Monday, July 28, 2008


Today was another one of those days
where I wonder
"Are you there?"

I didn't get but two hours of sleep
to face a Monday.
My Inbox was overloaded
and my commute buddy napped.
All morning I looked at documents
that won't matter in five years,
let alone in eternity;
and dealt with people's little issues,
knowing there would only be more

I left feeling worn, defeated,
only to sit in two hours of traffic -
On a Monday.
And then, I can't log in
to finish my presentation for tomorrow.
Finally, the time I have left for home and family,
I feel nothing but tired and cranky.

I know you say to rejoice in all things,
and obey in all matters, not as eyepleasers
but with sincerity of heart,
But today just feels grey and mushy,
with no hope of tomorrow being better than today.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wheat and Chaff

Today I finished the threshing of my wheat. I keep trying to find ways to help along an essentially manual process (I'm far too small for any kind of machinery, and you would think they would make some kind of hand combine for small batches - in that case, you'd be wrong). This time, I took the remainder, threshed it all, then hand dropped it into the bucket to get rid of the worst of the chaff, followed rinsing it. It is now drying in the hot summer sun.

In doing the wheat, as with every year, I am again struck by the image of wheat as used by Christ. Most people, I think, don't really understand what chaff is as it relates to our spiritual lives. We have the idea that it a weighty thing, something that will have some kind of significance in eternity, that will carry some kind of merit. The fact is, chaff is light and blows away easily. Those who process the grain purposely seek to get rid of the stuff. It is only the weighty grain, which falls back into the bucket or on the ground, that has any value to the farmer.

In Psalm 1:4, God compares the way of the wicked to "Chaff which blows away" - which is a good remainder to all of us what our lives are in comparison to God without Christ - little bits of dead plant matter which will whirl away in the first zephyr breeze of the Last Trumpet.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Onions Anyone?

So As I working in the garden this morning, it suddenly struck me that I have never really shown this place that give me so much joy. So welcome!

Here's looking one way..

And here's the other

Squash and potatoes...

Buried in this is are soybeans, jalapenos, sweet banana peppers, green bell peppers, cucumbers, cantaloupe, soybeans, tomatoes - and a pumpkin that's gone nuts!

A sunflower overhanging my compost pile...

Hides surprises!

Zucchini, Onions, and Garlic

A bucket of spuds and an onlooker:

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lab on the Run

Yesterday Syrah got out again.

She has done this three times since she came to live with us. Out the front door, or out the garage, and she's gone like a shot. She thinks it's a big game: running down, running back, stopping to look at you, then tearing away again, as you follow her farther and farther down the street. Each time, it's been a fifteen minute saga of me hollering, her looking at me in that goofy dog way, and then effectively saying "Play with me some more!"

Finally, myself or a very helpful neighbor corrals her, I put on her collar, and then we walk home, grumbling all the away about the dog and why did I ever think of getting one and this will be the last time this happens...

Which is all very fascinating, of course - until I point the finger at myself.

How many times has God given me something, whether a gift, or answer to prayer, or a freedom - and rather than be respectful or grateful or self controlled, I go tearing off with it down the road, looking back, shouting "Thank you! - It's mine!" as I continue to run -right into a building, or a hole, or a sin, or something else bad.

And then God comes, looks at me, picks me up, and puts me back in the fence, to try another day.

The dog simply has no training. What's my excuse?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What matters

Based on the service on Thursday (see below), I spoke with Bogha Frois on Friday. My thought, as I relayed it to her, was that death (as it always does) tends to focus one's mind wonderfully - especially in this case, where in so many ways, the impact of what is left behind seems small.

Her thought in the matter was that she had been confronting this very issue. She finds herself bogged down in the politics of work, and wishes that she could spend more time with her boys and her husband - to stay home, do something from home, and be there for them.

My thought, in thinking about this, was "Why not?" Life is short, and the one guaranteed job that no-one can do better than you is be a parent to your child. It is the single biggest thing you can do to impact the future.

So often I get caught up in what my impact is, what I am doing, how I can change things - and fail to remember that, like a bowman, I am aiming my children (consciously or unconsciously) towards a horizon that I will never reach (and that horizon keeps creeping closer every day!) so that I can release them. Caught in the present, my present, I shoot towards the future.

