About Easter

I grew up in a household that believed in God, more or less. I’m talking about the Christian one, the one with the Old Testament and the New Testament and Jesus as the Messiah and the Ten Commandments. All that stuff. We didn’t believe in Odin or Zeus or Hercules as the savior of man or that Balder died for our sins; we pretty much took the Bible on faith.

My family didn’t go to church – I think that was my mother’s choice. My mother told me, much later in life, that she believed in God but did not enjoy going to church because of all the fighting. There was a controversy in her church about speaking in tongues, she said, and she just stopped going. She didn’t mind that everyone interpreted the Bible differently, she just didn’t like that people didn’t accept that everyone could. I guess she wanted God to be the judge of man, not man to be the judge of man. She was a good Christian, I would say.

When I went to church regularly, in my teens, I ran afoul of the same controversy. A friend of mine went to his uncle’s church. He learned there that the only way into heaven was to speak in tongues. The only way. If you don’t speak in tongues at some point the Holy Spirit never moved through you and you have no access through the pearly gates. Harsh. My church, the one I attended in my teens, believed it was optional. We were Pentecostal and tongues were fairly common. As I recall, though, only a select few ever spoke, and only a select few ever interpreted. No problem, according to my church. You’re baptized. No problem. God would let you in.

I did some research around that time. This was a hundred years ago, give or take seven decades, so there wasn’t any internet. I researched it the old-fashioned way. I read books, I asked people, I looked stuff up in Bibles and magazines and encyclopedias. Then I found a third belief about the same topic. There were chapters of Christian believers who held that if you speak in tongues it was the devil moving through you. You were going to Hell.

Going. To. Hell.

To summarize, there were three different types of Christians: the ones that believed you only get into Heaven if you speak in tongues, the ones that believed it had no bearing whatsoever on your afterlife, and the ones that believed if you speak in tongues you were eternally damned.

That’s a pretty wide gulf.

People ask me all the time why I’m an atheist. When I was young, I believed in God for the same reason I believed in Santa Claus. That’s what I was told. The controversy about tongues didn’t drive me away from faith in a Christian God. It didn’t specifically drive my mother from church. But it made me question the validity of it. It made me dig deeper. I looked beyond what I was told. If my life has a theme, it is that. Dig deeper. Look beyond what you are told.

I hope everyone has a spectacular day, whatever you believe. Hug tightly to all the family you see. Love one another as much as you love your faith. In fact, love each other more. Speak to them in whatever tongue you favor, and don’t judge them for their sins. Don’t judge them for their beliefs. Nobody knows the truth about why we’re here, especially not the people that swear they do. But while we are here we have each other and we have days like today to be together.

I would give anything I have to hug my mother today. Not judge her, just hug her. And I would give anything if you could, too.

Happy Easter. Everyone.

Spring Resolutions, Tom 4.0

Here are my 2016 resolutions.
Time for some resolutions.

As the long winter passes and the bright days of summer approach, I tend to make some promises. I’m not really a “new year resolution” kind of guy because the new year is smack dab in the middle of the most important two-month span in football. I won’t keep any promises with the playoffs approaching. Plus, who wants to exercise in the winter? Baby, it’s cold outside. So I start making my promises right around the third week of March, right around the advent of spring.

I usually make a list, and I usually number it strategically from one to whatever. After moving things up and down the list to find the perfect sequence of priority I generally decide they are in no particular order. So here it is, my list of 2016 promises, in no particular order:

