RIP Isaac the Cat (1996-2014)

October 4, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Life 

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In November of 1995, we moved into our new home.  This was our first house, having lived in apartments up until this point.  We knew that the house needed more life.  So in February of 1996 we were referred to a woman whose cat had had kittens.  We were given a good reference by someone who had previously adopted from this woman.  We went to her house, and met Isaac and his litter-mate Albert.  We lost Albert in 2010.

Isaac was clearly the extrovert of the two cats.  When people would come to visit, Albert would hide and Isaac would cautiously investigate.  Later in life Isaac took to walking to the front door, sitting on the floor directly in front of a visitor, and meowing sharply.  This always resulted in the pet he clearly deserved.  He was also an instant celebrity when he greeted children on Halloween at the door or sitting in the window.  (“That cat MOVED!”)  Isaac was also the most willing to play.  We remember Isaac’s ability to jump 4-5 feet in the air after the laser pointer on a wall, the ability to bat paper balls out of the air with deadly accuracy, and the ability to hold a single meow longer than any opera singer.  He was also a good and loyal snuggler, and would make it clear when he required you to provide his personal favorite spot next to you.Both cats were gentle, never using claws on people’s skin.  They didn’t often claw at the furniture much once they were trained.  They NEVER bit a person, instead hissing or very rarely growling when mishandled.

Isaac lived to 18 years and 10 months.  That’s about the equivalent of a 90-year-old human.  He purred for us almost every day of that long life, including this morning.  A few years ago he developed arthritis in his hips, and kidney trouble.  Recently, all of that deteriorated quickly – he had pain in all joints and could only walk a few feet, couldn’t use the litter box, and had stopped eating.  He had dropped from an all-time high of 18 pounds (a little chubby, but he was sleek at 15 pounds much of his life) to 10.

Isaac is survived by his owners Mark and Carolyn, and predeceased by his brother Albert.  He will be greatly missed.

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General Assembly, Border Patrol, and Me

June 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Current Affairs, Life, Miscellaneous, Religion, Travel 

This week I’m attending the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Detroit.  At this meeting, many big and important things are being worked on and voted on and I’ll probably write about that later.  This is a story of something that happened to me during this week, unrelated to the GA meeting.

Because Detroit is only one river away from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, I brought my passport with me in case I had a chance to go to Canada for the first time.  Yesterday, I had that chance.  So two friends and I got into my car to go to Windsor for dinner.

Leaving the US through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel we were briefly stopped by CBP (Customs and Border Protection) folks, probably because there is a little unrepaired body damage to my car.  They looked at our passports and asked why we were crossing and let us go.  Note that these guys looked like they were in army uniforms, with flak vests.

On the Canadian side we drove up to the booth and spoke to a man in a regular linen uniform shirt.  We explained who we are and why we were there.  And 15 feet later we were there.  We had dinner at a Lebanese restaurant, walked around a bit, and headed back.  Total time in Canada – about 2 hours.

Entering the US we pulled up to a booth.  We handed our passports to the man in the booth, and answered the same questions (are you US citizens?  Where do you live?  Why are you in Detroit?  Why did you go to Canada?  How do you know each other?  What kind of conference?).  Our first sign of trouble was when he closed the booth door and picked up the phone.  After a conversation and a lot of looking at his computer screen, he opened the door.  He said something like, “I’m going to have to send you inside this time.  Mr. Smith – you have a mismatch and we’ll fix it so that you don’t have to do this again.  Please pull around the curve and into the parking lot – there will be someone there to direct you.”

This was not unexpected.  On several background checks (seminary, Red Cross) I was initially declined because there is a criminal in another state who shares my first name, middle initial, last name, AND exact date of birth including year.  I’m sure that was the problem here.

We pulled around the corner, and more guys in military-style uniforms and flak vests.  One told me where to park and asked me to turn the engine off and put the keys on the dashboard.  We were told to leave our cell phones in the car, and to take our passports and go into the building.  We entered and another officer looked at our paperwork and signed us in on a clipboard.  We were instructed to have a seat and wait.  After a while, we were called to a counter where we gave another officer our passports and answered all of the same questions again.  We were told to sit again.  During all of the sitting time (on surprisingly comfortable stainless steel benches) we chatted about the General Assembly and church stories.  Finally, the officer asked us to come up and take our passports and we were free to go.  I asked if he’d done what he needed to do, and he said, yes – that’s what I’ve been doing.

