Friday, December 28, 2007

New Profile >>>

Welcome to “The 25 Year Plan.” This, my first blog, was created on December 18, 2005 as a means to keep my writing fresh during the five week break in between the fall and spring semesters at California State University, Sacramento. Entering as a junior journalism major in September 2005 at 43 years old, I was considered a “non-traditional” student. On December 22, 2007, I was awarded my Bachelor of Arts degree in not just journalism, but the dual major of government-journalism. I graduated magnum cum laude just after my 45th birthday - more than 26 years after graduating from high school. This blog has evolved over its short life and now enjoys the flagship position among a number of other sources of my published work. It has become reflective, inspirational and purpose driven. It is living proof that anything is possible and it is never too late. There is no telling what lies around the next turn, but consider this an open invitation to ride along. It’s been a hell of a ride so far…

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ringing out the old...

Just about this time last year, I wrote a year-end review piece. It was a brief reflection on what the year had meant to me. In short, I had an amazing year. I even ranked it among the top-five best years ever - and indeed it was. It is important, I think, to qualify just what that means, however. There are some once-in-a-lifetime events that usually occur during the same period in everyone’s life. Coming of age… the first kiss (and other firsts)… marriage… the birth of children… and other similar singularly momentous events in each of our lives are the source of life-long memories. I have had those and the years in which they occurred were also very good years - still, even so many years later.

But I can’t say with any certainty what else happened in those years. In other words, it was a single event that identified the quality of the passing year. And, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t in the habit of documenting the quality or lack thereof of the passing years until very recently. Oh, sure I would take a quick look over my shoulder each New Year’s Eve, but I never gave much thought to what was - only what wasn’t. Usually I was only too happy to see the old year breathe its last breath. This year was a good year, and I can say that with a definitive measuring stick - my 2006 “Year in Review.”

If a period of time is measured for it’s overall quality, it must involve some element of consistency. Not every day was what one would call a banner day. Most, in fact, were more of same… diligently working through each day, accomplishing what needed to be done and sometimes a little more, and building upon the prior day’s work. Some days were exceptionally good, others not so much. Most were satisfying and complete. It has been a very long time since I have had a “bad” day. Although there were some singular, memorable events, this last year was the best ever not because of them, but because of the work that preceded them.

It has been a year - no, two years - of solid and consistent effort that was the means that created these ends. It’s not rocket science; one day at a time, day in and day out, I have done the simple things that have to be done and the results have far exceeded anything I ever dreamt possible. I’m not just talking about the academic achievements or the earning my Bachelor of Arts degree, but also the relationships I have built, re-built and reinforced. There are people in my life today that are genuine, authentic and all remarkable in there own right. Some are new friends, many are family and some are associations built through my writing - all are important.

That is what I am truly most grateful for. I’ll miss 2007 - but it prepared me for 2008.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


It’s all done. The last word of my last paper for my last class of my undergraduate career has been printed. I am done. Not “done except…” or “all I gotta do now is…” or “it’s almost over now…” nope, I am done. Done-done. Over. Finished with college - just seconds before midnight on December 20th. I can’t quite get my head wrapped around it… all those papers, all that reading and the hours in class taking notes… it all comes down to a piece of paper that says I did it! I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree. It was a feat I thought was beyond my diligence.

But it wasn’t. It feels like just yesterday I started back down this path I had abandoned so many years before. It all comes down to a perfectly boring essay on political theory… 1,600 boring words about whether deliberation can promote cosmopolitanism. The short answer? Yes and no - like anything else in political science, it is wide open to argument. And it doesn’t matter at all - for me, right now, it represents one and only one thing. The end.

For now it is time to bask in the accomplishment. Soon it will be time to see what’s next. Stay tuned…

BTW: I am looking for work...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Will Work for Serenity

Two years ago today, the 25 Year Plan was born. Actually, the plan has been in the works for… well, about 25 years, but the blog was created on December 18, 2005. And when I say plan I don’t want to sound as though I had actually looked into the coming years of my life and came up with something resembling the past 25 years. If I knew when I was 20 what was coming, I would have run for cover.

But we don’t get to know and even the best-laid plans can go astray. Indeed, the only thing predictable about life is its total unpredictability. But that doesn’t mean one should just blow with the wind; that I cannot take steps toward an end; that everything that comes at me has to be met with an emergency response. If there is a theme for past four or five years, it has been about making my life more stable.

In this respect there has been a plan, but it is not specific with certain ‘benchmarks’ (I used to like that word, but it has become somewhat overused of late). Oh, sure, there are definitely milestones along the way… unmistakable signs of progress and recognition of the culmination of so much extended effort, but these are the ends - not the means. There have been a number of insights along the way and one of the most profound is the realization that nothing comes all at once. It used to be the magic formula I so desperately sought, the fountain of youth, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the buried treasure.

The problem with instant gratification is that it only lasts for an instance - and then it takes more. Working to do what is required on a daily basis rewards me with the knowledge that I have completed those tasks. The long-term benefit of sustaining this effort is not what motivates me - it can’t be. However, when those moments arrive, it has the effect of reinforcing this characteristic and amplifying my gratitude. Often they come in rapid succession, as they are right now.

Two years of sustained blogging brings me this two-year anniversary. It took exactly two years to get to celebrate it - go figure. My last post was the 300th such for this blog. It didn’t come without the 299 preceding posts. On December 6th I celebrated 45 years on the planet. Guess what? That’s right, it didn’t happen without surviving the prior 44 years - and that was no small feat. This coming Saturday I will graduate with my Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Sacramento. That took a long time, but it happened one day at a time.

I guess my message isn’t entirely revolutionary, although it might appear to be to some (myself included). It has to do with those age-old qualities… the ones my parents taught me and theirs taught them. Perseverance, patience, hard work, honesty, and all those other qualities that have been considered “good” for eternity still are. And they still work. Crime sometimes does pay and cheaters still often prosper, but I’m doing it the old-fashioned way; the right way and perhaps even the hard way; I’m working for my serenity…

And you can’t steal that.

Friday, December 14, 2007


It has been quite a while since I have written for the 25 Year Plan. It might even be, at eight days, a record respite for this blog. Its two-year anniversary is just four days away and it is about time I wrote something to post here. This piece also marks my 300th such post to be published here. Perhaps a little reflection is in order… back to my blog roots, as it were. Ahhh, but where to begin? As usual, there is no telling where this may lead, but if you will so indulge me - the rabbit hole is, once again, right this way…

December 18, 2005 was the beginning of an exceedingly long winter break after my first semester at California State University, Sacramento. I had transferred as a junior journalism major after completing three semesters at American River College - the local junior college. And 20+ years, on and off (mostly off), at various other schools. My more recent grades were exceptional and I was on fire. Waiting for five weeks until the spring semester started seemed like an eternity.

My beginning journalism professor introduced me to the blogosphere. Actually, all he did was mention that he had a blog… I found it and discovered how easy it would be to start my own. It’s not as though I had never heard of a blog - I had a vague idea of what one was and I knew that they were gaining in popularity at a logarithmic pace. I resisted for a while, but my need to continue writing, and more so, to be published pushed me to take what turned out to be a very rewarding leap of faith.

Today, almost exactly two years later, I have attended my very last class session as an undergraduate. Internally it was a profound moment, but externally it was just the last class of another semester. Strictly business. There was a lecture - I took notes. It was exactly the same thing I have done in countless other classes throughout the past several years. There is still finals week next week, but the only final I have this semester is a “take-home” test. It’s due Wednesday and the last essay in another class is due Friday. That’s it, I’m done. Saturday I graduate with lots of accoutrements adorning my gown.

I have written thousands and thousands of words here and elsewhere. Many have been published in ways other than through the blogosphere. Much of it I have been paid for. I am still humbled that someone would actually pay me for my writing, but I’m starting to get used to it. Soon my career as an undergraduate will be complete and I will be writing professionally full-time. Freelancing has been nice and interesting, but I’m looking forward to a regular paycheck. And as the great cycle of seniority completes yet another lap, I’ll be once again at the bottom of the heap working my way up.

On Monday, I will be announcing, hopefully, where my bylines can be found next. Until then, I am taking a much needed and well-deserved breather. I have two items - only two - with a deadline attached before I graduate next week. They are important and not exactly easy, but I have ample time and a track record that gives me the space I need to relax. Tomorrow the Harley comes out of the garage for the first time in weeks. For the first time in a long time, first I ride, then I write.

Write Hard
Die Free

Thursday, December 06, 2007


Ok, I’m up now. Almost 1:30 p.m., and I’m up and about. It is not the first, or second or even third time I have been up today, but this time I’m staying up. Sleep has been a dubious luxury of late… my time has been stretched to the limit, but for now I am caught up. There is more coming - there’s always more coming, but for now I can take a little breather. Maybe I can get my equilibrium back. Perhaps tonight I can get to bed at a reasonable hour and sleep all the way through the night.

