Monthly Archives: December 2014

It’s a bad time to do a good thing.

New Year’s is a bad time to do a good thing.

Statistically speaking, that is.  88% of resolutions fail.

Your good intentions have a much better chance of sticking through the new year if you resolve to start today versus a few days from now.

A resolution isn’t so much about stopping a bad thing or starting a good thing. A resolution is a reasoned act, a state of mind, an informed decision which ties itself to no time or place or predicates itself upon no white-knuckled act.

Simply, if you reason yourself into a good enough conclusion, the dissonance you experience when your decision is first tested should produce such discomfort that siding with any decision other than the one best reasoned will make you crazy in the head.

Resolutions begin there and succeed there.

So maybe the best use of the next few days would be to do your research about what you’d like to achieve, begin, stop or otherwise resolve to do.  Write down good arguments for your goal and even the lame arguments against it.  The juxtaposition of the “for and against” list will help you see the empty reasons you’ve been believing that have kept you from making this resolution sooner.

Then, when you’ve completed that list, make a separate list that tangibly describes what you imagine your life to be like having achieved your goal (i.e. $200/month  savings from not buying cigarettes, fitting into your favorite jeans again, a richer spiritual life from morning scripture reading.)

Statitistically speaking, today is the best day to make a meaningful resolve for a better life.

For that matter, isn’t any day?




The Christmas Fire we put out.

Well, we did.  At the moment she needed it more than anything else.

I always tell the truth.  All my stories are true and actually happened at some usually bizarre era of my life, which constitutes most of it. In this instance, it was 6th grade and we not only slapped her, we tackled her to the ground and jumped on her head. Many times. Afterward, she and her parents  were grateful.

My best friend was Steve. He lived across the street and we attended the brand new neighborhood elementary school Cyril Wengert.  It was the same year I had ‘called out’ Tony Francisco in Mr. Saxon’s class at recess.  At 94 pounds clothed and wet, I’d no business calling anyone out (an expression which, in that era, meant “I’m mad and want to hit you but I can’t do it in class so by all means, let’s beat each other up in front of the entire school at the next recess when we can both be horribly embarrassed and humiliated at this critically formative and  impressionable age.”  Tony my scheduled adversary, was the class fat boy and as scared as me as we watched the hours pass, counting down, knowing that when the bell rang, thirty two kids were expecting a show that neither of us were equipped to perform. If he was the class donut, I was the french fry in a mismatch of weight divisions.

But I digress.

Steve and I had good parents. That is to say they were parents who forced us to be well rounded in extracurricular activities, which necessarily included Chorus class.  At that age, it was a gender humiliation exercise because, to my recollection, we were the only boys in a big sea of cooties.  I could be wrong, but when you hear our story, you’ll understand.

It was Christmastime and the final day of school before Christmas break.  Miss Neurosis (not her real name, but appropriate) had drilled us on the Christmas concert rehearsal for weeks. She was less concerned with how we sounded but she was absolutely ape shit about choreographic perfection. It was her first year teaching in a new school with a reputation to build and this Christmas concert was the pageant in which her disorder would be revealed to all.  Vocally, 6th grade is typically not good for on-the-cusp pubescent boys, but to her, the sound was much less critical than the spectacle she’d prepared for staff and parents.

Okay, so the night of the performance had arrived and Miss Neurosis had gone over the procedure for blowing out our individual candles at the very end of the last song for the very last time before we made our dramatic ascension up the stairs.

The room was packed and the choral ensemble was robed in perfectly ironed black gowns with white starched collars framing 70 partly pimpled faces illuminated by individual candles. Two lines entered up the stairs from both sides of the room. It was quite dramatic. Steve lead the group on the right and the little black girl lead the group on the left with me right behind her.  Our lines met in the top center of the library balcony, candles aflame on the last line of the final chorus of Silent Night. We all were looking forward to our two weeks off.

Flanked on either side by Steve and I, the little afroed black girl’s head was a huge, bulbous globe of stiff AquaNet flocked hair, like a dandelion, only black and with no breeze. It was the style back then, but not for much longer.

Miss Neurosis’ choreography was for one slow, unified and dramatic move whereby our candles and illuminated faces would extinguish simultaneously as a group one the last sung word. Each student was to blow “Peeeeeaaacceee” as a stream of air that–at least hypothetically– would blow out the candle as we bowed our heads in unison. We had never practiced with real flames.

Try it now. “Peeeeeeaaaacceee.”  There is no fricative with sufficient air force to extinguish even a match stick much less a 12 gauge candle.  Though we all tried our best, Miss Neurosis was flustered in the back of the room at this huge error in enunciative judgment which kept the staircase of candles flickering much longer than expected.  But as if that wasn’t enough humiliation….

Bulbous AquaNet afros are flammable, and 6th grade boys can’t do two things at once. Especially without fricatives.

She burst into flames between me and Steve like some not so silent night explosion. For a moment, it was beautiful. Like a Chia Pet caught fire.  The flame rounded her head in a circular pattern faster and faster until she didn’t know what hit her.

Recognizing the heroic opportunity, Steve and I pushed her to the floor and pounced the smoldering do. In the back of the library, Miss Neurosis had long since fainted in disgrace missing the crescendo of applause offered for our valiant effort.

And with the stunned little black girl still on the ground in ashes, we stood up and took a bow to a roaring audience.  And Tony Francisco and the entire 6th grade class forever knew me as a hero the same year someone invented the cornrow.

And we all had a Merry Christmas for two whole weeks!

And let it begin with me.

