Wednesday, September 30, 2009


So yesterday we had Day One of a two day audit from a company - an overseas company, in this case.

An audit, you say? In my line of business, companies verify that their vendors or potential vendors are operating in compliance with appropriate codes and regulations by performing an audit. Typically these are one or two day events which involve a presentation, a tour, and lots of document review. Since I have arrived at New Company, we've had 3-4, with promise of at least three more before the end of the year.

They're a bit of a pain, because of course you have no other focus during the day except the audit. You pull paperwork, you sit, you answer questions, you try to explain some things away, you prepare your responses in your head as they read the observations. Then you go back exhausted (they always eat up a great deal of energy) the next day to put everything back in place, prepare your formal responses, and then catch up on all the work that didn't get done.

Did I mention they're not my favorite thing?

This particular audit has turned out to be more interesting, because I was apparently put in charge of it even though I don't know much about the project and really have no power to do anything. The one in charge apparently assumed that I would take care of everything (it's in my job description, right?) even though I was never allowed to actually talk to the clients or understand the project. Then, when observations are made, it's "Why didn't we catch this?" and "What will we do to fix this by tomorrow?" (the we, of course, being me).

It's very frustrating. It's being made responsible for the conduct and outcome of something you have no control of. It also frustrates me on a grander career level, as these things come and go, yet the fruits of them - that ever popular "results produce good things" - never really seems to pan out. If you're successful, it's taken for granted. If they fail, you're left with fixing failures that you are not really responsible for.

If this is the road to success, I want nothing more to do with it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Roll of Thunder

The sky has been cracking all this AM. Not with the piddly Old Home thunder booms, with maybe one, then a long silence, then another one, but with the long, rolling booms, the cracks the just seem to carry on and on, the explosions of sound that literally rattle the house.

It was a good reminder this morning of what I was reading last evening, Revelation 6, with the coming of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse - or even an extension of the evening before with Revelation 5. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in myself and my life that I forget the vastness and majesty - and power - of God.

As I read and studied and thought on the matter, what amazed me is the double shortsightedness of myself: one, that I sometimes take the whole character of God for granted (love versus hatred of evil and justice), and two, that if I believe that there truly is an end of the world and judgement (and if you die tomorrow, it's essentially the end of the world for you), that I continue to trifle so often with lesser things and take that which is eternal less seriously than that which is temporal, engaging in the breezes of conversation today ignoring the hurricane that is God's judgement tomorrow.

Such weakness of character shames me.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Picking Up Where I Left Off

Yesterday I did something I truly think I have only done a handful of times.

As I believe I mentioned in August, I lost my planner - or at least misplaced it, since no-one called about it and knowing me, that's quite possible. I have had a very defined path in the past when I fail at something or make what I consider a foolish mistake (or even, if I think about it, when I come to the realization that to be the best, it will take a lot more than where I am at): I simply stop doing it.

In the past, this would have meant that I stopped using the planner, that I shrug and never mention it again, or maybe just talk about it as "In the past, I used to do this."

But, for the first time that I can remember in a long time, I picked up where I left off.

I went to Wal-Mart and picked up another book (I use accounts receivable books - they're cheap and small), and spent part of yesterday getting ready - not just with the basic layout, but with recopying all the information that I typical put in one: quotes, numbers, addresses. I am ready, at least for the last quarter of the year, to continue to document and organize.

Do I still feel foolish about misplacing the other one? Sure I do. But foolish enough to consciously ignore the fact that it is a useful tool and I need to be more organized, not less? I don't think so.

Just because I stumbled does not mean I failed. I only fail if I stop there instead of standing up, dusting myself off, and picking up where I left off.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Morning Walks

I have been taking Syrah for walks in the morning at New Home.

I had not intended to take her originally - morning was really my alone time, so I would try to slip out and walk/run. Unfortunately for my "quiet", Syrah has fine hearing, and one day The Ravishing Mrs. TB requested that I take her with me (or at least shut the bedroom door) because after I left she was a little excited - which, at 5:15 AM, is a bit of a problem.

So out we went.

Walking here is very different than walking in Old Home. We are about a mile from the freeway, which is farther than we used to be, and there are trees and buildings between us and it. The result is that remarkably, walking through our neighborhood in an Urban area feels much more isolated than walking did in our small town. Especially early in the morning, nobody is out (it's a new home thing - people just start later here). We've also been blessed with cool rainy weather (mid 60's), so it is incredibly pleasant. We walk around the neighborhoods, past the legions of oak trees and the homes which are (for the most part) dark, the lawns which are (thankfully here!) green, and occasional garden snake or possum that stumbles across our path.

