Posted: February 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

Think Big Thoughts...Relish in Small Pleasures

About two weeks ago my boss requested I sit in on a meeting with a alumnae of my college who received a degree in the same minor I am striving for. During this meeting I was asked to be a part of a  media event for our campus’ Religious Emphasis Week that was going to be a lead up event for the Dalai Lama’s visit to Louisville, KY.

We decided on  a Fashion Show of Mongolian and Tibetan Buddhist clothing. After gathering 13 fellow students I was able to take them to the Buddhist Cultural Center of Bloomington. While driving the hour I was in constant thanks that I had been blessed with so many opportunities through my college courses and organizations. In the past 3 weeks of my Religious Studies Senior class I have been questioning my faith and what I believe in as what I was raised with. One belief I was…

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On a recent trip with my girlfriend, I attended church service with her relatives Sunday morning. Religion is an odd topic for me, I want to believe but am always pulled away in the end.

I was raised in a Christian family, baptized at an early age….but we were never church-goers. Although, both of my parents had attended church at least weekly from their childhood until having children. I’ve never really asked why they changed their habits, it’s not really a topic of interest to me. And that’s just it, I’m not interested or concerned what anyone else does with regards to faith. It’s your business and yours alone.

This is probably my number one issue with the church. It turns me away in a heartbeat. It seems everyone is so caught up in what their neighbor is doing they are blind to their own misconduct. This mob mentality of, “They are not one of us,” is not only unethical, it is flat-out un-biblical. Who cares what he or she or anyone else, for that matter, is doing with their lives?! Do your thing, live the way you feel compelled to by whichever motivating source you harness.

The blind mentality reaches so much further. Completely shutting out logical thought from many. The topic of pre-marital sex always pops to mind, or more accurately, is forced upon me because I do not follow scripture. The most common question I get is, “What’s there to look forward to in marriage after?” It irks me to no end, where’s the logic?. Marriage is not, has not been, and should never be about intercourse. Marriage is a bond between two individuals wanting to share life’s journey. Do you really want someone to ask for your hand you just so they can sleep with you? Ask yourself that question. Use logic. My eventual marriage will be stronger because my decision will not have any influence by something so superficial. And my marriage will have a better chance of lasting, as well. How many divorces do you know of that started off with issues revolving around intimacy?

During this visit to the church I attended a Sunday “school” session, lead by the head pastor. I put the word school in quotes because no learning took place. The time was filled receiving prayer requests. Upon taking the request and hearing the stories behind each, he began into a story; eventually condemning his own congregation with words. “At least half of the people who will be present during service today are not Christians. They show up simply to feel as if they are part of something, a group.” Really?! I was quite disgusted.

The sermon that day was one of forgiveness, a poignant and deserving topic, but ironic given his condemnation just minutes prior. There was nothing particularly wrong with the sermon. In fact, I left feeling enlightened, and I put-forth that is the goal of religion.

The question is the process. I could have got that same message reading a story on the internet, not even related to faith. I would be moved just the same. Why must I visit a designated building? Why must I praise someone else for my actions? You see, when it comes to Christianity, it’s really all a list of morals and the social-qualities of a good person. You can remove God and the church and still follow the same path simply because it is the right thing to do.

Perhaps that’s too radical of a thought for most, to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing and not for some reward or to be perceived as a devote, For me it is not, I will continue to do the right thing simply to make the world a better place to live for those I come in contact with.

Let’s teach solid morals and understanding.

I recently wrote about one of the proudest moments of my life (here). That, combined with the increased family-time of the holidays, has had me dwelling on one of the lowest points in my life.

There aren’t many things in my life that I regret. It’s just simply not an emotion I harbor often. I find that I can usually view the light in all situations and realize that things happen for a reason. This particular event, I can not justify.

I lost my grandfather in 2007 to cancer. It all happened pretty sudden, less than a year from diagnosis to his passing. His battle could squarely be classified as “ugly,” quickly going from one the healthiest elderly persons I knew to completely incapacitated. His symptoms were severe and he needed special care, so throughout this year my family was on the road a lot taking him to different centers across several states.