  1. I want to spend more time with my wife. We both work an awful lot, in jobs that don’t have a merciful amount of flex time. The time we get to spend together is usually one or the other of us cooking a quick meal, exchanging funny customer stories, watching an episode of something like “Fringe” or “Longmire,” and then heading off to reading and showers before calling it a night. A brief “good morning” every day and off to work we go. I’d like to get her out of town a bit. I’d like to get her to the cinema more. We both miss sushi.
  2. I want to get in shape. I’m a little older so I don’t really care much about “vanity shape,” but I am starting to get concerned about “healthy shape.” My weight hovers around 185 most winters, which isn’t bad, and I’m usually close to 180 during spring, summers, and falls. It’s acceptable. I have a lot of size 34 pants. I have decent energy and, most of the time, I feel good enough taking my shirt off to jump in a pool. But five years ago, at this time of the season, I was around 175 and all them size 33’s fit, too. Comfortably. I was addicted to svelte. I was so intoxicated by healthy weight loss I found myself at 166 by mid-summer. 166. I slipped into some 32’s; I was damn near skeletal. Although my intention isn’t to find myself in the realm of emaciated again, I’ve had a running goal for 5 years to find myself consistently at the 175 mark and it’s been five years since I’ve seen it. I’d like to see it again. I want access to all my pants.
  3. I want to read more. Winter naturally kills my inclination to read because my favorite time to read is immediately after work and my favorite place to do it is on the deck. There is absolutely no motivation to read on a deck after work in the cold. Zero chance. So the only time I really read is right before bed time. Nine times out of ten that lasts no more than 20 minutes before the book, or e-book, falls onto my face signaling that it’s time to shut out the lights. You haven’t lived until your tablet PC falls onto your face at the end of the night. If someone would record it I’m betting I’d make funniest home videos. My wife laughs at me every time. So my intention is to read more at times when I can stay awake for it. I might even learn something, and the bruise on my nose would finally go away.
  4. I want to get more done. I’m a procrastinator, no doubt about it. If I can find any reason, any reason at all, to postpone an effort, I will. Yard work, in particular, is a victim of procrastination around my house. I hate yard work. Probably this stems from nearly 20 years in the yard work industry and the daily toll it took on me mentally. Partially this stems from the fact that I’m far more of an informational worker than I have ever been a laborer. I’d rather sit around and make lists of things to do and strategic ways to get them done than to actually do them. That’s a manager’s mindset. Those cold days of winter make for good excuses to postpone outdoor things. Plus, football is on, right? Well, the sun is shining now (some days) and the only thing on TV is golf and cars racing in circles. I’m just not into that. I can get more done; I’m out of excuses. Or at least until the Lakers get good again … then I can put off yard work until June.
  5. I want to drink less. There, I said it. Out loud, and in a blog. God help me, the repercussions of this one will be profound. For some time now I’ve been experimenting with this, cutting back here and there, challenging myself to bouts of ridiculous and inappropriate sobriety just to see how things go. They didn’t go too bad. There have been times recently where I wish I would have had some drinks when I promised I would not, and times when I wish I hadn’t though I did. I think I’ve found a happy balance. I’ve quit altogether during the week, and that’s improved my mental acuity and level of energy. I like that. I could become addicted to that. I’ve measured the units I do consume in a sitting to make sure I get my fill but not too much. I’ve turned down a lot of free shots. I just don’t like the way it feels anymore, the next day. The next week. I’ve created rules for myself that have worked, but haven’t always worked. I’m still prone to dissipation; I’m the very definition of Jung’s Fool. I’ll make my rules and break them, too. I’m a living constitution, with the daily ability to amend. But if you see me out there, and you want to do something nice, buy me a beer or compliment me on my blog. Give me a hug or something. But don’t buy me a shot, I won’t drink it anymore. I’ve sealed that pact.

This was a lengthy one, so thanks for making it this far.

Life is a long mission, one with many roads, and we are constantly in a state of stasis or growth. We are sticking to the old program or downloading an upgrade.  A year ago or so I was bowling with a buddy when I was in league and he remarked that I was only on my 3rd beer in the 3rd game. That wasn’t the first week he’d seen me so light on the bottle. I told him it was on purpose and that it was only the start of a long journey of evolution. Or something like that. He joked that I was Tom 2.0.

I ran with it.

Right about now I would say I hover around Tom 3.8. I’m installing another upgrade today. Like all first editions it’s going to be buggy as hell. But I get the notion that once it smooths out, once all the patches download, it’s going to be the best version of me yet.

I can’t wait to boot it up.

 

Going Dark

I haven’t had anything to write about since my last entry (Maverick, a tribute to my first golden retriever) so I haven’t written. Anything. No journal entries, no gaming adventures, no failed attempts at fiction, nothing. I’ve been uninspired.

I’ve been busy. Between getting caught up at work, rewiring the electrical in my home office, going to Reno over the St. Patty’s Day weekend, getting food poisoning, and catching up on political races on House of Cards and in reality, there just hasn’t been anything to say.

Sure I could write a paragraph about work. About how things are starting to pick up as we head away from the slow winter season and into the months of spring. I could talk about the forthcoming refrigerator-killing heat of summer. But there are only so many great phrases like “refrigerator-killing heat of summer” in the appliance language. It would be a short paragraph.

I could talk about how satisfying it is to finally find the electrical problem in my office. After switching out eight receptacles and four light switches, it was about time. I could say it has been a full week of darkness and that I’ve had to run an unwieldy extension cord from the hallway just to get computer light. Or I could lament how difficult it is to write a blog without a computer. I could tell you I hate nothing in life so much as having to use hand tools. Yes, I could.

I could talk about the trip to Reno and about the hilarious things drunk people do when they lock themselves out of their rooms at o’dark thirty without a stitch of clothing. I could talk about how hard it is to find your room when you get off on the wrong floor, plastered. Oh, I bet I could go on and on about how much fun it is to get two and a half dozen people to commit to a road trip. I could tell you how unwieldy two and a half dozen people become at midnight in a bar crawl. I could probably write an entire blog on that alone. Maybe I should.

