Traffic, mis-timed lights, school busses, trucks that can’t get off the line because they have to go through 9 gears before they cross the intersection, anyone in a Prius, rental box-trucks driven by people used to driving a car that could be put in the back of what they’re driving with room left over for a couch… it’s not Frogger y’all. In some part of your brain, there is a small part, probably buried deep inside you that has been dormant since you got your permit – and it’s screaming “THIS IS INSANITY!” as you go past running speed and it’s churning away at the stress mill like an Amish woman making butter, and each mile, until our brains eventually shut it down (which makes us more dangerous) it builds, and builds, and builds until someone’s window washer sprays over their car and gets droplets of moisture on your freshly waxed… BOOM! Example: People have been shot over parking spaces and being cut off – YET we will still see people get out of their cars to go back to another car and complain. AND those people will actually roll their window down to shout back. AND then an even smaller percentage of that brand of idiot will get out of their car to directly engage. No one says, “Yeah, I’m so sorry, I’m glad you weren’t hurt.” And the biggest morons are holding a camera saying, “I got that on tape, I got that on tape” because at some point, someone is going to shoot them and take their camera/phone.

Telecomute? Computer viruses. Kid’s get sick. Customer service needs to be called. Pipes froze. The super is super-creepy. Flat tires. Need groceries. Power is out. The internet goes out. The DVR only recorded the first half-hour of Million Little Things. Parents. Homework. Projects. That evil person at work that has become your arch-enemy in some weird office drama/comic book situation that started over post-its and will end in death. We are all wound too tight. All the patience is poured out of the bottle, and we need a good stiff drink (If I EVER go into the bourbon business, my first product sold only in mini-bottles will be called “Patience”).

So relax. Which to show you how bad a shape we are in, is a trigger-phrase for most people. “Just relax.” Is pushing the final button. “What you think you’re better than me because I think this shows I care more, am more professional…” While you stand blinking & thinking “This is not relaxing.” But seriously, lighten up. You’re making it harder on the rest of us, at least until we stop caring, and (especially with Generation X) that’s a point we all get to eventually. And your level of mismanaging stress isn’t really helping anyone around you, “I’m just keeping it real?” Well, in the real world, you’ll notice when someone “unfriends” you. In reality your showing your lack of self-control and making a fool of yourself. “Well, they can think what they want to think.” Exactly – you have influence but no control.

IF you live in “crisis mode” you will eventually burn out and take out the people around you. Ever had a work-a-holic boss? The one that worked nights and weekends (while making 4x your salary) and expected you to do the same? You know the one with the really nice car, who is divorced and never sees their kids. The angry one. With the significant other that has the personality of a golden retriever (friendly, kinda goofy and not really ‘into’ things like the other dogs) The one prone to go off like a shot but then stay and carpet bomb? In other words, snap-reacts without all the information and starts a tirade that makes the employee go from “oh, I should do better,” to “Oh, this really must be important if they’re yelling this much” to “Ok, I got it, you can stop screaming now” to “And we’re still on this? When was the last time I updated my resume” to “Ok, now that I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get fired, does Chicken Palace deliver for lunch?”

Yeah – you can’t control work. If you’re an employee or a boss, or owner. You’re got to answer to someone at some time.

How about at home? When was the last time you got into a “discussion” and didn’t even realize it was a serious discussion until about two minutes had passed by? The “fun” about these is you get to have the same conversations over-and-over and in some cases both parties get to build stress. My first wife and I were together for 21 years. About year 6, I “corrected” her method of putting dishes in the dishwasher – she swore she’d never put another dish in it. 15 years later, in a cancer-induced morphine fueled fog she walked into the kitchen, looked at me and said, “I can’t remember your name, or why this is so important, but…” and put her dish on the countertop. (Important note: I loved her for it). You can’t control other people (see “carpet bombing”) forever. And, other people can’t control you unless you let them.

So – you can’t control “home.”

You can’t control who wins the big game (even if you have stood up and done the circle, wearing your rally hat and sporting the same socks as when they won their last championship).

