Monday, January 26, 2009

24 stuffs.

Wowsers, it's been a while...sorry peoples - it seems I've been remiss in my "blogging responsibilities!" Sorry, I just needed to get all that punctuation out of my system. 8)

Succinct updates & thoughts:
  1. I helped a guy break into his car took me less than 2 minutes this time. Is that bad?
  2. The HandyGraham officially sucks at first dates.
  3. "Bangkok Dangerous" is the second worst movie I've ever seen.
  4. "Wild Wild West" starring Will Smith is the worst.
  5. I busted up an old commode today w/ a was awesome.
  6. I ran 11.23 miles on Sunday.
  7. I ran in Chattanooga w/ the "running club" this weekend.
  8. Josh's mom taught us a recipe to make an omelet in a baggie...awesome too.
  9. Family Wash makes GREAT shepherds pies...too bad they don't have Yuengling on tap.
  10. Today I was in Michaels arts & crafts store & heard a Spice Girls song.
  11. Sadly, I knew it was a Spice Girls song.
  12. I used to drive a beat up old red work van in high school & listened to Spice Girls really loud to annoy all the ghetto kid wannabes.
  13. No, I was not buying knitting supplies at Michaels.
  14. I was talking to my friend Christina about an amazing Marvin Gaye song last night called "Got to Give it up."
  15. I heard that song @ Home Depot this afternoon, and it made me smile.
  16. Sometimes I want to just disappear and move to another country w/out telling anybody.
  17. I started reading "The Glass Castle" today, and I'm already afraid to read the end.
  18. I miss my dog.
  19. Hip Hop music feels like the rain sometimes.
  20. It can also feel like electricity.
  21. For the first time in years, I actually needed some "alone time" this weekend.
  22. I'm thankful for my buddy Paul Zimmerman-Clayton.
  23. I'm making a roast in the oven right now...I think I might have screwed it up.
  24. Nope - it turned out ok.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Guitar Lessons w/ the HandyGraham

On Friday, I had the opportunity to participate in something absolutely amazing.

For quite a few months now, I've been working on switching out all the doors in one of my favorite clients' houses. One of the reasons that I enjoy handyman work is the reason that, most of the time, it offers a lot of variety in problem-solving, which thankfully keeps my brain occupied. As I near the end of my task, I'd be lying if I said that the monotony isn't getting to me just a little bit. (On Friday, I replaced doors 17, 18, & 19 out of 21.) If I weren't such a big fan of this client, I may even have tapped out already.

I was already having a less-than-joyous day as my truck is not running at 100% right now. It's just not a pleasant way to start your mornings. I spent the rest of the day working on these doors and was able to remain rather positive for most of it. My client's kids were home from school and their grandfather was there as well to keep an eye on them. My client's ten-year-old daughter had a friend over and they spent the day playing with the computer, making music videos and other fun activities. It reminded me of when my sister and I used to get to stay home from school at that age...we usually just fought over the Nintendo.

The day passed by a bit slowly...not as slowly as my sales-repping days @ the record company, mind you...that job almost did me in. I was finally onto my last adjustment for the day for which I had to interrupt one of the girls' music videos. I smiled when I saw that they were not dancing to the radio this time, but actually working around a guitar that one of them had gotten for Christmas. They both gave me a quick embarrassed smile, which passed almost immediately, and they wasted no time moving on to tell me they were putting together a band, but neither of them knew how to sing, play, or even tune the guitar. I told them I could at least tune the guitar for them, if not teach them a chord or two when I finished up the door and was encouraged by their immediate excitement.

They agreed to go grab some water while I made my final adjustments on the door, and while I did so, I took in the beauty of their excitement, their invincible hope, and maybe envied the learning potential they have as they're so young. It wasn't long before they returned - ready to rock. So, I tuned the guitar and played a riff or two to get their attention (a little trick I learned working with elementary school kids in college). I gave the guitar back and moved right into teaching them both the D chord. I only wish you all could have seen their face as they both individually cracked the code and the guitar made music in their hands for them the first time.

