2012

June 1, 2012:

Good Morning Family and Friends,

I hope this letter finds you happy and well.  The thought of writing this to you has been on my mind since the beginning of the year, but for one reason or another I have not done so until now.  As most of you already know, every Monday night I meet with my roommates and a few friends to discuss and reflect upon life and the situations we find ourselves in.  I find tremendous value in the conversations we have and it is my desire, through this monthly email, to cultivate the same benefits in your life.  The following is not an exhaustive list of what has been discussed in our group; just what I thought would benefit you the most for this month.  It is my hope for you to take a few minutes and reflect on the questions posed below.  Know that I am not writing this to solicit a response or feedback, however if you would like to write one I would love to read it.  The main purpose of this letter and the subsequent ones to follow is to get you thinking where you are at, where you’re heading, and where you want to be.  Let us begin…

1)      What is something you have been meaning to do for some time now and have not done?

2)      What is something you worry about? Is it really as big a deal as you’re making it out to be? How can you put an end to this anxiety?

3)      Where do you find comfort?

4)      Thinking about your family life growing up, what are some of the things you would like incorporate into your family when you have one? What are you going to leave out or try to do better?

5)      What is something you are looking forward to this month?

Continue reading for my answers…

1)      This letter, as I said earlier has been something I’ve been meaning to so for some time now, but I’ve procrastinated by letting life get in the way.  I have several other letters to specific individuals I need to write as well and I’m looking forward to trying to tackle a few of those sometime this month.  When God places something on our heart it is wise for us to MAKE the time to do it.

2)      I use to worry about a lot of things such as my career choice and women, but with my faith I’ve been able to let most of my worries go.  It has been an amazingly liberating experience.  I would say now my biggest worry is not being a good enough friend or family member.  It is super easy to get caught up in life (work, rest, hobbies, etc.) and to go through your weeks only interacting with those before you.  I worry about losing relations with friends from my past and not being a “good enough” (whatever that means) friend, or family member for that fact, to those who are not in my immediate circles.  I try to do my best to combat this with a minimum quarterly phone call, but sometimes I even fail that.  Now is this really as big of a deal as I’m making it out to be?  Well, let’s just say I’m the type of person who tries to hold on to good relationships, no matter how short or long they were and leave it at that.  The way I plan to combat this anxiety is to do my best to reach out when the motivation or inspiration strikes and to try not to think or care/worry about how everyone else views me (e.g. “Aaron is an ass because he never calls me anymore”).  I’m only a man, a flawed one at that and I need to realize that I have finite time and finite energy and all I can do is to do my best and I need to learn to be happy with whatever that is.

3)      I find comfort in playing music, listening to music, being out in nature, reading a book, taking afternoon naps, eating, cuddling, going to the bathroom…I guess it depends on if we’re talking about physical, spiritual, or mental comfort.  To be truly comfortable one must satisfy all three.

4)      I like the fact that my family ate together for dinner for a long period of my life.  I also like the fact that my parents made me finish everything before I was able to leave (something I loathed and suffered through at the time, but appreciate the value now…funny how a lot of things work out like that). I am not a fan of picky eaters and I believe this table discipline helped me to become the adventurous eater I am today. What would I like to leave out?  Well, let’s just say if I stay the man I am today I will be doing just fine.  What will I try to do better? Spend more time with my kids.  My mom was great at this, my dad not so much.  When I was in the fifth grade I remember one of my teachers telling me to write a letter to my future self-saying all the things I would do to be a cool parent.  I didn’t do it because I knew, or at least I though at the time I would never forget my list of requirements and tasks.  Well, college happened and here I am now with no list.  I’m not worried about having no guideline to becoming a cool parent, it just would have been something cool to have.  As adults, with all of our grownup manusha, it is easy to lose the perspective of a child and miss catering to what is important to them.

5)      I plan on concluding all of these letters with this question.  It is extremely good and healthy to have something positive to hope and look forward to.  For the month of June I am looking forward to my trip to the Pacific North West.  My friend Grant Storey is getting married in the middle of Washington State and Michael and I will be in attendance!  Following the wedding weekend I will be visiting my mom at her place in Idaho for a week.  I’ve also started talking to a new lady friend so we’ll see where that goes.

I hope you’ve gained something from this letter, if nothing else, at least a better understanding about me.

With Love,

Aaron G Buttery

P.S. Being the sucker for tradition that I am, you can count on one of these in your mailbox on the first of the month.

P.P.S. If you wish to no longer receive such emails, let me know and I will remove you from the distribution.

P.P.P.S. Forward to whomever you wish.

July 1, 2012:

My family,
Good day to you from Acapulco, Mexico.  (Acapulco by the way is hands down the most beautiful place in Mexico I have ever been to.  If you ever have a chance or opportunity to go I highly recommend it.)  I hope life has treated you well since my last letter.  Were you able to take action against procrastination?  Did you alleviate any anxieties?  As for me, the month of June was good.  My buddy’s (Grant Storey) wedding in Washington state was amazing and the trip to visit my mom in Idaho was equally enjoyable.  During the wedding weekend I was able to spend some quality alone time with my brother Michael, which surprisingly, even though we live together, doesn’t happen all that often.  It is crazy to think there have only been four years of my life where I have not lived with Michael; two of which he wasn’t even born for.  Anyway, it was time well spent and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Visiting my mom in the northern panhandle of Idaho was a refreshing getaway.  The pace of life in a town with less than 1,000 people is drastically different from the pace of SoCal living.  Life is slower, there is no rush; people and drivers are patient, there is no agitation or aggravation.  The me first, get out of my way, I don’t care who you are, who do you think you are attitudes are absent.  Strangers actually talk to one another!  It was very nice and refreshed my belief in humanity.  Have any of you ever participated in a small town event?  My family use to (and still does) participate in Portuguese festivals in small towns along the central valley of California.  As a kid I remember going to those events and having a blast.  A few months ago I was riding my motorcycle to the desert and rode through the small mountain town of Julian (about 60 miles East of SD).  While in Julian I noticed flyers up for a town dance.  I was unable to attend due to work; however I really wanted to go.  I am going to keep my eye out for the next one and do my best to attend.  If you have never been to a small town event I encourage you to go one day.  You will not be disappointed.  (I know some of you were born in small towns and may not see them with the same allure as I do.  You may think they are incredibly boring and they very well may be if you had to live there. However, when you’re a city slicker, born and raised, sometimes your soul yearns for a break from “the rat race”…for simple times.)

Speaking of being friendly and talking to strangers, how many of you know your neighbors?  Not just what they look like, but really know them?  Back in my younger and more rambunctious years I lived in the notorious household of Briand.  We partied hard practically every weekend and our neighbors hated us.  We held that relationship for a long time.  It wasn’t until the spring of the Great Neighborhood BBQ, a BBQ we hosted, where everything changed.  All the neighbors came, everyone was able to learn each other’s story, and our block changed forever.  We weren’t BFF’s, but we were much closer.  It greatly enhanced our living situation.  For the second time in my life I actually felt like I lived in a community rather than a house surrounded by strangers wandering to and fro.  Ever since then I’ve tried to make it a point to KNOW my neighbors. Currently at Biddle (the street I live on) we are in great relation and know fairly well two of our five adjacent neighbors.  We are friendly with the other 3 families; however our interactions seldom evolve past a wave.  To fix this my house has decided to invite these neighbors over for dinner, one family at a time.  The ultimate goal is to develop a community where everyone knows everyone; a community where pot lucks and block parties happen.  In such a community, not only are the BBQ’s amazing, but a certain longing of the soul is fulfilled.  In community the joys of life become more enjoyable and the hardships more endurable.  How is your relationship with your neighbors?