You can’t control what other people think (even if you bring them Ruth Hunt Mint – Chocolate meltables – which are the single greatest thing every invented). You have influence, but not control.

And sometimes, you can’t control yourself. Look, I don’t just mean your mouth or thoughts, I mean physically. If you could, I would not weigh as much as I do and would still enjoy boxes of Ruth Hunt Chocolate-mint meltables. I’ve switched over to non-processed foods, limited gluten and almost no corn syrup… I drink a 12 ounce coke and my bowels are as irritable as my son when the internet goes down.

So – the first step in reducing stress is taking control of what you can (which is largely things about you), influencing others where possible and learning that HOW the dishwasher is loaded is much less important than if the dishwasher is actually run.

The old trope line (which I’ve yet to find scriptural support for) was “God will never give you anything more than you can handle.” Truth is, we often take on things that are well beyond our capacity to handle and then expect the higher-power to clean up the mess. And that is the height of our arrogance, and the depth of our ignorance. When we want God to take away our trash, but don’t invite God into the house that makes it, and think throwing in a $20 tip every now and again pays God back.

So give it up. Sit down and make a list of all the things you are “responsible” for, and then figure out exactly how much “control” you have over them. You’ll be surprised, and you may find yourself with more patience in the bottle. Sure, some things are going to fall apart – that’s what happens when you buy stuff at Buyabunchmart. But it’s also what happens when you buy stuff at Handmadeexpensiveprimo. But something is always going to fall apart. It’s life. And when you recognize your lack of control in most of it, it will give you focus for the things that you can control, or influence, or eliminate from your life.

But what do I know, I’m just a guy that still occasionally locks his keys in his car, with the spare key locked in a house, for which I have no spare key.

Uncategorized

My Brain Needs An Overhaul

A few years ago, I used to watch a show on television called Overhaulin. The show was basically about stealing a friends beat up car, handing it over to an expert and letting them either restore it or modify it to be better than when it came off the showroom floor. It was a brain drain of a show, but I like cars so there you go.

Post midlife crisis, I need someone to do the same thing for my brain. Like the people on the show I obviously can’t do it on my own and just keep running along with the same worn out thoughts and feelings as the damage slowly worsens. If I keep going like that I’m going to end up in the junk pile.

What brought this up is a conversation with my fiance. I won’t go into the particulars, but the main concern was that I was presented with a situation that I’d been quite a pain about in the past (yes, THAT word) but the situation is different because it’s different people, in a different time and I supposedly have this new mind-set less encumbered by all that baggage – Except that my “auto-pilot” mouth spouted an old rule – forcefully…

… and this is a  problem because it’s childish, self-centered and mean. It was one of the contributing factors to my mid-life crisis – that point that I reached when I looked in the mirror and thought, “I really don’t like myself very much.” In fact, I hated my life, and had finally realized I had no one to blame but myself, I’d inflicted every wound I was feeling either actively or just by going along with whatever was going on around me. I was not an active participant in my own life, and God (even though I preached differently) wasn’t exactly called upon apart from prayers to change it. Passive faith, passive life – and I could count on no fingers the number of people that were happy about it. I hid it well. Except that everyone who knew me knew better – I was lying to myself about that too.

So, I hit “reset” on my situation. In the past two years, I’ve finalized a divorce, moved and then moved again a hundred miles away and changed professions (again).

I “swore” a whole bunch of things that I was never going to do again. And added that to my list of things that I’d never do again from previous experiences. More rules, adding to my list instead of knocking them off. My list of rules for me, and those around me, kept getting longer and longer and what I failed to realize was this was a continuation of the negative pattern – a life needs rules right? No – a life needs order, structure, but set tropes keep you from thinking and when confronted with a new thing, tend to respond in the “old” way, which was for me negative.