It’s a rainy, gloomy and wet December day in Sacramento. I have only two essays, a take home final, a photography portfolio and a column (this column) left to complete before I graduate with honors from California State University, Sacramento with a bachelor of arts degree in government-journalism. December 22 will be the pinnacle of a quest that has taken me to places both far and wide - figuratively and literally. It has been a quest that has spanned no less than 25 years. Today I turned 45.

Milestones such as these are cause for reflection and these sleepless nights are due in part, I am sure, to some of that. However, with the rapidly approaching conclusion of my undergraduate career, it is also a time to look forward. It is a time for optimism, but with uncertainty comes a certain degree of trepidation. I have been comfortable these past few years. Indeed, I know how to be a student. (Some may say it’s about time, but that’s a story for another time.) This uncertainty isn’t limited to my own future and where my path will lead me next - indeed, there are a multitude of good ideas and only a handful of bad - but in many respects it is spawned by a general restlessness that can be felt throughout the world.

Closer to home, there is an upcoming presidential election. Our nation is in dire need of competent leadership. This time there are more candidates than I can ever recall running and I cannot say that any of them is giving me much hope. We are in the midst of a housing crisis the magnitude of which, the experts say, is unprecedented - and the worst is yet to come. The nation is polarized based of false ideology where the most significant difference between Republicans and Democrats is how they spell their party’s name. And then there’s that pesky little undeclared war that has claimed nearly 4,000 American soldiers’ lives and maimed countless others.

More than entering the work force to begin yet another career, I am asking myself what I can do beyond making a living. In 45 years, I have seen some bad times and I have seen some good. The nation and the world are at the same time both better off and worse. We have taken a thousand steps forward in places and in others our feet have remained firmly anchored in cement. The United States has grown more powerful and prosperous than any other nation in recorded history - and in record time. I have seen nations built and borders dissolve, heroism and tyranny, compassion and cruelty. The question still remains: What can I do?

Although the answer isn’t anywhere near crystal clear, one piece of it absolutely is - write about it. If not for those of us running the show today, perhaps for our children who will be steering us tomorrow. For our grandchildren who will be paying for our foibles and for anyone who is a seeker, thirsty for perspective, hungry for knowledge - the words, others and mine, will be there. We did not achieve what we have due to our own brilliance. It came from the generations upon generations of our predecessors. Where we gleaned their knowledge and wisdom, we have thrived and where we have failed to study their mistakes, we have failed miserable.

What can I do? Maybe it means nothing today, but perhaps my children, my grandchildren and countless generations of successive great grandchildren will benefit from my experience written here and elsewhere. By myself and by others. By the scribes, the philosophers, the thinkers and the journalists.

Maybe they will read what I wrote.

On this wet, rainy, gloomy December day in Sacramento.

On my 45th birthday, 6 December 2007.

Another Year Older

I am 45 years old today. I’m not sure how I feel about it… I’ll have to sleep on it.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Small Hours

This is getting to be something of an annoying habit. I am not a morning person, yet here I am in front of my computer at 6 a.m. once again. I don’t really want to write, but apparently I need to. Actually, I know I need to… I always need to, but there is usually something specific looming. It could be an essay for a class, a term paper, a column, and of course there is always a deadline breathing down my neck. That kind of writing goes with the territory - that’s what I do and some of it I get paid for.

But none of that, or at least the vast majority of it, requires that I wake up before the sun rises. Even the news doesn’t usually happen this early… if I’m reporting and writing at this hour, it’s because the story is not finished from last night. Those covering last month's fires in Southern California were up reporting, shooting and writing at this hour not as the start of a new day, but the as the continuation of yesterday or, perhaps, the day before. Although I have only briefly experienced that kind of reporting, I know enough to know that I wouldn’t be complaining - that’s the stuff I live for.

But not this. This is an urgency of a much different kind. There is nothing exciting about it. Insightful? Sure. Introspective? Absolutely. Will I be proud of the output? Experience tells me so - the proverbial “creative juices” are definitely flowing. I just wish they would decide to secrete at a more reasonable hour. Sometimes. But perhaps this is how I am wired - not a morning person but still one who gets the call from… somewhere in the small hours of the morning. Today I didn’t resist - much. I’ve only been fighting it for about an hour. A couple of days ago, I was not so compliant. I didn’t give up - I stayed in bed. But I didn’t get to go back to sleep either.

The irony is that I do have some very pressing matters to get done. There are three assignments due in three of my four classes on Monday morning. None are particularly difficult, but all require some time to produce the kind of output I desire. I was up late last night writing the first of those assignments, a three to five page essay on St. Thomas Aquinas and his idea of “natural law.” It’s pretty deep stuff, but the assignment is too short to go into very much depth. The professor is looking for understanding of Aquinas and his philosophy - not groundbreaking analysis that will lead to a new theory of the nature of God. I can handle it - and finished about two thirds of it about four or five hours ago.

The other two are really not much effort for me, but both will require a little time to do the reading, research and write. As usual, I have left myself just enough time to complete them. Actually, if I have a 24-hour clock, there is more than enough time to finish. There are only a handful of assignments left between my bachelor’s degree and me. I can almost… almost coast through it. But there is still just enough rope to hang myself. I can still, even after the hours upon hours, month in and month out and year after year of not only doing the work but doing it exceedingly well - I can still screw it up. It is, or was, my MO, after all.

Fortunately, there is every reason to believe it will be different this time. Self-destruction wasn’t my only modus operandi, there were others and to say that everything is different now would be an understatement. The things I have done to get here represent major operation changes in not only how I do things (or that I do them), but also how I view life in general. As a result, I have been running this “lucky” streak for more than three years - even longer depending on one’s point of view. And to a large extent, it is this outlook that has made the difference. Even if the exact same idiot cuts me off in traffic today, I do not have to take it personally and it doesn’t have to ruin an otherwise perfect day. It really is that simple. As far as I’m concerned - it’s worth an occasional early morning or some restless nights.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Word Slinger

I didn't sleep much last night. It's not often that I find myself so restless, but once in a while it seems as though the words just come at me without mercy. The ability to arrange these symbols - these letters and punctuation marks - in a way that makes some sense is both a blessing and a curse. There are too many times when I am just not into it. But the words keep coming and if I don't transmit them to writing, there is no rest.

Human beings are unique in that we have the ability to recognize - and question - our own existence. Dogs don't. Monkeys don't. Even whales, as far as we can tell, don't. Only we are gifted with the ability to torment ourselves so completely. When disassembled, the "big question" is really nothing more than an infinite number of little questions. What is my purpose? What makes one thing right and another wrong? What is love and why do I need it? Good questions all, and all but impossible to answer. Yet philosophers, clerics, seekers of wisdom and just about everyone else have ventured out on a personal quest for truth. Or a quest for personal truth.

In some respects, we are far more knowledgeable than ever before. Science has solved many of the mysteries of the world, but there are still some that cannot be answered. Why do people do what they do? What are we driven by? Is there anything else? At times it seems as though the answers are just out of reach. Last night and in the small hours of this morning, I almost had a grasp of it. Maybe not the answer, but at least I had some insight to what might have been a path toward an answer. The words were flying at me. I collected them and stored them, meaning to record them later…

And later never came. Although my exhaustion is partially physical, much of it is due to wasted mental, emotional and perhaps even spiritual energy. I should have dragged myself out of bed and wrote - it is, after all, what I do. I should have poured the words out as they came, letting a fabric of understanding take shape. It is the method to the madness and I know it. But there are times when the burden is too great. There are times when I might not want to know what is coming to me and I resist. These words are a feeble attempt at seeking relief that will not come.

I never wanted to be a writer. Of all the talents that I could have been graced with, writing was not anywhere near the top of my list. It is, however, mine. It took a very long time to recognize it and even longer to embrace it. Often the words are known… I get the story and then re-tell it. There is a path, a beginning, middle and an end. But when the words come from out of nowhere, I never know what will appear before me until it's there. It's like magic.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving More Than Thanks

FAIR OAKS, Calif. - Dawn, Thanksgiving Day morning. At 37 degrees, it is cold for these parts. The world is quiet - there is much to be grateful for. These pages, for almost two years and in many of nearly 300 posts, have reflected this irrefutable fact. Personally to be sure, my lot in life has improved beyond what I ever dreamed possible. Just a few short years ago, my imagination wasn’t that big… I didn’t even dare hope for what has proven to be a life beyond my wildest dreams.

I used to believe that fame and fortune, or at least fortune, would bring contentedness. Although even in my younger years the evidence did not support this notion, there are even more profound examples today. I thought happiness was an externally influenced reality… that stuff would make me whole. It never did. It never could. I never knew. It seemed so simple: Get what I want when I want it and happiness followed. Unfortunately or not, gain without pain is a rather hollow victory and never satisfying. Stuff is a byproduct of happiness, success follows effort, effort creates worth and all of that brings all that stuff that I thought I needed so badly. I like my stuff, but is has nothing to do with who I am.

The list of gratitude is endless. I give thanks on a daily basis. Of late, it is not so much for the material items in my life, but more for those intangible qualities that have created them. Success can be measured in a number of ways. Today I am most grateful for the people in my life. My friends and family have always meant the world to me… but today I am part of that world. It is beautifully simple. I am now a participant in my own life; I am not just watching it go by. By placing one foot ahead of the other and living one day at a time, I have found peace in my world.

