High School Reunion

Last weekend was my 30th High School Reunion and I don’t get it. None of my classmates showed up. Instead, they all sent their parents in their place!

Seriously it was a great time. It seemed to me that everyone was more relaxed than at previous reunions. Maybe we have finally gotten to a place in life where we are going to just be ourselves no matter what people think. Or maybe we just don’t really remember one another and we pretend that we do. Or maybe it was just me who doesn’t care any more and can’t remember anyone.

That’s not true though. While there were a few that I honestly don’t remember at all, there were a few who I would have recognized anywhere. In the middle of a conversation, I noticed Doug walk by and made a mental note to be sure to say hello to him.

As soon as the opportunity presented itself, I walked up to Doug, looked him in the eye and said with confidence, “I don’t remember a lot of people here, but I sure remember you.” Without looking at his nametag, I asked, “How are you, Mike?”

I thought he would burst with laughter as he pointed to his nametag and said, “I am Doug. Mike is my brother.”

I know my face was red, but it was way too funny for me to be embarrassed for long.

It was interesting to notice my feelings around my old friends. Thirty years ago, when we were together all the time, we were teenagers with all the hormones and emotional overload that goes with it. Talk about intense feelings! When I felt my stomach do the little flip thing, I asked myself what it was all about and realized that I was reliving some of those old feelings both good and bad. When I realized it, I gave the feelings a 48-year-old kick in the pants. No one knows what I’m feeling. No one can see inside me. And I am not the same person I was 30 years ago… and neither are they.

We have some special memories that only we can share and friendships that will remain for our whole lives. I am blessed!

Fathers Day Thoughts

Today is Fathers Day in the United States. I am proud to be the father of four wonderful young ladies. It feels good to be the dad. There’s a lot of responsibility that goes with being the dad, but there’s a whole dimension to life that I would miss, were it not for my daughters.I share something different with each of them and so we all connect on different levels. The cool thing is that we all connect, and that makes life sweet for me. We have been through good times and bad, and I am sure that there are good times and hard times to come. I aim to make the best of all of them. To squeeze every drop of goodness each moment has to offer.

My girls have taken me to the hard fundamental “why” questions that I never gave myself permission to ask. When I was a child, I didn’t ask those kind of questions because I needed to be accepted, to fit in. Whatever it took to “fit in the box”. When I became an adult, I stayed in my comfort zone; busy with learning how to make a living, and I still didn’t ask “those questions”. It was enough to assimilate to the group’s beliefs.

One by one, my ladies entered teenagerhood and pushed back hard on my box of beliefs. They were asking me the hard questions like: What do we believe? Why do we believe that? How do we know we are right? How can a loving God…? Oh boy! I was suddenly faced with the questions that I had ignored and pushed down deep inside me, except it wasn’t just about me anymore. It was the ones I love more than life itself. My love was bigger than my discomfort and I started searching for answers for them… encouraging them to ask the questions… and allowing my long-held beliefs to be put to the test. Some of my beliefs have come through unscathed, some have been discarded as somewhat less than true, others as lies. The jury is still out on the lion’s share of them. For every answer I get, there are usually three or more new questions that come with it… but I keep asking. And the asking is rich even when I don’t get the answers. It’s ok to be honest about that.

No one knows you like family. And it is not a given that you will be loved in spite of yourself… and yet that is where I find myself; loved in spite of my shortcomings. Thank you for pushing me. Thank you for loving me in spite of me. Thank you for hugging me and telling me that I am a good dad. I need that. (That feels very vulnerable to write. Will I have the courage to post it on the web?). Thank you for showing me that I don’t have to have all the answers in order to be a good dad.

I am a blessed and thankful man today because I am so proud to be your dad. Happy Fathers Day to me!

Free Stuff

I gotta tell you, I like free stuff. I am using several free software programs that are quite useful and I’d like to share them with you. Hope you find something useful… If you have some you would like to add, leave a comment. Here goes…Audacity is a very cool audio file editor. You can use it to edit wav files, mp3 files, probably more types too, but that’s all I’ve done with it. I now have a way to “rip” my old LP albums to wav files on the computer, then I can create mp3’s or burn them to CD. When I copy the music onto my hard drive it’s a big wav file, so I use audacity to break it into the individual tracks and to edit out some of the really bad pops and clicks. http://audacity.sourceforge.net/

CDex is a program that works well for ripping CD’s or converting audio wav files to mp3. http://cdexos.sourceforge.net

