Mindfulness Monday – Disposable

Tyler got really into trains when he was little.

I bought him all this wooden track that would fit together really well and could be expanded as much as we wanted. It didn’t work on the carpet, so I bought a 4ft. x 8ft. piece of ¾ in. plywood we would put it on. It became an entire world for him.

Trains went out, and Spiderman came in. The plywood was placed up against the wall at an angle, with little wooden handholds screwed on. Spiderman (in his Spiderman costume) climbed all over it, shooting webs and often falling on his head.

The thing with kids is that they keep growing up.

Tyler is an excellent artist and musician. I am neither. The Spiderman wall, along with a bookcase, became a little art studio where he could paint and draw with some sort of privacy. I still have all of his work in a box in the closet.

Skateboarding came next. This was, unfortunately, something he and I did together.

My left wrist still cannot bear weight very well, it hurts to rest my left elbow an anything, even a pillow or the arm of a couch. We spent a lot of time at the skate parks here in town, but we also turned the plywood into a ramp attached the wall in the garage so we could ride down it and out into the driveway.

The plywood has also had brief stints as a clubhouse wall and a brace to hold a bunch of other lumber up in my shed. Currently, it serves as a frame for my archery targets so I can practice in my backyard. This one piece of plywood has now been with me for at least 13 years, and it still has time left in it. Probably the best $40 I ever spent.

We live in a disposable culture.

Everything can be thrown away, because we believe we can simply replace it. This seems to even apply to people. It certainly applies to time.

Today, make note of the things you have had for a long time. Allow yourself to be grateful for their service to you. Look at the number of disposable things around you, and ask yourself if there might be a better way to accomplish whatever it is they accomplish for you.

Enjoy your day, it is unique and irreplaceable.

Love the people around you, they are unique and irreplaceable.

No matter what is happening, it is unique and irreplaceable.

See if you can embrace it.

Thanks for reading.

Long-Term Goals

I don’t know what I did, but I am having a lot of trouble with the feeling in my fingers so this may be short. I am thinking Sundays might be lighter days anyway.

5 Long-Term Goals

Find a way out of this machine where we exchange time and energy for X amount of dollars. This one has become increasingly important to me. I want more time with the people I love and a lot less time in the city. Pretty much all of my long-term goals flow out of this one.

Pay off all debt. Debt is really a devastating thing to have in life, it makes me sad how much our society accepts and promotes it as normal, and even a good thing (build your credit so you are allowed to build more debt!). I have a deep animosity toward celebrities who sell crap on commercials, but this goes double for anyone shilling credit cards. Bill Hicks is probably responsible for this in me.

Finish my book, get it edited, work on getting it published. This is what freedom looks like to me.

Keep learning about investing and things related to this. I used to think this was “un-spiritual” or base or something like that. The thing is, there is a big difference between being smart about how you use the resources you have available to you and being greedy. I don’t want extravagance or excess. I want time with my family, less time in cities and enough money to help other people. That’s pretty much it. The only way to get this is to find a way to be financially independent. I am way behind the successful people in my age demographic, but I am working on catching up.

I would like to be a kinder person each year that goes by. I feel like this has gone in reverse a little this year, and I am trying to turn it back around.

That’s it for today.

Do you have long-term goals? What are they? What is your concrete plan for achieving them?

I will apologize in advance in case I do not respond quickly.

On Authority

Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the boot-maker.

Mikhail Bakunin

This quote pretty much sums up my entire perspective on authority.

It is near impossible to spend a weekend with my family without my history with authority coming up. I am much easier to deal with now, but this has taken so long to achieve there are plenty of stories about me.

I still don’t like authority and I instinctively reject it.

It’s been this way my whole life. I have to be mindful of not refusing to do something just because someone tells me to. It might be a great idea, but it doesn’t matter.

Don’t tell me what to do.

This is, of course, a stupid way to live your life, and there is nothing noble or badass about it. It’s childish.

