Wednesday, July 11, 2012


My darling daughter asked me last night what I have accomplished in life. Not meaning to be flippant, I replied that I have not accomplished much and as I said that my heart sank.
Yet, accomplishments should be measured by the person, not by outside influences. I heard something like that on the radio on the way to work. The two DJ's on KSBJ talked about people comparing themselves to other people using Facebook or, worse yet, comparing yourself to the Christmas Letter. (In the infamous Christmas Letter, of course, you can never compare. The Christmas family accomplished so much during the year and drives most of us deep into our eggnog to drown our sorrowful and empty lives. As one of the DJs said, if you've never received a Christmas Letter, just be thankful.)
So I thought about what I'm most proud of in my life, studiously ignoring the nagging caveats for each accomplishment that impinge on my consciousness and work to negate it.
It actually looked a little like this, with more trees
I learned to ride a bike. That was hard for me, and I had a few accidents that hurt me a lot.
I made my Dad a tie rack when I was in Cub Scouts in Rhode Island. I also made my Mom a pencil holder from a tin can and some shiny things. I also made Mom a bracelet from little wooden blocks and small tiles. (She still had the bracelet in her jewelry box when she died, missing a few tiles.)

I helped Dad build a chicken coop in Washington State.
I worked in a car wash and used the money to buy my own clothes, including an Aussie hat. I also learned to clean a grease-encrusted engine.
I wrote an epic poem in seventh grade (thank you, Mr. Croom). It was two pages typed (on a typewriter) and had ten or twelve stanzas. In fact, an English teacher in high school thought it was a famous poet when she read it. A girl I knew borrowed the only copy and lost it when I was a high school senior.
I wrote an "article" that was published on the first page of the hometown newspaper (below the fold, but I'll take it).
I kept a good job while in high school, working in Atwood's gas station in Rockford. I learned a lot there. Thank you, Mrs. Atwood for sharing your knowledge and your love with me.
I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. It would be years until He became Lord.
I bought a car with my own money. I buffed it until it shined, and worked on it to make it run better. I sold it for college money.
I was Mr. Lundee in Brigadoon (thank you, Mitch Rice for encouraging me and being my friend, even when I wasn't). Then I was in the Rockford Community Theater for Hello, Dolly and Our Town
I worked at a restaurant and then at a truss-making plant. I drove an ice-cream truck for a while (Thanks Peg and Pat for teaching me to drive a stick). I also worked at an ice-cream parlor and as a maintenance guy in an townhome complex. I painted a lot of empty townhomes and cleaned a lot of really, really horrific refrigerators. And let's not talk about the basement full of dog poop.
I won a number of tennis matches in an intra-mural college tennis club at CMU (thank you, Rick, for being impressed).
I got an A- in Organic Chemistry I and a B+ in Organic Chemistry II and, yes, those are accomplishments. I got the second highest grade in the country on the standardized final exam for Organic Chemistry II. (Maybe I didn't, but that's what I recall the professor telling me, and he was loathe to do so, since he didn't like me much at all.)
I parachuted my last year in college. I worked on-campus and saved a lot of months to afford that.
I earned a college degree, the first in my family to do so. I worked my way through college, getting a few government student loans to supplement the scholarships I had. I didn't have a clue how college worked back then. Nobody in my family did.
I took a Greyhound bus to Texas at the tender age of twenty-two, knowing only one person here. (Thank you, Nick, for your kindness and patience.)
I got a job (and bought two cars, but that might be failure, so I'll ignore that). I worked there for seventeen years. Then I got another job working on the ISS.
I learned to throw knives and learned to carve and learned to juggle, a little bit. I carved a few things that still exist.
I bought a house. I built a number of really good, raised garden beds and grew corn, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce. I made pickles.
I rebuilt a carburetor. I did all the mechanical work on our Mustang for a lot of years, including oil changes, tune-ups and replacing engine parts. I actually owned a Chilton's Manual for that car and used it.
I traveled to Mexico.
My friend Raymond and I wrote a computer program for the Blend Area that they used for a decade. Computers were pretty new then. We wrote it in BASICA. We invented our own variable file structures to do it. Thank you, Raymond.
I bench-pressed two-ninety-five with my buddy Kennie spotting me. I ran some short races. At age thirty I had sixteen inch arms and a thirty-two inch waist, and weighed one-ninety-five. Just that extended period of staying in shape is an accomplishment. Thank you Kennie.
I taught college classes at San Jacinto College.
I built and sold about six computers. The user support killed that business.
I helped build wooden boxes (thank you, Bernie, for your guidance and patience). I got really good at doing the finish for them. I made some wooden apples on a lathe, from glued-together wooden scraps. Some of those were really nice.
I actually made a cross-stitch and framed it (thank you Kathy for the inspiration and training).
I fixed a fence. That seems trivial, but I was proud to do so, since it was the fence of people I loved and I did it while they were gone. A stampeding cow broke the fence, by the way.
I made a lot of drawings for my youngest son. Some are posted here. Thank you, my lad, for the inspiration.
I earned a Master's degree (in Studies of the Future), not the first in my family to do so, but it took a decade to achieve after a few false starts. Thank you Dr. Peter Bishop.
I met Tim and Tammie, and Brett Shine. I miss Tim, and still thank God for Tammie and Brett. Thank you all.
I stood stage left, upper stage
I visited Israel twice, with Darling. Both times were with our church group. The first time we stopped off in Germany on the way back and visited Darling's relatives. The second time I had my international singing debut on the stage of Bet Shean, my darling daughter next to me for moral support. Thank you, dear heart, for that.
I was Eeyore in the first production by Kid's Backporch Productions. I was in others, but that was the best, since my darling daughter was Winnie-the-Pooh.
I went on a two-week mission trip to Africa with Darling. How God convinced me to do that is its own story. Thank you Pastor Don. 
Darling and I started a company - Undefined Logic, LLC. She's the President.
My friend Rex and I wrote an app for the iPhone, Techno-Jargon. I wrote a number of apps after that for both iTunes and Android. Thank you, Rex.
I survived numerous heartbreaks, two divorces, a number of disagreeable incidents in differing workplaces, and my own dark nature.
I cannot take credit for any of my children, though they are often a source of joy and wonder to me, and they will accomplish so much more than I can even imagine.

