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

Have a tall glass of Kryptonite

I don’t like milk, in fact it is my kryptonite.  My wife knows this and when she wants to gross me out, she’ll leave a cup of milk on the table a bit too long and as the milk reaches room temperature my skin begins to crawl.

My hatred of milk started many moons ago when I was forced to dump out gallons of rotten milk down a slop drain at the grocery store I used to work at.  I used to plug my nose as chunks of curdled and sour milk glugged out of the jug and headed down the drain. Needless to say this wasn’t my favorite job assignment.

One day I was pouring two gallons of sour whole milk down the drain when I noticed the drain not fully draining anymore.  The curdled milk was starting to spread out across the floor.  Hmmm I thought to myself must be something wrong with the drain and when a sour milk drain stops draining, the only thing to do is to continue pouring milk down in hopes that it will eventually start to work.

I poured the remaining milk down the drain and hoped it would unclog. Alas it did not and now I had a pool of sour milk spreading across the floor.  Whoops better grab a mop.  I headed over to grab a mop and in the process caught my manager’s eye.

“Hey Undem, something spill?” my manager said.

“Nope, just need to mop up some sour milk that won’t go down the drain,” I grabbed the mop bucket and made my way back to the drain.

“That thing stop working again eh?  Well you best figure out how to get it cleaned out.” he said returning to his inventory report.

Oh crap, I need to clean out the milk drain.  The thought of the milk drain made me throw up a little in my mouth.  It was the probably the one job at the store I feared the most.  I’d rather clean toilets or pick up cigarette butts with my bare hands than clean out the milk drain.  That thing was absolutely disgusting, but there was work to do.  I rolled up the sleeves on my white dress shirt and hung my tie up in the break room.

Thankfully, I don’t remember much about cleaning out the drain.  My brain has blocked most of the images out of my head in an attempt at self preservation.  All i do remember is that it was probably the most disgusting thing I have ever done in my life and it has since soured me on my desire to drink milk.

CL1_2517Recently I thought I would make an attempt at drinking milk again.  So one evening I poured myself a nice talk glass of Kryptonite and took a small sip, and by small I mean a very small sip.  The milk made its way across my taste buds, who in turn lit up like a Christmas tree alerting my brain that milk had breached the system defenses and evasive actions where needed.  That one small sip was all I needed to confirm to myself that I still hated milk.

The next day i decided to try milk again, this time I would try while on my lunch break at work.  I figured since I was no longer at home and in a new environment that maybe, just maybe milk would taste better.  One tiny sip later and it was confirmed that I hated milk while at work too.  It doesn’t matter where I am I don’t like milk.

As I ponder my recent milk experiment and it’s bearing on my life I can’t help but call to mind part of the Lord’s prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.  We all struggle at one time or another in our lives with God’s will.  We fail to do what He asks of us or simply don’t like what He wants for us to do.  Truth of the matter is if we don’t like God’s will here on earth, we aren’t going to like it heaven, just like if I found out if I don’ t like milk at home I’m not going to like it at work

If we truly desire heaven we must first learn how to do God’s will here on earth.  I just hope God doesn’t desire me to like milk that may be kind of hard for me to swallow.

God Bless.

Happy Feast of Saint Francis de Sales

Today is the feast day of Saint Francis de Sales, patron saint of Catholic publishers and writers.  Since he is one of my favorite saint’s I’d like to share a brief bit of his writing.  I’ll admit his writing are a little easier to read than some of mine.

Check back next week for the next installments of “Forgive me Father”  I should have a bunch of chapter ready to go, been a tab bit busy as of late.  God Bless

From the Introduction to the Devout Life by Saint Francis de Sales, bishop
Devotion must be practiced in different ways

When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind; he has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station and his calling.

 

I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.

