It's been 100 years since St. Michael the Archangel was founded in Auburn Alabama. At the moment, the parish sits just beyond the university campus, a bit further than it's previous location just outside the main entrance to the school, a throw of the football away from Toomer's corner.
Of course, I say at the moment. This is because, as Eddie Izzard pointed out, Americans think that buildings are really old at 50 years. The current buildings that St Mike's occupies is about three years old. They were erected just before I left Atlanta to move to Auburn in hopes of finding more a more peaceful way of life.
Jack is 4 years old now, and he loves swords. This is the reason for his feelings of affection all things St. Michael. He loves his Church and his parish and his priorities reflect both his age and his upbringing. For him faith consists of Jesus, Mary, Christmas and getting candy in his shoes from St Nicholas. Sometimes he asks to stop in to pray while we are in town, and once he decided that we should get flowers for Mommy and Mary. Lately he has started asking to pray the Saint Michael prayer before bed, calling it "my Night Prayer". Eventually we will learn the full prayer by heart, but he will be much closer to getting his driver's license by then.
For Jack, this is the parish where he is growing up. It's a Novus Ordo parish with a faithful priest, and ties to an occasional Latin mass in Troy. I've said several times that it's unfortunate that the parish in Troy isn't named after St Helen. That is how my humor runs. I wish that we had a closer weekly Latin Mass, but occasionally we can make the trip to Troy, Birmingham or Atlanta.
Several miles from St Mike's is Highway 280, which runs through Birmingham from Savannah. Here is where the journey begins. From the quiet of a small town parish in Auburn Alabama, the road leads north to the trailhead of route 66.
I have a new goal that I have been working on for a few weeks now. For several months, I have been feeling over saturated, over exposed and like I am living in a wind tunnel of news, facts, information all metted out in overwhelming chaotic doses. The fact is that I really don't want to know all that much about Lady Gaga or the Twilight vampires. In fact, my goal is to miss out on the next wave or two of shock celebs and tween heart-throbs entirely.
I decided a while back that I needed to turn off this faucet that I have constantly flowing through my computer, connecting my head through a series of tubes to all the junk available with just a quick google search. At first, I thought that I could do a year long experiment in disconnecting. This thought came to me over the Christmas season, so the notice was short and I had very little prep time for something like that. There are plenty of details to hammer out, bill pay, banking, someone feeding my online Tomagatche (Tober has since passed, sadly, so that is less of an issue), too many to figure out while celebrating the coming of Christ with copious amounts of eggnog ice cream. It was a warm winter.
Instead of cutting off the supply entirely, I decided to take a few steps to limiting my consumption. First, social media in its many iterations had to go. A simple closure notice and picture change let my friends on facebook know that I had left the building for an extended vacation. Next, I added a filter to my computer. OpenDNS did the trick, I have a few websites that I still visit regularly, ones that don't bombard with information or that are specifically to further my formation. I killed access to news sites, and plenty of entertainment sites. With any luck, Lord Gaga will pass me by without my ever knowing of his coming.
Then, I had to get my email under control. I had so many automated searches, email lists and subscriptions that I was getting a couple of hundred emails a day. I've red-lined my gmail account twice already. Twice. After a couple of weeks of unsubscribing, filtering and deleting, I still get about 20-25 emails a day, but that is far more manageable than the ten fold onslaught of previous months and years.
Finally, I burned every CD that I have to itunes and filled my mp3 player with plenty of music and lectures for the road. I still have an hour drive to and from work, down an hour and fifteen minutes from my previous drive time, and I want to fill that time with something better than talking heads, idiot DJ's and commercials for 'more stuff I don't need to impress people that I don't like'. I still have some work to do in this department. There are some songs that I had that I find ... tasteless. I am getting rid of the music that fits that tag. I just don't want to give it any more of a place in my head. Sorry Tool, I love your music, I hate your themes.
It is a work in progress. But it is bearing fruit already. I have more time for more important things. I have been less concerned with things that I can't change and can focus more on tending to my own 'garden'.
I still have plenty of barnacles to scrape off my hull, I promised myself that I was done with this superfluous junk at least for the rest of the year, probably next year too, but once I am free of alot of the Facebook hangovers, I imagine that I probably won't want to go back. I keep saying that I want to simplify my life, but then I buy another gadget or join another web based community that is supposed to ... I don't know, fill a need? and I just end up crowding my life with junk and noise. There is a point where you have to say no more. There is a point where you put up a fence and raise the barriers to entry, because it makes life better.
And that is what I am trying to do, make life better.
In the past six months, I have had as many people tell me that I need to read Og Mandino's books. Maybe it's coincidence that I have been getting this random piece of advice, but more likely it has to do with spending the better part of the last couple years fighting a bit of burn out with a decade in EMS. It happens, and to be honest, I haven't managed it as well as I should until recently. There are probably other factors as well. Pre-schoolers are difficult, marriage is tough, dealing with hemophilia--as manageable as it has been--is still taxing and sometimes it scares the hell out of me. I've been pretty stressed and it has taken a toll.
The book isn't the only thing that I am using to cope. I have started to focus on getting healthy. Soda is out completely. I still have a ridiculous amount of root beer in the closet if anyone wants some. Pointless carb consumption is way down. Fruits and vegetables are way up. I feel better and look better than I have in a few years.