Rejecting authority simply because it is authority is as foolish as any of the blanket discriminations we use to make our choices easier. Easier does not equal better, and is rarely actually easier in the long run.

This does not mean I am able to blindly accept authority though.

The best people are rarely put in the positions of power. Every job I have had and every institution I have been involved with has suffered from poor leadership in one way or another. People often get jobs because of who they know, because they have the right ideology, because they give a good interview and because they have put in the sufficient amount of time in another job to “earn” the spot. None of this qualifies them as a good leader or an authority on anything except knowing people and accepting ideology and giving good interviews and passing time.

None of this is saying I should be in authority, by the way. I would be a disaster.

It is even worse when you move off the concrete sidewalk.

There are so many preachers and gurus and spiritual advisors and “inspired” teachers out there who claim authority, often authority given by some higher being or realm.

They often only know what their own denomination or religion or ideology teaches, and everything they do and say passes through this lens first. They have the answer before they even know the question. And, all of this is when they aren’t out-and-out scam artists. They have an agenda from the second you start talking to them, no matter how much they say they don’t. What they advise is skewed from the beginning. I have been fortunate to know a great number of really good ones, but they are still boot-makers. The best of them will admit this. As a counselor, I am a boot-maker. Don’t ask me about investing your money or how to fix your car.

So how do we determine who to listen to? Who do we follow?

My general rule is that no one has a blank check as far as authority goes. I have yet to meet anyone who knows everything, or is competent in every area. I try to find people who excel at something, and get their advice. I assess if they are excelling by the results I see, not by what they say. It is easy to claim knowledge or wisdom, but you can’t fake results for very long.

I ask myself what a person’s agenda might be before sitting down with them at all. If I disagree with the agenda it doesn’t mean they have nothing to offer, only that I need to be aware of the agenda as we talk.

I actively and intentionally submit to people with wisdom in the areas they have this wisdom. I don’t reject authority on the basis that it is authority.

I don’t let the boot-maker tell me how to build a ship either though.

Black Friday

I’m not actually writing about Black Friday, I just heard someone mention it on the news and decided it was my title.

Not real news though, Good Morning America. Infotainment. What a stupid word.

I am happy I don’t feel compelled to throw myself into the Black Friday thresher though, we are insane as a species. You know those products they discount so deeply are specially made for Black Friday and are of inferior quality, right?


This is one of those “what a cool world” blogs, probably as much for me as anyone else.

Ok, definitely for me.

I’ve struggled with attitude and anger lately, I think it is a combination of things.

Less sunlight and shorter days. The holidays, which I enjoy, but which also require near-constant human interaction. General tiredness. Neck and shoulder pain.

This is actually a big one, it seems to consistently thwart some of my better plans. It gets better and worse but is on a general “worse” trajectory overall.

If I am honest though, the only real problem here is my attitude.

Born of being tired, in pain, and a little overwhelmed, my attitude is the issue, not anything in the external environment or my situation.

The curved television here in the Hampton Inn breakfast room isn’t helping though.

Fine, enough bitching.

What a cool world.

Yesterday I was all the way across the state, and this is a bigass state.

We were able to hang out with B’s family for lunch, see her brother and sister-in-law and nephew, who were in town from Maine, and still make it to East Texas by last night. These are amazing things, not too long ago in our history seeing family from Maine was a once or twice in a lifetime thing. Crossing Texas was rare. Long trips are common for almost all of us these days.

I love getting to eat breakfast at hotels. Unlimited orange juice.

B just called and is heading down with Max, he is always happy to see me. My parents and Tyler are asleep in another room upstairs. Later today I will see my grandma, aunt, uncle, brother, sister-in-law, twin nephews and my niece. I thoroughly enjoyed B’s side of the family yesterday, and we had a great lunch. I am so fortunate to have the people I have around me.

This isn’t always popular, but I love Texas.

I love driving in Texas, I love talking to people in Texas, I love Texans. You can love whatever state you want. I have no issue with that. You can be all global and just be proud of being a human too if you want. I will do the same just as soon as they rename earth Texas.