During those drives, there were plenty of talks about how things used to be. From my mother and her siblings telling about being raised by my grandfather, to my grandmother telling about their relationship and marriage dating all the way back to the 1950’s.

At this point it has to be said, I was just getting ready to graduate high school and had a promising career opportunity on the horizon. Something that no late-teen would turn down.

It turns out that promise became a reality. I was drafted in a professional league and needed to fly out to Marina Del Rey, CA  to be on TV for the summer. It was a dream opportunity.

There was a relatively time-consuming process before this eventually came to fruition. So for a bit, I had not been seeing my grandpa during his battle. Once my selection was wrapped up, my mother informed me that grandpa had “turned a corner” in his decline and she was not sure how much more time he had. She wanted me to go visit him with her as soon as possible because she could not guarantee he’d be around when I returned from my job.

We made the trip that weekend, less than one week before my flight out, just the two of us. I had seen him in rough condition before, but this was the worse. My mother, my rock through most of my life, winced and grabbed me, She had seen him several times since the last I had but her initial thought walking in this morning was that he had already passed and the nurses had not taken notice yet. I mention this, not to be grotesque, but to fully illustrate where my regret comes from. He was alive that day, confirmed by his vitals, just very weak and fading.

Mom and I spent a good while there that day. He was unable to speak, as had been the case for a weeks at that point. I spoke to my grandfather about my good fortune and told him I had missed him in the prior weeks. Mom sat quietly, holding his hand, and rubbing her hand through his hair.

The call from the nurses came that night; he had passed.

Now comes the regret part. I made the decision to take my flight out as scheduled despite the funeral plans. I felt it was too late to reschedule my flight and I might lose my opportunity at fame otherwise. I missed everything and I feel I never gave him the respect he deserved in his passing. Perhaps it’s my mind playing games with me but I’ll always feel as if he waited on me to make that last visit; he fought through just to see me one last time.

I have always looked up to my grandfather. He was a shinning example of just the type of man I strive to be. Born in the foothills, both of his parents died when he was a toddler. His 14 year old sister raised him until he was 14 himself. He took a job working in the tobacco fields as soon as he could and lost an eye to a machete before the age of 16 doing his job. He raised a family of 8 kids on lousy pay working in a factory and never once received (or even asked for assistance). Nike may lay claim to the line now but he was the epitome of “Just do it.” He loved with all his heart, my grandma and aunts/uncles.

I will continue to model myself in his image for the rest of my life. I will also probably always battle my regret for flying out after his passing. I still haven’t actually visited his tombstone, I know its location, but the guilt I carry keeps me away.

I will never let anything come before family and loved ones again.

Just a quick one while my mind wanders at work.

Maybe I’m the only guy out there who puts so much emphasis on words, but I want to point of the differences between a  few related words today (imo). I probably spend way more time than I should thinking about such a small topic.

Pretty

The most basic term used to describe a girl. Simply means “pleasing to look at.” It’s definitely a compliment, it does say “You’re attractive,” but the most shallow of praises. Perfectly suited for the girl-next-door type.

Gorgeous

Implies a certain elegance and sophistication. Marilyn Monroe was gorgeous, the girl-next-door probably isn’t. Think about a Gucci ad in a magazine and Hollywood’s glamor years and you’re on the right track

Sexy

It should go without saying, this is a sexual term, purely physical. If your partner refers to you as such, this is a positive thing. If the guy at the club tosses the word around, just move on, he’ll probably break your heart. It’s equal parts compliment and suggestion.

Beautiful

This is the big one. Beauty is not as simple as the rest, it is all inclusive. You can not be beautiful without a presence to match. Also, beauty is the one word that can actually be applied without any eye-candy. A homely girl can be beautiful, your sister can be beautiful, your own mother can be beautiful. Ladies, if a man gives you this title, he has a deep connection with you.

