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Peaceful Easy Feeling

September 23, 2009

’cause I gotta peaceful easy feeling
and I know you won’t let me down
’cause I’m already standing on the

What could be better than an afternoon nap on a warm Fall day? The sunlight streaming through the window, followed by a gentle breeze.  It doesn’t take much to follow these sensations back to childhood memories of carefree afternoons.  It doesn’t take much more than a few peaceful, easy feelings to relive the days gone past. Read more…

This is My Job, Part 2

September 22, 2009
Photo by Leamington Malfoof

Photo by Leamington Malfoof

(continued from yesterday’s Part 1) Summary:

I’ve been a little off my game lately. Well, OK, I’ve been a lot off my game.  That’s OK though.  I needed to retreat and pull back a little.  I’ve been hiding out in my cave.  Even though I saw the unemployment coming – and knew it was for the best – it still hits like a ton of bricks.  Especially when I’m the sole support for three other people and two cats.  Then there were three surgeries in as many weeks – granted one of those was only a teeth-cleaning and minor cavity repair – it was still surgery!

Several weeks ago during my quiet time, I heard God saying to me (by the way, I don’t hear Him audibly) to take some time and rest.  It’s OK to hide out in the cave for awhile.  I thought I was slipping back into the abyss.  I was discouraged and broken – but God said I needed to recover. Three surgeries in three weeks, newly unemployed, the stress of the past year’s conflicts, financially broken, and ostracized by my spiritual community – yeah, I agreed.  I did need a break.

I needed that permission. As a fighter – a self-confident achiever – I was going to make it work.  But the God who loves me said, “Take a break.  I got it covered.

As I begin to crawl out of this cave, I am better prepared to face the fight ahead – it’s not over – but I have to admit that I’m not quite up to speed. I’m feeling a little tenuous about life in the great big world.  That’s OK though.  I don’t have to bite off more than I can chew.  It’s still one day at a time. . . Read more…

This is My Job, Part 1

September 21, 2009

Yesterday when I got home from WordCampPDX (which was awesome!) the family was quite excited to see me.  Darling Daughter started screaming as soon as she saw the car, she and Smiling Son came running into my arms in the garage.  The Wife was quite affectionate in her welcome too. (Have I ever mentioned how much fun it is to be a Dad?  I love this job!!)

After spending some time together, seeing some of the things they’d done during the day (cleared some space of weeds and blackberries and planted strawberries, drawings, clutter-clearing, etc.), I went into my office to check the blog and social-network for which I just assumed responsibility.

I was busily checking tweets, comments, and editing posts – when in trucked Smiling Son. He climbed up on my lap and we talked a bit.  He hadn’t been gone for more than a couple of minutes when in danced Darling Daughter.  She was caught up in one of her fantastic stories. I was the Father King and she the Princess Daughter.  She too sought refuge on my lap for a bit. . .  Read more…

Oh, The Temptation

September 14, 2009

Isn’t this just like us?  Kids are no different!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Oh, The Temptation – Haggis (Sean Loy…“, posted with vodpod

How about you, would you wait?

Reaching Back

September 9, 2009
Duane Hanson's sculpture "Drug Addict&quo...
Image via Wikipedia

Years ago, when I was struggling with the traps of addiction, but really starting to crawl out of the pit, my family watched my struggle from afar.  Concerned with my welfare, they wanted to help, but sometimes the best help is to do nothing.  So, from the sidelines, they watched, they cheered  the victories, and prayed over the failures.  To their credit, they handled my alcoholism and addictions with tremendous grace.

I remember one conversation with my brother though. He was suggesting that I needed to walk away from some of my friends.  It was, and remains good advice to anyone struggling to be free of their addictions.  The drug and alcohol counselor told me the same thing when I checked a girlfriend into a treatment center.  But, like always, I thought I knew best then, and always.  I didn’t take my brother’s advice and I didn’t take the drug and alcohol counselor’s advice.

In the case of that long ago girlfriend, I was wrong. I didn’t do her or myself any favors by sticking around.  Although that was the beginning of my own journey into sobriety, my then codependent ways only enabled her  repeated poor choices.  What can I say? I was an idiot.

However, regarding my brother’s advice to me, I’m not so sure I didn’t make the right choices.

I remember at the time picturing this image in my head:  I imagined myself climbing a ladder. With each rung, I achieved growth, health, and serenity.  It was a struggle, but necessary and very rewarding.  But when I looked back, I saw my friends still struggling.  I had to reach back and give them a hand.  I had to help them climb the ladder too.  It was dangerous to let go and reach back, but how could I leave my friends to struggle on their own.

