Monday, August 27, 2012


Trying to jump back into creative things. What if you crossed a rhino with a snail?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Mistake

A few weeks ago, my wife called me on my cell while I was at work. What she told me wasn’t expected. It wasn’t in the realm of reality. A young friend of ours had passed away.
That didn’t seem possible.
He killed himself.
Another moment in my life that my brain couldn’t immediately process.

He and I weren’t what you’d call close friends. He was the husband of one of my wife's better friends. We had hung out a few times. I tried to be friendly. We even made a few plans that never materialized. It happens. 

I think that he felt we didn’t have enough concrete things in common. 

Still, I cared. I spent the next few days wrapping my head around the idea. Suicide was a big subject that week. Our pastor had shared the story of his daughter’s recent suicide attempt earlier that week. So suicide had been on my mind.

I have a suicidal past. I don’t care to go into too much detail, but I understand the mindset. I’ve been there. I’m not there now, and don’t believe I could ever get there again. I’ve finally lived too much life.

I just keep thinking that it’s a mistake. What my friend did, it's a mistake. And it sounds cliché to say, “It’s a permanent solution to temporary problems.” But that’s the truth. Life changes if you’re living it. If you don’t like what’s going on, if life is painful, you have to engage it in new ways until it changes.

I remember those times in my own life, the belief that the pain of today would surely greet me tomorrow and the day after. I’m guessing in those moments, he couldn’t see the beauty of life, feel the joy of some past event, or at the very least hold a bit of hope. 

My perspective now is that life is chock full of change whether you want it or not. If you’re not changing, if your life is static, you’re not living it enough. There are just all these opportunities out there waiting for you. If what you’re doing now isn’t working, do something, anything different.

As we walked into the funeral home for the viewing, I just kept thinking that we shouldn’t be there. He shouldn’t be there. He shouldn’t be dead. His wife shouldn’t be going through this. We shouldn’t be going through this. It’s a mistake.

They had all these photos of him, so much life pinned to those boards. There was even a photo taken just over a week before, a smile on his face, life apparent, alive. 

His family has chosen to keep the truth of his death a secret. They have a cover story. I understand why  this choice was made, but it still doesn’t sit right.

As family members came in that day and broke down, their grief was thickly sitting in the room with us. Then the cover story was shared. And they seemed to feel some relief.

I felt like a liar just being in the room with the truth of their emotions hanging so thickly in the air, and then the untruth being spoken to make them feel better. I surely would never say anything. But I felt complicit. 

I don’t think God punishes those that commit suicide any more than He punishes any sin. I’m betting God understands just fine why they’ve made the choice they’ve made. God understands better than those of us left ever will. God knows every pain we’ve ever suffered.

I do wonder if God ever shares what would have been with those that go this route. It seems like that would be cruel doesn’t it? That would be like hell, seeing what was waiting if they’d only held on a bit longer. 

I don’t know. 

I bet there's grieving and comforting going on. 

I pray my friend is being comforted and enjoying the love and grace that I know God to offer. I’m sorry that he couldn’t feel more hope.

I’m a little angry at him and a lot perplexed. I also believe that I’ll get to talk to him about it someday. And maybe we won’t even bother having the discussion because hopefully in those moments, it won’t matter.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Random Job Reflections.

