Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

"Don't wish it were easier, wish you were better."
~Jim Rohn
There are days in the beginning of summer and in between summer and fall in Southern California when the temperature barely touches your skin. The wind sleeps the day away, the morning dew goes on vacation, and the sun works quietly with the clouds to neither burn nor chill you. It's not hot, it's not cold. The only way I've ever been able to accurately describe this is to say that the air is just...there. That air brings with it a sense of peace and balance. And maybe even a little good fortune. Which is what I've been able to experience this year.

Last year I spent Thanksgiving week in Hawaii absorbing all the positive energy I could get my soul around and carried that back home with me. I made some difficult decisions that hurt others, but ultimately became the best decisions I could have made in order to find peace within myself. When I came home I resolved to make no resolutions, but to just live my life. And still I found a way to make resolutions.

12 sunrises and 12 sunsets from a minimum of 12 different locations, combined. The sunrises I wrote down were in Runyon Canyon in March, Phoenix in April, Long Beach in October, and San Mateo also in October. There were probably 3 or 4 others, which count, even though I failed to document them. Which means I fell short of my goal by 4 or 5, but the sunrises I did get to experience were amazing. So this year the goal is more of the same. The goal involves no specific number, only a desire to see as many as possible. As for the sunsets: Corona Del Mar in March, Crystal Cove in April, Long Beach in June and August and October, and Seattle in August (thrice). Lather, rinse, repeat my sunrise goals: as often as possible.

I wanted to watch 6 MLB games in stadiums I'd never been to before. There was the Astros vs. Padres on opening day at Petco Park, Cubs vs. Astros at Minute Maid Park, Astros vs. D'Backs at Chase Field, and the Twins vs. Mariners at Safeco Field. We had talks of AT&T Park or McAfee Coliseum when we were up in SF for a tournament but it didn't pan out. We talked about US Cellular Field, but then a trip to Chicago never materialized. There were even talks of National Field if we visited DC, but like the Chicago trip, we never made it to DC. 8 down, 22 to go. Or maybe that's 7 down, 23 to go with the closing of The House That Ruth Built. 2009 holds trips to Dallas and Chicago, for sure. And possibly to NY, SF, and/or DC. If we reach all of those between April and October, we'll e able to get to at least 5, possibly 8. We'll have to wait and see what's in store for us. 

I also wanted to play 26 rounds of golf in 2008, and this I accomplished. Long Beach Little and Big Recs, Westchester, Aliso Creek, Bixby Village, El Dorado, Robinson Ranch, Heartwell, Dominguez Hills, Lakewood CC, and Rancho Mirage CC were the golf courses I played. Some rounds were solo, others with friends, but all brought me closer to myself. Golf is not about winning, only about doing better than my last round. I've gone from shooting a 130-something to shooting a 103. So this year the goal is to break 90 at least once, but that of course will be after I break 100. 

Speaking of doing better, the only resolution I have is to be a better person in 2009 than I was in 2008. I believe I accomplished this in 2008, and I believe this will be my only resolution for years to come: be better than you were before. 

As the year comes to a close tonight it will be spent with good friends, much laughter and some of the best energy I've encountered in all my years. This is what life should be. And may yours be the same.

Happy New Year and may 2009 bring you many days of balance and good fortune. And maybe even a few days of air that's just...there. 

Friday, December 19, 2008

Every Day

I've been working on this book for just over two years now and I'm finally starting to feel like I'll finish it. I had no idea what I was getting into when I started, only that I thought I could finish it in a year and that I'd be sitting at home writing something else and living off the fat paycheck I'd received for 7 Days. Things don't always work out the same in real life.

In real life it takes work. Daily work. Everyday this book requires me to write it. If I don't write it, it doesn't get written. And so I found myself 18 months into my dream project with it barely even started because I'd started and stopped and trashed it and started over time after time after time. And after umpteen times of this, I wondered if I was even capable of writing a book. 

I mean, people have told me they like my writing, and I've even gotten published (although one of the publications went out of business a year or so ago), but I've only ever written short stories. I've written essays and blogs and small pieces here and there, but nothing of the magnitude of a real book. With a front and back cover and more than just a few pages in between. 7 Days is no book report or short story or school assignment. 7 Days's life.

And how do I get life down on paper? The answer is the same no matter who I ask: "You just write it." Apparently that's the only way things get written. I've tried staring at the computer waiting for the book to write itself, and two years later, it still is not written. But six months ago I decided not writing was for the birds.

I started doing what I do best: short stories. I looked at other books I've read and can relate to (Dark Nights of the Soul, The Year of Magical Thinking, Dog Years to name a few), and I realized that a book is nothing more than a collection of short stories that tie each one together. They can be tightly or loosely woven. There can be ten stories (I hear they call these chapters) or twenty-four. It all depends on the story I'm telling, and the way it ends up together. 

