Ain’t That America

If you’re like me (it’s OK here to breathe a sigh and whisper “Oh thank God I’m not”), your internal dialogue runs constantly. I do pretty well keeping it internal. Most times. Sometimes, for us writers, our internal dialogues find their way to a blog. I guess this is the manifestation of a Sunday morning 9-second internal dialogue.

I was getting a little computer work done Saturday evening and doing my best to not ingest the sensationalist diatribe on recent media. Not easy but certainly doable, and a worthy goal. I’ve been reading Victor Fankl’s “The Meaning of Life,” and contemplating a people that lived in a time of truly, for me, unimaginable pain and darkness. It’s a wonderfully crafted work but not a fun or easy read and I have to take it in doses. I mean doses in the truest sense of the word. It’s good medicine for the soul, but geeze, it tastes mentally awful.

Rachel had just set before me a thing of great beauty, art, and love; my Saturday evening end-of-day, all-chores-done, Gin Man-Martini. As she sat down she whispered something that I did not quite catch but often don’t on the first go. After a minute I gave my usual half-assed, I-kinda-wasn’t-really-listening utterance that finished in a vocally upturned ending.

“Mmmmm?” I didn’t look up. I get a bit myopic when I work.
“Something-something-something-something gin”
“Mm.” My brain kept working on it. I’ve been accused of being able to keep working while someone burns the house down around me. I’m not sure why anyone would do that but I’m not entirely sure it’s not at least a little bit accurate. Sometimes the non-worky part of my brain goes to sleep while the worky part does all the heavy lifting. Sometimes the sleepy part gets all prickly when it wakes back up.

“Sorry babe.” My non-worky brain was starting to feel like a billion little needles. “One more time.”
“We’re out of gin.” Smile.

I wish I could explain the myriad sensations and questions I experienced in the proceeding quarter of a second.
Suffice it to say, I panicked.

How could this have happened?
What did this mean for me and my future?
Why was life so unfair?
How could you say that to me?
I don’t want to live in Gulag.
I should get online quickly and learn the route to the closest available remedy.
Where was my credit card?
I should arm myself.
Will drinking mouthwash really kill me?
Who is to blame here?
I thought this was America, not some Gin-less Third World (GTW) freakin’ country.
We won’t make it.
Where are my shoes?
Is my underwear clean?
I want my mommy.

I think I got the look on my face like the abominable snowman when he realized Hermie had pulled all his teeth.

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer - Page 6 - Holiday Central Photos - CBS.com

And then, two seconds after the quarter second, the really awake part of my brain bitch-slapped the prickly side of my brain and said, “Stop it.”

I saw my shoes.
I wasn’t even wearing underwear.
Rachel was looking at me with concerned love and a smile.
“What’re we watching tonight?”

Thankfully I was already one really-fine sip in and cooler, Man-thoughts prevailed. We made a very calm plan to get to the packy the next day and pick up some gin and those really nice extra big martini olives and to continue finishing the final season of Sopranos (am I the last person on the planet to learn how good this show is? I’m practicing my Tony around the house: Wha-ya-gonndo-boutit). I was proud of myself for overcoming the panic.

We got to the packy the next day after live-streaming church. What an amazingly cool time to be on the planet. We’re liking a new Gin. New Amsterdam. It’s very floral and took me a bit to relish, but oh-now-trust-me, I’m relishing the AF out of it (I’m 58; leave it alone). On the way back we stopped at a local smaller store to get some veggies to grill. We’re leaning more vegetarian these days in a very quiet way. We grabbed some tofu to grill as well.

The store was buzzy and we parked out a bit. It’s always buzzy on Sundays. We didn’t get everything we wanted but we were open to new options and the produce section smelled like freshness. We found some new thing that looked like it might be fun to grill and had lots of vitamins. People were in a bit of a hurry. Nothing new there. The lines were long but we were in no great rush (having secured gin of course) and we expected to wait a bit. John Cougar Mellencamp’s Ain’t That America was playing overhead. I like that song.

While in the checkout line I met Alejandra who has a daughter and new granddaughter in San Francisco and apparently also has great predilection for Lunchables and bleach. Alejandra had alot of pictures on her phone. Alot. She was very nice and laughed alot too.

