Monday, February 26, 2007

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Mirror is Broken

The rearview mirror in Brenda’s car came off. Again.

It broke in December. The dealership wanted $82.50 for a new one. Seemed a little steep. The local auto parts store had a generic one for $16. I cleaned the glass surface well and ran a heater a half hour to warm it up a bit, hoping to give the glue a better chance.

Apparently that wasn’t enough because this morning I found it on the floor of the car. Brenda didn’t want to tell me. She thinks the two side mirrors are plenty and didn’t want me to try and fix it again.

So it is sitting on my desk. I’ve scraped the glue off and it is ready to go back on when the temperature rises a little more around here and I find a stronger glue.

She may not think she needs a third mirror, but I do. I always scan all three mirrors when I’m driving. I try to be aware of everything going on around me while I am on the road, even assessing the driving patterns of everyone within view so I can predict how they may respond to changing situations when they happen to be near.

I don’t want her to be surprised by something emerging from a blind spot, or rely on a side mirror that is momentarily blocked by the imposing nose of our dog.

I’ve written lately about how busy I am, and a bit about my slight bout with depression. A little thing like a broken mirror is a trivial task, but it is another one thrown onto the pile of tasks which tower over me.

I could write several hundred words listing the projects and tasks that are already on my plate, but it's best I do not. First, it would seem I must be exaggerating. Secondly, even if you believed it, the list is long enough to bore you. And there are always things begging to be added to the pile.

A good friend of mine wishes me to make a short little video promoting our annual church camp out. “It doesn’t have to be anything fancy...” A colleague at work handed me a mini digital video tape this week containing the events of a retirement party. “Just transfer it to a DVD.” A workaholic teacher I know in Hillsboro has asked me to meet this coming Saturday to discuss creating a set of learning CDs for kids and teachers to use in robotics programs. “It’s just going to be a few hours to set the direction. Then we can get together for three days during Spring Break. You’ll be paid for all of it of course. And maybe you can do a presentation later this Spring at a conference.”

Brenda is feeling overwhelmed about the work we are doing in raising our children, and her frustration is showing. I feel it also.

And the mirror is broken.

Well, at least we found the leak that was ruining the linoleum in the laundry room, and got the overheating problem of the car engine repaired. We haven’t much money for Jeremiah’s 18th birthday present, but then he doesn’t seem to really care what he gets.

I’ve taken on a small daily task to keep me mindful of Lent, as is my annual custom (no beard shaving this year!). I am meeting with various groups for prayer and spiritual companionship. Such spiritual disciplines are healthy and I really do enjoy them.

There are the zillions of cares and concerns which come with raising special needs kids, any kids really, compounding the cares of everyday life. Those seem to be a little more urgent of late.

I’m concerned about the quality of my teaching, about the individual challenges my students face, and those undertaking my study skills program. It seems to me that looking at the pile of things pressing at my back isn’t healthy.

Fortunately I’m not concerned about Britney Spear’s haircut, or whether Scorsese is going to finally get an Oscar. I don’t care about the dramas of American faux royalty.

And while I am concerned about such global issues of peace and the environment, I tend to limit my involvement to prayer and doing what I can in my own home and community.

It seems this mirror lying upon my desk is an apt little metaphor. It represents several things. It stands for one more little burden, one more little task that needs doing. It is the sort of task that should be done. It should be done because I want my wife to be safe while she drives. It should be done because it is something directly tied to my family and my role as the caretaker of such things.

It is also interesting to think about what it is. When I hold it to clean the old glue off I see my own reflection. Greying hair, deeper wrinkles about my eyes reflecting how tired I have become. Mirrors are also often about ourselves. Looking at who we are, what we are really like. They don't lie.

This particular mirror is designed to look backward. A useful thing at times, but not what we should do an awful lot of. It makes me think that the most important thing to be doing while driving is look forward. See where we are going, where our destination lies.

Of course that is where my Lord is. He is ahead of me. He is making rough paths smooth, leading me to where I should go.

So, I will let the mirror lay upon my desk for a little while, awaiting the changing seasons to bring about a suitable temperatures.

And it is a nice little reminder of how little things can have their place in the line of tasks to be done, and not worry too much about all of the details.

The mirror is broken.

