Simplify Your Life

That was the message of what might, or might not, have been the very first class lecture in my time at veterinary school. It’s possible there were other lectures before it, but that was the most memorable lecture of the early days.

Like most other lectures, this one began with a PowerPoint show, unlike other lectures it was a quick succession of pictures. Dr. Jim said he would share with us the secret to success at veterinary school.

First picture up was of Fabio, in all his extravagance, and Dr. Jim said “if this is your boyfriend, break up with him”.

Then a picture of a Black Lab, “if this is your pet, get rid of it’.

A picture of a nice suburban home, “if this is your home, sell it”.

Finally he put up a picture similar to the following.

“This is what your life should look like. If any of your classmates around you recognized immediately what that picture is, beware of them, that is a prison cell. And that is exactly what your life outside of veterinary school should look like. Nothing extra.”

So many times we are distracted and not focused. We are trying to do many things at once, and not doing any of them as well as we want. If that’s the case, maybe we should take Dr. Jim’s advice and trim out the fatty things holding us back.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us


Hebrews 12:1 ESV

“Hello Beastie”

Those two words have meant much to me over the last decade.

You can watch the clip that contains that quote here. It’s a memorable point in the somewhat forgettable second installment of Pirates of the Caribbean – The Dead Mans Chest.

Captain Jack Sparrow has spent two and a half hours of screentime running from cannibals, pirates, the English Navy, and Davy Joneses crew of fishmen. In the end, it was our plucky pirates own lusts that caught him up, and then he goes on to deliver that line that gives me chills, as he looks unquestionable death right in the face. “Hello Beastie”.

There’s no way out of this one for Jack. There’s no one to be guiled, no rope to swing away with, and no tricks left. It’s the true end.

Yet, even in those very last moments, when all else is taken away from us. When the future and the past are both forgotten, when all our hopes and our fears are swallowed up by the magnitude of the present, we still have a choice.

On one hand we can give up, let our pain make the decision for us and say “it’s too much, what could I possibly do”? On the other hand, we can take what we have been given, look right at what has come our way, and give even our final breath to the right course.

The Lighting of the Trees

My interest was captured by a beautiful invitation on the door of the donuts shop this morning. It was advertising a fundraiser for the Tulare Hospital Foundation at $125 ticket price. Hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, networking, awards, and a silent auction were all promised as part of the evening’s experience.

I stopped for a minute and looked at the flyer, and I found myself surprised that a posh event like this would even be of interest to one such as myself. I began to daydream about Tiffany and I dressing to the nines, sipping wine and enjoying the gala. Yes Christmas is our favorite holiday (thus our daughter has a French middle name – Noelle), and yes I am happy to support the hospital, but I think the real allure… was status.

I believe the attraction I felt, in that moment, was the chance to feel high-society. At such an event, I could tell myself the story of mystique and sophistication, and I would have the chance to play the role of a wealthy elite.

I don’t know why I felt this today. Perhaps it is because I watched a couple episodes of Frasier last night, with all of it’s tongue in cheek refinement and erudition. Perhaps it is because I am adjusting to the life I now live with a 14 month old, and the regular public displays of goofiness I provide. Perhaps I am feeling rather unrefined.

As an aside, when my daughter, seated next to me in her carseat while I drive to town, hands me her WubbaNub Baby Giraffe (pacifier), what am I to do except for to begin sucking on the pacifier? When I can so easily delight her, and make her smile, a smile which is like a thousand gold sunsets, how can I not accept the gift from her – no matter how much posterity I give up? And when someone driving the other way seems to recognize me and gives me a very questioning look, what can I do except wave and smile?

I still feel it

I thought that, by now, this would be easier. I expected that after a hundred public posts, I wouldn’t feel any more fear sharing my thoughts.

Kind of like preg-checking cows. I thought that the pain was going to go away from that too. My arms were bruised, sore, and swollen for the first few weeks on this job. Early on, every next cow was yet another stab of pain. In the same way, the first posts here made me sweat a little, made me second guess myself at every little sound of an incoming email or text. It was that thought, way in the back of my mind, saying it would be someone angry at me for something I wrote, saying it would be someone telling me how wrong I am.

I don’t feel like I am injured on every cow anymore. Sometimes it still hurts, sometimes my wrist has still ached, and my forearm occasionally tender, but it is manageable. The pain doesn’t prevent me from doing my job anymore. The pain is there. The pain is real. There are even many things I do now to prevent injury ….but the pain is not what guides me.

And also with these posts. The fear must still be addressed. Like a feral dog just outside the light, the temptation to hide, to mince my words, to water down my thoughts, to avoid saying the hard things, to make everything a little softer than I truly believe it should be – is still there.

There is a time for soft words, and there is a time to speak the hard things. Proverbs 27 says that “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”. That isn’t a very pleasant picture to my mind – two pieces of iron grinding against one another. I don’t find it comfortable to think about being one of those blades, and yet as I mature, I find good coming from that place of conflict. Not always comfortable, not always pleasant, but good.

Washing machine woes

The laundry didn’t get washed last night, and I still don’t know the root cause. We loaded the machine as normal, set the cycle like we have hundreds of times before, and then nothing exciting happened.

The drum began to spin gently, the lid locked tight, the pump tried to push out any residual water, but the new never filled the basin. It was such a lackluster breakdown. A quiet spin that went nowhere, a couple sad beeps, and a soft reset.

I checked the water pressure – good. I checked the water filters – looked good but I didn’t get them out of the line yet.

I went to handy Google, and found quite the plethora of similar complaints. The one that is most exciting is right here. It’s an in-depth technical walkthrough of troubleshooting. Yes there is a warning about needing the necessary expertise to go through it…but I have a voltmeter (which up until writing this post I thought was spoken as vol-timm-iter) and I have a basic understanding of electricity.

With time and patience, I think this could turn out to be like the auto-mechanical projects I’ve taken on, very rewarding at the end!

Taking Hold

I’ve been holding onto a hundred different ropes. Every one of them is a thread running to something in my life – something that I believe has potential. Something wild to be taken and tamed. It’s high time to let go of some of those ropes.

All this time, I am eagerly anticipating that day when I defeat a Bengal tiger at the end of one of those ropes.

Anyone can subdue a lamb. Many have tied up a calf. It is nothing extraordinary to catch a squirrel.

The future belongs to the one who bears the gaze of the tiger, and then binds it.

I’ve been waiting and preparing for that life or death dance with that proud beast.

The myriad of squawking chickens and noisy toy monkeys on the end of my ropes are distractions. It’s time to let them go.

It’s time, with both hands, to take hold of the line that leads directly to the snapping jaws.

Into the Night

The sun, having once again run it’s magnificent course over the day, begrudgingly settles below the horizon. Casting a final few rays of gold and bathing the whole of the western skyline in red flames, it signals the conclusion of a fine autumn day.
We left our walls and our shelters, those frames of wood and iron that surround us with only what we know, that separate us from every wild and lurking thing in this world. We went out into the fields, forests, rivers, and mountains at dawn, but it is now dusk, and we return to our homefires. We latch the doors and make light of our own, but no matter how many bulbs are burning – the night is always close by and the darkness presses in through our windows.
As our eyelids get heavy, we find the comfort of our beds and rest our heads upon pillows. Sleep inexorably approaches. Consciousness slips away, and within the confines of our small fortresses, we drift upon dreams.
Out there, out where the burgeoning darkness consumes the face of the earth, many creatures are just beginning to stir themselves into action. The heat of the sun made them hide all the day long, but now it is night, now it is their turn to roam the streets, and they are hungry.

Estrella, the Australian Shepherd, at night