Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Vague Feeling of Dread

I am finding myself dogged more and more (growing geometrically, it seems) with the sensation of being lost.

Lost? Separated to start with - both from family and church. Friends and family to the extent of not contacting them as much as I'd like due to the hours I'm working. A real sense of being somewhere without truly being in the place I am.

But even below all this, there is a definite sense of spiritual attack, of being set up like a target - the "antelope away from the rest of the herd" syndrome, where it's the separated animal that becomes the focus of predator attacks. No, fingers have not started writing on my mirror and the oatmeal has not talking to me in the morning. But there is a real sense that I am isolated and alone.

Perhaps this is God reminding me of the way things really are without Him all the time?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Last Calls

This weekend was good, as it is always good to go to Old Home and see The Ravishing Mrs. TB, Na Clann, the larger family, and friends. But in a real way, it was Last Call as well.

First was on Saturday, at the Family Reunion. Now, there have been family reunions in the Toirdhealhbheach Beucail family since before I was I, probably dating back 50 years or more to the post Gold Mining Generation. For years there were two celebrations, one in Summer in the High Sierras, one in Winter at the Ranch before it become our Ranch. It was hosted by two of the five sisters of my grandmother.

As the years have gone on and they became older and slowly they stopped happening - the Christmas one first when Uncle Brian passed away in 1978, then the summer one as the sisters got older and the family drifted out. My mother took up the torch, saying that she would continue to have them as long as the sisters were still alive. Every year for at least the last 10 she has faithfully prepared the house in June or July, sending out invites to all those on her list.

This year was the least turnout ever - literally, with the exception of Auntie Emma (one of the two surviving sisters) and one set of cousins, the crowd was exactly the same as we have at Christmas e.g. my mother's immediate family. One or two called to say they could not come, but the vast majority did not.

And that's when my mother said "This is the last one."

Not the last reunion, just the last time of doing it family. We'll invite my in-laws next year, and my sister's in-laws, and Uisdean Ruadh, and others we know in our lives. A reunion - but in a real sense the functional family we have, not the family defined by blood.

The second Last Call came Sunday morning as I was working to get the last of the wheat in in my garden. It was a fine crop - better than I could have hoped - and I wanted to at least get in before something more happened.

And then it hit me as I was snipping with the cutters in my right hand and grabbing the head and dumping it into the bucket with my left: this is the last time I will be doing this in this garden. I stopped for a moment and looked around at the uneven growth, the patch of earth I have poured the last 4 years of my life into winter and summer, spring and fall, sighed, and kept reaping.

It was a reminder - in fact, both were reminders of the fact that life is actually incredible mutable, changing in ways we cannot imagine just a short time before. The Old Ties are broken, true - but replaced with ones that are equally as delightful and in many ways, more meaningful.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Home Again Home Again Jiggety Jig

So here I am back at Old Home tonight. The Ravishing Mrs. TB came and picked me up from the airport.

It was odd -both the drive home as well as coming in the door. Essentially, I have not been here for a month. My things are here, and An Teaghlach is here, but in a funny way, this is no longer my home, more of a place that I visit.

Not that I am in any way ungrateful to be home - no, not at all. I am happy to see The Ravishing Mrs. TB and Na Clann and Syrah the Mighty and the cats and Bella Bunny. It's just a feeling of displacement: I'm not really "at home" here, nor am I really "at home" in New Home either. I'm a sort of wandering spirit, floating between two physical locations yet part of neither.

The other thought that came through my brain as we drove here is that this is probably one of the last times I will come back here. I'll be back at least one more time, and then to move - and that's it. 5 years here, 42 years in California - and off I go. The next time after that, I will be a tourist coming to visit family and friends. It's a bit of a boggling thought, if I think about it too long.

But that, I think, is for later. Just time to enjoy being with the ones I love.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I spoke with my mother last night. She let me know that one of my more distant cousins, in his mid-sixties, passed away from a heart attack on Tuesday night.

He is one that I believe I may have seen once or twice in my life: a real estate broker/developer, he had (apparently, from what I hear) made the choice to not participate in the larger family reunion type events. He was fabulously successful at what he did apparently, had a family - but most of us (especially my generation) never knew him, what he did, or even what really interested him.

And now, he's gone.

It's a good reminder for me not only of the fleetingness of life but of the involvement of family at whatever level. In the end clients may only remember you as someone who did a good deal with or got you this house; only family (and friends) will remember you for more.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Authentic Living

I am quite amazed how easy it can be to lose the sense of and focus on God in day to day living - especially when one's daily routine is interrupted.

The thing that equally amazes me as much is how, when removed from the daily and weekly surroundings and individuals, how so much of what I think I am "doing" is really all on the surface, a sort of Pharisee-like coating. How much am I really living out the gospel in a world where it is desperately needed - not just by behaving a certain way or doing or not doing certain things, but by showing a true difference in how I live, and being willing to demonstrate the hope that is within me?

