Saturday, July 29, 2006

Still Kickin'!

I feel a little guilty having not posted recently.

I started several posts, and wanting them to be polished, I never got the time to finish them enough to place here.

So, I'm doing something I rarely do... I am typing directly into a post, just to let folks know what is going on.

Summer for a teacher (at least for this one) is packed with all the stuff that doesn't get done the rest of the year. Remember when I shaved and grew back the beard?

Well, trimming that fuzzy growth has not been a priority:

We decided to replace the floors in the laundry, kitchen, dining, and bath rooms. We have an older house, built in the early 40s or so, and wanted to get stuff that matched the house.

So, we painted the rooms in colors that seemed to fit, as the temperature set record highs.

The best part was doing things with my kids. There are many things they can't do, but we tried to be patient, and gave lots of instructions, and bit our tongues when things didn't go quite right.

And it is done! We are exhausted, there are a lot of little touch ups, but the appliances are back in place, the paintings are rehung, and we no longer are squeezing through tiny paths in a crowded living room to find an spot to eat pizza or hamburgers.

The cupboard doors are painted, latches are replaced, and have been emptied of 15 years of accumulated junk.

We replaced the door and drawer knobs with pre-WWII glass knobs...

And got an old wooden medicine cabinet.

Meanwhile... the garden went unattended, and grew like crazy!

The tomatoes crushed their cages, and the sunflowers grew, and grew and grew (the tallest is over 11' 6"!).

I know this isn't the sort of post I created this blog for (LOOK! I'm ending this sentence with a PREPOSITION!!!).

As for my spiritual life, it is thin. I am tired, and not praying like I should. I still pray each night with and for my kids. I pray for Brenda as I'm drifting off into sleep. We do the meals thing of course.

But I'm not getting out into the woods to pray and praise. I'm not reading the Bible regularly as I should. I'm not painting prayerful images.

Worshipping at church simply isn't enough. I need to discipline myself to be regular in all the elements that help me grow spiritually.

My spiritual buddy says he is going to hold me accountable, and I am looking forward to telling him that I need him checking on me.

We had our moon howlin' last Monday and that was good as well.

Ah well.

This coming week is another busy one. I'm taking a class at a university about an hour away on robotics.


I'm going to get into the discipline again.

Would you care to help?

Tell you what...

I will reply to each comment that appears here. If you ask how I am doing on my prayers and scripture, I'll be honest. Let's see if I can put in some prayer and reading time each day this week!

God bless!

Saturday, July 15, 2006


Hi there!

I know these posts are getting sporadic. Since I am a teacher I am making up for my evenings of being distracted by things to grade and spending some time with my family.

But I haven't forgotten my little blog. In fact I have three separate posts in various stages, but they simply aren't ready, or aren't good enough, for you my dear reader.

So I thought I'd toss in some pics and thoughts from the last few days.

We got back from Wyoming (see previous posts) and decided to just keep the vacation thing going a little longer by doing things that out of towners on vacation would do here.

We went to McMinneville, OR to see the Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Aviation Museum.

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge)

Isaac really loved this.

So did Jeremiah.

That was pretty cool.

Today we went fishing. Well, Brenda, Jeremiah, and I went fishing. Isaac stayed home.

It was the Special Kids' Fishing Derby this weekend at Merwin Fish Hatchery.

This event was for kids (and adults) with special needs.

They were given a pole, tackle, bait, and a volunteer to help them catch fish. There was so many fish, it was amazing. The ponds were stocked with rainbow trout, and some of them were huge (one man caught a 12.85 pound one!). They had games, and folks to weigh, measure, and clean them.

And he caught fish!

And he kept catching fish until he got one that was big enough! (It was number 11, that will fill the freezer!)

(4.65 pounds)

So we had fish for dinner.

(It was tasty!)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Religion is a Crutch

"Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers...” --Jesse Ventura

“Religion is a crutch, but that's okay... humanity is a cripple.” --Anon.

