Friday, November 18, 2011

Those few of you who have followed what remains of my blog for the last several years will note that I repost this every year on my anniversary. While I apologize that what few updates this old blog gets are mostly reposts and reworkings of older pieces I wrote here years ago, I feel the need to re-assert from time to time the emotion these older posts evoke. On the occasion of my 22nd wedding anniversary (and the 7th since I first wrote this), I find myself to be still just as passionately in love with the woman with whom I've shared a life since childhood.

"What are you doing here," asked Dianne Worthen, my Karate Sensei, with a spreading smile of surprise. She was incredulous that I would show up for class just a few hours before my wedding was to take place. Indeed, the truth was that I had to be there. I was so full of excited energy that I needed an outlet to safely tap off a bit, lest I be reduced to a gibbering wreck.

It was a crisp day, slightly overcast with the silvery-gray glow that comes early with Texas winters. In its plastic cleaner's bag, my tuxedo hung over the back of one of the long-legged chairs that cozied up to the breakfast bar in my apartment. The images of wide-collared, pastel tuxedos with contrasting piping hanging in the halls of friends and family cemented my decision to go with a classic and timeless style that wouldn't induce groans when viewed years later in a dusty photo album.

Purged of my excess energy, I drove to my my parents' home to wash up and get dressed. My grandmother had arrived the night before from New Orleans to attend the wedding, and greeted me at the door with a barrage of kisses in a swirling cloud of rose perfume. After I showered and doused myself with my own cologne, she was a good sport and didn't tease me too much as she braided my eight inch rat-tail, an affectation popular in the 1980's and the only outward sign of subversiveness in my otherwise button-down image.

With an hour to go before the ceremony, I drove my 1978 Datsun 280Z to Plano Bible Chapel and strategically parked it in a spot I thought would make for a fast getaway later. It was my dream car - fast, nimble and sexy. It's only faults were to be found in its cheap Earl Scheib mocha brown paint job and its propensity for electrical problems. I had given it a very thorough cleaning, inside and out, in preparation for the day. After all, it was to be the carriage in which I'd take home my bride.

Inside, I found that some guests had already arrived and took a moment to visit with them before hiding myself away in the Pastor's office. Jim Lewis was a passionate preacher with the sort of face that rarely hid his mood. Intimidating to look at when he was set upon by righteous anger, today his eyes twinkled with an excited joy. "Are you nervous yet," he asked me with a mischevious grin. I wasn't.

For almost eight years I had dated my bride-to-be. We had known each other since 6th grade. She was the best friend of my then-girlfriend, Carrie. When Carrie and I amicably parted company, she suggested that perhaps her best friend would be a better match. She had no idea how right she was at the time. We became friends and would attend events together when my parents would let me invite a friend along, but it wasn't until a trip to the Japanese Gardens in Fort Worth that I realized how much I'd come to love the gentle spirit and radiant beauty that she posessed. There, standing on the arched bridge that stretched across the koi pond, sun highlighting hair that danced lightly in the breeze, she turned to face the camera I held in suddenly shaky hands. The viewfinder framed an angel, and at the tender age of 13, I was forever lost.

All through high school and college we dated. We developed that comfortable familiarity that long-married couples share, and indeed, even among our families and friends there was no doubt that someday, when the time was right, we would wed.

And so it was, 22 years ago today that I stood calmly in my Pastor's office. I wasn't nervous, because there were no doubts, no lingering concerns, no uncertainties about what I was about to do. I wanted her with an aching in my heart that threatened to crush me under the weight of my longing. My older brother served as best man, and together with the pastor, we walked solemnly out to the designated spot we had rehearsed just the night before and turned to face the entryway to the sanctuary in anticipation.

The music swelled and was joined by the staccato rushing of my pounding pulse as the gathered friends and family rose. It was then that they beheld what I had seen all along, as my angel glided into the room and took final posession of my heart.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thirteen

“The child gives birth to the parents”-Chinese Proverb

Thirteen years ago I underwent one of the most significant transformations in my life.
Transfixed by the impossibly cerulean and infinitely-trusting eyes of my first-born son, I suffered the most painful heartbreak of my life.

Let me explain...

Years of carefully cultivated disregard had hardened me, forming a callus of defense against emotional vulnerability. I felt I had been hurt too often - too deeply. As a result, I had deliberately developed the professional detachment of a coroner, and that was the way I preferred it to be. Marriage and a near-death experience had chipped away at the hard crust of my heart, but in many ways it was still held in thrall by my desire to remain safely dispassionate.

That is, until the day I found myself awkwardly cradling my newborn son in unfamiliar arms.

He was all need, all trust, all love and hope. As his tiny, perfect fingers, miniature in comparison to the one I offered, wrapped me in his first embrace, I was struck by the absolute nature of his need. He reached out for comfort and safety, never doubting that I was there to provide for him.

There was a welling up of peculiar fierceness within me. Helpless against the tide that surged through me, I began to weep as at first fissures formed, then burst through the hardness of my heart. Too long dormant, the pain of sudden liberation was both sweet and insufferable, and a deep wound was opened in me that will never heal. Like soil that must be tilled to be planted, I was broken open to be fertile ground for fatherhood, and my son was forever planted in my heart. I was filled with such an overwhelming love in that moment, that my ability to remain dispassionate was forever diminished. To this day, I still ache with the memory of those first pangs of unfettered love.

It was also in that moment, I had a moment of clarity about the parallels with our eternal relationship with our Heavenly Father and his desire to fellowship with His children. I understood then the depth of desire for intimacy and fellowship of a father with his son.

My oldest son is sweet-natured, affectionate and ever-thirsty for knowledge. He wants to know, and more importantly, genuinely considers the answer I give. As a result, I find myself frequently challenged to develop a better understanding of things, if only to know better how to explain them to him. It is a manifestation of my love for him that I strive to answer him fully, but within the limits of what he can comprehend.

He is my beloved first-born.
Breaker and builder of my heart.
The eyes through which I can see the world anew.

Those tiny fingers that first wrapped around my own have grown much in the last thirteen years, but they have never let go.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

21 Years Ago Today

Authors note: I originally wrote the following on the occasion of our 15th wedding anniversary in 2004. Reading back on it again today only serves to remind me how very fresh these feelings still are, now 21 years into our marriage.

"What are you doing here," asked Dianne Worthen, my Karate Sensei, with a spreading smile of surprise. She was incredulous that I would show up for class just a few hours before my wedding was to take place. Indeed, the truth was that I had to be there. I was so full of excited energy that I needed an outlet to safely tap off a bit, lest I be reduced to a gibbering wreck.

It was a crisp day, slightly overcast with the silvery-gray glow that comes early with Texas winters. In its plastic cleaner's bag, my tuxedo hung over the back of one of the long-legged chairs that cozied up to the breakfast bar in my apartment. The images of wide-collared, pastel tuxedos with contrasting piping hanging in the halls of friends and family cemented my decision to go with a classic and timeless style that wouldn't induce groans when viewed years later in a dusty photo album.

Purged of my excess energy, I drove to my my parents' home to wash up and get dressed. My grandmother had arrived the night before from New Orleans to attend the wedding, and greeted me at the door with a barrage of kisses in a swirling cloud of rose perfume. After I showered and doused myself with my own cologne, she was a good sport and didn't tease me too much as she braided my eight inch rat-tail, an affectation popular in the 1980's and the only outward sign of subversiveness in my otherwise button-down image.

With an hour to go before the ceremony, I drove my 1978 Datsun 280Z to Plano Bible Chapel and strategically parked it in a spot I thought would make for a fast getaway later. It was my dream car - fast, nimble and sexy. It's only faults were to be found in its cheap Earl Scheib mocha brown paint job and its propensity for electrical problems. I had given it a very thorough cleaning, inside and out, in preparation for the day. After all, it was to be the carriage in which I'd take home my bride.

Inside, I found that some guests had already arrived and took a moment to visit with them before hiding myself away in the Pastor's office. Jim Lewis was a passionate preacher with the sort of face that rarely hid his mood. Intimidating to look at when he was set upon by righteous anger, today his eyes twinkled with an excited joy. "Are you nervous yet," he asked me with a mischevious grin. I wasn't.

For almost eight years I had dated my bride-to-be. We had known each other since 6th grade. She was the best friend of my then-girlfriend, Carrie. When Carrie and I amicably parted company, she suggested that perhaps her best friend would be a better match. She had no idea how right she was at the time. We became friends and would attend events together when my parents would let me invite a friend along, but it wasn't until a trip to the Japanese Gardens in Fort Worth that I realized how much I'd come to love the gentle spirit and radiant beauty that she posessed. There, standing on the arched bridge that stretched across the koi pond, sun highlighting hair that danced lightly in the breeze, she turned to face the camera I held in suddenly shaky hands. The viewfinder framed an angel, and at the tender age of 13, I was forever lost.

