Life Update

“My mission is to live each day as an expression of loving God and humanity, and to treat each day as a gift and an opportunity to help make a small part of the world in which I live better”

That, my friends, is the mission statement for my life. A while back my friend Bill Stewart gave a talk encouraging all of us to create a mission statement for our lives. I did, and that is it.

I believe that I can work almost anywhere and make efforts to fulfill this mission statement. Including UPS, which I have tried to do each day.

We moved to the Rochester area about two-and-a-half years ago. We had a few hopes and ideas for what I would be doing and none of those really panned out. Understand this, and I’ve said this before, I’m not a “plan B” kind of guy. We each have this singular life that is made up of moments and each moment is given to us once only. Each moment is “plan A” for me. But, what am I supposed to do? UPS has been fun and challenging to be sure. But the peak holiday deliveries have dried up.

God bless Jeremy Kelly, lead pastor at Eastside Church! In October he brought me on as a part-time pastor of worship arts, a 25-year career that I ended when moving here. I did NOT realize how much I missed it! And yet, I am absolutely loving this part-time aspect to the job.

About a year-and-a-half ago Jen asked me, “Have you thought about teaching?” And I have off and on, not knowing what this would mean, what age group, what subject, etc.
Then over the course of the past four weeks things began to unfold, a haze began to lift and the oddest set of circumstances occurred. I first felt like this whole teaching thing might be a good fit for me at this time in my life. Then I realized that I wanted to teach elementary age students. Then I met with Kristen Nielsen (Enrollment Outreach Manager for Teacher Education at Roberts) and discovered that I was an excellent fit for their Pathway to Teaching program. I applied, and on February 4 I was accepted. I will be a student again for the next two years, along with spending many hours in classrooms throughout various districts in this area.

Strangely enough, today I was helping Nate at Hale auditorium for an orchestra concert at 10:00am, not knowing who it was for. It was for about 800 fourth graders. It was delightful!

So, at the age of 57+ (when I finish the program) I will BEGIN the career of teaching. There. I said it.

 

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Weather

When the weather in the east
decides once again that it is going to make another attempt
to wipe us out, or at least hurt us
Barbara Walton calls me

She is out west languishing
with no teeth in a nursing home
with no more of her precious cats
with no more husband
with no more family
with no one near her most of the time

But with a television that tells her
that the eastern weather is once again irate
And she can still use her phone

“That storm is about 500 miles away from us, Barbara,” I say with a smile

I smile because I know she
just wants to talk
And I want to talk with her, and we talk
with great amounts of humor
with musings of the past
with mourning of severed companionship
with long stories, sagas of yesteryear
with tales that are more present

“Goodbye! I’ll talk to you soon!”

The weather stomped its feet once again
with temper flared, pounded its chest
there was wide open mouth screaming
with uvula flapping
and it beat us with its fists

But now Barbara Walton is gone

Do your worst, weather
Because when you do
I smile
and remember my friend

The White Solution

There has been a lot of talk about the white supremacist movement as of late. Of course this is due to the “protests” in Virginia. And this has seemed to ignite those folks across our country of similar beliefs. I am not one who likes to pigeonhole a group of people who don’t agree with my set of beliefs, but perhaps I need to think of a way to help them in their plight. The white supremacists want whites to be large and in charge. I don’t think many of them want people who have darker skin than them to even be in this country.

Unfortunately for this group, that fight is a futile one. The last time we went to real loggerheads about this would have been the Civil War. Yes, it was about slavery, but the subtext (perhaps there wasn’t anything “subby” about it) was the dominance of white people over people of color, and the belief that the white folks are simply genetically superior. Well my friends, you can’t un-ring that bell. That was a losing effort and I’m pretty sure 99.999999% of our country does NOT want that to happen again.

I might have an idea for this woeful group of white people. Their own state!!!

Yes, we have large portions of our country that are vast and open. Let’s take a huge swath of land and let them have it as their own. Hey, this is not really unprecedented. We already gifted the Navajo, Sioux, Cherokee, etc. nations their plots of land. Let’s continue the love! We’ll have to name the state something. For this little piece I shall name it Ignorance.

Yes, the State of Ignorance.

However, there must be a set of caveats in place to be a resident of this state.