We got into my car, noted that nothing had happened to my car (no search or anything – phone was still on the same screen), and drove back to the hotel.

So …. something that only happens to me.  Most recent in a long series of such things.

 

But …. it triggered some thoughts.

1.  I don’t know why our border patrol officers have to be dressed like they are going to war in Iraq.  The bulletproof vest doesn’t need to be on the outside – it can be under the shirt like most police officers.  Their gun, cuffs, radio, etc can go on the same belt as a police officer.  I seriously doubt that a major armed incursion is going to happen at the Detroit-Windsor tunnel.  This seems to be intended to enforce (in our minds, and in the minds of the officers themselves) the idea that the officers are soldiers and not police.  This is intended to instill fear of outsiders, and fear of each other.

2.  The secondary inspection area is intended to demoralize people.  The seating is comfortable, but harsh stainless steel.  There is very little on the walls.  The bathroom is locked and must be buzzed open.  I understand that the bathroom is locked to prevent flushing of evidence, but still.  This doesn’t say “we have to sort things out,” it says instead, “you are a criminal.”

3.  I’m struck by the difference in appearance and demeanor between the Canadian personnel and the USA personnel.  The Canadians were friendly (though still wary) and welcoming.  The USA personnel were forbidding and suspicious.  They were doing the same job.  Both involved in the same wars.  And there’s no reason that our officers couldn’t be normally dressed and more friendly.

4.  This minor episode has clarified for me the plight of immigrants.  The song “Immigration Man” makes sense.  Our process is cold and unfeeling.  At all times the officers were polite and even friendly in one case.  But the process and design make it an unfriendly process.  This set up causes the fear, rather than the other way around.  And therefore fear of the other.  I will be paying more attention and trying to find a place to find action.

A Lock

August 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Job Search, Life, Seminary, Work 

Masterlock PadlockI grew up in Tenafly, NJ.  We had one Middle School and one High School.  I attended both from the early to mid-1980’s.  Because it was a small town and most people went all the way through the school district, the middle and high school gym programs shared locker room locks.  At the start of 6th grade, you paid a $4 deposit and received a lock.  At the end of 12th grade, you could turn it in for your $4 back.  It had a key slot on the back so that the gym teachers could open them.  The picture on the left is similar, but the lock that I had was so old that the knob that you turned was silver metal.

I clearly wasn’t the first person to use this lock.  Let’s assume an age of 20 years – probably two people had used it before me for 7 years each.  Maybe three people.  This lock traveled with me throughout middle and high school.  Some summers it came with me to camp on my footlocker.  For some reason, I didn’t turn it in after graduation.  I know that I used it for storage over break in my dorm at Rutgers, and probably as a bike lock once or twice after graduating from college .  It has been sitting in a cabinet here at my house since Carolyn and I moved in, with a piece of paper – now yellowed – with the combination in my handwriting.  It probably hasn’t been used for 20 years.  And yet, it still works.

Yesterday, I bequeathed it to a friend.  We met in seminary and she’s one of my favorite people.  She’s moving far away for her first job after college and seminary.  The lock is attached to a moving pod that is following her in a week or so.  And so the lock, now in the hands of someone 20 years younger than me who wasn’t born the last time I opened it on my high school gym locker, continues to serve.  And I’m glad that a little piece of me goes with her to her new home.

A Sad Story

September 27, 2011 by · 8 Comments
Filed under: Life, Religion, Youth 

Last night I was watching an anime (You’re Under Arrest season 3 – the story of a traffic patrol shift in a Tokyo district) episode that featured the story of a high school girl who died while crossing the street against the light, hurrying to tell the guy that she had admired from afar of her interest.  One of the traffic police who stars in the series found her diary near the accident scene, and later learned that the boy also liked her.

This brought to mind a story from my own past, which I don’t think I’ve ever told here.  My memory of events 26 years ago is fuzzy, so some dates or events may be wrong.

In December of 1984, my youth pastor asked me to consider attending an overnight retreat for youth from the presbytery (at the time I was in Tenafly, so this was Palisades Presbytery).  At this retreat the youth were led through a program about leadership development with the purpose of meeting and evaluating each other and then in the morning – choosing the Youth Advisory Delegates to the General Assembly, Synod, and Presbytery Council.  One youth was allowed from each church; there were about 15 or 20 of us at the retreat.  At the time I was a high school junior, and recently elected to be ordained as a Deacon in late January.

