Tuesday, September 30, 2008

i can see your point...if you hold it out there. OR you're just one i from this being serious

i've got good news and bad news. if you've been around me for the past 3-4 months, you know that i've been having trouble reading the fine print. any small print, for that matter. i've had 20/10 vision my whole life, so it was a little weird to start dealing with it. it came on pretty quickly, too. no gradual adjustment...just sort of one week everything was all good...then, bam...blurry vision for reading up close.

i used to tease my mom and dad about walking across the room with a menu so they could read it. my mom always told me that what you tease people about will happen to you. (talk about a vengeful God complex!) i told her i'd start teasing millionaires and brad pitt. i guess i could just tease brad pitt, eh? anyway, i teased them and suddenly it became my problem.

so today on my way home i saw an eyeglasses place advertising 2 pairs of glasses for 69 bucks. it included a free eye exam. since the reading glasses i had checked out online were priced about the same for one pair i figured i'd check it out.

they had me fill out a bunch of questions, all of which were printed in extremely small lettering. kind of rude, i thought. i mean, nobody goes in there to prove how great their vision is, right? i just answered no to everything, hoping they hadn't asked me if i had any problems with donating my kidneys.

next came the eye exam...the first eye exam, as it turned out. i ripped through the letters except for the bottom row, which used to be my proudest moment. then i had to look at some farm scene that kept going in and out of focus. and finally i had to look at a red light, during which, at a random point, a puff of air was blown at my eye. maybe they needed to test how fast i blinked.

that girl compiled all the information and i went in to see the eye doctor. based on the data from the first eye exam she put the little focus thingy in front of me and off we went to figure out my prescription. things did not go as planned. after a bit, she said "are you trying to fool me?" i am a prankster at heart, but i draw the line at doctors. after a little while, she decided i needed a little more in depth exam.

i was a little concerned at this point. because of how quickly it my reading vision seemed to blur didn't make it any better. the thing that kept me cool was that other than my reading vision, i had no other issues. so...on we went to the new tests. read this...read that...can you see this...can you see that....blah, blah, blah. then she put this ubermagnification system in front of me, complete with a very bright light, and proceeded to look deep into my eyes. somehow, i always thought i'd feel different if a woman was to do that. it was a big letdown.

after a couple of minutes of that, she kept the uber thing in place...and added a big lens that she held in front of each eye while shining said light in there. apparently she was looking at the back of my eye..yon retina. and then she told me i have something. i have central serous retinopathy. i gulped. she heard it...or i imagine so. then she asked me if i've been under a lot of stress. my first answer was no. but then i started thinking about how i've been feeling...stressed...because of the increase in CURE work (and the corresponding lack of support dollars that mean i nearly work for free), the increase in my workload at my part-time job (and the desire to be able to move solely into my CURE work), and trying to get my i58 site and business launched (which will help with both of the first two issues. i remembered having a couple of friendships that were near and dear to me change pretty rapidly. not necessarly badly...just drastically. i remembered that i was stressed about a wedding i thought was happening (see the friend/bmw entry below). i remembered the stress of loving another friend and the opportunity to be in his wedding, but hating that i missed his out of town bachelor party because of money, and stressing some over the cost of standing up out of town. i rememberd the stress of planning events and having the guests of honor suddenly unable to make it, with me not knowing how to shut it down.

and add to the the different life my body ended up going through with becoming a vegetarian and with working out. i lost a good amount of weight pretty quickly. and while that's great for me, it probably didn't help the overall "deal with this" level i put myself through. so...yeah...i guess i was stressed. it's weird because i never thought of myself as stressed.

so you may be asking...what's the good news? well, central serous retinopathy is a temporary condition. it's stress-related. it's most commonly noticed by people who have extraordinary vision (i was always 20/10). it usually affects men between 20 and 50 (i fall in that range :-) ). and while there's not really a treatment, it almost always goes away on its own.

i got my reading glasses prescription...two pairs for 69 bucks...and they'll be in in a week or so. and while i was preparing for life with glasses, thinking into every life a little eyesight degeneration must fall, it seems i can expect things to return to normal. i guess i just need to finish my website and launch my business, drum up a little more CURE support, get through the end of the wedding season, spend some time with friends, start eating meat again (just kidding), get used to working out, and quit planning parties.

and maybe a few months in the french riviera will help...