This past May one of my old bosses retired from the power plant.  In his “good-bye email” he said a blurb in which I found great wisdom.  It goes as follows: “Have the humility to believe that each individual you meet is better than you in some way.  Challenge yourself to find out what that is for each coworker/person you meet.”  In life there are times where we come across…some interesting personalities.  When you meet these people, if you approach them with the mindset of “I wonder what I can learn from this person?” and you take the time to learn a little bit of their story, if you are genuine about that, then you will find your interactions with them to be more enjoyable.  At my work we have a large collection of interesting personalities.  I have taken the time to learn some of the stories of a few socially challenged coworkers and I have found it to be a rewarding experience.  Who are the difficult people in your life?  Why are they difficult to be around?  Maybe it’s time to see that relationship in a new light.

In my June letter I left you with a set of questions.  This month I leave you with a set of challenges: slow down once in a while, become a better neighbor, and to engage others through a humble heart.

Till next month…

With Love,

Aaron

P.S. Sports rant: The Manny Pacquiao fight was ridiculous and raised many issues on justice which I’ll more than likely be discussing sometime in the future.  Euro Cup is going on right now and it has been great to watch, but it is so crushing when your team gets knocked off.  Being 50% British and 50% Portuguese I cheer for England and Portugal every time.  Later today Spain will play Italy for the championship.  GO SPAIN!  Portugal reminds me of the San Jose Sharks.  They always make it far, but never go all the way.  I made a bet with one of my friends from San Jose last year that the 49ers will win the Super Bowl before the Sharks win the Stanley cup.  I forgot who it was with so if it is one of you, please remind me.  You can also message me if you would like to take me up on that bet.

P.P.S. What are you looking forward to in July?
I am looking forward to four things:
1) I am looking forward to the next six days of my Mexican vacation with Michael, Manny, and my dad.  Yesterday was absolutely amazing so I can only imagine what the rest of the week has in store for us.
2) I am looking forward to summer time in San Diego.  San Diego is a beautiful, amazing city and during the summer months it borders magical.  I have a guest bedroom in my house if any of you ever want to visit.
3) I am looking forward to getting into shape.  Currently I believe I am in the worst shape of my life.  I am the heaviest I’ve ever been (calm down Leche, I’m still under 190) and I feel slow.  Although I’m never really out of shape compared to the general populace, for myself I feel slow so I’m looking forward to getting back into running.
4) I am looking forward to jamming more with my band.  My buddy Chris Oneal just bought a new house and he is turning his garage into a rocking man cave.  It is going to be good.

P.P.P.S. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

August 1, 2012:

My family,

Good evening once again from beautiful San Diego.  I hope life has treated you well since my last letter.  How did you do with the challenges I left you?  Were you able to live a few days at a slower pace?  Did you meet any new neighbors or strengthen any relations with old ones?  Were you able to find moments to act humbly instead of advertising or looking through a vain eye?  As for me, well one out of three isn’t bad right?  All I can say is this past month has been hectic.  It started off amazing down in Acapulco with Michael, Manny, and my dad, but as soon as we returned, which took forever, I hit the ground running and never looked back.  Sometimes in life your only option is to sprint and to sprint as hard as you can until you are able to reach a point of rest.  Hopefully you’re able to reach that point before you break.  For me, rest begins Friday and I couldn’t be more excited about it.  My house wanted to schedule a dinner date with one of our neighbors we don’t really know too well, but it was impossible to get our schedules to mesh.  With Michael being promoted to a full time position at his job and I getting slammed with a 75hr work week in the middle of the month there wasn’t much time for anything else.  I did however make time to work out during that 75hr work week and have been keeping it up ever since and I must say I’m feeling pretty good about my fitness.  Last week I went for a run on the beach with my buddy Neil and man oh man was it packed!  Summer is in full swing down here and it is fantastic!  The sun is shining, the water is refreshing, the air is warm, and the women are dressed to kill.  I love this town.

Within the past two days the Biddle household has celebrated two birthdays; Michael (7/31/84) and Manny (8/1/84).  Gabriella (Manny’s girlfriend) and I threw Michael and Manny a surprise birthday party last Friday and it turned out great!  Throwing a surprise party for two people, especially if you want them both to show up at the same time, is exponentially more difficult than throwing a surprise party for one person.  Fortunately, with a little bit of luck and a golden globe performance by my mom, we were able to get them to walk through the door at the same time and pull off the great surprise; much to the relief of myself and my patient guest.  The surprise was done so well, Michael started tearing up…I even started tearing up.  It was beautiful and I felt incredible.  It is a stupendous feeling one gets when they are able to give/provide such a great gift, to bring so much joy to a person they love.  It was a feeling of completion I had not felt in a long time.

On a completely different note, a few months ago I was dating a girl who asked me a very interesting question.  On our second date she asked, “What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you?”  Needless to say I was taken by surprise.  I instantly knew what it was, but since it was our SECOND date I didn’t feel comfortable sharing such revealing information.  I told her I’d have to think about it and get back to her, but that never happened.  What did happen however was I began thinking about her question and who I would be comfortable sharing such information with.  After some reflection I realized I am at a stage in my life where I am now comfortable sharing such information with whoever asks.  That being said, you will not find my story in this email, for I do not believe email is the proper forum for such topics.  However, if you are curious, you can always call me or ask me in person and I’d be happy to share my story with you and all its juicy details.  For 22 years I was plagued with the burden of secrecy.  I was afraid I would be defined by what had happened and I was not able to deal with the embarrassment of being different. (Young kids and teenagers are ruthless.)  Now that I am an adult and well defined in who I am, I am able to relax, for I know that although what happens in the past attributes to who I am today, it does not define who I am today.  What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you?  What secret from your past are you trying to keep buried?  What is one thing about yourself you do not want people to know?  The most important question is…who would you feel comfortable sharing these answers with?

Ever since I visited my mom at her place in Idaho I’ve been noticing a peculiar theme in my life.  That theme is the theme of patience.  Idaho set the stage and ever since then I have noticed moments and times in my life where I was supposed to be and almost felt as if I was being tested with patience.  It is difficult to explain and a bit weird to think about but I can say this: In every single instance; every single time I was patient, it paid off and turned out being the best thing I could have done.  It was uncomfortable and at times very difficult to do, but it always worked out for the best.  I am a long way away from mastering this virtue, but I have made great strides towards it and I’m looking to make a great deal more in the future.  What is an area of your life or who is a person you are feeling invited to be patient with?  I guarantee you, if you choose the uncomfortable road, if you wait for it, you will not be disappointed.

