Category Archives: life

it’s in the staying there


Yesterday evening The Deistette and I got back from one of the longest stretches of days of vacation without her two boys that I can remember. We were gone for four whole days and three nights! It’s sad that the excitement is genuine over a measly three night outing in Granbury, Tx and Dallas which are about four and a half hours away from us.

As many kids are this time of year, the boys were on Spring Break and had left last weekend to be with their father who lives about an hour east of Dallas. We took advantage of them being gone by… well, it’s sad to say but resting and sleeping and basking in the silence. But on Thursday morning just before lunch we headed out toward Granbury to visit with her aunt and uncle as well as her grandfather.

It was absolutely wonderful. And I hate to say it but it was entirely because the boys weren’t there to drive up the anxiety of her already anxiety stricken aunt.

The main reason we left Casa Deist for a few days though wasn’t to visit her family or head toward Dallas to pick up the boys after their visit with their shit-for-brains father. Nope… it was to celebrate a mile marker of ours.

the-deistette-and-deist

Taken near Post, Tx
Sept 13, 2008

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healing after the ice storm


magnolia_leafSo mid week last week the temps had fallen into the mid-20s or so and with a mist of rain in the air during the night, ice formed on pretty much everything outside. Here are some pics from my backyard. My magnolia tree shouldn’t look like this in March.

On the drive to work that morning, I noticed a lot of tree branches had snapped and fallen during the night. Not sure if they were already dead branches or if the weight of the ice caused them to break or both but there was a trail of pretty big branches that started with a neighbor’s house a couple of houses down and just kept going almost all the way to work 15 miles away. It was strange. Some of those branches were pretty big and yet they snapped because of the heaviness.

magnolia_branchesSo all this happened on Tuesday and on Saturday I was finally able to help my neighbor out by cutting the really big tree limb that had fallen in her yard.

After cutting it, we talked for a while Continue reading

Exposed


20140118-215728.jpg

I used to take pictures.

It’s been so long ago that it almost seems like it was in a past life. When I first started, I was in the military and took pictures that were part of news and feature stories. A few years later I began to fancy myself an arteeest and began trying to create what I “thought” was art. I actually pulled some off and there were a few people who actually considered it art and paid for my prints or asked me to exhibit.

My first attempts were crude but in time my eye developed. I tended to drift toward my journalistic side and capture images that had a human element… you know, that showed where a human presence had been. I rarely did landscapes or what I referred to derogatorily as “snapshots of trees and rocks”.

The fact is “trees and rocks” are hard to shoot and shoot well and I knew it, so I tried to place myself above those Ansel-disciples and do my cutting edge Henri Cartier-Bresson impersonations.  What’s funny is I actually did a series of only trees one time AND… had it exhibited.

It’s been a long time since I’ve taken photographs like that.

But now and again, something will catch my “eye” (which surprises me that my photographer’s eye still works) that makes me think, “this says something” and I wish I had my old Mamiya loaded with some velvety Ilford Delta400.

The above image is one that did just that and all i had was my cell phone, It was taken in an instant, filters applied the way I would have liked to have seen a final print after hours in the darkroom.  It says something… at least to me. The roots are exposed. The tender part of a tree that should be covered which help it grow and mature are all out in the open.

[sigh]

I’ve been going through the some personal stuff that is really stressful. Really stressful… taxing on my soul and is one of those times when I hope with all the faith that I have that God is listening and will send angels to calm my spirit. I pray that Providence will cover my tender parts.

I have entered another dark period, one that makes me want sit with my back in a corner with my knees to my chest bracing for impact. I can’t get everything covered and I feel quite exposed.

Clothes make the man


Some of you might remember that I work for my dad who owns a small accounting firm that he started about 25 years ago. I’ve been with him for about seven years and it appears as though I am the heir apparent.

But bookkeeping is just one thing our small business does and this year we’re adding yet another aspect and it all hinges on me.

I’ll get to that after this quick little sidebar.

When I was in school I was a music major. I dated a dance major for a short while, then an art major. Hung out with all the weirdos who were theater majors. Finger snapped support to my English major wannabe poets during slam-poetry open mics. I hung out and danced at the bar that played 80s new wave, college alternative music.  So basically I was an 80s beatnick.

I swore, to everything that was holy, deep in my soul I was going to make my living as a musician/artist and would never…. never, ever!!!…. sell insurance like my dad, who at the time i hated and considered dead for having left my mother with me and my four siblings, the youngest who wasn’t quite two years old when he did that.