It’s going to happen.

Even the whole Black Friday thing. I am privileged to not have to enter one of the 9 Rings of Hell in order to afford things for people for Christmas.

I get it, some people do it out of greed and for others it is a fun family thing (cannot relate), but for a lot of people it is how they are able to afford nice things for their family. I am very privileged to be able to opt out of this.

Man though, there is no amount of positivity that is going to make me not hate Good Morning America. This is also the first time I’ve watched commercials in as long as I can remember. It makes me thankful to be able to sit at home in silence most mornings.

See, I turned it around.

Enjoy your day, whatever you are doing. Be careful if you are traveling. Love the people around you. Smile and be happy.

Turn off the TV though.

It sucks.

Raising a Teenager

Someone asked me to write about raising a teenager.

I am not a parenting expert, and I am probably a marginal parent much of the time, but I’ll do it anyway because I can.

Here’s what I can tell you about raising a teenager: it’s freaking easy, because Tyler is a really good kid. He is smart, compassionate, funny, and actually likes spending time with his family. He thinks his little brother hung the moon, and Max thinks the same about him.

Tyler takes after me in more ways than I would like, but he is already much smarter than me about how he is dealing with it.

He actually listens to what people tell him, and understands that getting what he wants is not the end-all be-all of existence. He knows how to laugh at himself, and he doesn’t think he is the center of the universe. I really believe that part of what has made him a good kid is being taught that his opinion does not matter on many things.

He has definitely made some mistakes. I feel like it isn’t fair for me to lay those out here, but they really have been minor compared to much of what I see other parents having to deal with.

I think the most important thing for me was realizing very early on that he did not “belong” to me and that he was not an extension of me.

He is a real human being with his own hopes and wants and desires, and I do not have the right to live out my failed dreams through him, or to try and impose my perception of how things are on him. I guide him, and we have hard and fast rules that he is expected to live within, but ultimately this life is his. It’s my job to prepare him to live it well.

I didn’t let him dominate every conversation or situation.

I explained to him that a vast majority of what kids find interesting is not, and that adults only feign interest to be nice. On a car trip one time I told him that if he didn’t give me 5 minutes of uninterrupted silence I was going to leave him at the next rest stop.  He watched the clock and the second it hit 5 minutes he started up talking again like nothing had changed. To this day he notices when I am at my limit of people time and asks if I need him to be quiet, and then actually is.

He is not allowed to look at his phone when there is another human being in the room.

He is not allowed to text me in text speak, and I expect complete sentences. Things like “WYD” and ‘ur” and “k” make me want to strangle people. Because of this, Tyler communicates well. He is not intimidated when talking to adults, he looks them in the eye and listens when they talk. He has a good handshake.

I have always laughed at him, and he is allowed to laugh at me.

Some of the best burns I’ve heard have come from him. He knows I am writing this blog about him and seems slightly mortified. I will probably post a link to this on Instagram and tag his friends. They will make fun of him, this is the balance of the universe. All that being said, he understands there are times for this kind of stuff and times that are serious and he needs to listen.

He and I have always had honest conversations, and there aren’t questions that are out of bounds or unacceptable to ask.

It is our job to help kids learn how to live on this planet, we cannot let ourselves fail them because something makes us uncomfortable.

If we don’t teach them, their peers will, and they will do a really bad job.

Family is important.

I have been very fortunate to have a great relationship with his mom, and to never have to worry about things because she is a great mom. Barbara is a great stepmom. My parents, his mom’s mom, and Barbara’s parents have contributed tremendously to raising him as well, and this has been a huge benefit to him. I know everyone doesn’t have the privilege of a family like I do, so I encourage them to seek out healthy community instead.

So, once again, I am not a great parent. Sometimes I am not even a good one.

There are things I wish I’d done better every single day. But somehow, I’ve got a teenager I don’t just love because he’s my son, but who I like as a person, and this makes it easy.

It doesn’t have much to do with me.