Crazy doesn’t begin to describe it. Our first four anniversaries have been marked by a certain…flair for the unusual. For N and mine’s very first anniversary, we spent the day at a homeless shelter. I was participating in an intervention for a member of our congregation, while N watched her 2 year old son. Our second anniversary N was on bed-rest due to complications with her pregnancy. We defied the doctor though and in a brash outburst ran to Wal-Mart (with N in a wheel-chair to argue later we didn’t really take her off of bed-rest) and bought ourselves a food processor. Wow… what rebels. Our third anniversary was the most normal yet. We got baby sitters long enough to have a dinner out without the kid, but ended up with some bathroom issues later that made it a bit more memorable than we’d like. Finally, this year the plan was to go out of town for a long weekend away from home and away from kid, dog, etc. The night before we left we had really severe weather that knocked out our power around 2am. We were truly blessed however as the Basement Troll and our parents said “Go, go!” and took care of it all while we were gone until power came back about 24 hours later. I can’t wait to see what 5 years brings….
Boo loves to climb. We are pretty sure by this point (at less than 2 years of age) that she will be our little gymnast. She is utterly fearless when it comes to jumping, heights, going upside down, climbing and tumbling. One of her favorite games is for me to pick her up by the legs and swing her upside down from side to side. We had N record me doing this once and then decided that I could never post it for others to see because people would think I was abusing the poor thing, even though Boo can clearly be heard saying “again, again” over and over and sticking her legs back up into the air to be grabbed by daddy. I swear, some days I think she just views me as an ambulatory jungle gym with funny facial fuzz.
She loves to dance as well so often times N and Boo will sing and dance around the house while daddy is off cleaning or working in the yard. Occasionally I will join in too, but to be honest it’s more of N’s thing than mine and as picky as Boo is about who gets to do what with her, I figure that can be a good mommy/daughter bonding moment. Boo and I have fun with her wood train set, in the bath and wrestling so I think it’s a pretty even trade.
We are buying it used from my in-laws neighbor. While I enjoy buying new stuff as much as the next guy, the simple math of the fact is that in many cases I can’t afford new and this deal was just too good to pass up. I will say, transporting it could be a little fun since we have to disassemble it first, but with my father & father-in-law’s help, it should be doable.
The entire time she and I were running around and looking at the play-set, she was climbing up the ladder on her own, trying to figure out the rock wall and going up and down the slide at toddler lightning speed.
I sometimes wonder what must be going through her head as she faces these obstacles to her desires while at the same time wondering where my own such determination has gone. All too often when I stop to sit and think about the cost (either financial, personal, emotional) I am less and less inclined to push forward towards my dreams. Is this just a reality of growing up? Is this what we call responsible? I am not sure, but as I watch her push and struggle and overcome, I find myself hoping that she does not follow in my footsteps in this regard. I want her to always push her boundaries, I want her to reach outward, to grow and challenge herself and those around her, to achieve something greater than exists in this present moment. I want to help raise a young woman who sees the heights in front of her and thinks to herself…”I got this.” Or, because I’m a musical theatre major, a woman who just starts humming Climb Every Mountain from the Sound of Music:
Climb every mountain,
Search high and low,
Follow every byway,
Every path you know.
Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
‘Till you find your dream.
Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
Till you find your dream
A dream that will need
All the love you can give,
Every day of your life,
For as long as you live.
Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
Till you find your dream.
Whenever I hear someone talk about health benefits, Obamacare, Insurance, this is mostly how I feel:
Making Social Security solvent – Personally I would like more information on this before I make a judgment on it. I can say two things for sure however. The first is, that I am okay with raising the minimum age for which people qualify for benefits. We are living longer as a people than we did when this act was first passed. Realizing that, and realizing that there will still need to be accommodations for specific circumstances, would help the program enjoy more longevity than it currently faces. Second, I am also okay with reducing the amount of benefit that people who make hundreds of thousands of dollars or more get. Social Security was a safety net for people who had no other access to savings and retirement, and that is also no longer the case. If, as a people, we want to reduce the amount of money that those people pay into Social Security as well as reduce their payments from it, that could also be the start of a discussion to improving Social Security. But I am NOT in favor of privatizing it.
Reducing health care costs – Here too, I am not sure why this is so hard to do. Other countries that have single payer health systems manage to keep their costs down significantly more than we do. While we hear all the scare tactics and propaganda from the medical industries, I am unsure of the truth of the matter on this issue, in part because I am not sure that anybody, on either side of this issue, is really telling the truth. I believe this in part because I think the truth is more complicated and more confusing than people think and it’s easier to either say “socialized medicine is evil” or “look what the evil medical companies are doing again.” This is an issue I would like somebody to take and talk about in a more serious tone than I have heard thus far.
Making Medicare solvent – This is another of those issues that it seems really difficult to find some sort of sane and non-partisan information on. If Medicare is truly close to becoming insolvent, then yes, solutions need to be found to prevent that from happening. I like some of the ideas that I have heard, at least in theory, about redoing how Medicare is paid out, tying payments to patient outcomes (we do this for education so why not medicine, which is MUCH more measurable – i.e. are you healthier than you were six months ago or not?) and the like. This is another of the social safety nets that I believe we need to keep in place to help protect both ourselves and our fellow human beings. As a Christian, I feel it is part of my duty to help the sick, feed the hungry, etc. “Protecting” my money was never a part of that list.