Many see religion as a crutch. They think those who do not understand the rational logic of science, or do not have the emotional fortitude to deal with life’s difficulties, seek to wrap themselves in the nebulous comfort of a belief that tells them it will all be OK, that someone “out there” has a plan. They think faith holds up the infirm of spirit. It is a crutch.

Perhaps they are right. There are lots of people who want, who need, that kind of support religion can bring. Perhaps they have not had the physical problems, the emotional struggles. Perhaps they have escaped “The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to (Hamlet)”, and so do not understand the need many of us have to lean on something once in a while.

Many times my faith has kept me upright when I would have fallen. I have been hurt, I have been weak, I have been infirm, and leaned heavily on that Shillelagh, that crutch of religion and it has kept me from stumbling.

But that does not mean there isn’t something more there.

This past week I have been on the road with my family.

I have felt joy in praying under the jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains. I’ve felt that part of me that communes with my Lord and Master stir and lift in beauty sublime.

But there was something lacking there. There is joy and inspiration in nature, but I was missing something while gazing at thunderstorms, rainbows, and flower-filled meadows in high mountain passes.


Religion is linked to but apart from my faith. My faith is always there, always carrying me along. My faith is always with me whether or not I am praying or singing or reading. My faith is the internal compass I have which points unwaveringly at a creator. But this past week my religion was on sabbatical.

I have not been reading regularly in my Bible. I have not been meeting with my moon howlin’ buddies. I haven’t been to my church and lifted my hands in worship with my brothers and sisters in Him. I haven’t been on prayer walks, reflective moments of solitude in places so familiar that I can walk with eyes closed as I share my heart and mind with my concerned master. I haven’t been doing many of the disciplines which hone my faith. I haven’t been religious.

There is a negative connotation in being religious. But I think it serves a very healthy purpose, a purpose which augments faith.

Athletes can speak long of the virtues of practicing their sport, the discipline of repetition and concentration. They cannot get better at what they do unless they practice their sport religiously.

Michael Jordan may have many physical gifts that made him a basketball great, but unless he simply put that large orange ball thousands of times through all those hoops over all those years, he could not have done what he did.

In martial arts they practice their movements over and over and over. They learn how to position their bodies and tools to move gracefully. The purpose is to train the body so that the movements are smooth, eloquent, until they express a serenity of the mind.

In practicing my faith, in being religious, I learn to handle that crutch so it does more than support me when I get tired, or hurt. I learn to use it to feel my way along when things are dark, to tap at the obstacles in my path and learn of things I cannot see. I use it to help me vault swirling waters and scramble over obstacles set in my path. I think sometimes He grasps that “crutch” and pulls me up over spots I could not otherwise climb. If I didn’t have a firm grip on that crutch He could not guide me. Sometimes He has taken it from me and used its crook around my neck as any good shepherd would.

Sometimes that crutch has been long enough, strong enough, to defend me, my home, my family, from an evil force, a predator in the dark. Though I’m a man, a creature without fangs or claws or horns, I can carry the tools that He has given me and rap the snarling snout that reaches into my small pool of light and make it retreat from those I have been set to protect.

So, is religion a crutch?

Or is it a staff?


A few pics from the trip
(Click to enlarge)

4th of July in Cody, Wyoming

I have no idea


Friday, July 07, 2006

Guys Like to Build Stuff

What are you building?

I'm thinking about what I'm building.

We are all working on something, even if it is nothing. Even in avoiding work, we are working to create a life of ease.

When I was young I was building adventures.

I hitchhiked thousands of miles. I gloried in throwing myself, arms wide, into the unknown.

I loved even the dangerous events, they gave me stories to tell.

There was the guy who refused to let me out of his car, until I pulled a knife and yanked on his emergency brake so I could jump out and dodge the five lanes of heavy traffic in downtown L.A. to safety.