First and foremost, to be permitted to take up residency in the State of Ignorance, thorough DNA testing has to happen. If said applicant has ANYTHING resembling non-white in their body, no admittance. Imagine Eugene’s surprise when he realizes that his great-great-great granddaddy had relations with one of the house slaves back in the day, and he was a distant by-product of that child! Yer out, Eugene!

Secondly, nothing of any other culture than white culture will be permitted. Jazz, of course, is right out. Also, rock and roll since it has its roots in jazz. Classical music is fine, except for Mendelssohn et al. And food, let’s not forget food. Oh my. No Italian food shall be allowed within the borders of Ignorance. Along with anything southern fried that has its roots in the black traditions going back to the days of slavery. No Japanese, no Chinese, no Mexican, no Phở. You get the point.

Thirdly, you’ll end up having professional sports teams. You can’t be bringing in anyone of color for your teams. When your NBA team heads out to play the Cavs, Warriors, Celtics, etc., you’ll be sending a lily-white group of players into that action. And football, and baseball. You should be good with pro hockey, though remember that there are a scant handful of black hockey players in the NHL, yet with so few numbers, one of them is a complete all-star. (PK Subban.) Oh, and you can’t have any home games. Whites only in the State of Ignorance.

Fourth caveat: no imports of anything made by anyone of color. The Chinese connection is gone. You’re genetically superior to every other people group so I’m sure you can make a shirt better than some Chinese kid earning fourteen cents a day. Check your cars as well. Years ago I visited a Shimano plant in California. This is a Japanese-owned company. I was told that Saturn bought parts from them to put in their cars. Saturn…the car company that prided itself in being 100% American. Any cars with parts from countries where the people are of a darker skin tone? Nope.

Fifth caveat: You can’t leave the United States. Though the majority of the country vehemently disagrees with your way of thinking, we still are compelled to protect you. If not, at some point Germany might say, “Dude, we already got it wrong in the ’30’s and ’40’s. We can’t let you do this, so we’re attacking you.”

There are probably a few other rules and regulations that would be applicable, but this might be a good start.

Of course if you ever want to leave this state and drop its ideology, the rest of us will take you in with open arms. Well, most of us. You see, we accept you and really want you to join us in a united and diverse society.

A Cup of Coffee Given

I love coffee. No, seriously…I really love coffee. I am not what people would call a coffee snob that only drinks the very special artisan brews that require bank loans to afford a cup. I love most coffees. From Fuego, here in Rochester, to Intelligentsia in Pasadena. From Starbucks to McDonalds. From Denny’s to a Keurig offering. It doesn’t matter. Just to be able to sip that beautiful, dark, hot elixir of life. AAAAHHHHH!!!! It’s also the smell. The smell of beans being ground, of a pour over, of an automatic drip performing its task that will bring us this fabulous goodness. And the sounds. Coffee leaving the urn and sloshing into a cup is a sound that was ordained to bring joy from the beginning of time. One caveat: Instant coffee, I believe, was invented by pagans. That being said…

In February of 1992 I made the unpleasant discovery that my wife was involved in a long-term affair that had been going on for quite some time. It rocked me to the core. That first night alone in a bed was indescribable. There was that sort of weeping happening that rarely comes upon people. You know the kind, body shaking, face crumpled up, ugly crying as it were. It is indeed a strange thing to have, in one moment, the trajectory of your life drastically yanking a sharp turn. Hopes, dreams, stuff like that. I had no idea what was going on or what I was going to do. I just needed to get out of that house as soon as possible. My friend Larry heard about my plight. He told me that his place was available for however long I needed until I figured out the next step. I packed up some things and headed into Pasadena.

Larry. A complex character. Incredibly talented sound engineer who has always treated his craft as an art form. Still does. I’d been able to work with him from time to time and he would create beauty out of every single project. At this time in 1992 he was the sound engineer for a network game show. You would think it was a waste of his talent working on something so mundane. No matter, Larry approached each program as if it was the New York Philharmonic performing Beethoven’s ninth. The real complexity came with Larry’s personality. One moment you think he’s mad at the entirety of the earth, the next moment he has the heart of a child. He himself had had his struggles with relationships. Sometimes you could see sadness in his eyes. But then the next moment, delight. At any rate, he offered a friend some help and I accepted.