I liken it to being in a plane crash. The experts will tell you that you only have a few minutes to get out of the plane before the toxic smoke overcomes you.  If I were smart, and I’ve thought this through, I’d be the first one out of the plane. (Not just for selfish reasons mind you, but because I’m a trained rescuer and if I die, I can’t help others.)  I would crawl over the seats, under them, push, shove – whatever it takes.  And yet, morally, would this be the right approach?

Climber on "Valkyrie" at The Roaches...

Image via Wikipedia

Having a family has changed my perspective on this. There is no way I would go off and leave my family, just so I could get my own sorry butt out of the plane.  I remember some of those old movies where they show the cowardly, frightened man, pushing others out of the way, so he could get into the lifeboat.  I remember a Seinfeld episode where George pushed his fiancé down because he thought there was a fire.  We laugh at those, and we disdain the cowards, but in reality, don’t we all see ourselves as looking out for #1?

How about you?  How far are you willing to go for others? Does it matter if they are a part of your family, your children, your friends?  What if they are just neighbors, acquaintances, or a family that lives in your town?  How far are you willing to go to help others?  To whom do you typically reach out to?  Or, are you just doing your best to hold on to any sense of reality on your own?  It really boils down to your core values, doesn’t it?

I’m curious, where do you draw the line as to whom you reach out to?

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Prequel: Humility, Arrogance, Trust, & Honesty

September 6, 2009
Example 2.
Image via Wikipedia

If I were to write a book, and I’ve always known I would, what would I write about. Books fascinate me. There is a one-to-many form of conversation that takes place, without being limited to 140 characters. And when one reads a really good book, and I have, they can then contact the author and give feedback – which I have. Sometimes a conversation ensues, other times, not so much. But it is the ideas contained, inspired, and exploding that give meaning to my existence. So, if I were to write a book, what would it be about?

It was somewhere in my teens that the notion to write a book first crossed my mind. In the ninth grade I edited the school paper at Fowler Junior High School in Tigard (In the old building on Main Street that was torn down to build a Payless store). In the next couple of years I dabbled in various forms of writing and journalism. I discovered an old mimeograph machine in a back room at school, and after wasting several masters and two reams of paper, I figured out how to publish a sarcastic/parody newsletter.  I was no Jon Stewart, but I certainly felt like young Thomas Paine in that back room.

As I entered my 20s, I was fairly certain I’d write a book. But a certain humble appreciation for my age and naiveté helped me to realize that I really didn’t have anything to say.  That isn’t to say that other 20somethings haven’t written some fascinating tomes, but I hadn’t found my voice yet.  After reading Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy (which actually include a fourth book, if you’re paying attention), I became fascinated with the novel.  Some great truths can be sewn into a well written piece of fiction.  However, for the most part, I tend to be drawn to non-fiction.

Throughout my EMS career, and some of my travels, I’ve encountered some fascinating people.  People who think they are dying will share some fairly interesting insights with those who take the time to listen.  Not everyone, mind you, but a few of the people I’ve had in the back of my ambulance were amazing.  Some of them shared with me the meaning of life as they understood it.  Some of them, in the midst of their fears, remained externally focused and non-egocentric, right up until the end.  Others spoke volumes through their eyes, their mannerisms, or even the way they treated the situation. My patients gave me more than I ever gave them.  At the very least, I owe it to them, to share some of those insights.

I remember meeting a man in a Seattle bar. I was just passing through and on a whim (which tend to be the way I travel), I ended up sitting to a man who was a Russian defector.  He in his teenage sons traveled with the Russian State Circus, and while performing in Vancouver, BC, they defected.  After living on the streets of Vancouver for several months, awaiting entry to the US, they now found themselves living on the streets of Seattle.  During that time, he concocted a pre-Internet business plan. I sat down next to him one hour after he signed his first contract. Years later, it is his story, fascinating as it is, that pushes me to share the other “characters” I’ve met along the journey.

Classical ideal feedback model. The feedback i...

Image via Wikipedia

There is the bounty hunter that still gives me nightmares; the dying man with hundreds of clocks in various states of repair or disrepair throughout his untidy apartment; The former ambulance driver who went into cardiac arrest, in the back of my ambulance; and the Skipper – a 74 year old retired gentleman who used to teach sailing for the Norwegian government, aboard a 74 foot schooner. In all, there are about 15 or 20 unique individuals who stand out in my life.  Some of them I’ve already written about on these pages, others are waiting to be released into the wild.