All through high school and college we dated. We developed that comfortable familiarity that long-married couples share, and indeed, even among our families and friends there was no doubt that someday, when the time was right, we would wed.

And so it was, 21 years ago today that I stood calmly in my Pastor's office. I wasn't nervous, because there were no doubts, no lingering concerns, no uncertainties about what I was about to do. I wanted her with an aching in my heart that threatened to crush me under the weight of my longing. My older brother served as best man, and together with the pastor, we walked solemnly out to the designated spot we had rehearsed just the night before and turned to face the entryway to the sanctuary in anticipation.

The music swelled and was joined by the staccato rushing of my pounding pulse as the gathered friends and family rose. It was then that they beheld what I had seen all along, as my angel glided into the room and took final posession of my heart.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Inflated and Burst in One Breath

I Just called in an order to a local Olive Garden restaurant for a birthday celebration at the shop tomorrow.
The phone was picked up on the second ring, and an unintelligible stream of syllables flew out of the handset so quickly that I literally moved the phone away from my ear and stared at it for a moment in confusion.
Naturally, I immediately questioned whether I had called the right number.
"I'm sorry," I hesitated, "but I didn't understand a single word of what you just said. Is this the Olive Garden Restaurant?"
A female voice, dripping with sexy Italian intonation replied, "Yes sir. I apologize. I said, 'Buon giorno, grazie per chiamare il ristorante Olive Garden.'" *
Except this time, she said it with such a languid, sultry slowness that put me in mind of gauzy, white, off-the-shoulder blouses and raven tresses framing olive skin.
I was transported for a moment into a fantasy world of Sophia Loren's eyes, Monica Bellucci's mouth and Gina Lollobridida's ... er ... talents. 
Breaking what must have seemed like an extended, awkward silence, it was with dismay that I received her next statment, in clear, Texas twang - now devoid of the artifice that so evoked my previous reaction: "They make me say that." I could practically hear the gum in her mouth now, smacking against crooked teeth set behind cartoonishly painted lips.
"Yeah..." I sighed, once the shock and disappointment had worn off. 

"Yeah, um ... I'd like to place an order for pickup..."


*This may or may not be her exact words. This is based on my sketchy grasp of Italian and dodgy memory.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I Can Has IQ?

bedroom toys

For the life of me, I don't know if that's a good thing or not...

Friday, September 07, 2007

Blind Confidence

I came home to a darkened house a little late last night, having spent several hours enjoying conversation over cigars and Hefeweizen at our local cigar shop. The conversation and company was the sort that arises out of shared passions and experiences, and ends with new found friends and a desire to pick up again sometime soon.

Arms loaded with my purchases, I was met at the door by my wife who sternly but playfully reminded me that I still had to go to work in the morning, which was distressingly coming too soon. Determined to find myself in bed as quickly as possible, I headed to the kitchen to store away my spoils.

There was no need to turn on any lights. I know the layout of my house with my eyes closed as surely as if it were brightly lit. In fact, I like to occasionally amuse myself by testing my ability to walk through the complex living room arrangement without any lights to guide me. The goal is to see how confidently I can navigate the layout without touching any of the furniture. 

So it was last night, confidence buoyed by the lingering pleasure of an enjoyable evening, that I moved swiftly through the maze with sure-footed precision. However, it was at the entrance to the kitchen where my self-satisfaction came to an abrupt end. As I took my first step through the entryway, my foot found something new, unexpectedly yielding and very noisy.   For some inexplicable reason, our dog had decided to bed down for the night directly across the approach to the kitchen, and I had rewarded this change in his routine with the full weight of my right foot. 

I wish I had a video of the dance that ensued.

Naturally, old Gus screamed at being awakened suddenly by my nearly 200 pounds on his hind-end. Old though he may be, we both discovered to our surprise how quickly he can move when sufficiently motivated. Unfortunately, his dodge and my suddenly-hesitant left foot chose the same spot in the now-unwelcome dark and we met again for another round of yelping. Reeling from the succession of blows to my balance and footing, I tucked my packages and prepared to take the fall, rather than risk stepping on Gus again. 

Care to guess where he positioned himself? 

Now disoriented and keeling over hard in the darkness, I tried to envision how I needed to adjust my fall to the right to avoid the hard edges of the baker's rack I knew was there just inside the entryway, when I again felt that same warm softness of fur, panicking and pushing now, against the side of the leg that even now threatened to finally crush him. 

No help for it, I spun back hard to the left, doubtless looking like a contorted contestant in a game of Twister. Sparks erupted from behind my tightly-clenched eyelids as the back my left hand found the corner of the rack, taking the full weight of my fall, even while cradling my packages against damage. My wife, having heard the ongoing commotion, arrived on the scene to turn on the lights just as my momentum finally came to a halt. Concerned, but looking slightly amused, she gently slipped my unscathed packages out from under my arm and helped rock me back onto my feet, before storing away my purchases herself.  She returned with a look on her face that carried a reproachful, "see what happens when you stay out too late?"

A little ice for the bruised hand and sleep for the bruised confidence will heal all, and I'll certainly have a new story to add to my next evening of conversation.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Smells like a close call...

Don't you just love it when a plan works out?

Especially when that plan involved very little ... ahem ... planning?

By now, Dear Reader, you are aware that we have two boys, now both in school. However, during the summer break from classes they are cut loose from the educational mill and we have to find something for them to do with themselves. As the Mrs. and I both work in less-than-child-friendly environments, and the nearest retired grandparents are in another state, our only recourse is that most American of child repositories - Daycare.

All impassioned arguments for and against daycare may be checked at the door, as you may rest assured that we've run the gamut of emotional and fiscal scenarios and came to two conclusions: It's necessary for us, and yes, we feel like parental failures.

But that's not what this little missive is about, Dear Reader. This is about money. More to the point: how to pay the equivalent of a car payment each week for the pleasure of continuing to be a two-income family?

Enter, The Plan. Each of the last several years, we've received fairly sizable tax refunds, due to the boys' dual-classification as both "children" and "tax deductions." Rather than race out and spend our sudden annual "windfall," we decided to just add it to our operating funds to get us through the summer expenses.

"How much exactly would we need?" " Will it be enough to keep us afloat and pay our bills?" Feh, these are just details...

Like the deaf, dumb and blind eponymous hero from The Who's "Pinball Wizard" who played "by sense of smell," we tend to handle our finances purely on instinct. Truth to tell, I don't think we've ever taken the time to balance our checkbook. Our plan "smelled" about right and if we close our eyes tightly enough, we can ignore all the warning sirens and flashing lights. So it was that we blithely went about our summer activities, with us at work and the boys being socialized by people we hardly knew.

Of course, this is the year that the Texas Government decreed that all school districts would begin classes on the same date statewide, and in order to accommodate all the various schedules, this year's summer break was nearly a month longer than it had been in the previous several years. Add to that the costs of all the various summer activities - Vacation Bible School, Aikido Camp, the annual family pilgrimage to Galveston - and you have a veritable hemorrhage of cash.

We knew we must be getting pretty low on reserves these last few weeks, but our instincts told us the plan was working, and all would be well, especially if we didn't look too closely. After all, we had written our last childcare payment check last week and school had finally resumed, lifting that financial burden. Like Schrodinger's cat, our finances would hold out just fine, provided I never lifted the lid on the box to check.

Curiosity won out eventually, though, so I took a rare look at our online banking statement last night.

We had $1.56 left.

Of course, at the stroke of midnight, The Mrs.' direct-deposit paycheck hit the bank, once again leaving our account flush with a month's worth of government-worker earnings. I get paid tomorrow, and without the onus of childcare expenses, it'll feel as though we have yet a third paycheck in the bank, as well. (Or it will, by the end of next month, anyway.) All our bills, dues or tithes are - or will be - paid on time, as they always are, and we get to continue our usual routine unscathed.

If anybody asks what our secret to financial success is, we'll just wink at each other and tell them that we had a PLAN.



Doubtless, some of you are wondering if we learned some greater lesson from this exercise in fiscal irresponsibility. The answer is "yes," of course, but I'm setting this in very small type so I can continue to appear smug about our fiscal near-miss. Truth is, the $1.56 was just in our operating funds, and doesn't represent all the liquid monies we have available to us, should we need to move some around. It just makes for a better story... so there.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Joining "God's Team"


My older son, the subject of several entries in this increasingly sporadic 'blog, accepted Christ as Lord and Savior a little over a year ago at the tender age of seven. Our church allows children his age to be baptized, but I felt that perhaps seven was just a little too tender an age to fully comprehend the decision.