I have a pretty big yard and last night spent what seemed like forever mowing the darn thing. Fortunately I have a riding lawn mower that I can use on most of it and that got me to thinking. I can’t possibly be the only almost-40 guy who rides his lawn mower around like a knight on horseback am I? Or as the good Doctor would say, “Allons y!”
I had about ten people over last night. May not seem like much to some and a really big event to others. I threw the idea together for dinner and hanging out in about two hours. Had food, had the time, had the desire. It was also a realization for me…as weird as that may sound. I’ve done things like this several times since the ex left. I don’t need to ask anyone’s permission. I don’t have to worry about double-scheduling (beyond what I do to myself). I don’t have to think about if someone is in the mood to have people over or not.
I can just do it.
It’s a simple simple thing. But something that for so much of my adult life I have not had the freedom to do. I relax by hosting events and having people over. This can be stressful for other people, I realize this, and as such was not able to do it much while I was married. I like this. I love my circle of friends, the ease with which they accept my invites, and the fact that if I want one or one hundred (although that might be a little much) over, I can do so. I can go places, make plans, do things I enjoy (little things, or big things), hang out with people I want to.
I can have a full life. And I don’t have to have someone’s permission to do so.
Do I miss being in a partnership? Yeah. But something else I’m learning is that most of what I miss from a partnership I can have in the relationships with the people I chose to surround myself with. I’m still learning the dance, still make mistakes, still do too little or too much. It’s a process. But now it’s more of a process of learning to be single, than perhaps the struggle it was a while back. Maybe not a lot has changed. But my perspective has… and that can make all the difference.
Single and likin’ it.
“I’m sorry Dad for throwing everything back in your face and being such a jerk.”
My son spent the weekend at a Jr. High Church retreat at our local campground. I was nervous, as was he. He’d never gone on a trip like this and considering that most recently he still thought God hated him, wasn’t sure if this was a good idea or not. But I wanted to offer him every opportunity to get to know God’s love and the love of the community of believers that has been such a strength for me over the years. He was a little mad at me when I dropped him off because I made him leave his Nintendo DS at home. I swear if he could replace his hands with electronic games he would. But he made it through the weekend…and came home with a different attitude. And an apology.
“I’m sorry Dad for throwing everything back in your face…”
He talked with me about how he had “broken the bottle in half,” the bottle he used to stuff and keep everything in including all his negative feelings. He told me he was able to share some of what had been on his mind and he was somewhat mystified why so many of the girls at camp had cried when he spoke…and he wasn’t sure how he felt about all the hugs he’d gotten from them either. But he made new friends and had a good experience as the camp gave him a group hug and prayed over him. I’m pretty sure this feeling will not last forever, but I DO hope that the changes begun this weekend stick.
Several of my friends and I were talking the other day before church and out of a number of topics covered one was, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” And while I have my own views on this which I will elucidate on later, it just seemed very timely a subject. God does not promise that life will be easy, we need only look at Jesus’ life for that. Nor does God promise us a life free of challenges. What God DOES promise is to be with us and to love us, unconditionally and always.
There IS joy in life…in every instance of life. Joy does NOT equal happiness. And so this morning…drinking tea after getting my son to school, and before work begins… I find myself joyful, and thankful.
“God, I too am sorry for throwing everything back in your face. And I’m also sorry for being such a jerk.”
Being a storyteller is a dying art.
There is a deep and powerful tradition of storytelling throughout human history. People would gather around fires, in dining halls, cabins, and numerous other places to hear a great yarn, or to spin one. Stories were how people communicated history, identity, dreams for the future, rules to live by and countless other things. People always have their own ideas as to what quality is MOST human. Personally I think it’s our ability to tell stories. Other animals use tools, pass on knowledge, require companionship and have some sort of social hiearchy. Other animals feel/show pain, joy, love. Other animals communicate through amazing means. But I don’t see any of them gathering around to tell stories. Granted, I’m not entirely convinced they don’t…especially whales and elephants…I mean what else are those big mammels going to do with all their free time…but anyway…
Stories are how we pass on religious truths, family traditions, the importance of heratige, and yet…all too often as a society it seems that we defer that responsibility to others. TV, movies, books – those who are gifted at telling great tales have a celebrated place, as they always have. Their audiences are wider and tools flashier to be sure. But is that the same? Sitting in a darkened theatre with fifty other people, staring of moving pictures of other people having adventures, then leaving afterwards quietly to go on with our own lives…is that what we’re reduced to?
I tell stories to strech my imagination, to share hopes and dreams with friends and family. I tell stories because I want to recount funny memories, share important thoughts, share beliefs. I’ve often viewed my role-playing hobby and the ministry that I offer to be very similar. Both rely on a sense of the emotional moment, appropriate use of drama and comedy, both bring people together and can pass on knowledge or raise important questions. It’s one of the reasons I try to read to my son at least a couple times a week. We end up talking about the story and what words mean almost as much as we actually read. Sometimes I make up stuff too. It’s the sharing that’s important. That’s part of what’s missing in the stories we tell each other today. Where is the sharing, the common bonds that bind us together?