CutePDF is a program you can use to create PDF files. These are the files that open with Adobe Acrobat Reader. http://www.cutepdf.com/

Eraser is a utility that erases your hard drive completely by overwriting it several times with carefully selected patterns. http://www.heidi.ie/eraser/

FileZilla is for FTP access. If you don’t know what that means, you probably don’t need it. http://filezilla.sourceforge.net

Finale NotePad is a music writing program. The freebee version is pretty rudimentary, but you can fiddle around with it if you don’t do much music writing. http://www.finalemusic.com/

Firefox web browser is way cooler than Internet Explorer. http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/

KeePass is a password program. It’s like a safe that you keep all of your passwords in. It even generates secure passwords. All you have to do is remember the one password to get into your password file, or you are hosed! I used to signup for everything on the web using the same id and password (not a very good idea). Not anymore. Get a copy and give it a try… http://keepass.sourceforge.net/

Lavasoft Adaware finds spyware and adware on your computer and removes it. http://lavasoft.com/ – be sure to look for the word “Free”

Personal Ancestry File (PAF) is a genealogy program that is provided for free by the LDS (Morman church). I do not subscribe to their teachings, but they have a darned good genealogy program and the price is right. You have to give them your name and address in order to download it, but I’ve never been contacted by them. http://www.familysearch.org/

  • Click on “Order Download Products”
  • Then click on “Software Downloads – Free”
  • Choose “Personal Ancestral File 5.2.nn.n …”

Powertoys for Windows XP is a collection of XP addons that Microsoft wrote, but doesn’t bundle with XP, nor do they offer support… which begs the question, what do they support? My favorites are:

  • Image Resizer – Resizes images that you choose from Windows Explorer
  • Open Command Window Here – Opens a “cmd” window from Windows Explorer in the context of the current folder where you choose it.
  • Tweak UI – Let’s you change lots of user settings that are hidden otherwise

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys.mspx

The Panorama Factory is a program that allows you to stitch photographs together to make a single panoramic shot. Not bad for free. Wait a minute, I have version 1.6 that was free, but their web site no longer offers it. Looks like the latest version is $70. There are some cool samples that folks have uploaded. Worth the trip to the web site, I think http://www.panoramafactory.com/

WinDirStat is a program that shows you graphically what’s on your disk drives (or media cards). You can quickly see the files that are large, just click on the boxes to see the details. http://windirstat.sourceforge.net/

A mess

I was looking at a photo of my paternal grandparents this morning and wondering who they really were. Oh, I knew them (My grandmother just died last hear), but I didn’t really know them. I don’t think they even knew themselves.

I am full of feelings; joys, fears, doubts, questions. Sometimes I feel like I’m right where God wants me to be and doing just what he has for me… other times, I am paralyzed with fear for no apparent reason.

What

did

they

fear?

After going through the Great Depression, I am sure that having shelter and enough food was a driving fear. Frugal would be a great understatement. What else was there? Did they talk about their feelings to one another? They showed me that they had it all together. Being a child, I believed that. I believed that one day, I too would have it all together. I would know who I am, what I believe and where I am going.

It was a lie.

I don’t have it together and don’t believe they did either. They reduced life to a few simple rules. Follow those rules and you get a get-out-of-hell-free card at the end of your life. I think there is more to life than that. More to following God than that.

Do I sound disrespectful? I don’t mean to. They were who they were.

Now that sounds like a copout. I don’t mean it to. I guess I am resigned to the fact that I will never know what happened to them. What were their joys, their sorrows, their hurts and fears? What made them feel on top of the world? It would help me to know who I am. There’s something comforting in the thought that I’m not the first one to feel the things I feel, to struggle with the tendencies I struggle with, to fear the things I fear and to wrestle with the questions I do.

Dear Family and Friends,

I am a mess. I do not have all the answers and it seems like every time I wrestle with a big question and get an answer, it comes bundled with more questions I hadn’t even considered before. I am afraid. I fear failure. I fear success (does that sound weird?). I want more than anything to follow God… not some impersonal god idea… I want to follow the God of the Bible.

First and foremost I want to be identified as a follower of Christ, but I don’t like the baggage that comes with that label.

I am a mess. But Jesus loves me anyway. That is the good news. Although I cannot earn his love, I want to serve him because I do love him. I want to love in a revolutionary, radical way.

I want you to come along. Let’s explore this life together and help one another. I love you.