i can feel it coming in the air tonight

the fall is here. my favorite time of the year. i'm not a huge lover of winter, but it has its qualities. snowboarding, driving in the snow (yeah, i love it), hot chocolate, fireplaces, no light through my bedroom window at 5 am, down comforters, rest for the land and people, and such. but if biting, bitter, boring (as in drilling deep) cold were not bad enough, it bring with it a promise in its end...a promise which i hate more than anything in this world...well, anything not man-made.

mosquitos. i am not alone in my hatred for mosquitos. jeff pelletier, a good friend and one-time roommate and i were sitting in the living room once, along with another friend. we were railing against mosquitos. we were trying to figure out what possible contribution they could offer the planet. we came up with zero. birds and bugs eat mosquitos. but they eat other insects, too. eliminate mosquitos...no great ecological impact in our estimation.

jeff said "when i get to heaven, the first question i'm going to ask God is "mosquitos...what's up with that?" joe said, "yeah...and God will say "sin...what's up with that?" jeff replied "i asked you first." i doubt, or at least hope, that that isn't the initial exchange they have...but i have often thought that might be my first question, too.

ok...back to autumn. among the many, many qualities of fall is the deliverance on summer's exit strategy...no more mosquitos. i can now sit on my front porch with my guitar without pausing to swat, splat, and scratch. i can take a fresh cup of coffee out with me, put on a hoodie, and talk on the phone (which i must do because AT&T's more bars in more places doesn't include my apartment). i can walk and note the way the cool air invades my lungs, making breathing not just an invisible part of my life. and i can see a palate of color that i connect with more than all the others i love. the blue of water is engulfing. the 256 shades of grey in winter turns the color world into black and white. the green of spring is like Pleasantville in real life. but the auburns and golds and burgundys and oranges and browns of fall...they are the colors of my soul. they are majestic and regal and life and death...and they remind me.

i sat on top of vermont's tallest mountain about 14 years ago, looking across the Green Mountains (vermont is from the french words for green and mountain...verde and mont) in a first ditch effort to meet the God i'd professed to follow my whole life. and with pen in hand, i wrote of the promises of Jeremiah 29:11-13 and that even though i had no idea what it meant to seek, let alone with my whole heart, it had to be now or it would be never. and i found Him.

my friend, shane, says that truly following...truly seeking results in layers coming off of us. like an onion we come with lots of layers. some of it is just part of being human. some comes with our culture. family, friends, school, desire...they're all a part of those layers. but in seeking, the layers come off until we're left with only Him. it's probably not that easy. we add layers, often simultaneously to peeling away others. i know i sometimes like to put layers back on that i've already taken off. but as best as i can, since that day on Mt. Mansfield, i've been trying to let those dead things fall to the ground and whisk away in the wind.

every year, in september, i go back to that place. not vermont, but the internal one where i found i had never sought with my whole heart. it's not an easy place, but i still love it. i call it ruthless self-examination. it's introspection with no filters of what i'd like to be true...just what is. and i lay that truth against what i see in the life of Jesus, whom i follow, and the heart of His and my Father. no more comparisons with church ideologies, theologies, or any other "ologies". only that which was in the beginning, that was with God, and that is God. and i do that every september because, even though i try to keep in touch with this regularly, by the time a year goes by i've put layers back on. and if i don't want to be what i used to be, or to head toward my natural inclinations, i've got to pay attention to it.

if whatever change has occured in my life can be pointed to one thing, it's that prayer up on that mountain, and since, saying i have no idea how to search with my whole heart...and asking for help in that. i need to stay on top of that prayer because my heart is often divided in what it wishes to seek...fragmented would be a better word. but i long to have a whole heart, not in total, but in unity. and so i am working, sometimes hard, sometimes not, on making that statement true. i wish to seek with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to let everything else fall away.

so...fall...i am reminded every year as your air comes cool and crisp. i will seek...and He will be found...if i search with my whole heart.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

how to fool your friend into lending you his bmw...

I think I've been working too much. probably not...but it helps in explaining away this one. the actors in the play are:

1) Soraya, a friend about to get married. I'm playing guitar in her wedding.

2) Ryan...he owns the Beemer...a Z4 convertible. i've ridden in it a few times...pretty sweet.

3) Me...the imbecile.

So...about a month ago, Soraya messages a few of us asking if we can help find some people to do X, Y, and Z in her wedding. A guitar player is one of those needs. I say Yes. she's thrilled. i call her to find out what exactly I'll be playing. Some song...don't know it...don't own it...never heard of it. She is fortunate by not requesting The Chicken Dance, which i have sworn a blood oath to never be a part of in any one's wedding.