And my world is a subset of our world, a world that is in desperate need of more peace. There is plenty wrong in the world today, but if one looks hard enough, there is plenty right as well. It is my business to keep an eye on the government and this one has kept me busy. But even with all the mistakes, some of them monumental, no administration is bigger than this nation or, perhaps more accurately, the people of America. We, as a nation, have worked hard, sacrificed much and above all persevered even when there was not much hope. And we made it.

These are characteristics that Americans for generations have held close. There are times when it appears that we have perhaps become too comfortable, that we are resting on our collective laurels… that we are moving towards national retirement. Perhaps there is some truth to this perception; maybe with the ebb and flow of social evolution, we are facing generational indifference. Could it be that the apathy I was living is reflective of a population on cruise control? Maybe, but it is never too late to wake up and get moving. I am certain that my greatest days are ahead of me and likewise, so are America’s.

It helps if you believe it. So on Thanksgiving today, let us not only give thanks and reflect on how fortunate we are, let us also rededicate ourselves to our greatness personally… and nationally. Let us show the world not how powerful we are, but how benevolent America’s people are. Let’s remember our strength is not in our size or our wealth but in our compassion and our generosity. And let us not forget that it was the sacrifice and work of our predecessors to whom we owe our good fortune. Give thanks, yes, but also give your word, your sweat and your dedication, for these are the qualities that made this nation great. Our best days are still ahead of us.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Self-Imposed Deadlines

It has been a long time since I have written anything for this blog. Although it is true that I have been busy and also true that I recently dealt with illness that kept me down for a few days, these are not good excuses. I have been meaning to write here almost everyday and I have even had some compelling words swirling in my head. I just have not felt sufficiently motivated of late to commit them to paper (or its electronic equivalent). I have even given myself personal “deadlines” and what I have re-learned is as simple as it ever was: Without consequences, a deadline is nothing more than a good intention.

And I am not happy to say that for the first time in many months, I have missed a deadline. During my recent bout with bronchitis, I simply didn’t have it in me to get a column written by its due date. I had the assignment before I got sick and if I had written it right away, I would have met the deadline, but I don’t work that way. This one instance isn’t likely to change that either. In this case, since it was a school assignment and not for a publication, the consequences are not nearly as dire. If more was on the line, who knows? Maybe I would have found the energy to drag my butt out of bed and write it.

That assignment is for my latest blog, “Home of the Free.” It has become a more regular source of publication for me and it has truly been my saving grace. Although significantly more structured than what I write here, it has also been a great source of pride for me. I really like what I have come up with, how I have presented my arguments and what it has allowed me to do while staying within the confines of the assignments. The missed deadline probably won’t affect my grade much, if at all, as it is an isolated instance in an otherwise perfect record.

But I still miss writing here and more so, the visits from my regular readers. I also miss visiting all those blogs on my link list as well as a few others. I know how the blog world is and I have seen blogs come and I have seen them go in my nearly two years blogging. Rest assured, I am not going anywhere, but I have been silent and derelict in my reciprocation. Those who do not travel do not get visited. I will be making my rounds soon enough, but for now I can only leave this brief, rambling and sincere post.

Right now, it's all I’ve got.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Presents and Presence

There are times in life when its focus is not so clear. Even in what is, in comparison and by every measure, a well-ordered life, sometimes it isn’t as “hands-on,” as proactive or profound as it is automatic. Indeed, even when all seems right in the world - or at least in my world - the real essence of life almost becomes a dubious luxury. And then in the midst of it, when all is both fine and dandy, when everything is going just swimmingly, it hits me.

There is so much more.

I don’t want to sit here and devalue “the good life;” if anyone has reason to be grateful, it is I. The lack of chaos, the elimination of drama and the general peace in my life are all very much, and often, appreciated. It hasn’t been that long - I didn’t forget what it used to be like. But there are moments that make it clear that as good as everything is, there is way more and in my zest to acknowledge and appreciate all that has changed, there are the little things that make it all so much better.

Recently, I have been a solid presence in not one, not two, but all three of my boys’ lives. And as I have recently written here, at 23, 20 and 18, they are all legal adults now. I guess that it is true that I am always there and equally true that I have always tried to do my best by them, but right now - all at once - I feel as though my aid is being sought out, appreciated and needed. A small part is financial, but it’s not the money but what it is doing - and money is a very small piece of the picture. My kids are starting to become self-realized and it is my strength they are drawing from.

And in these past several days, in what is really only a series of moments, I have made a profound difference in their lives simply by being their father. It isn’t really about what I know, or some “Father Knows Best” wisdom, or that I might be able to get them over a financial hump… it’s about my being present in their lives. I am there no matter what and they know it. More importantly, I know it. And that is a very good feeling. It’s better than all the external validation in the world. There are only three men whose respect means so much to me - and they all call me Dad.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Days Will Come

Monday is typically the busiest day of my week. All four of my classes this semester meet on Monday and some things are coming due… the semester is already half-over! Some grades have been trickling in and although by now it shouldn’t surprise me anymore, I am still amazed by how well I am doing. There is an exception, however, to an otherwise uninterrupted string of very good grades - my score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). I can’t say I am surprised by my dismal showing - I got pretty much what I put into it - but it is a bit of a disappointment all the same.

What it means is still unclear. I have been having second, third and fourth thoughts about whether I want to commit to three years of law school at all, and although I will probably still apply to the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, there is no guarantee that I’ll be accepted. And even if I am, the likelihood that I will in turn accept an invitation is in a great deal of doubt. There are other avenues that I view as more favorable on a number of levels.

In the meantime, it’s back to the grind, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I like the informal and non-routine routine that my life is. No longer flying by the seat of my pants, that was the norm not so many years ago, there is still an element of uncertainty - I am not a nine to five guy and this is no nine to five gig. Yet, there is far more predictability and stability than there ever was, and that is comforting. In December one chapter comes to a close and in January a new one begins. It has yet to be written.

It is a beautiful autumn day on the campus of Sac State. The sun is shining, the squirrels are scurrying about and there are students everywhere, probably enjoying the mid-semester lull. It’s a balmy 74 degrees with only the slightest hint of a breeze. But the storm is coming; finals, term papers and the usual madness that comes with the changing of the season is on the way. Days will come and days will go - I am ready.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Seven Years

October 17th has become an anniversary that is as important to me as my birthday. Indeed, as the years pass, it has become even more so. October 17, 2000 was the day my life nearly ended and, in many respects, it was the day it began. Seven years ago today, I had no idea that just 24 hours away my purgatory awaited. It turned out to be a place between life and death that I have heard about, but until then, never experienced.

While it is true that I have had many “brushes” with death, they always remained what can only be described as “close calls.” Some years ago, I became aware that I have a deadly allergic reaction to a common over-the-counter medication. The first indication was the rapid onset of anaphylactic shock - if I did not have the wits to seek medical aid in time… well, they said the end would was only about 15 minutes away. Close enough? Not really. It was a fleeting moment and recovery was almost immediate. Many of us have experienced at least one close call at some point in our lives. Perhaps it was on the road, while engaged in some recreational activity or just from the things that come at us - and just miss - through the course of our lives.

October 17, 2000 was not a close call. It was a direct hit. Circumstances in my life had me perpetually off-balance. Exasperated by a lifestyle that can only be described as reactive, I was always “catching up” and as a result often found myself sleep-deprived. The morning of October 17th was not particularly unusual - I was tired and running late. I had to get my younger two boys to school and myself to work. In fact, it was a good day for my sons to be “sick,” a condition I not so subtly suggested to them. At 11 and 13, they were old enough to stay home while I was at work.

My 11 year-old readily took the bait - any day home from school is a good day. My 13 year-old, however, was still smarting from a tongue-lashing I delivered some days before. Although he acknowledged that maybe he was not feeling well, he didn’t want to get even more behind at school. He didn't want to disappoint me. Then he turned the tables on me by saying what I would often say to him when he claimed to be sick, “I’m not too sick to go to school.” Of course, I had no choice but to get him there, better late than not at all.

It wasn’t as though I didn’t think I could make it, I had made the trip from our home in Truckee to Squaw Valley more times than I can remember. I just didn’t want to. Hell, I didn’t even want to go to work, I was tired. But I had to do both and I didn’t give it a second thought. Running around like the proverbial chicken with its head cut off, I finally hit the road. I guess with the stress of finally getting under way relieved, I felt somewhat relaxed. Driving through Truckee and turning onto Highway 89 towards Tahoe City was my last clear memory for about five weeks.

Just about a mile before Squaw Valley, my vehicle crossed over into the opposite lane and directly into the path of a fully loaded logging truck. According to all accounts, I was sound asleep at the wheel. The truck driver said he sounded his horn several times, but my vehicle just kept coming. He moved as far to the right as he could, but it wasn’t enough - the front left corner of my car struck the front left corner of the big-rig at a combined impact speed estimated at more than 100 miles per hour. My Jeep Cherokee (a rental, but that’s another story) was predictably totaled and unrecognizable. The Peterbuilt tractor pulling the logs was also totaled; logs and debris were strewn across both lanes of Highway 89 over several hundred yards.