So these little excerpts I've been posting are the beginning to each short story. They all relate to each other in that they all are my experience with my father's death. And they all relate to what I learned from that experience. They all simply tell the story. Which means that unbeknownst to me, I've been writing this book all along. It's nice to finally figure that out.

Now that I know that I've been writing the book, I'm starting to worry that when I put it all together it won't make sense. I'm trying to put that worry aside and just concentrate on the writing. Every day. Every. Day. 

Monday, December 15, 2008


Rain soothes my head and calms my soul. I don't know how it happens, only that it does. I suppose this is true for a lot of people. Early this morning I woke up to the sound of rain falling on the concrete patio just outside our bedroom window and recalled several random childhood memories.

The first was of sitting on the hearth warming my hands to the fire as we watched the rain fall in the backyard of my grandparents' house when I was nine. The next was a quick snap to stomping in the rain gutter with too-big yellow rain boots in the alley behind my childhood home. And then came sitting on the beach with my mom in Hawaii when I was five. Sun shining, rain pouring in a small wave as the clouds passed over and just as soon as it came, it went, and I ogled the sky for the rest of the day looking for the next shower.

I'm sure my love of rain is sustained by living in a climate which rarely offers anything but sunshine, even in the "winter" months; there is no time in which to grow tired of the rain that is rarely here. I am also certain that I don't have the personality for Seattle or Portland, and am positive that depression would set in during the first solid week of grey skies (average number of clear days ranges from 58-71 in these two cities--which is better than the 66 minutes Barrow, Alaska offers, but still).

I love a cool morning where I can curl up on the couch with my girl and watch football, watching the rain fall outside the living room window. Or in this morning's case, where I can curl up in the king chair with our furballs while posting a mid-morning blog in my favorite pants and slippers. 

Hope everyone else is enjoying the rain as much as I.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Visions of Inspiration, Update

I posted my Vision Statement a couple of months ago and have been watching this every so often to keep myself motivated to accomplish everything I want to. I started out watching every morning, but have since allowed myself to slip into watching once a week, if that. So I'm making a commitment to myself to watch every morning for the rest of the month. The goal is to create a habit of watching everyday so that it will no longer be something I think about doing, but will occur without thought, just as my morning cup of coffee does. 

I've decided to update the Vision every 6 months, for several reasons. 
  • 6 months is just often enough to keep the visions in the forefront of my mind, should I fall to the wayside and watch sporadically versus daily.
  • I can reevaluate my visions and make sure everything from 6 months ago is still a priority--I've given myself permission to add and delete as priorities tend to shift with the ongoing changes in life. 
  • Once I've accomplished things, I can also move Visions from the "What I Want" list to the "What I've Done" list. It's a simple gratification system that allows me to acknowledge some of the things that I feel good about having done or accomplished.
I recently went through some photos to remind myself of some of the things I've been able to do and accomplish in my life. Time flies so quickly sometimes, whether in good or bad times, and it's easy to forget some of the great things I've been able to do in my short life. Maybe it's that way for you, too. The photos I put together range from being brought home from the hospital after being born to graduating to traveling Japan and Europe to sunsets and skylines and random happy moments along the way. Maybe it will inspire you to create your own!

I've set it to the music of Dave Matthews Band's "Lie In Our Graves", which seems to compliment and relay my sentiments quite well. Enjoy!

And here's a link, if you don't see the video above. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Excerpt: Last Chance

From 7 Days:
He looked so sad. So helpless. Gray whiskers sprouted from his face where dark brown seemed to have grown just a few days ago. I held his hand as he tried to pull it up to his face. The IV line into the back of his hand made moving his arm uncomfortable. I asked if he needed something. He nodded. He opened his mouth and pointed. "Another swab?" I asked. He nodded again.

Because of the tube in my father's throat he was unable to drink water. He was also unable to flush his mouth out after the mess of being intubated. Which left his mouth open and bloody and dry. I wasn't there for the event, only the aftermath, which went unnoticed for the first day and a half. Dried blood caked on his teeth and the roof of his mouth. Caked in the crevices that had started to form on his tongue from his mouth being wide open all the time. 

He would let me swab a little of it away at a time, but if I kept at it for more than a minute it hurt him. I knew he was done when he clamped the swab between his tongue and the roof of his mouth to release the rest of the water from the swab into his mouth. The cool medicated water felt good, and the excess of it could be spit out, along with the bits of decay that I'd broken free for him. 