I don’t remember sleeping very much that first night at Larry’s house. Too much was churning through my skull. I was trying to make a plan. I was trying not to be sad. I was being sad. More ugly crying. Then the morning light began to ease itself into the window. At that time I was working as a location scout and was in the middle of a job in which I had to find a very artistic jogging path for a Reebok commercial. As I got ready early that morning I had absolutely no desire to head out onto the road in search of something that had no merit on anything that mattered to me. Especially at that moment in my existence. But even a grieving person needed to make a living.

It was raining hard that morning. Rare in Southern California. I had always found comfort in the rain coming from an area of the world in which rain was a regular part of life. I walked out onto Larry’s porch and stood there. The sights, sounds, and smell of the rain was soothing. It didn’t take what was roiling around in my head or my present turmoil away. Or the sadness, a kind I’d never known. Or the feeling of being completely lost. But the rain relaxed me just a bit.

I heard the door open. I turned and saw Larry approaching. He said nothing. In his right hand was a cup of coffee. He held it out to me. I took it. I don’t even remember thanking him. He turned around and walked back into the house. Let me say this; in my life people have done wonderful things for me, given me nice things, told me flattering things. That moment in time in which Larry saw his friend hurting and did the only thing he thought he could do will stay with me until I breathe my last. He could have tried to say he felt badly for me. He could have tried to give me advice. He could have simply just attempted to start a conversation. Nope. He somehow knew that anything he could possibly say would have been inadequate. And he knew I loved coffee. So that’s what he did. He gave me some coffee. (It was delicious by the way.)

I read the Bible as many of you who know me know. In Mark 9:41 Jesus said, “For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.” Let me tell you, Larry probably didn’t extend a tasty beverage to his friend because his friend “…bear(s) the name of Christ…” and it wasn’t water. But to me, it was this gift that seemed to be given from God Almighty. It was in that moment, in that place and time that Larry became the hand of God to me.

Larry knows this story, not because he possibly remembers the moment. But because I’ve reminded him so many times about how much that meant to me. I hope I have been that person to someone. I hope I will be that in the future.

Larry, thank you again.

 

(One side item of note. I didn’t write this to remind people that my wife hurt me. That water is so far from the bridge I practically don’t even remember that period of time, and everyone has moved on and is living life. This is not about her or about me really. It is about what one person did that was an act of God to me.)

Ya’ll should be glad…

Ya’ll should be glad…that I am not Jesus!

I woke up early on this Easter Sunday and decided to read chapters 19 through 21 of the Gospel of John. You know, a proper Good Friday through Easter Sunday reading and I thought to myself, “If I were Jesus, I think I would have done things a little differently.”

If I woke up as Jesus that morning, the first item on my agenda would be a visit to Pilate. I would have mosied right into his bedroom, right beside his bed, and gently given him a wake-up slap on the forehead. When his bleary eyes finally focused on me, I would yell, “Hey! Remember me, you moron? Yeah, that’s right! You found me INNOCENT, but you decided to listen to those idiot religious leaders who stirred up an unknowing mob of sheep! You had me flogged…FLOGGED! Do you know what that feels like??? (Meanwhile, Pilate’s wife wakes up and is a bit startled.) I would point to her and continue my diatribe. “You should have listened to your wife! In fact, let this be your mantra until you are dead: ‘I will listen to my wife. I will listen to my wife. I will listen to my wife.’ I cannot BELIEVE your lunacy!!!”

I would continue my lecture for some time. But then I’d be sauntering right on over to Herod’s palace and give him a what-for. I’d visit each house of each Roman soldier that participated in my torture and death. Maybe I’d head over to Rome and pound on the door of Caesar’s castle. “Hey Caesar! Don’t get too high and mighty. There will be a fast food pizza place named after you in a couple thousand years!”

I’d save my last visit for that lying sack of compost named Caiaphas. Oh man, would I lay into him. “You’re not worthy to be wearing those priestly clothes!” And I’d be stripping all of them off of him until he was naked. “That’s called being naked! That’s what you did to me along with other things!!! How’d you like that rip down the middle of your sacred curtain in the temple? Yeah, I did that!”