And I was totaled. My son escaped with minor physical injuries and the logging truck driver did as well. All of us were wearing our seatbelts and the Jeep, at least, was equipped with airbags. My injuries included: A compound left femur fracture; a compound, open pelvis fracture; a lacerated liver; a lacerated kidney; and a lacerated femoral artery. I was taken by ambulance to Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee where they stabilized me for the helicopter flight to Washoe Medical Center in Reno. I remember none of it until I was taken off the helicopter in Reno.

By that time, I had already taken something like 16 units of blood. To put that into perspective, the average body only holds about eight. I was losing it as fast as they could put it in. The first fuzzy memory I have is of the trauma surgeon on duty asking me to wiggle my toes and squeeze his finger. At the time I was oblivious and the lights quickly went out again. I had more foggy memories that I can today link up with the reality that spawned them. It is absolutely amazing what trauma, shock and opiates can do to one’s perception of reality. But there were other recollections as well. As weird as the “reality” based memories were, the “other” ones were out of this world.

And I might mean that quite literally, I really can’t say. I believe this was a near-death experience, as in I experienced what happens at the time of death - but came back. Before we go on, I must make some things absolutely clear. I am not some follower of psychic mumbo-jumbo. I don’t believe in horoscopes, tarot cards, palm readers or any of that other stuff. It is still true today. Although I can’t say with certainty, I do believe there is more to existence than just the physical world we are in. It cannot, however, be proven to my satisfaction by myself or anyone else. It is only a belief, and I am ok with it. I think there is more to this whole life thing than meets the eye.

I used to proclaim myself to be an atheist. Indeed, I was an evangelical atheist - it wasn’t enough that I didn’t believe, I had to convince you that you did not either. I wasn’t exactly on a mission, but I never passed up the opportunity to engage anyone regarding his or her beliefs. Today, I am not so sure what I believe and I certainly don’t have room to tell you. That makes me agnostic, if a label is even necessary. The experiences I had that cannot be linked to reality in anyway were the catalyst.

There was no bright white light, no angels playing harps and no pearly gates. There was neither an ethereal being drawing me near nor leading me away, but I was never alone. Time had no context; there was no day or night; no years; no nothing. Although there was the presence of others, there were no voices, no faces and no names. It was more like an energy that permeated everything - an energy that I was part of. I was wandering aimlessly but never lost, confused but not scared, always comfortable despite being thrust into the unfamiliar.

I don’t know if this journey lasted a second, hours or days. I do know that when I was weaned off the medication that kept me semi-conscious and immobile, five weeks had passed and hell for me was about to begin. My family was living with the gravity of the situation the entire time, and at the beginning, they did not know whether I would even live through it. Indeed, even if I did, there was no telling how much of my former self would remain. What would I remember? Would I ever walk again? How long will the rehabilitation take? I was blissfully unaware. My memory gradually got clearer until just before Thanksgiving when I re-entered the real world. They untied my restraints and removed the tracheotomy. I could move (a little) and talk.

But I had a long way to go. In time and with a lot of help, I have been able to make an almost complete recovery. I still have a steel rod and some screws in my left leg and a host of very large scars, but all things considered I was extremely lucky. Or was I? Perhaps luck had little to do with it. Again, I really don’t know, but I do have a different perspective that at the very least has made me far less arrogant, not nearly so combative and much less condescending. Furthermore, I am far more appreciative of the little things in life. It did not all happen at once, it took a lot more than a three-month hospitalization to get here.

And here is a very good place. Although the pain was monumental and the struggle to get back was the hardest thing I ever had to do, it was all worth it. I have today things I never knew I wanted and didn’t even believe really existed. No longer stumbling around in the dark, I now have a direction; a purpose in life and it isn’t necessary that I know what it is. It is an intangible but oh-so necessary part of life that I could never quite grasp before it was nearly all taken away. It isn’t about stuff or status or prestige or recognition - it’s about what’s on the inside and when the inside is at peace, the rest follows.

Life is good.

Don't believe it? Click here for the story.

Friday, October 12, 2007


It’s official. I am dragging my ass. I have a bunch of writing to do and this isn’t it. There is a story, two columns, a PR bio and an essay all due by next Tuesday or sooner. I know that in total it will only take several hours to do the work. My problem, however, is that I have more than enough time to do it. In other words… it’s not the last minute yet, what’s the rush?

This time, there is no particular harm in procrastinating. I’ll get to it, none of it is too difficult and I have an idea of where each piece will go. Some are better crystallized than others, but all in all there is nothing holding me back other than time. I like it that way. The down side is, and I’ve written about it before, the unexpected. If a surprise rears its unwelcome head, do I have the flexibility to deal with it? So far I have been able to roll with the punches and this time at least, I am sure the time is available.

Life for me is about moments. Not the planned events, the coming milestones or my view of what the future holds, but the moments. Those future events will come and in time provide moments of their own, but they are not what life is all about. It is about now. Not every now - honestly, most moments are entirely forgettable… and promptly forgotten. Some are indelibly etched into my mind for eternity, some predictably so (weddings, births, deaths, etc.) and some not some much. The point of all this is not what this perspective is, but what it means.

Today and for a little while now, I am present for those moments; those slices of time that could be as fleeting as a shooting star, as temporary as a spectacular sunset or as poignant as a tender kiss on the cheek. I never know when one will come and if I am so preoccupied by what is coming, it has been my experience that I will miss what’s there. I have put off things that have caused me discomfort (I have a load of laundry going right now) and I have waited until the discomfort was the ultimate motivating factor. But even then, the moments can materialize out of nowhere.

I received a phone call from my 23 year-old son yesterday evening. He had some stuff on his mind that he didn’t necessarily need answers to, just someone to listen. I was able to suspend what I was doing for that moment and be there for him. Will I remember it for the rest of my life? I might. Will he? Maybe. Regardless of the permanence of the memory, the moment was alive and the latent effects of being present for it will live on forever even if the specific memory fades.

In my rush to achieve the ends and my inability to stay in the present, I missed many of these moments in years gone by. Not all, that would be nearly impossible, but some of the richness granted from life was overlooked in a quest to reach the end - and win. Life is not a game and for me to live it that way only allows one outcome - I lose. It’s a loss of the moments and the memories that I carry with me. Life today is a series of one moment after another. Some are huge but all are unique and will never occur again.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

End of an Era

My youngest child, Matthew, turned 18 today. My boys are no longer children, at least in the eyes of the law. For Matthew, it means there are some major and permanent paradigmatic changes, but for the foreseeable future, his day-to-day life remains unchanged. For the next several months at least, he is still very much dependent upon me - and I am quite all right with that. But it does cause one to be reflective and in my case that means some redundancy.

I have been a single parent for most of his and his brothers’ lives. Not a single father, but a single parent. There is nothing special about my gender and this role. True, there are more women than men who have been thrust into this position, but being unusual doesn’t make me special. It’s hard no matter who you are. Although the term “dysfunctional” has become ubiquitous, our home-life has never even remotely resembled the classic picture of a “normal” family. But the love was (and is) there. In that respect at least, our family is very functional.

I don’t know how I feel about this milestone. I’m not sure what it represents. It has no immediate or even short-term repercussions, true, but it is an advanced warning of sorts. It’s almost a wake-up call that is announcing the next phase in his life - as well as mine. Again, there is precious little “typical” about where we are as a family, but it is also true that regardless of the adversity - and there has been significant adversity - we are still cohesive. No matter the missteps, the bad luck or misfortune… and the blessings, for there have been plenty of those as well, we are still important in one another’s lives.

Yes, important. As in life would be decidedly different if any of us were not in it. As in my life would be lacking something necessary. In other words, a major part of what makes us who we are is each other. And that is important. Next spring, Matt will be graduating high school and he will begin the next major chapter in his life. This December I will graduate from college, starting a new chapter in mine. Matt’s brothers are also at major junctures in their lives. Whatever direction our lives take, there will be a constant that cannot be erased.

We are a family. Unorthodox, unusual, even dysfunctional, but a family all the same. We have proven that nothing is stronger than the ties that bind us together - nothing. It does not look like the family of my childhood and it doesn’t matter. Like the family of my youth, there is only one thing that is important - us. And we have that.

Monday, October 01, 2007


It feels like it should be a rainy, windy autumn night. I almost wish it were; it would give me something to be distracted by, something to listen to rather than the words rattling around in my head. But, alas, it is nothing more than a cool October early morning, the first such of the month - and a Monday no less - and it is perhaps fitting that the weather is as pleasant, albeit cool, as it is. And the words will not go away.

It has been a trying weekend. Perhaps not trying so much as busy, but in only in a semi-predictable way. I knew I would be waking before dawn Saturday morning to make the drive from Sacramento to the University of California at San Francisco’s Hastings School of the Law to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). I was to be there by 8:30 a.m. sharp and I left with plenty of time to get there and find parking. I did not expect to meet a Honda Accord in the intersection of 7th and Market streets… I expected to cross the intersection unimpeded, protected by a green light.