Some of them were simple, “I don’t like this… unless it’s this” kinds of things. I don’t want a birthday party because people never buy me good gifts and I don’t particularly like cake. But what that says to other people is, “Hey, I’m a jerk that doesn’t want you to show me love, and I’ll evaluate your gift, given in love, to see if it meets my “this is stuff I want list.” I thought the solution to people saying, “You’re impossible to buy a gift for” was to give them a list – but then I realized, the real solution is being grateful, genuinely for someone taking the time to pick something out. Last year, someone gave me guitar picks, the precise brand/color/thickness that I prefer. Do you know how petty that is? But more than that – do you know how hard it was for that person to find out that information (given that I have a thousand picks laying around of all sorts of styles?) about the two I like. That’s almost stalker-esque, looking at pictures to see “oh, he must like those orange ones and the ones with the eagle, let me find them and make sure they’re the right shape, and this is a .6 and these are a .63 – that must be important. It takes a lot of love to figure that out – and I must be a pretty particular type of jerk to require that level of obsession from someone just to pick out a less-than-twenty-dollar gift. Do I put that much effort into others?

Or how about someone that knows about the only green thing I’ll eat is broccoli, and that I don’t like most kinds of cake. So, for my birthday, a cake was made, intentionally tasting nasty, in the shape of a broccoli sprout. A way of saying, “Here you go, you crotchety old man, a cake I know you won’t like in the shape of a vegetable. Again, a lot of thought and effort for a joke – and it was hilarious, and I found myself laughing about it- while wearing a party hat, and in the back of my head on some level, the rule about cake, birthday parties, gifts… still lurked in the rust of my brain. I actually had a good time at my small birthday party.

What I need is a bead-blaster (or sand-blaster) to get in there and scrape all that rust off, take it down to bare metal,. Because that auto-pilot that runs my mouth is constantly spewing misinformation that other people listen and think of as my “final thought” when it’s actually “before second thought” which was the name of my original blog for a reason. And one of the reasons that this is titled something different is because I really need to keep those “before second thoughts” out of the world until I repair the damage and repaint my brain.

I imagine most of us, if we’re honest have the same difficulty – some call it “baggage” and some call it “don’t someone else’s time” (when you hold a new significant other responsible for the damage done by a previous significant other)…

… a couple years ago, I decided to drastically change my life, and I have. But one of the next steps is to get in my head and clean it out a bit. Starting with the rules. So, it’s time to take a look at these rules because as I’ve tried to list them four times it comes down to one simple foundation – trusting others and allowing myself to feel loved. Who knows, maybe they’ll help me get rid of this rust…

Random, Uncategorized

I Didn’t Have Any Plans (and you can tell from how long this is)

Apparently, you’re supposed to dream things. Then you write down the ones that you want to do, make a list of how to get from where you are, to where you want to be, then you’re supposed to make a time-dependent checklist of when the things on this list are supposed to be accomplished. That is how you become an “achiever.” Well, according to most folks since the second grade, I’m an underachiever. See, for nearly ten years, I have been without a state-able “dream,” without a cohesive “vision,” without a plan and without goals. Not entirely you understand, but on the larger scale, I’ve had no “grand scheme.” And honestly, I’ve been largely happy that way. Life has worked out fine, because it has a tendency to move along if you plan or not. But, apparently this “Dream, Vision, Mission Plan, Goal, work” structure works out well for some people. It used to work well for me, even if I had to adapt.

You see, once upon a time, I had my life planned out. I was going to work at the same church until I retired. Most of the major decisions in my life (who I was going to spend it with, what I was going to do, own a gun/motorcycle/pool etc. already decided) had already been made. But what I failed to realize was that it was just the second story of a life made up of volumes (Book one: Childhood to fourteen. Book Two…” you get it). I did plan some things, that first marriage, the first house, adopting our son… but in March of 2008, every plan I had went out the window, and disappeared so quickly, when I got to the front door to chase it, it was already out of sight. I received notice that I was going to be a dad to a young Vietnamese-born son on the same day my wife let me know she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and she was starting chemo in two days. My plans went out the window.

And I never got back into the habit of making them, and until now I always thought it was because I handed the planning over to someone else – but it wasn’t. I just shut down that part of my brain that looked more than a month or so into the future. I started living a life focused on the days, maybe weeks, as opposed to the months and years. What’s the point if everything is going to shift around again. I’ve spent majority of the last decade wandering around waiting to be told what to do (insert generic second-marriage joke here).