At eight years old now, he wouldn't be put off anymore. He attended the requisite classes and interviews and yesterday, with family and church members cheering him on, he took the plunge.



I hope someday to be worthy of the children with whom I've been blessed.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

National Ride to Work Day

A little fresh propaganda for your consideration this morning.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

17 Years Ago Today

(This is a repost from two years ago)

"What are you doing here," asked Dianne Worthen, my Karate Sensei, with a spreading smile of surprise. She was incredulous that I would show up for class just a few hours before my wedding was to take place. Indeed, the truth was that I had to be there. I was so full of excited energy that I needed an outlet to safely tap off a bit, lest I be reduced to a gibbering wreck.

It was a crisp day, slightly overcast with the silvery-gray glow that comes early with Texas winters. In its plastic cleaner's bag, my tuxedo hung over the back of one of the long-legged chairs that cozied up to the breakfast bar in my apartment. The images of wide-collared, pastel tuxedos with contrasting piping hanging in the halls of friends and family cemented my decision to go with a classic and timeless style that wouldn't induce groans when viewed years later in a dusty photo album.

Purged of my excess energy, I drove to my my parents' home to wash up and get dressed. My grandmother had arrived the night before from New Orleans to attend the wedding, and greeted me at the door with a barrage of kisses in a swirling cloud of rose perfume. After I showered and doused myself with my own cologne, she was a good sport and didn't tease me too much as she braided my eight inch rat-tail, an affectation popular in the 1980's and the only outward sign of subversiveness in my otherwise button-down image.

With an hour to go before the ceremony, I drove my 1978 Datsun 280Z to Plano Bible Chapel and strategically parked it in a spot I thought would make for a fast getaway later. It was my dream car - fast, nimble and sexy. It's only faults were to be found in its cheap Earl Scheib mocha brown paint job and its propensity for electrical problems. I had given it a very thorough cleaning, inside and out, in preparation for the day. After all, it was to be the carriage in which I'd take home my bride.

Inside, I found that some guests had already arrived and took a moment to visit with them before hiding myself away in the Pastor's office. Jim Lewis was a passionate preacher with the sort of face that rarely hid his mood. Intimidating to look at when he was set upon by righteous anger, today his eyes twinkled with an excited joy. "Are you nervous yet," he asked me with a mischevious grin. I wasn't.

For almost eight years I had dated my bride-to-be. We had known each other since 6th grade. She was the best friend of my then-girlfriend, Carrie. When Carrie and I amicably parted company, she suggested that perhaps her best friend would be a better match. She had no idea how right she was at the time. We became friends and would attend events together when my parents would let me invite a friend along, but it wasn't until a trip to the Japanese Gardens in Fort Worth that I realized how much I'd come to love the gentle spirit and radiant beauty that she posessed. There, standing on the arched bridge that stretched across the koi pond, sun highlighting hair that danced lightly in the breeze, she turned to face the camera I held in suddenly shaky hands. The viewfinder framed an angel, and at the tender age of 13, I was forever lost.

All through high school and college we dated. We developed that comfortable familiarity that long-married couples share, and indeed, even among our families and friends there was no doubt that someday, when the time was right, we would wed.

And so it was, 17 years ago today that I stood calmly in my Pastor's office. I wasn't nervous, because there were no doubts, no lingering concerns, no uncertainties about what I was about to do. I wanted her with an aching in my heart that threatened to crush me under the weight of my longing. My older brother served as best man, and together with the pastor, we walked solemnly out to the designated spot we had rehearsed just the night before and turned to face the entryway to the sanctuary in anticipation.

The music swelled and was joined by the staccato rushing of my pounding pulse as the gathered friends and family rose. It was then that they beheld what I had seen all along, as my angel glided into the room and took final posession of my heart.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It's that time again!

The Cycle World International Motorcycle Show will be in Ft. Worth again this year from November 17th through the 19th.

The family and I will be there in the mornings, when the crowds are typically much smaller. As usual, I'll be picking out my next bike, as I do each year, and obsessing over it until reality (and lack of funding) ultimately kicks in. My wife likes to look over the large-displacement scooters, and the boys like to climb on anything even remotely kid-sized.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Godspeed

Early Wednesday morning, I'll be driving down to New Orleans to attend the funeral of my paternal grandmother.

A retired English teacher and strict grammarian, "Gramma" Fink was first and foremost a Lady (capital L). When I make references to the "genteel society" in which I was raised, I must respectfully tip my hat to woman who most engendered it.

She was graceful and proper, yet pragmatic - and my brothers and I rarely needed to be admonished to watch our manners in her company, for her presence and quiet dignity wordlessly commanded it in a way that even young children could understand. Despite this, she was not an imposing figure. She was gentle and understanding, and only firm when necessary.

Giving birth to triplets in the early 1940s made her a minor celebrity at a time when America was looking for homegrown heroes. The death of my uncle, James, at 3 months due to pneumonia transformed her celebrity into the role of tragic and brave heroine. It became her public secret, and we were all cautioned never to ask about the resident of the simple grave in Hook and Ladder Cemetary after whom both my older brother and our first cousin are named.

She lived alone after the death of my grandfather until her own health gradually began to fail her. When she began to require more care than her aging younger sister - and later a retirement community - could provide, my father made the decision to move her up to a unique living and nursing environment here in Texas where she could live in a neighborhood residence under constant care. More importantly, she could now be in the company of family, particularly her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, in whom she took great joy. When my parents retired to Arkansas, my grandmother moved with them. Undertaking the herculean task of becoming my grandmother's sole caregivers was not made lightly, and I honor my parents' dedication and sacrifice to the well-being of my increasingly-frail and bedridden grandmother. Love and loyalty can buoy a body for only so long however, and eventually my grandmother's care requirements increased to the point of taking a serious emotional and physical toll on my parents.

A difficult and tearful decision was made to place her in a local nursing home in Mena, Arkansas, where her condition continued to deteriorate. There would be moments of clarity when the light would shine through the clouds in her mind and she would know who she was and who had come to visit, but they became more and more rare. In the last few weeks, her only real responses were reflexive in nature and her kidneys failed her. Blood clots had settled in her legs, and to our dismay, her doctor was unable to find any trace of a pulse in her already-discoloring lower legs.

After consulting with doctors and family members, the decision was made to do all that was possible to make her comfortable and pain-free, but to discontinue her medications and to remove the IV which so ravaged her frail hand. An extra bed was placed in her room for my parents, who made plans to remain with her for the days or weeks that followed.

She lasted only an additional few hours.

Although one might easily make the argument that her life and suffering continued well after any hope of quality had passed, we believe the end was mercifully quick and painless for her, and even now she is in the arms of the Lord. None of us wanted her to go, and yet we couldn't bear to make her stay. The gentle and swift nature of her passing was a loving answer to a painful prayer.

Well after she ceased to know us, she continued to be - and still is - loved.

Wednesday, I go to honor her memory.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Rear View

"Truly the last"
as time goes by.

Childhood flickers in the
blink of an eye.

When hopes and fears
and plans for tomorrow
give way to bitter remembrance
and the dreams we have to borrow.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Between the Posts

How many times have I contemplated a blog entry on my way to work, only to have it slip away along with the time to type it the moment I sit at the computer. Sigh.... It's been busy lately, and frankly when I get to work I have this almost irrational desire to ... um, well, you know... work.

I'm truly apologize to those who, time and time again, come here looking for new material only to see cobwebs forming on the posts below. I've been very busy and distracted with the process of living life, that I haven't made the time to sit down and write about it.

Some of those distractions have been in the form of musical compositions on my new iMac using GarageBand, though, if you'd like to take a listen. I've been working on more, but it's a lot harder than sitting down and typing out what's on my mind, and the ideas come more easily to me than the actual production, so I have another half-dozen or more tunes languishing for completion at present. I may even begin playing with PodCasting my blogs in the future, but like everything else, that takes time away from other commitments. Quiet, contemplative "alone-time" is pretty-much limited to the morning commute right now, so bear with me while I continue to suffer this creative ennui.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day!

Remember,

(A little ghoulish humor courtesy of i-mockery.com)

Monday, November 28, 2005

They Walk Funny, Them's That Hate Us

I saw this blessing during the holidays and thought I'd share it.

May those who love us, love us.
Those who don't love us, may the Lord turn their hearts.
And if the Lord cannot turn their hearts,
May He turn their ankles,
so we may know them by their limping...