Yeah, asshole right.

Ok, so fast forward 25 years and I’m now working for my dad doing everything from purchasing office supplies to running interference in attempt to keep clients he’s pissed off from leaving. I track alcohol licenses and file the applications for our clients who need it. I keep the books for a handful and pay their taxes. I even change out the water bottles for the cooler and haul trash to the dumpster.

I am a catch all. And last month I finished a class that will help me get my…

wait for it…
Can you guess kids?…

MY INSURANCE LICENSE!!

[sigh]
I feel

like

a middle aged failure.

So to help me along in this endeavor the boss has not so subtly let me know he thinks I need clothes that will help me look the part of an insurance salesman. God I want to jam a hot poker in my ear!

So he insists that I go with him to a clothing store he likes to go to. Any shred of evidence of that kid who had aspirations of being a musician and artist is being severed as I get in the car and go.

I’ve never been one to spend lavishly on clothing for myself. For the most part, I usually buy my clothes at Goodwill or a thrift store. I figure I’m getting a deal and the money I spend is helping someone in need. And as for clothing, I think of it as a necessary evil and if I didn’t think I’d burn people’s eyeballs out I’d probably just go dance nehked in the woods and not worry about clothing. :mrgreen:

So when we get to this place and he’s telling me they’re having a buy one get three more free sale, I’m thinking, “ok at least there is a deal to be had.”

Um. No.

Did you know the sport coats, blazers and jackets cost about 600 dollars?!?!?

So after I picked my jaw off the ground, excused myself to go wipe my butt and clean my drawers I obliged and tried on a jacket or two.

There was a young guy who was tending to me. Looking me up and down, asking me questions then said, “this one. Let’s try this. I think you’re going to like it.”

“How much is it?” I asked sort of sheepishly and accusingly.

My dad chimed in quickly and rather authoritatively, “don’t worry about that. Clothes cost what they cost.”

So the sales guy slipped it on me. Tugged at the shoulders, pulled on the tail, swept off the sleeves a little and says (kinda like Deb from Napoleon Dynamite after taking Uncle Rico’s picture) “This is looking really good.”

I had to agree. As I looked at myself in the mirror I thought, “hey I clean up pretty good.” I almost shot myself a finger pistol but was able to grab hold of my faculties and not have everyone’s dork-meter go full tilt.

We tried on several more and I landed on the four I would take home with me. I’ve never, ever in my life (well except for my Marine Corps dress blues) owned a suit or sport jacket that was brand new and fit just right for me.

At least with my blues I felt like I’d earned them after going through 13 weeks of hell. This… I don’t know. Guess I’ll have to sell a few policies before I feel like I’ve earned these things.

Pops says, it’s a cost of doing business and we need them. I don’t know about that but I have to be honest. I feel pretty good when I’m wearing one of them.

click story


I have an old Mac laptop that seems to be running on last legs. I didn’t update the operating system like I should have (read: at all) and so this old 2005 machine is still running OSX Tiger. Knowing that it’s only a matter of time before it decides it just can’t bear to come to life even one more day, I’ve been transferring files to an external drive. In doing so, I ran across something I had posted at a blogging buddy’s place back in early 2010. I thought I had cross post it here but I can’t find it.  I thought it was worth sharing again so here it is.

To give a little context, this friend had a blog where occasionally she would have blog friends contribute what she called a “click” story… a personal story where the writer had learned some grand lesson.  Below is my contribution.
***********************************************************************

Leslie asked me months ago if I would write a click story for her and I quickly said yes.  I feel bad for having put it off so long.  Sorry Les.  The thing I think that has disrupted my ability to do it is she inadvertently placed some heavy pressure on me by saying, “I’m sure you have so many stories to tell.”

Gulp.

Do I?  Ugh.  I couldn’t think of anything that would compare to the others that have been published here.

I began rifling through the mental files of stories I have where I learned a lesson… you know, trying to find one where I learned a really big lesson about myself or life  but none of them seemed to be so profound as to be earth shattering.

I thought of my trip down the aisle (the first time) and how my voice cracked and my eyes welled a little as I repeated the vows the preacher told me to say… a tear came not because I was happy but because I knew!… right then and there I realized with absolute certainty…

I was making the biggest mistake of my life. I realized that we humans sometimes make poor choices, we can’t blame anyone but ourselves and we have to live with the consequences.