  • It's great to be back to work. There's been a boost to my self-esteem. I have a routine again. I have coworkers again. I get to interact with complete strangers for very short periods of time. 
  • I'm working for a warehouse store. Not the one owned by Walmart. This place doesn't just offer bulk, oversized products. We also sell regular and high-end items at a discounted rate - TVs, iPods, iPhones, jewelry, coffins, tires, books, DVDs…
  • I'm not just bragging here, but many people have told me that they often find the Sam's or Walmart generic brands lacking. Those that have shopped our store find our signature brand equal or superior to manufacturer brands and often more economical. 
  • My job title is Cashier's Assistant. Think bag boy with boxes instead of bags. I basically take things from one cart and try to put them back into another cart in an organized way. That's usually hindered by the order that things were taken out and how fast the cashier is. 
  • Every lane is an express lane.
  • I also help out with stock, and most recently, cleaning the bakery. I may start selling seafood by the end of the week.
  • In the bakery, I walked on cinnamon covered floors a quarter of an inch thick. It was like working in Christmas town's bakery. Fresh fruit cakes were cooling nearby. They also have two walk in ovens and a walk in dishwasher. I could wash every dish in my house at once in that thing.
  • My job is somewhat physically demanding (I'm way out of shape). I sweat a lot. Someone asked me if something had been spilled on me the first night I worked. Customers seem to think it implies I'm working harder than everyone else. My arms are getting stronger. I don't really feel the soreness until the night before my day off. It's like I psychosomatically suppress the aches and pains. 
  • As physical as the job may be, it's still pretty darn easy. 
  • Working with the stock department seems to stress me out a bit, but in reality, that's pretty easy too. Things are just a bit heavier. Extra large bags of dog food and cat litter weigh a ton. Okay. They weigh fifty pounds.
  • Perhaps my high blood pressure situation will lessen a bit with all this sweating and lifting.
  • Sometimes we run out of boxes, and we just have to put it all back into the cart. I'm guessing this makes the transfer of goods from the car to the house less fun when customers have purchased more than $500 worth of groceries. 
  • I like that our company will refuse to sell brands when their respective companies demand that we charge more money for their products. This happened with Coca-Cola a few years back. Coke was removed from the stores for about six months before they gave in. There's a certain peanut butter that isn't on the shelves right now for the same reason. It's awesome to tell customers that we don't carry certain items anymore because the supplier wanted us to charge more for no reason other than profit.
  • I work for the largest retailer of wine in the world, and it's obvious. Most carts exit the store with at least one bottle. 
  • We sell a ton of organic, natural, and unprocessed food, but we also sell alcohol in gallon bottles.
  • There has been a little culture shock for me. My monthly grocery budget is around $300. The majority of customers at this store spend anywhere from $300-$500 each visit. There are plenty of people that just pop in for the basics, but the larger orders are much more common.
  • On a daily basis, some couple comments that they only stopped in to grab coffee creamer and ended up spending $500. They stopped in for a $4 half gallon of organic dairy creamer for coffee, and on a whim, they purchase a cart full of grocery items and a television or a pair of diamond earrings. Every single day I've worked, this scenario is presented to me. I've only been working there for about 10 days so my ability to exaggerate hasn't really developed yet. 
  • I get the premise. It happens to me at Meijer. I stop in for milk, but end up spending an extra $20 that wasn't planned on cookies, soda, and some fresh fruit that sounds great at that moment. I have yet to accidentally get hooked on the idea of buying a flat screen TV when I only needed bread.
  • Despite how this might make our prices sound, there are some really affordable, regular items down there. It makes sense to buy a huge bottle of ibuprofin for $6 when the same $6 gets you a much smaller bottle at more common stores. It makes sense, that is, if you go through a regular bottle in a short amount of time.
  • The other culture difference: I seem to be one of very few employees that's married. Even fewer seem to have kids. Many of my coworkers are younger than me, but most are around age 30. 
  • Having been unemployed for more than two years, I've kind of fallen out of practice when dealing with customers. 95% of them are polite and thankful. It's the other 5% that I had hoped had grown more kind in my absence. They have not. 
  • I get that we're there to offer services to our customers. I support that idea. I just wish, even if they view us as beneath them, that they could find it in their hearts to not actually treat us as such. 
  • I get that most difficult customers are projecting problems in their own lives onto us. Working in fast food taught me that lesson quickly. 
  • I've found, in years past, the most satisfying thing to do is to remain calm and polite to the end. I don't think all difficult customers are looking for a reaction, but I know some of them are, even unconsciously. Even after someone says something completely rude to me, I thank them and wish them a good day. That's not always easy.
  • Some people really do seem to expect miracles. 
  • Some people get agitated when you offer to box things up for them. Other act like they're building the coolest fort with our boxes. They take way more boxes than would normally make sense.
  • I miss my kids.
  • Our family, as a whole, is still adjusting to all the schedule and responsibility shifts.
  • The Fleet Foxes album, Sun Giant is making for great Autumn listening.
  • My highest recommendation for Halloween movie viewing: Trick R Treat. You can usually pick it up for $5 at Walmart on DVD. That's a steal for such an awesome, recent horror gem. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Our Yearly Anniversary Trip