Saturday, November 26, 2005

It's a good kind of sore...

There were three tests held today at North Texas Aikido. After a full hour of spirited tanken-dori, the students were lined up in order of rank and two of the test-candidates and their ukes were called forward to perform the required techniques and weapons excercises required for their new rank of Gokkyu. Sitting on the sidelines, I found myself discretely trying to keep my muscles from cooling off from the prior excercise in preperation to serve as uke for our Sankyu candidate's test, which was to immediately follow.

Even though I wasn't the person testing, I found myself getting a charge out of the energy and excitement that always permeates the testing environment. We frequently claim that Sankyu is the first of the "big" tests at the dojo, and the training and preparations involved can literally take months before a candidate is ready to test. I was thrown down in some form or another 30 to 40 times before it was time to demonstrate weapons excercises (and give me a break from bouncing off the mat). The candidate performed well, and with few hiccoughs in technique, so the test proceeded as quickly as the comprehensive list of requirements could allow.

Sore? You betcha! But it's the kind of productive pain that remains after achievement. After the "runner's high" subsides, there's always that pleasant soreness that reminds you of the miles behind you and beckons you toward those to come. Individual accomplishments strengthen the dojo just as surely as excercise strengthens a muscle. In this case, the accomplishment was not my own, but a boon for the dojo as a whole, regardless.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Freedom From Want

I was considering the concept of Thanksgiving and how it truly has little to do with our current circumstances, but rather our attitudes toward them in contrast with what we already have, when the following gem appeared in my inbox. I subscribe to the Steve Troxel's "God's Daily Word" and receive a daily devotional message from his ministry each morning.

I think he says it all far better than anything I could have written this morning, and so I share it with you in its entirety. (Emphasis mine)

Freedom From Want
On January 6th, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave his State of the Union speech to Congress and articulated four freedoms which he said were fundamental American values. These freedoms were, Freedom of Worship, Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom from Want. Norman Rockwell, made a series of paintings to correspond with these four freedoms, and these paintings were circulated in the Saturday Evening Post from February to March 1943. The most famous of the four paintings was the one titled Freedom from Want. In this famous painting a large family is gathered around a dinner table. The picture is full of happy faces and lots and lots of food. But the focus of the picture is an elderly woman setting down a cooked turkey which is big enough to feed a small village. Mr. Rockwell is a wonderful painter but I believe he gravely missed the point in his depiction of the freedom from want. He would even later say of his work that the painting better depicted overabundance - or perhaps overindulgence.
Today is called Thanksgiving in the United States. The origins of this holiday go back to the founding of our country but today it is a time when people gather together, eat too much food, watch too much television, and some actually try to reflect on reasons to be thankful. The idea of a time of thanksgiving would be a great worldwide time of reflection - but we need to have a much better concept of thankfulness and what it really means to have freedom from want. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
Giving thanks should never be dependent on our circumstances - never based on what we have, how full our table or bank account. This is a true freedom which only comes by understanding the gift of Salvation, the joy of eternal glory, and who we are in Christ as we live the rest of our days as a child of God. Paul expressed this thankfulness best in his letter to the Philippians: "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:12-13). Let's learn the secret of a thankful heart by learning that thankfulness is not dependent on what we see. True and lasting thanksgiving is only obtained through faith in Jesus Christ and God's free gift of Salvation - and then by living with an understanding of what this gift implies. Freedom from want is not obtained through having more, it is obtained by understanding what we already have. Let's begin today to live with a true Freedom From Want.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Slice of Crunklenut

The late fall sun, rising over beloved Crunklenut, Texas, finds the sleepy little town reluctantly casting off the night's hopeful dreams and stretching into full wakefulness.

Down on the corner of 1st and Elm, at the Fallon's Full-Service Gas-n-Go, the smell of coffee drifts through the doorway of the back office and intertwines with the everpresent scent of old oil and stale gasoline. "Tweed" Fallon, feeling even older than usual this morning swings his bare feet over the edge of the sagging military-surplus cot and recoils, sucking in his breath and coming fully awake as they touch the frigid concrete floor. He massages his tightly-clenched eyes with stained fingers that long ago stopped coming fully clean and tries to recapture some of the previous night's dream. There was warm sunlight and youth, flowers and the soft smile of a young french woman whose face he couldn't quite make out. All the other details were quickly evaporating in the crystalline morning insinuating itself through the gap in the tattered blinds. Dust dances in the narrow beam, as it falls on stacks of old papers, oil-stained boxes of used engine parts and the collected miscellany of the past six decades. Sighing, he rises slowly from his lonley bed, straightens out his rumpled bed-clothes, and shuffles with another new and unfamiliar ache to the pot of coffee that awaits him on the automatic burner.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Future is Like a Scallop...

from: Slow Wave
Where your dreams become their surreal cartoons.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Seven

“The child gives birth to the parents”
-Chinese Proverb

Seven years ago I underwent one of the most significant transformations in my life.
Transfixed by the impossibly cerulean and infinitely-trusting eyes of my first-born son, I suffered the most painful heartbreak of my life.

Let me explain...

Years of carefully cultivated disregard had hardened me, forming a callus of defense against emotional vulnerability. I felt I had been hurt too often - too deeply. As a result, I had deliberately developed the professional detachment of a coroner, and that was the way I preferred it to be. Marriage and a near-death experience had chipped away at the hard crust of my heart, but in many ways it was still held in thrall by my desire to remain safely dispassionate.

That is, until the day I found myself awkwardly cradling my newborn son in unfamiliar arms.

He was all need, all trust, all love and hope. As his tiny, perfect fingers, miniature in comparison to the one I offered, wrapped me in his first embrace, I was struck by the absolute nature of his need. He reached out for comfort and safety, never doubting that I was there to provide for him.

There was a welling up of peculiar fierceness within me. Helpless against the tide that surged through me, I began to weep as at first fissures formed, then burst through the hardness of my heart. Too long dormant, the pain of sudden liberation was both sweet and insufferable, and a deep wound was opened in me that will never heal. Like soil that must be tilled to be planted, I was broken open to be fertile ground for fatherhood, and my son was forever planted in my heart. I was filled with such an overwhelming love in that moment, that my ability to remain dispassionate was forever diminished. To this day, I still ache with the memory of those first pangs of unfettered love.

It was also in that moment, I had a moment of clarity about the parallels with our eternal relationship with our Heavenly Father and his desire to fellowship with His children. I understood then the depth of desire for intimacy and fellowship of a father with his son.

My oldest son is sweet-natured, affectionate and ever-thirsty for knowledge. He wants to know, and more importantly, genuinely considers the answer I give. As a result, I find myself frequently challenged to develop a better understanding of things, if only to know better how to explain them to him. It is a manifestation of my love for him that I strive to answer him fully, but within the limits of what he can comprehend.

He is my beloved first-born.
Breaker and builder of my heart.
The eyes through which I can see the world anew.

Those tiny fingers that first wrapped around my own have grown much in the last seven years, but they have never let go.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Weekend Plans - The Quick Version

I'm leaving tomorrow morning with Blubrik for a motorcycle ride up to Arkansas. I'm looking forward to seeing the fall colors along the Talimena Scenic Byway this year. Somehow, I have always managed to miss the changing of the colors up there.

This weekend the CMA is having their 30th Anniversary party at Iron Mountain, their national headquarters in Hatfield (about 10 miles from my parents' house). There will be a huge quantity of bikers from around the country packed into western Arkansas. Add to that the Wheels and Wings Festival at the Mena Airport, and I doubt that there's a spare room to be had for a 50-mile radius.

We'll likely ride up to Altus, the "wine region" of Arkansas to visit several of the wineries up there, including one that is slated to have a grand opening of their new facilities on Saturday.

All in all, it should be an enjoyable weekend, full of activities and sights. It will also probably serve as something of a "last hurrah" before the weather turns too cool for longer rides.


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Upside ...

I'm having a really good day.

No, really. iTunes is pumping in some lively music while I crank out job after job. I'm happy to be here and to be doing what I'm doing. Nothing is bringing me down, and darn it, I probably look good today, too.

Life is good!

See? There is an upside to being mildly manic-depressive - the manic days!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Five

Today is my youngest son's birthday.

A near full-swing of the pendulum opposite his older brother, he is my little imp - petulant and moody, yet with a almost-knowing smile that belies his age and forgives the worst offense.

While my eldest will respect, mournfully at times, the boundaries we set, my little imp will push his shoulder at the gate, chafing and sore, until at last we are forced to shore up our defenses or else relent.

