5.83 New Year’s Goals

I woke up yesterday, January first 2015 with a belly full of hope and a brain full of ideas of what I was going to accomplish in this upcoming year. I, like many other human beings when given a calendar with a new year number and a bunch of empty squares are immediately filled with the desire to create an assortment of tasks and goals for which to fill those squares.  Tasks which become the benchmark on how successful our year was.

So I set about the annual tradition of creating my goal list for 2015.  A list that in the past that has included items such as eating more donuts and learning all the words to the Nicene Creed.  Two goals by the way that I failed to accomplish.  Surprisingly enough eating a donut a day is much tougher than it sounds, although this was probably my most delicious goal I’ve ever set.

Goal #1
Start a Procrastinator’s Club

Mundane or Memroy

This one has been a desire of mine for the past 8.5 years.  Ever since July of 2007 I’ve wanted to start a club devoted to procrastinators.  I’m not saying that I’m a procrastinator, I just saw a need in the market for a club dedicated to the art of procrastination.  This is something that I want to get started in 2015 and yesterday I was supposed to write the bylaws.  Something that after opening up the computer to begin the process of creating bylaws and other procedural documents I put off in leu of riding my bike trainer.  I mean I’ll get this club started in 2015, I’ll just start working on it tomorrow.

Goal #2
Don’t Forget My Pillow

If you have ever traveled with me, and if you have consider yourself lucky as I make an excellent travel companion full of wit and handsome to boot, you will often times notice that I forget my pillow.  I don’t know why I always forget my pillow, I just do.  There have been many a trip where my pillow has remained at home and I end up using a sweatshirt or a pair of jeans to rest my head.  Now it’s not that I don’t mind sleeping on a pile of crumbled up dirty denim, I find it lovely at times expect when your head rolls over the rivets.  No it’s that I need to get a little better at remembering the small details in my life.  I sometimes get lost in the big picture of where I’m going and forget the small, yet important details, like a pillow, and I need to get better at looking at all the small details while keeping an eye on the big picture.

Goal #3
Upgrade my phone to OS8

OS8 scares me and I’ve resisted the upgrade to the new operating system, but not in 2015. No sir I’m upgrading to OS8 this year.

Goal #4
Race my bike

Pack Fodder Practice

This year I want to get up early on a Saturday morning with butterflies swarming in my stomach, get myself dressed in a kit that doesn’t quite match, and head to some dot on a map to race bikes with a bunch of other middle aged men who have something to prove.  Bike racing scares me and intrigues me at the same time, but I know if I don’t race at some point in my life I will deeply regret it when I’m 80 years old and sipping milkshakes on my front porch.  I’d rather be able to regale my grandchildren with epic stories about how their grandfather was pack fodder at small time Cat 5 races, then tell them tales of how I spent every Saturday going to Home Depot to look for deck boards and new kitchen faucets, speaking of which I do need some new deck boards.

Goal #5
Give stuff away

I have too much stuff and I need to give my stuff away.  I don’t know how I got so much stuff, but I have too much of it.  I think 10 plus years of Saturday morning trips to town have added up and I now have too much stuff and I need to get rid of it.  If you are in need of some stuff let me know and I’ll be happy to give it to you.  My stuff is pretty nice, it’s not all beat up.  I do have one caveat attached to this, I do not have too much bike stuff.  I’ve researched this and a scientist once told me that the science has decided that it is impossible to have too much bike stuff and hey who am I to argue with science.

Goal #5.75
Be more awesome

IMG_1124Going to take my awesomeness to the next level in 2015. Which in case your wondering is level 11 on a scale on 1-10. Yeah I’m that awesome.

Goal # 5.83
Grow in my faith

This is something that I all to often put off to tomorrow, where at night I often find I’ve forgot this important detail of my life.  I’m scared to upgrade and grow in my faith, convincing myself that time spent at Home Depot is more important than time spent racing around the inner workings of my brain wrestling with why I believe.  In the end when I do grow in my faith, I am more willing to give it to others, which in the end is pretty awesome.

Crucifix

God Bless and have a happy new year

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Seek and Find

The other night my niece and I were busy looking at one of those search and find books.  It was an animal version of Where’s Waldo.  The kind where there are pictures of various animals hidden in a cutesy animal scene.  We looked for 10 manatees, 7 macaws, 9 sea urchins.  When compared to the animals in the typical Minnesota backyard they were very different.  Which made me wonder if small children in Austrailia see pictures of black bears, whitetail deer and skunks and think what strange and wonderful creatures exist on the other side of the world.