The older guy behind me had three stepdaughters from two wives and one girlfriend (I’m so not good following familial trees) and knew how to butcher cows and owned a .300 magnum and knew where to go shoot a cow. I wasn’t sure he’d need that caliber and velocity to shoot a domestic cow, but held my own. He seemed very proud of his skill set and reminded me a bit of my senile dad. Further ahead the lines parted and I said my goodbyes to Alejandra and Cow Shooter Guy.

The checkout girl was in support of societal lock down and I said I was sorry her day was bumpy and thanked her for using the bags we brought. Like my EMT son and ER nurse daughter in law, her life has been fuller than usual lately and she was understandably ready to normalize. I offered her my Monopoly cards but I guess she’s not allowed to play. The pink hair girl who took my cart likes working on Sundays because there is different energy. She can’t play the Monopoly game either. I grabbed the bags and waited for Rachel to get the receipt.

I stood beside phone guy along the wall. It’s odd the gyrations people go through when their phone rings and it’s in their pocket. It looked like a third ring might bring a jaw-clamping electric shock or maybe the miss of Publisher’s Clearing House next Millionaire call. In the next 9 seconds I wrote this blog in my head.

From what I could piece together, someone was checking on his progress. His cart boasted a successful hunt that supported proud regaling. His responses surprised me so much that I had to look at him and thought he might be an alien.

Alien phone guy said, “awful,” “craziness,” “wiped clean,” (twice), “insanity,” a few resigned yeps and nopes, a finally “ridiculous,” and ended the call.
He caught me staring.
He really was an alien.

Wiped clean? Wiped Clean? For the love of God, wiped clean? Are you blind? Have you not just walked every one of the 23 aisles in this wonderful store? Have you just not seen more food in one place at one time than most of the world sees in a month or a year? Did you not just spend a one hour fantasy stroll in a luxurious place of choices and options and freshness and best-if-eaten-by dates and mist sprayers?

Insanity? Insanity? Did someone just not ask you how your day was? Did you not see that muscle car pause for crosswalk granny? Were you not offered game cards for whatever fantasy you might enjoy? Are we not all talking nicely as we stand in line and wait?

Awful and craziness? Awful? Craziness? Are you not pushing that weighted cart? Breathing clean air? Financially well enough to have a cell phone? Wearing nice clothes? Free to leave this store and drive any direction you choose? Did you not meet Alejandro who has a new granddaughter? How about Cow Shooter Guy who knows cool things? Do you not love Ain’t That America?

We got in the car and I sat for a second.
Alien phone guy made me a bit sad.
We. Have. SO. Much.
You. are. SO. blind.

Funny how different people see things, hear things, experience things.
I wonder of Viktor Fraknl. I can’t stop humming Mellencamp’s song. Little pink houses for you and me.

Tonight, when I sit down to my end-of-day, chores-are-done martini, I’m going to get a little bit emotional, lift my glass in thanks to God, not be able to really find the right words, think of Frankl and little pink houses, and whisper my best Tony “Salute.”

Middle Age Maxims (part one)

I start each day reading. Early. In the dark. In the quiet dark. I eschew light like a vampire and sound like a black ninja. I read from my phone with the screen set to its darkest setting, my robe wrapped tight, my Tom Brady fluffy slippers keeping the tootsies warm, and my beanie hat pulled down as far over my face as will still allow for deciphering letters and any necessary slow navigation. Because my right eye does not usually open for a significant amount of time after I wake, and because I’m looking through one eye through my beanie hat in the dark, any navigation is slow navigation. I have the coffee process memorized so it does not require light, sight, or sound.

Or talking. Mornings are not for communicating. Mornings are for not communicating unless you’re a songbird or rooster. All other nonsense can wait.
If I must communicate (like if the house is on fire and I need to notify Rachel), I whisper.

It is in this fashion that I also descend in the elevator to the ground floor after reading and traverse the dark parking lot enroute the hot tub for my dark quiet morning soak. Those stories are for another post.