Frustration at being too young, too small, too slow or too restless often send thunderclouds across his face, darkening his eyes and contorting his sweet smile into a portent of the tempest to come. The squalls are brief, however, and the light of his disarming smile insinuates itself through the parting clouds.

He is my challenge.
My innocence.
My rage and triumph.
My joy.
My boundless love.

He is my son.

Waiting

Hesitant hands hold
pausing over the keyboard
is it time again?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

It's only funny because it's true...

















...except of course the Scion xB is being snapped up by old folks like my wife and I ... and my parents.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ben Stiller's Gym


Somebody at Slow Wave is dreaming of Ben Stiller...

Friday, September 02, 2005

Broken Cities - Broken Families

As some of you know, my family hails from the New Orleans/Jefferson Parish area. My parents have retired to Arkansas along with my father's mother, and my dad's twin brother and wife live in Colorado. All the rest still live down there - or did.

My Great-Aunt Mabel (my dad's Aunt) came to visit my folks in Arkansas last week, and my mother flew with her back to New Orleans last Saturday, so she could visit with her own mother, whom she hasn't seen in three years. They were met at the airport by my dad's cousin Erin (Mabel's daughter), and her husband Kenny. I believe they had already packed for the evacuation order which came down sometime before the plane landed, and intended to leave the airport for a hunting camp 30 miles outside Natchez, Misssissippi.

That was the last we heard from any of them for three nervous days.

My father finally got a static-ridden call from Kenny's cell phone reporting that they were OK and heading to a location where my dad could come pick up my mom. Initial reports (don't know the source or accuracy thereof) claim that my Great-Aunt Mabel's home was spared, but it will be at least a month before the local government will let anybody back to stay in their homes in Jefferson Parish.

We've heard nothing from or about the rest of our family down there as yet.

If you pray, now is a good time to do so on behalf of all those displaced by the storm, and those still unaccounted for or stranded in the broken cities.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

What can Brown do for You?

Two nights ago, as we were watching TV, a commercial for some basketball-related something-or-other came on. Current stars of college hoops swooped and ducked, spun and launched themselves over their opponents to slam-dunk the ball. The vast majority of stellar talent was represented by tall, muscular black men.

My 4-year-old son really latched on to the imagery and launched himself into a frenzied pantomime of playing ball, complete with imaginary 3-pointers from behind the sofa.

"Daddy lookit me, I playing bassetball!"

So, I watched, amused at the display, until he had finished the game — at which point he solemnly approached me with a light in his eye.

"When I grown up and get brown, I gonna play bassetball on TV!"

Monday, June 13, 2005

Stuff on My Cat (dot) Com

I don't know why, exactly — but I find THIS really amusing.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

It's not you ... it's me

I'm not anti-social, really...

The fact is that I suffer a permanent hearing loss most likely as a result of all the loud things I've done in my youth. I was diagnosed with tinnitus while still in college by an audiologist who could actually hear the bruit in my ear canals.

Put me in a crowded restaurant and the people across the table from me are no clearer and no louder than the folks several tables away.

If I'm not looking at you, chances are that I'm not hearing you, either. I come across as distracted, or disinterested ... but the fact is that I just didn't hear you and would rather not let on. It's distracting, embarrassing and frustrating on a level that makes me want to scream out loud sometimes.

The same thing happens when I'm trying to watch a movie. Frequently, I wind up leaving the room in frustration because I can't make out the dialogue when it's competing with the conversations of the extended family and the playful sounds of my children, nephew and nieces.

So ... I'm typing this in here instead of fighting a losing battle in there.

I'm not anti-social ... really.

Friday, June 03, 2005

ROT-ten

I'm down in Austin, Texas at the moment to attend the R.O.T. Biker Rally. For the uninitiated, R.O.T. stands for Republic Of Texas - which refers to Texas' heritage, not the fringe political group of some years back that claimed that Texas was never officially made a part of the United States and therefore had no legitimate government in place. Most of that group is currently enjoying the hospitality of the illegitimate gubmint's prison system.

No ... the ROT rally is about bikers and all the stuff that bikers like - namely loud motorcycles, alcohol, nekked wimmens, and um ... alcohol-soaked nekkid wimmens on loud motorcycles.

Personally, I consider myself to be here in an advisory and observational role, since I'm the only married guy in my group, and I know all pictures and stories from my friends will get back to my wife... eventually. Somebody has to be the designated milquetoast, after all.

Day 1 was yesterday, and there were pretty healthy crowds to be found, but the tone and atmosphere of the place was a bit muted, overall. Not many of today's weekend warrior motorcycle crowd are willing to take too many days off from work to go stand around in the heat at biker rallies. Consequently, the wildness-factor was on the low end of the scale. I met and had my picture taken with Jerry Covington and Johnny Chop, who looked like they were really suffering in the heat yesterday. I didn't have the heart to tell them that this is the coolest it's been at the rally in the past 4 years.

Once again, our friends Dan and Becky with Qwik Shade had a booth at the rally and we were welcomed to park our bikes to serve as product models and have a comfortable place to hang out when not wandering the site. Since they have a large, shaded booth this year, we made sure to take advantage of their hospitality as often as possible.

We left a bit early last night, to rest up for the late nights we anticipate tonight and Saturday at the rally, and caught dinner at a local Taco Cabana, before coming home and hitting the showers.


Day 2
The weather had turned very overcast and was downright threatening in the morning. The occasionally stray drop found its way to my windshield on the way out from Craig's house. C.J. had ranged out to go meet some friends who live north of Austin and spent the night with them. He'd planned to meet us later at the Qwik Shade booth.

Beer at the rally is 4.75 per can, and water is 2.00 per smallish bottle. Ouch! We got wise yesterday and stopped by the local super-Wal•Mart to buy our own drinks to import into the rally. If you're not too particular, there are some brands of beer that can still be had for less than 4.00 per six-pack- and those are the big cans. Consequently, we weren't feeling too picky...

The motorcycle traffic on the way to the Travis County Exposition Center had greatly increased. There were dozens of bikes in every side road and convenience store parking lot along the way. As we got closer to the rally site, the concentration of bikes intensified, until cars made only an occasional interruption in the flow of trafffic. We parked our bikes at the Qwik Shade booth and we set about finding some ice and a place to put all our stuff. The majority of the day, we sat at the booth and helped answer questions for passers-by. Not far from us was a booth hawking "girls gone wild" type videos, complete with some of the featured girls. For $20 you'd get both DVDs and the girls would strip down and pose with you for a souvenier. As you might expect, that booth had a fair amount of traffic throughout the day. The kid running that show, looks like he's just out of high school (assuming he finished) and took great pleasure in driving around the fairgrounds in his shiny red Ferrari... sigh.

People like to dress up (or down) for biker rallies, and the crushing sea of humanity presented a wide spectrum to sit and view from the shaded comfort of the booth. It's like watching an endless parade of escapees from the circus side-show. The real freak-show parade waits until dark to get started though. Around 4:00 in the afternoon several vendors start selling cheap mardi-gras-type beads for the on-the-ground biker parade. Most of the women who participate in the parade will flash the bystanders for a string of plastic beads, and this year it seemed like there were more willing participants than usual. The noise of the straight pipes competes with the acrid smell of burning tires, as bikers show off for the massive crowds of gawkers lining up on either side of the parade route, hoping to catch a glimpse of skin in trade for beads. There was at least one injury when a topless woman was thrown off the back of a chopper, dislocating her wrist. Craig helped out by calling out the EMS crew to haul her off to the hospital.

We dragged ourselves back to collect our bikes and head home for the night, exhausted from the long day.


More to come...

Monday, May 09, 2005

Like a hole in my head ...

My wife had a simple request for Mother's Day.

"I want my ears pierced."

I was a little surprised, since this wasn't going to be the first time she had undergone the process. When we were dating, some umpteen years ago, I had suggested that it might be easier to buy her jewelry if only I had a few more places to hang shiny, sparkly things. By this point, she had many more rings than fingers, and as many necklaces as my meager earnings could buy.

You could even make the argument that I pressured her to get her ears pierced back then. In the end, it was her decision though, and I encouraged her choice by lavishing her with many pairs of inexpensive earrings ("Guaranteed Hypo-allergenic!") to fill the new voids in her earlobes.

Perhaps it was the budget studs and hoops that were the problem, however. It wasn't long before both of her ears were painfully swollen and weeping from the violation. Eventually, all the sparkly-but-cheap trinkets were orphaned to the jewelry box, and her ears gradually forgave her by healing back shut, leaving little divots to serve as a reminder.