That’s OK.

Friday, February 23, 2007


I'm as busy as a one-armed juggler.

I haven't time for a post, but I am planning to set aside some time Saturday or Sunday.

Emotionally, I am much better. Physically, I'm exhausted, collapsing into a deep sleep each night.

I see some relief down the road a couple of weeks out, but busy simply doesn't describe it. Manic is more like it.

But I'll be back real soon folks and I would love to come by and visit all you fine folks at your blogs.

This weird aging blogger in Oregon will be in the swing of things again soon.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

That Sort of Guy

I’m smiling. It’s a little forced, but I’m smiling.

I’ve been in the prayer room for quite a few hours this week, and though I know I’m in good hands, I still feel... a little down.

I could say I’m worried about money, or the challenges of work and family or overwhelming, or any number of things are on my mind, but this mood of mine is out of character.

I’m one of those irritating, early rising, whistling and singing at daybreak types who seems to be cheerful when others are down. I still seem that way, but between you, me, and the hundreds of others who peek into this blog regularly, I’m faking it.

In a prayer meeting the other day a friend of mine spoke about the wounds so many of us carry. How life has “nailed” us and we all carry these terrible wounds.

I have my own hurts. So does my wife. There are many internet friends who visit here, aching and stumbling with wounds fresh and wounds old.

I’m thinking about our Lord.

About His wounds.

He suffered terrible wounds. But, I think, the wounds that hurt Him the most, are the ones we continue to inflict on Him, the rejection, the indifference. Or perhaps it’s the wounds we bear which hurt Him. He’s that sort of guy.

I think that if we could just look up from our own suffering for a moment, for a clear moment, and see the hand He stretches out to us, if we would look at that hand that bears a wound passing clear through, we would see something important.

We would see that our wounds are His wounds. That He is holding out His hands to pluck the nails from our own hands, take our suffering away. That His wounds are great enough, eternal enough, to replace all the ones we carry.

In the prayer room this morning I was looking at the painting I did last Christmas. A joyful, laughing infant carrying terrible wounds. Infant Messiah, Infinite Messiah.

I am still in a bit of a funk. I’m not sure why. Perhaps I need to slow down, make peace with myself.

But gazing at that picture, that feeble echo of a truth the Lord shared with me, I know that I’ll be just fine soon enough.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Being discouraged isn’t a bad thing in itself. Even Jesus became frustrated with people, with lack of faith, with the slow progress of His followers. And perhaps the sense of discouragement is a warning sign for us. It tells us to take notice of things that need to be changed.

I’ve been discouraged lately.

There are a number of demands on my time. I work fairly long hours, at work by 6:15, hustling along, sometimes too busy to stop for lunch, until I head home around 4:30 or five, and back for a couple of hours more on Saturday.

I have a lot of projects going on... There are television shoots on Saturdays, videos to be made for friends, posts for this blog about twice a week, a daily Bible study, three weekly prayer times, a painting I am working on, a book I am writing, and a continuous stream of house repairs.

There are meetings with friends, church services, and weekly walks with my wife. There are times I need to spend with my kids. There are personal projects I am doing: fund raisers, helping friends, being a husband, being a dad.

There are the financial burdens. Brenda isn’t working while she goes to school. It's something she deserves, but it places a strain on our budget. We tithe our earnings. Which isn’t the burden I thought it would be... but still it is a little over 10% of my salary, which isn’t all that much. When I was an estimator for a construction company I earned about 140% of what my starting pay at the school district was (after $45,000 and 6 years of schooling!). There is the additional money we are giving to help rebuild the church. There is the $1200 Isaac needs for the Christian retreat this summer. Repairs I need to do on the house this summer. A family vacation of some sort. Repairs for the car. Items I buy to make my teaching better (about $1000 this year). On and on and on.

There are the anxieties of raising special needs children. Kids who are growing up, who need the final steps of parenting, steps for me which are into unfamiliar territory. The culmination of all these years... The goal of every parent is to teach their children to be self-sufficient, a goal I am not sure I can achieve.

There is the privileged responsibility of being a husband. I love my wife. I don’t like her to be worried. I don’t like her being burdened. I don’t like her carrying any concerns I can shoulder.