But, inadvertently, my “mid-life” crisis, which I didn’t plan for, came out of nowhere and slapped me out of my idyllic existence. I don’t mean “blessed” I mean “blind and coasting” or self-delusional and apathetic. And I have to blame someone for that (because being woke from a dream inspired to created a vision-mission… is kind of like homework. I blamed God. So many people kept telling me, “God is getting you ready…” “God is preparing you for something…” things like that. Then, all of a sudden, I got hit with something that, while it threw me into emotional/spiritual shock, proved to be the beginning of something that I’m still beginning (Book 4?).
It’s one thing to rely on God to lead you – it’s another not to look up and use the brain God gave you. Or if you want to hear it another way – If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything, and I fell. Not in a spiritual way, but definitely in a life way. May of 2017, I was a widower, solo-parent, looking forward to a hate-fueled divorce (that I couldn’t admit was hate-filled divorce) and living in my parent’s basement that they’d converted into an efficiency apartment for me and the boy. Creeping into my consciousness was a thought, a seed of a thought, that was beginning to grow, “This is what a lack of planning gets you.”

It brought about a LOT of hatred for myself and from others toward myself. So – first I had to figure out where I was (mentally/spiritually/physically). I was near 300 pounds (not “single guy” shape at all). I was in shock/angry and mainly hurt. Life had betrayed me – but God hadn’t. Thankfully, because I was raised that way, life and God have always been separate. God is always there, always kind. Life is always there to kick you in the teeth. You can trust God to lead, desire good things, bless – and life to tirelessly work to break you of your faith. Problem? I viscerally, completely and angrily HATED my soon-to-be ex-wife. Blind hate. It creeped out sideways because I couldn’t admit it. I couldn’t forgive, and that made it even worse. I couldn’t “put it all down.” So, I started my journal of hate. Every day, sometimes several times a day, I would write out where I was slighted, where my son was wronged… Why? Because I was already living in hate, so why not document it? Eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And in the middle of it (not the end) I realized – I put up with it. I was an active participant in my own imagined demise. If I’d been stronger, the marriage would have fallen apart sooner. The “courage of my convictions” was gone. I agreed to all kinds of stuff just to avoid the argument. I wasn’t being honest, I wasn’t being open, true, I was walking on eggshells – but I made the choice to do that. It was on me. The “journal of hate” was more about self-loathing than anything she was responsible for. On some level, I had to admit that her claims of my not being truthful were (on a level she didn’t know) correct. She was wrong about the content of the deception, but not the deception itself. I was self-delusional, so everything I said to her was a lie on some level. I lost myself a long time before she “lost” me. And yes, most of it related to death of my first wife. I couldn’t admit it, but I did love her and I missed her “well.” I loved her deeply before the diagnosis. We’d had our troubles, but I convinced myself (to make it easier) that I hated her too, before she was gone, but in reality, it was for getting sick, for changing, for not being there, and yes, even for dying even though that brought her the first peace and lack of pain in six years, And I couldn’t admit what a bag-of-dirt that made me. In order for me to live, to avoid making the same mistake over again, I had to admit that to the one person I didn’t ever want to talk to again. So I put that on the back burner.

Because my professional life was taking a hit too. I was a chaplain, more of a pastor, but working as a chaplain. Then, the unthinkable happened. I was moved back into social work, something I quit doing to go to seminary. I had truly stepped back into my twenties. I was living in an apartment, working as a social worker, single… the main differences were I had a ten-year old and the quality of my car and apartment were much nicer. 47 years old, and back to being 22. Somebody pushed “reset” and I was NOT thrilled. I’ve never been one to set the world on fire with my success, I’m more “rambler” than “racer” (as most blog-posters are) even when I’m motivated. I had to get myself in shape for dating, because I realized something that was the major drive in getting married the second time. I had always wanted a family. That realization came when I filled out an on-line dating app and was basically, “are children a problem?” and I thought, “How creepy would it be if there was an ‘actually children are preferred’ button?” (VERY creepy).