Although no one was hurt and the damage to each of our cars was relatively minor, it still took some time clear the intersection and exchange information. I still did not have a parking place. With about 20 minutes left before I had to be at Hastings, I was back on my quest in search of parking, the nose of my still new car bearing the scars of the incident. I made it and took a test that was probably the most challenging I have ever encountered - I have no idea how well I did.

But it’s done. The LSAT has been weighing heavily on me for about three or four weeks. No matter what I was doing, it was always at the back of my mind. Now it’s over and I can concentrate on my more immediate priorities, one of which is writing for this blog. The results from the LSAT will be available in a couple of weeks and depending on what my score is, I will make decisions regarding which direction I’ll go in the coming year(s). Right now, I really don’t care whether it’s law school or not… in fact, it’s completely out of my hands at this point. Indeed, there are precious few “wrong” turns from here.

The last few posts here have either referenced postings on my new blog, Home of the Free, or they have actually been copied from there. Although I thoroughly enjoy the writing I have done there, it was not created for the free form meandering I often write here. It is a blog created to meet a requirement for my column writing class and as such, it is subject to certain rules regarding both content and form. It is not unlike a job. The 25 Year Plan has never been about anything at all - until the words are written, it is free to go wherever it may.

Tonight (or, to be precise, this morning) it is about nothing. It is just a reflection. It’s value is personal - both to the reader and perhaps more so, to the writer. It is what it is and nothing more. As far as I’m concerned, it’s most redeeming feature is that it is exclusive to the 25 Year Plan. It has not been cross-posted anywhere.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Livin' in the Future

Cross-posted on "Home of the Free."
This is not a column about Bruce Springsteen. It is not a review about his soon to be released album “Magic” or an endorsement thereof. Indeed, I have never been a Springsteen fan. It’s not that I dislike the man or his music; I just never understood the hype.

Perhaps I wasn’t listening close enough.

Springsteen and the entire E Street Band performed on NBC’s Today Show this morning, “on the plaza,” like so many other performers who are promoting… something. A new album or a tour usually, but sometimes it is something more. As big as the Today Show gig is, Springsteen certainly doesn’t need NBC’s help selling records or tickets.

Among the characteristics many associate with Springsteen, patriotism has to be right up there. He is as American as apple pie and Chevrolet. Although he has made political statements in his music in the past, this album takes the gloves off. When introducing “Livin’ in the Future,” a track from his new album, Springsteen makes the following statement while the E Street Bland plays a soft prelude:

“This is a song called ‘Livin’ in the Future,’ but it’s really about what’s happening now. Right now! The things that we love about America like cheeseburgers and french fries and the Yankees battling Boston... the Bill of Rights, V-twin motorcycles… We love all these things. However, in the past six years, we’ve had to add to the American picture: Rendition; illegal wiretapping; voter suppression; no habeas corpus; neglect of our great city New Orleans and her people; attacks on the Constitution and the loss of our best young men and women in a tragic war.”

More than just a list of gripes, Springsteen goes on with his own call to action.

“Right now we plan to do something about it. We plan to sing about it. I know it’s early, but it’s late. So come and join us.”

It is interesting that his last album with the E Street band, “The Rising,’ was released in 2002 - just before the junior Bush’s war in Iraq. It is probably safe to say Springsteen doesn’t need the money and equally safe to say that he did not need to produce a new album to sell out a tour. No, it is clear there is something else he needed to do. He needed to exercise his first amendment right to freedom of speech - before it too has been swallowed up by a fear-mongering, power-hungry and arrogant administration. More than a right, it is likely that Springsteen views it as a responsibility.

The chorus from “Livin’ in the Future” warns, “We're livin' in the future. And none of this has happened yet.” It’s an ominous message and a thread that runs throughout the entire album.

So often the arts have been the conduit for political change. So many artists have been the victims of suppression, exile and and many have paid for their activism with their lives. In America our right to vocalize our disagreement or even our disenchantment with the government is guaranteed by the Constitution - but as Springsteen points out, so are so many other rights that are slowly being eroded by our government.

They call him the “Boss,” a moniker I have always taken issue with - my reply always, “He’s not my Boss.” But in this case at least, I’ll take heed of his message. His values, when it comes to nationalism… to constitutionalism, are absolutely mine.

He asks some very pointed questions. Today, I am listening.

Monday, September 24, 2007

18 Months Nicotine-Free!

I quit smoking 18 months ago today. It wasn't easy, but it was so worth it. At $5 per pack, one pack per day for 549 days, I have saved about $2,745. The best part is that I am no longer a slave to the master nicotine.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

NCLB - Misplaced Loyalty

Cross-posted on "Home of the Free."

Our Constitution leaves to the individual states those powers not specifically designated to the federal government. Although hierarchical supremacy always goes to federal law, there are certain limitations on federal authority that is supposed to be left to the states. However, through a number of means - typically by holding money over the states’ heads - the federal government does influence state law.

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act is an attempt to control the educational curriculum that has been historically decided at the state level. Although the feds cannot mandate anything regarding curriculum, it can coerce financially strapped state educational institutions with the lure of cash. There is something inherently disingenuous about the federal government collecting taxes from the residents of the various states, ostensibly to be used to run the federal government, only to give it back to the states with strings attached. Unfortunately, this is not at all uncommon in this day and age.

Perhaps if the money were to be used to forward legitimate scholastic goals only, the ends might, perhaps, justify the means. And let us assume that NCLB was created and born of the purest of motives and, further, that the procedures are universally agreed upon and accepted as the best curriculum for all students nationwide. Yes, let’s just suspend all skepticism and grant that such a universal standard actually exists and that the feds have stumbled upon it. And just to add the icing to this unbelievably utopian cake, let us presume that the act has been fully funded and supported by those who championed it. Let’s just say that NCLB has been all it could be…

Then what about section 9528? The section’s heading reads:


The following 297 words buried within the 670-page document codify exactly what its title says. Apparently, NCLB would have our kids be all they can be as well. No access to the students’ names and numbers - no money. Although there is an “opt out” clause, often parents find recruiters have their children’s information only after it is too late, if they find out at all. The recruiter calls in the afternoon, after school is out but before many parents are usually home from work. I am not, however, “many” parents.

I was home when the calls came for my 17 year-old son. The caller ID said “private number,” but when anyone calls on a phone that I pay the bill on, I ask who is calling. There was only one place the information could have come from, but I asked the recruiters anyway just to confirm my suspicion. As it turns out, they were more forthcoming and better informed than the San Juan Unified School District was. Eventually, after many calls, the district’s legal department informed me that they were merely complying with federal law - as though they had no choice. Although it is true that NCLB is a federal law, it is misleading to imply that the district somehow has no choice.

On page 45 of the 2007-2008 Parent Handbook, there is a short paragraph that states federal law permits the access to this information and that parents may opt out - in writing - to Pupil Personnel Services. There is no contact name, no department phone number or address listed. Had I not been home when the recruiters called, I would have never known. The district contends there is a federal law it must comply with - it doesn’t. In fact, although there are certain procedures that must be followed or else the money is yanked, there are no provisions in case the feds renege on their deal; they want compliance even when they won’t fully fund the act.

It is understandable that schools are after every dollar they can get and it is no surprise that the feds would try to regulate - through creative means - anything they can, but it is dismaying that the district would roll over so easily. NCLB offers an opt-out clause, but it doesn’t say how loudly it is to be announced. The San Juan Unified School District chose to burry the information in a place that parents are not likely to find it.

The district has perhaps forgotten where its loyalty lies - and where the vast majority of its money comes from. The opt-out provision of NCLB should be made a priority. It should be a proactive announcement and not a few words buried in a slew of parental reading passed out at the beginning of the year. The recruitment provision goes well beyond any legitimate educational goal and in practice it circumvents the influence a parent has on molding his or her child’s future. The district has a responsibility to give the parent back the first word - and it can do it without risking any NCLB money.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Home of the Free

A new blog has been added to the family here at The 25 Year Plan. The new site, Home of the Free, has been formed to fulfill a requirement of Journalism 131 - column writing - at Sacramento State. Although this class is not required for a degree (it could be an elective, however, that requirement has already been met twice over), it is very much an area of intense personal interest. The blog will contain the output - the actual columns -written for this class. There will be a blogroll containing links to the professor’s site and to the student blogs in the class.

Each student must have a theme or “specialty” that is to be adhered to throughout the semester. Although there are a number of special interest areas or hobbies that were considered for Home of the Free, the scope of each appeared to be far too narrow to be able to produce new material on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. There is a common unifying thread, however, in many opinions represented within those interests - the acts of a meddling government.