When Jeremiah was going through the psychology tests ordered by the district attorney after the fire at the church, a report was created about his personality, his abilities, disabilities, propensities, fears and secrets. It also included how he was being parented.

It surprised us that our parenting was described as exhaustive, demanding, and that we did not recognize the huge effort and burden we were placing on ourselves.

A couple of weeks ago I had some memories crop up, images and emotions I couldn’t seem to shake. I wrote them in a post. (A friend said that I am either a great liar, insane, lucky to be alive, or a little of each!)

All this is to say that there has been stress.

Now none of this is unusual. Except that a couple of weeks ago I started feeling a little hollow on the inside.

I began to feel sad, deeply, and I put extra effort into joking with family and friends.

Then I wrote the previous post. As I began to write it the little hole in the dike grew, and by the time I had it posted I was feeling very anxious.

Many left kind words of encouragement and advice. Good hearted words to help me, guide, lift prayers for me.

They ran the gamut of advice on caring for myself, and not taking on more than I should, to simply “cowboy up” (one of my favorite comments).

After writing the post and feeling I had gone as far as I could alone, I told my wife about how I have been feeling. Amazing woman. She knew what to do. She has me on a daily regimine: go to bed early, drink a quart of water, and walk at least one brisk mile, every day. Man, it is great to have such a wife!

It has been a step in the right direction.

The walks are helping, it allows me time to pray, to think, to watch the clouds scuttle across the Oregon skies.

I’m not going to say I’m doing much better. I still feel anxious. I still worry about Jeremiah and money and all the things I should let go. I still feel “stretched.” But I’ve caught my breath.

That’s a good thing.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

May the Words of My Mouth...

May the words of my mouth
and the meditation from my heart
be pleasing to you
pleasing to you
My God

You're my rock and my redeemer
You're the reason that I sing
I desire to be a blessing
in Your eyes
every hour and every moment
Lord I want to be Your servant
I desire to be a blessing
in Your eyes
in Your eyes
oh, in Your eyes
in Your eyes

My eyes were shut tightly, the words spilled from my mouth and my heart.

I want to be a servant...

When I first set up this blog it seemed to me that being a servant was what He wanted from me. So I named myself Curious Servant to reflect my desire to learn, my desire to be obedient.

When I sing such songs during worship I feel I can be something like that. That I can set my ego aside and serve Him with all of my heart, not thinking about me.

But there is always more. More to me than that, things I want, which makes me less.

The sermon today covered a range of topics. Guidance for drawing closer to God (scripture and prayer), how the rebuilding of our church should be reflected in the rebuilding of the people within it.

Such mixed emotions.

I’m not sure if I can sort them out for you (or for me)...

My pastor and friend might read the words posted. There is something about what I am feeling and thinking that I don’t want him to read. I don’t want him to feel that he has to come to me and reassure me. I don’t want him to feel he has said anything that has affected me negatively.
(It's OK my friend, really.) I don’t think it affected me, us, negatively, it's just another step in the healing we are going through since our son burned the church down twenty-some months ago.

My son will be turning 18 in a few weeks. I know him better now than I did when he was playing with that candle. I understand now that though he seems to be understanding, seems engaged in the world, he is faking it, simply employing the skills he has learned to survive. He doesn’t understand.

They were talking about the new youth center in the rebuilt church. I was wondering where Jeremiah would fit into all of that. He will be a legal adult soon, but his mind is like that of a little child. His IQ of 46 means he will be a child in a man’s body, and I simply do not know what to do with that.

I tell Brenda things to reassure her, to make her feel that it will be OK, that Jeremiah will have a place in the world, a group home or something, but I really haven’t any idea what it will look like. My heart aches and my eyes water when I think of how hard it has been raising these children, and how I really do not see clearly how we will move on.

I do not regret adopting these boys. I love them passionately and would give my life without hesitation to keep them safe. But it has been a hard, long road.

Sometimes I see the ache in Brenda’s eyes when we hear about the birth of another child, the triumphs and joys in young parents. She wanted so desperately to bear children.

Ah... I wander...

These sorts of thoughts were going through my mind this morning as I heard about how we are to grow closer to God through spiritual disciplines, scripture and prayer.

The pastor spoke about the renewal of our spirits as we rebuild our church.