As we turned the page we came to a particularly challenging image containing a bunch of birds, worms and 10 small snails.  We searched for a while counting and recounting the snails on the page.  Every time we counted we would find nine, but one measly snail eluded the both of us.  The worms were found with ease, the sparrows no problem, but the blasted snails did want to be found.  First my niece would count how many were found and then I would go back and confirm only nine snails.

After what seemed like an hour of searching (reality showed more like 10 minutes) the last snail still avoided being spotted.  I became obsessed with finding that last blasted snail.  All else in my life ceased to exist and all I was looking for was a round shelled mollusk hiding somewhere in a lovely English garden scene.  Still no luck.  My niece’s attention was starting to wane and she had moved on to the next animal in the line up which she found no problem.  I on the other hand still scanned for the snail.  My dog started to scratch at the door in an attempt to let me know she had to go out side.  I ignored her, finding the snail was more interesting.  I glanced up momentarily from the book to see my dogs sweet brown eyes looking back at me.  I decided that after I found the snail I would let her out.  My dog didn’t care if I found the snail or not, she wanted to go outside and outside now.  She walked back over to the door and continued to swat at it in an effort to gain my attention.

My dog’s attention gaining attempts failed, I was still too focused on that last snail to care about the condition of her bladder.  She could wait until I finished my search for the snail.  Meanwhile, my niece had finished finding all the other animals on the page and she was now wanting me to turn to the next page.  Despite my best efforts to tell her we needed to find the last snail she told me it was no big deal and we should turn the page. I finally agreed and turned the page.  The dog was let out to water the lawn and peace returned to the upstairs of my house.

There are times in all of our lives where we start to focus in on the small things that in reality aren’t all that important.  We start to fixate on the little thing others do to annoy us while forgetting about all they do to make us happy.  It is important to realize what issues are worth fixating on and what issues can be ignored.  Sometimes finding a new lesson in life is much more important than finding that tenth snail.  Just ask my dog.

How can you saw no to these eyes?

My Sword and My Shield

When I was a little boy, many years ago, I had a plastic sword and shield set.  The kind molded from cheap gray plastic and sold at toy stores all across the country.  The shield had thin plastic straps that would end up cutting your arm as you ran around backyards slaying dragons.

On warm summer days, my friends and I would run around the neighborhood valiantly defending our castles against the approaching hoards.  We would take our large plastic swords and clash them together with loud thwaps.  The battle cries that would fly from our mouths sounded tough to our prepubescent minds, but looking back from the perch of old age I’m sure they sounded more like screams of terror.  When our swords would break and inevitable they would, we would grab large sticks from the trees and these became our weapons.  In all the times we played knights, everyone would always carry a sword, but not everyone would carry a shield.  The sword is mightier than the shield we thought.

I remember one time stalking the large dragon (cedar bush) in front of the neighbors house.  This dragon was the size of a Volkswagen Beetle and meaner than a junkyard dog.  We had tried many times to take care of this threat, but each time we failed.  It was too tough for our girly little boy arms.

We decided it was time to develop a plan of attack that would work.  My friends and I sat around the round table drinking mead and planing our attack on the evil dragon.  Actually, we sat on my Mom’s deck drinking Kool-Aid and eating cookies, but I digress.  A plan was finally sketched out in the sand and we drained the last of our drinks and with Kool-Aid mustaches  set about to put the plan in to action.

the kool-aid Dragon

the kool-aid Dragon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The plan was a simple one, my friends would attack from the left and the right to soften the dragon up and I would approach from the front and deal it the death blow.  We slowly walked around to the front of the house.  Swords raised, sweat dripping from our brows as we walked.  My friend emitted a battle scream and thrust his sword into the dragon.  It disappeared into the thick under coat of the bush.  Without his sword he was powerless and retreated.  Time for the right flank, another battle scream and another sword gone.  The dragon had managed to defend both brutal assaults.  I nervously approached sword held high, red Kool-Aid mustache war paint on my face.  The sword was thrust head first into the dragon only to disappear like the rest.

We pulled back, our weapons gone trapped inside the belly of the dragon. All of our planning had failed. The dragon still lived.  After retreating to a safe distance we discussed the battle.  We watched the bush (dragon) blowing in the breeze.  It was decided that we had mortally wounded the creature and just needed to go back and retrieve our weapons.

The weapons were lodged deep into the bush we discovered.  I reached in to grab my sword and the branches of the bush left large scratches on my arm.  My friend tried to grab his and the same scratches appeared on his arm.  “How are we going to get our swords back?” my friend said rubbing the scratches on his arm.  The answer to our problems hanging on my left arm. The worthless shield I had carried into battle suddenly became valuable.  I held it up and pushed back the branches of the bush.  Behind the safety of the shield I reached in and retrieved the swords.  I handed them back to my valiant battle compatriots and we headed inside to watch cartoons and celebrate our victory.