On the way to work that day, I was listening to NPR and heard an interesting story about Barack Obama's two years at Occidental College in Los Angeles. When one of President-elect Obama's former professors, Roger Boesche, was asked if he saw this kind of potential in Barack Obama, to which he replied:
"I cannot say that I looked across my class and said, 'Now that guy will even be in the Senate, much less the president,'" says Boesche. "But he stood out. He was very articulate."
This quote came back to me as I saw the look of joy on these girls' faces, and it made me think about the first chord I learned on the guitar. It was like I'd finally been able to harness the magic of something I'd only ever been able to watch and listen to in the past. Who knows the implications of the insignificant little nugget of information I shared with those girls.

If these young ladies get to enjoy music half as much as I do at some point in their life, it'll make me smile.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Music & Love: Create? Manipulate? Participate?

Oh Brother Andy, what have you done? I told everybody I wouldn’t make a habit of talking about this stuff, but it seems the floodgates are open now.

What is the origin of Love?

Music Explains Love (I think)

My senior year in college, I decided to take “Introduction to Music” as an elective. Now those of you who know my background and how much I love music might find that odd…it was supposed to be a cakewalk class. Much to the contrary, I found myself digging into many deeper meanings of music and life because of this class. The most difficult internal debate I engaged was this: What is the origin of Music?

I’ve been making music since when my mom caught me whistling Axel F on the toilet when I was three. I’m a classically trained upright bassist, play guitar, a few other instruments and sing as well. I played in orchestra, band, jazz band, wind ensemble, marching band and a few of my own bands. Forgive what seems like boasting. I only put these cards on the table to illustrate how odd it is that I’d never thought to inquire as to the origins of something that has been such a huge part of my life and still is. To confuse this even more, I had also just begun to write my own music.

Can I actually “create” Music?
Can I actually “manipulate” Music? Or,
Do I merely get to “participate” in Music?

I’ll spare you the ping pong deliberations of my brain, and the semantics I fought through with a machete. Suffice it to say it wasn’t exactly cut & dry, but I’ll just skip to the point.

I concluded that we merely get to participate in Music. All the songs I’ve written just sort of came out. I often listen to the melodies that I’ve “composed” and wonder where they possibly could have come from.

I liken music-writing to this: The mood strikes me, and all of a sudden I’m walking into a melody store, the front of which looks a lot like the record store from “High Fidelity.” It looks tiny from the outside, but is vast, perhaps endless on the inside. Somehow, my feet know exactly where to go…a section meant just for me. I spend some time checking out different melodies until I come across one that actually makes my soul sing back. (It’s kind of like when you find the pitch that resonates perfectly in a big, tiled bathroom). My soul makes the decision for me and I take it to the cashier who’s an amiable guy w/ dreadlocks & a soul patch. He just smiles at me and says, “It’s on the house as usual, brother – see you next time!”

I’ve compared this to the involuntary vomiting of a song…though you may also remember that I don’t really believe in involuntary vomiting. 8)

What I have then is a musical representation (like a musical photograph) of just a little piece of my soul…what a precious gift. How could I ever take credit for that?

Back to Love

Is Love not the same way?

Participate: Love is a gift beyond logical explanation. It’s a supernatural phenomenon that’s out there for us to discover, experience, and ultimately enjoy – a precious gift that FAR exceeds even our wildest imagination.

Create: As the Bonnie Raitt song says, “I can’t make you love me, if you don’t.” (written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin). We can’t create love. We can come up with any recipe that we want, but it’ll never be able to take the place of the perfection that is love. Why on earth would we turn our noses at a free and perfect gift in search of manufacturing it on our own “filthy rag” version? We are silly, stubborn creatures, aren’t we?

Manipulate: I’ve alluded to the dangers of manipulation before. Manipulate Love? Talk about trying to harness the power of the Sun with your bare hands…its simply asinine. You can, however, manipulate people. I must say I feel badly for those whose relationships are built on some sort of manipulation. Both sides end up drowning in insecurity wondering all the while what is true and what isn’t.

Playing With Fire

Manipulating a person actually twists them into somebody they’re not. When you manipulate someone, it’s like taking Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” removing the texture and making it into a black and white postcard. They become like the animals in Narnia who can’t talk anymore. You’ve taken a flute and made it sound like banging a spoon on a table. They’ve been assimilated to your myopic imagination and confined to a cage. Gosh, it’s beginning to look like slavery. Congratulations, you are now dating, or worse, married to the walking dead…and YOU killed them. What an atrocity. I’m thinking bad words about you in my head right now, malicious manipulator. I wish I could say my hands were clean of this. They’re not. If I’d had any idea of what I was really doing at the time…quite sadly our stepping-stones come at others’ expense sometimes…it’s part of what makes us NEVER want to screw it up again.