An attribute that relates to patience, but yet is completely different is control.  Another season I currently find myself in is the season of learning how to relinquish control over certain aspects of my life.  We all like to control things and we come up with visions and plans on how we would like events to unfold.  These events range anywhere from when we will brush our teeth, something we have a great deal of control over, to how we are going to act when so and so says this or does that, something we have very little control over, especially if so and so doesn’t say or do whatever it was we were painting in our masterpiece.  A phrase I once heard that I like very much goes as follows, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plan.”  There were multiple times this past month where events did not go as I had envisioned.  The common/natural response when that happens is to take whatever actions necessary to materialize your vision a.k.a. trying to hold on to control.  What I have learned is whenever something doesn’t go exactly as planned, if I am patient and keep my eyes open, I one, find an opportunity or two, later see that however the situation unfolded, it happened in such a way to create the best situation for the best possible outcome.  It is getting late and I almost feel as if I am failing at properly explaining this…

Let me end with an example.  I had planned to write a completely different letter to you tonight.  I wanted to invest more time into its preparation and thought into its flow, but that didn’t happen.  What I have learned however and what I am still learning is as long as you approach something with a good heart, even if it doesn’t turn out as you had planned, if you are faithful to the goodness within you and if you are patient enough to see it through completion, you will be content and maybe even joyful with what you find in the end.  Things have a way of working themselves out.  Once again, the topics you read about in this letter were not the ones I planned on writing about, however I know, rather I have the faith to believe that what I did write will speak to some of you in some way and I have the patience to see how that will all pan out.  Until next month…

Love,

Aaron

P.S.  I have been sending out the “Monthly AGB” since 6/1/12.  If you have missed a month and would like to get caught up let me know and I will make it happen.

P.P.S. For August I am looking forward to:

  1. Jamming more with my band.  My buddy Chris Oneal just bought a new house and he is turning his garage into a rocking man cave.  It is going to be good. (A copy from last month which did not happen so it has been bumped to numero uno.)
  2. LAS VEGAS! Come Aug 16-19 I will be in Vegas with the largest group of people I have ever been with. (I believe we’re 40 strong) We are celebrating several birthdays, a few dirty 30’s and one 21st!  It is going to be epic and I’m most excited about the pool parties during the day.  I even bough a fresh pair of euro’s for the occasion.  (This trip has also been a major motivator for working out.)  I ABSOLUTELY LOVE WEARING EUROS AT A VEGAS POOL.  Ok, enough said, if I keep going on I won’t be able to sleep tonight and I need to wake up at 0430 to go to work.  If you are intrigued about this trip and might possibly want to get involved, email me or call me and we’ll figure it out.  We have plenty of rooms.
  3. I will more than likely be starting a program in which I can’t tell you about because as of yet I do not know enough exact information about it, but what I have heard intrigues me very much so keep an eye out next month for more details.

P.P.P.S Sent with 15 minutes to spare. : )

P.P.P.P.S.  “A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else.” -George Savile

 

September 1, 2012:

To My Funky Chickens,

(Links were made for clickin’)

A warm hello and good afternoon to you from the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, beautiful Merced California.  I hope this letter finds you well and in good spirits.  Before I begin I would like to apologize to all those who took the time to respond to my previous letters.  My response time to your replies has been poor at best and I apologize for that.  From here on out I will be making a point to be more punctual with my replies.  Now, let us begin…

How was the month of August?  Were you able to enjoy the weather?  Did you find room in your life for patience?  Did you think about who you would be able to share your deepest darkest secrets with?  As for me, August was a month packed with action and travel.  It started off with my friends Anders and Darijan visiting from Norway.  It had been several years since I’d last seen them so it was real good to hang out and catch up.  Of our time together, there is one noteworthy story I would like to share with you because it strongly relates to the August AGB. On my first day with the Norwegians we were walking through the hustling squares of Balboa Park.  Out of the blue, Anders’ beautiful girlfriend, a person I had only known for…ehh…5 hours, asks me, “So Aaron, what is the worst think that has ever happened to you?”  Needless to say for the second time in my life I was taken back after being asked that question.  My mind was laughing at all of the parallels between the first time and then.  I told myself, “Well Buttery, this is where the rubber meets the road.  It is time to put your money where your mouth is.”  For the first time in years and definitely for the first time ever to a stranger, on the busy streets of Balboa Park, my story was told.  The words fell through my lips in a reluctantly roundabout way with several pauses and welcomed distractions, but they came out none the less and you know what?  Once it was told a wave of relief washed over me and as quickly as the moment had sprung upon me it was gone.  I was very proud of myself.

A few days later I hopped onto my motorcycle and headed north to San Jose.  En route I made a pit stop in Pasadena to potentially celebrate with my friends Clint, Matt, and Richard Horner.  For those of you who do not know, my friend Matt Horner, an engineer for JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), has been working on the Mars rover Curiosity for several years and on that faithful Sunday night, Curiosity was finally going to make its descent through the Mar’s atmosphere and hopefully land on martian soil.  The whole experience was very exciting and interesting.  Matt and all of the JPL’ers not involved with the main control room operations had taken over this bar in downtown Pasadena.  They wired half of the TV’s in the bar to show what was going on in the control room.  It was really cool.  The atmosphere was intense to say the least.  Long story short, “it worked!”  The rover made it safely to Mars and is currently roving around doing roverish things.  As the JPLers began to celebrate (rightfully so) I dipped out early and continued my ride up to San Jose.  California is such an amazingly beautiful state. (I obviously took highway 101 in lieu of the I5.)  It is always good to visit home and this time was no exception.  I had a great time visiting old friends and fulfilling my monthly nostalgia quota.  One particular highlight of that trip was going shooting with my buddy RJ Saunders.  He busted out some high powered riffles and we went to town on this cool shooting range in the hills.  That was the first time I’d ever fired riffles and I must say, I wasn’t half bad.  While up in San Jose I had a great conversation with my friend Dustin Albanese.  We discussed many things, but there was one question asked which brought up a topic that needed direct addressing and correcting.  Dustin had asked me how the beaches were treating me down in San Diego and how many times I had been out so far this summer.  My sad answer was “only once.”  It is amazing how a person can live so close to the beach and never go.  Taking that towards generality, it is amazing how a person can be so close to something and never take action.  What is something you take for granted and what is an action you’re going to make to remedy your situation?  My action was easy; as soon as I returned to San Diego I went to the beach…and it was amazing.  I had so much fun I went every day for an entire week!  Needless to say I was fully rested and relaxed, which was perfect because I was going to need all the energy I could muster for what awaited me next.

On August 16th, the time had finally come.  The moment I had been training for and looking forward to for an entire month had finally arrived.  At 7:25pm Michael, Manny, GianCarlo, and I stepped onto our South West flight to Las Vegas!  Normally I do not get so worked up over a trip to Vegas, but this was not your everyday weekend getaway ordinary trip to Vegas.  We had five birthdays to celebrate: one 21’st and four dirty 30’s.  It was hands down the largest group of people I had ever been to Vegas with and thanks to Joe Accinelli, we brought it Gangnam Style!  The pool parties lived up to all the hype and excitement I had envisioned and even then some, for I nor anyone else could have foretold what Yuki Yoshida was bringing to the table.  All I can say is, Yoshida Wins.

Last weekend I drove out to Kernville to visit my old coworkers Tracy Vietta and Mike Crippen.  A year or so ago they left the nuclear plant at San Onofre to go work at the hydro plants out there.  Let me tell you, there is a world of difference between a hydro plant and a nuclear plant.  I could not get over how laid back things were out there.  They have a sweet gig.  Kernville is a great place when the flow is up and if you have a taste for white water adventure.  Unfortunately rafting season was over, however we still had a blast floating on the lazy river by day and bumping elbows with the locals at the watering hole by night.  It was a nice, slow, backcountry getaway; perfect for my long weekend.

Being a track and field athlete and British, August and all the spectacle that was the Olympics was very exciting for me.  It is amazing to see how far the human body can be pushed.  On that note, People are awesome.

