Friday, January 31, 2014

The Beauty in the Battle

When did life stop being about the hard work you put into it? It just isn't valued by many anymore. When the wind hits your face, we want to retreat. This is common to every person, but it doesn't mean you retreat. Things get hard. Life gets hard. No one should have ever promised you different. Rich or poor, sick or well, life gets hard for us all. It is equally hard. The poor may think the rich have nothing to complain about, yet the middle to upper class white man is at the greatest risk for suicide. The rich think the the poor have it made, not having to deal with all of these decisions. They just have to accept the hand-outs. Meanwhile, the poor are standing in lines applying for things they will get rejected the first three times they apply, even though they qualify. They will try to figure out a way to pay the rent AND feed their children.

It doesn't matter who is against the wind, it will blow when it blows. We are in this together. We all get covered in whatever the wind blows on us. We all face the earth together and fistfuls of dirt is no different than fistfuls of money.

We are separated by one thing...our pride. Some choose to ask for help and others don't. Help is always near. The issue is with the whether the person is willing to ask for it.

I was always taught, both in words and deeds, that you face what the world throws at you and keep moving forward. Some things are going to be harder than others. You are going to want to quit...don't. When the going gets tough, you shout at it as loud as you can and run toward it. When life hands you lemons throw them back and pursue the one that threw them. You fight until you can't stand, then you get back up and keep fighting. You never, ever, ever give up for any reason. If there is something you want in life, you fight for it. You put in the hard work for however long and you will end up with your obstacles under your feet.

Our culture seems to feel differently. We seem to want what we don't deserve and demand what others have worked for.

The saddest part is that these people don't understand the beauty they are missing in the battle.


Thanks for reading...Z

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


It was a balmy summer night when I met this girl. She was wearing a lavender dress that matched the wedding flowers that lined the aisle she sat beside. Neither of us were emotionally available at the time; both had things to work out in our lives. We met anyway. We danced all night and into the next several months.

There was this thing she did that made me laugh so hard that I couldn't hold on to the annoyance it would have usually caused. She habitually and historically got everything wrong. If there were a name to a movie, she would mispronounce it. If she were trying to say Dax Shepard, she would say Dax Sanders. She sang the wrong lyrics in a song, just loud enough for me to hear and cringe, then grin because of how wrong it was. She would sing ACDC's lyric "She was a fast machine..." as "She was a fax machine..." It was so frustrating, but completely adorable as well.

She had these eyes that would look into mine at the important parts, then glance down as if she were embarrassed that she made contact with mine. We dated for a year before I gave her a ring. For an entire year, she was subjected to my dancing and lip syncing songs as she sat unamused.

She drove most places because I am not sure my driver's license was on the up and up, and intimidated me with her brains. She was different than me. We were altogether different. At first, this was a problem for both of us. We both would give each other these looks, trying to figure each other out...trying to figure out if the other was serious.

I was an extremist. I was always going full steam ahead with my ideas without the knowledge of how to get to where I wanted to go. Subsequently, she witnessed a lot of hamster-wheeling. I had huge dreams and was hell bent on being impressive. I wanted to be that guy that people could see and want to be like, but never get close enough to touch. We all know that person. He or she may show you a little attention, but then back off to keep themselves untouchable. I was in a band. I dressed cool...sometimes, danced cool....once in a while, and sang long as Limp Biscuit was cool. I would do this one dance where I would gyrate my hips in such a way, the audience would actually move their heads back, afraid I would hit them. She would sit on the side as proud as ever, silently making notes for when she would be able to mock me ten years later on the couch with some wine. Then we could laugh about it, but not now. In these moments I danced like a Pentecostal holy roller making love to everything in the air. I would just close my eyes and allow the devil's angels to laugh at me as I swayed.

She was a voyeur. She is smarter than the average person. She will put in her headphones and not turn on the music so you wouldn't bother her, but she could hear what you are saying to your husband over the phone and you wouldn't know. You would say, "Laura" and nothing. Then you would wave and she would take off the headphones and answer. She heard you the whole time. Imagine how many times she made me look stupid with this practice.

She worked at a golf course as the beer girl, which bothered me a little because golfers are generally jerks that ogle women like this. She was practical. Everything I wasn't. She was pragmatic. She did things that made sense because they made the most sense. She didn't want to test danger because that was stupid. She wasn't hard to please and wasn't extravagant. A person didn't need to be anything special to catch her attention.

Even a tattooed guy from the other side of town could catch her attention.

We had a date. We were both expecting something different I think. She was probably expecting the typical guy in his early 20's that would probably end up being a jerk that she never spoke with again. I was expecting the typical pretty but shallow girl I was used to. We both got something different. I immediately noticed how easy it was to be around her. It wasn't awkward at all. It wasn't hard to talk to her. She was down to earth and funny and full of stories. I took her to a cider mill, then an old train yard that I would frequently go to and speak with the homeless in. I walked her up the hill to the train cars. I'm not sure what I was trying to prove, I just think I was trying to let her know who I was at the start, so if she wanted to run, it was because she didn't like who I really was at the start.

I dropped her off at her car and walked back to mine. I wanted to kiss her. Every time I saw her I wanted to kiss her. But I didn't. I didn't want to connect that way. There was something different about her. I would tell my pastor almost a decade later that I knew she was sent for me. He would question how I could know and I still can not produce an answer because I truly cannot hear God with perfect accuracy. But that night, I went home and wrote down in my journal that I met a girl. I went out with a girl on a date and I would marry her. I cannot be certain of the voice of God, but I can be certain that she was the one girl that confused me and turned me upside down. She was to be my wife.