Fast-forward 15 years or so to present-day where the scene opens at Claire's Boutique. Both boys are in full-fidget mode and can't resist touching every shiny object in sight. There are seats next to the piercing-booth and they are banished to the chairs, where they take up an impromptu pillow-fight with the cushions. Good enough, we decide, and consign ourselves to being added to the list of parents who don't control their children in public places. My wife and I look over the selection of piercing studs. There are the requisite birthstones, assigned to each month ages ago in what must be in the marketing-ploy hall of fame somewhere - sitting on the shelf next to all the greeting-card holidays. Those faux semi-precious stones - a phrase that sounds as disingenuous as "certified genuine vinyl leather-ette," are set in "Guaranteed Hypo-allergenic" mystery metal studs. We'll pass, thanks. Being as the new studs have to be left in place for six weeks to ensure proper healing of the new hole, she picked out a set of flat, daisy-shaped crystal studs for herself.

"Any are YOU looking for yourself too, sir?" asked the pretty clerk with a wry grin.

"Erm, well ... maybe," I offered. The fact is, my wife had mentioned at the start of the whole discussion that she thought I'd look good with an earring. Personally, I think it was payback for my own pressure on her 17 years ago. Then again, they say that good girls tend to like bad boys, and my wife has usually encouraged a certain level of bad-boy image in my appearance.

"It'd make you look ... 'swarthy,'" she purred, eyes gleaming with not-so-hidden meaning.

"I'll take THAT one," I squeaked, and hurredly jumped into the chair to get perforated.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Synchronicity

Last Sunday, my wife relayed an out-of-the-blue request from my eldest son.
"Can we go to a museum?"

Big P has a level of curiosity that is only surpassed by his amazing capacity to understand. Consequently, we have discussions about concepts and ideas that are typically reserved for more adult conversations. His recent viewing of a documentary on sacred relics of the Catholic Church had him wanting to view some antiquities. Since there were no churches in the area claiming to contain a piece of the True Cross or Holy Grail, we'd have to settle for good old fashioned stuff from Texas.

Oh, and something with dinosaurs would be cool, too. Little P, though not nearly so curious, would certainly like that, and Ft. Worth has them in spades.

The weather was nice, so we packed the whole family into the aging family wagon and set sail for the Ft. Worth Museum of Natural Science and History. We watched the wonderfully-dizzying IMAX show, "Aliens of the Deep," by James Cameron, then took in as many exhibits as we could before the 2:30 showing of "Ticket to Mars" in the planetarium. "Ticket" was neither wonderful nor dizzying, unfortunately - and despite being billed as a 3-D production with red/blue glasses for all in attendance, was completely flat - both in dimension and interest-level.

Having not eaten since breakfast, we were all looking to quit the museum in favor of something to satisfy needs other than educational. My friend, Blubrik, has chided me in the past for my eatery of choice while in Ft. Worth. He'd roll his eyes in pain whenever I'd mention that we always ate at Dos Gringos, just across from the museum-corridor. It's good old-fashioned Tex-Mex - heavy on the cheese, heavy on the cumin, heavy on the chili powder ... just heavy - but convenient, and rarely crowded.

"You mean you were in Ft. Worth, and you DIDN'T eat at ...." Dang, I couldn't remember the name of the restaurant. When Blubrik or The Brain make a restaurant recommendation, the background music always falls silent, and a quick glance around will reveal everyone in earshot straining towards the advice, not unlike the old brokers-agency commercial. Sitting in the basement of the museum while the boys entertained themselves with some hands-on exhibits that required wearing a rubberized smock (to prevent wearing the exhibit too, I presume), I decided to dial-up Blubrik in the hopes of refreshing my memory.

"Helloooooo, Cheese" I was greeted. Caller ID takes all the surprise out of calls these days.

"Heya, Blu. You know how you always make fun of me for missing out on that mexican restaurant in Ft. Worth whenever I'm there? The one you so highly recommend? What's its name?"

(Pause)
"Are you," he paused again, "IN Ft. Worth?" There was an odd tone to his voice.
"Um, yes. We're sitting in the basement of the Ft. Worth Museum of...., " etc. etc. "and getting hungry, so I thought we'd try it out."

(Yet another pause)
"WE'RE in Ft. Worth. Along with Sensei and Mrs. Sensei ... and we're planning on going to that very restaurant. Soon." There was a certain wonderment in his voice, and I could tell by the way he spoke that he was simultaneously relaying the peculiarity of our entire group independently arriving at the same destination to The Brain and Mr. and Mrs. Sensei. [Editor's note: Blubrik's godchild and her mother were also in attendance and were his principal reason for being in Ft. Worth in the first place. However, I don't have nicknames for them and am only omitting them for expediency and the lack of proper stage-names.] "We would LOVE for you to join us."

... and so we did. The restaurant is Carro's, where the margaritas are strong and the tostadas are oddly, but wonderfully chewy and puffed like a sopapilla. It was definitely better fare than we would have had at Dos Gringos, to be sure.

Better than the food, though was the unexpected pleasant surprise of good company, so far from home.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Heavy Hearted

... and I can't even share why, yet.


Sigh.

UPDATE: Since everybody's "SOOOO Happy" according to someone who simultaneously speaks on behalf of the affected party while claiming NOT to speak on behalf of said party (go figure - but par for the course with this particularly unhinged individual), I suppose I'm no longer in a position to feel badly about the lost potential of my former office-mate. I tried to hint. I tried to guide. I even gave plain-English warnings, "don't even look like you're doing this. Better watch out for that." In the end, choices were made, the die was cast and I no longer could serve as a buffer between him and those who make the decisions. Truly, I was a better friend to him than he knows or will likely believe - despite it all. In the final analysis, everyone lives or dies on their own merits. I wish things could have been different, but it's time to close the door on this chapter, and I am doing so.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Artists' Conceit

I am a professional graphic designer - a concept man, if you will. I think in colors and textures, mood and feel, words and composition. I've been doing this longer than most of my clients have been in business, and this experience has developed in me a strong sense of what works and what doesn't. Most of the clients actually appreciate the fact that I occasionally say "no" to ideas that just don't fit or are patently wrong for them. Frequently, I will take the initiative and "tweak" provided artwork for clients, knowing that it will ultimately give them what they want - even if it's not what they specifically requested. My employer has even coined a term and sells it as a service to our clients. She tells them that I'll "Keith-erize" their artwork for them. They pay me to make them look good, and that's what she knows I'll do - sometimes dragging them kicking and screaming all the way, until at last they finally see the end-product and the realization of what they really wanted all along.

I call it artists' conceit ... and I wince every time I do so. It's the sense of believing that I know better than the client what they really want. Personal ego really has no place in serving others, and tends to lock us designers into a single design style, regardless of the application. As a Christian, I recognize my talents as God-given that I might serve His purposes. This helps to keep me grounded, particularly when people praise my work. Creativity is just one of the aspects of being created in the image of God, and to create is to enjoy a form of communion - a new bond through a common interest, like a child sharing a hobby with his father. And just like that child, the first attempts always look rough and unsteady until the Father leans over to gently guide the child's hands and make the work smooth.

As part of my morning prayers, I have a daily entreaty: "Not me, Lord - but You through me." I have been blessed over the years with the ability to serve my clients with a consistantly high level of design work to which they have become accustomed. Fortunately, that service has never been uncomfortable ... until now.

Out of the blue, two clients in two days have come to me asking for me to create and maintain websites for them, based on the printwork I've designed. True, I have created websites, and in the past have even maintained an entire online catalog for a client - but frankly, my level of expertise in web-design leaves me thinking that "expertise" was a poor choice of words. It is rudimentary, at best, and I honestly don't believe that I can deliver websites anywhere on par with the level of design of my printwork. At the same time, the timing of the requests makes me wonder if I'm being led down this path, as part of serving a higher purpose - or learning the more salient lesson: my discomfort is a product of my own ego - my fear that I won't be able to earn the praise to which I've become accustomed ...

"Not me, Lord - but You through me."

Thursday, March 24, 2005

What Dreams May Come ...

While you're impatiently waiting for the next story, spend a little time getting to know the nocturnal emissions of complete strangers as illustrated by Slowwave.com.

2004 Feb 21
"toe tips" by Mike Gigante

Monday, March 21, 2005

Working on a new one.

I have a new horror story idea that I've just started working on today.
My desire is to keep it as short as possible, while still conveying the storyline in its entirety, as I find that I am more of a sprinter when it comes to writing. Frankly, I start to lose momentum when a story takes longer than three pages to develop. I just get in a hurry to get to the "punchline," as it were, and the quality of the writing suffers from my desire to rush through it to the ending.