Isn’t it so much better to let the other’s light shine? Let them be who they are. Let their song ring loud & true. The worst that can happen is that their song doesn’t prove harmonious with yours. I imagine when it actually does, the whole orchestra and chorus joins in behind you.

Those who find Love on Love’s schedule don’t have to rely on disillusionment. Experiencing Love on Loves terms is an exciting adventure through uncharted territories. There is so much amazing and colorful scenery along the way that you can’t ever fully take it in. Manufacturing “love” and manipulating it is just another trip through the quagmires, trapped in the confines of our own mind. As with all things, life is too short to spend it bound by our own skepticism and our limited capacities. I’d much rather be surprised by the endless possibilities God’s world has in store for us.

I think I might dig into why we attempt to manipulate tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The "Perfect Seven" (significant others)

Coffee with the Maverick
I had my weekly coffee tonight with my good buddy Andy Merrick at Fido here in Nashville. I would have made him meet me @ Créma, but they're not open that late yet. It's come to my attention that many of you have probably been reading Andy's series called "Why Guys Aren't Asking You Out."

I don't really do a lot of blog reading...mostly because I don't spend my days bored out of my skull in front of my computer anymore, looking for anything to keep me awake for when my supervisor actually looks at me. I'm usually too tired to enjoy blogs at the end of the day, and I rather prefer talking to people over reading. Andy's blog is one I actually try to follow, but I don't always read it for two reasons:
  1. Andy handles more in most blogs than my attention span will usually allow me to ingest.
  2. I spend Tuesday nights mentally sparring with this good fellow...which is WAY better than actually having to read something. 8)

That being said, I simply had to hear what all the hubbub was about, so I just finished reading the first four parts of Andy's series in one shot. I am now quite tired and am desperately longing for simplicity.

I haven't been on a date in well over a year, and I haven't been "dating somebody" in over two, and this is probably why. Seriously, how much harder could we POSSIBLY make this? Andy's working on at least a 5, maybe 7, maybe more, -part series on this with the thoroughness that only a computer programmer w/ creative tendencies could maintain. But, I guarantee you he won't cover it all.

I very much would like to get back on the dating horse, but if I try & concern myself with all that stuff, there is NO WAY I'll ever get back on. So rather, here's what I'm going to try & focus on (the sequence is intentional):

  1. How would you like to go out some time?
  2. I like you. Do you like me?
  3. Analysis: Do we think this is working?
  4. Conclusion:
  • If yes: Good let's keep this up and get married someday.
  • If no: Well, I'm really glad we tried. I guess this means there's a smarter match for both of us out there.

Should it not be so simple?!?

The Perfect Seven
I mentioned the other day that I try to see the beauty in everybody. I don't know if this is right, but this is the habit my brain is in right now: I see us all as "Perfect Seven's." Yes, you heard me right. Like in any judgment, we are scored in different categories. In this particular trial, the average of our score leaves us ALL with a "Perfect Seven." For example:
  • Outward Appearance - 6
  • Sense of Humor - 8
  • Bo Staff Skills - 7
  • etc...
Nobody is actually higher on the scale than anybody else, we all have our own "Criteria DNA" that when averaged out has the exact same value as that of everyone else. Andy might need to find a girl who is more intelligent than funny, whereas the opposite might work better for myself. Granted, all of my examples are GROSS oversimplifications, but do you see my point? (Besides, I can't complain about complexity and conjure a complicated conclusion).

This is what it means when we say, "I don't need to find the 'perfect boy/girl.' I need to find the 'perfect boy/girl' for me." The former simply does not exist, but I'm pretty sure sure the latter exists for the majority of us.

A key has teeth. A lock has a series of pins that rise & fall when a key is inserted. When the teeth properly match the formation of the pins inside the lock, something amazing happens. The key can turn and the lock opens. This analogy actually plays into my "reciprocation" role that I mentioned the other day...look to see more about that later.

Selling Love?!?
I was a sales rep for almost 3 years of my life and sold a variety of music to retail stores. I was pretty good at that job, but one thing I was never able to do was sell a Rap album by treating it as a Southern Gospel album. If we're a Rap album (& I'm pretty sure I am), why would we try & market ourselves for a tour with Bill & Gloria Gaither & Friends?