I thought I could tell of the time during Marine Corps boot camp when my platoon was learning how to throw hand grenades.  A drill instructor and I were in a concrete bunker and he handed me a live grenade with the pin pulled.  He said, “recruit! You make sure you throw it over this wall like we taught you…

and far! You understan’ me!”

I stood there with a live grenade in my hand… explosions were going off from my fellow recruits lobbing theirs down range.  I looked at the grenade… my hands shaking.  I stared that DI in the eyes, then looked at it again as I heard in a deep, garbled, slow-motion sort of voice, “yewwwww ohhhhkayyyy reeecrewwwwt?”.  It seemed like lifetimes passed as I pondered my ability to heave that piece of metal over a seven foot wall of cinder blocks.

As I pulled my arm back just like they taught me, I was thinking my life has the potential to change or end right now.  In that moment I realized some events in life are deliberate, calculated actions. Other times a completely random, unexpected bit of happenstance careens life toward other places.

I also thought maybe I could tell of a lesson I learned from the time I got fired from a retail job I couldn’t stand.  While in the parking lot after leaving the store I immediately called my editor of my part-time freelance photo job.  I told her what happened, I told her I was desperate and that I was available to shoot anywhere, anytime, and anything.  She gave me work… lots of it. A few weeks into it, my younger brother invited me to a basketball game through company tickets with some co-workers of his.  One of them asked, “so what do you do?”  I got that roller coaster feeling in my stomach.  I hesitated a little in my response and I almost said, “uh… I’m in between jobs” when it occurred to me, “no. I have a job.”

I said confidently, “I’m a photographer with The Houston Chronicle.”

It felt good. It felt DAMN good and I realized we make our own destiny.  WE make things happen in our lives if we push ourselves towards them. And I survived working six and seven days a week until I found another job seven months later.

I could tell the story about Hurricane Ike blowing through town in 2008.  I could tell you how I saw thick, heavy branches from two different trees that missed my house and my vehicle by inches and my property came away relatively unscathed; yet neighbors had fences crash through windows and roofs blown off.  There was one person I met in my neighborhood who had lights on in just a few days but the house right next to him waited four weeks in the sweltering September weather of the Gulf Coast Plains of Texas.

From the hurricane, I realized sometimes shit happens that we have no control over.  God didn’t get angry.  Karma wasn’t reacting.  The Tao wasn’t balancing things out.  I didn’t come away unscathed because I said the right prayer the night before and the other guy didn’t.  Just sometimes… shit happens from no fault of our own or anyone.

And I thought about telling my story of when I went to see my brother and future sister in-law get baptized at their Baptist church.  Coincidentally it happened the Sunday after the planes crashed into the World  Trade Center buildings.  While in that church, watching what should have been a great day for my brother, I saw a preacher point his finger at his congregation and heard him yell… yes, yell at them “it’s because of you and you and YOU that this happened.  Because YOU ARE A SINNER!!! America has lost favor with God and He made those planes fly into those building because of you!”

I realized that my concept of God does not fit that mold.  I don’t believe in a God like that at all.  My God loves me unconditionally.  My God doesn’t control my actions or the actions of others.  My God gave me freewill and reason.  I realized I don’t believe in a devil or that a devil can make people fly planes into buildings.  I realized some people are just jerks and assholes and they do evil things.  And my God weeps when we do crappy things to each other.  That is when I realized there must be another way of thinking about the nature of God compared to what this guy was preaching and I took my first deliberate steps ever towards spiritual awareness and where I found myself on a road towards UU-ism, Buddhism and Deism.

I’ve read most, if not all, of the click stories here at Leslie’s place and they have been amazing, beautiful, heart-wrenching, glorious stories.  Wish my click story were as amazing as those.

Sorry, Les… I got nothin’.

So what’s happened in a year?


Well, during the last 12 months quite a bit has actually stayed the same for me. I’ve noticed as I get older, I am, if nothing else, relatively constant.

I still work at the same place (earlier this month I hit seven years there), The Deistette and I are still married and hit a milestone in September (she moved here five yrs ago the weekend Hurricane Ike made landfall ), I’m still making music with a few friends of mine (in February we’ll hit seven years) and I still live in the same house that I’ve been working on and renovating for what seems like forever (September was 16 years).