Does that mean it's easy? No - it entails sacrifices of various kinds, which anyone who has done it can relate to you - even perhaps the sacrifice of a short term feeling of significance. But the rich rewards of what it can yield may be felt not only here, but in eternity.

Besides - entire sub-industries are dedicated to individuals starting their own businesses. Why not the same sort of enthusiasm and industry to those who are making decisions to actively raise and be there for their children?

Traveling to Eternity

We went to my nephew's father's funeral this last Thursday. It was a very sobering experience.

This makes the second time this year I have attended a funeral of a presumed non-believer. The focus is very different than the ones I am typically used to. In the funeral of a Christian, although there is often sadness, there is always the hope of the resurrection. The service always intertwines both Christ and the memory of the individual, and how that individual showed Christ in their life to the world.

In the funeral on Thursday, his brothers and two friends spoke. It was somber and sad, befitting both the situation as well as individuals which ( I would guess) do not think about eternity frequently dealing with loss.

All concurred that he had a sense of humor and was always able to make others laugh, that he was someone that you could always depend on, and that lots of beer was consumed. The filler between these points were stories by the different individuals, demonstrating these points.

His younger brother hit the point which was closest to dealing with reality, that his brother served as an example - of things not to do, of mistakes to be learned from.

The service was remarkably well attended - standing room only - and bore signs of something which I have noted before to my fellow Christians: there is a sense of taking care of one another, of being there for one another, that often seems absent to me in the same sort of Christian group.

He was fun, he was there for you, and he drank beer. What would this be to present before the throne?

I was speaking with Nighean gheal afterwards, and she asked me about him. My response - the one I first heard from my pastor and I believe - is that there is always hope. He knew the truth, and had been introduced to it from more than one source. We never know, at least on this side, what happens right at death.

Still, it reminded me that it is an important goal - nay, the goal of ever Christian - to ensure that others have more than a faint hope of the resurrection.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I have wondered (in my off hours) what the intent of God is in my life by the circumstances that He places me in. I sometimes wonder if He doesn't shake His head and wonder "Why did he do that?"

Somewhere I read (long ago) that our lives our similar to a football game: once the play is made, you have to move the ball from where you are. Sometimes opportunities and tasks which were choices once are no more, due to our own choices or our own sin.

I counsel my children constantly to make the best choice that they can. Certainly in my own life, I've come to realize the importance of considering decisions in their fullness - not 1 year from now, but 10 or 20 years or even beyond my lifetime.

But doesn't this impact how I make decisions? Yes, unfortunately not always for the better. If you lack the confidence that you can make a good decision, you will tend towards not making any decision at all, lest you make a bad one - which, of course, means that by not making a decision you have made one.

How does one become more confident that the decisions one makes are good ones?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


So I knocked over some of my onions tonight. It's the first time I've tried it this way - and I'm a little concerned.

Which represents a not uncommon theme in my life, which is that I get stuff to grow or tasks accomplished - and then have no idea what to do.

One of my strengths, I would argue, is that I am willing to try anything - my theory being "If I can read it, then I can do it." I've tried all kinds of things in my gardens - some successfully, some less so. But then, when I am successful, I have no idea what the next step is.

Which probably represents a lack of planning.

Still, to be safe, I grew more onions. You can never be too sure....

Monday, July 14, 2008

Smarter than this

I find myself feeling discontented and trapped tonight - trapped in my life.

Ye saints and martyrs, I'm smarter than this. I feel trapped by work, trapped by finances, trapped by what I'm doing. This vague sense of "This is not really working - but I've no idea how to change it."

I am growing tired of living in this ever present miasma of fear about the economy and the future. I am not at all happy about the economy, do not misinterpret, nor do I think that my job is immune from it. At the same time, fear is doing nothing. Why am I not smarter about doing something, anything to get out of this rut?

Perhaps the one thing that needs to happen is I (again) need to find a locus, that one thing where I can start making sense of it all. What is the one place I can start at?

I need to something to catapult me out of this bog. Slogging through in ordinary ways is, I think, not going to be effective.

I am smarter than this.

Absconded Bees

So I talked to my father tonight. The second hive of the bees we purchased this year absconded.

(For those of you not in the know, swarming is when a colony splits, absconding is when the whole colony moves out).

