SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS

She's not to big to hang out with her dad...

She’s not to big to hang out with her dad…

“What are you doing this weekend? my youngest daughter questioned me.

“Why?” I answered her with a suspicious one of my own.

“I was wondering if you wanted to hang out?” she told me.

“With you?” I asked a little caught off guard.

“Yeah – I thought we could hang out since I had to work the weekend of your birthday,” she explained.

“Of course – that’ll be great, babe,” I answered, pleased as punch.

My youngest wasn’t around much, what with her hectic schedule that juggles school activities, work, and not to mention she’s sixteen and it’s not so cool to hang out with your dad. All that had me not exactly holding my breath on a follow up of it actually happening.

When she was little we went together like peanut butter and jelly. On the weekends she’d go to work with me. When the weather was nice she’d use blocks of cut lumber to build and create her own little villages for hours on end while I worked close by.

On the rare days of bad weather I’d leave her in my truck with the engine running and heater toasting her warmly. It didn’t take her too long to figure out how to use the horn as my reminder that she was there waiting for me. Even after I urged her to not use the horn, it was of little use. She figured out too that it made me laugh every time she laid on the horn and made it play a one note song.

Being a little kid at heart, after my half day of work on Saturday was done, it was my pleasure to swing by the local amusement park. We played miniature golf, rode the go-carts, her in my lap. We played video games, pinball, and one of her all time favorites; air hockey. She didn’t know when she was small I’d let her win.

I didn’t think much of that tradition at the time, but we’d always wrap up our outing, after cashing in the cache of tickets to exchange for the cheap trinkets of course, by stopping at the photo booth for carnival type black and white photos… sure glad I did that.

I was surprised again when my daughter asked me if I was ready to go the next weekend.

“Where we going?” I asked.

“You’ll see,” my little one teased… I have no idea where she learned to do that…

I wasn’t shocked that our very first stop on “hang out” day was Cracker Jax, our old stomping grounds. It’s changed a bit, looks older, like me I guess. They don’t have pinball machines anymore and a new laser tag has gobbled up most of the arcade space. But the place was still magical. Not so much the place as it was the precious time and memories made with my daughter there.

Like the old arcade has changed, so has my daughter and myself to a lesser degree. I don’t let her win at air hockey anymore… she does that on her own occasionally without any help from me.

The little girl I once carried like a football is fully grown now… she’s taller than her mom, but not too old to sit on my knee in the photo booth at the end of one of our amusement park outings. Birthday presents just don’t get any better than that in this life.

“Did you have fun, dad?” my daughter asked, knowing full full well the answer, but just wanted to hear me say it.

“It was great, babe. It couldn’t have been any better, thanks, babe.”

“You’re welcome,” she said… beaming like the twinkle of her in her dad’s eyes…

WEDDING BELLS

The Bride

The Bride

“Have you seen McKenzie?” My wife asked.

“No – She looks good, huh? I answered.

Within a few minutes there she was… I already knew she looked good, it’s hard for her not to, God made her look a lot like her mother. All three girls actually.

“You look great,” I offered the oldest.

“Thanks,” she said.

I asked her about the cartoon sized ring necklace she was wearing.

“Ali got it for me,” she informed me. That would be McKenzie’s maid of honor and daughter number two.

“That’s pretty cool,” I chuckled.

My study was instantly on the back burner as I reached instinctively for my phone.

“Let me get a picture,” I asked her. It’s the one you see here in the post.

It was a special day for the soon to be bride. The entire bridal shower started the day with a two mile race for charity. The race included a paint storm as the runners crossed the finish line. When they all came back to the house for brunch the whole lot of them looked like victims of a Disney channel episode.

After brunch they got cleaned off and up to go out for a late lunch and celebration of McKenzie’s upcoming wedding. Once they’d all left I pulled my phone back out… “My, how time has flown by,” I thought to myself as I studied the picture.

I’ve come to consider nothing in this life as coincidence. If I hadn’t planned a full blown stroll down memory lane, the picture of Kenz sealed my fate.