I ask Soraya to send me the song via email. After two weeks...no song. I call and ask, and she says she will put it on a CD and send it to me...the mp3 thing isn't working for some reason. I hear in this conversation something about the wedding in two weeks and having enough time to learn yon song. I hear this, but this is not said. I do not know it at the time. I find out yesterday.

I anxiously await the aforementioned CD. Then early this past week I message Soraya asking about wedding times/location, etc. I know it's in Lake Forest and it's tough to bike there. "I'll be needing transportation", I'm thinking, "and I should work this out a bit in advance." We mutually figure out that I should really see about finding a car to use. "No problem," say I. "I have a friend who told me if i ever needed a car in a situation like this, I could use it." Soraya says she is leaving in 30 minutes for the airport to fly to Chicago and finalize the prep for the wedding. In my mind, leaving Tuesday means a few days to nail stuff down, just in time for the wedding on the weekend.

I decide to see what public transit options I have in getting to Lake Forest. I can take the train...the Metra...but it's a little sketchy on the early Sunday morning availability I'll need to get to the wedding. In the end, a car is the only way I see this working. I have to call Ryan anyway to work out a time to move some furniture he's giving to a friend of mine. So we figure that all out, and then I ask about the car. I'm very clear that if it's any sort of problem, it's no worry. I can always buy a car from CarMax and return it within the first 7 days with no penalty. He's more than gracious and says that he and his girlfriend are taking her car to a wedding out of town this weekend anyway. It will be no trouble. This conversation goes down on Thursday.

Thursday...and I have no CD. I'm playing a song I've never heard, accompanying a singer I've never heard, and I have no CD. I figure I've always been good with learning music quickly so I'll wait. Friday will give me plenty of time.

Friday...and I have no CD. I ride my bike home from work in the rain for the 3rd time in a week, and wonder how an outdoor wedding will go if it rains too much. I run for the mail...and no CD. I'm a little freaked out at this point. I have a wedding in two days...a rehearsal in 18 hours, at least 7 of which I'm determined to sleep. I call Soraya. Voice mail. I note that the rain has increased. I am up until 1 am...and no call.

Let me say that I have personally perfected the art of procrastination. In fact, my name makes up the VERY LAST four letters of the word procrastinate. I believe I am predisposed toward procrastination because of this. Yet, even I am freaking out about Soraya's nonchalance regarding my need for the music I will be playing in her wedding. "It's her wedding," I think to myself. "If she wants me to have to play The Chicken Dance instead of what was surely a meaningful song, so be it. I'll not fret over this any longer." Not true.

I awaken Saturday and have no calls from Soraya, but do have one from Ryan. I call him and we arrange for the car dropoff. I leave one more message for Soraya saying I'm sure she's got a ton going on with figuring out what to do with an outdoor wedding and Ike's pouring on her parade. I'm sure there are a ton of logistical issues to deal with. But at a minimum, I need to know where the rehearsal is being held. I'm okay with not having the song. I once had to sing a song in front of several hundred people where I only sung this song once in my life and it was 5 years ago and they didn't have the lyrics for it and could I possibly remember it enough to sing it, and yes, it went off fine. I was sure that God would not let me ruin Soraya's wedding because she had been too busy to send me the CD.

I get a call from Soraya at 4:30 on Saturday afternoon. I am so relieved. I tell her I have a car to get to both the rehearsal and the wedding. She is thrilled. She says she is going to put the CD in the mail...it won't take long to get from Lake Forest to Chicago. And I begin to realize that a wire or three may be crossed. And then she laughs at my freaking outness and says "You know the wedding is on the 28th, right?" Ummmm...no. And she laughs more at me. "Yes...two weeks from this weekend." Ohhhhh...that 28th. Too late to slough it off as "Sure...I knew...I just wanted to be prepared." She has proof on her voice mail.

So...I now have a BMW for the rest of the weekend. "Oh...one thing", Ryan tells me when he hands me the keys. "It leaks at the corners of the roof when it rains. You can stuff paper up in there, but it will still drip." I stay in on Saturday night. Sunday, it's still raining...along the lines of that called for by the FOTF guy in Denver...so I drive the 4 blocks to church. I may possibly have been less wet had I walked sans umbrella.