At the retreat I met many wonderful people.  One of the earlier activities was taking and evaluating and understanding the Myers-Briggs Temperament Test.  This was the first of many times that I took this test, and I ended up being an INFP.  Later in the evening, some of us spent time chatting and bonding and discovered that we were all INFP’s – and I’ve since found that INFP’s tend to find each other at events like this, drawn together.

One of these INFP’s was Jessica Berg.  Jessica was a year older than me, a senior from Ridgewood, NJ.  She was an Elder serving on their session at the time.  She and I just clicked – that kind of natural friendship where you feel like you’ve been friends all of your lives.  We bonded that evening over laughter and late night discussions with others.

In the morning we had elections for the positions.  First we elected a YAD and Alternate to the General Assembly (national) meeting.  A girl from another church was chosen as the YAD, and Jessica came in second.  I remember her being devastated.  She was given the option to step aside from the Alternate position to stand for Synod YAD, but chose to stay as Alternate.  The second election was for the Synod (regional) YAD, who ended up being me.   In some ways, these months were the start of my journey that has me at Princeton Seminary today.

In January, my youth pastor arranged an overnight retreat for our youth group and the Ridgewood youth group at our church.  (I suspect some match-making here, but I could be wrong.)  We had a great evening, and I found myself being very interested in Jessica.  I had her phone number.  It took me a long time to get up the courage to call her and ask her out.  For a while it was “I’ll call tomorrow”.

Finally I decided early in the week to call and ask her out on a Wednesday evening.  Earlier in the week was out because I was busy with one thing or another (probably Stage Crew, music, or church).

Wednesday evening rolled around.  It was around 5:30pm in the evening (I think).  I was in the basement playing with the computer, when my father called me upstairs.  My youth pastor was in the kitchen, still dressed up in a suit (he lived at the Associate Pastor’s manse around the corner from our house).  He told me that Jessica had died on Tuesday, January 22, 1985.  I had read the newspaper that Wednesday, but completely missed the story at the top of the Local section with her picture.  Jessica had been driving to choir practice and was killed when her car was struck by a train at at railroad crossing.

I was numb.  I don’t think I reacted correctly to this news.  According to my memory I was not sad, not in a crying heap.  I was just quiet.

On the following Sunday, I was ordained as a Deacon.  That evening Jessica’s memorial service was held at her church.  At that age, I was not ready to handle death well (indeed, I chose to skip my grandmother’s out-of-state funeral later), and I didn’t attend – choosing to go to my own youth group instead (volleyball with the local Catholic church group).  I still regret this decision.

Ultimately I went on to attend the Synod meeting, which continued my heavy involvement in the church.  In June, the presbytery meeting was held at my church and I attended in order to see the report of the YAD who went to General Assembly, and to prepare for my attendance at Synod in June.  (Ironically, during that meeting I ended up having dinner at the table of the General Assembly Moderator.)  Also during the meeting there was a report from the presbytery folks about youth programs.  Pictures of the retreat to choose YADs were shown, including some of me and some of Jessica.  And one of me and Jessica, with her wearing a silly hat that I brought to the retreat that looked like a bear’s head.  I still have that hat.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I’d called sooner.  Jessica was pretty clearly on a seminary/ministry trajectory.  She planned to attend Rutgers that fall; at the time I did not know that I would start at Rutgers a year later.

About a year later when I was at Rutgers I met another member of the Ridgewood High School class of 1985.  She showed me her yearbook, and the page tribute to Jessica.  This friend from my floor at Rutgers ultimately introduced me to my wife Carolyn, right about the time that I saw the yearbook.

For a long time, every January 22nd I would remember and say a prayer for Jessica.  As the years have gone by I have forgotten a time or two.  But I’ve never forgotten her.  And to a tiny degree, she is a part of my faith journey that has led me to seminary.

Be at peace, Jessica.  You are not forgotten.

Life-status update

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life, Princeton Seminary, Religion, Seminary 

It’s been a while since I posted.  I’ll give you an update on what I’m up to.