There was a beautiful metaphor about how the steel beams which are rising out of the ground in the construction area are like upraised hands of praise.

I see the rebuilding of the church in those terms, of how this whole episode will bring good things to our church, our community. I am glad that the facility will be available for our community to use free of charge. I am glad that there will be opportunities for people to find peace and solace and joy and salvation in what will come from all of this.

But there is a part of me that feels so drained by the whole thing.

We have given financially to the rebuilding. I came up with a number which strained our resources. I then increased that number by 50%. Then, after talking it over with my wife, we doubled that number.

I know that when they talk about what needs to happen in our church to rebuild it debt-free they are speaking to a congregation, not just to us. But it is difficult not to feel responsible for the whole thing and want to find a way to take this burden off of the shoulders of my brothers and sisters who attend that church.

I know that such burdens are good for those people, that they should learn the lessons which come from stepping out in faith.

Frankly, I'm just a little tired of the stepping out.

Perhaps it’s the continual burden of dealing with Jeremiah and the repercussions of his actions.

We still are so careful not to leave him alone. We are afraid of trusting him. I really don’t think he will do anything, but when I think what another mistake could cost him... That a second such mistake would probably land him in jail, a place he would not do well in...

I don’t know what is going on with me lately. A week ago I wrote that post, Flotsam & Jetsam, in an attempt to free myself of some ugly baggage, and this week I am prattling on about these mixed up feelings...

Perhaps I’m simply tired... I work 50+ hours a week, I parent, and husband, and teach, and plan, and try to find ways to grow spiritually. I write this blog, I paint... Usually I am laughing and silly and cheering people up...I just don't feel like it right now.

I look at what is happening in my church, and I try to do my part, to give sacrificially, to promote His work within and without...

Well... What a mess of a post. No elegant conclusion, no building up of various points to offer a spiritual insight to my readers... Just a mish mash of emotions I don’t know what to do with.

I really, truly, desperately, want to be a blessing in His eyes. I feel like I have been carrying a heavy weight, a number of heavy weights, for so long...

Shame and grief and determination to do what is right because of the actions of my son...

What to do with a child who will be legally an adult but will never be an adult mentally...

Tender words of encouragement for my wife as she quietly grieves over the child she never carried...

I try to reassure her about going to college, that she deserves a job where she feels happy and fulfilled, that she shouldn't drop school to help pay these bills...

Shame and anxieties and embarrassments over the events of my childhood, memories that won’t be still...

A desire to improve my craft as a teacher, to be the best teacher I can possibly be, to change, to grow to challenge myself.

And the deep, deep desire to please my Lord with the words I speak, or write, or think... the deeds I do, and the deeds I do not do.

I desire to be a blessing
in Your eyes
every hour and every moment
Lord I want to be Your servant
I desire to be a blessing
in Your eyes
in Your eyes
oh, in Your eyes
in Your eyes

Monday, February 05, 2007


Sidenote: Beneath this post I have buried another post that I am uncomfortable in posting here. It is a piece I have written, unpolished, pointless, some flotsam and jetsam from my past that I want to vomit out of my system. I don't know if it will do any good. For those who come to visit here for the usual sort of theological rambling, this current post should be suitable.


I’m not much of a businessman. I’ve owned two businesses. Neither did well. My first was a milk route in Corona, California. It may have been doomed before I began... I didn’t recognize what it was, where it was going, how to turn it around. The second was a graphic arts business. I had a few clients, but gave little heed to attracting more.

I have worked many jobs and they all came with their challenges. The biggest influence on the work wasn’t the tasks I was set to do but the managers. The boss could make fun work miserable, and difficult work intolerable.

I’m reading a book on business: Good to Great by Jim Collins.

It is an exciting book. Imagine that, I’m reading a book on business management and enjoying it!

The premise of the book is that certain companies have done much, much better than the market (up to 15 times better), and these companies have certain traits in common which not only set them apart, but the implementation of these traits occurred at the moment their fortunes shifted. The statiticians compared them to similar companies (products, service, markets, size) to discover what they were doing differently.

Part of the reason I am reading this book is to examine my own work... How can I help to shape my school (I’m a middle school teacher) to become the best? The best in the world? How can I shape my own teaching so I can become the best at what I do? Where am I weak, where do I fail my students?

