PAST RAMBLINGS - 12
(collection of past Homepage greetings and stories)
January 24, 2003   -to-   December 24, 2003
 

Michael Tomlinson - Past Ramblings
Ramblings 1
3/13/99 - 7/11/99
Ramblings 2
7/27/99 - 1/8/00
Ramblings 3
3/6/00  - 8/7/00
Ramblings 4
9/18/00 -  11/19/00
Ramblings 5
12/17/00 - 4/10/01
Ramblings 6
5/9/01 - 6/25/01
Ramblings 7
07/23/01 - 10/07/01
Ramblings 8
10/19/01 - 2/18/02
Ramblings 9
3/22/02 - 8/5/02
Ramblings 10
8/27/02-12/22/02
Ramblings 11
1/24/03 to 5/31/03
Ramblings 12
7/18/03 to 12/24/03
Ramblings 13
1/11/04 to 5/28/04
Ramblings 14
7/03/04 to 10/1/04
Ramblings 15
11/03/04 to 2/22/05
Ramblings 16
4/01/05 to 7/1/05
Ramblings 17
08/21/05 - 11/16/05
Ramblings 18
12/20/05 to 6/11/06
Ramblings 19
07/19/06 to 11/13/06
Ramblings 20
12/02/06 to 4/2/07
Ramblings 21
5/21/07 to 9/4/07
Ramblings 22
11/9/07 to 3/1/2008
Ramblings 23
5/16/08 to 11/8/08
Ramblings 24
12/11/08 to 09/06/09
Ramblings 25
11/01/09 to
10/21/2010
Ramblings 26
5/10/10 to
12/4/2010
Ramblings 27
4/01/11 to
10/1/11
Ramblings 28
2/1/12 - Fall 2012
Ramblings 29
Spring 2013 - Holiday
Ramblings 30
2014 & 2015
 

July 18, 2003

Howdy my summertime friends,

As Tonto used to say before the Lone Ranger got all politically correct on him, "Long time no write website rambling, Kemosabe."

To which the Lone Ranger would reply, "Tonto, I tole ya ta quit callin' me that. Folks'll think I wuz named after an Asian hot sauce."

But then, you probably didn't tune into my homepage to read about the masked ranger and his sidekick, did you? But hey! Speaking of buckskin-wearing sidekicks, my ol' fren Rick Grant has been threatening lately to build his kids a fort. I let him go on and on about it for weeks before I finally offered to help him out. If you let Rick get a fair amount of the scheming out of his system first, I find he's much less troublesome to work with. I drove out to the fabled Grant-Huschle home in Snoqualmie last week and we drew up some elaborate plans, rolled up our sleeves to contemplate the confusing pile of lumber - and plopped back down to enjoy an ice-cold beer. Man, that mental imaging is some hard work.

As you may recall from my earlier tales, (all painstakingly accurate in every detail) Rick and I work quite well together because, well, I can't think of any good reasons, really. Begging Rick not to start hammering yet, I got out a pencil and started making notes about lumber and hardware we'd need. I knew this might irritate my little buddy, but once I get ready to work I don't like to have to stop and drive thirty miles to Home Depot for a woodscrew. Rick on the other hand, doesn't seem to mind this. It's just another opportunity for him to hit the open road and listen to one of the six or eight cds he buys every day. After an hour or so of drawing up a rough outline and noting specific materials we'd need, Rick could handle it no more and came to the penultimate end of his patience.

"I just gotta saw
on somethin!!!"

"I HATE plannin' stuff!" he announced, and stormed off to saw something - which was unfortunate, because it later turned out to be the dining room table extension.

We couldn't find everything we needed at Home Depot so we had to make the dreaded trip to Lowe's. Now, don't get me wrong, Lowe's is wonderful if you just need to walk through it and kill some time, but if you want some assistance finding anything, good luck making eye-contact with any floor help. They're a slippery bunch. After a goodly chunk of our lives had passed by, we finally found the metal sheeting we needed for the roof surface. After gathering a few other hardware items, I pushed the cartful of building supplies to the checkout counter. Rick walked ahead of me and when he got to the clerk he grinned at her, nodded back toward me and said, "Get a load of him. Ever since the sex change all he wants to do is build sheds." She looked warily upon me for the duration of the checkout process.