I am quite depressed about the whole thing - two weeks ago, when I looked, the colony seemed fine. It's as if nature itself is fighting against me. What don't I know? What I've read suggests it is due to major stress such as bears, starvation, weather changed, etc.

Not sure - but it sure is disappointing.

Odd Mood

In an odd mood today. The audit with the regulatory agency, and Syrah, have reset my schedule and my life. I feel out of it, fallen out of a schedule that I can't rightly get back into. Additionally, I took the day off today - it is the Ravishing Mrs. TB's birthday - and due to a confluence of events, I find I am home alone this morning, to think.

Part of my odd mood is the feeling that I am in control of so little of my life. I don't really feel like I have control of very much at all. Events are swirling around me which I cannot influence or control.

And in my own personal life, those things I do for interest or enjoyment are also in flux. I've always had a problem with self discipline and continuing on - but if I continually put off some things, does that mean that I really want to do them?

How do I refocus to go forward?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Life takes a Holiday

An odd weekend. Coming home Friday night, I was in a better, but none the less somewhat unhappy mood, feeling late, badgered, and ready to just be home. Then I got home to the Ravishing Mrs. TB out on the front porch, waving me in.

Her mother was on the phone. The father of my younger nephew, Gille Beag Dorcha, had shot himself in the head that morning.

He had had a troubled life of late. My sister in law had asked him to move out some 8 months or so ago, as his lifestyle and lack of job had pushed her to the limit. He had moved back in with his mother, and was staying there. He had difficulties with alcohol, difficulties with keeping a job (and supporting his son), and difficulties with the law. And he was also a victim - a victim of a bad divorce, one that punitively punished him and separated him from his daughter. And so, Friday morning while his mother was watching TV, he took his life.

It certainly changes your perspective on life.

Was he saved? Both my daughters asked me, and I don't have the full answer. I know he knew - probably three times over, as it occurred: we had discussed it once that I recall, I know my sister in law discussed it, and we also found out that it appears he attended Catholic church for some portion of his life with his grandfather. He knew the truth, and this side of death, we'll never know for sure. But the hope, I think, is slim.

The time we discussed it, he told me flat up that he did not believe in God. As I look back now, I wonder what his objection was based on. So often, I think, objections are based on what anyone feels, rather than on any sort of serious investigation of the matter.

How does it change your perspective? On one had, it certainly makes the importance of family that much more important. Every memory is important - because you never know when you will stop making them.

A second part is the criticality of the Gospel. Eternity is real. Every day, men and women are plunging into Hell -certainly from their own volitional will, but perhaps as well because someone, maybe me, failed to raise the issue for reasons that in the light of eternity, will seem silly indeed.

The third part is the nature of the important and the urgent. Life and death, eternal life and death, are important. The souls of men and women are important.

The other stuff will burn with fire as chaff.

Oddly enough, the thing that sticks with me the most is that yesterday, his brothers had to come to his mother's house to clean the room. What a metaphor for our sin - in the end, others end up cleaning up the mess, perhaps even the blood, that we leave behind, splattered all over.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I had another one of those dreams last night - the kind where you truly think that your mind is trying to talk to you.

It came on the heels of a week and a half of audits. The change in my physical pattern is amazing. Up to last night, due to the start time of the audit and the driving distance, I was waking up later - and going to bed later as a result. My sleep pattern was the best it has been in at least 2 years - either didn't wake up at all, or woke up once, in both cases feeling rested. Last night that changed, as I was going back to the Home Office. I woke up three times at least and now type with a headache floating at the forefront of my brain.

In the dream, I was back at a company - A- that I had worked at in the past. I was there, apparently, to interview for a job. as A had been bought out but was hiring. I went through the manufacturing area, speaking with the interviewer about various pieces of equipment and processes I knew ("The waste tank system - did they ever fix that?"), management, and individuals. The location was not truly A, but a mixture of equipment, facilities, and architecture styles from lots of places that I have worked over the years.

The people I interviewed with were as well: of the 5 I remember interviewing with, I think only one or two actually worked at A. The others included someone I've never met, someone from my current job (in a position they do not work in), and an old manager, whom I was not really sure what their role was.