Lately it seems it’s getting harder to find anything worth reading. So much rubbish out there. I try to stay away from most things political, because all politics is all politics, regardless of the election cycle or year or person or issue. I vote; and I also believe in more do less talk. I steer away from things that are cynical. My day will hold sufficient challenges. E-books are great, and I’m still picking through Tribe of Mentors.

Many of the other headlines in my several feeds, which I thought I had meticulously crafted, are assumptive; assuming a premise, usually unstated, that I am apparently expected to assent to prior to reading: Why Eating Healthy is Ruining Your Sex Life or
Why You’re So Unhappy.
Huh? Foryourinformation my sex life is robust and I run pretty damn happy. Even the articles that I do wander into have the meat of the information so far down the page that I become disinterested soon after clicking. Get. To. The. Point.
And one errant feed click and I’m off the res for good.

I’m taking a re-certification course for work. It’s the last of three that will earn me the six credits I need to carry me for another five years. The courses are book studies; informal and self paced, which I love, and they have introduced me to readings that I would not have otherwise picked up. It’s provided some limited but quality input.

The most recent course asked me to list three to five words that I thought were my core values. No sentences; the values were to be distilled to one word each. That was fun. And hard. I was surprised by what I came up with. But that’s good fodder for another future blog as well.

An offshoot of distilling those core values was a desire and habit to start jotting down life-thoughts; life-axioms, at least for me. They come to me in the morning, as I’m reading, or sometimes after a certain situation from which I think I’ve extrapolated a truth (Ok and also after my first good martini). I don’t hold these truths to be anything that would interest a populace. They are my truths, but you’re reading the blog, so see what you think. Take no offense and mount no counter. If we’re ever together, I’d love the chance to share a drink and pull them apart with you:

-There are things that will happen today. Your button will get pushed. Be a reflective practitioner. Be really good at what you do, regardless of how someone might try to knock you off course.

-Start early each day by creating a fantasy list of what you’d like to celebrate accomplishing when you sit down to enjoy your end-of-day martini. Then make it a little more realistic, with a few extras tossed in. Call it My Martini List. Look forward to the end of day because of how good you’ll feel and how good that first sip will be. Sip it slowly, and tell someone how good it is.   

-Mostly, taking the high road means being quiet. Measure your words. You’ll know when it’s time to speak because you’ll become calm.

-It’s hard to punch someone who’s trying to shake your hand. 

-It’s ok to be unsure. It’s ok to tell someone you’re unsure. It’s not a weakness because you know you’re already making a plan to get the right answer and you’ll have it soon. 

-It’s work. It’s ok to not love every day. That’d just be weird and would make you annoying (And you’d be in desperate need of a life).

-You’ll never regret what you don’t say. Not really. Despite the fictional applause you hear in the shower as you reinvent both sides of the conversation and emerge amazingly victorious, no one is taught a lesson during those moments. Silence is hauntingly powerful.

-Everyone gets to live their time in this realm as they choose. I didn’t make the rules, God did. When their choices impact you, choose to live your life in this realm as you choose.

-If you’re quiet, people will tell you a lot of stuff. If you ask the right questions, people will tell you everything.

-It’s easy to compliment people in genuine ways.

-Being cynical and being lazy is the same thing.

-Know your long game and let your short game loosen up. You’ll be happier.

-If you’re talking more than other people in the group, restrict yourself to only questions for an hour. There’s a reason why people hate work conferences.

-Listen to people without adding your fat thumb to the scale of shared experiences. If they want to know, they’ll ask. Keeping up is annoying.

-Happiness is not a schedule-free life. Happiness is the freedom to create your own schedule. 

-When you build story in your head about something that was said, lean heavily towards how awfully most people communicate.

So there it is. Just some things that came to me over the last month or so. If you’re reading, hopefully you find them somewhat more useful than Why Intelligent People are Miserable.

Good At and Good For

As Rachel and I continue our Middle Age life-journey of discovery, we’re continuing to learn and grow. That is, after all, the purpose, yes? Or at least one of them.

It can be interesting the things we find ourselves doing in making our lives here on the planet. We are often initially measured by the ubiquitous question: “So, what do you do?People mean, of course, how we pay the mortgage, not how we act when we’re home alone for the day (and that’s a very good thing). I get asked it alot when I fly, and despite the kind nod and smile, the look is a dead give away that says, “I have no idea what the words you just said mean.” I’ve tried changing up the phrasing, but the results are the same.