My one great regret for the three days we spent building the kid's new playhouse, (other than that I really used to enjoy having thumbs) is that we didn't get anybody to video us attaching the roof. What a shame! Our antics would stand proudly alongside any of the Greats: the Keystone Cops, the Three Stooges, Barney Fife -  all the gifted artistes of the ages. The two of us managed to get the building up by ourselves, but we knew we could never lift the roof up without help. We borrowed Rick's neighbor Terry O'Brien, and at precisely 10:00 PM on Sunday night, the three of us began to drag the humongous roof into position to be lifted fifteen feet into the air and attached to four posts. The day was growing dark and the mosquitos hovered in clusters, somehow sensing by the horde that easy game was soon to be had. By way of much grunting, tugging, cussing and farting, (Rick!) we managed to get the twelve-foot-long contraption above our heads and balanced precariously crossways upon the frame of the building. Now we had to lift it even higher with all three of us standing in the small floor space of the clubhouse. It would need to go at least six feet higher, be turned 180 degrees, and lined up so that the holes in the rafters precisely aligned with the holes in the upright posts. Hunkered over under the weight as we were - and slapping at them pesky mosquitos - it seemed an impossible task.

"This can't even be done, can it?" Terry stated. "You guys just got me up here as a joke, right?" Terry's sudden lack of faith hit my confidence hard and caused some savage doubt to course through my veins. Because of my inhumane experiences in the music bidnis, my ego was left frail and fragile and cannot sustain too drastic a censure over a short period of time. Under Terry's fierce onslaught of bitter criticism, I found myself gasping for air, babbling incoherently and seriously considering a change of pants. Could he be right? Was it possible that this roof job really was something that simply couldn't be done? I wondered if we'd have been better off attempting, say - a stone pyramid.

As we all argued over a strategy that would leave the greatest number of us with the most remaining limbs, the roof grew heavier and the mosquitos more ravenous. The structure we were crowded atop of seemed awfully rickety to me. I had a momentary vision of it collapsing beneath us and Rick's wife, Ruth, finding us beneath the rubble the next morning. I forced the awful vision out of my mind and chose to take some deep breaths and seek strength from within. Unfortunately, I inhaled a couple dozen skeeters when I did that. As they flew around inside me stinging my esophagus, it occurred to me that my only possible hope would be to attempt to cheer up and inspire my pals to superhuman effort - thereby saving my own life. I gave it the ol' college try.

"Can yall git this yerself?" I asked sincerely. "I'm feeling kindly feeble - it might be just the two or three-hunnert skeeter bites, but I think I need to lie down and have myself a beer." This didn't go over at all well, in fact, I suffered half-a-dozen stiff blows to my kidney region in rapid succession. "Okay, okay! Never mind, I'll just rest up in the hospice tomorrow."

Rick took over command and counted to three as we gave it as close to a unified effort as we could muster. It didn't move a bit.

"It can't be that heavy, can it?" asked my very astute pal, Rick. (This is not at all an unusual type of question for him to pose.)

"Who gives a shit how heavy it is!?" Terry bellowed. "Should we just stand here contemplating what it weighs, or bust a gut and git it up there?" He was obviously disgruntled at being dragged away from his Foster's beer bucket and Sunday night prayer meeting. I could tell he felt a horrible pang of guilt at having uttered the word "shit," and I felt bad for possibly being the cause of it. A surprising number of people resort to such language whenever I'm around - I pray it's just coincidence. Whatever the source of Terry's awesome surge of strength - deep guilt, aversion to skeeters, a sudden urge to get home in time for some sweet connubial bliss - he received what my friend Carson would call "a big puff of wind up his ass" and shoved that heavy roof up off our backs in one gargantuan effort. The steel-clad structure creaked and groaned, shivered and shook, then rose clear of our weary shoulders. If this is what a little guilt over cussing could cause, I had plans to see if I could get Terry mad enough to lift my Chevy so I could change out that bad ball joint.