Peace on earth is wished in greetings of prose and song this time each year. But is peace on earth really possible or just a relic, an outdated greeting from simpler times long ago when there was a lot more of it? Giving up on peace would be a resignation of hope and I don’t think most of us are ready for that just yet.

But fewer and fewer believe peace on earth is genuinely attainable.  It sounds warm, lovely and hopeful like many  season’s greeting cards, but is just as quickly drowned out by the next hostile report of murder, war and mayhem next door or across the globe.

I, however, believe peace on earth is still possible.

Peace on earth is a movement.

What if you abandoned the impossible thought of global peace and viewed peace on earth emerging as a series of individual efforts which, consistent and connected, create the cause of peace and move it forward, if but an inch with each?  Movements by definition, move. They gain momentum.  They don’t stop.  Those who would pay peace forward do so in small, imaginable, deliberate ways.  And not because of a season.

Peace is the easing of pain, the healing of wounds, the comfort of the afflicted. Peace is a warm coat, a hot meal, a ride to the store or a touch to the untouchable?  We can do peace. Each of us.

Peace on earth is a sacrifice.

It takes effort.  Selfish people will never have peace because they never give it.  It’s up to the rest of us.  And this time of year, there is more indulgence than at any other.   But conversely, peace-full people make extra effort.  Stories of individual and family gives, abandonment of conformity to the commercialization of the holidays and ensembles of strangers uniting for the purpose of sharing with the impoverished abound.

Peace on earth is deliberate.

Peace on earth will not ride in on the coattails of a determined leader.  It won’t take residence in a world of good intentions.  It cannot be legislated or mandated.   It won’t arrive in a wave of mass conviction.  Peace on earth will come only deliberately, one act of goodwill at a time.  And peace on earth is not bound by a time of year.

Peace on earth is an all-year commitment.

When the holiday season ends, so does the giving.  Corporate giving isn’t expected to continue throughout the year when PR opportunities are fewer and less available.  Likewise, individual giving drops.  People justify their inaction by complaining they are tapped out.  But the movement of peace doesn’t slow or stop simply because the season is over. It never lacks resources. It doesn’t take a break.  It moves. It has to.

Very shortly, the celebration will be over.

But the cause of peace will go on, feeding the hungry, warming the cold and touching the neglected, with or without you, albeit with less momentum, but never lacking intention.

At this time and at all times, our wish must be

let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

Don’t give up the hope. We can get there.  Vow with me to keep the momentum.


Christmas is all in my head.

They woke us up at daybreak from what little warmth our lightweight tent provided, promising what was about to occur would be unforgettable.

It was to be the thrill of a lifetime for little boys like us. In about ten minutes, we would experience the climax event of our fifty mile summer backpacking trip through the high sierras at the hands of our fathers who always made life fun and memorable. What could possibly be so exciting at daybreak above the timber line, halfway into our two week trip where we’d seen no one but each other on the trail the entire time?
But they promised. And all three dads were looking to the sky, grinning in anticipation.
We were their young men. They thought us unaware of the flasks they’d stowed in their backpacks for times like this. We had spent the last eight days in blistered boots and full packs across grueling still-snowy switchbacks on summer vacation to arrive here. Along the way, they had taught us how to fall in love with the mountains and the mornings, though we’d fallen asleep early the night before out of exhaustion and a dinner of freeze dried somethings.
But we were awake. Out in the cold at 8,500 feet, Thousand Island Lake’s shimmering surface stretched out before us reflecting the morning sun, and the majesty of Banner Peak glowed rising like an orange God at the very end of our lake. Even at 12 years old, it was a breathtaking view. Behind us were the many miles during which time we’d been becoming men, having traveled together to this glorious elevation alone, seeing no other soul for many miles or days.
We were irritated at the surprise awakening, too young for coffee, too cold for Tang this early. Still, we stood there in the cold morning air, dirty and with frozen breath gazing up as men, awed and beholden by beauty.
And then…far behind us beyond the horizon…and what seemed miles away but on fast approach, we could hear it. Three grinning dads glanced our way, sipped their scotch and coffee and returned their gazes upward as if to welcome the second coming of Christ in our midst. We were increasingly awake, a huddled group of little boys, alarmed at what we were hearing but strangely comforted by relaxed smiles of our dads. A loud rumble at first, it gained deafening high frequency and intensified our way. I feared a bomb or a meteor shot from space and we were at ground zero.
From behind, the lake shook, we vibrated and with hardly enough time to turn to look, the F-15 fighter jet raced in front of our team across the surface of the shaken lake and went seemingly perpendicular up the face of Banner Peak. And as quickly as the deafening noise broke our early morning silence, it disappeared and faded into the rays of the blue morning sky and in unison, our gasped breath.
We weren’t quite sure what we’d just experienced but something had flown into our lake valley and disappeared as quickly over the mountain ahead. It was an incredible sense of awe as if God himself had paid us a very loud and fast morning visit.
Our three dads had made prior arrangement with a family friend on a fighter pilot cruise for a surprise fly by that very morning in this most unlikely place of all.
A rite of passage, that morning, we became men.
If we’re not careful, the frenzy of the holiday season can steal from us the most lasting of all gifts. Memories of our childhood, recollections of times past when we were young, innocent and impressionable. Times when big things happened that made us marvel at the hands of parents who wanted nothing more than to see our surprised faces and smiles.
For older men, nostalgia is a wonderful gift. It entertains, it brings stories of joy and takes us to simpler times and nearly forgotten experiences with people who now only exist in our ability to remember them as they were.
I may have lost my dad, but I will never lose the memories he made for me as a little boy. They are wonderful gifts that give forever and make me smile like a twelve year old even now.

This is a little piece of Christmas I carry all year long.