I know I can be so much more than I am. But I won’t change much if I’m not honest enough with myself to see my failings, work to change them.

I’m just a cog in the great machine and though I can work to make myself mesh well with my surroundings there is something more important to the success of an organization than the desires of the toothy gears wanting to run smoothly.

The second chapter is about leadership. One would assume that a great leader would be a person with such charisma that all would seek to improve, to find inspiration and direction and guide them to greatness.

It isn’t so.

The leaders of businesses which transform themselves from good companies to great companies are men who exhibit compelling modesty.

Here are some of the qualities they discovered in every CEO of these companies which made such huge transformations:

“Demonstrates a compelling modesty, shunning public adulation; never boastful.

“Acts with quiet determination; relies principally on inspired standards, not inspiring charisma, to motivate.

“Channels ambition into the company, not the self; sets up successors for even greater success in the next generation.

“Looks out the window, not in the mirror, to apportion credit for the success of the company --to other people, external factors, and good luck.

Isn’t that a striking thing? The author calls this type of person a Level 5 Leader.

Think about how this type of person has shaped history.

Abraham Lincoln was a level 5 leader. Shy, modest, awkward, not charismatic. Yet he had an iron resolve to do whatever it took to achieve his goals. He may have seemed a hick from the sticks, but he knew what needed to be done and didn’t care if he got the credit.

Others come to mind... Mahatma Ghandhi, Mother Theresa...

My current boss isn’t a level five leader, but he has the potential to become one. He has vision. He doesn’t care who gets credit for the good things which are happening in our building. He is willing to listen to criticism, suggestions, ideas. Talking to my principal is more like talking to a colleague than a superior. He seeks to improve not only the climate and quality of our school, from the curriculum to the culture, but seeks to improve himself.

I would like to be more like that.

I have the weakness of wanting to hear that I am doing well, to have people recognize my efforts, to pat me on the back, to see my name in the paper. Even the way I write for this blog is so much about me. Why else would I be interested in the number of visitors, who they are, where the come from? Why else would I check the number of comments on various posts? Why else would I go over what I have written, sometimes editing them two or three times after they are posted? Obviously this blog isn’t just about getting my thoughts out, organizing my views for my own personal growth. It is too much about you, my reader.

I love you too much for what you do for me, not for what I can offer you. I love you because you say nice things about me. I love you because you come back to read my little posts stuffed into digital bottles and tossed into this electronic sea.

This is what I want to be. I want to be someone who truly cares for others. That this blog is about reaching people and not caring about what they think of me. Why else would I shield the readers of this blog from some of the other writings I have out there? I say it is that way because they are not central to the point of this blog, not following the direction I have set. But I think it may be more because I fear I might offend people who like me.

In reading this book I have done a great deal of thinking about another level 5 leader. He was a guy who didn’t really stand out. In fact, some indicators are that he wasn’t all that good looking. He had a name that was as common as “Joe” is today.

And at every turn He told folks to be quiet about what He had done for them. He told them instead to look to a greater goal.

He was modest. And He had every reason to lord over others. Because He was, is, the Lord.

Phillipians 2:5-8
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Now there is a level five leader.

I want to be like that. I want to be someone who cares little of recognition and attention and being concerned about my rights, my share, my way.

I want to help others, and not worry about who reads this blog, who visits, or how many visit. I want to be someone who continually cares less about the recognition I may get about this or that program I run in my school or church and more about who is being served. I want to be more like my Lord, who loved so deeply, so greatly and so intrinsically that He cared little for His own suffering, His own torturous death, than the needs of those around Him.

Even at His “trial” He seemed to almost be reassuring Pilate, the man who would send Him to the cross! The Roman governor of Judea was looking for an out of the political situation he was trapped in and was practically begging Jesus to say the words which would allow a decision that would set this rabbi free. And God incarnate told him....

John 19:8-11
When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9and he went back inside the palace. "Where do you come from?" he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10"Do you refuse to speak to me?" Pilate said. "Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?"

11Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."

Even as He faced a terrible death He was looking at the big picture and the individual. He saw the changes His death would cause, He saw the frustration of Pilate. He didn’t stand there and preach at the crowd, taking a last stand to shout His message at the pharisees and Romans. He let the life He had lived speak. He stood quietly before the jeering crowd, permitted men-shaped animals to drag Him to be mocked and beaten and... oh and so much more.