“Man, her hair has gotten long,” I mused in silence. I’ve always admired her beautiful smile… as well as the determination written all over her face at times when she’s not smiling. I soon spotted the pictures inside my newest one, my shelves are loaded with all the lacrosse pictures in the background.

I smiled inside when I think about her and all those pretty girls that no one would suspect are tougher than nails. In the middle shelf, the highest one, is the a picture of McKenzie’s grandparents, my wife’s parents. She only knows them from stories and pictures… She never got to meet them before God called them home.

The next shelf down I spotted the framed newspaper article of my little league baseball team. I was a whopping nine or ten then. The pictures remind me that we don’t have any idea for sure about what the future holds… They also remind me of my blessings from God. I couldn’t have scripted a better life than the one He gave me.

That picture that looks like it’s sitting on Kenz’s shoulder is a newspaper article about her, she’s taking a shot on goal in the picture inside of my picture. One shelf up from that one, eye level with Kenz and the second one from her, is she and I. Her mom took that one of us after her team won a state championship… I love that picture…

The curtain has closed on the days of me protecting and providing for her… the prayers never will…

May God bless the union of Dean and McKenzie. 12/12/14

BEYOND LUCK

My wife's bike

My wife’s bike

Image 1My prayer wasn’t really an after thought. It was actually the second one I’d sent toward heaven; asking for the same thing that I had asked for not less than five minutes after I’d silently uttered the first one.

My wife and I were out of town on our bicycles riding out toward Pacific Coast Highway when I offered up the second prayer with an uneasy feeling in my gut.

We were around the twelve mile mark when we lost each other in heavy traffic on 101. I went straight and she took a turn toward the wharf in Oceanside. After waiting for several minutes at a stop light, I knew the platinum finishing Tour De Tucson participant who also teaches spinning a the health club was long gone.

I figured it best to head south to where we started and try to catch her on the way, not that it would have been remotely possible if she thought she was trying to catch me.

When I got back my wife wasn’t there, so I called her on my cell that I was strongly regretting not having had with me earlier.

“I’m still in Oceanside waiting for you,” she told me.

I waited for her, got a snack to hold me over until she got back, and answered some emails. One email in particular stood out like divine words wrapped in the light from the other realm.

My friend Lynn Morrissey, author of the “Love Letters To God”, asked if she could pray for my family and me out of the blue. Now I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but I’ve figured out that when someone “feels” like they should pray for my family or me, I humbly and thankfully accept.

I took note of the time, did a quick math calculation and knew my wife would be rolling up any minute. Then I did something that I’ve never done before; I went outside to look for her, but she wasn’t anywhere in sight.

That’s when my phone rang… sometimes in our modern world, you know it’s not gonna be good news when the phone rings… It’s usually an inconvenience. My first thought was, “She’s got a flat tire.”

“Hey, babe?” I answered my phone. The next words will echo in my mind as long as mine still functions…

“I’ve been hit by a car! I need you to come get me!”

There are no laws of physical nature to explain what happened, but more importantly, what didn’t happen.

It is a fifty miles per hour speed limit on the frontage road to Interstate 5, where the elderly lady in a Toyota Prius hit my wife… Which means that the car still had to be traveling thirty five to forty five miles per hour after the short skid when her car struck my wife.

The eyewitness told me that my wife did a three hundred and sixty degree spin on her bike as it sailed through the air before she crashed down and skidded across the intersection on her back, knee, hip, elbow, and head…

On top of the early morning prayers for safety and Lynn’s prompting and praying for my family and wife, the driver of the car that hit my wife immediately asked her if she cold pray for her…

The half dollar sized skid marks on my wife’s elbow, knee, and back, and the fact that she walked away and was back teaching at the gym two days later, is proof that something or Someone protected her.

That nasty scenario is the kind where some people are maimed for life and some lose theirs all together. Some folks call it a coincidence, some call it lucky…

I call it the hand of God.

 

PARKING LOT PERDITION

Me? I pulled my car within inches behind the kid’s and was out of my car and at his rolled down window before he could say, “Finders keepers – losers weepers!'”