Met this woman on-line, ticked all the buttons, religious (even prays in public), doesn’t drink wine by the bottle (she brought a bottle once that still sits unopened in my fridge), and this is important, is slightly crazy. That’s important because I am. Everyone you meet is, the difference is the people that admit it (without wearing their psychosis as a badge of honor or armor) are generally a lot more fun to hang around with than the people that believe themselves to be completely sane. If you can’t admit your a little bit nuts, then the truth is not in you and you deceive yourself. So, she’s fun, and Godly, and all the other stuff… but I was still ambling, and I still had no plans for the future.

January of this year – my dad. My mentor, role-model, hero, all the good things dads are supposed to be, especially if you share a vocation, died suddenly. In less than a second. He was walking down the stairs and then his body was at the bottom in a gruesome scene I wish I could scrub from my mother’s memory. I made it to the hospital too late to say goodbye. But after Lori, my first wife, I made sure that I’ve said what I need to say to everyone. He knew, and more importantly, I knew – no need to hear it again, it had been said. “If something happens to me, make sure your mother is taken care of.” and “You’re a pastor, be a pastor.” I knew his regrets. I knew his sadness, and after ambling through life for the better part of a decade he told me, “The problem with hiding your feelings isn’t that they’re going to come out in a rage – it’s that eventually you find yourself so numb that you wonder if you have any feelings at all.” and the one piece of advice I give to my son at least 3 times a week – “Don’t be like me. Be better than me.”

I did Lori’s funeral in an emotional fog – and Dad finished it for me. His was a spiritual high and I sang him out on a song we’d played together even rewriting some lyrics. I preached a message close to his heart, one that he always needed to hear and frequently shared. I realized, standing in someone else’s church, behind a strange pulpit, with a guitar in my hand, wearing a vest without a robe. Damnit, this is who I was made to be. The clothes don’t make a difference anymore (because I’m an adult) but I got angry. VERY angry, and this time, I didn’t deny it. I let it burn. The only way through it for me. I looked into the gathered people, everyone from his biker friends to pastor’s he knew from 30 years prior and realized what a varied life he’d lived. I sang it, I preached it. He came from the coal fields, was told he wasn’t smart enough and worked hard. He had visions, he had plans, he worked, right up until the wind came out of his sails and he was tired. He’d literally gone from a coal-town church to paid staff at the national church office. Not for his own sake – but to try to serve as best he could.

And I was wasting my time completing forms that were important for reimbursement for a company providing care, in constant conflict with other staff members, hearing from the residents that I was “too busy” to visit with them. Working longer hours, and being told to expect more, working two full-time jobs while they searched for a replacement, then helping train someone that was let go and placed back into the department. I was angry. It was showing. Not directly, but sarcasm became my weapon. Outward defiance, initial refusal to get the poison into the system, then compliance. So I could tell myself that I was a good employee, and they would have reason to believe otherwise. Still “volunteering” for extra, and hating them for it. By this point, social work drained away what passion remained, more meetings, and still higher expectations. I put on weight. Rule changes, “other duties as assigned by…” and weekends disappearing. Time with my son almost gone, that sweet woman that helped my family in the hospital by being there for us, who had helped clean up the gore shoulder-to-shoulder with my mother, with whom I had fallen in love was hearing nothing but anger and invective. Everyone around me wondering, “Is today going to be the day he quits spectacularly?” Friends terminated, other’s quitting. Yet I’m still here… but I had a plan.

The week before Memorial Day, I interviewed with a church over Skype. I had my information out for less than a week. Over the process, I had 108 churches contact me to say, “Would you be interested?” (Love the Presbyterian computer job-search system, it’s like on-line dating without a user-friendly interface). I interviewed with my “top” choice first – always my habit (which carries over to TJ by the way).

On Memorial Day, I sang in a program that I didn’t know I was doing until a few days before, and didn’t know before that day it with my ex-wife. I realized something on the second song. I couldn’t sing without looking at her. We’d been singing/playing together for more than a decade before we got married. I’d ALWAYS relied on her for tempo, cues, and she knew by the look on my face when I didn’t have the note coming and would play it. We made a good team. I found myself smiling. I wasn’t angry anymore, well, not all the time. Since we shared a boss, I don’t know if it was intentional on her part to settle down something she saw – but it gave me an opportunity to ask for a few minutes of conversation.