The question is kind and innocuous enough I guess. I suppose what we do might say something about us. Some people seem to know almost from birth their vocation path, as if they are selected and designed for just one option; a calling if you will. Lucky bastards. Most of us, not so much.

Most of of us bang around and eventfully find a niche. We settle in to an acceptable and mostly enjoyable job. Maybe we’re not necessarily designed for it, but maybe we’re the type of people that could do alot of things pretty well (I thought for awhile I’d work at Sears selling furniture and be That Guy who knows an awful lot about recliner construction).

We start a path, grow a family, take on the weight of debt, grow social roots, get comfy, and surround ourselves with what we do. There’s nothing wrong with that. I never intended on doing what I do now. It just sort of unfolded, one step at a time. I really like it, but if you’d have told me I’d be doing what I’m doing 20 years ago, I’d have advised you to cut back on your meds.

Knowing what you should do is hard.
Knowing what you could do it easier.
Sometimes it seems that you didn’t really choose it, you just ended up making some small decisions and ended up there.
Some were decisions of inaction and some were decisions of action.
Some decisions seemed very purposed, and some were not really sure how I got here.

It’s the same with Rachel and me. Some of the places we arrived at were because of our planning and our choices. And some of the things we chose were because they materialized suddenly based on previous choices.

Funny how that is; you can’t see new options until you move forward to a new place.

Gotta move first, and then you see.
Crest the next rise, and there they are.
Blurry shimmering somethings in the distance.
Move first, then see. I wish it was the other way around, but it’s not.

Seems like we’ve been doing alot of moving lately.

When we originally began the journey towards financial independence, it was largely for two reasons. Being debt free would allow for alot of cool options (like tropical hedonistic cruises on chartered catamarans). Paying interest sucks and so do payments. Someone told me once that it’s not how much money you make, it’s how much you owe. If you don’t owe much you can take alot of hedonistic cruises on 50 foot chartered cats (ok, I added that last part, but it’s true).

Additionally, and more importantly, the kind of work Rachel was doing was making her sick. Not metaphorically sick; physically sick. Like killing her sick. She was unwell, diagnosed with several immune deficiencies, on several medications, gaining weight, not sleeping, and was on all fronts circling the drain. We knew being out of debt would allow her to assess her life and have more freedom of choice – like choosing a hedonistic tropical cruise with free martinis. (See how it just keeps getting better?)

We also knew that if we didn’t make some big changes soon, we might be facing options that were not so fun.

But the truth is, Rachel was making alot of money and was really good at what she did. Awards and all that. High-end corporate medical management sounds flashy and important, and in many aspects it was. And at its core it was altruistic, philanthropic, and benevolent: managing people and systems that saved kid’s lives.

The paradox was entangling, at least it was for us. She was so good at it, and it was killing her. We thought maybe if we could just adopt a different mindset. Learn to handle stress better. Meditate. Visualize. Diagnose. exercise. Find just the right combination of any or all. But over time, talks, tears, getting as many perspectives as we could, and trying all sorts of approaches, a truth started to emerge:

Just because we’re good at it doesn’t mean it’s good for us.

Good at and good for.
As soon as the words were out of my mouth I knew life had changed.

The money we had. The Good she was doing. The future it painted. It took very clear eyes and minds to not only discern the situation but also make the call to walk away. And she did walk away. We’re starting our 4th week of one income and there are lots of really cool things going on (like becoming a Sugar Daddy). I won’t steal her show and I’ll let her tell her own story as she sees fit here.

Some of the things we’ve learned and are thankful for:
– Being debt free allowed for a much broader scope of choices
– Money is only fun if life is already fun
– Money’s not worth being miserable
– Being a Sugar Daddy is awesome
– I can get pretty hedonistic in a hot tub
– Meaningful conversation is a critical aspect of life

We’re not sure what the future holds (Lord, do we ever? Do any of us?) Right now we think we’re looking at a one-year-ish sabbatical. There’s alot of healing going on (and I’m learning some really awesome new dance moves). To be honest, I’m a little afraid of what new options might suddenly jump up. I’ve already told her I do not want to be a missionary to Zimbabwe (probably no hot tubs).

