Category Archives: gratitude

click story


I have an old Mac laptop that seems to be running on last legs. I didn’t update the operating system like I should have (read: at all) and so this old 2005 machine is still running OSX Tiger. Knowing that it’s only a matter of time before it decides it just can’t bear to come to life even one more day, I’ve been transferring files to an external drive. In doing so, I ran across something I had posted at a blogging buddy’s place back in early 2010. I thought I had cross post it here but I can’t find it.  I thought it was worth sharing again so here it is.

To give a little context, this friend had a blog where occasionally she would have blog friends contribute what she called a “click” story… a personal story where the writer had learned some grand lesson.  Below is my contribution.
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Leslie asked me months ago if I would write a click story for her and I quickly said yes.  I feel bad for having put it off so long.  Sorry Les.  The thing I think that has disrupted my ability to do it is she inadvertently placed some heavy pressure on me by saying, “I’m sure you have so many stories to tell.”

Gulp.

Do I?  Ugh.  I couldn’t think of anything that would compare to the others that have been published here.

I began rifling through the mental files of stories I have where I learned a lesson… you know, trying to find one where I learned a really big lesson about myself or life  but none of them seemed to be so profound as to be earth shattering.

I thought of my trip down the aisle (the first time) and how my voice cracked and my eyes welled a little as I repeated the vows the preacher told me to say… a tear came not because I was happy but because I knew!… right then and there I realized with absolute certainty…

I was making the biggest mistake of my life. I realized that we humans sometimes make poor choices, we can’t blame anyone but ourselves and we have to live with the consequences.

I thought I could tell of the time during Marine Corps boot camp when my platoon was learning how to throw hand grenades.  A drill instructor and I were in a concrete bunker and he handed me a live grenade with the pin pulled.  He said, “recruit! You make sure you throw it over this wall like we taught you…

and far! You understan’ me!”

I stood there with a live grenade in my hand… explosions were going off from my fellow recruits lobbing theirs down range.  I looked at the grenade… my hands shaking.  I stared that DI in the eyes, then looked at it again as I heard in a deep, garbled, slow-motion sort of voice, “yewwwww ohhhhkayyyy reeecrewwwwt?”.  It seemed like lifetimes passed as I pondered my ability to heave that piece of metal over a seven foot wall of cinder blocks.

As I pulled my arm back just like they taught me, I was thinking my life has the potential to change or end right now.  In that moment I realized some events in life are deliberate, calculated actions. Other times a completely random, unexpected bit of happenstance careens life toward other places.

I also thought maybe I could tell of a lesson I learned from the time I got fired from a retail job I couldn’t stand.  While in the parking lot after leaving the store I immediately called my editor of my part-time freelance photo job.  I told her what happened, I told her I was desperate and that I was available to shoot anywhere, anytime, and anything.  She gave me work… lots of it. A few weeks into it, my younger brother invited me to a basketball game through company tickets with some co-workers of his.  One of them asked, “so what do you do?”  I got that roller coaster feeling in my stomach.  I hesitated a little in my response and I almost said, “uh… I’m in between jobs” when it occurred to me, “no. I have a job.”

I said confidently, “I’m a photographer with The Houston Chronicle.”

It felt good. It felt DAMN good and I realized we make our own destiny.  WE make things happen in our lives if we push ourselves towards them. And I survived working six and seven days a week until I found another job seven months later.

I could tell the story about Hurricane Ike blowing through town in 2008.  I could tell you how I saw thick, heavy branches from two different trees that missed my house and my vehicle by inches and my property came away relatively unscathed; yet neighbors had fences crash through windows and roofs blown off.  There was one person I met in my neighborhood who had lights on in just a few days but the house right next to him waited four weeks in the sweltering September weather of the Gulf Coast Plains of Texas.

From the hurricane, I realized sometimes shit happens that we have no control over.  God didn’t get angry.  Karma wasn’t reacting.  The Tao wasn’t balancing things out.  I didn’t come away unscathed because I said the right prayer the night before and the other guy didn’t.  Just sometimes… shit happens from no fault of our own or anyone.

And I thought about telling my story of when I went to see my brother and future sister in-law get baptized at their Baptist church.  Coincidentally it happened the Sunday after the planes crashed into the World  Trade Center buildings.  While in that church, watching what should have been a great day for my brother, I saw a preacher point his finger at his congregation and heard him yell… yes, yell at them “it’s because of you and you and YOU that this happened.  Because YOU ARE A SINNER!!! America has lost favor with God and He made those planes fly into those building because of you!”