THE MONSTER IN THE MIRROR

k7274728I’m not much of a sailor, except for that one time in junior high school I stole that sailboat, but I savvy the sailing lingo fairly well. Sometimes a few words can sum up what a picture or a thousand words can’t, no matter the time spent trying. It’s remarkable how well a simple adage can describe perfectly what we’re trying to express, like the lucky folks who buy the right vowel on Wheel Of Fortune.

“You nailed it”, or “You hit the nail on the head”, are carpentry terms that have come to mean far more than the accurate swing of a hammer. No one needs to be a fisherman to savvy the phrase, “There’s plenty of fish in the sea”. You get the idea.

Back to my seafaring thoughts: For the better part of six years I’ve been writing, pushing, learning, and have written hundreds of thousands of words in the form of this blog, writing assignments, and three and a half manuscripts. But sometimes life… get ready for it… “Knocks the wind out of your sails”…

I’ve come up empty. And while that isn’t entirely new, the desire that always seems to summon a fresh breeze has gone missing. That is new for me. My desire must have fallen in the deep waters when I blinked at the emotional strike delivered to the core of my soul…

This life is full of surprises and not all of them have the intentions or effect of a surprise birthday party. All of us know that people will let you down in this fallen world, yet we all get “Blindsided” once in awhile. Yeah, another overused analogy. No wonder it’s so popular; it describes the synopsis perfectly.

Sooner or later everyone of us gets crushed by another that has a soul cage wrapped around them and we respond typically in our flesh – What we know instinctively.

Our first reaction is grief, but it doesn’t take too long for the wicked desire of revenge to explode from our heart like a snarling and fire breathing dragon. We retaliate sometimes and the fire used to payback those that hurt us blown with vengeance from our hurting and twisted mouths, leaves us singed by our own poison.

Betrayal is grisly. As repulsive as it is, and we’re all quick to condemn the trespassers, we rarely stop to consider the monster in the mirror…

There’s another old saying that has some merit, “I’ve seen the enemy, and it is us…” While the quote isn’t fully accurate in that we’re duped by the real enemy of our souls, it makes the razor sharp point that we’re all fallen, even if that wasn’t the intent when that famous southern fella’ wrote it the first time.

We betray our Father daily with each sin. Maybe there’re not all out lies or deceit, but we’re deceiving ourselves if we think we’re above anybody else or our righteousness earns us a seat on a different boat… we’re all in the same one.

As our Father forgives betrayal, we too are called to forgive. If He forgives us, how can we not extend that trait that points to and proves we have His true love in us?

I don’t know when, but one of these days I believe the wind will return… and my sail and heart will be filled again. I pray yours will too…

 

ONCE AGAIN

42-19622194Repost, edited from August of 2010

I tend to load my days like some folks do their luggage, you know, the kind you really need two suitcases for, but are determined to get it all in one.

I was on the on the back edge of my schedule and slipping as I made my stops in between business calls and sometimes during them. I didn’t really have time in my schedule to eat, but I was “Starvin like Marvin.” Once again…

I went into a fast sit down greasy spoon right next to a gas station, both conveniently close to the interstate. I inhaled my food and headed for the door, on the phone of course. I was putting out fires and setting sparks for new ones. Once again…

In the truck, down the road, headed to see my mom. You see, yesterday was her birthday. She lives in a not-as-small-as-it-used-to-be town where I grew up that is around 200 miles away from where we live now.

I was still on the phone when an unfamiliar alarm sounded… I’d never heard this sound before, but instinctively new instantly what it was. It was the sound of regret… It was the sound of humiliation… It was the sound of the “low level fuel alarm.”

With a new focus and a wildfire from no where, I put all my attention now on one thing, being rescued. Funny how priorities change so quickly in life… Once again…

My fast paced world would come to a complete stop in about 15 miles and 45 miles from the next small town and closest gas station, and yeah, the thought of the one beside the restaurant didn’t make it easier on my mind. There I sat, all four windows down, both passenger doors open to allow some cross breeze, feeling like a dumb kid… Once again…

Three hours is a long time to sit in the Arizona August sun, a fella can do some serious thinking in that amount of time. And it’s not like I would be catching any “Z’s” in the sweltering triple digit weather and with eighteen wheelers roaring and sending wind through the cab at hurricane speeds.