 

You are not your ridiculous infomercial excerise equipment. You are not your 5am spinning class. You are not your max bench. You are not your bicep curl. You are not your vanity mirror. You are not your fad diet, your aerobics class, or fat-free soy latte. I am a lifeguard on the ocean of potential. I rescue success from the depths of fatigue, breathe life back into lungs like arrows from muted tongues. I am my double bodyweight back squat. I am a combination of flexiblility, strength and endurance. I am explosive. I am breaking barriers. I am a product of work ethic and I am not afraid of you. I am the fitness you need to concure the unknown. I am my biggest weakness and I AM your strongest competition.

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You can tell them later how the radio of your mind came clear like a car exiting a tunnel. How standing back up felt like drowning in reverse. When the jackhammer in your chest settles, tell them how you were pulled back into the boat of possibility. How you took the oars and you found the shore, how you listened to the voice inside when it whispered “more…..more….more,” until it was quiet like satisfaction and still like pride.

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” -C.S. Lewis

The holiday season is quickly approaching, and every year around this time, I’m reminded of one the proudest moments in my life. The day I saved a woman’s life and removed a child from a deteriorating situation.

I was 17 years old at the time. Out doing some late Christmas shopping with my girlfriend at the time and her younger sister. Certainly, had no indications that this night would be anything more than ordinary. As we finished up our shopping and were walking down the aisle in the parking lot, discussing the bargains we found and the things we were still looking to buy, a small two-door car came our way searching for a spot in the crowded lot. I’m a car guy so I tend to look at every car within range, this was no different, but as they stopped next to us I could hear an argument going on between the man and woman in the front seats.

Seemed harmless enough, and not overly heated, just typical holiday-shopping crowd frustration coming to a head. I believe I picked up that the current topic was his inability to find a parking spot.

We carried on past the car with our bags until we arrived at my car about 1 minute later. I walked around to my trunk to unload and happened to catch a glimpse of that aforementioned vehicle now stopped in the middle of the way two rows over. It caught my eye, that they’d stop in the direct path, so I kept my eye on it for a second longer than I would usually….and that’s when it all happened.

I noticed the car suddenly start rocking violently from side to side, and heard the shrill screams off a woman in pain and a terrified child. The male (I refuse to call anyone who does this a “man”) had begun striking the woman as hard as he could. She, nor her daughter in the backseat, could defend themselves or get out of the two-door car.

I laid down my bags and started walking over to the car. I walked because I was scared, I didn’t know what to do. I knew what needed to be done, but I did not know if I had the courage to do it. Every step I took was an internal battle, my mind telling me to not risk it, to stay out of it, but my gut tells me to carry on for their sake. I saw no other options, no one else had taken notice.

I arrived at the male-figure’s door unnoticed, he was still too involved in beating the lady, one arm holding her in the car, the other swinging away. I reached my hand out for his door handle, my heart sank, and I opened the door. I swung the door opened, still unnoticed, grabbed his swinging arm and pulled as hard as I could.

Yeah, now he noticed me.

He was a large guy, I hadn’t really managed more than to stop his swing and distract him with that pull (I wish I could play this same scenario now that I’m in far better shape, he would have been on the concrete). That was enough though, he looked at me, there were a few tense seconds in stare-down, the lady got out of her side and removed her daughter from the back seat too. I had done what needed to be done.

There were no words spoken.

He and I simply stared at one another for those handful of seconds, he was stunned that someone would get in the middle of the situation and I was petrified of his next move, but the message I sent was clear.

She and her daughter never asked my name or asked who I was, but their thanks and relief was felt and you simply couldn’t put that to words.

He closed his door and drove off, with mother and child starting to walk toward the store, I started my trip back to my car and the two girls I had left there, their faces glowing with pride.