I recalled a moment from childhood when the sight of blood on my fingertip left me with on the ground with cartoon birdies flying around my head. When I dropped to the floor I nearly cracked my head open on the porcelain sink on the way down. Blood, fresh or otherwise, had no place in my line of sight. My body was very clear on that prior to taking care of my father.

I don't recall it being a conscious choice to not faint at the sight of his blood; it just sort of stopped happening after he got sick. I don't recall being afraid that I would see his blood and then pass out. And yet I know I did in fact see his blood, and not once did I so much as turn away, let alone fall to the ground for flying birdies.

My soul seemed to have flipped a switch at the final turn of my father's life. I no longer thought of the pain he was in, but focused on relieving him of it. It became more important to take care of him, more important than whether or not I saw a spot of blood to make sure was as comfortable as he could possibly be. Because I knew. I understood. That these were my last opportunities to love him while he was still alive. 

Monday, December 8, 2008

Burglary Thwarted

I heard my neighbor's door bell ring. And ring. And ring and ring and ring some more. Sitting in my living room workstation, I said aloud, "Who the hell is ringing the doorbell incessantly?!" and got up to check it out. By the time I walked the 5 steps to the door and peeked out, I only caught a glimpse of a sandy-blondish man walking hastily away from the apartment complex. 

No more than a minute later, I heard the ringing again. Without a word, I peeked out the door again. The same man stood outside my next door neighbor's (we'll call her Delilah) door, knocking and ringing the doorbell. Dirty mustard color shirt, dirty khaki shorts, dirty scruffy face. Something in my gut did not like that man. But I couldn't quite put my finger on what I didn't like, aside from him being a dirty man knocking on my neighbor's door.

Unrelated, I decided to move my car from the garage to the street for Erin so she'd have a space to park when she got home from work. When I stepped out my door the same man was again walking away from the apartment complex, just past my neighbor (we'll call her Petunia) who lives just across the courtyard. I walked to the back of the complex where the garage is and proceeded to move my car to the front of the building. 

As I pulled into a space just in front of the building I see the same man reaching over the bushes just outside Delilah's window. He sees me and starts walking away. I get out of my car and walk towards him. He rushes to a bright red Ford extra cab pickup and gets in. As I'm processing what I'm seeing--the corner of Delilah's window screen cut out and this man fleeing the scene--the man starts the truck, backs up and drives down the street. My heart racing, still processing everything, I run into the street and look at his license plate. A hitch is in the middle of the plate, but I can still read it: 8B86446.

I repeat this number in my head over and over and over again all the way back to my apartment. I knock on Petunia's door to see if she has Delilah's phone number. I call the police and Petunia gets a hold of Delilah. We wait for the police and Delilah to arrive. I give my statement to the officers and Delilah and her husband check their apartment to see if anything is missing. Nothing. A report is filed and the officers leave. All is well. With one exception: Delilah and her family will now be moving.

They have a sub-1-year old baby and value the safety of that baby, so unfortunately for all of us in the building who enjoy her fresh baked cookies (which were a factor in the attempted break in, as the window was left open to cool them while she went to the market, child in tow) they are looking for a safer place to live.

While Delilah was grateful that not only was I home and my presence stopped the guy from breaking in, but that I took the time to get a plate number, contact her and call the police. I know there are people that wouldn't have done that, but I can't imagine being one of those people. I did it partially because Delilah is my neighbor and friend, and partially because it was my building this man was attempting to break into. If one apartment is unsafe, we all are unsafe. 

I'm not saying I would have chased the guy down, but it really took no more than a few seconds to get that guy's plate number and call it in. A few more minutes to give a statement to the police. But it gave Delilah and her family at least some peace of mind knowing that the people she lives with are good, kind people. And saved her the stress of having to live in a place with her child that had actually been broken into. I'm just happy I helped. 

Let this just be a reminder that some people like to take what's not theirs. So lock your doors and windows when you're not around, and be aware of suspicious activity when you are around. I hope it's all for not, but better safe than sorry. 

Friday, December 5, 2008

Excerpt: Prized Possession

From 7 Days:
I can’t quite bring myself to display it. Yet. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the right showcase for it. Maybe I just haven’t gotten around to it. Or maybe I just don’t want the daily reminder that he’s gone.
I can count the number of times my father spoke of his days in Vietnam on one hand. He joined the Navy to avoid being drafted into the Army, like many 18-22-year-old guys of the late sixties. He was rewarded by not having to serve on the front lines and suffer the way many Vietnam Vets did. At least, that’s my perception of it. As for my father’s view, he held silent the details of his experiences at sea, his experiences at war. And his silence held the details of what those years meant to him, and how they might have shaped him.

My father’s funeral brought clarity to me. But not in the way I thought it would. One Petty Officer’s actions and emotions revealed what may have very well been my father’s own emotions about serving in the United States Navy.