There have been a handful of changes though. My longest readers might remember a post or two about how I like to ride my bicycle… well, I still do but have become a bit obsessive about bicycles since October of last year and have since added several bikes to the herd that used to consist of just my road bike. Here’s a pic of one of my faves.

Trek-720

Years ago, it almost seems in another lifetime, I used to work in the printing industry… well, sort of. I was a print buyer for a financial company. And, because of the vast resource that is the interwebs, I’ve been able to get back to my roots (which started when I was in the military a couple of decades ago laying out the base newspaper via cut and paste). I’ve built (on the cheap) a very crude letterpress out of steel pipe. I’m not sure how practical this thing will be as I haven’t printed anything on it yet but I hope to start printing letterpress stuff soon.

Letterpress when done well is absolutely beautiful.
just my typeImage above found at this Etsy shop

Let’s see what else… Well, this is a not-so-fun fact. In August I hit the heaviest my short frame has ever been. It has however spurred me to become really aware about needing to lose weight. I’ve been going to the YMCA on a regular basis for the past few months and have become more aware about the junk I’ve been putting in my body.  I guess you have to start somewhere and my somewhere is a very, very small step. But moving my body even just twice a week and trying to be careful about what I eat has helped  me to scrape off a little weight. Key words in that sentence is “scrape” and “little”. But if I make the time and get to the gym a couple more times a week and could lose even as little as 15 pounds that would be good. Realistically though, being only 5’3″ and trying to get to a healthy weight, I really need to lose about 30 pounds. Wish me luck. I really need to make this happen.

So those are some of the minor things that are new with me after a year of being gone. But the biggest bit of change that happened is that I withdrew membership to my UU church of which I had been a member for 10 years.

It’s been six months yet it’s still very difficult to come to grips with it. It’s been a tremendous loss and I still I feel quite sad about it. I had a strong community of friends, like-minded seekers and familiar souls surrounding me that I not only saw on Sundays but throughout the week as well. I was deeply involved in my old congregation and literally put blood, sweat and tears in trying help maintain it and help it grow. It was painful to leave and for the sake of proper decorum I won’t go in to the gory details of why I left but for now let’s just say I couldn’t continue to support that congregation any longer.

I am still however…
a UU.

And I think one needs (what in Buddhism is called) a sangha… a dedicated community of spiritual seekers. The basis of my beliefs still stem from my view of the nature of God which comes from Deism. My practice, as much as I may have drifted from it, is Buddhist.

But my people… the ones who remind me to keep vigiliant as a person of faith comes from a UU church.
My sangha.

And so The Deistette and I have been attending another congregation off and on for a little while now. It doesn’t feel the same as my old congregation. I feel like I don’t fit in. But we’re getting a little more involved and are making plans to try to attend more of the events and programs. And we’ve met new people who we like. : )

I think there are three essential elements of a person’s spiritual walk.
1) you have to have a foundation for your belief system (i.e. what is your view of the nature of god, where do you get your sense of right and wrong come? from where do your ethics come?)
2) Your ethics, morality, and/or spirituality should have a practice and be exercised in the real world.
3) You should have a community of like-minded people who challenge your sense of beliefs, keep you in check as well as support your beliefs.

In some instances, two out of three wouldn’t be bad but I think in the case of a spiritual walk… two out of three ain’t gonna cut it.

Here’s to adding my third back in to the mix and to change.

If I can’t fix it… it is broken


For the past two or three years, I’ve been working on fixing, repairing and maintaining my house after a long, long time of letting it go. I could make excuses and give a handful of decent reasons as to why I let my house fall into such disrepair that it probably would have been condemned by the county. I didn’t have time or more so, money. I didn’t know how to make the repairs. I was worried I might ruin something if I tried to fix it and then incur a really big repair bill to have someone with real know-how fix my fix. Or I was busy with church obligations.

The fact of the matter is those are all bullshit excuses from a guy who was depressed and self destructing because his wife left him. I sometimes wonder if I subconciously wanted my house to fall in on me after my ex-wife left.

Who knows… what i do know is that with the help of the internet (thank you YouTubers who post DIY vids!), the spurring of my wife The Deistette, a little help from some church friends (financially and physically) and some self determination I’ve managed to turn the ship on this house. It’s by no means finished or even close but at least things are pointed in the right direction.