One of the great golden moments of my life was the beautiful, precarious instant when Rick and Terry shook under their strenuous load while I successfully slipped a bolt through the hole joining one of the rafters to a post. Unfortunately, I'd grabbed the wrong bolt and it was too short to get a nut on. I tried to downplay my little mistake by cheering Hooray! over and over again. My enthusiasm must have been contagious because, though they were still holding up the other end of the roof, my cohorts joined me in song and we all shouted and cheered for a good minute.

I got 'em both singing a lengthy sea shanty in rounds so I could sneak down to the garage to retrieve the correct bolts. Realizing they were still under a goodly load, I came right back - after just a super quick pause in the kitchen to enjoy a nice bowl of peach cobbler. In no time at all I was back up there with the correct bolts. They were still singing and had hardly missed me. Reeking of peach cobbler, I said, "Le's ride, podna!" And in another minute we had that monster roof bolted into place and cranked tight as a pair of my highschool Levis. Terry disappeared immediately into the darkness to get back home and administer Calamine Lotion and see if there was any more bliss to be had. Rick and I stood in the darkness admiring where we imagined the playhouse would be if we could only see it.

It's been over a week now since that remarkable night and I've called out to the Grant-Huschle house several times to find out how the playhouse looks and if Rick has finished putting the siding on. So far, no one has returned my call. I'm trying not to imagine the worst but if I don't hear back soon, I'm considering taking a drive out to Snoqualmie, sneaking into that backyard and checking to see if the whole fambly went down in a bad playhouse collapse. I can hep 'em out soon as I have me another bowl o' that peach cobbler.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

I'm sitting under a towering maple tree at View Ridge Park in Seattle. About to spend a little time working on my book as soon as I get this new rambling finished. It's absolutely amazing that I can concentrate on what I'm doing because 75 feet to my right are twenty kids shrieking on the swings and merry-go-round, straight ahead is a Little League game, and whipping wildly about me as if they are frantic electrons and me the nucleus of an atom, are seven or eight little boys chasing my little dawg, Bungee. I can't say for sure how many there are because they are circling too fast to count.

I just wanted to let you know that I'm still alive, still singing and writing songs and working on my book. It's been a difficult year and ahalf for me - and for many people, I know. So much going on in our world that is difficult to understand. For me personally, there was the illness and passing of my father, which set me spinning into my own fears of mortality and questions of what life is about. It's as natural as the wind, the wave of questions that washes over you when you suffer great loss, but it is nonetheless difficult to understand. Since the book I'm writing is about my own life you can imagine the dead ends I've encountered, writing some chapters for a few weeks, then tossing them out when I find that it was all for me and not necessarily for public release. I've written many more chapters than will go in the book but I just have to write what comes and decide later which parts work best.

This fall will be three years that I've been writing and I am quite aware and grateful for the patience of the 300-plus folks who believe in me enough to have pre-ordered my book. I do believe I'm near the end and plan to finish it this year.

There are other personal challenges that have kept me quiet in this last year. I tend to get quiet when I'm in limbo, exploring into new territory within myself. You probably know exactly what I'm talking about. Despite the pain and loss I've been experiencing in several areas, I really do have hope and faith. I feel grateful to be alive and am eternally surprised when I find that new songs still come to me, melodies and lyrics that feel joyful and meaningful to me. I'm incredibly fortunate to have found this path and I'm always grateful to you for your amazing support over the years, listening to my music, coming to my concerts and buying my CDs. I realize that almost everyone who enjoys my music takes great joy in sharing it with others and I'm honored that you do that.