Like selling anything, we find our niche, and we ALL have at least one, and we work to exploit the niche. We can't all be the prettiest girl, or the hottest dude. It may be the quickest way to get immediate attention, but the lasting attention we're looking for comes from being confident in knowing who you are, and knowing who you are not. (please forgive my adaptive plagiarism)

"To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge."

We short-change ourselves by trusting so much on outward appearance. It can so easily hide more subtle and far more substantive things like: a good sense of humor, a kind heart, impressive dreams, witty banter, etc. THESE ARE ATTRACTIVE QUALITIES!!! And they're good, safe places to invest your confidence.

I'm sure I'll have some comments on Andy's blog if he can ever find a stopping point. That's certainly not a cut on's a cut on our dating culture - and knowing just how thorough Andy thinks, I hope he doesn't drive himself batty trying to figure it all out. Ladies - you owe him one. Generally speaking (which is Andy's approach if I'm not mistaken) he's just about spot on. I love that guy...and I think I'm going to start Sub-titling like he does. Thanks buddy.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

minus 20 questions...

I'm rather bad at asking questions...or it should definitely seem so if we've ever had a conversation face-to-face. This is certainly something of which I'm hardly proud. I worry that it's indicative that I have poor listening skills.

However, I recently came to the conclusion that this may not be entirely true after I spent some time speculating on just why I don't ask a lot of questions. I happened upon 2 reasons I'd not previously realized, the first of which is rather complicated and the second of which is really quite simple.

Reason 1 goes a little something like this: I've spent a great deal of my life learning things by observation rather than asking questions - like gathering the meaning of a word I don't know from the context of a conversation. Much can be learned about any situation or person by simply watching/observing. I think I may have originally started doing this out of pride so I wouldn't look silly for asking simple questions, but it turns out it's a very useful skill.

(relevant sidebar) We are all judgmental to some's in our DNA. We discern things, and then we make judgments based upon our discernment. I don't really like the idea of "judging" people per se, but if we're ever to make any sort of progress in our lives, we have to make judgments. For example - Is this guy trustworthy? Is she lying to me? What do they really mean by that? I'm sure I do a poor job of it, but I try to judge as little as I must, and also try to keep my judgments to a horizontal scale rather than a vertical one. I think I naturally put myself at the top of the vertical one, and that's definitely not where I belong - whereas on a horizontal scale, the playing field is level. Judgement becomes a matter of "different" rather than "better vs. worse."(end sidebar)

When I encounter people, I immediately begin compiling data with regards to that person's character as there are no better criteria by which to make judgment. Over the years I've developed a pretty good "character barometer" and can usually tell within a matter of minutes of observing someone whether they'll become an acquaintance, a friend, or even a nemesis. (I don't really have any's just fun to say). We transmit a great many signals by our actions, body language, demeanor, verbage, etc.

Now before you get all uncomfortable when you meet me, just know that this kind of thinking comes with a price. I can't help but assume that others hold me under the exact same scrutiny, so I'm probably a great deal more uncomfortable than you, whether I show it or not.

So, long story short, I substitute observing for question-asking. My biggest regret about this is that people might get the impression that I'm not actually invested/interested in them, but the truth is that I've already unintentionally invested in them by observing them. It plays into another trait of mine I call "reciprocation," which is another blog for another time.

Reason 2 weighs far less guiltily on my heart and goes like this: I spend much of my time alone. I live alone and work alone. Seeing as I've, most often, already silently learned much about my company by observation, I often know what I want to know about them and don't have further questions. So rather than them questions, I blabber excitedly. Why? Because I'm literally just so excited to be in their presence that I get wound up. I know that sounds dumb, but it's really true. Sometimes, if I'm with a particularly close friend, I just won't say anything because their presence calms me and I'm so comfortable I needn't say a thing.

So if you've ever been offended by my constant jabbering and pontificating, or my enigmatic silence, will you please forgive me? Apparently I actually am quite concerned with you and have a poor way of showing it. I'm not one for composure, and I'm afraid you probably won't catch me asking questions of someone just to make them feel invested in. That seems patronizing if you ask me.

So, my new quest is this. Come up with questions whose answers I actually desire to know. Start asking them of people and get better at SHOWING the fact that I'm interested in them.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cheers & Brownies!!!