  • I have a job! It's only a seasonal position, but it's for a great company. At this point, a job that lasted two weeks would be a huge boost to my self esteem.
  • I miss having coworkers and a daily, employed routine.
  • Three years ago, my wife and I started a tradition for our anniversary. We head north, try to hit a few places that are photographic, we try to hike, and we find a place to stay for the night. Three years ago, October was still considered part of Autumn with cooler weather.
  • Most tourist locations considered October to be the beginning of "the off season." Rooms were cheap and plentifully available. Hiking trails were almost abandoned, free from interuption.
  • For the past two years in a row the tempuratures for the first weekend in October have been in the seventies and eighties. Finding a hotel room has proven to be near impossible without reservations. Hiking trails are clogged with people and not the kind that seem to appreciate the setting they are clogging.
  • I need my yearly dose of nature and Autumn beauty. The trees appeared to be on fire everywhere we went. This yearly visit resets my eyes, helps me appreciate things I often overlook.
  • This past weekend, we were on a beautiful trail in the Sleeping Bear Dunes area of northern Michigan. More than a few things got on my nerves. I should point out, this wasn't a dog-walk specific trail. Dogs were allowed, but it wasn't like it was a designated dog run.
  • There were nearly as many dogs on the trail as people.
  • Animal people often act as if everyone should be happy to meet and greet their pets.
  • Even the people that didn't have dogs were talking about pets… loudly. Most of the natural inhabitants of the hiking areas I was trying to enjoy tend to run away when they hear loud conversations about animal waste management.
  • When we arrived at Empire Bluff, we were greeted by an awe inspiring view of the dune filled coast of Lake Michigan. There was a great, beautiful contrast between the fall leaves and the deep blue of the lake. You can see for miles: little towns dotting here and there, endless Fall colors…
  • I found it kind of crazy that some of the visitors seemed totally oblivious to all of it. The trail ends in a loop that allows you to quickly exit the scenic area if you choose. Many people would literally stomp around the loop and exit without pausing at all.
  • Wow. They missed it.
  • At the Dunes Visitor Center, cougars are listed as extinct in Michigan and have been "for decades." When you get to the hiking trails, there are notices telling you that encountering cougars is a possibility, but to avoid trying to interact with them at all costs.
  • I thought I understood what the word extinct meant.
  • We ended up finding a room about 150 miles farther south than we intended. The Days Inn had a mural on the wall that showed elfish looking leprechans stealing money from some sort of palace.
  • ??????
  • Nothing makes my hotel staying experience better like theiving elf murals.
  • On our way home, we headed for the west side of the state. We ended up in Ludington. What a strange little town. There were a few large hotels right on Lake Michigan. I'm guessing that tourism is a huge factor for the town.
  • Their art community was very obviously a huge influence too. We passed many little galleries filled with young people on a Sunday morning.
  • Then there were the churches. We parked in their downtown area. All the buildings were very old, but most of them were full and have obviously been updated.
  • We were hungry, looking for a place to have lunch. Heidi noticed a group of older, well dressed folks standing outside of what appeared to be a business. It ended up being a Church of Christ. As we walked by, I noticed that pews packed the small space.
  • Directly across the street, in a remodeled movie theater, was another church. The people standing outside and sitting inside were much younger. They were all wearing black and grey sweaters - still dressy, but more beatnicky. Instead of pews, they were sitting on chairs in a communal like circle around what appeared to be the pastor. It looked more like a coffee shop. The marquee listed their three service times instead of movies.
  • My wife and I love to sample micro-brewed beer, so we tried to visit two breweries while we were up north. They were both a bust.
  • The first one was in Traverse City, and they had an hour and a half wait.
  • The second was in Ludington, and lunch for the two of us would have ran more than thirty dollars. Craft beer and twenty dollar plates of lobster pasta make for a strange business profile in my opinion, but to each their own. It kind of feels like a mix of football and neck ties.
  • The Fleet Foxes make for a great soundtrack to an Autumn roadtrip in Michigan.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Highlights and Thoughts Provoked from Mitch Albom's Have a Little Faith, In Random Form of Course

I wanted to try something new. I read a lot, and I always take notes. I'd love to share some of the points that really stuck out to me, some of the things that I'm still chewing on because of this book.

I'm going to try to paraphrase some of these things. I don't think posting these few quotes from the book will diminish the overall reading experience. The book is really about a journey. I don't think you can even say that it's about a journey to faith. The conclusion is really left to the reader in that respect. It's more like a journey through certain revelations for the author.

Most of these lessons I'm about to list are actually from Mitch's rabbi, The Reb.

  • Things that grow slowly are more formidable. Things that grow quickly, crumble easily.
  • If you're going to lead or teach people spiritually, there is no room for cynicism.
  • Life holds a lot more hope when we believe God has chosen to answer our prayers negatively instead of believing He isn't out there listening in the first place, especially when sudden death or illness is concerned. I have atheist friends, and I wonder how they feel about things like this. If life is pointless. We're here by accident for no real reason. We die, and it's done, then how much more pointless is all this suffering?
  • "The only tyrant I accept in this world is the still voice within." Mohandas Gandhi
  • Olam Habah - the world to come. This sticks out to me because I recently read an argument that the Christian faith is a faith mainly concerned with the future. It's not about what we are, but what we're becoming. That's not to say that we sit back and let the future unfold, or that we're in any way responsible for creating the final outcome. By participating now, we're becoming now.
  • The creation story that Judeo Christian traditions follow does not mention the word 'bad.' God did not create bad things. I study the creation story regularly, and this never occurred to me. I think he's talking about inherent goodness or badness here. We all have this choice. We weren't made bad.
  • When you worry about God's judgement, you shouldn't worry about you versus the other guy. You should worry about God measuring you against you - how far you've come compared to where you were.
  • Start any reconciliation with humility, "I've thought things over, and in some ways, you might be right." Even if you don't believe it. From my experience, this is great advice. I've often been labeled a diplomatic guy. I've helped facilitated a few reconciliations in my day, and I can tell you, humble keeps people listening. Anger does not.
  • The take away from the book: Even if you're not actively seeking a faith, God, etc… if you know people that are obviously enamored with God, try to take some time to have a conversation with these people. You might walk away experiencing something beautiful. Ask them some tough questions.
  • I'm starting a file of my own, titled simply, "God."