So we walk, Syrah and I - sometimes run - just enjoying the quiet and the dark and the cool. I used to just value the time with myself and God, but now I think I value the time with myself, God, and Syrah more.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ticket for an Aeroplane

So I'm going to see Otis and Buttercup in November, actually following up on a plan I made.

Back in January, before the layoff, Otis and I discussed going to see a speaker we both value as he was going to be appearing in Seattle. "Hey", I said, "Why don't I just fly up there and see it with you? We can go, hang out, mock you, say hi to the beautiful Buttercup, and wander on my way?"

"Sounds good, especially the mocking me part" said Otis (or at least, that's how I recall the conversation running).

And then the layoffs came, with all the chaos that ensued. Otis asked me once or twice "Are we still on?" and I'd always answer "Sure".

So then it came to crunch time - this week. Not sure how I was going to pay for it, and was thinking about not doing it. And then the thought hit me: this was a commitment that I made to myself. I would not back out on a commitment I made to others - why do I treat myself with less respect?

How to pay? Suddenly, the thought drifted in my head "You've got miles on United you've never used. How about those?". And earlier in the week, I got my "rebate" from the phone company in the form of a Visa gift card. And there, amazingly enough, my inability to solve the practical side was solved (That whole "God is in Control" thing).

There are a couple of lessons I draw from this:

1) (And I should know this) Keep the commitments you make to yourself. Worry about that foremost. The rest will work itself out.

2) If you want something bad enough, a way will appear. Don't discount the hand of God in our lives.

So off I will go in November to enjoy the cool Pacific Northwest and friends.

And, of course, mocking Otis. He told me it was okay...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Part of my attempt to reinvent my life is in my schedule. Simply put, my ability to schedule my own life is appalling, especially in light of the fact that I have some known factors: I know that I need to leave the house by 6:30 AM to arrive at 7:00 AM for work, and I know that it takes me a while to get up in the morning, so I really need to get up around 5:00 AM to manage myself and be sure I'm awake when I drive. I am also one of those individuals which needs at least 7 hours of sleep a night to function - otherwise I am less focused during the day and loss my concentration and energy at night, negating every attempt to do anything else.

So I realized last night that I need to introduce some structure into my life, some fixed points - self discipline, if you will. The first - indeed the easiest - is bedtime. It strike me as interesting because I am always calling on Na Clann to be in bed on time, but don't apply the same standard to myself even though the same natural laws apply to me. So based on all of the above, I set the bedtime: 10:00 PM. I have to be in bed - not in bed with a book, not brushing my teeth to be in bed, not even praying -in bed, lights out at 10.

My thought is that if I can start to ingrain these endzones in my life - when I get up, when I go to sleep- I will not only have energy and a sense of regularity, I will always begin to introduce a greater level of structure to my life. With structure comes discipline and with discipline comes the ability to both achieve more and achieve better.

And, of course, more sleep.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rawness of Soul

This thought floated through my head this morning as I took Syrah the Mighty for a walk this morning.

"Well Hello" I said. "Where are you from?"

The thought refused to answer me. It just kind of hung there to the edge of my vision at the right, apparently avoiding getting run over by the dog as she investigated the night's scents.

"Okay, fine then. Keep your secrets" I muttered as I continued along. "If you won't co-operate, I'll do it on my own."

So on I walked, the dog straining at her leash back and forth across the road, as I pondered and the thought floated along beside me.

Was my soul feel raw? No doubt about it. What did that mean precisely? A sense of unhappiness and anger running through all my activities; a sense of helplessness in the face of life.

Helpless in the face of life? Yes. How helpless? Helpless in the sense of feeling that I have so very little control over vast swaths of my life and that I am essentially unable to take control - in fact, that even if I got control, I wouldn't know what to do.

Goals, yes, I know. Goals are supposed to help that -except when you seem to have problems setting them, and the ones that you do set seem impossible to achieve the moment you set them.

Which leaves one feeling trapped, a cog in a giant machine, with nothing but more of the same tomorrow - which leads to rawness of soul, become upset at the slightest thing.

"So if that's the idea" I asked, "How do I overcome it?" The thought just kind of drifted off a little more to the right, closemouthed (as so many thoughts are) about anything other than its existence.

But even though it wouldn't talk, the question still remains. I think I have an answer, I'm just not sure how to apply it: For me at least, it just takes one thought to cascade onto a different thought pattern. What is that one thought, that one action, that will be lodestone for a different set of cascading thoughts?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Permission to Succeed

I hit a moment Friday night when I left work 2 hours after I intended to. The reason: at 1615, my boss brought me a presentation which I had created to make to executive management, one he had a week at least. The verdict: it was lacking two things, and therefore we couldn't move it on for review prior to presenting it.