I realized that my concept of God does not fit that mold.  I don’t believe in a God like that at all.  My God loves me unconditionally.  My God doesn’t control my actions or the actions of others.  My God gave me freewill and reason.  I realized I don’t believe in a devil or that a devil can make people fly planes into buildings.  I realized some people are just jerks and assholes and they do evil things.  And my God weeps when we do crappy things to each other.  That is when I realized there must be another way of thinking about the nature of God compared to what this guy was preaching and I took my first deliberate steps ever towards spiritual awareness and where I found myself on a road towards UU-ism, Buddhism and Deism.

I’ve read most, if not all, of the click stories here at Leslie’s place and they have been amazing, beautiful, heart-wrenching, glorious stories.  Wish my click story were as amazing as those.

Sorry, Les… I got nothin’.

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an entire year has passed


If I had published my previous post and deliberately intended for it to be the first thing people see here for an entire year, I would have never been able to do it. If that had been my intention to sit away from my blog for an entire year, I’m certain I wouldn’t have been able to.

My history is replete with examples of me trying to do or not do something for a specified period of time so I’m certain I would have failed at keeping away from my blog for a year but here I am an entire year TO THE DAY without a single post. Success!!

Wait, whuh? confused

Years back, when I was entrenched in WordPress and lived for the comments and posts of the small circle of blogging friends I had, I sometimes wondered to myself, “how long will this go on?  Will we be writing and following each others’ accomplishments and disappointments 5, 10, 20 years from now?”

I sometimes wondered what happens if/when a beloved blogging friend dies? How will we know? How do we find out?

I thought about in regards to myself. I should at least have the courtesy to let my blogging friends know I’ve kicked the bucket and am on the other side. I should right?

But how to do this?
I figured I’d write a post…  one last final entry here on the ol’ DeistFromTexas blog and schedule it to publish innnnn… I don’t knowwww…. let’s say two months. If I hadn’t keeled over in that time, I would simply back the date up another month or two. And keep doing that until one day I was in an urn on the mantle and in time…. tah dahhh one final post to say goodbye.

It must sound crazy to plan something like that but I think some will understand… I’m looking at you Amuirin, LazyBuddhist, Bibliomom, Ombud. During that first year or so of writing and logging in here at my little outpost of the interwebs, I became connected… so very connected, emotionally to many of you who visited my site.

Well, I never wrote that post. I never scheduled what I’d like to say. I never did the courteous thing. And as luck would have it….  I haven’t kicked the bucket.
I’m back.

And damn is it good to be alive!

last minutes with Oden


I’m a member at Vimeo.com and get an update every day as to the newest vids.  This place is much different from YouTube in that the community is made up mostly of amateur, semi-pro and pro film makers. And these people are putting out some very amazing work.

To recognize those who stand out in this pool of film makers, this weekend organizers are holding the inaugural Vimeo Festival and Awards.

I learned of the documentary below through my vimeo daily update in December of ’09 (at least that’s when I first created this post and subsequently left it in the draft bin)

For some reason I couldn’t bring myself to post it. I don’t know why.  It reminds me a lot of how I felt about my little buddy who I had to let go of in May of 2002 though.  But I found out on NPR’s website today that “Last Minutes with Oden” is one of the top five finalists in the documentary category.

Be prepared to whip out the tissue while watching it.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “last minutes with Oden“, posted with vodpod

new fangled machinery


So a few months ago, The Deistette and I had the AC die at the house. What a nightmare. I don’t know how people lived here in Houston before air conditioning.

Well, we had a guy come out and he said the fan motor was dead. I was really hoping it would be something easy because I barely had the 60 bucks for the service call.

He said he could replace it for 750 bucks. 😐 I felt my butt pucker.

But…
(of course there’s a but)
But… although the fan motor would be new, more than likely as old as the entire unit was (26 years old) it was just a matter of time (a short amount of time) before other stuff on the unit would die. A relay here, a switch there, a thinga-ma-bob here, a whutzit there. He said when stuff started breaking down it would probably cost another good 700 or 800 bucks. Again my butt puckered. Had I been in prison I’d be the belle of the ball!

He said for just a little more money I could get a brand new unit. Well, like I said I barely had the 60 bucks for the service call so I told him I’d have to wait.

My mom got wind of my predicament (thanks to my brother) and so she came to the rescue. She doesn’t really have the money but she said she’d get by.

Mumma is awesome! Thanks be to Mumma!, she who is most awesome!  A pic of Mumma from a post last year.

We got our AC replaced, did a happy dance, sent her thank you card and let her know The Little Man would be happy not have heat rash anymore.