You might say this is an ugly place to be; surrounded by danger, civilization on one side that allow no mistakes at 75 miles per hour or more. Where the black top ends and the desert starts is what feels like “no man”s land,” my new home for three hours. About 15 feet from the black top is thick brush that graduates into trees. This is where the vicious and poisonous animals along with some varmints that the Southwest is famous for.

God has his ways of slowing us down. Although, I find those loaded semi’s and speeding cars on one side with the poisonous snakes and wild animals on the other, isn’t near as dangerous as trying to navigate this life without God’s guidance. Sometimes He uses those dangers in life to get our attention. He got mine. Once again…

I made a new schedule, one that started with a prayer. I watched a one foot long lizard hunting for an early dinner before I spotted some big branches for targets in the trees and threw rocks trying to revive an old pastime. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that, it felt pretty good. Once again…

After my overdue rescue, I was off, but not like before. God gave me a knew perspective on my day and it didn’t include setting the cruise control to 10 over the legal limit or pass everything in sight.

The sun on those purple mountains on the other side of the lake are beautiful just before sunset. It was good to see them. Once again…

I made it to town just in time to take my mom and some of the family to dinner in celebration of her birthday.

After dinner my mom and I talked, reminisced, and laughed. Once again…

It was good to slow down and catch up with my mom, the perfect ending to a perfect day. Funny how a perspective needs to be reset. Once again…

AMUSING ANGELS

1167681-Cartoon-Of-A-Cloud-Mascot-Blowing-Wind-Royalty-Free-Vector-ClipartEvery so often a mundane task becomes a fight against what seems like the impossible, like fighting unseen forces in the other realm. I figure I’ve been trudging the face of this planet long enough to know what I’m talkin’ about. For example; I’ve witnessed what looks like the wind toying with us mere mortals.

I know I’m not the only soul to have seen the poor sap bending at the waist to pick up the treasured piece of paper the wind snatched from them. Just as their fingers get a clamp on the page the perfect gust of wind pushes  it, usually ten to twenty yards away.

The wind never seems to carry it so far that all hope is lost and the quest to recover the thin treasure abandoned. It’s just close enough to encourage hot pursuit. The determined person sometimes walks swiftly, others jog, still some sprint toward the helpless paper. Then as they reach the rescue point the wind just happens to gust again sending their page up, up, and away.

The chase continues over and over until the desperate retriever begins to try to outwit the invisible foe. The next dash toward success ends with a stomp to the earth from the pursuit artist in hopes of pinning the paper before it’s stripped out of reach yet again.

I’ve watched this event too many times in life to recount. In fact, I’ve been the participant more times than I can recall to boot. I can tell you first hand that cursing the wind doesn’t help the situation at all… not to mention it really looks bad…

This morning I fought another invisible force as I dispensed, well, tried to dispense anyway, my vitamins. The tiny and perfectly round vitamin D capsules that are clear and golden in color decided to mess with me… or someone or something did.

I’ve been rolling vitamins out of their containers for so many decades that I’ve made an art out of it. A process of simplistic beauty and art in motion. One slight tip, the perfect snap and pulling back of the bottle and the little gem rolls out and into my hand along side the other healthy participants in my boring game and ritual.

This morning I tipped, snapped, and two vitamins rolled out, “Hmmm,” I thought to myself. I rolled them back in to the bottle and gave it another go. A repeat performance, “I’ll be?” I thought to myself and repeated the process only to have two more taunt me. Admitting defeat and fighting the clock, I tried to roll just one back into the bottle while clasping the others with my fingers pressed against my palm. Both golden balls rolled back into the bottle…

I stood there for another half a minute failing to retrieve one vitamin D over and over. “What the?” I mumbled out loud to myself.