During my end of day evaluation last night, I realized that I had a really good day yesterday, and I simply must share.

I grew up as a pretty big fish in a small pond. I hope none of you at home are offended by that...actually a LOT of us were big fish in that little pond. One of my favorite things about that was the fact that everybody knew my name for reasons like my high school sports career, or maybe because they caught me throwing rocks in their pool when I was ten. Either way, I can rarely go anywhere back home without seeing a face I know...literally a place where "everybody knows your name."

My home town of Palmyra, PA has a population of 7,000 people. Nashville, TN (where I live now) is about one Palmyra, PA short of 600,000 people. That makes Nashville just over 85 times the size of Palmyra, which, in comparison, makes Nashville a "big pond." Quite often, I find myself really missing that small town vibe.

I realized something yesterday though:
-My first stop of the morning was to the best coffee shop in Nashville: Créma (It IS the best - argument is futile). The first thing that happened was Rachel, Créma's co-owner w/ her husband, greeted me by my name. This isn't abnormal - I'd consider she & Ben friends of mine.
-My second stop of the morning was my favorite bank in all Nashville...the USBank on Fessler's Lane...home of the sweetest bank teller women/ladies/girls you'll ever meet. It happened again. I was greeted by my first name. I still didn't think much of it, but it made me smile just the same.
-My third stop of the morning was Kroger, and wouldn't you know, it happened a third time at the self-checkout of all places. I do frequent Kroger, and almost always go through self-checkout, so I've had quite a few conversations with the woman there as well.
-Later in the day, I went to take care of a few things for a church in Green Hills, and was kindly and personally welcomed by the church staff as I always am...once again by my name.

Dale Carnegie, author of "How to Win Friends & Influence People" once said this:
"If you want to win friends, make it a point to remember them. If you remember my name, you pay me a subtle compliment; you indicate that I have made an impression on you. Remember my name and you add to my feeling of importance."

So simple and true, and so easily forgotten. (This is a fantastic book if you ever get the chance to read it. I read it in 8th grade and it changed the way I think about relationships entirely).

After work yesterday, I found a package on my back porch - I never get packages unless I order them from Amazon. I was excited to see that it came from my cousins the Kimberlys who live close to Cleveland, OH. My cousin Mary attended Vanderbilt University here in Nashville last year, and it afforded me an opportunity to spend some (non family reunion) time with these only-slightly-less-immediate family members - an opportunity for which I'm quite thankful.

Naturally, like any grown-up, I dropped everything and tore into the box only to find another package wrapped in Christmas paper with a note from my cousin Hannah, the "baby" of the Kimberly family. Now Hannah & I have had a special relationship since the beginning. I distinctly remember being her own personal jungle gym at a family reunion maybe 8-10 years ago...I'm a little over 12 years older than she is. After not having seen her for some time, I was shocked to see her this summer, a blossoming teen with every ounce of sassy sarcasm that goes with teen-hood. Well, don't get to be her jungle gym anymore, but now she makes me laugh with the wit that only high schoolers are capable of.

After I read the note a few times, I carefully took the paper off and found a whole box full of brownies. And they weren't just brownies, but FUDGY chocolate brownies with powdered sugar on top. Oh man...those won't last a minute in this house. Isn't it funny how something so simple as brownies, if sent to the right person, can mean so VERY much?

Anyway, after a great run with my Wednesday night running group and some dinner w/ good friends at Calypso Cafe, I headed home and found the day's retrospect an absolute joy.

Nightmare about Mary Tyler Moore?!?

I have a very vivid imagination. Last night I had a nightmare. The two for me are not a good combination. My nightmares always involve something supernaturally evil. Bad dreams without that particular element are basically just “bad,” or rather “negative” dreams. I think it’s similar to the way I view life. For example:

In my dreams, I’m not really afraid of mortal enemies with guns, swords or any other weapons. I merely play my part whether that’s soldier, citizen, general, protector or hero – win or lose. I usually only ever fear for the lives of others and it’s not so much that I have disregard for mine, but maybe I feel invincible?

When it comes to supernatural evil, on the other hand, the mood is different and I’m terrified. It’s totally the same in real life. If I were at gunpoint, I’m pretty sure I’d constantly be thinking of a way to disarm my assailant. Were I to come in contact with a ghost, I think I’d have to search DEEP to find courage.