The pre-seminary process is in full swing.  I’ve filled out all of the forms and got all of the vaccinations (an over-40 returning student missed a few that are now required for school).  After a long process of talking to current and former seminarians and professors and pastors, I chose and registered for summer Greek – a year’s worth of Greek language taught in 2 months.  So for me school starts on July 11.  I’ve also been up to the seminary a few times in the last few weeks – to attend Theologiggle, the play (The Merchant of Venice – excellent production!), and a BGLASS event.  Princeton Seminary still feels comfortable to me.  I continue to be amazed at how many people there I already know – most from non-seminary connections.

Next week I’ll be there again for most of the week for the Institute for Youth Ministry forums.  During that week I’ll be meeting with my mentor for the Youth Ministry Certificate.  I recently asked a number of folks at my church to complete a 360-degree review of me in my ministry and I’ll receive those results.

In the middle of May I’ll be attending a laid-back ministry conference.

At the end of May and early June, Carolyn and I have scheduled a pre-seminary vacation.  We figure that with Princeton Seminary’s schedule, there are very few breaks of over a week (the exceptions being Christmas and June).  So we figure we’d better take a vacation now while we can take the time and have the money.  Our goals for the vacation were to disconnect from the world, spend a lot of time with each other, and get out of our regular environment.  We’ve booked a cruise from NJ to Bermuda and back in a week.  I’m not sure that I’ll be able to handle the twitter and Internet withdrawal (ha!), but we persevere.

I’ve also had the opportunity to connect with my CPM liaisons and that process is started and continuing.

In conclusion – everything is pointed in the right direction and moving for my seminary time and the future.  The obstacles so far have mostly been minor and surmountable.

 

2010: My personal Year in Review

December 31, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Candidate Process, Job Search, Life, Religion, Seminary, Work 

I haven’t done a Year in Review post for a few years because I didn’t have any good news then. The two New Years after the layoff were times that I survived rather than showing improvement. This year was different. Very up and down, but averaging to up.

I started the year still looking for a secular job and having little luck, depressed after just barely missing out on a job right before Christmas. (Irony: after I made my decision to change direction, the person that they picked left and they wanted to interview me again.) That all changed with two days close together in January. One day a good friend accompanied me to a job fair at Rutgers, which turned that day from a depressing trip to a job fair to a day with a friend and by-the-way time at a job fair. We also had lunch with the campus Protestant chaplain at Rutgers and I found myself asking her to have the local seminary contact me. Later I realized that I had no idea why I’d asked for that. A couple weeks later I had a rough Monday morning and the same friend met met for coffee. That conversation led me to make the decision that I had to do serious vocational discernment and seriously consider seminary. What followed that decision is a long story that gets told as the year follows.

February found me stretching in many ways. I started auditing a class at Princeton Seminary and meeting with folks from the seminary and my church about my sense of call. I started serving on my first presbytery committee. I started spiritual direction. And at this point in my journey I was on a dual track – religious vocational discernment and secular job search.

March found me working a part-time job for a local ecumenical group serving as the project manager for a June justice revival weekend. It also found me working full-time (to start) for the US Census counting noses at group living facilities and service-based locations (shelters, food banks). Regretfully the Census job didn’t pan out as advertised and the “full-time” work ended up being at best 15 hours a week and only lasted 3 weeks. But it did give me a technical break in unemployment that allowed me to form my own small business. That business continues to provide a small amount of income and will hopefully do so as I go forward in school. March also found me being approved by the Session of my church to apply to be an Inquirer in the PC(USA).

April found me making what was nearly the final turn to the new direction. The justice revival work got going in earnest. I started the Youth Ministry Certificate program at Princeton Seminary with a retreat before the annual Youth Forums. And I started some steps to take care of the space between my ears.

May was packed with growth for me. The work between my ears got going in earnest. My justice revival work was in high gear before the June weekend. I got to be in the audience of The Daily Show and spend a great evening with two friends. And I got to go to the Unconference (in Maryland in 2010) and make new friendships that I hope to have for years if not forever.

In June the justice revival happened and was an amazing and tiring weekend.  And I began preparations for July.  Also in June I began working on the family stresses that were created by my discernment process and change of career.

In July I got an opportunity that I’d been hoping for since I returned to the church and started working with youth – I got to go to the Presbyterian Youth Triennium.  The youth director at my church wrote the Small Group Manual, and as a result I was able to attend as Small Group Staff, Small Group Leader Trainer, and as a Small Group Leader.   My presbytery’s delegation was housed across the street from the dorm that I was in, so we got to spend a lot of time together.  I had a blast, and attending Triennium cemented my sense of call.  After that trip, the last obstacle between me and my new career path was resolved, and my new journey began.  At the end of July, Carolyn and I got to take a short vacation that we desperately needed – giving us time to reconnect and re-explore each other.