We live in a great age, an age of readily available information.  This past month I have had several issues with the house arise and with the help of Google, eHow, and YouTube, I was able to fix all of them myself.  I even learned how to change the oil on my motorcycle and resolved a few issues with my Honda Accord.  (It no longer sounds like it’s driving in first gear Steve-O.)  It is a great feeling and sense of satisfaction one gets when they fix something that is broken.  The next time you run into an issue I strongly suggest taking the time to fix it yourself.  The least you can do is look it up so you have an idea of what is going on.  Who knows, if I end up getting laid off at the power plant I might enter the handyman business charging people $50 and hour to do simple fixes that eHow showed me how to resolve.

I’m sure some of you have already heard, but for those of you who do not know, my work will be doing layoffs come November.  Our site is looking to get rid of 750 employees.  Several of my fellow coworkers are stressing out and getting all worked up over the situation.  I on the other hand am not worried for several reasons:  One, my position holds more value to the site compared to other departments and therefore should take minimal hits.  Two, I have about 40 people below me on the seniority chain for my position.  Three, if I happen to get laid off, then SCE would have opened the door of opportunity for the next season in my life.  I am fully content either way, worry free, and that is a great place to be.

Speaking of being in a good mind set, sometime last month Manny and I were in the kitchen talking about promotions when a person joined our conversation.  We debated for a while and then they finished with, “Well you two are different.  Not everyone has the same ‘churchy’ mindset as you guys.”  I took that as a huge compliment.

When I look around today and see all that is wrong with the world; all its laziness, corruption, greed, hate, and everything else, I can’t help but think we’re on the eve of destruction.  But then I turn the corner and see all that is good and realize the future is ours.  I see all the beauty, in nature and in the hearts of man.  I see all the creativity and ingenuity and I’m taken back,  awestruck by the spirit of what some people are doing.  The way I see it is you have two choices.  You can either be a wall fly and comfortably cruise along to a wasted life full of potential or you can be a change maker.  The choice is yours and yours alone to make.  Who do you want to be in life?  Some of you will come to me with illusions in your eyes telling me “I’m a change maker!”  To which I would say, “That you could be, but right now you’re acting like a wall fly.”  Others would tell me they’re change makers to which I would say, “That you are…and keep up the good work.”  What are you doing to bring good to this blue earth?  Are you getting lost in all the hyphy, in all the garbage the world is trying to feed you or are you cultivating an independent mind?  More and more each day I’m finding nothing gets done unless you do it yourself.  This is especially true when it comes to the direction of your own life.  So many people are quick to say this should be done or that needs to be taken care of, but no one makes the action, either due to laziness, indifference, or worst yet, the fear of failure.  So many people these days, for whatever reasons they have, are unwilling to take chances, to take a risk.  What is holding you back?  Why are you not doing the thing that has been on your mind for so long?  It is my prayer that we all go forth and take action on inspired dreams.  That humanity changes its lens to a new perspective. That you start living a life of fulfillment and purpose.

With Love,

Aaron Buttery

p.s. Life’s Little Instructions

p.p.s. In the month of September I am looking forward to having a staycation in San Diego and turning 30…entering the power years of one’s life.

 

October 1, 2012:

Greetings Brothers and Sisters,
Two days ago I had the pleasure of enjoying my 30th birthday with friends, family, and neighbors at a wonderful block party.  It was a true blessing and I thank everyone for all the kind words and laughs.  Now that I am 30 and infinitely wiser than when I was 29, I shall do my best to share and pass forward what I’ve learned along the way.
Let’s get down to brass tacks.

1. Are you ready to lose your email account?

2. Are you ready for some FOOTBALL?

3. What is something you feel you were born to do?

4. What is something new you’ve recently experienced?

5. What is a gift you are excited to get for yourself?

1. Last month, a day after I sent this letter out, my email account (pfmsports@hotmail.com) was hacked and subsequently lost.  There was only one thing that was funny about the process.  Just a few days prior to the event I was thinking to myself, “I wonder if I’m ever going to leave this account and get a more ‘professional’ account.”  It’s funny how things like that work.  I was actually thinking I was never going to because I liked the fact that it was a double entendre and how organized it was with all my files and folders, which brings me to what’s sad, the enormous loss of all my files and folders.  For two days I grieved and was lost in a hazy state of frustration, disbelief, confusion, and wonder.  Yes it was a bummer I lost some pretty cool links and impressive files, but what hurt the most was the loss of all my love letters, pictures, and sentimental messages I had saved since high school.  I was depressed, but then I got to thinking…what was I going to do with all those letters anyway?  I mean, I hadn’t read them since the day they were sent.  Why was I saving them?  So I could go reread them several years down the line when I I’m feeling nostalgic?  So I could show my kids the loves I’ve had in my life?  Why was I still holding on?  After a day of coping with these thoughts I made the great release and became resolute to make new ones.  What are you holding on to in your email account?  Are you ready to lose it?  If not I recommend you make copies and save it somewhere safe, like an old shoebox in your closet…at least I still have that.

2. The NFL season was kicked off last month and the San Francisco 49ers thrashed their way to the top in standard gold rush fashion.  I am always excited this time of year because it is filled with so much hope and possibility for championship.  No matter how terrible your team was last year their slate has been wiped clean and given new birth.  I thoroughly enjoy watching my Niners play at Typhoon Saloon, a Niner bar in Pacific Beach which may have a better environment than The Stick herself; however if I miss a game it’s no big deal.  It’s only football.  Too many people these days fail to realize that.  How many hours a week do you suppose the average fantasy football player spends on their league?  What does it buy them?  Maybe some cash?  I was thinking about the allure of football the other day, which can be extrapolated across every professional sport, and was wondering why people were so drawn to it.  I came to the conclusion that people long to belong to something larger than themselves…to unite and rally in a community whose purpose is to become the best.  Humans were born with that innate desire rooted firmly within their bones.  It is a healthy desire to have, however I don’t believe football was meant to be the object of such desires.  After all, how many people are let down year after year with football?  And even if you are part of the fortunate few who’s team just so happened to win it all, how fleeting is that joy?  No, football is not the answer, but there is something out there that will never let you down; something that brings everlasting joy, which is eagerly waiting to be found.

3.  Unless you are lucky, the answer to this question is not something that will come to you through a random thought or a moment of eureka, but rather through the sweat and mud of being in the trenches.  It is only by traveling the rough road of experience where one finds their true path.  Thus far in my life I have only been able to discover two things in which I believe I was born for.  Those two things are serving as a greeter/usher at my church and writing these letters.  I’m not going to get into all of the details of why, however I will say the both satisfy the following criteria: they are something that is easy for me to do, but not others; they are energizing and life giving for me; and if I’m honest with myself I realize they both provide an excitation of being which resonates deep within my soul…they show me glimpse and give me an innate confirmation that I am becoming the Aaron I feel I was born for.  That being said, I am not sure if I should feel happy I know two things in which I was born to do or feel sad that I only know two things which I was born to do.  What I do know is this: I am on the hunt for more, which brings me to my next question.

