Monday, December 22, 2008

P4E.097 A Wedding Blessing

Another new era has begun in my home. Another fork in the road taken. Donia and Davey married this past weekend. So, now we have three sons and a daughter!

As I was helping to set up the wedding facilities on Friday a magical moment took my breath away. I was walking down the hill towards the pond and gigantic oak tree under which Dave and Donia would be wed. The sky was crystal blue in between storms that came before and after the wedding. There was no wind, but suddenly, a swirling wind picked up bright yellow leaves from the ground and the trees to my left. The leaves danced above my head in a silent mini-tornado. I felt no wind on the ground and the earth was wet, so there was no dust. Only bright yellow leaves silently twirling and swirling up in a column to the crystal blue sky. As I bent back to watch this incredible sight, I could see two hawks, perfectly centered, gliding and whirling high above the flickering column of yellow leaves.

I don't necessarily believe in "good omens," or "bad omens," but I know how I felt when this happened. Awestruck. I could feel the presence of God. A harmony with the universe that He created. A peace in knowing that He is there and communicating through His creation. I felt loved because He thought enough of me to put me in that exact spot in place and time to experience that magical moment. There was also a tinge of envy, overwhelmed by inspiration at the sight of the two hawks doing and being exactly what God made them to do and be.

So, this is my blessing on Donia and Dave:

That they may be awestruck by the presence of God and be at harmony with the universe that He created. That they may experience peace, knowing that He is there and communicating with them. That they may love each other enough to arrange magical moments for each other and appreciate them when their Creator sends them their way. That they may be inspired to do exactly what God made them to do and be exactly who God made them to be.

My Blessing on you Dave and Donia! Dad

Peace, Kim

Thursday, December 18, 2008

P4E.096 The Gang Banger

It's not often that you'll find a gang-banger and an architect crying in the middle of a foggy road.
This is how it came to pass:

My wife, Gwen, wouldn't even look at the house when she went by it. The house is a few blocks from where we live, at the elbow of where the street turns into an older tract of homes. We drive by it to get to our house. Everyone in the neighborhood acknowledges that the people who live there are "Mexican Mafia." The young men wear their "beaters" (the kind of white undershirt that has thin straps over the shoulders and a scoop neck. The stereotype is that guys that wear this kind of undershirt beat their wives and girlfriends.), their baggy, saggy pants and their tattoos. The obligatory Oakland Raiders' flag hangs in the garage. There were always a few young men loitering in the driveway and talking on their cell phones who would stare down every passerby who intruded into their "hood." Last year a man was shot and killed in an empty field between the MM house and ours. There may be nothing to it, but my impression is that ever since that shooting things have really calmed down at the MM house. Not as many cars. Garage door always closed. No young men out front to administer the "stare-down." Now there's even Christmas lights hanging on the eaves.

Before we put him to sleep, Gwen would routinely take Dunkin, our yellow Labrador Retriever, to a small local park to train and play. One day a short, dark man who defined the word "burly" came into the park with his big Rottweiler on a fierce looking collar and chain. He sported shaded glasses, a moustache, and a crew cut. Elaborate, colorful tattoos were visible on the side of his thick neck. He watched Gwen as she trained and played with Dunkin. They were the only ones in the park that can't be seen from the road. My wife is not easily threatened and confronts situations squarely and without pause. It's so like her that she went up to the burly man and struck up a conversation. To her surprise, he smiled and complimented her training and Dunkin. He bent down and petted Dunkin. Dunkin and the Rotty got along fine. He explained that he was training his Rottweiler. They exchanged pleasantries. The man's name was Tito and his dog's name was Onyx. Where did he live? Well, his house was right at the elbow of the road that turns into the older tract of homes...
Tito, was in fact the father at the MM house. I was eventually introduced, shook his vice-like hand and found him to be quite pleasant. Tito's back has lately been giving him problems, so sometimes his dark-hooded sons would walk Onyx past our house and they would also stop and chat. Now, whenever we pass the Tito's house we smile and wave at our friends.

And, so it came to pass that one morning I was driving down our street. A burly grey figure emerged from the fog walking with a cane and a big Rottweiler. I stopped in the middle of the road and rolled down my window. Tito detoured and came up to the car. We had not had a chance to tell Tito that we had put Dunkin down. The fog swirled around us and as I told him, tears welled up in my eyes. Tito told me what a great dog he thought Dunkin was and, looking down at Onyx, that he couldn't imagine how we were feeling. Tito reached his great, tattooed hand into the car and rubbed my shoulder. "You're making me want to cry."
And he did.