God gives each one of a sword and shield when go out to spread the Word.  Many of us prefer to use the sword, going on the offensive with those who do not believe in the Word. We try to get others to submit to the Word of God no matter what.  When spreading the Word, we need to remember what hangs in our left hand.  The shield God has provided each and every one of us.  He will defend us in battle, placing us under the protection of his wing.  Sometimes the best offense is the best defense.

Made the Switch

I decided at the beginning of this year to switch all of my cycling computers to kilometers.  I thought it would make me sound way more European and would add to my cool points.  Somewhere in the back of my head I thought it would sound neat to walk into a coffee shop and say I just rode 50k (vs the mile equivalent).  It would make me very European and very cool.

We have been blessed with an early spring here and I have been able to take my bike out for a few short rides much earlier than I otherwise would have.  Before leaving the driveway for my first ride of the year, I ran down the mental checklist of what I needed for the trip.

Last year I forgot to run down this checklist before I left and ended up going for a long ride with a seat that was too high, not recommended and the reason for the checklist.  As I sat in preflight mode in my driveway, everything was as it should be. I had water bottles, tires were properly inflated, the seat was at the proper height and I had tools in case I needed a mid ride adjustment.  I was ready to go.

I pushed the grey button on my computer and it beeped to life.  On the display a whole bunch of zeros showed up followed by the Km sign.  I smiled to myself.  How European of me I thought.  A ride marked in Km.  I clipped my right foot in and took off.

The sun shone warmly on me as I pedaled on the backcountry roads near my home.  The birds were chirping, the snow was melting, and a gentle breeze kissed my face.  Life was good.  I glanced down at my computer and saw that it had recorded a whole bunch of kilometers.

After the ride, I pulled my bike back into the garage and looked at the computer.  The total amount of kilometers I had ridden that day stared back at me.  I scratched my head for a moment.  I wonder how many miles that is.  I checked my phone for the mileage conversion and walked into the house a happy man.  I sat down in my favorite chair and told my wife how many Km I had just done.  The first thing she asked me was how many miles it was.  I told her and she went back to what she was working on.

The switch to Km has forced me to think more about how I ride my bike.  I have to relearn how many Km’s my loops are and learn a whole new way to look at speed.  (25 kmh is not as fast as 25 mph I have found.  Much to my disappointment I might add).  I am slowly learning the Km to mileage equivalents, but it is a slow process.

In the same vein, we need to spend more time thinking about our Faith.  Don’t get trapped in just going through the motions.  Spend some time learning why things are the way they are and why things are done when they are done.  Learn about the faith, commit yourself to growing deeper in love with the Word and the Sacraments.  It might not make you European cool, but you will amazed at what God will give you back.

Light and Shadow

My Dad and I ascended the Cathedral’s few stairs.  He leaned over to me and said in his raspy voice, “You know where about to do something two Undems haven’t done in over 400 years.”  He was eluding to the fact not since the Protestant reformation had two Undem men attended a mass together.  A faint smile spread across my face as I entered the Cathedral.

The mass was becoming but a memory now as I stood in the middle of a crowd of revelers.  Men wearing large strands of plastic beads stood talking on the corner while their wives carried large plastic cups and danced to a cover band’s version of “Lola.”. I paused to take it all in.  It was New Orleans on the lead up to Mardi Gras.  The parades would be starting in a few weeks, but to the tourists present, this was their Mardi Gras.

My Dad and I slowly made our way down Bourbon Street, stopping at small bars to listen to the Jazz music contained within.  Overpriced beer sat in a glass in front of me and a jazz quartet filled the small bar with the sounds of New Orleans.  It seemed rather surreal to be sitting in such a place, a place I had only read about in history books or seen on special episodes of the show “Cops”.

I drained the last of my beer and my Dad and I continued our stroll down the street.  I stopped at a cross street and waited for a car to pass.  I turned my attention towards the direction the car had come from and there I caught glimpse of something which caused me to do a double take.

“Say Dad is that what I think it is?” I nudged my Dad’s arm. He looked where I was pointed and nodded.

“It how they do things down here.” he said as he lit a cigarette.

The image that had caught my attention was a shadow of Jesus projected 70 feet tall on the wall of the Cathedral.  His arms raised as if giving a blessing.  It stood in stark contrast to the revelry and the debauchery that is Bourbon Street at dark.  I turned my attention back down the street I had just walked, a street full of bars, voodoo shops, and strip clubs. A place where one would not expect to find a 70 foot tall shadow of Jesus.  But yet there he was raising his arms offering a reminder to all present that no matter what we do in our lives He is with us.