So... what is my lot? Am I to remain a hopeful cog in some greater machine? I don’t think it matters. What is important is that I look to the greater good and do what I can to serve others. It is important I see the larger picture as much as I can, and that I make myself as much of a servant as I can.

If I can serve you in some way, let me know. That would be something important this blog can do.

Flotsam & Jetsam

1. the part of the wreckage of a ship and its cargo found floating on the water. Compare jetsam, lagan.
2. material or refuse floating on water.
3. useless or unimportant items; odds and ends.

goods cast overboard deliberately, as to lighten a vessel or improve its stability in an emergency, which sink where jettisoned or are washed ashore.


It has been a busy day. Sometimes it seems that busy is too short a word for all that is going on, but I suppose I haven’t the time to search for a longer synonym for busy.

I was talking with a friend, chatting about theological issues of truth, biblical authorism, cultural norms, societal paradigm shifts, science, and the dual testament of God’s truth as expressed in scripture and nature. You know, the usual sort of conversation between teachers when one doesn’t feel like talking about pedagogy.

We took a short walk and suddenly I blurted out a few bits and pieces of something that has been bothering me lately. I should have been more cautious. A pained look appeared in my friend’s eyes.

Where did all that come from? Why am I suddenly reliving memories of a trip that happened over 35 years ago? What do I do with these memories?

So here I sit, listening to The Decemberists. I am tapping an accompanyment on my keyboard, the intersection between my body and the digital window my iMac provides into the electronic sea where my blog sails.

So dear reader... if you are seeking pithy words of wisdom from the pompous author you know as Curious Servant, today isn’t the day.

This evening I am steering this carrack out from safe seas into a stormy ocean without chart or compass. I am steering headlong into this strange little storm brewing within my breast, to map it out, and when I am done I'll decide if it should be stuffed into the bottle of another post and heave it out into the blogosphere, or simply dragged into the trash.

So, if ye be not of stout heart and mind, abandon ship before we pass beyond the sight of friendly shores...


Dad was going through a tough time. He was approaching the conclusion of his second marriage and we were all going on a deer hunting trip to northern California. My two brothers and I were along for the ride, as well as a few other men:

Chuck C, a buddy of my dad’s. Junior, Dad’s soon to be ex-father-in-law.

Chuck K, a neighbor, and ignorant of the affair my dad was having with his wife.

Steve, a Vietnam vet who was just coming out of his shell; a nervous man who seemed to look at everything a little too intensely and couldn’t seem to relax.

My two brothers (younger) were along as well.

I was sixteen or seventeen.

I had moved in with my dad just a few months before. I missed my friends, but I simply couldn’t live with my stepfather any longer. I wasn’t attending church anymore, and the spiritual void I was feeling I filled with reading Hindu mythology and strange books of astral projection and mystical thought.

Those are the players...

A strange mix of men, young and old... So it follows that the trip would also be strange.

The trip rests in my mind as some sort of whole, an odd collection of memories, some of which may not be accurate after so many years, but there it is... I pick up the memory of that trip and it seems like a strange object which doesn’t have an up or down, no proper way of placing it on a shelf or holding it in my hands.

It’s like the large stone tool I have of the lost Anasazi people... A beautiful stone tool that seems to have been used for a variety of purposes. A new tool seems to appear as one turns it over.

I turn the events over in my mind... There is the killing of the deer... the beer can... the salad... the stew... the house of ill repute... the man running away in flames... Strange facets to this tale from my youth.

How do I approach such a story? It doesn’t lend itself to a chronological telling. There are events which loom large in my memory, other events which fill in odd spaces, nonsensical bits which don’t seem to fit anywhere at all...

We were headed home from the trip, and the engine block on Dad’s GMC pickup had cracked. Steam and water was leaking out of the side of the overheated motor and the older men were saying that if they shut it off it would not start again. We would go for a ways, and find a garden hose and spray the radiator enough until we were able to open the cap and refill it. Someone suggested we put eggs in. They would cook within the water jacket of the engine and find their way to the crack and seal it from within. We bought a dozen eggs and put them in. It worked. The smell of cooked eggs filled the cab the rest of the long drive home.