I'll be spending the next two weeks befriending a Mercedes hardtop owner.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


newest song...and everyone's favorite now. i gotta say...i like it. it's pretty poppy, though.

and no, it's not written about someone. so cease and desist on the inquiring minds emails.


there is one thing you should know
girl, i like to take things slow
to rush it just ain't me

i just like to take my time
share my heart and share my wine
we'll get there eventually

so if you don't mind walking slow
talking 'bout nothing at all
then i think we'll be alright
we'll say the same thing, laugh and curse
then we'll both say "no, you first"
and we'll smile like we don't know...

but the truth is we
are identically
thinking, hoping, laughing, wanting
praying that the dawn will never come

there is one thing you should note
'bout that first verse that i wrote
well, it prob'ly just ain't true
cuz i remember how it felt
how my heart just seemed to melt
the first time i saw you

so if you don't mind hangin on
while the wind takes us along
then i think we'll be ok
we'll find a spot and settle in
wonder where each other's been
and we'll smile like we don't know...

but the truth is we
are identically
thinking, hoping, laughing, wanting
praying that the dawn will never come

4 tracks...4 trains

i'm observant. like, too much. i notice things like 5 consecutive white cars, or how many stars are in the Paramount movie studio logo (26). i find patterns in numbers, floor tiles, wallpaper...my brain just likes to notice and solve. which is a little weird because i'm pretty right brained.

but there are two things...observations more than patterns that are driving me nuts (yes, dp) these days. the first is my insane ability to ride/drive/walk below El tracks while trains roar overhead. considering a train goes by every 10-15 minutes or so, my chances of catching the 5 seconds while one goes past, or 30 second while it stops and starts, pretty slim. in fact, just based on time, it makes the chances of walking under something like 1 in 60...based on 120 5 second segments in a 10 minute time frame, divided by 2 for trains running in opposite directions. obviously the stopping trains take longer, but then trains probably run more like every 15-20 minutes on average.

so...that around a 1.6% chance of being under the tracks during a passing train. but i am running considerably higher than that. in fact, i'd put my percentage somewhere around 50%. and i'm estimating conservatively. my friends, jenn and jodi, are aware of this phenomenon. jenn thinks i'm crazy. jodi has seen it in action, though. she was skeptical at first, but after a few weeks began to notice it, too.

so, today...i ride my bike to my staff meeting in Lawndale. some 5 miles or so, each way. two tracks to ride under each way. took a different route there and back...just to see more neighborhood. 4 tracks. 4 trains. not an anomaly, really. but enough to finally get me to write it down.

i should also point out that noticing trains and all did not start with the Chicago mass transit system. back in the day i drove a delivery truck part time for a friend from my old church. one of the joys of this job was he and i had nextel and could chat whenever. if you were to ask him how many times i held the phone out the window of the truck so he could hear the crossing gates as freight and passenger trains went by he'd back it up. everyone gets caught once in a while. it was definitely more than that for me.

the second thing is a little harder to nail down as far as how often it happens to me, or anyone. but the total of it is just a little strange to me. i listen to music a lot. one of the places i do this is at my part time job. Pandora, iPod, cds, whatever...i have my headphones on most of the time. i also do a lot of typing at this job. i write press releases, articles, website content, product descriptions, html/css code, and Facebook status updates. lots of typing. i sit at my computer all day. so...it happened once and i thought...that's funny. then again, and i thought...that's odd. and again. and again. i wouldn't say it's a daily occurrence, but it's more than once a week, too. i'll be typing away when the exact same word i'm typing is the exact same word being sung.

now your naturally critical thinking process might lead you to "and, the, when, if" and words like that. i'm sure those happen, but they'd be so quick it would be hard to notice, i think. no...these are words like "different, regret, reality, forgiving, example" and more. i wish i'd have gotten to writing them down sooner. one might think that my subconscious mind is a line or two ahead in the lyrics and is prepping my sentence structure to use that word. i could see how that could be a valid position. but i don't know many of the songs i listen to. and still, to be able to need that word right then when the article/description/Facebook update might not have any use for such a word...well, it's kind of amazing to me.

i know i'm a little odd. that space is for family and friends to say "a little?" or some variation of it. and maybe millions of people have similar things they note every day...or could note if they were noticing things. maybe you have had the same sorts of experiences. tell me. i'd like to hear them.

as far as this entry, it just came to the point where i decided that someone...me...i should document some of the odder details about my life. i'd hate to pass someday and have people think i was a pretty normal guy. nope...i'm magnetized to trains.