I could tell you all that this was the first time I’ve had food poisoning. I was sick with it all week.

You know, I could say that House of Cards has not been as good this season, partially because the real election cycle has been so monstrously entertaining and bizarre. You literally can’t make this shit up. The reality show is stranger than fiction. And, so far, better.

I could. I could talk about all those things. But I was sick, I was recovering, my computer was down, I was busy, I was distracted and I was lazy. You know, all the reasons I didn’t do it before. She creeps back in whenever she pleases, does resistance, and I forgot the first rule of writing. Write one thing. Write one thing that is true.

So I’m back on the horse, even though I started this blog with a lie.

Now I have ideas for three more. Writing works like that. The power can go out at any time. The darkness can last a week. All it takes is finding the right blown switch to turn the light back on. I’ve been wandering around on the wrong floor for over a week, looking for my room. I’ve been naked in the hall.

It feels good to be writing again. 🙂

Maverick

We had family in town from the south and Suzie and I were walking the tall coastal redwoods with them. It must have been 1999. The wife and I had two dogs at that point in our life, a beagle mix named Mickey and a Black Lab/Shepherd named King. Mickey was getting up in years. A man came down the trail with the most beautiful Irish Setter I had ever seen, or at least that’s what I thought it was. Jogging, the man stopped very quickly and asked if any of us minded if he let his dog off the leash to run in the water. There was a river running along the trail, down an embankment, I would say about 30 or 40 yards.

We didn’t mind.

The big pup – I don’t remember his name, Suzie probably would – ran down that embankment and played for a few minutes in the stream. The man stayed up there with us and we chatted briefly, about what I don’t remember. Suddenly, he gave a simple command down the embankment, repeated the beautiful dog’s name, and that pup ran back up without a moment’s hesistation. He got back on the leash without fuss, and off they went again.

I was in love.

I told my wife immediately that the dog we had just seen was the next dog I wanted. Suzie explained to me that it was a Golden Retriever but I didn’t believe her because I’d never seen a Golden Retriever so red.

Almost three years later, a few months after Mickey passed, Suzie said she’d found our next dog. She asked if I remembered that encounter in the woods and I said I vaguely did. She remembered word for word our account and said she had found somebody selling dark Golden Retriever pups. I said there was no way I was spending the kind of money she was talking about on a dog. She said come look.

I looked.

I fell in love.

The puppy we brought home that day we named Maverick. He became the first of three consecutive Golden Retrievers in our lives. Each one has costed just a bit more than the one before, but I never flinched at the price again. They are the most amazing dogs.

Maverick stayed with us for 11 years, far too short a time in my opinion. He would have been 14 years old today. Moxie, whom we picked up in 2009, adored him. Moxie got to experience both King and Maverick for a couple of years before having nearly two years on his own. Ludo, whom we picked up last summer, is so much like Maverick it scares the hell out of me. Maverick would have adored Ludo.

I hope both of the Goldens we have now last 15 more years, but I know they won’t. You never know how long you’ll have each of these treasures, our fur-babies as some of my friends call them. I only know one thing for sure; my next dog will be a Golden Retriever as well. Maverick set a precedent in my heart that could not be matched.

Rest in peace, sweet boy. It was my honor to have known you.

Maverick, our first Golden Retriever
Maverick

My Mission Statement

Hey folks, the latest effort in my ongoing quest to actualize my mission is below. I said I would work on it and I did, so I thought I’d share the results. The first sentence never changes, the rest of it seems to have finally evolved into what life truly means to me. As always, it’s a living document and subject to edit. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you share with me your mission, as well. If I can help, please let me know!

Without further ado, as they say, here is my mission statement:

My mission is to delight in life, to show appreciation for each new day.

In so doing I will not wallow in remorse of past things or fear the things to come, but instead revel in each trial knowing that it is in the fire that we are forged. For myself I will practice balance, seeking a habit of meditation, moderation and temperance in my daily living. For others I will strive to help them in their journey as I continue to define my own. I will show love, devotion, adoration and encouragement to the love of my life, my wife and partner, every day. I will remember that success, like happiness, is a product of effort and focus. Even as I strive to break from traditional thought myself, I will honor the thoughts and traditions of others. I will always seek to gain a higher perspective on my path to wisdom and personal evolution.

I will find solace, and a creative outlet, in writing.

In summation, my mission is to enjoy this journey until the end, seeking balance, enlightenment, self-improvement, love, and interpersonal harmony along the way.

That’s it. Hope you enjoyed it, and gained some insight into what it’s like being Tom. Your feedback is important; let me know how I’m doing!

Tom, on Purpose

I have a personal mission statement. It’s important to have one. I think everyone should stop and consider their core purpose in this life from time to time to make sure their journey is aligned with their principles. Without it we’re all just wandering around in the thicket peeing on the trees. My mission statement isn’t perfect. I look at it all the time and think I can do better. Sometimes I rewrite it entirely. I’m usually very satisfied by the time I finish it but, within a few weeks, it seems horribly, irrevocably wrong. I don’t think I’m very good at writing personal mission statements.