Dad was drunk almost the whole trip. On the way to the camp we stopped in a grocery store for supplies. The men were loud, and staggered about the aisles tossing items into the cart. One was stuffing bottles of liquor into his clothes and smuggling them out to the pickup truck. Dad made a huge salad in the produce section. I think the patrons and the store management were afraid to say anything.

Chuck K admired my dad and was always saying inane things as a way of buddying up with him. It was embarrassing since everyone else knew my dad was sleeping with his wife. Additionally, most of what Chuck K had to say was nonsense. My dad's contempt was obvious.

When we got to camp near Victorville, California there was the usual setting up to do, but most of the men were so drunk that my two younger brothers and I did most of the work. We all went up the hillside to find the spring for water and found the wooden box with a very old hairless chipmunk floating in it. We tossed the little carcass aside and filled our buckets. The stew it made we affectionately called “Chipmunk Stew” as if it was something pretty special, which it may have been, I don’t know. I do remember that the stick we used to stir that pot got shorter and sorter through the evening and no one seemed to mind the little bits of wood it left. It was the fuel for the noxious game we played through the night.

While the pot was being filled with bits of potatoes and and meat and assorted vegetables Chuck C had his accident. He was checking over the gas camp stove. He unscrewed the cap on the fuel tank, which ws pressurized and a spray went up from it to arc high in the air and settle in the campfire. The flames raced back up the arch of fuel and came back down to land lightly on the toe of his right boot. He reached down and tried to brush the flame off. But he was doused with fuel and the flames leapt up his body. He stood up and his wide eyes scanned over all of us as he wondered what to do. Fear overtook him and he ran out of the camp in flames. Someone yelled “Get him!” We raced to him, tackled him and patted the flames out. Someone made a joke about how Chuck K seemed to keep smacking him after the flames were all out. I think it was my brother Mike, who was going out with Chuck's daughter.

The morning hunting season opened found us making a plan to drive some deer into the open. We had driven a few miles out from the camp. My rifle had kept hitting Chuck C’s burned hand as we rode in the back of the jostling Jeep. I was mortified about the pain I kept causing him, everyone else just laughed each time at my clumsiness.

Several of the group went over a hill to walk just within view of each other, pushing hidden deer toward a meadow. Junior, my dad’s soon to be ex-father-in-law, and I went on ahead. We paused to have a few pulls from the bottle of peach brandy, which I had tasted for the first time the night before. We were a little late in getting to our position. Just as we got to where the dirt road rose over the spine of the tapering hill, shots rang out from two hunters we didn’t know. They had shot a buck emerging from the woods ahead of the drive of our hunters.

The animal was hit twice. Once in the belly. The second shot took off its lower jaw. It ran off into the woods.

My dad was mad, he felt it was our deer. He got madder when the guy who shot it refused to go into the woods to look for it saying he wouldn’t be able to find it. We suspected he had decided it wasn’t large enough.

We passed the bottle, went in after it.

The search was a real mess. We lost each other in the woods. I was alone, wondering where everyone had gone... looking at the borrowed rifle in my sweaty hands. I came across a small meadow, stepped into the clearing. I couldn’t see sign of anyone.

A noise in the woods directly ahead of me drew my attention and the poor animal stumbled out. Its eyes were wide, its tongue hung straight from its throat since it had no jaw. Blood ran from its side. It stared for a moment at me, lowered its head, and charged.

I was petrified. I had never killed anything. I had fired the rifle only a few times. I swung it up and sighted along the barrel. Antlers pointed at me, it was racing toward me... it tongue... the blood... the terror in its eyes...

I froze. My finger was on the trigger but I couldn’t seem to move.

A shot rang out. Startled I jerked my finger and the rifle jumped and hit my shoulder unnoticed (later I found bruises), the shell grazed its rump as it tumbled from the clean shot my brother had placed in its neck. It somersaulted a couple of times and flopped dead about seven feet from me.

Mike was horrified at the sight. He refused to clean the animal. My dad swore and cursed, but Mike wouldn’t pick up the knife so Junior cleaned it. To please my father I ate a little of the raw liver. We cooked the rest of it for lunch.