We often hear phrases like “global village,” “common humanity,” “shared future.” But what are the stories we tell to make it real? How do we transmit the importance (if you feel it’s important…I do obviously) of these concepts to our own personal community? One person standing behind a podium lecturing us changes nothing. Repeated video clips of people requesting help, challenging us to change, encouraging us to a brighter future…they may help for a time. But stories are what endure. Stories are what remain.
One of the best moments of the last couple years for me, came at one of the most difficult times – the death of my maternal grandfather. He moreso than almost anyone I knew lived a life of stories. As the last day of my grandfather’s life here on Earth began he had been moved out to the living room in his bed, so we could all be near him and present with him. He was unconscious for most of the day, but there, at the end he woke ever so briefly – my son got to show him the last picture he ever made for him as well as some toys he’d gotten for that Christmas. I doubt that image will ever leave my mind. My grandfather, a man of virtue, love, laughter and stories, creating one last memory…one last story, there at the end.
We are made of stories.
The stories we tell ourselves to get by. The stories we share with others to define how they perceive us. The stories that are told about us that shape others outlooks on us and our actions. The stories that make us laugh, the ones that make us cry. The stories that bring us hope, hope that, in the end, it will all mean something. I love telling stoires. I love hearing stories. They may be the same stories over and over again, but sharing them with people anew, every time they’re a little different. I think that’s one of the reasons I like stories better than movies or novels. A story is a living breathing evolving thing. Just like us.
I don’t know where my story ends. I hope not for a while. I’m not sure of how my son’s story will turn out. I’ll do my best to share with him the stories that I think are important. Others will share theirs. Hopefully mine are funnier. He is already making his own story. And his story, our story is impacting the lives of many others who have tied their stories to ours. We are woven together with words. We are the story of humanity. One of the greatest reactions I ever got out of my Sunday School class was when I told them they are creating the next set of Bible stories. All of us are, every day as we live, breath, love and die in this world.
You are part of someone’s story. Maybe part of mine. Just by reading this, you slip in, maybe not say anything, but your passing is noted. Your interest impacts somewhere. Stories are strange and mysterious things. They have a way of starting one way and suddenly veering off in a totally different direction. But in the really good ones – it all ties down together at the bottom.
Below is my eulogy I wrote for my Grandfather’s funeral. As you read it, ask yourself this – “What’s my story? And what’s it say about me?”
It should be noted in history, that by common consent with tear-stained cheeks and bittersweet smiles, this was one of the best Christmas’ ever. It seems strange to say but I believe Grampie would understand, and agree.
The love and support that has been shown to me and my family has simply been overwhelming. Couple that with the stories, the laughter and the sharing that my family has done with almost all of us here…it’s been a long time since this many of us were gathered together.
I can’t define my grandfather, but I can share with you this. Grampie was not a particularly demonstrative man with his emotions, especially the soft-touchy feely ones, but I never have known another man whose life was so full of love. He showered us with it. Me, the skunk, the prune, all the George’s, we’ve never doubted his love for us.
I was blessed with a rather unique opportunity in that for eleven years I got to travel with my grandparents every summer to various reunions, sorry family camps now, all over the country. As I’ve grown older the memories tend to blur together but there are many things I still remember, like sharing the tranatuala with Phil among others, Grampie showing me how to shake out my shoes for scorpions, him and that bag of rattlesnake eggs, grammie taking me out swimming in Lake Huron. Grandpa teaching me how to play harmonica in the back seat of their car. Many more memories have been shared this past week.
With mom in the hospital a lot as a child I can remember spending lots of weekends with my grandparents. Much of that time was taken up playing games, among them Carum & Crokanal. That was grandpa’s and mine’s special game. We’be break out the pieces and spend what seemed like hours flicking those small wooden pieces all over the place and oh how he’d jump and laugh whenever we sent one over the edge. Many was the time he’d get a look in his eye and nod over in grandma’s direction as she sat blissfully unaware in her chair and then grandpa would let fly and it’d land right in her lap and she’d be all a flutter. Or driving with him in the car and playing tag the bumper with the car in front, or complaining about “female drivers”, just to get grandma riled up. Of course I couldn’t talk about him and not mention circus peanuts and licorice. Grandpa had a special drawer where he kept his bag of circus peanuts right by the bed and he’d parcel them out every time I came over. I was also his guinia pig when it came to hot sauces and cheese and I have to admit, my own son has suffered some of the same EEEghhhewww and AAAHHHAHHAAH as I have over the years from gorgonzola and goat milk cheese to jalapenos and habenaros.
We are a left today with a legacy of laughter and love. I’m reminded of that even as my heart cries because of something grandpa said to me about joy. It’s not that joy means we’ll never have pain, it’s that we believe in the hope and promise of what’s to come in the midst of our pain that we may thrive and live with glad hearts and good cheer.