What does it mean to be a Christian in a time and place which seemingly has no interest in Orthodox Christianity because they think they don't need it? Behaviour is not enough - though to be fair, how we behave should be done to please God, not for the sake of others.

It is in living, in witnessing, in living through our witnessing - which for me begs another question: how well do I do this with family and friends, let alone the world?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


So I am trying to get back on schedule with my exercise program here in An Dachaigh Nua. This has been harder than I thought, first of all because I have had to change locations between moving and visiting An Teaghlach which has not given me a consistent trail to do. The second, more crippling, is the weather.

Frankly, it's hot here. Hot whenever the sun is up - and when it's not up, it's moist. Initially I was running in the evening, but that was simply too hot. I tried going for a walk on Sunday and found that just being in the sun was an experience not to be repeated (although interestingly, once I got onto a park trail with what I would assume is more native vegetation, the heat became bearable because of the shade. Urban jungle indeed).

So my choices are morning or evening before or after the sun appears. To add to this, I'm trying to set a schedule I can keep once An Teaghlach comes, since I would like to be consistent. Given the state of our lives, morning it is.

The mornings here are actually a good time to go. The sun is not up so it's not hot yet, but with only a little effort one can become covered in sweat. In fact, on the mornings when there's cloud cover it is almost cool (almost being the operative phrase there). Also interesting (and new to me) are the amount of birds that live here and how vocal they are at all times of day. The stars still look the same though, and the sky goes the same black-blue as I'm used to. And with yet a new neighborhood to look forward to, I'm sure that being away from a busy street will reveal new wonders - making running (hopefully) another new experience and way I can bond with our living choice.

Monday, June 22, 2009


I have the sense that I am in the process of undergoing something. The most similar experience I can relate is that of what I was feeling last year about this time, a sense of pushing against barriers inside myself that I could not really see. The barriers do not feel as if they're there this time; it is more of a sense of standing on something as a base and stretching out.

Like so much else that seems to happen inside me, it is hard to explain in concrete terms. Perhaps the sense of a flower bud opening is the closest. In one sense, it probably is natural: I'm starting over ahead of my family in a place I've never been with people I've never known. In a real sense, there is no safety net (or at least, not like I have had in the past with friends near and family no more than two hours away).

In the other sense it is naturally unnatural (there's a puzzler for you): there is a sense that in some ways, I am taking responsibility for parts of my life for the first time. This was a semi-conscious decision (semi-conscious in the fact that if I was going to look for work outside of California, this potential always existed) that I at least thought of when I started down this road.

What do I mean? Simply that there are parts of my life that I still, even at 42, fail to act in an decisive and independent way. I agree that moving doesn't magically "make" it happen - but putting one's self in the position of having to deal more directly with them does.

It's odd - but good in the sense that instead of feeling like I am pushing against boundaries, I feel I am growing up from them.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day 2009

So here I sit, 1746 miles from home, on Father's Day. Kind of odd, as this is the first Father's Day since becoming a father (10 years) that I have not been with my family.

The day was okay, of course - I'm easy enough to entertain: lunch at Costco ($1.61 Polish Sausage and Drink), trip to Borders for a new paperback (with a 40% coupon), a stroll through Target Greatland to discover that no, I can wait a week to bring Toliet Paper back with me but that their yogurt prices are just as good as Costco, and then back to the apartment to read the afternoon away - which for me absent family, is a fine way to do it.

Still, a little bittersweet - as this whole separation has been. It gives me a very brief insight into what it must be like for those who by service (military) or by circumstance (divorce or separation) are away from their families for long periods of time, especially on special days. They have a whole life going on, a whole web of experiences, which you are absent from - or only experience via second-hand phone calls and e-mails. When you get back together - and I have that to look forward to - it will still only be stories instead of the experiences.

In one month I have gone from being with my children 16 - 24 hours a day to not being with the at all. It is a strange circumstance, one which the most selfish might wish for initially (more time to do what I want) but will come to realize only reminds them of the true value of relationships and the hollowness of time spent without them.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


When I started in this industry in 1996, my first boss was named Mickey. It struck me yesterday that here, 13 years later in a job which in many ways represents as great a change as entering this industry, I have a Mickey reporting to me.

When I gave it some thought, I realized that both of them shared a number of seemingly superficial similarities: both names are shortened for another, both smoke, both are hard workers, both are full of common sense, both have a great grasp of the industry, both have an excellent sense of humor.