August was a quiet month of preparation work.  I spent the time getting ready for the new year at church (in my new role as President of the Deacons, and with new youth staff) and preparing to meet with CPM.  The Committee on Preparation for Ministry of my presbytery approved me as an Inquirer at the end of the month, beginning the official process towards ordination as a PC(USA) minister.  I also began my work on applications for Princeton Seminary.

September was a very busy month with the beginning of the church year and with seminary application preparation.  At the end of the month I submitted my Princeton Seminary application and kicked off the process of obtaining references.

October was a time of celebration.  Carolyn and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary.  We also one week later spent 3 days visiting Princeton Seminary in the role of prospective student and wife.  Both of us felt very comfortable with that visit and very much at home.  And the big celebration happened a week later at the end of the month, when I received my acceptance for the MDiv program at Princeton!

November brought a chance to enjoy success and reorient myself to my new direction.  I delivered my commitment letter to Princeton Seminary while attending the Emerging Adulthood seminar early in the month.  The rest of the month was spent completing some work between my ears and preparing for the holiday season.

December has been a time of waiting and preparing.  With the help of friends, I’m working on preparing for seminary.  I’m building lists of books to read before I start.  I’m trying to decide about whether to pursue Summer Language (an intensive 10 week program for Greek or Hebrew) or take one last summer trip with my church youth group.  And I’m reorienting my thinking.  One bright event of December was a chance to meet a Twitter friend from Atlanta, one of her friends and a local friend for lunch at Drew University.  I also unfortunately spent the end of November and most of December fighting a sinus infection that took a lot of my energy.

Overarching the year were a few events that do not fit the chronology well.  From late spring until today (and continuing) I’ve been doing a lot of work in my head to grow, and to process the changes that such a large career shift creates.  That large shift has also produces some stresses – in family, in friendships, and in relation to my church.  I’ve worked hard with those involved to try to navigate the emotions produced and the logistics involved.  This in turn has created further growth and improvement in me, in my relationships, and hopefully in the others impacted.  This work has been HARD, but well worth it.  And the relationships that have been involved I believe to be stronger now.  I won’t say that pain is necessary to growth, but I will say that getting through pain successfully often produces growth.  Last, a note that a few serious illnesses of family members came in the fall and that was rough too.  Those family members are on the mend.

Also not fitting the chronology well were the growth of a few new and old friendships through shared experiences.  I can only hope that I have given to them as much as they have given to me.

All in all, this year was a very up and down year.  I am thankful for my wife and friends who supported me through it, who listened to my ravings and pain, and who continue to stand by me.  While it has been rough most of the roughness has taken place in the service of growth in the right direction.  And there have been some glorious moments of celebration and happy-dances.  I’d never have believed that I’d jump up and down in my kitchen past age 40 until the day I opened my seminary acceptance letter.

I end the year with a new direction when I had no direction.  I end the year with strengthened relationships.  And I end the year with new friends that I value greatly.  And I end the year with a much, much stronger sense of the direction that God wants me to take, as well as many reminders that God is always with me.

I’ll take it.

Trading Limbos

November 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Job Search, Life, Princeton Seminary, Religion, Seminary, Work 

Sometime last week, I realized that I’ve traded one kind of limbo for a new kind.  A better kind, from where I sit.

For the past 2 years while I’ve been out of work, I had a soul-crushing type of limbo.  Any day I could get a response to a contact or job application inviting me to an interview.  Any day could start the process of becoming employed again, in as soon as a few days to a few months.  A number of times that process happened over the 2 years, but that was a very small part of that time and never resulted in ultimate success – a new job.  The rest of the time I was left with the depressing, esteem-destroying time trying to make that happen.  For most people there’s only one path out of that limbo, and it’s always the last path that you take.  (That’s a lot like the truism that you always find your lost items in the last place you look.  If not, then you’re wasting your time after you do find them.)  Some folks get lucky and get the choice of two paths out of the unemployment limbo, but to me that looks more like two branches of the same last path.