4.  This next segment is something I want to start incorporating into all of my future letters.  It has been said, “if you’re not busy living, then you’re busy dying,” and there’s no worse way to die than being stuck in the same old rut and routine of monotonous drab.  My challenge to you is this: do at least one thing each month you have never done before.  For the month of September I was able to do two things I have never done before.  The first one is paddle boarding.  For those of you who do not know what paddle boarding is, it is when you stand on a long surf board and propel yourself with a paddle like the Hawaiian kings of old.  This is something I have been wanting to do for a while and on one not so sunny afternoon my friends Neil, Joe and I got after it.  It was fun and turned out to be surprisingly easier than it looked.  The other thing has to deal with food.  I consider myself a pretty adventurous eater and this occasion put that to the test.  One night I was out at restaurant called the Tofu House with my friend Yuki Yoshida.  I ordered my standard mixed seafood tofu dish which comes with shrimp and a bunch of other tasty treats.  Historically, when I would eat the shrimp I would pull of the head and discard it.  I was in the process of doing just that when Yuki said, “Dude, you have to eat the head.  It’s the best part.”  I was like you’ve got to be kidding me, but he insisted upon it as he devoured one himself.  There are few people in this world who love food more than Yuki.  As I held the head in my hand, staring at the eyeballs and tentacles and everything else which screamed do not eat me, I said “here we go,” and threw the head into my hesitant mouth.  It was crunchy and definitely weird, but it wasn’t bad.  I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s the best part of the shrimp, but it wasn’t bad.  Shortly after swallowing, a strange exhilaration flowed through my body.  It was exciting.  It was living!

5. For my birthday I bought myself some sheet music.  I’m really excited about it because it comes with an accompaniment cd, which means I can play along with a full orchestra.  Playing music like that is enriching for me and wells up an emotion deep from within which is a treasure to experience.  The other day I was surfing the web and stumbled across my Christmas present.  Needless to say I’m super excited about it.  It is going to be powerful.

That’s it for me.  I hope you have a great October.  See you next month.

With Love,

Aaron

p.s.  I am currently going through a spiritual formation series with eleven other people from my church.  Its purpose is to gradually transform my inner life to be more like Jesus, growing in traits such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control for the sake of others.  An important part of this eight month process involves time spent in daily meditation.  I am still unsure as to how much of this process I will be sharing with you, but it is something that is important to me and I thought it would be unfair if I didn’t at least say that.

p.p.s.  What stays with you latest and deepest? Of curious panics, of hard-fought engagements or sieges tremendous what deepest remains?

p.p.p.s.  By its very nature, love exists to be given away.

 

November 1, 2012:

Salutations,
Happy All Hallows!  I hope you had a wonderful October and a safe All Hallows Eve.  This day marks a very important day in my life and I was glad to celebrate it in a fashion fitting to its cause.  As for me, the month of October was a month of bliss, relaxation, transformation, and temptation.  Regardless of what calendars or meteorologist might tell you, winter does not fall upon San Diego until the week before Christmas.  That being said, I have truly been enjoying these extended days of summer and have tried to utilize each to their full potential and purpose.  Let’s roll…

1) What is your heart’s desire?  That is, what gets you up early and keeps you up late?  What steals your focus and energy?  What do you live most deeply for?

This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer.  When first asked this question I was embarrassed by the fact I had no quick answer.  You think a person would readily have available the answer to something as vital, central, and essential to their being, but I did not; even worse, I hadn’t a clue.  After several days of frustration I was able to weed down to an answer, which I’ll address shortly.  While I was wrestling with the question, seemingly going nowhere, I came across a different set of questions which helped me hone in.  They are as follows:  What is the motivation behind your current actions?  Why are you doing the things you are doing or want to do?  What lies deepest beneath it all?   For several days I thought about this and realized my heart’s desire is to serve others; that is, I receive the most joy when I am able to use my talents and skills to help someone else in need or bring joy to their life, whatever that might be.  I’ve said this before and I’m sure you’ve probably heard others say it, but what does that mean?  What does that look like in application?  Well, at work that means putting forth my best effort and being an efficient worker; not complaining when told to do something; being attentive to the attitudes of my coworkers and genuinely caring about their emotional states; and trying to be a refreshing source of lightheartedness in not so pleasant times.  At home that means cleaning up after my roommates, not because I enjoy playing maid, but because I know it removes some of the burden from their day; setting aside my agenda to spend time with my roommates, especially when they enter my room for discussion; and trying to do little things for them here and there which brighten their day.  In my community it means being a good neighbor; being involved with local activities; being charitable with my resources and time; being attuned to the pains and needs of those I pass; making U-turns to take action on afterthoughts; and hosting annual concerts and parties. **Quick Plug: We have picked the dates for our Third Annual Biddle Brass Christmas Concerto Extravaganza.  The Opening Night Gala Performance will be held on Friday, December 14th, followed by an encore presentation on Saturday, December 15th.  If you live in San Diego, expect to see a forthcoming facebook invite broadcasting more information. (Please let me know if you do not live in San Diego and would like to be included in the invite.)**  What do you desire?  How would you really enjoy spending the rest of your life?  Each day we meet brings forth new possibility.  We can either spend our time in the same old grind or in the pursuit of happiness.  We’re all rapidly pursuing something; the sad thing is most of us do not know what.

2)  What keeps you from living for that which you most want to live for?

Only when you’ve secured an honest answer for question one can you begin the journey of transforming your desire into reality.  For the last year or so I have known several things which were hindering my journey, but I was unwilling to give them up.  Last month I sent a letter to a few family members, in which discussed the issues we are currently talking about.  I was uncertain if I was going to share that letter in this one, but then I realized there was no reason not to; besides, if it helps just one person, then it will be worth it.  You will find the letter I sent attached to this one.  In summary it states the following: I have given up drinking (for a minimum of one year), sex (until marriage), pornography (indefinitely), and masturbation (indefinitely).  Currently I am one month sober and have been sexually pure for 47 days.  I feel great, I’m standing stronger in my convictions than ever before, and I’m truly excited to finally chase my desire wholeheartedly.  Ultimately, I know nothing but good things will come from these decisions and I’m looking forward to finding each in their proper time.
3)  When was the last time you stopped to admire beauty?

Many of us go about our weeks rushing to and fro leaving very little time for anything other than what “needs” to get done.  The following is an abstract from an article in the Washington Post which covered a social experiment carried out earlier this year.  I like to believe I would have stopped, but you never know…

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.  Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.  A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.  A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work. The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist.  Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.  In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.  No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the top musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars. Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston with the cheap seats costing $100.  Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty?  Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?  One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?
The article is a good reminder to not only keep a watchful eye and an open ear, but to take the time to absorb the moments of beauty we happen to stumble across in our life.

4)  What are you trying to prove?

Everyone is trying to prove something.  The question is what, to whom, and why?  Are you trying to prove you’re smarter?  That you’re a better sales person?  That you’re prettier, stronger, or more creative?  That you have more game or more friends?  That “your” team or your kids or your possessions or your health, homestead, or community are any better than anyone else?  All you have to do is take a quick glimpse at facebook to see who’s trying to prove what.  Are you trying to prove to someone you’re not a failure?  That you have value?  That you’re loveable?  Who are you trying to prove yourself to?  Whose attention are you trying to get?  And why?  What if I were to tell you, “you have everything you need and that there’s nothing to prove?”  You might say, “Well Aaron, if I already have everything I need, then why do I not feel satisfied?  Why do I go through times of loneliness or depression or hopelessness?  Why am I not happy?”  My answer to those questions would look different for each of you, but to all of you I would say this: You do in fact have eternal value and you are loved beyond measure, even if you don’t feel like it.  Whether you currently find yourself in a dark place or a bright place, you can trust you are equip with all you need to carry yourself through any situation or circumstance; if you would only search yourself with an honest heart and listen closely.  Forget what lies in the past and strain forward to what lies ahead.  Do not take notice or heed the lies of the world when it tries to tell you how inadequate you are.  And do not fall into the trap of comparison.  How foolish it is to compare yourself to someone else.  After it has been done what have you gained?  The sooner we realize we will never be worth more nor less than anyone else, that we’re all treasured and precious jewels, the better we will be.