The “nanny state” is a real concern, especially in light of the (still) recent attacks on the United States. At what point do civil liberties give way to security? It’s an age-old debate that precedes the founding of this country by many years. Obviously, some government is necessary to ensure that the state doesn’t send our lives into Hobbesian anarchy - “…solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” But where do we draw the line - and who should decide? Although there is a direction to this theme and a host of issues to apply within it, the words have no yet been written. There are only the wisps of thought, still fluid and nowhere near set in stone.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has frequented this place that words often reveal new ideas once exposed in print. Although there are some fairly defined ideals that will come to this new blog, the actual finished opinions might not follow conventional wisdom. However, with the research necessary to support them, the ideas might just represent or require a new convention. Home of the Free is a course requirement first and foremost, but hopefully it will inspire thought. Feel free to agree or disagree and please visit some of the other sites linked there. It’s new and it’s fresh and some of these students might even be future syndicated columnists.

You read it here first.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

First-Person Pronouns...

Although being busy is certainly not a new experience, these next several days may just redefine what it actually means to be busy. In addition to the time and effort that goes into maintaining a household, the full-time class schedule needed to complete a final semester of undergraduate studies and the occasional freelance writing assignment - now there is a little matter of studying for the rapidly approaching Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). It is this last factor that has adversely impacted an already tight time schedule. It will, for the next twenty or so days, mean sacrificing some enjoyable but decidedly optional activities.

And blogging, at least on this blog, is the first to go. This, the 281st post to appear here, represents the beginning of a hiatus, however temporary, for new postings on this blog. Actually, there will be one more in the next day or two and therein lies a silver lining of sorts. Among the classes that contribute to this acute shortage of time is one that was not required per se, but is part of the semester’s coursework all the same. A much esteemed, long-time journalism professor at Sacramento State teaches Journalism 131 - and he is very fond of blogs as a teaching tool. Like his magazine writing class last semester, a new blog (actually several - one for each class member) will soon be created for his column writing class.

This particular professor comes from the school of thought where one learns best by doing. Of course, instruction will be given, but that element does not constitute the vast majority of time required for this class. Most of the time expended will be in the form of writing, the results of which will be published on a blog to be created in the very near future. Once established, it will be announced right here on this site - and then this site will become virtually dormant - for a while. It is therefore somewhat misleading to say that blogging will be eliminated in the interest of time. It will, however, have a new purpose. So what does this mean?

The new blog will be a series of closely defined columns within a particular theme that will be held throughout the semester. Other assignments might also require posting, but the primary purpose for the blog is to publish real columns in real time - using live ammunition, as it were. Although the theme or specialization of this new blog has not yet been absolutely defined, there is a very good chance it will be political in nature with perhaps some characteristic that will more closely define it’s scope within this broad category. One thing is certain, deadlines being what they are in class as in the real world, by this time tomorrow, it will be known.

Many of the previous 280 posts that have been published here could be defined as columns and some of those are political commentary. However, it has been so without any formal training and as such, certain rules and techniques have not been strictly adhered to. Some of these were known and ignored while others were (and some likely still are) not yet discovered. One such has been put into practice here. There is not one single first-person pronoun in any of the preceding 529 words. Although there will be a host of other restrictions that will be imposed on the new blog that have not been applied here, it is unlikely that the frequency of or the enjoyment derived from blogging will be affected in any significant way once the new blog gains prominence.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Life is Good

Sometimes I feel a little guilty. Not to the extent that I would allow it to ruin my day or even part of it, but I still face skepticism and that in turn fuels a little bit of guilt. I have this extremely positive outlook on life. It is a new outlook - a new perspective - and I would contend that I came by it the hard way, but it can be summed up in one word - positive. Some people either don’t believe it is real - for some reason I am making it up, or that I am somehow deluded - I only think that I am happy… or perhaps they are, to some degree, envious. I don’t know, but one of the many reasons I write about it is to share that it is possible - there is hope.

It seems that human nature drives us toward the negative. Indeed, Rush Limbaugh, of all people, makes a good point (he actually has made several if one can wade through the conservative rhetoric). There are no books on the market that give instruction on how to be miserable. Why? Because we already know how to do that. There are, however, literally hundreds, perhaps thousands of self-help books, guides to meditation and enlightenment, holistic paths to wellness and other well-meaning guides to inner peace. I have read a few and they all have some virtue.

But there were no magic words. There is no quick fix - and those who knew me not too long ago know that I was into finding the shortest path from A to C… just as long as it didn’t pass through B. The problem with instant gratification is that it only lasts for an instant. Then it’s back to reality and seeking that utopian sense of peace and harmony through some kind of osmosis. It has taken me many painful years to realize that there are many ways to get “there,” and that the path we take is what it’s all about… it’s always and forever the same “there.”

Someone once told me I can’t think my way into right living, I must live my way into right thinking. In other words, I can know as much as humanly possible, but until I put what I know into action, nothing changes. And if nothing changes, then nothing changes. Time takes time, and it comes in these convenient little 24-hour chunks. The progress I have experienced over the past five years of my life is unprecedented, yet not once was there a moment where I thought, “I’ll sure be glad when I get to…” I have been trying very hard to stay in the moment and now as I look back, I can see the progress - but that is not the reward.

The prize is realized every day. The peace I experience even through adversity is all I ever wanted. I just wanted to be happy - that’s all. I thought that would come when I got certain “things” in my life, yet I acquired a great many of those things and my inner peace was still just as random as a pinball. I thought it might be achieved through status, but again that was only window dressing and my happiness proved to be fleeting. It was not until I finally found acceptance and came to grips with living life as it comes that I was able to gain a new perspective on life.

It has not gone unnoticed by those close to me. Happiness begets happiness and I attract into my life those who are happy or are struggling to be happy. Recently my father sent me a T-shirt that he picked up while shopping at REI. He wasn’t shopping for me, but he ran across this T-shirt that he felt epitomized what my life resembles today. It is probably safe to say that it is an unarticulated value he had tried to instill in me years before. For a variety of reasons that are no longer important, it took me 40 years to get it. I had not heard of this particular line of clothing - this business - prior, but I recently looked it up. It is a story that sings to me.

The founders have a strikingly similar attitude towards life as I do. They have this positive spin on life that is apparently infectious. Their business has grown into an $80 million company with virtually no advertising. Perhaps the founders, Bert and John Jacobs are lying. Maybe they are somehow deluded. Perhaps other not-so-successful companies are envious. But for them and me and many others who strive for it, three little words, the name of their company, says it all:

Life is Good.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Call Them Chicago

One of my earliest favorite bands appeared at the California State Fair last night. Not only was I was looking forward to hearing Chicago live for the first time, I also planned to take as many photos as my camera’s memory would allow. I already had my media credential and I expected that, like the Tesla concert that opened the Fair, I would be allowed access to get some good close-ups. It saddens me to say that I was thoroughly disappointed on all counts.

Upon arrival, I was admitted to the reserved seating area. It was about an hour before the scheduled show time and I wanted to check my angles, pre-compose my shots and dial in my camera settings. So far, so good, but after about 15 minutes, I was approached by security personnel and told that I would not be able to remain where I was without a credential from the band. Ok, where do I get such a credential? “At the media center,” I am told. Fine, off to the media center I go.

And the people manning the media center have no idea what I’m talking about. They explained that I needed to talk to the band’s promoter. Of course, they were unavailable. So I’m relegated to the general admission area… and my lens was just long enough to get some halfway decent shots from there… if I could have stayed there. Again security told me I had to move back. When I asked how far, the security supervisor relayed my question via radio. The response, ostensibly “from the band” was “about 150 miles away.” Nothing like reaching out to embrace the media!

I ended up by the mixing board, much too far to get anything worthwhile. Around the entrances to the seating areas were signs warning that video and audio recording devices were prohibited. This is not an unusual request, but barring media the way this band did was more than just a little over the top. Then came an in-between songs announcement from Robert Lamm, one of the original band members:

I know you all have your audio recorders and you video cameras and your... cameras. And your cell phones. I want you all to take them out right now and take pictures of us, take pictures of yourselves… and I want you all to put them up on YouTube.

I didn’t have my digital audio recorder with me, so the preceding is paraphrased, but that is the essence of what he said. I don’t know if I sufficiently captured the sarcasm that oozed from his statement, however, especially in light of the signs so prominently posted at every entrance. Combined with what can only be described as an antagonistic relationship with the press, I can only draw one conclusion. And today, after snooping around the band’s official website, I find that they invite photographers to send their photos of the band so that they might be featured, fully accredited, on their website. Color my world confused.

Ah, but what about the music? Was it wonderful? Did it move me like I knew it would? Maybe it would have, had I stayed long enough. They came on about 10 minutes late and proceeded to play their newer stuff; the stuff that has met with so much commercial indifference; the stuff that nobody really cared about. When they finally did get to the classic Chicago, it just stunk. Yea, it stunk, sorry. I know there were thousands of their legions cheering the band on. I know that they were truly surprised and pleased that so many were in attendance. I also know they stunk. Ok, they were competent musically. They were fairly tight (not, however, even close to what I have experienced from many other “professionals”), but they had a job to do and in my humble opinion, they failed miserably.