I have gotten back into Scuba as well. I am very literally surrounded by good diving spots. I have a pretty good relationship with a dive shop that offers plenty of trips and is a great resource for lots of undiscovered (for me, at least) locations. I need to upgrade my kit, and over the next year will try to do that incrementally.
I've been able to start taking classes at work that will hopefully help re-ignite the spark that I've lost along the way. I took an emergency ped's course a week ago that was well worth my time, re-certed my ACLS, have an upcoming advanced stroke class in August as well as a PHTLS and AMLS re-cert class before the end of the year.
So, it has been a multi-pronged effort trying to get myself back to a place of equilibrium. And admittedly I still have a ways to go. That is one of the reasons that I decided to pick up this book and begin what will be a ten month process with it. The book itself begins with an introductory parable about the mysterious origins of the ten scrolls that lead one to greatness. The secret is given away in the beginning. It is all about habits. Trading the bad habits for good ones.
Each scroll is meant to be read three times a day for thirty days. One scroll at a time. In order.
I began the first scroll yesterday, and it hits home right off the bat.
"Today I begin a new life.
Today I shed my old skin which hath, too long, suffered the bruises of failure and the wounds of mediocrity"
A good start. It begins right where I have been.
I've been concerned for several years about my waist and it's expansion.since college i've gained an average of 10 lbs a year for the last 10 years.The math it's simple and while I can carry 250 lbs on my frame without looking too bad,I can't do it the way that I did without feeling like I was constantly moving through sludge. About 2 months ago I joined a gym, started working out 3 times a week and even started considering what I could change in my diet to help my health. Cheesy eggs & sausage had to go, as did about90% of my nachos intake. Those were the low hanging fruit. Oatmeal has begun filling my bowl frequently for breakfast and my nacho intake has dropped drastically.
I soon discovered my next major problem was a pernicious coke addiction. It has been a 6 pack a day problem. Usually if I go too long without one, a headache will ensue. I've tried a few times to moderate this drinking problem, but I always end up back where I started with the high fructose corn syrup monkey right back on my back.
I don't know what triggered my motivation a couple Fridays ago. I hadn't been intending to sacrifice the drink to the mighty Pemberton, but s suddenly it happened. The wife was gone to Asia for work and I poured myself a glass
of water, grabbed a bottle of ibuprofen and started riding out the next 4 days of headaches.
So far it has been two Weeks and my water intake has gone from about 0 to 100+Oz a day. Reverse that for my soda intake. So, sorry Pepsi and choke...err Coke, but I am done.
Next week I will start my crusade against sugary snacks.
I love playing my guitar. If i have a couple of hours to burn, a load of stress on my shoulders and a million things on my mind, I can make them all disappear. I've been learning to play for a few months now, and I'm progressing pretty well. I am eyeing a few song books and have the beginnings of a few songs on scraps of paper littering the bottom of my guitar case, waiting for my skill to develop to meet them.
It seems pretty simple. One small concept builds upon another concept. Once you cover one skill, you move on to the next. Reading music has been a bit of a challenge. I was 12 years old the last time that I had to read a sheet of music, but given time, effort and a dummies book on reading music, I have been able to make up for lost time.
The strangest source that I have found for great--if not antiquated--information is an old instruction book that I found on Google Books. It is titled "COMPLETE METHOD FOR THE GUITAR: CONTAINING THE ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF MUSIC, AND A NEW, ORIGINAL, AND PROGRESSIVE MODE OF ACQUIRING A RAPID MASTSRY OF THE INSTRUMENT. INTERSPERSED WITH A PLEASING VARIETY OP POPULAR SONGS AND NATIONAL MELODIES."
Its title is half the length of the book.
I Don't know if I am ever going to be good enough to impress anyone other than myself with my new skills, but I an enjoying the process right now. Especially since I have gotten past the sore fingers of the first few months, and can practice for more than half an hour at a time.
It's an easy song. Twinkle twinkle little star. It's one of the first ones that you learn no matter what instrument you play. I learned it on the violin, and then on the guitar. I remember my brother playing it on the flute. I'm willing to bet if we were to call up my sister, she learned to play it on the cello as well. We could start a band. we'd only have one song to start with but it would probably sound ... horrible. Who am I kidding?
I was sitting on the couch today when Jack came up to me. I'd been practicing my guitar for a few hours, vacilating back and forth between "work" and "play". So it goes. He wanted to hear twinkle twinkle little star. Soon he was singing along, skipping around a bit. I did my best to keep up. Eventually he wanted a new song.
"Play me the ABC's"
I was happy to oblige.
It is getting close to Christmas. Thanksgiving is going to be next week, after that, four weeks of the onslaught of Commercialmas to make sure that you know that Christmas is on its way. Catalogues have made their way to our house already, but there is one that we recieved that is different. There is one where we can buy a pig or a goat or 5 years of vaccinations for less than a TV. Even a small one.
Jenn and I have spent a good part of the last year sponsoring a young girl from the Dominican Republic. We have gotten pictures and letters, and we have enjoyed putting together cards for her as well. The price isn't much. Under 40 bucks. Easy. That is a week of coffee. Or Two coffee free days every week. Man up, you can go two days without hitting Starbucks. They don't have to be consecutive.
I am asking you to consider going over to Compassion International's website find a kid (cute, ugly, young, old, whatever) and sponsor them. Starbucks will understand.
See this comic? It is nothing like this.