One project where I learned a lot was in renovating my kitchen. Ok, renovate is the wrong word… that gives the idea this was for aesthetic reasons.  No, it wasn’t because I or my wife simply wanted to make it look pretty. It was because we had mold, lots of mold growing in the cabinet underneath the sink. With the help of my younger brother I gutted my kitchen down to the studs. I came up with a way to contain the mold spores and did a pretty damn fine job of it, I don’t mind telling you.  I learned basic plumbing and moved the sink from a corner location to a spot The Deistette thought would be better.

In other projects, I’ve taken out drywall… so much at one time that I exposed my house in such a way that I could see outside and across the street from inside my house. I’ve remodeled my bathroom. I’ve replaced toilets and fixed plumbing in my bathroom. I’ve repaired parts of my roof, disassembled  a bathtub single faucet and put it back together. I have torn off old siding, disposed of old asbestos type insulation and replaced with new thicker insulation.  I have replaced windows and in doing so reframed my house to fit a different sized double paned window.

I don’t list all these things I’ve done to brag (ok, maybe a little to brag) but to show what can be done with a little self determination AND help from some friends. You see, I know I didn’t do all those repairs on my own. I had some help. I had help from family, church friends and some amazing people on the internet.

As I continue to learn and gain experience, I hope some day I can say “if I can’t fix it; it is broken.” I’m not sure I’ll ever get to that skill level but I sure do like trying now. I really like fixing things on my house. Maybe being a handyman will be a second career for me someday. I’ve currently got about 1500 dollars worth of work I’ll earn from my neighbor over the next few months. For now, I’ll be hunting the interwebs for the answer if I don’t know how to fix something. Who knows… maybe someday I’ll actually start that handyman business.

I have found myself firmly in the Libertarian camp but not the one the Tea Party assholes preach or the Ayn Rand followers like Paul Ryan espouse or the textbook, theoretical view of Ron Paul. Despite being Libertarian-esque, I like this vid the Dems put out and believe whole heartedly in its message.

I have a ten year old little girl in my house


Faith has lived across the street from us for not quite a year. She, her mom and her two tween sisters moved in just after the school year started. I think that’s when it was. Maybe it was just before the school year. I can’t remember. Apparently, her mom went through a divorce and I assume couldn’t afford to keep her previous home and so began renting one of the little wood frame, shotgun type houses that sit on my street.

We haven’t really met Faith’s mom although I’ve seen her on a handful of occasions getting groceries out of the car or heading off for work. Turns out those times I’ve seen her were rather miraculous because the woman works about 18 to 20 hours a day! YES… 18 to 20 hours per day. This happens about five days a week. On the other two days she may work one of those days for eight hours.

There is something fundamentally wrong with the policies and culture of a country that claims to be the best in the world, yet there are still people who have to work that many hours of a day to provide the barest of essentials for their family.

And that is the reason I have a ten-year old little girl in my house.

Faith knows The Deistette from the bus stop. Continue reading

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A bit of dead air


This is the longest break in posting I think I’ve ever had in the four years I’ve maintained this blog.

It’s been a hair more than two months since my last post and it isn’t for a lack of anything to say.

I’ve had some things I could have written about: my continued work and fixes on my house which I’m learning to do as I go along… learned mostly because of the awesome people on YouTube who post how-to vids, the feeling of loss after having sold my little 16-acre piece of land that I paid on for nearly 10 years, what it was like having my ex-wife’s 16 year old daughter come to the house unexpectedly (seeing my stepdaughter was wonderful by the way), the hard transition to only one car in a city that is designed in such a way that citizens really need a car. Or like how last week, my continued Wednesday date night with my daughter has now crossed a threshold and I have only 51 of these left until she turns 18 and is no longer obligated to spend them with me.

Those are some of the biggies.

There were a bunch of little things that I could have written or shown you pictures of that involve just random, mundane, every day things.

But I haven’t.
I’ve been tired.

Seems like everyone needs a piece of me and it’s sapping my energy to near zero by the end of the day. My physical, mental, spiritual energy seems to be running on fumes and it sucks.

The other thing though is I havent’ really been inspired to write about what’s been happening with me.  I wonder if blogging, not just for me, but for the blogosphere as a whole is waning.   Maybe it’s simply taking on a new shape.  Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and a few other sites have different way of blogging and I imagine have pulled some away from Blogger, WP and Typepad.

I don’t know.

I’m here though. Not dead.  Still alive and kicking.