Yes, I’ve always known I would write a book, but I wanted to wait until I had something to say. From my perspective, storytelling is the best way to share one’s experience, strength, and hope.  Experience is the path to wisdom – and learning from other’s experience is a great way to avoid pain – while still acquiring wisdom.

Not long ago, I received a very harsh email criticizing me for dwelling on my past.  Apparently this person felt as if I was wallowing in my past. I found it interesting that this person was so harsh.  My philosophy, as I heard it put so eloquently lately, is to “look in the rear-view mirror now and then, but don’t stare.”  Apparently this commenter thinks I’ve been staring.  In another online conversation with a young adult, I was trying to help her see that making one’s own mistakes can be very painful and that it’s OK to learn from others.  That didn’t go over so well either.  For the most part, however, I get some very affirming comments.

Some professional people, who have shown an interest in my career development, have suggested that I disassociate myself with these writings. I’ve been told that this blog will hurt my job opportunities.  This advice caught me up short for a couple of weeks – and it continues to haunt me.  As a social media specialist, it is my task to convince people and organizations to join the online conversation.  Traditional broadcast and print media are dying.  Real, Authentic, Relevant, and Experiential communication is too R.A.R.E.  We need more of it in order to build strong community. What do you think about this?

Granted, as I’ve gone through the process of being terminated from my previous position, I’ve vented somethings that are best left out of the public conversation. I understand that, but as the sub-text of this blog states, these are the “confessions of a not-so-perfect man” on a journey. In other words, this story isn’t finished yet. But like many in this new age of online social networking, I am seeking to find the balance between transparency and political correctness.  If anything, in real life or online, I tend to lean towards full disclosure.  But, in the words of Colonel Jessep, some people just “can’t handle the truth!”

The truth, do you want the truth? Are you willing, and able, to engage in a rigorous and honest investigation of life – and the clues you may find? Is it enough for you to read, and listen, to another’s full disclosure, or are you able to fully disclose your life too?

For me, it boils down to Humility, Arrogance, Trust, & Honesty.

When I approach my life with humility, I know that I don’t have it all figured out and I certainly could learn a thing or two from others.  So, humbly, I lay out my story – my journey, if you will; and hopefully, others will take the time to share their perspective with me – good, or bad.  Humility will enable me to learn from you!

Arrogance is the flip side. Though I’ve had my bouts with acute and chronic arrogance, I’ve discovered that it merely prevents my growth and engagement.  Arrogance is harmful to the process of community building.  It is a rebound from the depths of a poor self esteem.  Instead, I seek the balance between a broken ego that withdraws in shame and an inflated ego that aggressively seeks to control those around me.  Not willing to shrink into the abyss, and not content with arrogance; instead I seek a confidence that allows me to be interdependent with others.  Not dependent, co-dependent, or controlling – just cooperative and interdependent.


Cartoon by The Naked Pastor

In order for this to happen, I need to trust others. If I don’t trust the people I am with, I can’t be interdependent with them.  If I don’t trust them, I can’t build community with them.  If I don’t trust myself, I will never be able to trust others.  And if I’m not honest with myself, I can never be fully honest with others.

What I’ve discovered is that some people like their lives to be wrapped up in neat little packages. Others, because of their will or their inability, can’t contain it in a package, and their lives spill out all over aisle 13 in the grocery store – or wherever they happen to be.  I  am seeking the balance of a life lived out of the box, but not letting it unravel all over the place.  Boxes are nice, for they let us keep our stuff safe.  But if you never climb out of the box, or take your “stuff” out of the box, it’s really not worth much to others.  Sharing ourselves and our stuff with others is how we build relationships, trust, and community.

Do you agree?

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Honesty, Integrity, and Serenity

September 5, 2009
United States speed limit sign in miles per hour
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My Dad has always worked in pipeline construction – installing underground waterlines, sewers, streets, and roads. Some of my earliest memories are of me riding on some big piece of machinery while my Dad moved dirt around. At the age of 14 he hired me to be his grease monkey. Since he was building two subdivisions near our house in Tigard, I was able to ride my bike to the job sites after school, and lubricate the backhoes and other equipment. The Summer I graduated from high school, I went to work for him full-time running a Case 450 crawler/loader. A year later he made me the foreman of his crew.

As you can imagine, and I see it in my own (almost) two-year old Smiling Son, being around trucks and equipment is every boy’s dream come true. Not only did I worship the ground my father walked on, but I was determined to be as great as I saw him. Any man, but especially my Dad, who could wield that much power and move that much steel and dirt – well, that was just amazing!