But that isn’t the story. Here’s the first sentence recorded by Jesus in John’s account after his resurrection: “Woman, why are you weeping?” Yes, that’s right. His first act was to comfort a grieving person. Then he says, “Mary.” Sheesh! If that was me in Mary’s place and Jesus said, “Dude, why are you weeping?” and “Perry,” I wouldn’t even have words to describe my thoughts or feelings!

It doesn’t end there. Jesus keeps on moving through the ranks of followers over the next few days. “Peace” and “believe” and “feed my sheep” and other things like that. (I don’t think he used the word ‘moron’ one time.) Comfort, encouragement, commissioning to do good. Yeah, his decision was probably a better move than what I would have done.

Maybe I think in my heart that vengeance is the better way to go. Maybe I believe strongly that people getting their “comeuppance” should be life’s greater policy, that Karma is king. Turns out, Jesus’ retaliation was love and forgiveness and commissioning. Man, that’s hard for me! Well, I’ll keep making the effort. I don’t really have that much faith in myself, but I have faith in Jesus. At least that is a decent starting place.

Happy Easter!

Love and Such

I’ve never read Sam Keen’s book To Love and Be Loved before, but something close to that phrase was rattling around in my skull this morning. I don’t know why. I awakened far too early, made a pot of java, gathered all my morning accoutrement (I needed to use that word this morning), and sat at the dining room table of my parents-in-law. I opened my journal, popped the top off of my lucky fountain pen, and started writing almost without thinking. This is what vomited out onto the pages:

Good Friday. And it is indeed a good Friday. I am loved and I love. Is there really more that we need? Oh, I am quite aware about things such as food and shelter and know that we cannot physically survive without said items. But to have a sense of love around is quite a gift. And a gift that I will often, most of the time in fact, take for granted as if it will never be gone. And perhaps it won’t for me.

But what if it suddenly disappeared?

If that happened, I believe the wave of grief and sadness I would feel might be close to unbearable. Maybe completely unbearable. Would a good comparison be between the sun and the earth? What if the sun suddenly disappeared? This planet, this beautifully ordered place, would immediately be, not in a state of chaos, but chaos defined. In my faith the creation story happened when a love-filled being took the boiling chaos of nothing and created order. (We kind of screwed the pooch when we decided a little chaos is good for the soul, but that’s another story.)

Chaos is not me at this point in my life. Oh sure, I might do things from time to time that are small (perhaps medium to large) chaos producers…but I am loved and I love. In this incredible state of existence my chaos is ordered. Yes, I am loved and I love. Is there anything more that I need?

National Women’s Day

I rolled out of bed this morning and was informed by the news that today is National Women’s Day. I pondered this off and on. Jen (my spouse) hopped out of bed about an hour later and began to get ready for work. Then I heard that some were encouraging women to not go to work or shop on this day. I heard this while saying goodbye to Jen as she left for her workplace.

At this point I felt very thankful that she was headed to a place that valued her immensely. Not always the case. Jen worked for an organization that will remain nameless at this time. She was in management for years. Then another management position opened in that organization because the person who was doing that job was failing miserably. That person was a man. Jen interviewed and was happily chosen for this position. She was more qualified than her predecessor, had more experience, more education, etc…then was offered about $15,000 less a year than he made.

Fast forward a couple of years. Jen needed to hire someone to fill a position that had been vacated. She sought after someone she knew would be good. The interview happened and he was offered the job. Human Resources told Jen the salary range, which was decent, and she was able to present a good offer. He then declined. She searched and found someone out of the blue who had become available. Equally qualified. The person, a woman, interviewed and was offered the job.

Human Resources then told Jen the salary range: $10,000 a year less than the man’s offer.

OK, this is an anecdotal piece of evidence. But I urge you to go ahead and look at the national statistics of pay for women vs. men for the same jobs.

It’s is the 21st century. Isn’t it time we pulled our heads out of wherever they might be and address this? All of us? Yes, all of us. That’s all I have for today.

This blog is just some stuff that popped out of my skull. Most of it is fiction, some of it is opinion. Some of it? Just mere musings of a fella who has some attention issues and who has managed to navigate life in a manner that some deem as, well, OK.