Happy Birthday Dad.

Today is my dad's birthday.  In honor of you Dad, I intend to consume a slice of carrot cake and a tall glass of cold milk.  My brother Benj thought we should write you letters and mail them to you for your birthday but of course I did not get it done.  And I decided it would be better to post it publicly on my blog.  It is my first blog in over 7 months and I can think of no better way to get started again than to say "Thank You" to you Dad and wish you a very public "Happy Birthday"

Keith Urban sings a song, "Song For Dad", off his "Golden Road" album.  I heard it again a few weeks ago and it hit me.  One of the lines reads "he did the best he could".  As children I used to think you and mom were superheroes.  And of course, I know now that is not true.  But it takes a long time to recognize that as a child.

One of my very first memories with you was when we went to the fireworks in Seaside, probably with Grandma and Grandpa. I may have been anywhere from 2-3 years old, I am not entirely sure.  I hid in your chest and I remember feeling safe as you gathered me in your arms and shielded me from the loud and scary sounds and lights.  Now I love fireworks!  

I remember when you guys took me to get my first bike and Jason got his first Big Wheel and mine was a bright shiny red Schwinn.  I was so excited!  It took me forever to learn to ride, but I did.  We lived in Astoria and about the same time you had this old motorcycle that never worked but you would give us rides around the yard and try to get it started by running it down the big hill in our back yard of the house on Grand Avenue.  It never worked, of course.  You and mom and Uncle Pat and Aunt Linda would play Millebornes and one of my favorite Christmases ever was in that house.  Mom made candy and I got fashion plates.  

We had the real 8-track tapes and vinyl and you let me listen to classic rock bands like the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and the Doobie Brothers.  You had this album of Cat Stevens and it fascinated me.  I would spend what seemed like hours looking at it mainly because there was some sort of spider on it.  We moved up to Forest Grove and then Banks after a series of logging accidents forced you to train for a new career.  You had been going to school during the week and then coming home on the weekends.  Honestly, I don't know how you did it. 

I started playing t-ball and softball and was so excited for my new cleats I ran back and forth outside Grandpa's apartment in Forest Grove the night I got them just to prove my cleats made me run faster.  We moved to Banks and I played softball and then volleyball and then we moved on to Portland because you had to move into the city because you started working for the city.  I really, really wanted to go to Grant High School because I had met some guys who went to Grant that came to wrestle at Banks Jr. High. One weekend, my parents blindfolded my brother Jason and I and drove us through the Portland to show us where our new house was.  2 blocks from Grant High School.

I could go on and on with memories and I think what I am trying to say is even through all the difficulties, and there are lots, I would not trade you for anyone else.  I can honestly say I love you with all my heart.  Last summer we had such a great time with you and I miss you!  I felt sad when you left and I can't tell you how many times when I'm driving I'm looking for places you could move to so you could be closer.  Benj and I have even talked about coming to visit you in Montana.  And if you ever do want to move, you know you already have a moving crew.  

I am proud of the way you have persevered, if I can say that, and I just want you to know that.  I have so many good memories and you taught me so many good things.  My love of music, the written word, teaching me to be independent, my quirky sense of humor, my heritage and I am proud to say I am your daughter.  So watch this video, and listen to this song, and though he talks about being a son or man,  you can insert daughter or woman in there.  Happy Birthday Dad, I love you so much!

My Choice

Here it is.  I found it.  I am reading a book by Pema Chodron, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times.  She starts off Chapter 4 saying, "It's up to us.  We can spend our lives cultivating our resentments and cravings or we can explore the path of the warrior-nurturing open-mindedness and courage".  Some person decided to write in pencil, "no, it's not, it's up to the Creator of us-God!"  And therein lies my problem.

We are not exempt from the responsibility of our lives, whether we are "saved" or not.  I truly believe, with all my heart, we are co-creators with the Divine.  I did not come up with this, but it resonates deeply within me.  I did not start to wake up, start to live consciously until I realized and decided I am responsible for every single choice and decision I make.  Bailing out and leaving it up to Jesus or God to save me without putting in the work is ridiculous.  And yet, much of our world here in America at least, believes in that.

This is not to say I do not believe in miracles or unexpected turnarounds or changes in behavior.  Because I do.  But by and large, most of those choices come from a decision in the heart.  Not a one-time decision, but an ongoing decision.  Instead of asking Jesus to save us, we can and should save ourselves in a sense.  Now, I'm far from an expert in understanding how this works.  But I do know I have always been at odds with people telling me how to live my life on the one hand, and then telling me I will stand before God alone.  Doesn't work both ways.  If I am standing alone before God at the end of my life, then I will make sure to own my choices. 

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LOVE

I found something last night in one of my notebooks I had written on 11/16/2016, when I asked myself if I could create an acronym for love.  This is what came to me:

L - Listen

O- Observe

V- Value

E- Empathize

Listen - "to wait attentively for a sound".  Listen is a verb, an active word.  Too often we are listening only to come up with our reply, or we butt in and do not give people a chance to speak.  Another word for listen is hear - "to listen to; give or pay attention to" One of the things my mom taught me was to pay attention to not just what people are saying and doing, but why they are saying and doing what they are.

Observe - "to regard with attention, especially so as to see or learn something".  This word is also a verb, a word of action.  It ties in to the above, pay attention what is underlying why people are doing or saying certain things, not only what they are doing or saying. 