A Seaman Apprentice and a Petty Officer Second Class folded the flag draped over my father’s—I still have a hard time with whichever word comes next. Pine box. Casket. Coffin. Any and all of which mean he’s dead. No getting around it. The flag was draped over my father’s coffin.

The flag folding ceremony was held after Taps was played. While the notes of Taps coming from the trumpet brought tears to my eyes and I was awed at the sight of the flag being folded so meticulously and with such care, neither of those events are what stand out. It was the flag being handed to me.

The Petty Officer in pressed black dress uniform, sailor collar caped over his broad shoulders. His shiny black shoes. His crisp white gloves. The precise movements in his march towards me. The flag sandwiched between his hand on top and the other beneath. His sense of gratitude in transferring the flag from his hands to mine.

The Petty Officer said something to me as I we both held the flag in transference. My hands on the flag, I looked him in the eye, unable to hear a word he said. And then I focused on his eyes. I noticed welled up tears in them. His words became loud and clear.
"Please accept this flag in honor of your father’s great service to this country. I am truly sorry for your loss."
His voice quivered slightly, and I recognized something immediately. Emotion. Unequivocal, raw emotion. And in an instant I felt closer to my father. There was an immediate understanding of the bond that had been created between this man and my father, simply by being a part of this brotherhood I had never even tried to understand. I'm not sure he could have explained it, anyway.
These men had been trained in the same way. With the same standards, the same faith, the same expectations, the same humility, the same honor. If I had any ill feelings about the military, they were gone with this Petty Officer’s tears. These men were brothers, and they had never even met. There was no doubt in my mind the sincerity with which the Petty Officer’s words were spoken and tears fell. I began to understand just how human we all are. And I began to understand my father, if just a little bit more, and found comfort in the prized possession I held in my hands.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Human Soul Project

A little over a year ago I started a project with my best friend. We had the best of intentions, but a little dash of turmoil, a sprinkle of chaos, and a whole lot of "holy crap, what now" and voila: project on hiatus before it really got started. 

I just finished reading The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, and am re-inspired to stop doing things that don't inspire me and start doing things that do. And with that, I'm revamping The Human Soul Project. Briefly, the Project is looking for coming out stories that inspire the soul. For details, visit

I'm in the process of contacting Jack Canfield's office to see if this idea can be added to The Chicken Soup for the Soul series. A small note: the submission guidelines for stories suggest that Chicken Soup for the Soul(tm) stories are "NOT" about controversial issues. Coming out is for sure controversial, but the guidelines also specify that the story must "uplift and inspire." Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is it not? In the meantime, the plan is to take submissions from readers and writers everywhere, and get it published ourselves.

What would inspire me to start such a project?

I remember the fear I had of coming out to my father in my mid-twenties. He had become a born again Christian by then, which was probably my main fear in telling him. I'd always known him to be a decent guy. Only once did I ever see him truly angry, and that was to come to my defense when he felt my grandfather was attacking me. I had no reason to believe that he would be angry with me, disown me, stop loving me, or think less of me in any way. But there it was. The fear that all these things would come true. I feared that his love of God would overrule his love for me, and that I would no longer be deserving of my father's love once I told him I was gay. It took me nearly 2 years to work up the courage after using excuse after excuse for not telling him. And when I finally did, my fears were unfounded.

My father and I dialogued, although not regularly, about what he viewed as my "choice" to act on feelings for the same sex. As I was just trying to figure it all out for myself, it was difficult to explain it to someone else. And it took me years to be comfortable with who I knew myself to be, regardless of what others thought. Most of my friends were straight. My coworkers. My family. I had done all this searching for myself, my soul, my self and was discouraged by the misunderstanding of who I was by nearly everyone I knew. Sure there were people I knew of who were gay, but they weren't me. They didn't know what I was going through. They couldn't possibly. 

If I could have read stories about others who had come out, others who put their fears on paper, their doubts, and then detailed how they overcame those fears, detailed how they triumphed, how they survived, I might have found the strength to be honest not only with myself, but with my father much sooner than I was. I might have added 2 years to of understanding to our relationship had I found the strength to come out sooner. 

So if just one of the stories we end up publishing helps someone find that strength, then this is all worth it. The whole point of life is to live it, love it, and help others do the same. We are all human. We all have emotions. We all feel good, we all feel bad. And we all go through slumps. We all need to be uplifted, to be inspired...we all need to feel connected. And that's what the Human Soul Project is all about.

This first Project is about coming out. The next project will be about...well now, I can't give everything away. Let's see how this project goes and then we'll get started on the next one. What I can tell you is that the vision and purpose of the Human Soul Project will remain the same: to create inspiration for the Human Soul everywhere.