I remember riding around in the pickup one cold, rainy day. We didn’t have a lot of work, so we took the opportunity to run errands. I didn’t really get paid for these days, but I learned valuable lessons into the world of contracting and entrepreneurship. Plus, I go to hang out with my Dad! This was in the days before cell-phones, but my Dad and I both had two-way radios in our trucks. People would call a central operator, and they would patch us through. It was primitive, especially by today’s standards, and it wasn’t private, but it was an invaluable too for a contractor on the road.

Well this one day as we were driving south on Highway 217 in Tigard, my Mom called to see when we’d be home for dinner. It was 5:30 in the evening and 217 was at a standstill. We still had three more stops to make, and even on a good day, with no traffic, it would take 30+ minutes to get to our home in Tualatin. But my Dad, not wanting to face controversy, told my Mom we’d be home in 15-20 minutes. It was so far from the truth; I’ve never forgotten that moment. We arrived home two hours later.

I’ve tried hard through the years to reconcile my Dad’s white lies with my image of his super-human deification. At times, like I said above, he was just trying to avoid conflict – even though there was wrath to pay when we arrived home an hour and 45 minutes later than he said. Other times, it was to avoid the uncomfortable – “If that’s Floyd (his alcoholic boss at the time),” my Dad would call out. “Tell him I’m not here.” I understood that he didn’t want to upset my Mom. I understood that he didn’t want to spend an hour on the phone appeasing his very drunk boss. But over time, I began to see the lies as more insidious.

Cat Excavator

Image by billjacobus1 via Flickr

He’d stretch a little truth here, cover a little error over there, and color the facts a bit to ensure that things would work out in his favor. But somehow, it remains a habit, and to this day, I’m not always sure he’s telling me what I want to hear, what he wants me to hear, or the truth. It’s quite sad really.

Well, as someone who studied my Dad closely, and who did everything I could to walk in his shoes, I realize that I’ve picked up more than my share of his habits. I can only laugh at myself when I scold my children with the same tone and words that my Dad used 45 years ago. However, the integrity issue was one that I had to nip in the bud, and keep a constant check on. (please don’t get me wrong, I still adore my Dad, but today I’m just talking about something that has influenced me deeply.)

A little mis-truth here, a little innocent lie there, and a little flavoring of the facts around about – who’s going to know? What will it hurt? It’s the social lubricant of age. I mean, really, if your wife asks you to give an honest assessment of the new recipe she worked on all afternoon, everyone knows what the answer is before she even asks: “It’s delicious!”

During my first, second, third, and 38th time through the Twelve Steps, I always run into this issue. Step four is take a “searching and fearless moral inventory.” This is crucial to maintaining one’s sobriety; it is crucial for maintaining serenity; and it is crucial for being a holistically healthy person. I’ve found that I don’t have to be concerned with my sobriety, as long as I remain in serenity. And I don’t have to worry about finding serenity, as long as I continue to work the steps.

This integrity issue is something I dealt with when I first sought sobriety, and it is one that I keep in check through a daily, weekly, monthly, and constant “searching and fearless moral inventory.” It’s not really a choice. I have to do it, or I will die. Maybe not physically, but emotionally, spiritually, socially, intellectually – et cetera.

I am so committed to maintaining personal, and public integrity, that I will resist all efforts to get me to compromise. For at least the last 25 years, I have chosen to drive the speed limit. This is a moral issue for me. It is a serenity issue for me. I seek to be a truth-teller in all my words and actions. But most of all, I seek to be honest with myself. This is where real serenity comes from – being honest with myself.

I am the highway
Image by grazie, davvero saglie e scenne via Flickr

In order for me to trust myself, I can’t lie to myself. When I trust myself, I avoid recoiling in fear or overreacting with arrogance. This is where patience and humility begin to envelop me. This is where peace settles on my soul and in a Classic Catch-22 scenario, I find I have no reason to lie, I have no reason to break the speed limit, and I have no reason to abuse drugs or alcohol. And it just gets better from there.

I do this for me – but not just for me. This makes me a better husband and a better dad. If I have any hope of being a good father, it has to start with being a good husband. If I have any hope of making an impact in this world, it has to start with my family. But, if I have no integrity, and I am not trusted, than I can’t make an solid impact on anyone’s life. Through all of my faults, through all of my issues, to me, this one is central – serenity has to come through personal integrity.

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