She remains my beautiful wife. She is still so different from me. She still messes up the words of every song and every name. She still looks at me and pulls her head back, trying not to be hit by the dancing of this clown. She is graceful and soft: She is a balance to everything I am. One day one of us will bury the other. She will either get my name wrong on the headstone or I will say something embarrassing at her funeral. Either way, we will be together. We will be the same. We will be different.


Thanks for reading...Z

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Between Where Faith Begins...And We End.

I don't write a lot about the years growing into a man. My thoughts here usually start when I was able to decipher what everything meant in the world...or at least as I thought they meant. What I thought the world was and what it actually is profoundly defies my entire youth. I didn't understand so much of the gold I held as I do now. Kids wake and they worry about things that will not matter to them in ten years, then redirect their attention to whatever is in front of them. I had bad things happen. I had sorrow introduced early, but I didn't understand what it was even about. I only understood the things I could hold.

In real life the things you can hold sometimes go away and you can no longer reach them. Many try to keep stretching, but they will always be just out of reach. Always something you always wanted to be or to do.

Some things are meant to happen one time for all eternity and no more. These moments when the moon was bright and the the person next to you understood you perfectly for that moment only and never again. These are the moments you won't forget because they define your childhood...and your adulthood.

I had a gang called the brat patrol that consisted of my little brother, but not blood yet, Andy. We made the blood ritual official the summer of 1988, when we pressed our bloody fingers together and swore a life long pledge that neither of us was ever willing to defy. We were famous in the 7 blocks that surrounded us. We were the savages because we pinned a kid under the ball pit at Chucky Cheese's for 10 minutes as his mother looked for him. It was his birthday. We were the gang that had Cub-scout knives and threatened to kill kid's mothers. I sat in a wooden club house with two guards at the side and two guards at the door, just waiting for a rival gang to attack and meet their doom.

My mom ran a day care, so during nap time, we would have fight clubs to see which 4 year old was the toughest to move on to defending the honor of God Himself. At least we told them.

Really, we wanted power over something...I did. In honesty, I wanted power over something. I wanted to be something great. I would never settle to be ordinary. If I was considered ordinary, I would break a kid's arm to get notoriety. And I did.

Meanwhile, I would lay in the living room at home on the floor next to the heat register, listening to the sounds a furnace makes when it begins to go to work. It reminded me of how I would eventually go to work.

I would set an alarm and when it rang I would hit the snooze once before rising. I would stagger to the coffee pot, trying not to wake anyone. I would brew the coffee and brush my teeth. I would drive to work with a sadness and dread that anyone would feel at 2:45 AM on a Tuesday.

This is how I remember it feeling as I waited for the the relief of that heat to hit me. I had listened to the preparation and needed the reward. The heat would rush through those little horizontal cuts in the baseboards that I would count with my fingers so many times. Eventually, the comfort would cease as the heat turned off and the loneliness returned.

The heat always seemed to turn off, despite it's promises.

When the tinkering subsides, you will always be listening to the machines shutting down. This is where real faith begins.

Sing. Migrate. Thanks for reading...Z

Sunday, January 12, 2014

As You Pass Through

Can you measure the life of a man when he dies? Can you define a man by what he leaves behind?

Some people just always leave a mess. I am guilty. My wife says I leave whatever I am doing at my feet. I can't argue. The measure of what I am doing has always been more important to me than than the mess it leaves behind. This may be my eternal flaw; that I never measured the weight of the mess I have left, but there is so much more to the heart than the evidence of it's life. As a people, we demand greatness so we judge very harshly what acceptable means to us. Each of our definitions are different. Some demand wealth and fame. Some demand notoriety. I demand sincerity.

I have hundreds of faults. Many so visible that one may define me to someone else. I have failed at so much in my life and struggle to be the person that I am supposed to be. But the one thing I do not believe I have lacked is sincerity. I go heart first into everything I desire. No one will say that I was fake. They will call me an idiot. They will call me inadequate. They will call me a waste of talent. They will call me a disappointment. Maybe only I will call me these things, but they will not call me insincere.

I think the measure of my life will be made by what is behind my actions sometimes. I believe that our success means a lot, but it doesn't mean everything. I may not be written about or spoken about as being talented or wise or accomplished. But if you ask my son or my daughter, I believe you will hear stories of me flipping them all around and laughing with them. I think if you asked my wife, you would find a woman that is full. This is the measure of a man. I think that life is really found in those trivial moments that most would call "wasting time." The moment you close your mother's eyes after she has died. The moment you have put your daughter's hand into the hand of her future husband. The moment you thank the guests who have come to your wife's funeral. The moment you hold your grandchildren above your head and look right into your past and remember how beautiful life can be and how wonderful it is to experience this beauty for the first time. The measure of a man is found in these little moments that fill everyone around you.

When you are a kid, you always want better for your life than you will eventually accomplish. The man at the end of the parade looks gravely different from the child at the start. It isn't due to failure. It's due to life. It's due to intervention. It's due to the effect of cause. We are who we end up. But that isn't all we are.

Life is not about accomplishments. Life is about the people you touch along the way.


 Thanks for reading...Z