The most interesting feedback I had was from 1) The person who currently works at my company; and 2) someone that I think used to work at A. The person that used to work at my company - we'll call him D - brought to his office, which was apparently much larger inside that out, sat me down, and then started through baseballs against one of those nets that bounces them back. "Why are you looking to come back?" he asked. I responded with the typical answer you give if you've ever re interviewed at a place: Know the system, good opportunity, etc. His comment, as near as I can recall, as he was throwing balls against net, was "Sometimes we just settle for lack of challenge because it's comfortable."

The other individual - call him E - was one that I associate with Company A, though I can't tell you why. His commentary, without even an initial greeting, was a story about a colleague of his from Mexico who, when she heard he was going to Mexico, asked him why he would do something like that. His response at the time was because it was a learning experience.

Finally, at the last step of the interview, I saw my old boss MB. I have not seen or heard from him for almost three years, as it seems he has dropped off the earth. I was really excited to see him - but his response, as he rushed passed to the bathroom, was a sort of rushed cool "Good to see you."

And then I woke up, saw that it was 0400, and realized I should probably get up because my alarm was going off in 30 minutes.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Work has been very different these last two weeks. We have had a regulatory agency audit from the agency which regulates our industry (okay, fine, it's the FDA). Due to my boss being out on vacation, I was the one called upon to lead the audit - something which I have never done before.

In my industry, leading an FDA audit is a bit of a big deal. It has ramifications, as any observations or violations of law can carry legal penalties. On a bright note, the regulatory auditors I have dealt with (and it has been nine or ten in the last three years) have without exception been individuals who were tough but fair, and to a person, friendly. They're there to do a job, you're there to do a job. As long as everyone follows the ground rules, and a tense situation is not created by treating as an "Us-Them" relationship, things go along pretty well.

The different thing has been in my schedule and my life. As a result of the audit, I have sleeping 7+ hours a night, getting up with about 1.5 to 2 hours in the morning before I leave and seeing my family in the morning. I've gotten home a little later (that has been the major change there, although that has been due to holiday traffic as much as anything).

Certainly from a stress point of view, it's been much less: working on the audit, you tend to focus on the audit. The real change in this has been being removed from the day to day chaos back at the home office. I monitor it via e-mail and phone, but it is different than someone plopping in your office with "I have a problem you need to solve right now!".

The audit has also made me more intransigent concerning the work I do and what I am associated with. As I have often pointed out to others, it's not what you think, it's what the law means, and how it is applied - so why not do it right the first time. And in terms of association, frankly there's no excuse for sloppy or less than excellent work - we spend so much time correcting problems that could be fixed easily by doing it right the first time, why not just do it right?

It should be interesting when I get back...

New Blog

Otis's wife has started a blog at I've also linked to it on the side. You should go read it. She speaks as well as she writes.

Proving, once again, that Otis married up...

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Welcome to Syrah!

A big greetings to the latest addition to An Clann Toirdhealbheach Beucail, Syrah.
Syrah is a purebred American Field Trials black Labrador retriever, 18 months old, weighing 68 pounds (we know, she went to the vets yesterday). We found her through the Golden Gate Labrador Rescue Group, who does good work finding homes for Labrador's that need rescue. We had to drive to Reno on Saturday to get her - a bit more of a trip than we were anticipating - but she has been a fabulous dog. We have heard her bark precisely twice. She likes to play, and is very kind and loving with all the girls. She has interacted well over the weekend with my sister's dog, and has not chased our cats - although the cats are still trying to process it. She did well getting her first bath on Sunday (although I had to lift her into the tub, she stayed there once she was in). Walking her is not too terrible - she's awfully strong, but she will stop pulling if you stop. She didn't eat a great deal the first two days, but her appetite seems to have picked up yesterday.
We are very glad that she has joined our family!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Life's Little Pleasures

Tonight I had five minutes of life's little pleasures. Pouring grass clippings from my lawn around my potatoes, hoeing out weeds behind my tomatoes, I drank beer I made last month.

There is something just viscerally satisfying about eating, drinking, or using the output of one's own efforts. I can't really explain why - I'm sure my beer would be considered undrinkable compared to most things I can purchase at Safeway, my sourballs never seem to hold together when I pull them out of the pan (more sour crumbles), and I bet I end up losing money on my garden - but none the less, there is something inside that seems to make me feel like I have actually done something of value.

It's interesting, because it is a feeling which I have scarcely felt in most of the "jobs" that I've ever had.