Value - "to regard or esteem highly".  Another verb.  When you value a person, you listen and observe to learn and understand the why of what they are doing, not just the what, even when you may not agree.  

Empathize - "to experience empathy", which is "the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another".  That is a big one and requires us to come out of ourselves and into the experience of another.  Or, the other, as is sometimes used.

In my own life, love has most often called upon me to step out of what is comfortable.  To not make the easy choice, but the difficult one.  To suspend what I would most like to do for the sake of another.  Not out of my need to be valued for what I can do for someone else but because I value them as a person and think about what they might be going through.  Working to join them in whatever it is they are going through and to be with them in that.  Whether or not I agree is irrelevant,  and I don't get to decide whether or not what they are feeling or going through is valid.  

We can all listen more, observe more, value more and empathize more.  Coming out of yourself for the sake of another is not weak, instead it shows an incredible amount of strength.  

Reverence

We have lost it.  Our reverence for life.  In our obsession with avoiding death, that is the very thing our culture and our world perpetuates over and over and over again.  Weapons of mass destruction.  Tanks and guns and bombs and death and more death over and over and everywhere.

Our televisions are filled with it, our video games rife with it.  You can get in more trouble for stealing money than you can for killing someone. People say that might is right and the only way to enforce peace is through strength.  I believe there are different kinds of strength.

The peace that passes all understanding cannot be secured with guns or bought with another barrel of oil.  And the reverence for life that needs to be restored will require a great amount of strength, a great amount of courage that does not come from any source of external power, because external power will never suffice.  No matter how much you have, death is never eluded.  And thus the cycle repeats over and over and over again.  As they say, what you resist persists.

It hurts my heart to see the level of damage we as human beings inflict on each other on a daily basis.  And we will never stop until we grasp the fact that we are all the same.  We share the same DNA, we share the same stardust.  That is true power, true strength, grasping the fact that we are all the same.  When the trickle becomes a stream, the stream becomes a river, and the breeze of change becomes a full-blown wind.  

People say it doesn't matter, nothing will change, human nature is all the same.  Maybe we have been until now.  And maybe we will be for more generations to come.  But I'm not so sure.  I feel the winds of change blowing in my soul, and I know others feel it too.  When we all come together and realize nothing has to separate us, we can do things we thought impossible. 

I don't know exactly why I'm writing this.  But I do know writing gives me an outlet, a place to express my thoughts, an avenue to do something, anything.  Truth and authenticity are words thrown around a lot in the land of false idols and fake friends.  I for one will strive to keep those values at the core of who I am, and encourage others to do the same.  The world needs more people who have come alive and live their life in the authentic pursuit of truth, their truth.  That is authentic power and that can and most often does change the world. 

 

How Do You Answer the Big Question?

What would you do if you could do anything? I often like to ask people this question.  And this is the question we get asked periodically at different times during our lives.  Most of the time I never knew what to say.  I would be envious of those who seemed to know exactly what they wanted from their life and marched after it.  They knew what they would do, and they were doing it.  

I never knew I could create my own life.  For a long time I had no idea I actually could design my very own custom life.  Sometimes you don't know what you don't know.  I took things as they came to me, and lived a lot on auto-pilot.  But all along, things were stirring.  I remember watching the first Lord of the Rings movie in 2001, sitting in my cubicle thinking and knowing there had to be more but I had no idea what or how.  

It is not for the faint of heart.  From that point on, my life took me on an incredible journey.  And now, through more than a few years of deep self-work and excavation, I am doing it.  I am creating and designing a life I love.  Filling it with people I love, and things I love, and finding out what my interests and passions are.  I don't know if there is one true passion.  I guess the thing I think about most is writing.  That is the place where I go deep inside and lose myself.  But I am sure interested in a bunch of other things, like photography, traveling, history, languages, music .  

This life I have chosen is not easy.  In fact, it's damn hard sometimes.  Living with people, scrambling to come up with rent, patching together odd jobs.  But I learned something.  Well, a few things.  40 hours a week working for someone else does not leave me with the energy I need to create.  And writing is that sweet spot, where my dreams touch the Earth.  Now that I have found it, I am not about to give it up.  So I do whatever is necessary to protect it and nurture it.  Quite frankly, I don't want life to be "easy".  I want to always be growing, learning, changing and evolving.  

There is no retirement.  I hope I'm still writing and traveling when I'm 90.  I use that because that is how old my maternal grandmother is, and she just got her first cell phone.  I think the myth of retirement is that, a myth.  We wait and we wait and we wait and sometimes it pans out and sometimes it doesn't.  I refuse to believe the best thing I can hope for is to work some job with great benefits and hope I have enough energy left to do things when I'm 65 or 70.  Who knows if I'll make it that far, or my pension, 401k or Social Security will.  I don't want to "retire".  I intend to live a full, vibrant life.  If I have learned anything, as cliche as it is, there are no guarantees.  

GO!!!  One of my very best friends frequently posts this on my Facebook status updates.  And notice, it is an action word.  So go!!! Go towards your dreams, whatever they are.  Cultivate those ideas whispered in your dreams.  Pay attention and say yes.  I promise, you life will take a magical turn.  But be warned, once you open that door and go, there is no going back.