It is in our darkest moment in our lives, moments where the light of day seem so far away that Jesus reaches out to us.  Those moments when we find ourselves surrounded by our sins He is there to offer his love and mercy for all those who desire it.   As we continue through the Lenten season take a moment to seek Jesus in your daily life and you just might find He is a whole lot closer to you than you think.

Moonshine and the Holy Spirit

To make moonshine, you need to hike out far into the woods.  Way out in the woods.  Far enough out in the boondocks that only the bears and squirrels know where you are.  You then need to find water cold enough to cause condensation on the outside of a mason jar.

Once you spot has been found you need to hike back through briar patches full of snakes and other insects to fetch all the necessary equipment.  You then haul out bags full of copper tubing and bags full of clay.  Trip after trip you the required items start to arrive on site.  Sweat drips from your brow and mosquitos buzz around your head.  You’ve spent the entire morning working and the real work hasn’t even begun.

Next you have to dig the pit for the fire and surround the large copper kettle with the bags of clay you hauled out.  Copper tubing is carefully placed inside barrels and as a bunch of pipes are sweated together, the contraption starts to take shape.  It is a monstrosity of backwoods engineering one worthy of a PHD from Hillbilly U.

Barrels containing fermenting sugar, corn, and water make their way to the site.  A brave soul from the assembled opens the lid, reaches inside the wooden barrel and takes a sip of the liquid within.  “Yep it’s plenty bitter.” the man says.  “Light the fires.”

The bitter substance is loaded into the copper pot and heated to boiling. The steam from the boiling pot makes its way through the copper tubing and when it hits the cold water from the nearby stream, condenses and comes out the end of the barrel distilled.  180 proof.

Our sins are like the barrels full of bitter liquid.  We carry them around everywhere in our daily lives.  Whether we are angry at God for financial problems or jealous of others all of  our sins add to the bitterness in our soul.  This bitterness serves as a barrier between ourselves and God. It insulates us from becoming what God wants us to be.

We need to learn how to distill our will from that of God.  To shed all the distractions and barriers sin places in our lives.  The distillation process isn’t an easy one.  It is work and hard work.  The process can be full of pain, hurt, lament and sorrow.  However, in the end it is through the cleansing waters bestowed upon us at our baptism that God calls us back to Him.

This Lenten season be willing to be distilled back to what God desires us to be.  Perform the penance placed before you and in the end  be willing to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Bouncing Back

Last weekend I did something I have never done before in my life.  I took a bag full of rubber bands and turned them into a rubber band ball.  It sounded simple enough to me when I started.  Take a bag full of rubber bands, wrap them around a hunk of tinfoil and make a ball out of the mess.

I dove headfirst into the task.  At first, I would take individual bands and carefully stretch them around the core and then I would go back to the bag and grab a couple more.  Slowly the ball started to take shape.  About halfway through the bag, I grew frustrated.  It was taking too long.  There had to be a better way.  I started grabbing handfuls of rubber bands and struggled to stretch them over the ball.  That didn’t work well so I stopped for a second and took a sip of tea. (I’m trying to follow up on my new years resolutions after all).

I put the tea cup down and looked at the pile of rubber bands and the misshaped rubber band ball sitting on the counter.  Stores sell these thing pre made maybe I should just go buy one.  The ones at the store are perfectly round.  The rubber bands perfect placed forming a perfectly round ball.  The one I was making was more oval than round.  It had peaks and valleys and barely rolled.  It was also taking a long time.

My tea was growing cold and my misshapen rubber band ball lay next to a pile of rubber bands.  The enthusiasm I first had when i started the project was fading. 

I’m going to go and read a book this stupid ball isn’t matching up to my expectations. I thought.

No you started this project and you will finish it. A voice from deep inside my head said.  But it’s taking sooo long and it doesn’t look right. Besides I can just go an buy a perfect one.

The argument raged in my head for what seemed like an eternity.  In the meantime nothing was getting accomplished.  My rubber band ball sat on the counter taunting me. Out of frustration I reached into the bag and started to add more rubber bands one at a time.  Slowly the ball started to take shape.  I filled in the low points and smoothed out the high ones.  It started to become rounder.  When the last band was placed, the ball was finished.  It was still not as round as one from the store, but I was proud of it.

We all strive for perfection in our lives and in our faith.  It is the ideal that we are to try to live up to, but more often then not we fail to live up to the perfect ideals we are striving for.  When we become frustrated at our shortcomings we shouldn’t quit trying for perfection, but rather keep working towards it.   We need to be willing to do the work God puts before us everyday and when we fail, ask for forgiveness, learn from the mistake and keep moving forward.  Keep in your heart that God still sees you as perfect despite your inability to make a round rubber band ball.

My First Rubber Band Ball