5) What is something new you have done this past month and what are you looking forward to in this month to come?

Last month I was invited to do a mission with the Patriot Guard Riders.  I had a vague idea when I accepted what they were about from an experience my friend RJ had several years ago, but for the most part I was in the dark.  All I knew was I had the day off work, it sounded interesting, it was an excuse to ride my motorcycle (which I love!), and it was going to be a totally new experience, which I was all about.  When I arrived at the event for the mission brief I realized I was clearly out of my comfort zone.  My friend who had invited me was nowhere in sight.  I was alone in an unfamiliar process, surrounded by rugged individuals who seemed to know everyone but me.  As I played wall fly (trying to figure things out) a few people made small talk and one individual even introduced himself to me.  The ice was beginning to break.  Shortly thereafter my friend Bill arrived and the event began.  Being a first time rider, myself and three other guys were briefly hazed, which turned out to be a surprisingly entertaining process.  While we were escorting the hearse down the freeway something amazing happened; an emotion over took my body, an emotion I had not felt in a long time.  To be honest, I can’t even remember the last time I felt the way I was feeling as I cruised down the freeway.  I was overcome by a sense of pride, not in an arrogant way, but with an air of self-respect and satisfaction for what I was doing.  It was a great feeling.  I plan on riding at least one mission a month with the Patriot Guard Riders and that is definitely something I’m looking forward to in November.  I’m also looking forward to visiting my sister Doreen in Wisconsin the weekend of 11/17.  Wisconsin will be playing Ohio State at home and I’ll be looking forward to all the hype Madison has to bring!  As I get older I feel society’s measure of the importance of Thanksgiving dwindling at a rate equally proportionate to my enhanced appreciation for it.  If you do not have any plans for Thanksgiving, on 11/22/12 Biddle will be assembling and raising the hall of Asgard and we would love for you to join us.  That’s it for me.  Have a great month and I’ll see you soon.

With Love,

Aaron

p.s. In honor of Halloween, what your favorite candy bar or piece of candy?  When it comes to chocolate bars, my hands down favorite one is Milky way Dark, also known as Milky Way Midnight.  For everything else, if it’s sour I’m down and I’ve always been a big fan of anything with gum.
p.p.s. When I’m bored and want to check out some cool science stuff, I check out VSauce, and if I really feel like geeking out, I check out Numberphile.

 

December 1, 2012:

A Warm Welcome To You,
We’ve acquired a new name, but it’s the same game.  I pray the month of November treated you well and you were able to enjoy a day of Thanksgiving with your family and friends.  Our very Biddle Thanksgiving (Biddle is the street I live on) was a success with the highlight being an amazing game of musical chairs.  I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.  Thanksgiving is nice because it’s a yearly reminder to be thankful and grateful for what we have.  The ideal goal is to figure out what we should be thankful/grateful for, then spend the rest of the year in a state of constant appreciation and thankfulness of such things; that way we never take anything for granted and are able to reap the benefits of peace that come from living with a grateful heart.  My friend Karl Nilsen mentioned a sad point to me last week saying, “Only in America do we spend a day being thankful for what we HAVE, then go out the very next day and spend a bunch of money on things we don’t need.”  Out of your last month’s purchases, how many were needed items?  I realize needed is a relative term and I’m not saying you should become a frugal Quaker; just be aware of how you spend your money and be willing to live with the choices you make.  Speaking of purchases, last month, via a Dentist’s recommendation, I went out and bought an electric toothbrush.  I picked up a mid. line Oral B and it is amazing!  For the longest time I was against electric toothbrushes because I thought they were unnecessary, but after using one for a month it is amazing how well they clean your teeth.  There are many things in life it is ok to go budget on, your teeth and toilet paper are not one of them, trust me.

Before I continue and get into the heart of this letter I must clarify several issues addressed in last month’s letter.  A dear friend of mine, one whose opinions I deeply admire, called me out on failing to specifically answer two of my questions.  While I reserve the right to share what I wish, I did promise to provide my answer for each question when I pose them in list format.  That being said, here is what I failed to share:

3. When was the last time you stopped to admire beauty?
In order of frequency and impression on my heart, I most readily find beauty in nature, women, and music.  When you work 12.5 hour shifts you get the opportunity to witness many sunrises and sunsets.  When you place those over the bluffs which gaze across the mighty expanse of the Pacific ocean you get something quite amazing.  It often stops me in my tracks (like this morning).  Whether it’s a picturesque sunrise or sunset, or Venus dancing with the moon across the crisp predawn sky, or a wildflower found on a run, or the way the sun filters through the trees a few hours before sunset on a warm afternoon when the atmosphere scatters yellow light through a lazy breeze, welcoming me to my favorite time of day, I always take at least a moment to let my spirit rest in awe and absorb the scene.  When it comes to women, as with the awe inspiring affect beauty has in nature, there is something to be said about the paralyzing affect beauty has from them.  It leads me to believe a critical component was lost in translation somewhere in time with the myth of Medusa; for it has been my experience to “turn to stone” every time I see the face of a beautiful woman, most of the time with my mouth partly opened, rather than a hideous one.  In fact, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, a goddess who passed me on a platform in the Copenhagen train station, not only left me momentarily paralyzed, but stirred a pain in my heart which physically afflicted me for an hour after passing!  You can talk to Eric Nilsen about this, he thought it was hilarious. I still get a pain whenever I think back on that moment.  Music on the other hand is more subtle; it’s beauty in time.  You are not instantly overloaded as with an image, but rather build your way to something beautiful through intricate harmonies which blend with living melodies.  Whether it’s a well composed song or a starry night, beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites my soul and stirs a pain deep within my being, leading me to a posture of bewildering wonder and spectacular awe.

4. What are you trying to prove?
Sometime in August I was on a run getting worked up and inspired to train for a race.  The thought of training for the San Jose Rock & Roll half Marathon entered my mind and I envisioned an obtainable goal of 1:18:36 (6 minute mile pace).  I figured if I could run a full marathon in a 6:40 pace, then I should be able to do a half at 6 flat.  I was in the process of mentally building a training program when the question came to me.  What was I trying to prove?  It was then, when I realized my heart was in the wrong place.  I was approaching the event with the subtle goal of obtaining an achievement mainly for the purpose of gloating and comparing myself with others.  It was a sad realization which destroyed my competitive ambition for some time, but then I made a new realization.  It is possible to compete without comparing yourself to others.  In team sports you do it by playing for the love of the game and sportsmanship.  In individual sports like running, you do it to prove the will and might of your spirit.  I am still undecided if I’m going to train for the 2013 SJ R&R half, but if I do commit, at least now my heart will be in the right place, and that makes all the difference.