As I drove away, having put something together, my frustration bubbled over in the car. I've been here before, done this before - the whole "Get something together because it's your job but you can't do anything with it". In a real way, it feels like I'm living the same day over and over again at different jobs.

But then a thought rose to the top this morning, as I continued to replay the tape of the whole experience in my head: What am I doing here?

Not in the sense of this job (Been down the "Let's do something different RIGHT NOW!" path. That didn't go so well), but in the sense of my life. I constantly seem to be putting myself in the position of being a worker without decision making power or ability. The fact that more often that not I seem to let it happen in my personal life doesn't help matters either.

And then, floating down gently from where I put it two weeks ago, the thought came down "Why do you not give yourself permission to succeed?"

Permission to succeed? Seems axiomatic, doesn't it? That's the point - we don't go about our life with the intent to fail. Do we?

Success is scary. Striving to succeed means you make a commitment to something, and let other things go. It means that you may have no evidence that you will succeed except for the belief in you. Success means you are constantly trying to move forward, slowly or imperceptibly at times, but forward nonetheless. It means that you grasp that you are the one who has to do this: no-one can (or will) do this for you.

And that is scary. It is far easier to slip into the mode of just showing up, doing what's required of you, and going home - except when the realization gnaws at you that you are capable of more - in my case, than of arguing the case of need for failure rates of quarterly projects.

But one has to get permission from one's self. Otherwise (as I've discovered to my shame) you spend endless amounts of time and energy working yourself up to it only to say "No, I don't really deserve that. I should just be content."

In a very real sense, I need to practice the concept of shinigurai - literally Japanese for "being crazy to die", the idea of leaping into the jaws of death. I need to be crazy - crazy to succeed. As my quote to the right says, "Common sense will not accomplish great things. Simply become insane and desperate (shinigurai arimasu)."

Elsewise, 20 years from now, I will still be preparing reports to be buried in files and forgotten.

Friday, September 18, 2009

One Month

Today represents the one month anniversary of An Toglach being here in New Home, of us being together.

In many ways, it has been good: Na Clann have adjusted, the house has come together nicely (and is continuing to do so), The Ravishing Mrs. TB has started making connections with people, Syrah the Mighty has not tried to dig out of yard once.

And me? I'm hanging in there. Getting used to a commute - although a much reduced one - has been a bit of a challenge, as has getting adjusted to a new schedule of rising. It will be handy to have the house in Old Home taken care of, and hopefully that last step will get started this week.

Honestly, the biggest challenge I am facing this moment is not falling back into the same rut - using this as a springboard to evaluate my life and activities therein, and perhaps make changes (after all, we're only gaining speed downhill now!) instead of just doing what I've always done -or rushing into doing a great many more things. It's odd how much creatures of habit we can become.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Getting and Becoming II

This whole thought? metaphor? of getting versus becoming has really taken off for me as a point of consideration - probably because it is simple enough for my limited mind to wrap itself around. It has given me a peg to hang so many of my daily activities and actions around - "What are you becoming by doing this? What are you not becoming by doing this?" - that it becomes one of those concepts which are deceptively simple but life changing in their application.

But it leads me down the second road, which is "What do you want to become?" Rats - I knew there was some deep effort of thought involved here. I just thought I had moved beyond it.

So what do I want to become? The immediate, I-should-answer-this-way response is "to become more Christlike." Okay, right enough - but what does that mean (again, one of those deceptively simple responses that becomes life changing in their application)? What does that mean on a practical basis in my relationship with God, my relationship with my wife and family and coworkers, with the world at large? (Side thought: I always thank God for what I am getting - do I thank Him for what I am becoming and petition for more?)

In a work sense (since I spend so much time there), what does this mean? Some thoughts:
- What will your next job be?
- Where will it be?
- What will your title be and what will you be doing?
- When will you make the switch?

From here (working backwards), what I should I be in the process of becoming to get to that endpoint?

Or all the other activities in my life: what do I want to become by them? If they are nothing but time fillers, are they needed? Can I work back from the end, get to where I am now, and consider what I need to be doing?

Like I said, deceptively simple but life changing in application.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Getting and Becoming

In digging through my desk drawer at work yesterday rifling through articles that one always saves from industry magazines in the vain hope that one day it will be useful, I suddenly came across one that was useful - but not in the way that I thought.