There was the guy who related his tale of stealing thousands of dollars from undercover cops and fleeing north with the drugs and money while the officers staggered in a dark street, wiping pepper spray from their eyes. (True story. He showed me proof. I was lucky to have found a way out of that dangerous and weird situation!)

Even when I settled down and wasn’t relying on Ewell Gibbon’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus for my meals, I didn’t really settle down.

I spent at most a year at any particular job. I helped open a vegetarian restaurant and worked my way from dishwasher to head cook. I developed pictures at a one hour photo for a month. I tried telemarketing, and deliveries, and installing insulation (the worst!). I was a milkman for a year delivering wholesome dairy products early in the morning (I once snuck a surfer past a security gate to a culvert leading to the beach in front of Nixon’s Western White House).

Weird jobs, eh? I ran motor grader for my dad. I fondly remember “Maggie,” the 1940s blade. Worm-drive, cantankerous pony engine, bad brakes. She beat blisters into my palms with her refusals to let control gears mesh. I enjoyed watching her spinning metal rods deliver raw mechanical power to her achingly slow repertoire of mechanical tools.

I was the editor of a corporate magazine for almost a year, putting the best face on a group of corporate pirates. I was set adrift when their ship sank (after they sold the rights to that vessel back east). I started a graphic arts business.

So what was I building? Not much. I was having fun, paying the bills. That was good enough.

There were other adventures woven into those years of job hopping. Adventures of the spirit. I go into yoga. I was a practitioner of bhakta yoga in an ashram for a year and a half. A sort of eastern monk. I told myself and others that Jesus was my avatar, but the truth: I was wandering from the flock. I once spent two and a half months reading theological books in a cave. I went on long walks along the Sierras and in Yosemite.

I’m 50 now and I look at other men my age and I see how they have nicer homes, better paying jobs. I wonder what I could have built in the time I have spent jumping and sailing and wandering.

After 2,200 miles of driving during this vacation I am letting Brenda drive. Typical guy, I like being in control. But I have relented, Brenda's driving, and I'm enjoying this respite. We have decided to push on for home, not stopping for the night. It will save us the $70 or so on a hotel room (minus the necessary espressos we’ll need as the night gets late) and will get us into our own cozy beds (Isn't that how it is with a trip? You just want your own bed!).

So I am typing up a blog post as eastern Oregon and scattered thunderstorms drift by, and being a touch reflective.

It has been a great week with my family. We have gotten tired and cranky as we rolled through Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. We have thrilled at majestic cloudscapes (Big Sky indeed!) and teetering rocks. A bouquet of wild Wyoming rests in a Gatorade bottle on the van’s console.

We’ve seen bison, wolves, coyotes, elk, moose, bears, prong horns, porcupines, and swans. We have seen jagged mountain peaks biting at the sky, and gentle rivers winding through huge meadows. We’ve watched geysers spray high into the sky and bubbling mud in “paint pots.” We’ve seen lightning storms rolling across high plains. We’ve seen rocks balancing impossibly against a brilliant blue sky. We’ve seen... each other. Really seen each other.

What a wonderful thing I have built with my life. I have built a family. Brenda and I have shaped the character of two young men.

Isaac is inquisitive, hypersensitive, painfully honest, and gives me strong spontaneous bear hugs.
(Click to enlarge these pics of some GREAT kids)

Jeremiah is satisfied, happy, with small things, and his constant smile beams like a lighthouse as he works hard at being helpful and kind.

Wonderful boys. My boys. People I’d be pleased to know. Kids I am proud to call my own. Those are my kids!!

My father left us when I was young, and he built an empire of trucks and heavy equipment. My wife's father left them when she was young and built himself a quiet little retirement near Puerta Vallarta. Many men build things to surround themselves with comfort and ease, money and prestige. Nice houses. Nice jobs.

Not enough men dedicate themselves to building a living legacy in the hearts of their children.

It's a little sad some men have so little to show for their years of building.