It's odd to me that to people with similar names should bookend what is seemingly a section of my life (with, of course, smaller but significant subsections within it), a sort of "Volume VIII of XX" or some such thing. I've often reacted to the idea that life can be easily broken down into "phases" or "seasons" - maybe the lives of others but not my own. Some are simple, of course -high school, or college, or even a family (although this one can transverse several others all on its own) - but others are more complex, especially when we live. Career - which career, the one that you started in, the five you did in between, or the "second" career you picked up after you left the first?

There are interweavings as well, as people, places, and relationships flow in and out of these sections. There are people who are relationships in one geographical place, and those who cover multiple places. There are those you know in one career but never translate to another, and those you know that have no relationship to any career but you know a long time.

Life is complex of course, and more complex everyday. It is gracious of God to remind me that, in the end, all the volumes of our lives are written in His hand. And sometimes, we reach the end of one bookshelf - but we always get to start a new one.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Useful Tool

We had a client audit yesterday, something which is fairly typical for my industry: clients come in, assess our facilities and our systems, and make a determination whether or not we appear (because after all, they are only a snapshot in time) to be compliant and acceptable for their company's use. We had what sounded like a first for my new employer: an audit by a major company which results in no observations and 4-5 recommendations.

The thing that was really a surprise to me when I went home was how I felt -really good and useful. This after three 12 hour days (two preparation, one audit) was something that I did not expect. Why is this?

Any successful audit, of course, leaves one feeling good. The fact that Quality was praised - and that the President heard and agreed with this statement - is nothing to sneeze at either. But I think the real point for me was the feeling of being useful, of seeing an actual result to all of our effort, to knowing that my opinions and assessments were valued and valuable - like being a tool and being used and knowing that, at that moment, that this is what you were made to do.

Today has come, of course, and fifty other things are sitting on my desk to deal with. But I can now always go back to this moment and say "If I did it here, I can do it again."

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Time and Work

I came to the realization this morning (accidentally, as it were) that I am spending approximately 12 hours a day at work. Initially this figure amazed me, but when I sat down and thought about it, suddenly it became quite clear. "Good Heavens" I thought to myself, "12 hours - I mean I expected I would have a learning curve but this is ridiculous!"

But then I sat and thought about it a bit. In reality, I was spending 12 hours at work a year ago, but not in the same way: 1.5 hours driving to work, 8 hours at work, 2-2.5 hours driving home from work. Look: 12 hours, but really only 8 hours.

So I actually gained 4 hours a day.

Which then brought me to the realization that commuting is one of the silliest ideas I have ever heard of - and I should know, because I did it for so long (I have not had a commute of 10 minutes, my current drive time, since 1984). I don't really accomplish anything (except phone calls, of course, and I'm just not really a "Books on Tape" kind of guy), I spend money on fuel, and I have nothing really to show for it - except, apparently, less actually beneficial work for the same amount of time.

A little change will do you good...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Phase II

I have now entered Phase II of my life in New Home: out of the hotel, I am know living in an apartment.

It is unusual for me in a number of aspects: I have not lived in an apartment in 9 years, and I have not lived with a roommate (who was not The Ravishing Mrs. TB) for 17. There's a level of adjustment, of getting used to sharing parts of one's living space with others, that I had quite forgotten was there. It's not bad - just different.

Fortunately for me, between the job and the setup of the apartment (two separate bed/bath rooms) I can come home, make dinner, and disappear into my room to work on and then go to bed.

Ah. Working on. The other part of Phase II. In a way, this is supposedly my ideal environment for doing "thinking things": limited housekeeping, a short commute, few responsibilities, practically zero time spent making meals.

Now, if I could just motivate myself more...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Light Show II

These are the verses I was thinking of:

"The LORD thundered from heaven,
And the Most High uttered His voice.
He sent out arrows and scattered them;
Lightning bolts, and He vanquished them.
Then the channels of the sea were seen,
The foundations of the world were uncovered,
At the rebuke of the LORD,
At the blast of the breath of His nostrils."
- 2 Samuel 22:14-16

Light Show

So I am living through my first severe weather warning/tornado warning storm. It's awesome.

For a Northern California boy, the show is great: flash after flash of lightening, roll after roll of thunder, occasional actual forks of lightning, and a downpour of rain. The wind is whipping the flags at the hotel across the way back and forth, and there was talk (not here yet, anyway) of up to baseball sized hail.

It fascinates me, not just for the light show and rain (which New Home needs badly), but for the fact that it reminds me of the frailty of myself and the overall powerlessness of humans: it's not as if we can stop this storm from moving through, or the lightning striking. It is a real reminder of the majesty and awesomeness of our Creator.

And frankly, it's pretty cool. I love weather!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Busy Busy

One nice thing about a new job is that you're busy again. One not nice about a new job is that you're busy again.

I'm relatively pleased with my self awareness that I came in having not great expectations about the state of things at the new job - as I told my father, "I'm just assuming things are three times worse than what they told me." Yay. I was right.