 

Tell me, please, my Philothea, whether it is proper for a bishop to want to lead a solitary life like a Carthusian; or for married people to be no more concerned than a Capuchin about increasing their income; or for a working man to spend his whole day in church like a religious; or on the other hand for a religious to be constantly exposed like a bishop to all the events and circumstances that bear on the needs of our neighbor. Is not this sort of devotion ridiculous, unorganized and intolerable? Yet this absurd error occurs very frequently, but in no way does true devotion, my Philothea, destroy anything at all. On the contrary, it perfects and fulfills all things. In fact if it ever works against, or is inimical to, anyone’s legitimate station and calling, then it is very definitely false devotion.

The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them. True devotion does still better. Not only does it not injure any sort of calling or occupation, it even embellishes and enhances it.

 

Moreover, just as every sort of gem, cast in honey, becomes brighter and more sparkling, each according to its color, so each person becomes more acceptable and fitting in his own vocation when he sets his vocation in the context of devotion. Through devotion your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince becomes more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.

 

It is therefore an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from the artisans’ shops, from the courts of princes, from family households. I acknowledge, my dear Philothea, that the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religious can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state.

 

Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.

 

God Bless

My relationship with Bran and Jesus

Last year, one of favorite New Years resolutions I undertook was to eat more donuts.  I know this time of year is typically reserved for weight loss and other healthy resolutions, but I felt sorry for those who make donuts and other tasty treats for a living. January must be a bad month for them so to help stimulate the economy I made the resolution to eat more donuts.  To which I lasted about 4 days before I was off the donut wagon.  Turns out I don’t really like donuts all that much.  Every once in a while they are awesome, but day in and day out…..ish.

So this year I’m making a very simple resolution.  Try to eat breakfast more and this new resolution has lead me back to one of my favorite childhood cereals, raisin bran.  Oh man how to I love raisin bran.  I could literally eat this every day as it is absolutely delicious.  Pour a little milk on the bran and the sugar coated raisins and I’m in breakfast heaven.

Single raisin (a dried grape)

However, I must admit that I’m a big fan of the raisins and not as a big of a fan of the bran. Don’t get me wrong I still love the bran flakes, but given my choice I’d rather eat the raisins.  I always smile when my spoon lifts from the milk filled with raisins and only a few bran flakes.  Those are spoonfuls I remember.

Through my many spoonfuls of deliciousness, I’ve discovered there is a symbiotic relationship that exists between the bran and the raisins.  Take away the raisins and no way am I eating a cereal consisting of only bran.  I don’t care how backed up I am, I’m not touching a bran only cereal.  On the other hand throw a bunch of raisins into a bowl of milk and hand me a spoon and I’d be running towards the front door of my house screaming like a tween at a New Directions concert.  Gross raisins and milk. (I just threw up a little in my mouth just thinking about it.) But when you put them together they are perfection.

English: A bowl of Raisin Bran cereal shown in...

I’m now going to do something to a bowl of raisin bran that will blow your mind.  In fact, you might to sit down as you read this. Oh and be sure you check your watch as well as your grandchildren will ask you where you where when you read this.

So here it is.  The Church is a bowl of raisin bran.  There you have it mind blown….right?  Just let that sink in for a moment. I realized this connection the other day when i was eating my raisin bran.  When the bulb went off I sprang up from the table and a did a quick little dance, ran around the house twice and then sat back down to finish my bowl of deliciousness.

When I converted there were many aspects of the Catholic Faith that I absolutely loved.  These were the teachings that drew me into Faith and started me on the my journey towards being Catholic.  These are my raisins.  They were the teachings that kept popping up in my daily life that made me smile, made be glad to be on my way to being Catholic.

On the other hand, there were a lot of Church teachings that I struggled with and man did I struggle with some of the Church’s teachings.  At first I kind of thought, if I just focus on what I like about the the Church I’ll be okay and those teachings that I struggle with well just ignore them and you’ll be okay.  Turns out I need those teachings I struggled with more than I first anticipated.  These struggles I had and still have are the bran in my faith.  I need them way more than I ever thought.  It is through my struggles with my faith that I have learned more about my faith and have grown more and deeper into my faith.  They have brought me a deeper love and understanding of the raisins in my faith.