Now lets bring out the fresh meat.  I give you fair warning, with the supposed end of the world happening on 12/21/12 I feel compelled to ramble on a bit more, should this be my last chance. ; )  So prepare yourself for a long one.  Last month I was stripped of my job security and was told my future position at the power plant was uncertain, but not looking good.  There are many factors at play and I do not wish to go into great detail, but I will do my best to give you an abridged version, an inside scoop if you will, so you will be properly educated and fed from a true source vice the media.  Both Units have been shut down for almost a year due to leaking steam generators (not a major problem as far as the safety of the public is concerned, but a very difficult and expensive problem to fix none the less).  Unit 3, the south boob, has no foreseeable startup date in 2013.  Unit 2 is supposed to startup sometime in February 2013, but we’ll see.  We were supposed to start it up last June and it keeps getting bumped back, so I’ll believe it when I see it.  The company and the union are going through negotiations right now and the company is clearly trying to bust the union.  That being said, come January first there might be a lock out, meaning I would show up to work and not be able to get in.  If that happens the company might bring me back as a new breed of nonunion operators, or they may not.  They could also decide to decommission the plant altogether because the decommission fund has already been paid for.  On top of all that, just recently a possible case of internal sabotage has been discovered on one of our backup emergency diesel generators.  The FBI is investigating, things are getting ugly, and morale is at an all-time low.  There are a multitude of unknowns and uncertainties, but through the fog of confusion there is one thing that is clear and resolute and that is my peace with whatever outcome I should face.  Union/Nonunion.  Employed/Unemployed.  I’m truly fine either way.  If by some miracle I keep my job, that would be cool.  If I lose it and travel and go on unemployment for a while, then that’s fine too.  My buddy Eddy told me of a job back in the Silicon Valley which pays comparable to what I make now and I thought about it as an ultimate fallback, but I do not want to move back to the Bay Area.  It was a great place to grow up and a lovely place to visit, but I love San Diego too much to leave.  I’m actually willing and will probably have to take a pay cut of 50% to remain living in San Diego if I lose my job at the plant.  Who knows?  That’s the exciting thing about the future, it’s full of possibility!  I could retire fat and happy with Edison, find some cool new job which challenges me in San Diego, or move to Brazil and live a life directed by the wind.  Only time will tell.  In the mean time I’ve polished up my resume and have begun keeping my eyes, ears, and heart open and listening for opportunity’s subtle knocking.  If you are tuned to it, you will find it on every corner.  This past month, through various circumstances and powers that be, I found myself magnetically attracted to a certain opportunity in community service.  I have already filed my paper work and I’m currently waiting for my orientation date to serve as a volunteer for the prison ministry at Donovan’s State Prison, down by the Mexican border.  I have absolutely no idea what this experience will be like (being so alien and foreign), however I am truly excited about it and have this innate feeling something really good is waiting for me to discover.  (You know you’re on the right path when you keep receiving little signs which affirm your direction!)

Now it’s time to talk about everyone’s favorite topic; the one you’ve all been waiting for; POLITICS!  I can honestly say I’m neither happy nor upset with the results of the presidential race.  I voted, but it didn’t really matter.  What did matter were the local and state propositions and those, surprisingly brought me some happiness (which is rare).  My only disappointments were prop. 37 and prop. 34.  Proposition 37 let me down because, even though I have not done my research as to the pros and cons of genetically modified foods, I would like to know, rather, I should have the right to know how the food I am purchasing was made.  To me it was a no brainer, but once again I found myself in the minority.  It seems Californians are content in the bliss of their ignorance.  The abolition of the death penalty (prop. 34) is the other initiative that let me down.  No one should die for the mistakes they’ve made, no matter how grave or heinous the offense.  If you happen to be a victim you may feel otherwise and I’m sorry for the pain and injustices which befell upon you, but hopefully you are fortunate enough to not be plagued with a stubborn, calloused, vindictive heart; that would be the true tragedy.  By no means am I trying to minimize or overlook injustices that have been made, all I’m saying is EVERYONE needs forgiveness and we ALL need to practice it.  Forgiveness is something there is far too little of and it makes me sad.  I know it’s not easy but I have found an essential root in the words of Miroslav Volf, who said, “Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners.”  Volf’s words resonate deeply with me because they are perfectly in line with my own life’s experience.  As a child growing up my house was afflicted with violence due to the alcoholism of my father.  I vividly remember spending many nights wishing and praying he would die just so I could finally get some peace and put an end to the terror and suffering.  As I grew older and stronger the terror fled, but the suffering remained.  I cannot remember when I parted with the anger, for it has been quite a few years, but one day, through a particular event, I finally saw my dad as an ordinary man; I had welcomed him into “the community of humans” as I was beginning to see the effects of sin in my own life.  I saw how it was totally possible for an “innocent” person like myself to become the man my father had become.  I pitied him and had compassion for the unfortunate circumstance he had placed himself in.  Forgiveness is not an event, it’s a process; it’s messy, hard, and comes at a price; someone has to absorb the damage that was done.  Much like the seed which must die before it can grow, we too must put an end to the grudges and phantoms of our past if we wish to live a life of healing and restoration.  Who is a person in your life you need to forgive?  What barriers have you built in your heart that are preventing you from forgiving this person?  Are you prepared to carry the infectious hate you have for this person around in your heart for the rest of your life if you chose not to forgive?  I believe in you and I believe in the supernatural transforming power of change.  Everything is possible for those who don’t put limits on the power of God.

How much do you gossip?  It’s amazing how much people gossip…actually it’s quite terrible.  Start paying special attention to your conversations, especially at work, and see how many of your peers are busy bumbling their lives away with gossip.  What ever happened to “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?”  I have been observing my conversations this past month and I was surprised how many times I wanted to talk but decided better of it because I didn’t want to contribute to the problem.  I wasn’t perfect by any means, but I did discover my biggest struggle.  I found there is a fine line between telling a story and gossip.  If you can’t tell the story you’re telling in front of all the characters in it, then it’s gossip.  If you’re bad mouthing, talking behind someone’s back, speaking negatively of someone or portraying them in a negative way; if you’re spreading false rumors, then you’re gossiping.  On the other hand, if what you’re saying can be said in front of all the members you are speaking of and if an absent member wouldn’t mind you speaking so, then you’re telling a story.  See the difference?  I challenge you to tell more stories and to remove yourself from the busy bumbling gossip queens of your life.  If you’re feeling particularly bold you can even challenge the people spreading the gossip if you deem it worth your time.  Most people are cowards, which is why they gossip to begin with.

Life offers many experiences, and if experience alone brought wisdom and fulfillment, then elderly people would all be happy and enlightened.  But the lessons of experience are hidden.  The following are several quotes and thoughts I came across this past month which have brought wisdom into my life and I hope they do the same for you:

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do.” – Edward Hale

Death is not sad; the sad thing is most people don’t really live at all.  Most people sleep their way through life.  How many hours a week do you spend watching TV?  Aren’t you tired of watching other people live?  Stop being so content with mediocrity.   If you knew for certain you had a terminal illness; if you had little time to live, you would waste precious little of it.  Well I’m telling you that you do have a terminal illness: It’s called birth and we all only have a few years left.

Turn knowledge into wisdom.  We’re overflowing with preconceptions and useless knowledge.  People hold many facts and opinions, yet know little of themselves.

Use what knowledge you have but see its limitations.  Knowledge alone does not suffice; it has no heart.  No amount of knowledge will nourish or sustain your spirit; it can never bring you ultimate happiness or peace.  Life requires more than knowledge; it requires intense feeling and constant energy.  Life demands right action if knowledge is to come alive.

I came across this story last month and wanted to share it with you:

There once was a beloved king who was so popular that the nearby townspeople sent him gifts daily. The people loved him for his renowned wisdom and fair judgment.  One day, tragedy struck the town. The water supply was polluted, and every man, women, and child went insane. Only the king, who had a private spring, was spared.  Soon after the tragedy, the mad townspeople began speaking of how the king was acting “strangely” and how his judgments were poor and his wisdom of a sham. Many even went so far as to say the king had gone crazy. His popularity soon vanished. No Longer did the people bring him gifts.  The lonely king, high on the hill, had no company at all. One day he decided to leave the hill and pay a visit to the town. It was a warm day, and so he drank from the village fountain.  That night there was a great celebration. The people rejoiced, for their beloved king had “regained his sanity.”