But that doesn’t stop me.

I first got the idea to write one about a year ago. I was reading Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and wasn’t really enjoying it. The habits made perfect sense but I’m not really very good at developing those, either, which is probably why I’m not among the highly effective. Reading Covey, though, somehow lead me to download and consume another of his works, How to Develop Your Personal Mission Statement. I was in the mood to find some purpose in life at the time so I gave it a try. Again, very satisfied with the result. Again, it made no sense within a few weeks.

At the same time as I was doing that I started reading Victor Frankl and Vic mentioned something very cogent that has stuck with me in the four seasons since: he said that we don’t so much invent our mission as detect it. It’s there. It’s waiting. It occurred to me that I was trying too hard and I needed to stay in the trees a little longer, look around a bit more, and let my mission come to me.

So I lived.

I’m pretty good at doing that, I practice it every day. In the process of doing so I kept this thought in the back of my mind: if you’re not living your purpose, Tom, then you’re just living someone else’s script. I love that. I’d like to say it’s mine but I know it isn’t. I’m not really sure where I heard it, to be honest. Maybe Covey said it, too, or Frankl, or maybe it’s in the Bible somewhere. I don’t know, I haven’t read a Bible in years. I hear it still sells well.

Every couple of months or so I change a word or two of my mission statement or delete a sentence or add an adverb. Life is fluid. I’ve scrapped it entirely at least twice and started the whole thing over. The one thing that stays the same in every rewrite, however, is the first sentence. All of the words and phrases that follow are malleable and seem to change to suit my current dreams, ambitions, fears, and favorite TV shows. But not the first sentence. The first sentence appears to be my core principle.

“Delight in life.”

Maybe the rest of it is fluff. Perhaps I only have one true mission and delighting in life every day is all I really need to keep me out of the trees. Maybe that’s my north star. My purpose. My mission.

There should be something more, I realize that. There should be a but. You know, something like “Delight in life but read the Bible,” or “Delight in life but support honest leaders,” or at least “Delight in life but build the first interdimensional, trans-galactic commercial flight vehicle.” None of that is likely, but that’s the rub – I’m the guy with bucket list items of “fly unaided through space,” and “live forever.” So maybe “delight in life” is all I really have. Victor Frankl would be proud; my mission found me a long time ago.

Later today I’m going to give it another try. I’m going to write out the rest of my mission and feel smug and satisfied with it. I’m really going to buy in this time. I might even develop a good habit. I realize my mission statement isn’t going to make complete sense in a few weeks and is going to get scrapped again in a few months, but it’s a start. Another start.

Of course it’s going to be irrevocably flawed and imperfect.

It has to be.

It’s a reflection of me.

Picking the Prez

It’s easy to see why they call it super. The gains amassed by the frontrunners today in the dozen or so states holding primary elections have been, historically, insurmountable. If, as expected, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton show well on this particular Tuesday, they will be their party nominees. One of them will be the next President of the United States of America.

Insert long pause here.

Donald Trump is a celebrity billionaire whose wild caricature has become his identity. Hillary Clinton is a political insider. Her influence and scandal have been felt through six consecutive administrations. Oh, America, we have a problem.

Honestly, I’m as likely to vote for Trump as I am for Clinton. Even though I certainly have more in common with the Democrats than I do with the Republicans, I don’t see much difference. These two ego-driven chameleons seem to have more in common with each other than they do with their supporters. They are driven by the blowing of the wind. They lack a core. Like Narcissus, they are in love with their own reflection.

But I guess that’s the state of modern American politics these days. Who am I to judge?

I wonder if it really matters. The office of the president seems to be nothing more than that a money puppet. Policies enacted in the government seem to favor big money and multinationals no matter who wins the election. Something like that has to make us wonder if the truth is some sinister conspiracy or just a reflection of capitalism gone wild.

It’s worth a moment to ponder, at the very least.

Whatever your particular ideology, I hope if you’re in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, or Virginia, you get out and vote. I hope with equal measure, and even greater passion, that you take the time to understand the implications of your vote not only on your own lives and the lives of all Americans, but on the lives and fortunes of every human being, everywhere. Consider the planet, too.

It isn’t important that we all believe the same thing. It is important, however, that we strive for what is best for all of us. We see how they’ve drawn the battle lines. Between right and left. Black and white. “Us” and “Them.” But the battle lines between big money and politics have blurred. Greed and corruption have taken away the power from we, the people. In a world of super-speed information with the knowledge of all mankind electronically at our fingertips this is the era we can take it back. Choose wisely.

Have a super Tuesday, folks.