I walked out after about 30 minutes. They had a little more than an hour left from what was allotted to them - and they might have delivered in that time, but they failed to set the hook - I was gone. I won’t be back - not unless I’m with an organization that can navigate their “rules.” And then it will be strictly business. Chicago has been around a long time. On their website, their story spans 13 chapters, the last is titled, “Call Them Chicago.” A fitting title considering the only thing that resembles the band in its heyday is the name.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Last Dance...

In a few short days, I will embark on the final leg of my undergraduate journey. I am a mere six units or just two courses away from earning my BA in government-journalism from California State University, Sacramento. When I graduate in December, I will have just turned 45. Since graduating high school in 1981, I have been chipping away at this goal, although for many of those 26+ years I didn’t know where it would lead me. Interestingly enough, I still don’t.

It is, however, leading me somewhere… somewhere positive. It is a significant and relatively recent paradigmatic change for me. The vision I have on my future is at once much more defined and free to go where it may. I have, for the most part, released control of the direction and concentrated on the propulsion. I am in control of the action, never the result. It is far more than mere semantics; it’s an entirely new perception of life. And it is working for me in ways that I never dreamed possible.

Consider my coursework - past: I have completed four full-time semesters of mostly upper division government and journalism classes. Sprinkle in some other upper division required classes and you begin to get the idea. The amount of reading and, more so, the writing was for me unprecedented. Indeed, viewed in total, it would have chased me off. It has in the past. Taking it as it comes, however, has given me the freedom - and the time - to do it and do it well. I have received no less than an A- on every one of the many term papers I have written and I currently have a 3.8 grade point average.

Consider my coursework - present: The two courses that I need to complete are both upper-division government electives. Ancient Political Thought (GOVT 110) and Current Political Thought (GOVT 112). I should have had these two (or two other electives) completed by last semester, but sometimes I think too much… it is documented here. It was recommended by the Government department chair that I take these two classes if I am considering law school - and I am. Although I knew they would be heavy in philosophic theory, after purchasing the books I am quite sure I underestimated just how much. The authors of these fine works include:

Thomas Aquinas
Niccolo Machiavelli
Christine de Pizan
And other more contemporary thinkers.

It’s a daunting list and several pounds of books. But I don’t have to read them all at once and to be honest they are writings I want to read but probably never would on my own. The perspective I have chosen to lead my reality is one of optimism and opportunity - never dread. It is about today, not tomorrow; it’s the journey and no longer the destination. In life there is only one destination - death. Today I am in no hurry to get there.

The other two courses are not required at all, but interest me at least as much. Furthermore, they are very much in line with the kind of work I am now doing and will do in some capacity whether or not I end up in law school. JOUR 131 is a column-writing course and PHOT 135 is a photojournalism class that will take me in new directions photographically. Both should not challenge me too much academically, but might in the time required to complete the necessary work. However, I am not there yet and if I have learned anything in these past (and short) three years, nothing is impossible with a little faith and a lot of work.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

And The Beat Goes On...

I would appear that the Republican Party is falling apart at the seams. It was predictable and predicted that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would soon be unemployed and he was, of course, preceded by Karl Rove and a host of others. Now we have Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho joining the ranks of former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla. and Sen. David Vitter, R-La. And lets not forget about the tried and true, the gold old-fashioned corruption driven by greed and power. Some of these guys actually get to go to jail: Super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, potentially John Doolittle and others.

Wait a minute. That’s right. Scooter doesn’t have to go to jail - felonies don’t apply to the Vice Presidential staff, apparently.

Yes, there have been incidents of impropriety on the Democrat's side of the aisle in the recent past as well. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La. comes quickly to mind. But the Republican Party just can’t seem to keep its collective nose clean. Some call it a “culture of corruption.” Perhaps, but this is nothing new and certainly not unique to the Republican Party. There might be a bit of residual arrogance involved - having only just recently lost control of both houses of congress. Maybe the idea of losing that power never crossed their minds - and that previously protected behavior (someone had to know about Foley, c’mon!) is no longer squelched behind an impenetrable party curtain.

Maybe, what if, perhaps… it doesn’t really matter. I still believe that most of our elected representatives are there for noble reasons. Sure, it is their career, but many of these professional politicians could find much more lucrative work outside of holding office. Power? I am sure that element exists as well, but one need only ask Abramoff what kind of power is available to the private sector. There is more to it and I certainly believe that the majority of congressmen and women are there to serve - at least to some extent.

And then there are the bad apples. Some are maliciously so and others haven’t a clue (Mr. President). The executive sold us an unjust war (strike that, is selling) and at the same time using it to usurp power from the legislative. In reality there are two camps - each consisting of two teams. Those teams are the same in each camp, but the camps are supposed to be checking each other. In theory, congress is supposed to relate in an adversarial manner with the executive. Partisanship combined with the same party holding power in two of the three branches has allowed this relationship to become a very one-sided affair.

So what is a Republican congressman or woman to do? First, don’t do anything stupid like your terribly misguided colleagues. That should be the easy part. Second, it is time - has been time - to break ranks with the Whitehouse. I mean seriously, and with as much noise as possible. It has become a no-brainer; whatever loyalty you are exhibiting is bind, deaf… and dumb. The war is a disaster and getting worse. The ignorance (and I am being very kind) of this President is embarrassing. Stay the course? To where? The evidence is now and for some time has been overwhelming. Nowhere.

Here, perhaps this will make it easier. I’ll play to your instinctive sense of self-preservation: Save yourself - jump ship, it is sinking fast. In less than two years, the whole sociopolitical landscape will change - do you want to be a part of it? Stand up for your institution and the constitution. Start checking… and balancing - take your power back. The President is not a king, he was never intended to have this much power… and here’s a little secret: We’re not at war. There has been no declaration. Would you declare war if it came before congress today? No? Then do the right thing, it would go a long way to help the rest of us forget about the likes of Abramoff, Vickers, Craig, Foley, ad nauseam.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Demographics of Some American Newspapers

This came to me in an email from a friend...

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.

3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.

4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country, but don't really understand The New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.

5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country -- if they could find the time -- and if they didn't have to leave Southern California to do it.

6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.

7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

9. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.

10. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country . . or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs who also happens to be illegal aliens from any other country or galaxy, provided of course, that they are not Republicans.

11. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.

12. The Oregonian is read by people who have recently caught a fish and need something in which to wrap it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tanya's Ten Years

I first heard the term “blog” about five years ago. I understand that “web logging” has existed as long as the web has, and online journals of one sort or another have been around since the bulletin board service (bbs) was the de facto online community. Although blogs as we know them today have existed for more than ten years (even though the term “blog” was not coined until 1999), most bloggers cannot claim to have been in the game that long. My first blog was created - after much resistance - in December 2005. I am still very much a newcomer.

I have been fortunate, however, to have established relationships throughout the world with many, many other bloggers. Some have been at it for quite some time. One in particular is celebrating 10 years of blogging on September 30. By any measure, this makes her a blogging pioneer. Tanya, also known as NetChick, is, in her own words, “living my dream in beautiful downtown Vancouver, BC, Canada.” She is celebrating her 10-year anniversary with a super-deluxe blog contest. The grand prize? A Nintendo Wii! And this post is part of my entry.

Although I would love to win a Wii, this post is really about paying homage to one who has blazed a virtual trail. Tanya was there early on when the blogosphere must have been a very lonely place. Much of the blog tools we take for granted today were not even a twinkle in some programmer's eye ten years ago, yet NetChick and others kept on writing. Did they know this thing would take off the way it has? I suspect that they might have had a feeling… but could anyone predict the phenomenon blogging has become?

I’m over my 250 words; the link to NetChick’s contest is on top of my sidebar. Come check it out!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Reporting Life

I love my job. I hate my job. No… I love my job. I really do love my job. I love being a reporter. I like asking questions, I like being places I’m not really supposed to be. I like being your eyes and ears and sometimes your voice. I don’t always like what I write about and it seems that I’m always resistant to get down to the actual writing, but once I get it out and filed, I am so very satisfied.

Yesterday I researched two stories that are not of the “breaking news” variety. Indeed, most news stories are not. I put off writing them until today - I had a noon deadline. I always have trouble getting started; coming up with a compelling lead is no easy trick. Once I get rolling though, they seem to write themselves. Such was the case today. It took just a little more than two hours to compose two stories - one about 500 words and the other about 650. Now I can breathe for the real excitement begins tonight.

The Lincoln News Messenger is the weekly paper of one of the fastest growing communities in the United States - Lincoln, California. The paper is one of the fattest of the Gold Country Media weeklies and will probably become a daily in the coming years. There is a brand new city hall under construction, a new elementary school opens for its very first day on Thursday and houses are springing up like weeds. The paper has been looking for a full-time reporter and so far is operating without one. My name was dropped to the editor as a stringer who could handle the quick turnaround stories like city council meetings or, as is the case tonight, the school board meeting.

It didn’t look like anything too contentious would be on the agenda tonight, but if I’ve learned anything during this past year, the agenda does not tell all. I received a tip through the editor that some families are none too happy about some of the goings on at the administrative level and plan to attend and let the board know what they think. Yes, this is when it gets good. All bets are off and anything could, and often does, happen. Since this paper goes to press tomorrow, this is a story that won’t wait. It will be written tonight or perhaps very early tomorrow morning.