We had a brief private conversation and I’ll mostly preserve that privacy here. But I can say, I didn’t have a deep well of anger towards myself or her anymore. I’m glad the process went as well as it could have. I will say, I “deceived” her (by her standard) one more time, by telling her the truth, but this time it was purely for my own fun, not avoiding some confrontation. When talking about working together in the future, given that this was our first civil conversation in months. I said, “I don’t even know where I’ll be in two years.” I still don’t know where I’ll be on Memorial Day 2020. But I knew where I wasn’t going to be. I would have been fired for popping off in a public forum one-too many times, which would have led to my Norma Rae moment and being escorted off by police under the watchful eye of one my friends that left 3 days after my final day. . Back-burner Plan: Set the past to rest – DONE.

I already knew I wanted to be in a church, where I have authority, not in chaplaincy where you only have responsibility and accountability. I know myself well enough to know if you say, “You will finish these 20 files before you leave today.” that’s all the work you’re going to get out of me that day. I may knock them out before lunch, but then I’m going to practice my “look busy” skills by carrying a clipboard while I wander around campus taking fifteen hundred “smoke breaks.” And to make sure the point is made, I’m going to drive by the office window ten minutes before I’m “off” waving. Or worse, flaunt your authority in a shared mission. “I’m the boss, my way or the highway” and I’ll play that game until another opportunity comes along. I will play beautifully, and as irritatingly as possible. Juvenile? Yes. Passive-aggressive; almost to a spiritual level. Set yourself up before me, and I will see you fall, while smiling. Seriously, It’s kind of the very core of my vision for solo ministry. To look at earthly kings that think highly of themselves and think, “Hmm, that pedestal seems to have a crack in it, what happens if I do this…” Show genuine humility and vision, and I’ll follow you through hell. Tell me to mind my manners and stay in my lane and I’m renting a monster truck with a BIG horn. That’s what pastor’s do – not just comfort the afflicted but to afflict the comfortable.

Problem, I couldn’t do any of that, and I couldn’t properly search for a new gig as long as I had that one. I worked every Sunday (full-day) and I would be needing to do neutral pulpits on Sundays. So, after a few evening interviews and needing to be open, and since taking one Sunday off necessitated me working an addition 1 and 1/2 days to be accepted, I decided I should quit. But I didn’t. Not until my son looked up at me one Sunday morning and said, “Dad are we ever going to go to church together again?” That was against policy – and if I don’t like policy I could leave. Well, I didn’t like my gig, didn’t like the policies, so I wrote my letter of resignation. The next day a new policy was introduced requiring all managers to do something else that I wasn’t happy about. After the meeting I handed in my notice, “I hope you don’t think this is in any way reflective of todays change of rules – l’ve already sent copies to your supervisors.” Considering the tremendous hole I’d dug for myself, this was a crazy thing to do. First real sign of my truly choosing to reset my life. I didn’t have any prospects, but I had savings that survived the divorce. The only issues are minor now, but major insults to me at the time – but then tried to remember the words of Jesus… something like, “Thou shalt document your visitation, any signs of abuse. Thou shalt conduct the holy memory and dementia screening or thou shalt be out of compliance.” (I think that’s from the book of Second Opinions). The only real problem was working out my notice in the summer – I spent the last month making the following decision, “nap then pool” or “pool then nap.” I know, but doing both at the same time was too efficient for me. Quit job – check

Next goal in the be who I am plan? Find the right church (check) and stay there as long as they’ll have me. I started the interview process with my favorite info form. I kept them as my “compare” to for other interviews. I had several other good churches, but they just didn’t “fit” like this church. Why? Lots of reasons, that I found because of one quote, “We take our mission very seriously, but don’t take ourselves that seriously.” Ok – where can I sign? Seriously, that was it. There are people going through serious things with complicated lives. I know it’s early, but seriously, if we continue to serve God together, hang out until at least 2035. Not nearly as dramatic, I know, but you’ve been skimming for a long time. Goal – find a calling that seems the beginning of shared ministry. Mission Accomplished.