So fast forward to last night.

The service tech from the AC company came by unexpectedly and said he came by to replace a vent on the unit. I asked him about the heater and where the pilot light was on the new unit. We had wanted to turn on the heater once or twice lately but hadn’t been able to.

The nights and mornings have been unusually cool down here on the Gulf Coast Plains for those of us who grew up here and have thinned-out blood. For me 50 degrees was feeling pretty cold.

The guy looked at me like I was some kind of moron and said you don’t have a pilot light. He could see the look of confusion quite easily that I was trying to hide. He said, “well, you see this is a brand new unit. It has electronic ignition that fires up the gas for the heat exchanger.”

I felt like those old timers who say stuff like, “What! Whatdya mean you can put a card in this machine and get money out. It’s called a what?… an ATM?”

Or…

“What? Put paper in this machine and it will send a copy all the way across town? What’s this thing called?… a Fax machine?”

Yeah… in my head I was actually thinking, “What the hell are you talking about! It doesn’t have a pilot light?!? Electronic ignition!”

What the hell will they think of next.

[Deist heads out to lunch and thinks to himself, the next thing you know they’ll be talking about cars that run on water or engines that run on perpetual motion and magnets. ]

I think Jesus built my UU church


Yep… I said it. I believe with all my heart that Jesus built my UU church. And it’s in this place that Jesus built where I’ve been able to learn about sacrificial love, compassion for all living things and helping those weaker than me.

And a couple of weeks ago I told The Little Man I believed Jesus built our church as we were pulling into the parking lot.

I should back-track a little before going any further in why I think this. I mean it must seem odd for The Deist, especially one of a UU persuasion to be making such statements.

A few weeks ago The Little Man (for new visitors here, The Little Man is my wife’s son… my stepson) and The Deistette were going to check out another church… a Methodist church and so I felt obligated to tell him a little about what he might see there. So Emmie and I naturally began with Jesus. We told him there are some people who believe in a man named Jesus and that they believe he is God.

And he said, “well, what about the real God? Do they believe in God?”

“Well, yes… but they believe Jesus was His son and is God also.”

He couldn’t quite grasp the concept. I have to be honest it perplexes me, too.

So we told him that Continue reading

I used to love this UU annual ritual


UU congregations have very few liturgical traditions. Having come from a Catholic background where there are butt-loads of rituals and traditions I really look forward with much anticipation to our annual water ceremony.

UU flaming chalice w/ holy water in background  photo by julian

UU flaming chalice with holy water in background

For my non-UU readers, the water ceremony summed up is this: It’s a Sunday service held in mid or late August, where everyone in the congregation brings a small amount of water and pours it into a bowl that sets at the front of the sanctuary near the alter. The water has been gathered during the summer (mostly… some gathered throughout the year) while people were away from school obligations, work obligations, kid obligations, parent obligations… just obligations in general. There are readings about the significance of water, a short sermon then everyone goes up to the front, one after another, and as they pour their water in the bowl they describe where the water came from. The bowl has water from last year and from our District water ceremony held earlier in the summer. I could probably write this in a little more detail and try to describe it better but that’s basically it.

I love this ceremony. Always have… ever since I first started attending my church.

But this year, it changed a little for me. Even as I walked up to pour my water in, I kinda had a sick feeling in my throat because Continue reading

what kinda place are we running here


I’m taking a quick break from paying unemployment taxes for the clients we serve to tap this out. As I sit here at my desk I hear the cries of a baby…. little Naomi.

Little Naomi is the four month old daughter of one our accounting clerks, (new mommy) Naomi. And little Naomi is not really crying as much as she is just kinda “talking.”