I’m convinced of a few things, one; God gives His angels that watch over us some free rein in how they deal with us in this sometimes unexplainable life. Two; some angels get the short straws so to speak, take mine for instance. And three; God has a sense of humor… or I didn’t really need a D vitamin that day…

TAMING THE MONSTER

k9457916Things are often not exactly as they seem… or so it seems… It was something right out of a movie. It felt almost like heaven, or at least what I imagine heaven  might be… The Pacific Ocean breeze tickled the sizzling skin as it danced by in rhythm with the towering and crashing waves.

The waves collided with the golden beach – spreading out flat and low as it reached for the toes of the scads of folks soaking up the famous Southern California rays. Small children frolicked in the shallows, getting pummeled by the innocent looking surf. They’d squeal in delight and get back up for the next round… only to get knocked off their tiny feet again and again.

About twenty yards out, around the area in the ocean where the waves reach their crest, just before their denouement, the boogie boarders ride the untamed water speeding toward the shore and strive to steer around the wee ones there. All this while the seagulls are undeterred a few feet above the uneven surface in search of lunch.

Beyond them, between the end of the earth and the distant ships on whiskey colored horizon are the surfers. They don’t ride the sea swells, they catch the monster waves by the tail then crawl up their backs and stand on top of the monster waves as conquering kings and queens of the sea.

The bravest of the surfers swing around the front side of the monster wave’s head and dance just in front of it’s mouth, taunting the sea as they race for the safety of the sand.

The scene looks serene, peaceful. The manmade floating devices being pushed by the power of the sea toward rest and safety. No wonder the place was so packed… like a sardine can.

Against my better judgment, I decided to join the seaside soiree. The water was colder than I expected – made me shiver as the sweat on my spine turned to ice. The bottom of my feet found a sharp rock that almost dropped me… No turning back. I pushed and fought my way out into the surf as the waves blasted me and my boogie board with body shots. I quickly remembered to hold the board over head and turn sideways to lessen that blows and setbacks toward shore.

When I did finally get far enough out to tame the monster I paddled toward land like a train robber gallops toward a caboose, grabbed both sides of the front of my board and rode the monster in. It spit me toward shore like I was Jonah. My legs and feet hanging off the undersized board scraped rocks and sand leaving skin in the sea as payment for it’s use along with a twisting dump that had me struggling to hang on to the board.

I finally trudged out of the surf in defeat, salt running from my sand packed sinuses… the monster unfazed and far from tamed.

That’s how many things are in this life. Things look fun, easy, and innocent, and we believe that we have the means to tame the creation… kinda like roping the wind… We jump in head first, believing or wishing for the best… The bruises, sometimes physically, sometimes spiritually, we carry with us for a time – the memories forever.

Like this newly torn rotator cuff that should be a good reminder for a while to come. Me getting a grasp on the horns of wisdom is a little like taming that monster wave…

Maybe next time… Getting another chance to do things right is a gift from the hand of the Almighty, don’t you think?

If I can’t get a handle on the wave… there’s zero chance I’m going to get one on the grace of God…

 

THE BEAUTY OF SIMPLE

is09a65cfIt’s different down there; in a way that doesn’t make sense, but things rarely do in this upside down world. It’s downtown and it’s old. People down there have a different lifestyle, a simpler one. One of the oldest bicycle stores in the city is down there and it just happened to have the only women’s bike that my wife had been looking for in the entire city. A bike shop in that community didn’t make sense to me… at first glance anyway.

The single silver aluminum framed glass front door jingled as it opened into world that was timeless. It was like stepping through the window of time back into the sixties. The cement floor was worn smooth by foot traffic over the decades and the low ceiling that at one time had been white was now tinted yellow by Father time and cigarettes when they were legal inside a public building.

“Afternoon!” one of the five men working called from behind the splintered paneling flanked counter. The white formica top was black in spots along the edges where all the elbows from all the generations leaning there had stolen the finish little by little unknowingly.

While the tired building reflected a past all but gone, the young men working there reminded me that I hadn’t slipped into the Twilight Zone by their dress and accessories; namely the earrings in their spreading earlobes that you could fit a penny through. They weren’t the only ones – the customers matched and made us look like the outsiders.