I’ve taken an unusual path out of that limbo – the path of further education – made even more unusual by my future vocation.  This is a riskier path and I likely wouldn’t be taking it except for a few unusual circumstances.  First and foremost there is God’s call to ministry that I have discerned (and will continue to discern in the years ahead).  Second, there are some things about my place in the world that are fortuitous (whether you credit God, good planning, or dumb luck) for this path.  I live near one of the most prestigious Presbyterian seminaries (and I seem to be comfortable in the culture there).  My wife has a very solid income that is big enough to support this.  We were able to (and chose to) save severance and unemployment money.  And we have chosen a lifestyle that doesn’t include the expenses that others need to plan for – mainly children and their futures.

So now I’m in a new limbo – one with a time limit.  Barring some major unforeseen circumstance, I know what I’ll be doing next September.  I have ten months to fill which hopefully will include me bringing in a rather small amount of money.  This limbo is much more comfortable that the prior limbo – having a solid sense of the future and my direction is so much better than not being able to plan events and vacations more than a week or two in advance, because one might have a new job that would prevent whatever you are planning.  I’m even able to see the calendar for the Summer Language program next summer (still on the fence about that) and next year’s academic year.

But it’s still limbo.  I need to figure out what to do with the next 10 months.  I would prefer to make some money by doing small church-related projects like Revive!  (last spring’s justice revival, which employed me as a 15-hour-per-week project manager for a few months).  I can make some money from my itty-bitty tiny computer consulting company.  I could go to a temp agency and see what they’ve got.  I’ve also got some time to work on myself, to try to continue the personal growth that the last 6 months has included (and the last 2 years, for that matter).

So I’ve exchanged one limbo for another.  And I’m in a better place as a result.  But the future is still not completely clear.  But … part of my growth of late has been comfort with ambiguity.  I’m feeling good about all of this.

RIP Albert the cat (1996-2010)

March 3, 2010 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Life 

In November of 1995, we moved into our new home.  This was our first house, having lived in apartments up until this point.  We knew that the house needed more life.  So in February of 1996 we were referred to a woman whose cat had had kittens.  We were given a good reference by someone who had previously adopted from this woman.  We went to her house, and met Albert and his litter-mate Isaac.

Albert and Isaac had different personalities.  Albert developed into the quiet cat, who used his voice only sparingly and for effect.  He was also the happier of the two cats – always ready to see us.  When he came to greet us he’d stand there with his tail straight up, shaking his back end and usually pawing his back feet.  He had Insta-Purr, the ability to instantly start purring when pet.  Albert was the runt of the litter but grew into a large but sleek 14-lb. cat.  He and Isaac took turns being Top Cat.  Albert was also the fraidy-cat – some visitors never saw him as he only came out when he was comfortable.  Those who have been greeted by Albert should consider themselves royalty.  He was able to tell when we held people in high esteem – those people got to meet him, maybe not at first, but while they were visiting.

Both cats were gentle, never using claws on people’s skin.  They didn’t often claw at the furniture until recently.  They NEVER bit a person, instead hissing or very rarely growling when mishandled.

Recently Albert began sneezing all the time.  Then he started losing his balance, missing jumps and slipping when not using his claws.  He degenerated to the point where he was falling down the stairs.  Finally two weeks ago, he was nearly as limp as a ragdoll and unable to walk straight.  We took him to the vet where he received fluids, antibiotics, and a steroid shot.  He improved for about 5 days, and then last Friday was in trouble again.  We repeated the treatment and tried adding oral steroids.  Today, 5 days later, he went rapidly downhill.  In the morning he was chipper and walking straight and eating and drinking.  This evening he was a ragdoll again.  We were faced with the choice of spending thousands of dollars to diagnose (and likely not treat) a brain/spinal/neurological illness in an elderly cat.  We tried the oral steroids, but tonight we had to make the difficult choice.  Albert passed peacefully at the vet’s office with Mark and Carolyn petting him.

Albert is survived by his owners Mark and Carolyn, and by his brother Isaac.  He will be greatly missed.

“I Love You”

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life 

(Note – this post is NOT a fishing expedition.  I’m not looking for compliments or statements that you weren’t planning on making anyway.  This is just my observations.)

Valentine’s Day is coming up.  Love is in the air (though we’re a bit more concerned about snow these days).  Thoughts of love both romantic and filial abound.  Even my pastor is doing a sermon series on love.