If one fills their bowl with only raisins the result is too gross for words and if one fills their bowl only with bran, the same things happen.  However if you fill your faith bowl with the right blend of raisins and bran the result is so magical so inspiring so wonderful, you might just find yourself eating breakfast everyday and smiling the entire time.

God Bless

Life’s little annoyances

My car has developed a personality as of late, despite the fact that popular science has shown that inanimate objects are incapable of developing personalities, my car has developed one.  I blame it one the fact that it’s been hanging around with a bunch of other cars in local parking lots after dark.  Nothing good ever comes of hanging out in parking lots after dark.

Parking Lot, Clarendon and Stuart Streets

It used to be such a sweet car.  It always listened to what I told it to do.  It accelerated when I hit the gas and slowed down when I hit the brakes.  When I was cold, it provided heat, when I was hot it filled the passenger compartment with icy cold air.  Even when I left it alone in parking lots and locked it to keep it safe, I was greeted with friendly honk of the horn.  It was as it the car was saying “So long Danny, see you in a bit. I’m just going to rest here for a while.”

Oh I’m still greeted with a honk of the horn when I lock it, but the horn has changed tones.  It sounds more defiant.  Now, instead of the “So long Danny” sound, I hear a “get out of here, leave me alone to hang out with my friends” attitude filled beep.  This has been going on for weeks now and I’m not sure I like the change in my car’s tone.

There is another part of my cars attitude shift that has developed, the car has randomly started flashing the brake lights and emitting a warning tone so loud it would end up on the decibel scale somewhere between a running washing machine running filled with rocks and a jet air plane taking off.  The first time this light and sound show happened I nearly spit coffee all over the windshield.  I was driving down a dark country road early one morning and to see a flashing brake light and a jet engine toned beeping that early was a little concerning.  I gently applied the brakes to ensure they were working and then the light went off.

False alarm I thought to myself, no need to panic just keep driving.  Then 10 minutes later another beep loud enough to wake the dead and the flashing brake light.  The brakes were once again verified and as I applied them I swore I heard the engine laugh a bit.  Was my car simply playing around with me?

Well this has now been happening for weeks now and each time it happens my blood pressure rises and I get madder and madder at this phantom problem. In other words, my car is winning.  If it’s goal is to annoy me, it is doing a fantastic job of it.

The beeping is driving me nuts!!

The beeping is driving me nuts!!

I’ve been complaining of this to my wife pretty incessantly since it started, yet she has never heard it.  That is until yesterday.  We were out running a few errands, when my car messed up, it forgot that I wasn’t the only one in the car when it launched into it’s screaming light show.  The first beep caused my blood pressure to rise, the second nearly blew out my ear drum and the third forced me to emit a loud blast of frustration.  To which my lovely bride turned to me and said “Is that the noise that’s been causing you such problems?  That’s nothing.”

“Nothing,” I muttered back “Did you hear how loud that thing is and it does it all the time.”

“Simple fix,” she said. “Next time you hear it say Father Son and Holy Spirit and then offer a quick prayer for someone.”

“Wait, what?” I said in protest. “You did hear that right?  That loud, annoying, random beeping. I’m not just hearing things am I?”

“Just pray the next time you hear it.”

The simplicity of her statement struck me. Take this horribly annoying thing my car was doing to drive me batty and turn it into a positive.  My wife’s idea was put to the test moments later.  Beep Beep Beep…prayer.  Five minutes later beep…beep…beep…prayer.

For the rest of the journey I took my wife’s advice and every time that silly brake light came on, I said a simple prayer. By the end of the day’s journey I was no longer annoyed by the noise, but rather enjoyed hearing the ear piercing scream fill the car.  I had become like Pavlov’s dogs only I prayed rather than salivated when I heard a beep.  Take that car, bested by a human.  Who says German engineering is superior to American ingenuity?

In fact I’m going to start looking for other little annoyances in my life as opportunities to pray.  Stub my toe, say a prayer, dog won’t come home when called, pray. Stuck in traffic, pray.  Take all those little moments in life where there exists an opportunity to move further away from God and turn it around and use them as moments to grow in your faith.