Other Random Thoughts, Non-book Related:
  • Sorry salespeople out there, I hate the phrase, "It's a No Brainer." What it implies to me is, don't even bother thinking about all the angles. Just go for it. Living in this economy, no brainers often lead to more jobs for repo men.
  • What's acceptable to wear after Labor Day? How about clothes? Don't we have enough to concern ourselves with already without worrying about whether or not white is acceptable? And Acceptable to whom?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Random Stuff on God, Faith, and My Kids

  • If you were to start a file titled 'God,' what would you put in it?
  • I should write a sermon on that one. Would you guys read my sermons?
  • Have you ever had a week that seems to have a theme, like God is shouting something at you? For about a week now, my theme, the word that keeps being repeated over and over again in differing forms is: ritual.
  • I'm reading more than one book right now. One is about the ways that we should approach Bible study. The other is about finding faith. They're actually, on the surface at least, oceans away from one another. One is more instructional. The other is more of a memior. They're both bringing me back to this idea of ritual, or habit.
  • My own local pastor mentioned something very similar in his sermon last Sunday. He was talking more about habits that keep you growing spiritually, but to me, that's the same thing. Here's a link to that sermon - click here.
  • Ritual. Ritual. Ritual.
  • In the more memoir oriented book, the author asks a great question: If you wanted to connect yourself to anyone in the past through ritual, who would it be? Would it be a group? The idea being, you would mimic their behavior or rituals in hopes of seeing some truth that they obviously knew. In a way, ritual can be like time travel, you can connect with people that are no longer among the living.
  • Ponder that for a month.
  • In the same book, the author stopped running from God around the year 2000, the basic same timeline that I stopped running from God.
  • Thinking this over, it's staggering to think about where I was then, at the beginning of faith, and where I am now. How many books have I read on the subject since then? How many articles? Not to mention all the things that have come and gone in my life: A house, two kids, a dream job gained and lost, a community of people I'm now connected with, friends come and gone.
  • Staggering.
  • The other book, the one that's just trying to lead to a more open minded reading of Scripture, it's a dense book. Full of tons of ideas and tangents, but they're all great fun and somewhat revelatory. It's hard to put down, but full of things that I could ponder for hours and hours on their own.
  • One of the big ideas I think the author is trying to get at is the idea that we should take care not to make more of the Bible than we do God. Don't let the Bible itself become an idol to the point that we ignore what we know about God.
  • If we know and experience God in a positive, loving way, why are we so easily convinced that God isn't loving when we encounter Scripture that appears to portray him as less so?
  • He highly recommends further study, especially in regards to context, history, culture, and even possible problems with translation errors when we're talking about the English language.
  • None of this is exactly new to me, but he does have some amazing illustrations that he uses to make his points.
  • If curiosity has gotten the better of you, the authors I'm currently reading are Peter Gomes and Mitch Albom - again, in many ways, oceans apart. The books, The Good Book, Reading with Mind and Heart and Have a Little Fatih, A True Story. The latter is available right now at a local, going out of business, Borders store near you at a very reasonable price.
  • I've gotten back in to some of my rituals this week.
  • I may do another random post soon based on the Albom book. I'm only about a quarter of the way through the Gomes tomes, they're going to be a while.
  • I like to face my fears. I don't want my life to be ruled by fear. Here's the thing though… I'm terrified of whales. I don't think I can face that fear. They're down there in the deep, big enough to swallow a person whole.
  • My kids ask for broccoli when we're grocery shopping. I'm proud, but it's also weird. I'm sure it's our fault too.
  • Has anyone else experienced this? We've bought about a hundred ink pens in the past two years. Do you think I can ever find one? My kids love to draw, so they're always snatching the pens, but what are they doing with them? Are they somehow falling into the foundation of my house? Is the upholstery of our couch packed with pens?