This got me thinking last night.  How many people have ever told me “I love you”?  It’s a short list, though longer than I’d expected:

Carolyn
My mother
My father
My 2 grandmothers
My uncle on Mom’s side
My aunt and uncle on Dad’s side (not so sure about my uncle, but he meant it)
My father-in-law and mother-in-law
My brother-in-law
Heather (not sure about this one – it was a LONG time ago)
Katie
My youth pastor years ago
The Youth Director at my church today (I think)
Lorelei from camp
Certainly a few others from camp, but I’m at a loss to identify who

Now, this includes both romantic love and the “I love you, as a friend” variety.  Either implies a deep connection and interest in the well-being of the other party.

There are a few statements that do NOT qualify in my book:

“I love you for X” – for doing the dishes, for being a great friend, for painting a room at church.  All of these are great, but the statement is missing the love of the whole person.
“I’ll love you 100 days if you Z” – if you give me a ride to the airport, if you clean up the kitchen.  True love has no expiration date, though it may end.
“Love ya” – a closing salutation used a lot on e-mail.  This is a cop-out – a way to avoid “I Love You” when it’s not really felt.
“Honey, I love you but I just can’t smile” – this is a youth group game, not a statement of devotion
“I love it when you Y” – again, too specific

The list of people that I’ve said “I love you” to does not match the list above.  It’s longer, and there are some folks on that list who are not on my list above.  I also tend to make deep connections a bit more quickly than others and I have a nasty tendency to try to connect deeper than the other party.  So I’m prone to unbalanced relationships, where my devotion is greater than the other party.  I’m working on that.

And I firmly believe that there are people who actually DO love me but who haven’t said so, because doing so is risky and may flout societal conventions (particularly because I’m married and a statement from another woman, even as a friend, could be misconstrued).  And there are certainly MANY more people that I DO love that I can’t say it to.  The youth in my youth group, some other church folks, a few former co-workers.  I do love them but to say so to them would be disruptive and cause more trouble than it would fix.  In a different world, it would be different.

I also have a longish list of people whose 3am phone calls I would take, for any reason.  There are people for whom I’d jump out of bed and into the car if they called me in the middle of the night.  That list overlaps my list of people that I love, but is not a 100% match.

Maybe it’s my church involvement, maybe I’m a throwback, and maybe I’m just weird.  But I think the world would be a better place if we all knew what other people think of us more accurately.  There’s risk involved there, and possibly hurt feelings, but the world would just run that little bit more smoothly if we knew.  Maybe we can start with the positive emotions.

So my challenge to you is this:  Sometime in the next week or so, say “I love you” to someone that you love but haven’t said it to yet (it doesn’t have to be me!).  Use disclaimers if you must (“as a friend”).  Do it in e-mail or on paper if you can’t say it out loud.  But tell somebody that they are loved.  It will mean the world to them.

A quick update

July 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Life, Religion, Youth 

There’s been a lot going on lately since my last post.

The job search continues.  Yesterday marked 11 months since the layoff.  I do have one possibility pending that would be a 1/2 time consulting job.

At church we’re shifting a bit to handle the resignation of our Associate Pastor which is effectively effective immediately.  This may result in some actual responsibilities for me in my role as Vice-President of the Deacons.  We’ll see.

Last week I went up to Camp Johnsonburg to serve one day as Volunteer Chaplain.  This mainly involved leading bible studies and labyrinth walks for various age groups, but I was also involved in evening vespers.  There was a really neat session with a Senior High unit.  The chaplain (Lorelei) and I were invited to a session called “Questions and Answers” and we had no idea what questions would come up.  We did our best to answer them unprepared and several stories from my life (most written here) were able to serve as at least partial answers.  The most concrete question we got I was able to answer once I was back at home (with a major assist from my Twitter followers) and get the answer back to camp before the unit went home.  I’m going to be repeating this role again later this week.

The God Complex Internet radio program continues every Monday at noon EDT, 9am PDT.  I’m serving as webmaster for the program and during the live show I coordinate the public chat room.

I’m still busily getting ready for the Montreat Youth Conference later this month (week 5 – July 26 – August 1).  I have all of the items that I need to bring as a Small Group Leader and I’m working on going through the SGL manual now with a Bible in the other hand to prepare myself.

Carolyn was gone for about 10 days out of 14 a few weeks ago working on a problem machine at her company’s California facility.  This included one 44-hour “day” on the last trip.  I think she’s mostly caught up on sleep.

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