It didn’t take more than a few minutes to realize that my assumption about the little bicycle shop being over staffed was dead wrong. Although there was only one other vehicle besides ours in the tiny parking lot that was just a thin sidewalk and a curb from the glass front faced shop, the place was hopping with business.

I had plenty of time to observe the folks and the interactions while my wife test drove bikes, helmet, and jerseys. I learned it cost twenty two dollars and eighteen cents, with tax, to get a flat tire fixed with the the heavy duty thorn resistant tube.

I also noticed that those people that live with far less than the ones in my neighborhood, minus the tattoos and earrings, are in better shape. But the main thing I noticed was how friendly, mannerly, and genuinely happy they seemed.

“How’d you pop it?” I asked the mid thirties man that was built like a linebacker and had the face and aura of the perfect TV show serial killer.

“A pothole,” he chuckled.

“Bummer,” I shook my head.

“Yeah, it was four thirty this morning on my way to work and I just didn’t see it,” he lamented and added, “It’s my fourth one in two months.”

The kid fixed his bike and gave him the “That’ll be twenty two dollars and eighteen cents, please,” line that I’d become accustomed to. The burly bicyclist counted out the exact change and graciously thanked the kid for his help. He then turned to me and offered with a genuine smile and nod of his close shaved head, “Have a great day, sir.”

“I will, thank you… and you too,” I told him. He thanked me and told me that he would. “And watch out for those potholes, huh?” I called to him.

He laughed, nodded, and answered, “I’ll try!” as he exited the silver door with the year round Christmas bell on the handle.

We tend to strive for so much, we forget how much we already have.

We use words like, “please”, “thank you”, and “love” so often out of habit that they’re stripped of their true definitions and heart…. until you hear and see someone use them with magical simplicity and power that we’ve forgotten how to.

 

THE BLIND MIRROR

k8155973We have a fair amount of mirrors in our home, but I don’t spend a lot of time in front of any of them. It’s probably for the best that my eyes aren’t as spry as they used to be. I do spend enough time to see myself, what I look like anyway. What I see in the reflection of a mirror is what I strive for my reflection to be, and it goes far beyond the lines around the eyes that look back through me and into my soul.

The mirror can’t see beyond flesh and it reflects the lies we feed it.

We all tend to judge others we meet on a daily basis by what we see and precisely what the mirror shows, but that can’t begin to tell the story of a life that we can only grasp with our senses. Those senses, while miraculous, can be to easily fooled. We learn to be masters of portrayal over the course of our lives… but it only lasts as long as our tongue and actions are hidden from the light.

“Watch Bill over there, he can be a bit nasty,” I said in jest. The couple of people around chuckled, I could tell they were feeling a little bad for Bill who’d been standing innocently close by when I drug him into the sarcastic foray.

Bill’s a good natured guy and just laughed and played along, “Yeah, that’s me – it’s just part of being in this rowdy crowd,” he agreed.

We all smiled or laughed at the light humor of the day. As I was leaving I took aim and tossed one more sarcastic grenade. I motioned in Bill’s direction, “Well keep an eye on him, he’s tough, not near as kind or gentle as me,” I chuckled at my humor.

While I appreciate bringing smiles to other people’s faces as well as an occasional laugh, I was taken back by the gut bustin’ laughter that exploded from the targets at whom I’d lobbed the sarcastic laced grenade. I’d meant the comment to be amusing, even funny, but not hilarious.

If I were a comedian I might have been gratified. “See you guys tomorrow,” I said smiling and exchanging pleasantries. I thought about the response as I strolled away, the smile replaced by a pinched brow. It’s funny how the perception we have of ourselves, the ones we work so hard to represent, don’t always match up with the perceptions that others have of us after they get past our front cover; the mirror…

While I wouldn’t use the term “gentle” to describe myself, I feel like I have somewhat of a gentle spirit. But what we are on the inside tends to speak for us and make up the true image that the mirror can’t hide. Beautiful, handsome, fine, none of those things can be seen in the mirror… Those attributes are measured from the inside.

The mirror is blind…

 

Page 1 of 5712345»102030...Last »