Peace, Kim

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Monday, December 15, 2008

P4E.095 No Whining Allowed

My family went to the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship Dog Show this last weekend, in Long Beach, California. My wife, Gwen, is a long time dog obedience trainer and has shown dogs in the conformation ring as well. She and my son, Ben, have also done agility training with our yellow labs.

We spent some time watching the obedience competition and became interested in one particular competitive team, Donna Rock and her Doberman Pinscher, Annie. At this high level of obedience, competitors do several exercises with their dogs. They heel their dogs with no leash. They take a small dumbbell from the judge, throw it over a jump and ask their dog to retrieve it, going over the jump to get the dumbbell and over again to bring it back, sit and give the dumbbell back to them, when asked. Then the competitor hands the dumbbell back to the judge and goes to the next exercise. Three identical gloves are dropped in the ring. They ask their dog to retrieve a particular glove by pointing to it. The competitor then takes the glove from the dog's mouth and hands it to the judge. They send their dog away from them and ask them to sit about 25 yards away. Then they give no voice commands, only hand signals to come, stop and lay down, sit and finish coming to sit in front of them. Each exercise is judged as to how precisely the dog does each exercise and how well human and dog work together as a team.

We were not the only ones keeping our eyes on Donna and Annie. In fact, all eyes in the arena were glued to them as they performed. The reason, you see, was that Donna was born with no arms. This meant that while other competitors wore shoes in the ring, Donna went barefoot. While the others took the dumbbell from the judge and threw it with their hands, Donna used her feet. All of hers were "foot" commands. Donna and Annie won their quarter-final competition. We later found out that in 2005, Donna lost her home, belongings and even her place of work to Hurricane Katrina. We couldn't stay to see how she and Annie fared in the semi-finals, but she is a winner in our book.

As a man and a husband there are so many times when I feel like whining and complaining (sometimes, I do whine and complain). I look for ways out of uneasy or distasteful situations. I'm not motivated to get creative to get difficult things done. But when I see someone like Donna Rock...well, I understand why there's "no whining allowed." No excuses either.

Peace, Kim

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

P4E.094 Ignored

Since about Thanksgiving, the Moon, Venus and Jupiter have been doing a sort of dance in the early evening sky. As the three brightest objects in the night sky, you can hardly miss their celestial ballet. They've been in a straight line and lately have formed the points of a triangle. It seems that they are communicating just by the fact that they are so close to each other in the sky and the similarities that they share.

By contrast, it feels like the architect that I have been working with and I have been clumsily stumbling over each other in the dark. My inability to impress on him the value of our schedule and the responsibilities I had assigned to him has resulted in an inferior design proposal and in our nearly missing an important deadline. I have been angry, frustrated and impatient with the circumstances. But, the words of my mentor, Ken Nair, return to me. "Anger, frustration and impatience are a secondary emotions. What are you feeling that's making you angry, frustrated and impatient? What are the primary emotions?"

Ken's words always prompt me towards self-examination and how the circumstances make me feel. When the architect paid no attention to the schedule I had put forward, I felt de-valued. When my phone calls and e-mails went unanswered, it was if I had been unheard. When my suggestions were not heeded, I felt dismissed. When he failed to live up to the responsibilities he was assigned, I really felt ignored. Ignored. That was the primary emotion.

I hate being ignored. I want to be taken notice of and paid attention to. I want to be understood. I want my opinions to count for something. I need to feel that my efforts are valued, not dismissed. When the architect ignored me, it made me feel un-important. More of Ken's words ring in my ears. "Now that you've identified some emotions, do you think that Christ ever felt these same emotions?" Certainly, Christ must have felt ignored throughout a lot of His ministry. Example: He performs a miracle and strictly tells those He's healed not to tell anyone. They spread the story all over the countryside. I wonder, did He hate being ignored as much as I do?

Ken usually asks one more question, "Have you made someone close to you feel ignored?" Because his is a marriage ministry, Ken's usually angling towards my wife (and my children). Yes, I'm sure I have made Gwen feel ignored. When I think about how the architect made me feel ignored, I understand how I make others feel that same emotion.

When I go with my own understanding and stop communicating I make others feel unheard. When I stop asking questions, I make others feel unimportant. When I put distance between myself and others, they feel de-valued. When I don't take Gwen's help and advice, especially when it comes to relationships, I make her feel dismissed. When I don't return phone calls or e-mails I make others feel ignored.

Communication can be like dancing. You cannot ignore your dancing partner. You stay close. Maybe even touch. You look at each other. Movements are synchronized, because you pay attention to each other. You become one. Yet you are separate. You reflect each other in your similarities, but maintain your individuality. When it's good it can be beautiful. Like Jupiter and Venus and the Moon.

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
Letter from James

Peace, Kim