Consequently, my "Serial Novel" is on hiatus, while I scratch this new itch.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Back

I got back last evening from a four-day motorcycle trip to Arkansas. There are some amazing roads to be had there, and hopefully I'll get a chance to post a complete report as time allows. But for now, I have some catching-up at work to do.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Lane-Splitting Coming To Texas?

You're stuck in traffic again after a long, highly stressful day at work. The boss has been riding you hard to make an impossible deadline, while at the same time adding new requirements and restrictions to the proposal. You just want to get home and relax, but like everyone else on the highway every day, you're just inching along, one car-length at a time, radiator and temper about to pop from the heat and frustration, when you hear a familiar, but out-of-place rumble. Optimistically, you believe it's a motorcycle cop, picking his way through the log-jam to find and remove the source of the roadway's constipation. Instead, as the source of the burbling motor comes into the range of your side-view mirror, you see a grinning bearded man wrapped in black leather, seemingly unencumbered by your plight, riding between the overheating cars and drivers.

Do you:

  1. Mentally congratulate him on the choice of transportation and the reduced emissions and strain it places on our congested roadways and consumption of fuel-oil? After all, motorcycles take up less space, get better gas-milage, and statistically carry the same number of passengers as most every other vehicle during rush-hour commutes.
  2. Find yourself day-dreaming of wind-in-the-hair adventures while exploring the scenic back-roads of this great state of ours?
  3. Cut that "sombeach" off by moving over close the gap between you and the car next to you? After all, why should he be able to move freely by, when you're stuck in traffic?

I'm not sure how I feel about this, since I rarely have occasion to get stuck in traffic anymore, due to the hours that I work. On one hand, I celebrate any legislation that further recognizes motorcycling as a valuable tool in reducing congestion on our roadways. However, I think there will be a lot of irritated people, ignorant of the new law, trying to prevent a bike from legally (if this gets passed) riding up between cars during a traffic-jam. Worse, I can see the possibility of angry commuters taking actions that can endanger motorcyclists taking advantage of the new law.

Heretofore, it has been illegal in every state of the union except California to split lanes of traffic. If this makes it into law, there would have to be a massive public-education campaign.

I, for one, won't be waiting in line to be the first to excercise any newly-minted right to squeeze by any overheated commuters stuck in traffic and jealously guarding their lane-position...

The proposed law:
79R517 JRJ-DBy:
Griggs
H.B. No. 1522
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED AN ACT


relating to the operation and movement of motorcycles during periods of traffic congestion.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:

SECTION 1. Section 545.060, Transportation Code, is amended by amending
Subsection (a) and adding Subsection (e) to read as follows: (a) An
operator on a roadway divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic:
(1) shall drive as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane,
except as provided by Subsection (e); and
(2) may not move from the lane unless that movement can be made safely. (e) The operator of a motorcycle may operate the motorcycle for a safe distance between lanes of traffic moving in the same direction during periods of traffic
congestion if the operator:
  1. is at least 21 years old;
  2. has successfully completed a motorcycle operator training and safety course under Chapter 662;
  3. is covered by a health insurance plan providing the operator with at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries incurred as a result of an accident while operating a motorcycle; and
  4. operates the motorcycle:
    (A) at a speed not more than five miles per hour over the speed of the
    other traffic; (B) in traffic that is moving at a speed of 20 miles per
    hour or less; and (C) in a location other than a school crossing zone or
    other than a location where the posted speed limit is 20 miles per hour or less.

SECTION 2. This Act takes effect September 1, 2005.


**UPDATE** Unfortunately, with school finance reform and a host of other things on Texas lawmakers' plates, this bill never made it out of committee.

A Moment of Zen

Overhead last night in the HeadCheese household:

"Put down that monkey and come ON!"

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Serial Novel

Isn’t it funny how things trigger a memory sometimes? Other times, it’s just not funny at all.
. . . . . . . .

I rumbled along the highway, my motorcycle belting out its deep, warning staccato that growls at the cagers like a dog letting you know that you’re too close to his food bowl. Summer heat had begun to press down on us with its thick, oppressive weight, and even in the predawn twilight, you’d get sticky and damp, just waiting for the engine to warm up and even out before hitting the road. It was one of those long, dry spells we get towards the end of July, when it hadn’t been hot long enough to get used to the heat and it was way too early to start dreaming of cooler weather. Everyone’s lawns were browning like rolls in the oven, and slab-foundations cracked as the Texas clay underneath shrunk and retreated in search of moisture. “All the water’s in the air, and none of it in the ground,” the weathermen in their uniform-like tweed suits and red bowties would say, grinning their false smiles and wishing they were anchorman material.

“No kidding,” I thought, dripping in spite of the rush of wind pushing past me at highway speed. When the roads haven’t seen rain in such a long time as this, the grit and dust that settles on the on shoulders come creeping back into the lanes, sucked onto the roadways by the speeding cars and spun into whirling blurs by the massive eighteen-wheelers, hauling their stinking loads of staring cattle to the slaughterhouse. For me, it meant a constant barrage of stinging sand, like little needles piercing at any exposed flesh they can find. Today, it was worse than usual, as though the grit were some maniacal tattoo artist looking to give me a full-coverage facial of ink.

In spite of the constant hail of debris, or perhaps because the abrasion had heightened my sensitivity, I could detect an occasional splatter of moisture - faint and near-subliminal in its impact on my exposed skin. I looked up. No clouds in the sky. No birds overhead. Certainly nothing to justify the mysterious moisture. Resuming my focus ahead, I unfortunately found the source. Two cars ahead, rocking and jostling its labored way along, was one of those large garbage-scow trucks with the mechanical compactor on the back. It was rusty, very full - and worst of all – dripping something.

My mind reeled to consider all the possible fluids that could be oozing from the back of a truck overflowing with festering refuse, and in the way a scent or a song can evoke a memory, I found myself unwillingly transported back to the days of my youth down in New Orleans.

I was raised among the genteel society of the Old South on the trailing edge of a dying age when women were ladies and children were seen and not heard. We were taught to sit quietly with our hands in our laps, to pretend to be interested in the stories of Aunt Edna’s endless litany of surgeries – or whatever it was the adults discussed, and to only reluctantly accept whatever sweets might be offered to us and to never ask for seconds. It was still an era in which women “powdered their noses,” and men would quietly excuse themselves from company to take care of unmentionable body functions. Politics were never discussed, as it all was just a “dirty business,” and I suspect more than one of my older relations was still bitter about the North winning the civil war, even though that was over a hundred years ago.

In was in the hushed and rarified air of this atmosphere in which I first learned of my Uncle George. I never knew exactly how we were supposed to be related. Questions about him were quickly shifted away to other topics or ignored altogether. Uncle George was never seen in anything other than his black silk suit - one mother-of-pearl button fastened against his girth that looked nothing so much as if there were a basketball hidden in his shirt. “It’s a goiter,” he would laugh, referring to the hard, peculiar roundness of his mid-section, in sharp contrast to his otherwise-unremarkable arms and legs. But even as a child I knew it had more to do with his love of his ever-present bottle of Jax beer than a lack of iodine in his diet. No one had to tell me that Uncle George was somehow an embarrassment to the rest of the family. The way most of my relations would all stiffen and hiss their disapproval through tight mouths when he arrived at family functions was more than enough for even a young child to know that there was something clearly unwelcome in this man. My parents strictly forbade me to speak to him at these functions, lest it be mistaken as in invite to come and socialize, and by extension bring some sort of unspoken shame on my parents. Whatever it was that tainted Uncle George in the minds of my relatives, they must have thought it was something could be rubbed off on them, like a greasy stain in your good, Sunday shirt.

As most of the family gatherings were mind-numbingly dull affairs and as a child I couldn’t contribute to any of the conversations, I was often left to quietly entertain myself, and made a point of studying my mysterious relative. I noticed, for instance, that in spite of all the palpable tension that seemed to follow him into a room, carried swirling along with his heavy scent of Aqua Velva and cigars, he either remained oblivious of the obvious discomfort of the others or was very good at pretending not to notice. He presented himself as a very jovial man, quick to laugh at the smallest joke – usually his own, and at the expense of the nearest family member, who would smile tightly and obediently while at the same time looking around to see if anyone was watching the interchange. Another thing I noticed: although people would go out of their way to avoid any contact with Uncle George, they would be excruciatingly polite and almost unctuous in their replies to him, should they unhappily find themselves the target of his attention. It was as though he were some foreign royalty come to visit a little backwater town, where the residents would make comically exaggerated attempts at acting courtly and worldly-wise, while at the same time finding it all terribly inconvenient. I watched as anyone, once cornered by my mysterious uncle, would agree to anything he asked, if only to keep him happy in the hopes that his attention would soon turn elsewhere. Once released, however, the unwilling relation would sigh resignedly, knowing that he or she was now marked for further conversation in the future, and that Uncle George would undoubtedly come to call again.