Find a house – bought one, sleeps up to ten. check. Has a pool & room in the garage for 2 cars and a motorcycle.

But here’s the problem. When you do this planning thing, you find yourself doing it more and more, like some kind of psychosis.

I realized in 2008, one of the things I had to grieve was not just the potential loss of my wife, but any hope for a family. I told my wife six months before she agreed that I was ready to start a family. She came around, and we realized that adoption was our option. One of the things that died with her, was that potential, and I think, on some level that was a draw of my second marriage. Three kids? Family. Stability. Out of the chaos comes what I had when I was a kid, us against the world. Our “unit” or “band” in my case. But that fell apart, not because of effort, or planning, but because it was wrong. I figured that out over time, talking to that woman that I met before my dad died. That one that sat with him at dinner as they laughed as mom and I solved the world’s problems. The only time they ever met.

Listening to her talk about not just my kid, but her own, the love she had for them, I found myself, not only interested, not only caring, and listening to my dad’s advice, I let myself care. It help’s that three of them are grown with their own partners/stories to tell. Even if M, reminds me of D when he was a kid, “two speeds, FULL ON and THE SLEEP OF THE WELL JUSTIFIED.” See, TJ fits, she’s seen the “uncensored” me, and been honest, she doesn’t like some of it. I’m not perfect. Which means I don’t have to be “on” all the time. Which means she puts up with a lot of garbage from my mouth. I’ve hurt her with my words, but there is something to the way we interact with each other. Forgiveness. I used to say that Lori made me want to be a better man (which I said before the movie popularized the phrase). This woman – makes me want to serve God better, which will make me a better pastor, husband, father… Watching my mother’s face when the babydoll came flying in from the side only to land squarely in the middle of her plate I realized (as I froze hoping not to be noticed) she’s mellowed. Of course TJ was already “levitating” as mom put it, handling it.

Are they stable? Yes, in a way. But they’re crazy fun, the kind of crazy The Rev. Bishop Tutu says we need in the world, a crazy that comes from love, compassion… my sister and I can sound like we hate each other, but she really loves me, and mom says I have to love her (see?). Seriously we love each other.

I think this year, hanging out with everyone, I found it without making it a condition. I wanted a family, this Thanksgiving we had all of TJ’s kids and mine in the house, my sister and her family – had to split them between two high-chairs, and two rooms (I asked everyone to mix up) and standing on the porch with her listening to the laughs (and the small kids talking to us through the window) and I realized – I’ve ambled way too long. It’s time to make real, substantive save-the-date kind of plans. I know I’ve already talked to her kids, and her dad seems on board, my mom loves her and they hang out about as much as we do when she’s in town. I know she’s reading this. (Hey TJ – don’t overthink. I knew it was right before, I felt that it was right before that moment, but in that moment it was a deeper sense of urgency. I even mentioned it to you at the time).

Dad wasn’t here – but I was, fully present for the first Thanksgiving in a long time, not worried about the family falling apart, the job calling, just hanging out listening and telling stories, trying to cook turkey for the first time. I realized, too, that I was taking my dad’s advice, a new “rule” for my new life.

Because I don’t hide myself away anymore, not even from myself.

New Goals:

Personally: 1) Ask Tammy to marry me (she knows it’s coming), 2) plan a wedding and a reception that is “us” (and since we’re smack-dab in the middle of Louisville and Huntington, y’all better get your selves over here ’cause I’m not doing this again).

Oh yeah, since I have to put them in writing. 1) Pass my paper exam for motorcycle permit 2) go through MST and get my proper license, 3) get insurance quotes, 4) buy the Versys

Professionally: Keep getting better where I am until God says otherwise.

Spiritually: Keep getting closer to God wants me to be because God leads.

Jesus rambled about – with a purpose – surrounded by his band of fishermen & sinners. I have my purpose, I’ve ambled enough, now it is time to formalize the band.