It was called "Short Term Benefits or Long Term Growth? Are short term rewards keeping you on a career plateau?" The author , one D. G. Jensen, starts by looking at his own career growth, and suddenly coming to the point that he realizes he is valuing the comfort of the known versus increasing his value "because it was the easiest thing to do". He then reflects on those individuals (he's a recruiter) who have been the best candidates, and notes that they are always focusing on long term goals and measuring their opportunities within and without of a company.

He then quotes Jim Rohn from Seven Keys to Wealth and Happiness, who says to ask a question of yourself regularly - not "What am I getting? " (i.e. salary, benefits, "perks"), but "What am I becoming?"

From the article: "He (Rohn) believes that what you become in your career direct influences what you get on the job, and that by keeping you eye on this aspect of your personal development you will be far more richly rewarded. Jim advises that you check back regularly to make certain that you are becoming a person who provides increasing value to whomever employs you."

This article struck a chord in me - not just in my career, for which I needed the reminder, but personally. Getting versus becoming. Too often in my own life, I am more concerned with the immediate gratification - the getting - than the things that take time and effort, but make a difference farther down the road - the becoming.

It also raises the importance and levels of goals - after all, how can you aim for the target that you don't know, don't see, or don't have?

But it comes back to those darn choices again: to do A, I cannot do be. To have some goals, I cannot have others. There are, of course, always things in life that we cannot do - but I am allowing my indecision and the "getting" of the feeling of choice to defeat the "becoming" of achieving something - indeed anything.

Another good question to ask myself during the day: What am I becoming?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ave atque Vale

Something I failed to write about almost two weeks ago - by choice mostly - was the passing of our last cat, Cedric. I could, I suppose, come up with many rationalizations as to why I didn't write on it; the reality is, it's still a little painful.

Cedric was the first of the cats we got in 1994. We adopted him from the pound: we pulled him out of the cage, he put his paws around my neck, and we were done.

He was a loving cat - he loved to sleep with me and Allison on the bed, loved to get petted. Even later, after he moved out to the garage because of urinating inside, he was still always happy to see us, running up in the morning chirping, ready for his morning food, even tolerating Na Clann to pet him.

He went outdoor sometime around 2003-2004, and seemed to love it: he never wandered too far from the house, loved laying out in the sun, and generally seemed happy. Because he was out during the day, we saw less of each other.

By a fluke of the move (and his travel arrangements), he ended up sleeping in my lap or under my seat most of the drive out here in August. He was already so thin then but still happy. It was a happy experience, as we had not spent so much time together in a while. He purred and was very happy.

I'm not sure if the move, or the change, or even the temperature change (although he was inside) did something, but he suddenly started to decline rapidly - he was, by that time, at least 15 years older if not more. Finally, one Thursday two weeks ago, we made the trip to vets. The vet looked at him and said "It looks like you've gone just about as far as you can go."

And with that, we were done.

He's out on the side of the house now, underneath two irises in the sun he loved to sleep in so much.

Hail and Farewell, Old Friend.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I had one of those jarring moments at work about two weeks ago - the kind you look back on and say "Hey, that was a fork in the road and I don't think I missed it - for once."

As I believe I mentioned, we had a quasi-regulatory audit at work. A big deal actually - without receiving a favorable audit report, our ability to sell product here and abroad would be compromised. Myself and my department work incredibly hard to ensure a successful audit, including long hours over two weeks spent to make sure everything was attended to.

After the audit, which was successful, I looked to my manager and asked him if someone was going to publish something to the company (we're 95 people, so it's not as if we're big) mentioning the successful audit. "No" was the response. I kept waiting for someone of higher authority to say something, but I was (apparently) waiting in vain. Finally I went to my boss again and said "Does anyone ever notify anyone here?" Again, the response was "No".

And then suddenly it burst on my consciousness like the rapid dawn that I was looking for something out of work, and life, that I would simply not find: thanks for what was done.

I realized that over my life, I've come to expect to be recognized in some form or fashion for at least results, if not effort. Probably this is a reflection of the fact that I am pretty good at school, which always recognizes effort.

The sad reality (and the one I realized) is that in fact effort will not be realized, and probably not success either - at least by others. Sure, the results may result in something - or they may not. But one shouldn't count on it.

In a sense, how incredibly freeing. Suddenly, I do not have to go around thinking I will be recognized and wondering why I am not - I'm not going to be. On the other hand, it frees me from the tyranny of having to wait for the recognition to begin or to assess my ability to do a good job.

It also means that I've elevated men and women to the place of God: people will not always recognize effort and success; God always will, in eternity if not here.