The financial goals have adapted, or at least been set to pause for a bit. But get this: our original financial goal was to be debt-free in November of 2020; 11 months from now. So we’re 100% on track to meet our original plan (I just gave myself chills).

The hedonistic free martini cat vacation is still out there, oh trust me. As is the AirBnB for a month in Naples and Vermont and lots of other dreams to come. First things first. Gratefulness, health, love, family, dreams, faith, SugarDaddying, wisdom, smart choices, risk and reaching, knowing when to move, knowing when to hold.

And I guess downsizing to a 40 foot cat with free martinis would still be ok. I mean, the simple life, right?

MP

Middle Age Sugar Daddy

Part of my morning habit is to wake early and spend a quiet hour reading. The reading list varies. Sometimes it’s the feed or one of the bloggers I follow, sometimes I’m not quite sure how I get to the articles I find. I call it “jumping.” My path is almost never re-creatable as I usually have no idea how I actually got there.

Several months ago I jumped onto an article about college debt, and how some younger female students were finding ways to get out from under it. “Commendable,” I thought.
“Hard working young entrepreneurs probably.”
“Uber side hustles and all that.”
Well?

When I read that “Sugar Daddies” were footing the bill I was a bit surprised and unsure. I had heard the colloquial term used in jokes and sarcasm, but when the link took me to the Voice of America website and not the front page of Tinder, I said “Wait, what?”

From my reading, a Sugar Daddy is a Successful Member: a modern gentleman (probably around 58), with refined taste (like Gin Martinis and making the bed really well), exceptional experiences (like getting debt free and trips to Ma’s house in Maine), and abundant resources (like owning a Baby House and access to a 30-person hot tub!) who is looking for someone younger (Sugar Baby) to share in his extraordinary life and lifestyle with (Rachel!).

Who knew? I could hardly wait to tell Rachel of my new found awareness, which I did with great zest. I unpacked it all, and explained that we were in what’s known as a Sugar Relationship (it was right here that I broke into a rousing chorus of Def Leppard’s Poh Some Shuga on MAY! – replete with wicked sexy dance moves). She said wow.

I can’t say at first that she was anything other than humored. She nodded alot. Ah. I see (quizzical side-looks). She reminded me that her 6-figure income was an abundant resource. I said yeah but. This wasn’t just me. This was on websites. I did another chorus and added hip thrusts and finger licks to illustrate that I had even awesomer abundant resources. I thought we should have new pet nicknames ( I wanted mine to be ShugDad or GrandMaster Shug). Rachel wasn’t quite sure what hers should be (I offered BabyShug). She said wow again. This was going to be fun.

Summer 2019 passed, and what a summer. Other life-events came and went, and other than me practicing the GMS rendition of Poh Some Shuga (I added really cool hand flourishes), we largely forgot about our new nicknames.

And then, as I noted in my previous post, on December 15th of 2019, after a great deal of prayer, introspection, communication, reflection (and just about every other shun word there is), Rachel left Corporate America and her 6-figure income. She made it public for the first time here and here. I’m sure there’s much more to come about the process that led her and us to this point, but the psychological and physical changes in her are already obvious. We’re not sure exactly what the future holds, and are excited about possibilities.

But, you can probably imagine the urgency and weight I feel now.
I’ve got to get my Sugar Daddy moves back!
I need to get more abundance in my resources and learn more than just the chorus line (although I think the neighbors are really starting to dig it)!
We need Tshirts!
There should be Shuga-rules!
My new nickname could be (wait for it):
ShugaPlum!
Daddy’s bringin’ home the bacon bay-bee!
Poh Some Shuga on MAAYYY!

Middle Age Mark’s Year in Review

I am generally not a big fan of year-end reviews. They depress me. Time has passed, I’m a year older, my bald spot is bigger, famous people have died, it’s tax time and the days are short. I’m not a big looker-backer. Too many people refer to the past when asked how they’re doing, and begin a diatribe of struggle and glum. Makes me insane. But then I throw away old pictures, so I might not be the best litmus when it comes to wrapping up the year.