Thanks to my wife, I’m no longer angry at my car for developing a personality. Instead I’m rather thankful, although I’m still banning it from hanging out with other cars after dark.  Nothing good happens in parking lots after dark after all and we’re still going to have a talk about the tone of it’s horn.

IMG_1246

Always keep praying.

Editing…A Novel Idea

Porsche 911

I’ve driven exactly one high end sports car in my life.  It was a mid 80’s Porsche something or other.  It was red, it was a five speed, and it was fast.  I drove it  exactly 10 miles on a errand for a friend of mine and it was probably the funnest 10 miles I have ever had driving in my life. As I sped (never going above the posted speed limit) down the windy country road the car handled as if on rails.  It leaned into each corner and shot itself back onto the straights as if being thrust out of a high powered cannon.  Even when the car sat idle in the parking lot as my friend ran his errand I felt cool. People going about their daily business slowed down and stared at the young 20 something sitting behind the wheel of a sports car.  As the people stared I simply adjusted my sunglasses and gave a nonchalant head nod back, acting as if I was in fact cool enough to occupy this car.

Writing a novel is lot like driving a Porsche.  The process in and of itself is fun. It is one full of twists and turns.  Your in complete control of the creative process.  You are directing the characters in your story, deciding who they are, who they will become and even what they will  have for breakfast.  People are drawn to the writing process, just like they are drawn to sports cars sitting in parking lots. Even distant acquaintances will come over and strike up a conversation with you when they catch word you are writing a novel.  There is a mystique about the process and it draws people in like a Porsche sitting in a parking lot.

Dodge Mini Van

Dodge Mini Van (Photo credit: ehpien)

If the writing is like driving a Porsche, editing, on the other hand, is like driving a mini van and I’m not talking about one of those new fangled mini vans with under seat storage and a built in movie theater.  No sir, the mini van I’m referring to is rusted out wood panel mid 90’s model that is full of screaming kids and smells of stale drive through and the gas of passed burritos.  People leave you alone when you’re editing, just like they leave you alone when driving a rusted out mini van.  Oh sure you may get a passing glance from someone walking by, but gone are the days of conversations with strangers and nonchalant head nods from behind a pair of Ray Bans.

When you start editing you feel that the story is now driving you.  You have a van full of kids each with it’s own stop to make and all along the way they are fighting each other.  They cross imaginary lines in the back and make you take on a UN Peacekeepers role to restore the peace that was lost.  Not unlike when one dons the editing hat and tries to separate out two subplots in a novel, subplots where at the time they were written were both fantastic ideas, but somewhere in the story they crossed paths and now they sit in direct conflict.  Put on the blue helmet and grab the red pen.

Then there’s the whole who needs to go where problem.  When one drives a van full of children to all of their various activities it is imperative to remember who gets out where and who gets picked up when.  Don’t want to leave a wee one at dance or karate now do we.  Same thing happens when editing.  You now have to remember all of those characters you created, when they came into the story, their backstory and so and so forth.

In my own writing career I’ve spent more time driving the Porsche than the mini van and I hate to admit but I think I need to grab the keys to the Chrysler and hit the road.  I have on my desk a completed manuscript in need of edits.  It’s a mini van full of children waiting to be driven around town. There are characters who need to be dropped off at dance and then there is the main character I left in the woods, (probably should have wrapped that up a little better).  So with this in mind, I’m taking the battery out of the Porsche, putting it under a cover and tucking it in the garage for a while.  There is a small tear running down my cheek as I type this, I really love my metaphorical Porsche after all.

In the upcoming months I’ll be publishing the edited chapters of my second novel (working title “Forgive me Father”) on my blog. I’ll plan on publishing a chapter or two a week for my readers to enjoy.  These won’t be the final edited chapters mind you, so you’ll have to forgive an errant spelling mistake or two, but the story I have written is one that desperately needs to be told so starting next week look for the first installment of Forgive Me Father.

I have decided, however, that if I’m driving a stinky mini van full of screaming metaphorical children for the near future. I’m at least buying an air freshener.  Wish me luck.

a whole lotta car air freshner