It seems I have a fear of things I can’t go toe-to-toe with and have a fair fight.

What I remember of my dream last night was this: I was in a facility like a nursing home, and though others were present, the only other characters I can remember were Mary Tyler Moore (MTM) who was oldish and cenile, and a vampire/werewolf hybrid of sorts…all black and young. MTM was a fox when she had her own TV show back in the 70’s, but she was no such thing in my dream. The vampire seemed to be young and on the brink of death. Deep down, I knew I needed to kill it, and MTM was trying to convince me that she agreed. I was about to strike the deathblow when MTM came at me with a letter opener and the last thing I remember was fighting with the crazed MTM and trying to wrest the letter opener from her grip. She reminded me a little of Renfield from the book “Dracula” by Bram Stoker. (sidebar: "Dracula" is simply it if you can). It was then that I awoke.

I woke in a sweat, and of course, I felt the need to use the bathroom. I was groggy, still a bit out of sorts from MTM trying to kill me with a letter opener, not to mention worried that I might run into that vampire creature, so I was in no hurry to leave the safety of my covers. Totally ridiculous, and had the lights been on, it would have been a different story.

When I find myself in fear my mind goes right to the character Iorek Byrnison (the beloved Polar bear) from the book/movie the Golden Compass. In one instance, the main character, Lyra, asks him if he’s afraid, to which he replies, “No, and when I am, I will master my fear.”

In the second instance, he is on his way to rescue Lyra from a situation where he’s outnumbered 100’s to one by enemies who loathe him. His friend Lee Scoresby is trying to talk him out of it by trying to convince him that this is a silly suicide mission to which Iorek replies, “I know that I would be ashamed to show less courage than that child.”

What a great hero – seriously. He's hardcore to the bone...gotta love it. The Golden Compass is totally worth seeing if for nothing other than the bear fight. Upon hearing those words in my head, I stepped out of bed to face my foolish fears, and quickly proved that they were indeed foolish.

I don’t know why I fear the supernatural so. Ghost stories/movies literally freak me out enough that I can’t sleep. Never once in my lifetime have I ever seen a ghost or any sort of reasonable facsimile - I really have no reason to even believe they exist.

Perhaps I’ll dig more on that later…for now, I’m tired. Off to bed.

p.s. this post is actually from 1/7/09, but I couldn't get online to post it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Blah - that is my word for today. I couldn't seem to find any cohesive sort of focus today, so I don't see why I need to try and find one right comes a disjointed entry.

Tack 1: This morning I had to stop by Home Depot to grab some shims so I could level a toilet. Upon entering, I saw that my friend/acquaintance, Blair, was working in the paint department. I was about to say hello when this happened:

A guy was about 15 feet in front of me and detoured into the paint section towards Blair. It looked like he was going to ask for some assistance, so I decided not to say hello just yet and started moving towards Roger & Steven in the "millwork" department to get my shims. Before passing out of view, for some reason, I decided to watch this guy...maybe I had an idea of what he was going to do. Instead of talking to Blair, he walked right behind her, "checked her out," and walked out of the section. I chuckled to myself a little bit as I went to find my shims. I mean, Blair's a pretty girl, and members of the opposite sex are supposed to be attracted to each's in our nature. This dude was just so crassly uncouth it was totally amusing.

After my trip to millwork for my shims, I swung back by the paint department to recount the story to Blair, and we had a laugh over it. I realized after the fact (as my less-than-quick wit usually does) that it would have been pretty funny to shout "Hey Blair!" just as that dude was checking her out, but that's the kind of thing that bar fights are started over.

Tack 2: Today, 2 things happened/are happening in my kitchen that have NEVER happened in this kitchen in the 80-90 years my house has been standing. I used my new garbage disposal and am washing dishes in a dishwasher for the first time in Castle Stoner history.

I installed both of these on New Years Eve before I went out to ring in the new year with my friends. I actually didn't finish until about 10 pm on NYE, but it was totally worth the wait. Despite my catch-all kitchen table that is covered with items that only barely made into the house via the back door, my laundry hanging from curtain rods and other various make-shift "hooks", and my shop-vac which is currently the kitchen centerpiece, it's starting to feel like a functional kitchen. Exciting!