Having said that, 2019 was a wicked good year (shout out to my Maine peeps). Perhaps one of the best I’ve lived. For reasons I’ll unpack shortly, I saw more beneficial change this year than any year since. The year started in Mesa Arizona with one word, prepare, and little did I know then how that word would help usher in a new era in life.

I start every new year with one word. It’s my Word For The Year (WFTY). Nichole (daughter) created the practice. She’s a beautiful spirit-forward person, which means she senses you way before you have the chance to tell her anything. We spend just about every New Year’s with her and her husband Joey, and it’s a great environment for setting a new word-path for the year. We make drinks, have a little ceremony, and hope to see our spirit animal (ok that last part is just me). More on that in a bit, but if you want to adopt the practice, it’s kind of fun (and it really helps to focus you forward).

As I mentioned, we started 2019 at the Baby House in Mesa. Nic and Joey were down for New Year’s with Rachel and me, and we partied like it was 2099 (see what I did there?) I remember a rousing rendition of how-low-can-you-go on the dance floor and thinking how amazing it all was (I could hardly walk the next morning, but still). It was that trip that Nic first shared that she was having a change of heart, and they were thinking of getting pregnant in a year or two. We shared some very close, quiet conversations. Life stuff.

The word prepare had been on me for some time. I don’t remember where it came from or why, but I sensed something was coming and I wanted to be ready. It was on that trip that Rachel and I decided to put all efforts towards climbing out of debt; the school loans, the cars, the cards. Rachel was sick (literally) of medical management and had had a run of very tough surgeons and situations. I had been reading Dave Ramsey and Fritz Gilbert and knew the first step towards having options was removing drag. We looked at the numbers and set a date for November 2020 to have zero debt. We left there very excited.

It was in the spring that we learned of Nic’s pregnancy. Rachel made me a special martini and delivered the news. All I could repeat was, “You gotta be shittin’ me!” I cried and then I wasn’t able to talk. I’ve never seen any women be so pregnant and yet not at the same time. She said she told God that this was His deal and she didn’t have time to be sick (she’s not had even one day sick) or stop doing yoga.

The summer was wonderful. Rachel took some extra time off, and we decided to try our first July in Mesa. As July’s go there it wasn’t particularly hot. Mornings started between 75-80 and days topped about around 110. In short, we loved it. We did what we needed to do during the mornings and early afternoons, and then hit one of 3 pools with our shaker martinis. It was like our own private resort. We had the “opportunity” to replace the AC, but things like that should be expected.

It was on that trip, during one of our floating finance sessions, that Rachel dropped the bomb: “I think we should sell the house.” We had talked about it on and off for years. So we did it; we left there and went back to Boise and immediately called our realtor friend. After a few weeks of intense prep, it was on the market and sold very quickly. After some research, we used the profits from the house to advance the debt free date, and we began a new phase of life, that of no debt, minimalism, and condo living. Rachel writes a blog on living a minimalist life. The whole package is wonderful (even I’m surprised at how much I like the condo life).

On a more micro note, my approach to fitness changed this year. Although I still crave resistance training, at 58 my joints no longer always love the heavy weight. There’s a difference between good and bad pain (wink), and I knew it was smart to listen to the form. I tightened up the diet (which of course excludes martinis), shaved a bit from the weight stack, and added more cross training. I feel great and look pretty good too.

So we came into fall and the holidays. Rachel got candy in case we were visited by any trick-or-treaters (eternal optimist), and she began to plan for Thanksgiving. It would be hard to overemphasize the importance of Thanksgiving to Rachel. It was one of the challenges of becoming condo-livers; there needed to be a place with enough room for the whole family. Enter the condo clubhouse, with all the amenities for cooking, serving, and enjoying the Thanksgiving day (and 3 big screen TV’s and pool table). A better day was never had.