The deer carcasses were strung up in the camp and were out looking to fill everyone’s deer tags. We were out with Steve and a couple of the others. The Vietnam vet reached for his beer on the edge of the pickup. For laughs my dad shot it. It exploded. Steve’s eyes went wide, his skin went pale. A triangular piece of the beer can was embedded in the stock of the rifle he carried. He grew very quiet the rest of the trip. He checked himself into a veteran’s mental hospital a couple of months later.

We were on the way home. The tensions which rose and fell during the trip lay beneath our conversations as we drove through Nevada. Dad said something about a surprise he had in store for us. My brothers and I had ridden the whole way in the back of the pickup. When the truck stopped we peered out from the sleeping bags. We had pulled up and parked in a dirt lot across from a large black gate. We were at the Mustang Ranch, a famous Nevada brothel. Dad announced he was treating all of us to what lay within.

I didn’t want to go in. Dad yelled, cussed, called me names. I refused to get out of the truck. Everyone else got out. I refused. Dad said it was all of us or none of us. I still refused. They all got back in. We drove on.

Near Mammoth on route 395 we stopped at a cafe... the pickup truck was left running because of the cracked engine block. The men were rude to the waitress. Their crude jokes met with a cold response the left no tip. Later learned they didn’t pay the bill either.

There it is. I dredged it up, tossed it onto this glowing screen, and I don’t know if it has done me any good.

I know that on that trip I felt embarrassment, shame, guilt... I tried new things and learned a little of human nature.

Now what do I do with this? It doesn’t feel complete.

Shall I copy and paste this onto my blog? Will sharing it free me in some sense? What will people think who read such a post?

I wrote another post yesterday, one I think I will post immediately after this one so this bit of ugliness is buried a little deeper...


Lord... I am Your servant. I offer myself to You, the good and the bad. Take this piece of me as well... --Amen.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

My Kids

My children won’t be senators or CEOs or even college graduates.

I once dreamt of raising children who loved to read and to think and be creative.

Things didn’t turn out that way.

Sometimes I’m around folks who talk about their kids, being on the honor roll, the football team, being the homecoming queen, or a myriad of other social measurements which make parents proud.

My children haven’t high IQs. In fact my older son’s psychologist says it is amazing he is verbal with the scores he has.

One thing they do have is heart. They care deeply about others. Jeremiah has more friends than any other kid I know. Isaac is so careful about people's feelings, and about following every rule. He won’t jaywalk or ride his bike on the wrong side of the street.

I was watching them today. We were at a regional competition for Special Olympics basketball. Jeremiah was so animated, moving about the court, blocking passes, making shots. He was smiling so broadly. Glad to be with friends. Glad to have Dad there. Isaac was moving quietly around the edges of the crowds, taking pictures, interacting little with others, but I could tell he was having a good time in his own shy way.

While I watched, listening to my iPod and swinging the camera up now and then to catch an interesting shot, I thought about what I might write about them in a blog post, the post I am writing at this moment.

Would I say that I am proud? “Proud” is the term most people would say when experiencing what I am feeling. I don’t think it is the right word.

First, I don’t think I have much to be proud of. Pride comes from being pleased with one’s own accomplishments. Though I believe Jeremiah performs so far out of his expected range partly because as parents we have always demanded he try his hardest at all he does, the majority of what he succeeds at is his own doing, not mine.

Secondly, much of the blessings I receive because of my children are really gifts. Again nothing I have earned or should feel pride for.

So “pride” isn’t the correct word.

I think the best words to describe how I feel about my kids are "love" and "joy". My heart quickens when I watch them, it swells up and I feel a little giddy in an awkward middle aged sort of way.

They bring me joy by being kind, thoughtful, generous. They make me happy by suddenly giving me a hug or asking I come pray over them at bedtime. I love those boys more dearly than I love my own life.

I haven’t really much more to say at this moment (or at least this post, I have already written other posts which I plan on uploading in a day or two).

I may not be bragging, but permit me the digital equivalent of pulling out my wallet and showing you a couple of the greatest kids around.

Good block Jeremiah!

Is that a smile you're wearing, Isaac?

Nice shot Jeremiah!

Gramma came (MIL)

Dad giving mom a hug (from Isaac's perch)