Tack 3: I wear flip-flops a lot. I've had my current pair for a few years now. They're the kind w/ the foam bottom and the rubber thong. I've worn these on the beach, around the house, to play frisbee, to church, to the grocery store, in Scotland, to soccer and flag football games...really, to most of the places I've been in the last few years. On Sunday, however, tragedy struck. The right thong on my right flip-flop, which has been clinging by a thread for at least a year now, finally broke.

My dilemma is this - it's very difficult to find a new pair of flip-flops in January, so I've been limping around in this pair for the last few days. I say limping because unless I drag my foot, the flip-flip will just start turning clockwise anywhere from 90-180 degrees. As you can imagine, this makes walking slightly cumbersome. Never fear good buddy Hunter who works in a fantastic store called REI (you might have heard of it) tells me they've got some flip flops for sale. At least I know where to go when I finally get frustrated enough with these that I recognize my need for a new pair.

Phew - I hope my thought process is a little more controlled tomorrow.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Rain Rain, it's OK. We can work some other day.

The day has finally arrived. The holidays have officially passed and we have run out of excuses to put off getting back to work. was kind of rainy today. 8)

I really love rain. Sadly, my least favorite kind of rain is Winter rain - simply enough because during the Winter, rain should always be snow. Summer rain brings a nice reprieve from the heat, but ultimately leaves things muggy. Fall rain is frustrating because I'm usually trying to get as many motorcycle rides in as I can before it gets so cold that motorcycling becomes more pragmatic than enjoyable.

As you may have guessed, Spring rain is my favorite. Spring rain's main job is to breathe new life into the Earth, who has been starved for life since the last of Fall's beauty handed the baton off to Winter's icy grip. You can walk in the rain anytime, but it feels best in Spring. In Pennsylvania, where I grew up, Spring rain also washes away the dregs of the dirty and unsightly snow that somehow missed the memo about Winter being over.

I think I started appreciating the rain in high school when I came to this realization. Rain affects us one is invulnerable. I may have first noticed this during track season. My competition all seemed to lose confidence as soon as the rain hit and this did naught but bolster mine. I won some great races by some pretty large margins thanks to the effects of the rain.

I'm not really involved in a lot of competition anymore - I mostly compete against myself - so the rain seems to have taken on a new role in my life. I'm not sure I can articulate this, but the rain has become a source of comfort now. It has a way of numbing the pain of loneliness. It has a way of saying, "take it easy, man - it'll be all right." It has a way of making a run feel less like obligated training and more like an adventure. I especially love how it has a way of washing away distorted expectations (both good & bad) that we have of all things, so that for just a moment we have an uninhibited glimpse of reality...I could go on.

I have an aluminum roof over the patio right outside my bedroom window. There are few things as soothing as falling asleep to the peaceful sound of a steady, gentle rain falling right outside your window. It sort of makes me feel like I can just keep exhaling all night without ever having to suffer even the slight inconvenience of inhaling.

And isn't there something about the rain that makes it seem like none of us should actually be at work, but rather at home, in our sweats, on the couch, with a significant other (or even just the dog or cat), maybe a candle or two burning, watching as many hours of our favorite DVD's as will fit before we drift off into that peaceful slumber only the rain can induce?

Perhaps you've taken a trip somewhere on a plane and left on a rainy day. You take off in an atmosphere of gloom. After a steep ascent of a few thousand feet, all of a sudden visibility from your window dwindles so much you can't even see the wing anymore, but maybe the intermittent blink of one of the lights on it. But then, just as you're about to lose interest in looking out the window because you can't actually see anything, something glorious happens. In the blink of an eye, the plane bursts through the cloud cover and you see the sun smiling down on its friends the rain clouds. We get myopic so quickly during bouts of rain that we forget the rain is good, and the sun is right behind the clouds perfectly content with sharing the sky's center stage.

*sigh* (one of relaxation...not frustration) No point to this I guess, or moral to the story. Maybe you've found that we have something in common, or maybe better yet, you get to see the brighter side of the rain.

Now, back to work for REAL...although, they're calling for more rain tomorrow. 8)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The HandyGraham vs. Charlie Brown

Well well well, it's been some time now...between the hubbub of the hectic holidays and a concise season of sinister stomach sickness, I'm officially back in the game here.