Christmas has come and gone, and it was wonderful as well. We got a skinny tree and decorated the front door. Rachel and I celebrated early with the kids like we do every year, so that they can be more free to relax or see other family on the actual day. Nic hosted for the first time (after a morning session of maternity yoga), and carried the mantle of easy, relaxed holiday enjoyment perfectly. It felt right, us going there, as soon Kepa will wake us with excitement about what Santa brought. Can hardly wait.

And finally, we ended the year with perhaps one of the biggest life changes in our relationship yet. Rachel tendered her resignation and departed the corporate world for an undetermined sabbatical. Already the change in her spirit is evident. A surgeon friend described her as radiant during a recent small gathering, and I could not disagree. I can see the weight being lifted more every day. She’s coming back to the surface. We both wear smiles most of the day, inside and out.

My 2019 word was prepare.
We got debt free and small.
Kepa is on his way.
My toast each night is Blessed Life.
What a year.

Could SugarDaddy be one word?

A Martini with Jesus

Most people that know me know that I like Martinis. And then they smile in disbelief that I used the word like. They know that I have elevated the Martini to an art form (which, of course, it is). There should be Martini art shows and orchestral arrangements to Martinis and a National Martini Day and a museum.

Further, those same people that know me know that all Martinis are gin Martinis, they are shaken (violently), are so dry that the vermouth and gin are mere acquaintances (Hello over there), and they are not mixed with sissy things or given sissy names like Strawberrytini (this is offensive and should be listed as a crime against humanity).

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation should list the word Martini as a proper noun (which I’m sure they will once they receive my letter).

You can’t walk in to just any place that serves alcohol and get a Martini (trust me on this) any more than you can just walk in to any doctor’s office and get a spinal fusion. Martinis are nuanced and rare and can only be crafted by highly trained experts.

There’s one of two looks that bartenders give you when you order a Martini. The first is a sneaky smile and twinkled eye because someone has finally asked them to avoid the Huge-Breasted Swedish Woman beer tap and employ their limitless artistic talents, and the other is something that might resemble being hit in the face with a board. This latter group should be run out of town after being tarred and feathered for false employment and lying on their resume.

I’m passionate about Martinis. I only enjoy them in the evenings, after a very full day (so, every evening), and they are to me the signal that the day’s labor has ended, that it has ended well, that there is much to be thankful for, that I am safe, and that I am now ready to relax and wade into the deep and philosophical end of the conversation pool.

Which brings me to the title.

Almost.

I’m reading a book that my realtor friend recommend (if you ever need a realtor, seriously, contact me), and it reminded me of something while I was at the gym this morning that I’ve often thought about (I think about weird things at the gym. It tends to be my creative place while I listen to screamo metalcore and grunt alot)

Which now really brings me to the title.
I wonder if Jesus would have a Martini with me.
I bet he would and I’d like that alot.

I think some people have the wrong idea about Jesus.

He might wrinkle up his face and make the fake gagging sound like alot of people do when they try my Martinis (you actually drink this?) I’d give him the good chair like I do with guests and family that I like. He might recline and tell me it’s a good chair and I’d say yeah I know. I might say how ’bout those Pats and he might say how bout those Niners and then I might ask him to move out of the guest chair and he’d laugh but keep the chair. He might ask about my mom’s extra heart beats (though he’d already know) and then tell me he really loves her and gets a kick out of her.

While we sipped I’d ask if he thought the 180 gallons of wine he made at the Jewish wedding was overkill and he might say have you ever seen a Jewish wedding? We’d laugh more and I’d ask if his wine tasted anything like Martinis cause it should have. I’d also ask if he ever heard back from that lady at the well and if people totally freaked out when Lazarus came out. I think I’d also ask what’s the deal with goat heads and what he was thinking there because my mountain bike tires keep going flat and it’s getting old and expensive.

I bet he’d ask some bomb questions about my life that would take us really deep and have all sorts of layers and would be hard to answer.

Of course we’d talk about Martinis and that they’re on the drink list in Heaven.

Then he might tell me he’s got an amazingly cool super crazy wild adventure ride for my life if I’ll just quit taking over control so much and let him write my story and that I need to stop running away from all the hard parts. Then he’d zing me with something like since I made you and knew you before time existed I think I kinda got this.

He’d probably compliment my bed making skills and tell me my condo is really cool and relaxing and so is the Baby House and I should stop letting barking dogs bug me so much and let the past be the past.