The struggle for me is not to immediately get sucked into the state of the system, but maintain a dispassionate eye enough to look at the system and analyze it - not just react to it when things come up, your fellow colleagues roll the eyes and say "Oh no, not this again."

Perhaps I make it sound like it's terrible. It's not - but it needs a great deal of refinement. It is a system designed at a different time, for a different company, conceivably making different products, a system there is enough time to fix problems as they occur but not enough time to sit and design a new solution.

Ah, it's great to be working again...

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Not Home

Tonight denotes my first full week here.. It's an odd anniversary - for all the fact that I'm working at a job, laboring to finding a home and school for An Teaghlach, and looking for a church home, my mind has still not accepted the fact that I for now, this is my future home. It doesn't really seem to know what to do, except that it keeps telling me that this is "Not Home." Every time I walk in the heat, every time I go outside, every time I drive around, my mind says "Not Home". I'm sure (am I sure?) that the mind will adjust to this after a while and come to accept the new concept of home - except that right now, it sure doesn't feel like it.

And then the thought occurred to me: This is how I'm supposed to feel about the world. That it is not my home, that I'm only a pilgrim passing through. That my real home is somewhere else, and no longer how long I'm here, it's not really "home".

It's interesting to me that I can do it for Old Home/New Home but not for World/Heaven. Why is this? One would think that based on what we know of Heaven, this would become even more critical than that of our temporal location.

If I'm honest, it's because I know more about Old Home than I do about Heaven. I know how it feels, how it looks, how it smells. I know who's there, and what we would be doing if we were there. I know the family and friends that would be there. I can picture it in my mind.

Oddly, that should be true about Heaven as well - except the sensory part. I know who's there and I know the family and friends that would be there. I've hints of what we'd do there. The gap that is missing is the sensory input: the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and sensations of being there. How interesting that a spiritual spiritual location seems bound in my mind by physical things! It is as C.S. Lewis said: we are amphibians, half physical and half spiritual.

Now here's the question: how do I feel for the Heaven as I feel for Old Home?

Thinking I can turn in

One of the great things (I guess) about completely ripping up your life and relocating it is that it disrupts all of your old patterns, allowing you to reconsider what you've been doing, why you've been doing it, and are there things that simply don't make sense anymore or should make more sense. Sometimes we are too much "in" things to really look objectively "at" things.

One item which has come to my attention in the last few days, really since being here in Austin, is this sense I have that things should come to an end - that there should be a finish line, that I can collapse at after the end and head off to the showers. The reality, I'm finding out, is that I can't. I have trained myself to believe there is an end to doing - in fact, there is not.

How did I get here? Honestly, I believe being good at school really contributed to it. School is a defined term - you go for a fixed period, you do certain things, you get a grade, you go on or take a break. In many cases, activities or hobbies not school related are the antithesis to this: they are not necessarily tied to a particular time or place and are ongoing activities.

The reality is, in this life we never "arrive" at the place where we can throw it all down prior to heaven. Certainly, the mode of what we do may change, the activities may become different - but that is a different thing than ending or stopping.

How would how I conduct my life change if I saw things as a series and continuum of things to be accomplished rather than a one time event to be reached and stop?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Learning to Fly

I am running the gamut of emotions. On the one hand, it's is very nice to be employed again. My learning curve is going straight through the roof, both for the knowledge as well as the status of the company. It is as if I have come into a play midact and am trying to figure out the characters and their relationships.

On the other hand, I am struggling to not worry. So much else on my mind: the house at home, finding a place to live here (short term and long term), a school for Na Clann, a church; all cast in the deadline of time.

Moments of faith, I suppose, those times when we go where we think were called by God only to finding out the great feeling of confidence go away and we are left only with faith and God. The place where faith grows, I suppose: learning to fly.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Wednesday Morning 8 AM

So here I am in Austin, ready to start my first day of work.

To be honest, I've got butterflies.

Two reasons really: The first is simply that it's been a little while since I've actually worked. It's odd to think of that, but there it is. I'm sure I'll do well once re-entered into the fray, but there is still that nagging feeling, the one of being out for a while and wondering how well I'll perform.

The second, somewhat related, is simply about how I will do. This is one of the those opportunities that doesn't come along too often, the chance to totally reinvent yourself to the extent that you desire to. Just think: no-one knows me here, the good and the bad. It's an exciting opportunity, yet at the same time concerning because I deeply desire to make some changes within myself, both my lifestyle as well as my deportment. I need, in a sense, to be me while not being me.

Hmm. There's a conundrum. A tabula rosa with things written under the surface already, sort of like a Master's painting painted over an older work.

As Julian of Norwich said, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." I'll go in and do well. It's just the waiting that's killing me.