After being sick for the majority of what many who aren't self-employed so affectionately call winter break, I daresay, I wasn't thrilled per se about working on Friday. But, a combination of not having been able to work for some time, and the fact that I am fond of my clientele convinced me otherwise. It quickly turned into one of those days, however, when the weather is beautiful everywhere except the 5-foot diameter circle that surrounds you, in which it does nothing but rain all day. I've heard from a quite a few people lately that Charlie Brown is a very depressing guy...the reason is that he always has days like the one I'm about to describe.

The issue was this: from the electric breaker box, there were two electrical circuit runs that were not run with heavy enough wire to meet code standards.

One run had an easy solution which involved no more than switching out a 20amp breaker for a 15amp breaker to allow less current through the circuit - a 10 minute operation at most.

The second run was not so simple. It was actually a short run in the same room, but I'd already ruled out the possibility of going through the attic. Upon assessing the crawl space, the clouds darkened slightly as I realized that even a mouse would have trouble getting into the space where I needed to go. I was left with no other option but cutting into drywall - STRIKE 1

So I picked up supplies at Home Depot, then got to work. Everything was going great...drywall came out in one piece, I found a clear path from the breaker box to the outlet, etc. After drilling holes through the studs I found that the friction from my drill had pushed through the wire insulation and exposed copper on a BIG wire - NOT GOOD. Sadly, even the most careful of us even make embarrassing...not to mention I'm lucky I didn't fry myself.

I called Dad to brainstorm and we ruled out all the simple solutions leaving me with no other option than to replace the damaged section with more THICK wire. After waiting in a completely non-moving line for far too long at Burger King, and reading the disgruntled faces of those waiting in line in front of me, I decided to skip lunch (which is heart-breaking if you know how much I like to eat). In lunch's stead, I decided to go to Home Depot to get replacement pieces I'd need to repair my blunder - and they weren't cheap.

I headed back to start my 2.5 hour unpaid, and far more frustrating detour to fix what didn't originally need fixing in the first place. After fighting tooth and nail (quite literally) with those belligerently non-pliable wires, I was finally able to get back to my original project around about 4 in the afternoon. STRIKE 2 (& 3 if you count missing lunch...I know I do).

Finally back on track, I had no more difficult hurdles to clear - I was back on the clock and running like clockwork. I finished up, put the wall back together, and tested all the wiring which responded with perfect results. After cleaning up my tools, my client was kind enough to let me borrow his shop-vac (as I'd brilliantly left mine at home). I bent over and vacuumed up all the mess I'd made, but was much dismayed when I turned around. Apparently something was not secured properly on the vacuum and I'd just filled the back half of the house with a cloud of drywall dust. STEEEE-RIIIIKE 3 (or 4)!!! You're outta there. I'd quite literally inflicted others with the same dark cloud I'd been in all day.


To put the icing on the cake, the day was January 2 and it was like 65 outside and sunny. Perfect motorcycle weather and I missed all of it.

Well, I apologized profusely, and my clients were more than gracious. I'm so thankful that they'd already seen my normal, non-rain cloud work and knew this isn't the norm. I still left feeling totally defeated though.

I was hesitant to blog about this, and if my daily protocol were typically riddled with such disaster, I don't think I would have. But this is me - what you see is what you get. If you're perfect, by all means, feel free to throw stones.

So what's to be learned from all of this?

-No matter how hard we try, we all still make mistakes. A true test of a man is how he handles his mistakes. I've learned to own my mistakes and am constantly learning to handle them with integrity and dignity. It's also important to learn not to make the mistake again.

-Hurdles look like hurdles at first glance, but upon closer analysis, we find they're actually character-building stepping stones. When I'm working, and nobody can see me, I like to pretend I'm being video-taped to remind me to work hard and behave respectably no matter who's watching. That means keeping a cool head when things go wrong.

-Accursed days like this one should remind us to stop and appreciate the good days. How many good days have I had where everything goes as it should? How many times do I ever stop to be thankful for those?

-Drill chucks are more abrasive than you might think...keep them away from wires.

-Some days just suck, but EVERYBODY has those days...not just me.

-We can ALWAYS be learning. ALWAYS.

I'm glad to say that the day had a happy ending. I had the pleasure of grilling out in the company of good friends and was blessed with a great many reasons to smile despite my preceding disaster of a day. The power of positive thinking cannot rest on one's shoulders good company, it manifests and sustains itself.

I just wish I could share my friends with Charlie Brown for a couple days, or maybe donate one of my many good days to him. Lord knows he could use it.