I don’t know what happened to the woman and child after that, in the moment I had assumed the store greeter at the door would take care of them when they were seen in their beat up and terrified states. I pray that they removed that guy from their lives completely, or better yet, reported him to the authorities. But I am very proud of what I did that night, and honestly I think I prefer that I remain anonymous to them. I was not seeking recognition, I was driven by what’s right and a primal desire to protect.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid , but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

Tuesday of this week, I was involved in a hit and run accident. Driving home from class, traveling on the interstate, I was just getting ready to take my exit ramp when the semi next to me tried to merge into my lane. His right front tire drilled into my driver’s side rear door, with its big extended lugs that are all too popular on these rigs. The force rotated my car to the left, around his bumper and I was pushed along down the highway (perpendicular to the direction of travel) with his front wheel right at my left ear for 200 yards before my car eventually broke lose and untangled from his cab. I came to a stop in the middle of the road but was fortunately able to let the car roll over the shoulder. And there I sat, watching as the semi that could have easily ended my life seconds earlier drove away, never even touching his brakes. “He’s running!?” I thought….not only him, but also the handful of other cars that were around us, some of which certainly had to swerve to avoid our incident, all carried on as I sat there.

I got on the phone with 911 immediately and explained the situation. I gave them the only description of the truck that I had, a green and white cab with no trailer. They dispatched a unit out to me, and started searching the highway for the semi. He still has not been found, 3 days later.

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My car is most likely totaled, and I’m not about to put this claim on my insurance, I am the victim here! I will continue looking into any avenue I might have to track him down for a couple days still (traffic cameras, weigh station records, social networks, etc.) Alas, this is not about the accident, and I do still believe the collision was an accident. This is about society, it’s every man for himself out here evidently. The trucker obviously only had selfish thoughts to run away. Also there were cars all around us, no one stopped, no one called in the driver, no one reported the accident. For 30 minutes, I sat on the shoulder waiting for the authorities to arrive with a semi-circular hole in the rear door, the entire driver’s side of the car caved in, a tire mark running up my driver’s door, and my emergency flashers on. Not one person stopped. What have we come to as a society? How can we just shrug everything off as, “not my problem”? It’s a cold world out there.

Posted: October 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

progress on the prairie

“It’s the economy, stupid. ” Bill Clinton’s campaign coined the phrase back in 1992 and successfully defeated Bush 1 by focusing on economic issues. And judging by the 2012 presidential debates, American political players are still narrowed in on the economy. One blames China for a lagging economy, the other agrees; one blames the poor, nobody blames the mega-rich money hoarders.

All the attention paid to “economic recovery” this and “recession” that fails to consider a few things. Humans, more and more, are creating our own economies based not on how much money we can stockpile in the bank or how many 2-story houses and SUVs we can buy, but on how our earning and buying align with our morals. Humans don’t do things just to make money, like so many businessfolk and politicians seem to believe and would have us believe. There is a renewed interest amongst us human beings…

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Haven’t been feeling particularly inspired to write as of recent, but none the less, it’s a slow day at the office and I’m sitting here in front of my computer doing what every employee does in this situation, getting lost in thought and pointless meandering. Well, this led me to looking over my blog to see if there were any edits I’d like to make….and wouldn’t you know it, inspiration was right under my nose the whole time. For those who have looked around a bit and seen my “about” page, you have undoubtedly noticed my favorite quote of all time.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be?…Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson
This is a passage that pops to mind very often for me, and usually for two unrelated situations.

A.) It serves as motivation, whenever I’m about to tackle a scenario that I’m unfamiliar with, unsure of the result, or just plain nervous about, the narrator in my head starts emphasizing those closing lines.

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Never be afraid of who you are or the reception you may receive from others. Those who matter will love you for it, and those who don’t matter…they may push you aside in public, but when they lay their head down at night, they’ll wish they had the courage you displayed; the strength to be yourself without fear of judgement.

B.) To push me to drive beyond my perceived limitations. Countless are the times I’ve found myself dwelling on the initial lines of this passage

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

I know what I have done, I am even confident of what I can potentially do if challenged. What I don’t know is where the decision to press forward will lead me, what kind of ripple I’ll make in the vast sea of life. There’s only one way to find out; keep charging forward.