Whether on earth I move forward or do not, it now lies in my hands. To wait for the approbation or support of others, even though it might be nice, is naive at best and foolish at worst.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Garage Packages

The garage is in its essentially "organized" state pending a further going through by The Ravishing Mrs. TB. I finished it up this morning, as with the rain throughout the day there was not much else to do outside. Pending a little shifting, the Conveyance should be able to fit in there.

It was one of those moments, the kind that seem to come repeatedly when one is packing or unpacking: where did all this stuff come from? Why did we save it? What does it do?

Blame it on my father if you will: he has become increasingly minimalist as he goes, not so much for things which are useful but for things which aren't. I'm trying to become more so myself, always asking (or trying to ask) "Do we need this? What will it do for us?"

Having to unpack items hauled halfway across the country is one thing. Having to look at the value of everything you have (when it was new, of course) and indexed for inflation after trying to crawl your way out from under a business failure and a short sale.

Try to make better decisions, of course. Try to encourage your children to do it to: No, we don't need everything we see. Yes, saving money is not nearly as fun but is far more valuable.

The older I get, the more I tend to value money, not for the money, but for the freedom and independence it represents.

Friday, September 11, 2009


God is banging on my life again, trying to get my attention - about time.

As I have come to figure out my schedule here in New Home, and begun to realize the issues of reconnecting the parts that have been disconnected, I realized that 1) I'm not spending the amount and quality of time with God that I should for what I profess, and 2) I'm not spending the amount and quality of time with my family that I should (having been disconnected by distance).

And now, looking at the time that exists combined with moving, it begins to become clear that there is not all the time in the world and that some hard choices have to be made at this juncture.

Three of the choices - My relationship with God, my relationship with my family, and health (i.e. exercise and nutrition) were not at all difficult to make, as they are truly critical (even the health - if you lose that, you can do so much less). The difficulty came when I started looking at the other things.

I gave myself a limit of five: five things to focus my life around and on. Leaving the three aside, I came up with four more for two positions: an independent lifestyle, Japanese (language), writing (for a book), and playing the harp).

The independent lifestyle - financially, and to the greatest point possible materially, took position number four. We - I - need to get serious about that, especially since it is my earnings that will largely be responsible for my family's future, and it gives me the opportunity to practice being more independent.

Which left the one and the three. I have wrestled with each, measuring pros and cons, what do I like to do, what would be the most beneficial to do. And then the thought occurred: Why not let God decide?

So I have given it over to Him. I'll try to do all three just to try but I'm in no hurry; the biggest thing is to continually pray and reflect on them. If I get more than one, great. If I only get one - and that one is what God wants - then that's okay too.

Sunday, September 06, 2009


I realized something this afternoon as I was on a date with Nighean dhonn:

I'm depressed.

And how, you might ask, would I realize this from a date with my daughter?

It struck me as we were going through Borders, looking at books - which constitutes virtually one of the perfect activities for me. As I was looking through, toying with the idea of purchasing a book, suddenly the thought came to me "Why? What for? Is it a wise use of your money?"

Suddenly my reading material of the last week and its tendencies - fantasy and sci fi - made total sense to me: escapism. It meshed with the feeling of dissatisfaction I have been fighting for the last month or so: inability to concentrate on things I am doing, a general lack of enthusiasm for anything.

In an odd way, it is not the sense I usually have from depression: a definite sense of downness, of sadness. It's much more of a listlessness's of the soul, a lack of interest in anything.

So here's the question: not having a severe sense of sadness or any motivation, how does one restart one's engine?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Month That Was

So hello September! August, we hardly knew ye...

August was a whirlwind of activity for numerous reasons:

1) Getting our rental in New Home.

2) Driving back from New Home with the animals

3) Having all our worldly possessions put into our home by movers - and then trying to find them!

4) Having to say goodbye to two old friends (Cedric and Fergus) within 3 weeks of each other.

5) Having The Ravishing Mrs. TB and Na Clann arrive here from Old Home.

6) Having to completely manage my first audit from an NGO that allows us to market product.


What strikes me as I now try to dig back out from the rubble of what is my life is what creatures of habit we can become. A little disruption to my schedule, and suddenly all of my good intentions and goals fall apart. Which raises the question: how seriously was I committed to those things anyway?

It's easy to develop a regime and goal living on your own, confining your responsibilities and actions to yourself. It's much more difficult to do the same when you have the reality of life impinging in.

Yet I continue to cling to those things as if I could accomplish them, when in fact it may more be a case of my pride rather than realistic chances.

What are goals? What are meaningful things? What has true value, what is valueless, and what is merely to make me feel better about myself?