I walked over to Naomi’s desk, grabbed little Naomi’s toe and said, “hey. There’s a little too much talking and not enough working.” Momma Naomi said she thought she was trying to let people know she needs her diaper changed. I let go of her toe and said, “I don’t think she needs to talk to let us know.” Giggles and laughter ensue.

~~~

Back at my desk I hear giggles come from behind me. The Little Man is with me at the office as he is everyday. He’s sitting behind me Continue reading

it wasn’t her time


The Deistette gave me a pretty bad scare about a week ago… a really big scare.

She almost died.

She has high blood pressure and on occasion her heart gets extremely elevated. She has meds for both but doesn’t take them on a regular basis for one, because she doesn’t have health insurance anymore and to get refills would cost money we don’t have.  And two… her blood pressure stays relatively ok half the time. So she takes them when she thinks she really needs them to bring either her BP or heart rate down should it get pretty high that day because she monitors her blood pressure and heart rate at least twice, if not three times a day.

Well, we were in a rush, we were hungry and trying to remember stuff to bring with us for errands to run later.  So she forgot about having taken her blood pressure medicine three hours earlier and after checking her heart rate, took the heart med that lowers it.  Not a good thing to do.

About an hour later Continue reading

brother can you spare a dime?


Hello friendly blog peeps, peepettes and casual visitors.

Today’s post is asking for a HUGE favor.

If you look to the right… right next to the title of this post you’ll see a picture. If you click it, the link will take you to my page on the Lone Star Chapter of The National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s website.

I’m writing about this because I want to let you know I’m riding my bicycle half way across Texas in an effort to raise funds for researchers to find a cure for MS. I’m riding in the 2009 MS 150 Bike Tour from Houston to Austin. It’s about 160 miles or so over two days.

I’m do it for two reasons. One… believe it or not, I find it fun and of course, challenging. (i’ve ridden this ride before) Two… I know I am extremely lucky to be able to move my body on my own and so I feel an obligation to help.

I want to help researchers find a cure for folks who don’t move so well because of this disease.

I’m no scientist. I don’t know much about this disease or what it will take to end it. But I can pedal my bike and ask people to donate to my ride so the smart guys can figure a way to help those who are afflicted with this disease.

So I hope you will.

I hope you can spare ten bucks… or five bucks… or three or even one.

I know five bucks or even one doesn’t seem like a lot but it all adds up.

When I was in the Marine Corps I learned a saying from the grunts… “ounces make pounds.” I first heard it when my unit attached with some grunts for training and we were going on a 13 mile hike carrying all our gear on our back.

A few of the guys took us “non-hackers” aside and said, “ounces make pounds, Marine. Let me see your gear.” They proceeded to show us how stripping every tiny piece of non-essential crap added up to a lot of weight.

“Ounces make pounds” folks. I know times are tough. Hell, I barely have two nickels to rub together but if you could donate whatever you can…

well, every little bit adds up to a lot.

me and the little man


A couple of posts ago I talked about how The Deistette‘s Little Man had the crud and I was the one who stayed home with him.

Well since The Deistette found a job just a few weeks ago, I’ve been (not completely) but for the most part, in charge of getting him out of bed and getting him ready to go to pre-school.

For you parents who have done this you know the drill… trying to get the child up out of bed. Going back and telling them again to get up. Taking the blankets off of said child. Yelling up the stairs to get up. Going back and again removing the blanket, this time, to outside the room. Five minutes later going back to take the blanket off and bringing it downstairs.

Getting breakfast. Trying to explain why the child can’t wear his bathing suit trunks, cowboy boots and a wife beater undershirt. Giving medicine for the cold contracted from being at the pre-school. Cleaning the child off because he spilled medicine down his chin and neck. Giving medicine again.

I’m sure you get the idea. Every little movement… every little instance in trying to get ready is an extremely complex evolution that requires tremendous forethought and logistics.

So the reason for the forethought and logistics is because he has to be somewhere while The Deistette and I are at work.

So Emmie found a great little school for him to go to but the problem is it’s so far away. We figure, “hey it’s pretty cheap. We can do this.” Turns out to be a fantastic school and really helps The Little Man catch up on where he should be with writing his name and letters and other pre-schooley things.

Well, we couldn’t do it. Turns out it wasn’t as cheap as we thought. The drive was killing both me and the boy and ultimately we had to change him to another place closer to our house.

It sucks. To put him in one we can afford means putting him in a sub-par facility. Don’t get me wrong we didn’t put him in a dungeon. It just isn’t the same as when he had a teacher that really worked with him.

I hate it. I feel responsible. If I could have just woken up earlier. Woken him up earlier. Discovered clever ways to make him have a “good” morning vice the screaming, crying, “i-don’t-want-to-go-to-school” mornings. Found a way to afford it. It just sucks.

The Little Man looks up to me. He really likes me and he often says, “hold my hand Julian” when we go to the store or when I’m walking him to his little pre-school, which is a pretty friggin’ cool feeling. But taking his hand comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility that I’m not sure I’m up to.

I’ve never thought as myself as a very good dad. Pretty sure I wasn’t the best dad to Little Fawn I could have been. The Little Man’s daddy lives up in the panhandle right now and because I’ve chosen to be with his mommy, I’ve got to step up and fill those shoes.

Hope I don’t let him or his mommy down.
the-deist-and-the-little-man
The Little Man and The Deist