Are you willing to do what’s right when everyone around you is not?

If you don’t get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don’t want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can’t hold on to it forever.

To rid yourself of old patterns, focus all your energy not on struggling with the old, but on building the new.

Give people what they want until they want what you want to give them..

We’re all fools together.  It’s just a few people know it; others don’t.  It’s amazing how the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know anything at all.

The final words the Buddha spoke to his disciples: Just do your best.  It doesn’t matter what you do; only how well you do it.

Happiness is found in the journey, not the destination.
How is your journey coming along?  Are you moving?  Are you stuck?  Are you speeding down the highway, going slowly but surly, or going in circles?  This past month I was able to visit my sister Doreen out in Wisconsin for the first time.  It was an amazing trip and I was happy to spend some quality time with her.  We were overdue.  Speaking of overdue, every winter I tell myself it would be cool to go to a Trans-Siberian Orchestra performance, but I never make it.  Next year I will make it a point to go.

For the month of December I am looking forward to The Biddle Brass Christmas Concerto Extravaganza!  If you plan on attending and have not yet submitted an RSVP, please do so soon so we can make sure we have enough seats.  I’m also excited to decorate Doug (we picked him up on Thursday).  We call him Doug even though he’s a Nobel.  My trip up to San Jose for Christmas will be good.  I’m flying into town on the evening of the 20th and will be leaving on the 27th.  I’ll be looking forward to seeing as many friends and family as time allows.  On Christmas Eve you can count on me being at my friend Charlie Adametz’s house for their annual Christmas party.  That is something I look forward to every year. (I’m sorry Charlie I won’t be able to do Rumplemintz with you this year, but I’m sure we’ll manage.)  NYE is TBD, but it looks like it will be a house party somewhere in San Diego.

Today marks two months of sobriety for me!  Only 10 more months to go in my challenge. : )  It is exciting because I have already learned a lot from this process and I know the journey has only begun.  What’s nice is it has been surprisingly easier than I had imagined.  I’m not saying there hasn’t been temptation, there has, but it’s amazing what a man can do when he fully commits himself to a cause.  In other good news I’m dating a pretty cool girl named Stephanie.  I find it interesting that certain names seem to be reoccurring themes in my life.  Does this happen to anyone else?  Ahh, my brain is fried and I have to get up early for work tomorrow so I’m done.  I wish you all a merry Christmas and happy holidays.  Hopefully we’ll all be around to enjoy 2013.  Take care!

With Love,

Aaron Buttery

p.s. I was going to send a separate email out to my spiritually inclined friends, but then I realized I shouldn’t be making the decision of who “makes the cut” or not.  That being said, the following section contains several realizations I was going to share with them.  Please read if you feel inclined.

Section Two:
I have several great things I wish to share with you, but first a quick note for my peeps in Theodessy.  At the first of every month I send out an email where I pose questions and answer them (The email you just read).  You will now be receiving these monthly emails as a way of learning more of who I am and what is going on with me.  Feel free to respond to them if you wish, but know that obtaining a response from you is not my goal.  My goal is simply for you to question your own life and to learn a bit more about me in the process. (You may even recognize some of the questions from our curriculum. : )  )

On Thursday I enjoyed an amazing lunch with Paul Johnson.  I always enjoy when Paul and I meet because our paths, though different, are similar and through sharing our realizations we’re able to learn in a meaningful way.  That being said, I have three realizations for you which I realized earlier this week.  They are as follows:

1) Priorities:  Last weekend I was irritated with one of my friends because they expressed interest in doing something and making it a priority but their actions told a different tale.  That’s when I came up with “Your actions show where your priorities lie.”  While thinking about that phrase and how I’ve been spending my free time (running, learning Portuguese, and practicing for my Christmas concert) I was convicted that MY priorities needed a restructuring.  I say that God is important in my life and I know that, but my actions have been saying otherwise, specifically with my lack of spending time in the word.  This is not the first time I’ve realized this situation in my life and it won’t be the last, but I share it to be a reminder for you.  God deserves to be the top priority in our lives, and sometimes he is, but it has been my experience that when he holds that cherished spot he doesn’t remain there for long; it’s like being ranked first in the BCS. (Yes Doreen I made a college football reference!  Although I had to look up “BCS” to make sure I had it right. : )   )
So what do you do?  Well, currently I’ve recommitted to myself to spend more time in the word.  We’ll see how long it last; for the world is constantly trying to steal that time from me, but through faith, discipline, obedience, and community I should be able to keep it ranked one, if not for a little while.

Last week I flew my dad down for Thanksgiving so he wouldn’t spend it alone.  We had a great time, but the road wasn’t as peachy as I make it sound.  On the second day I was getting really irritated with him because he was being so needy and demanding of my time.  I wasn’t able to address or work on the things I “had to do.”  I was irritated, but then I asked, “Aaron, what are you doing?  Why are you getting mad?  Here you are, you fly your dad down for the holidays and you’re getting upset with him because of what?  He wants to spend time with you?  Isn’t that why you flew him down to begin with?”  Needless to say, I saw how foolish I had been acting and how foolish my anger had been.  I recalibrated my attitude and my priorities and truly began to enjoy the week.  Lesson learned: Structure must submit to spirit.  Practicing an instrument can be pushed back; learning a language can be pushed back; working out can be pushed back; cleaning your house or doing yard work can be pushed back; spending precious time with your family should never be pushed back, for tomorrow is promised to no one.

2) Attachment: While my dad was in town he went through my brother’s and my hampers and washed all our white clothes.  This event was particularly irritating because after which we had no clue of whose socks were whose.  This was a conflict we recently experienced with our mom and black socks and it didn’t turn out well.  I did however learn my lesson and decided to give all the white socks to Michael.  I learned it was better to cut my losses and go out and buy new socks to make up for the ones lost vs getting into an argument over something so trivial.  While I was thinking about this experience and thinking about why I was letting something as trivial as used socks bother me I made a great realization.  All that I have; all of my belongings; all of my talents; all of my comforts; everything good and worth being thankful for I have as a gift from God.  But the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.  Everything I have I should be thankful for, and I am, but when something of mine gets taken away I should not become upset; I may grieve, depending on what it is, but I should not acquire a sense of possessiveness or entitlement which is so rampant in our culture.  It was a profound realization found in the most trivial of places!

3) Slavery: Last Monday I shared with my small group a struggle I was dealing with in regard to my image of God.  This was my dilemma: I know God loves me, that he wants what’s best for me, and that he wants to protect my deepest joys.  I also know there is no better way to live than to live a life doing nothing but his will.  My question was this: If all I’m doing is performing the will of my creator, then what is the point of living at all?  Why was I even made?  To be some type of marionette puppet?  Where is free will and what is the point of giving someone free will if you just want them to will what you want?  After spending time in meditation and prayer I was able to come up with this:  The root of my dilemma is based on the fear or belief that God doesn’t have my best interest at heart.  If I truly believe he is looking out for my best interest, then I would long to do nothing but his will because I know doing his will will bring me ultimate happiness.  As far as address the question of, “well what is the point of creating someone with free will if you just want them to will what you want?” goes, I only have one answer; love.  True love is a choice and in order to make a pure choice you need to have free will.  God loves us so much he wants to experience true love with us.  In order to experience that he had to give us free will in order for us to choose to love him.  I have made my choice and I am a happy servant. : )

To be in God’s presence, with God’s people…there’s no better place to be.

John 6:67-68  So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go as well?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to who shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”

Author: Aaron Buttery

A man under construction.

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