 

To begin this story, we have to go back to my early childhood. At age 3, I complained to my parents of a pain in my hip. Being a toddler they didn’t think too much of what I told them for obvious reasons. As a parent you’d figure your child just took a bump while out in the yard playing and beyond that they’re too young to know when something is really wrong. Well, the pain persisted and eventually I developed an odd walking style, by the time I was 4, my parents grew very concerned.

I was taken to the hospital for some bone-scans, and we were informed I had a rather severe case of Legg-Perthes Disease. The doctor wanted to put me in a full lower-body cast, think of a capital “A”, until I was pretty much done growing. As previously mentioned, I was 4, “done growing” could be as far away as my 20’s! (In my early 20’s now). My parents could not fathom seeing their son in a cast all through childhood, adolescents, teens, and early-adulthood. The call was made to let me live my life with nothing more than a bit of physical therapy and we’d take it from there as I aged.

I firmly believe this is the most influential choice my parents have ever made with regards to my life. Beyond the obvious physical side of it, not being stuck in a cast, it’s amongst my first solid memories, and what a resounding message it brings; to look adversity in the eye and decide to press on to see what’s on the other side of an obstacle. A theme that has been played over and over in my life…
Not long after that chapter in this book called life, I found myself on a local soccer team for 5-6yr old boys in Arizona. Of course, medical history has to be presented when signing up for this sort of thing, and in light of it, the coaches decided to put me as a goalie. They were worried about my hip being permanently injured. I would have none of it, after the first couple practices I had my parents ask a coach to play me in the field, I wanted to be out there running and fighting for the ball. Nothing of real significance happened in my soccer-playing years, but that is sort of the point, despite the doubts I never had a single injury and no more discomfort than I do just walking around normally. I played until I was 9 and eventually lost interest in the game.

We moved to the Midwest when I was 11. Around here football is as big as soccer was near the Mexican border where I had just come from, and I quickly desired to join a recreational team. My parents were none-to-excited about this, you hear of injuries all the time in this sport from kids without a “birth defect”, but they knew me, and I do not relent once I set my mind to something. Soon enough I was on a team! Naturally, I choose to be a wide receiver, probably the most active role on the field. Two seasons passed with success but my interest once again started to shift away as it did with my childhood love of soccer.

The new object of my passion was track and field. Now in middle school, I signed up for the team the first chance I got. Long distance events are what I choose, 800m and 1600m…I didn’t even make it through my first season. I was never anything close to competitive in my heats. It seemed every part of my leg was trying to take the pressure off my hip, I was constantly battling shin-splints, twisted ankles, tight muscles, etc. until it all fell apart with an eventual dislocated knee and ACL tear. I was devastated, never before had my “birth defect” kept me from achieving something I wanted to accomplish. I quit the team days later and thought I’d never do athletics again because I couldn’t handle the thought of potentially failing. In my mind, failing would be equivalent to letting the naysayers and that childhood doctor win.

Several years past, and now I’m about to take a test in my high school gym class. We were weightlifting and going to be graded on our bench press capabilities. A classmate several spots in front of me in line approached the bench and loaded up enough plates to match his body weight, the instructor informed us to take notice and if he was able to do a single rep, he’d get an automatic “A” for the skill. I had never attempted anywhere close to my body weight, I’m not a body-builder, a wrestler, or anything of the sort. But that voice in my head screamed, “Let’s do this!” As soon as my classmate finished, I approached my teacher and told him I wanted to change what I had listed as my goal, I wanted to lift my body weight. He condescendingly advised me against an attempt, I refused to listen and he informed me that it could result in a zero-score on the test, once again “Challenge accepted!” I stunned the class and made my instructor eat his words, I raised up off that bench after my lift with the probably the biggest smirk on my face I’d had since the day I quit the track team. The realization hit me that, although I took pride in my past accomplishments, my parents had a hefty share in the undertakings, now that I was in my teens it was time for me to start tackling challenges on my own with my heart and my mind…Giving up or giving in to perceived limitations was no longer an option, if I failed I’d be sure to go down swinging.
To be continued….