I can’t wait.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Impending Doom

Something new… I need to write something new. I can’t imagine what. A story, an amusing anecdote, maybe a philosophical premise - I don’t know. Life has been good, but in something of a holding pattern of late. Time is passing and with the passing of time some forecasted events are approaching, but right now it’s just niggling little things that I really, really don’t want to do. Yet, somehow they are getting done. My laundry is almost all clean and put away. The dishes are mostly all clean and out of the dishwasher. The bills are paid and there is gas in the car. Yet… I feel somehow ineffective, like I am neglecting something.

“You know what that feeling of impending doom is?” A man far wiser than I once asked. “It’s impending doom, stupid!” He was talking about instinct; about intuition; about gut feelings. For me, it often means that I need to write something and I don’t usually know what it will be until I see it before my eyes. Stephen King wrote that writers don’t create their stories, they discover them. It is an interesting angle and one that works for me. He likened it to the archeologist who is digging up fossils. Once discovered, care must be taken in excavating them. Too much haste will produce an incomplete or fragmented artifact while carefully bushing away the soil will reveal a complete and beautiful specimen.

And Michelangelo felt the same way when working with a block of marble. It is reported that he “saw” the figure in the stone and merely uncovered it with his chisel. Could it be the same process with writing? Is it that the themes and the thoughts and the stories have existed all along only waiting to be tripped over by a literary explorer? Do we create our worlds or navigate them? There are instances, many, many instances when I know I have taken a wrong turn; when I will select and delete many words, complete sentences and in some cases, entire documents. I have taken a wrong turn. Often I will know it immediately - it just doesn’t feel right - but sometimes the path has been cleverly disguised that I won’t realize it until many miles have been traveled.

“You know what that feeling of impending doom is?”

It is difficult to turn back after so much has been committed, but if the words lead to a dead-end, there is little choice. Vision is not always prospective and sometimes the forest can only be seen through the trees in retrospect. I think fast and I write slowly. I never learned how to type and I don’t intend to. It has served to slow my thinking down and in a very real sense it gives me the vision that helps keep me on course. Mostly. There is a downside, however. If I don’t get the thought out, I risk losing it… maybe forever, maybe not, I can never really know. Was it that elusive fossil that I have been searching for or just another piece of petrified wood? Often the answer can only come from running headlong into a dead-end, writing wildly scattered thoughts as fast as my two fingers can carry me.

Joan Dideon reveals that she never learned grammar. She just knows what sounds right. Jimi Hendrix never learned to read music, but he too knew what sounded right. It’s about how it all fits together. It has to make sense. Translating the thoughts in my head into words clarifies them not only for you, but for me as well. It takes the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle floating around in space and assembles them into a mosaic that can be viewed in total - perhaps even understood. It intimately links the reader with the writer, crossing the barriers of time and space. We become, for a brief instance, one.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Another One Bites the Dust

Fair warning. The following is straight from the hip. I have not researched or in any way educated myself to any significant depth save the headlines and news briefs that have circulated since Karl Rove announced his resignation. I am operating on prior albeit considerable knowledge. I have little doubt that the story has by now been analyzed, dissected, interpreted, disassembled and reassembled. The questions have been asked - and rhetorical though they may be, they have been answered nonetheless. By experts, of course. I am not an expert, however, I am not surprised in the least that Mr. Rove has “decided” to resign.

First, let’s be honest. Although Rove played a role in this latest strategic move, it was not his decision alone. It is part of an overall strategy that has been planned for some time. Perhaps it is a contingency plan; a stopgap; a plan “B”, but a plan all the same. This is not a result of good old Karl’s sudden desire to spend time with his family (from the news briefs). It is damage control and just in case no one has said it, I’m saying it now. Rove is falling on his sword in the great tradition of taking one for the team. He has been waiting in the wings, largely silent since the outing of Valerie Plame. It is now his turn in the barrel.

It is game of distraction. With the September “status” report on the troop surge rapidly approaching, our fearless leader is trying to buy some breathing space. There will likely be more heads to roll - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is definitely on the short list. We are being prepared for bad news… well, worse news - it’s been bad for some time. It wouldn’t even surprise me if Dick Cheney had to step down for “health” reasons. That would leave a number of unemployed scapegoats for Bush to suggestively but ever so nonchalantly point the finger towards. But there will be no hard and fast blame and no real consequences… remember, there is still a full pardon in the works for Scooter.

As bad as this president has been, we need to remember that no single person could foul things up so completely. He had help, lots of help. Karl Rove has been riding shotgun for many, many years - well before this presidency. He knew what was expected of him when he signed on. He also knew what was in it for him. Their plan for world domination (ok, slight hyperbole) went terribly awry, but there is no accountability. These resignations and even one conviction (so far) have not changed anything. We were sold a song and dance that was designed to bring us to war. The evidence that this was an unnecessary and unjustified war was and is monumental, but Rove, Cheney, Bush and company kept the lies alive and fresh.

Check it out - nothing has changed. Rove will be gone but the machine will keep squawking away. And people still believe the lies. It will take generations to repair the damage this administration has done. Our grandchildren will still be paying for this war. I’m so glad Karl Rove feels it is important to spend time with his family - I feel the same about mine. I wonder how much time he spends explaining to his family what we as a nation are doing in the world. I wonder if his family believes the lies.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

On Short-cuts and Loopholes

There are all sorts of anniversaries. We celebrate some; some we commemorate and some just simply mark the passage of time. Birthdays, weddings, deaths, victories and even defeat in many forms are often noticed at annual intervals. We all recognize some of these events and although there are some universal perceptions regarding them, many hold meaning uniquely our own. Last Monday I passed such a milestone and although the substance of it is not something I am willing to disclose, the ramifications definitely are.

As regular readers here know, I have not led a “cookie-cutter” life. Who has, really? But even beyond the standard deviation one would find in society, mine has been a life of extremes. Due to a number of realities, many self-created, I have taken the path less traveled. I have hit the potholes; traveled the treacherous mountain and dirt roads; hit too many dead-ends and more than once ran out of gas. Yet I am still here, still trucking along… and still blazing my own trail.

Three years ago, I was in the midst of one of those dead-ends. Coincidentally, I was also out of gas, so to speak. I had to take some responsibility in my life; I had to make it happen. More than anything else, I came to a place of acceptance and realized that these things weren’t just happening to me, I was creating them - even if I was doing so passively. It was on August 6, 2004 that I began to come to a new understanding about life - my life - and my role in it. I was at one of the lowest points in my life and it took a complete change in perception to come out of it.

It was not “depression.” It was, at once, more complicated and much simpler than that. I had to let go of some of the ideals that had driven me for so long. I had to ask for help, I had to rely on others and I had to have faith that everything would be ok. Indeed, I eventually came to the realization that it always is - it has to be, it can’t be any other way. It was my expectations that were mucking everything up. My view of what life should look like was so rigid that anything outside of that ideal was simply not ok. Yet life marched along quite all right without my consent.

I was always looking for the rewards of hard work without putting forth any effort. If there was a short cut, I was on it. I was self-obligated to seize upon any opportunity to avoid work. I spent more energy trying to get out of doing the work than it would have taken to do the work in the first place. I know this probably sounds exceedingly simple to some, but I did not get it - and I am not stupid. I didn’t learn this behavior from my parents - they are both self-made and very hard working; I had excellent role models. It could have been a generational issue as many of my peers seemed to be in the same boat, but many more got through and made something of themselves.

They did as I am doing today. While I was seeking the easier, softer way, they had already found it - they were doing the work. Now I don’t want to make it sound as though I was some sort of deadbeat dad, welfare lout; I was not. I had many jobs and good ones at that. What I didn’t have was follow-through. I was incapable of consistently applying myself day-in and day-out. I viewed life in terms of a destination - retirement, with immense wealth, of course. I never could see life from a much less complicated and easier to comprehend perspective: today.

I figured out that my view of life could only render short-term commitment. My focus was too far out, the amount of work too overwhelming, the destination just too far away. But the destination is the journey. It is right here, right now. Indeed, the destination in life is not retirement, the destination in life is death - and that is where I was driving myself. I didn’t even know it. By focusing on just today, my life has become - in just three years - a paradise. It is everyday. The reward to living life in the moment is the next moment - that’s all. Everything else is gravy.

I have plans and goals and most all will take longer than one day to complete. In fact, the “big-picture” plans couldn’t possibly be done in a day by anyone under any circumstances. Rome truly was not built in a day. I do have some things to do today, however, and there is more than enough time to do them. It is true of every day. I plan the actions - the work - and not the outcome. If everything came out as I would have planned it, I’d have sold myself way short. There are possibilities today that I could not have dreamed of three years ago. Yet with the passing of 1,098 days, one day at a time, they are my reality today.

This is the secret to life. It is not rocket science. Live life in the present, never plan results and do the work. Simple, no?