These are the accomplishments. Were I to list the failures the list would be much longer. Were I to list the things I did not even attempt the list would overwhelm me. God help me to be a better man, a better husband, a better father, a better brother and uncle and friend. I cannot do it on my own.


  1. I will be very satisfied to be as interesting and accomplished as you someday, Dad. :)

    I was talking about you to Mr. Casella when I went to visit - about how you write and solve code-bugs and know all about different algorithms. He said you sounded like a very interesting person, and I said that you were. I still think it's true - please don't say that you haven't really accomplished everything.

    I did love being Winnie-the-Pooh and you being Eeyore. That was a blast. One of the most fun times I've had.

  2. I can say only one thing to your sweet response:
    Thanks for noticing me...

  3. I think you missed a few accomplishments in there but a couple of omissions stand out.

    One - you helped Mom watch over 3 unruly younger brothers while Dad was serving his country. You set the example and served as a role model for all of us and we owe you a debt of gratitude for that.

    And, two, even though you have faltered and fallen throughout your life (like all of us at this point), you always get up and keep moving forward, no matter how hard it is. You never give up - which makes you a success no matter what you accomplish in this life.

    I couldn't ask for a better big brother, mentor, and role model.


  4. Thanks, Dave. I don't recall being very good as an older brother and certainly not as a role model, but you're very kind to say so.
    I do give up, of course, and that would start a discussion of my list of failures, which would be a long and tedious process.

  5. I know of one very important thing that you left out (especially to me). When, as an over-confident 23 yr old, I ventured out with all my belongs packed in my little car and headed to Houston. Not knowing anyone! Praise the Lord for Aunt Jenny giving me your phone number the night before I was to arrive in that HUGE, UNFRIENDLY city of Houston! That day is a story in itself. But if you had not insisted on me coming straight to you instead of my hair-brain scheme of "getting a motel for a couple of days until I find a job". I would probably have been found dead somewhere!
    My dear, you have no idea how sometimes the simplest acts of kindness can make the difference of life and death in someones life! I'm just one that is telling you - Your accomplishments are many!!!!!!! Failures are just lessons learned and are cancelled out with a smile and/or a kind word. Love you! Kath