I bet we’d be easy. And laugh too much. And I’d get a ton of new insight and be able to thank him for a really cool life. I’d thank him for his life and his death and his life again.

I wouldn’t want him to go.
He’d thank me for the Martini and give me a hug and smile.

I’d probably never wash his glass.

Reinventing Myself

One of my mentors is the dad of a close friend (who is also a mentor) who once told me that his secret to a happy and successful life is that he keeps reinventing himself. When one door closes he opens another. It’s not always easy. But then again easiness is not one of the foundational tenets of a happy life.

He now lives most of the time with his uber-energetic wife in Mexico and always has a list of things that need to get done. His nickname is Machete Mike (I don’t ask). He’s probably got 20 years on me and is a fiend on a mountain bike. I can only hope to maintain the energy and vitality of that guy. It’s a very special treat when I get to see them. His prescription for life has stuck with me and I think about it alot, as I do about his concept of reinventing himself.

Rachel and I have been undergoing stages of reinventing for several years. She’s moved up corporate ladders and grown her abilities to manage groups of people. After the Coast Guard I entered the new-to-me field of education and grew there as well. We both went from holding no degrees to several each as we sought out new directions.

One of my favorite authors wrote, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

I want to be a man who lives deliberately. Makes purposed decisions. Takes calculated risks. Isn’t afraid of change or tough calls.
I want to be a man who continues to reinvent himself. Even when it’s scary. Even when it’s uncomfortable.

In his book I’ll Show You, NBA point guard juggernaut Derrick Rose talks about covering some of the league’s most famous and skilled players. He said he got “comfortable being uncomfortable.”

I won’t say my most recent reinvention has been easy or comfortable. It’s different going from house-living to condo-living. I wake up many nights around 3am and read for an hour. Not sure why; I just wake up and the brain starts. I hear people moving sometimes in adjacent condos. It’s not loud; more a presence. The garage is alot smaller. I have to walk a little farther for Amazon deliveries and when I put trash down the chute. The e-lights in the living room seem to be magically controlled sometimes.

We’ve still got a little more stuff in storage that needs to be placed. Still have furniture to buy.

But there are also Plus Ones. The pool is huge and someone else takes really good care of it. Same with the hot tub. There are no barking dogs. We’re really close to the church we love. I feel like a big shot at the end of the day riding the elevator to the 4th floor (sometimes I sneak down the stairs and come back up the elevator to impress the neighbors. I think the flip-flops give me away). I feel like a bigger big shot enjoying my after-work-day martini (gin of course) on the balcony overlooking the grounds and pool. I can ride my bike to the Big Gym, or go to the one here.

I’m sure there are people who would have bet alot of money that I would have never sold the House of Wales. The enormous river rock fireplace, wood floors, pool, hot tub, gardens; we made it a special type of home, one project at a time. Many many hours of labor went into making it an enviable home.

My parents are still in their same house after 62 years. My dad hand-dug the foundation.

Maybe I haven’t reinvented all domestic life. It still takes me about 10 minutes to make the bed (What! Shams are hard!) I still do my morning chores of trash, dishes, floors.

Sometimes it seems like we’ve been reinventing for years. Downsizing. Donating. Trashing. Preparing. It felt a little different when we bought the Baby House in Mesa. That felt like (and is) a resort. It is (for now at least) our vacation home.

But our condo is our real home now. When we say home, we mean here. Even though we love it, there is an awareness of change, difference, learning, and getting used to new things.

We recognized the process of change the last time we were at the House of Wales. We paused after wiping down everything one last time to hug and remember all the lives we touched there. We talked about memories, cried, laughed, and I said a prayer of blessing that the new owners would find as much adventure there as we did.

We said goodbye and thanked it for being a good house.
It felt like the right thing to do.
We’re on to a new adventure.

Time to open the next door.

I’m not gonna lie. I’m a bit nervous about what comes next. I can feel it. It’s out there. Vibrating. And moving toward me. It might be what’s keeping me awake at night. My next purpose, my next reinvention is already on the way. I have no freaking idea what it is.

Yikes.