It was at the funeral of my paternal grandfather when my Uncle George’s attentions finally came to rest on me while I was acting as a greeter to the hundreds of relatives and friends who came to the evening visitation. I stood at the doorway of the viewing room, shifting uncomfortably in an ill-fitting suit that was quickly cobbled together for the occasion. I was wearing one of my father’s pale blue suit-jackets that was too broad in the shoulders and too short in the sleeves for my long, ropey arms. My pants were commandeered from my older brother’s collection of dress slacks and had been hurriedly hemmed too high, allowing my sagging socks to show above my scuffed and well-worn dress shoes. Everything was ill-fitting, but that was to be expected. I was in that awkward stage of a growth-spurt when I looked like an amateurish marionette, arms and legs all akimbo and disproportionate to my enormous hands and feet, which my mother would frequently tell me by way of consolation that I would eventually grow to fit. It was with those large paws that I would take each offered hand, hold it gently for a moment and as sincerely as I could still muster, thank each of the gathered as they shuffled past my assigned post on their way to the wake. I had long passed the point of paying much attention to the many hands that I mechanically shook, or the bodies attached to them, until one didn’t let go. It was a meaty and soft – obviously a hand that didn’t see too much manual labor. There were large gold-nugget rings of differing designs on each of the sausage-like fingers that were firmly clamped around my hand, as though there was some extra message they were trying to impart. That message, as it turned out, was in the form of a tightly-folded wad of money being pressed deeply into my cramped palm. At the other end of the crushing grip was my Uncle George, grinning toothily at me with sharply-focused eyes and his wide, loose mouth.

“You’d be little Mickey, now wouldn’t you,” he stated more than asked, eyes darting back and forth between my hand and my right jacket pocket until the message was clear. He released my hand slowly, never taking his eyes from mine as I pocketed the cash without looking to see how much it was. I stood there awkwardly, not really knowing what to say to the man who still fixed me with an intent gaze. To my parents, it was bad enough for my Uncle George to have to audacity to show up for the funeral, when he was clearly uninvited, but they would be unhinged if they knew I was speaking with him and apparently accepting some sort of a cash donation. “That’s just for you, Mickey,” he said, winking conspiratorially, “your folks don’t need to know.” He stood there surveying me in my mismatched and pitiful outfit, oblivious as always to the growing line of disapproving mourners in the queue behind him. “You might want to spend it on some clothes,” he added, chuckling at his own little joke.


To Be Continued ...

Monday, December 13, 2004

Swamped!

Isn't it just typical?

Just as soon as I make a point of welcoming all the new people who have discovered my little corner of the blogosphere, I burn up my home computer and get completely slammed at work.

Sorry.

It's not as though nothing of interest has happened to me lately - quite the contrary. There's the trip to Vegas, courtesy of Blubrik and The Brain ... and that most-unpleasant flight home. I have even started an allegorical children's story before we left that has gone wanting for attention.

Alas, it is the nature of the beast that is the printing industry - feast or famine. Considering that our shop's ribs have started to show lately, I'm grateful for the feast - but like the well-meaning GI's that glutted the starving concentration-camp prisoners upon their release, I fear we may choke before take on enough sustenance to restore us.

So, again ... Welcome. Now wait.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Welcome New Readers!

If you're new to my little corner of the blogosphere, welcome!

If you're a regular reader or have visited before, apparently I've done a poor job of driving you off...

Regardless of the reason you find yourself here, I thought I'd take a moment and remind you of some of the basic "rules" of my web-log.

This site exists solely as an excersise in exorcising some of the stagnating creative energy that starts to pool when I get caught up in the daily grind and don't have time to express it. Originally, I planned to write on a daily basis, but that in itself became part of the daily grind.

Stories that are in italics are fictional works sprung from my fevered brain. They may be sweet or sick as the mood that inspired them dictates, but please don't confuse them with actual events. Speaking of ...

Posts that are in regular type are just my thoughts laid out for the sake of expressing my views on a topic or reminiscing about past events. I reserve the right to take some artistic license, particularly when trying to dredge up memories of my increasingly distant childhood.

While there may be elements of personal disclosure on this blog, it is not a private diary - It is intended to be read, and I don't post anything here that I don't want you to know. That said, I do go out of my way to provide a level of anonymity to persons other than myself that I write about, so I would prefer that your comments extend the same courtesy. Ah yes, comments...

If you like what you read, leave a comment. If you are inspired, disturbed or moved by something you read, leave a comment. If you are left in a permanent vegetative state by something your read here, have the executor of your estate leave a comment. The point is, I want your feedback. I also reserve the right to delete moonbat comments or offensive material at my sole discretion and based on seemingly arbitrary rules of conduct. It is MY blog, after all, and I get to decide the content.

Lastly, don't forget to click on the archives to see all the articles available here. Only the last few posts show up on the main page, and if that's all you read, you're missing the majority of the content here.




Thursday, November 18, 2004

15 Years Ago Today ...

"What are you doing here," asked Dianne Worthen, my Karate Sensei, with a spreading smile of surprise. She was incredulous that I would show up for class just a few hours before my wedding was to take place. Indeed, the truth was that I had to be there. I was so full of excited energy that I needed an outlet to safely tap off a bit, lest I be reduced to a gibbering wreck.

It was a crisp day, slightly overcast with the silvery-gray glow that comes early with Texas winters. In its plastic cleaner's bag, my tuxedo hung over the back of one of the long-legged chairs that cozied up to the breakfast bar in my apartment. The images of wide-collared, pastel tuxedos with contrasting piping hanging in the halls of friends and family cemented my decision to go with a classic and timeless style that wouldn't induce groans when viewed years later in a dusty photo album.

Purged of my excess energy, I drove to my my parents' home to wash up and get dressed. My grandmother had arrived the night before from New Orleans to attend the wedding, and greeted me at the door with a barrage of kisses in a swirling cloud of rose perfume. After I showered and doused myself with my own cologne, she was a good sport and didn't tease me too much as she braided my eight inch rat-tail, an affectation popular in the 1980's and the only outward sign of subversiveness in my otherwise button-down image.

With an hour to go before the ceremony, I drove my 1978 Datsun 280Z to Plano Bible Chapel and strategically parked it in a spot I thought would make for a fast getaway later. It was my dream car - fast, nimble and sexy. It's only faults were to be found in its cheap Earl Scheib mocha brown paint job and its propensity for electrical problems. I had given it a very thorough cleaning, inside and out, in preparation for the day. After all, it was to be the carriage in which I'd take home my bride.

Inside, I found that some guests had already arrived and took a moment to visit with them before hiding myself away in the Pastor's office. Jim Lewis was a passionate preacher with the sort of face that rarely hid his mood. Intimidating to look at when he was set upon by righteous anger, today his eyes twinkled with an excited joy. "Are you nervous yet," he asked me with a mischevious grin. I wasn't.

For almost eight years I had dated my bride-to-be. We had known each other since 6th grade. She was the best friend of my then-girlfriend, Carrie. When Carrie and I amicably parted company, she suggested that perhaps her best friend would be a better match. She had no idea how right she was at the time. We became friends and would attend events together when my parents would let me invite a friend along, but it wasn't until a trip to the Japanese Gardens in Fort Worth that I realized how much I'd come to love the gentle spirit and radiant beauty that she posessed. There, standing on the arched bridge that stretched across the koi pond, sun highlighting hair that danced lightly in the breeze, she turned to face the camera I held in suddenly shaky hands. The viewfinder framed an angel, and at the tender age of 13, I was forever lost.

All through high school and college we dated. We developed that comfortable familiarity that long-married couples share, and indeed, even among our families and friends there was no doubt that someday, when the time was right, we would wed.

And so it was, 15 years ago today that I stood calmly in my Pastor's office. I wasn't nervous, because there were no doubts, no lingering concerns, no uncertainties about what I was about to do. I wanted her with an aching in my heart that threatened to crush me under the weight of my longing. My older brother served as best man, and together with the pastor, we walked solemnly out to the designated spot we had rehearsed just the night before and turned to face the entryway to the sanctuary in anticipation.

The music swelled and was joined by the staccato rushing of my pounding pulse as the gathered friends and family rose. It was then that they beheld what I had seen all along, as my angel glided into the room and took final posession of my heart.


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