I have more than enough songs written for the next CD and as you scroll down the page you'll see my latest idea for raising the money it will take to record them. I'm excited about this group of songs, I honestly believe you will find them to be some of the most powerful and moving and uplifting songs I've ever written. A long time ago I made a commitment that, as long as I record music, I will always wait until I have a group of songs that are strong and meaningful - never just fillers to take up space on a record. I've had that patience and taken the time to refine my lyrics until they come very close to meaning exactly what I've intended - that's no small chore for me. I know by the time you hear them that it often sounds like my lyrics come so easily and naturally, but it takes me a long time to figure out how to say the things that matter to me. I just don't give up until I succeed.

I often talk about breath in my songs and in my ramblings here. It's not a habit of mine, it actually is something that is so powerful and so essential to my well being that I cannot help but want to share it. In the difficulties of the last year or so, as I've gone through some painful emotional challenges, I have frequently and consistently imagined breathing oxygen directly into my heart. I breathe deeply and consciously and say this prayer as I do - Raise the vibration of Love in my Heart. It sounds simple and it is, but it has had a profound effect on my life, on the raising of hope and compassion within me. I have my moments and days where I forget this, but more and more often I remember to breathe and that this openness naturally causes my heart and mind to open to something more loving and compassionate in my nature.

No matter your religious beliefs - or lack of such - please give this a try. Begin to breathe into your heart. Or if that doesn't call to you, just breathe in deeply, anyway you can. Hold it a moment to reflect, then slowly exhale. If you do this more and more regularly I have no doubt at all that you will find yourself becoming more aligned with who you really are, the very essence of who you truly have traveled here to become. And when we become who we really are the world is blessed with our gifts and our humor, our wisdom, compassion and sweetness. I truly believe that when one human being chooses love and consciousness, the entire world is forever changed for the better.

I will be playing some shows this fall. Most likely in Seattle, Southern California, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida. I would love to play in your area and if you have ideas for me, please let me know. It's not that I play in certain places more often because I love them more than other areas, I play there because they are the areas where opportunities have presented themselves. If there are opportunities to perform in your town, I'm very open and interested.

I hope your summer is an inspiring one. Be sure and step outside some nights to smell the evening fragrances of flowers and dew. If my neighbors only knew that I do this completely nekkid sometimes, I'm sure there would be a petition making the rounds this very week. Happy summertime to you.

Yer ol' fren,

     ~Michael


October 15, 2003

Howdy my fine autumn friends,

If you've checked my website lately you probably have noticed that I haven't updated it since July 18. Now, that's ridiculous! Am I gonna have a website or ain't I? Honestly, I can blame a goodly amount of my tardiness on my calendar. Only a couple of days ago I realized that I still had a 1997 calendar on my wall. Even at that, I had it only turned to May. That's just plain wrong! I'm probably years late for all manner of engagements. If you know of any, if in fact, I was supposed to meet you somewhere on a Wednesday in March, 1999, please forgive me. I hope you didn't waste the whole day.

Actually, there are several reasons I've gone underground in the last few months, but that dang polka band playing about fifty feet from me has rendered my memory as slack as an old mail pouch. With two accordions and a yodeler going on and on I can't remember much past three minutes ago. I do recall that I came to the Commons at Third Place Books to write, not realizing that they'd have live music this evening, much less polka. You have to be in a certain type of mood (hopelessly drunk) to withstand such an assault on the ears and I'm not there. Yet. They may drive me to it.

Here in Seattle, we're well into autumn. Half the leaves have turned and fallen, escorted prematurely to the ground by some rip-roaring winds and a couple of sudden downpours. We had a marvelous summer though, weeks upon weeks of sunshine and clear days. I spent some time in the Cascade Mountains in August, driving over the pass in my '64 Malibu Convertible with the top down. It's a beautiful car that my friend Gary Blue restored for me back in the late 80s. It looks like a dream but I'm telling you, those old cars weren't really built for high speed driving. Oh, there's plenty of power, the problem is aerodynamic; the wind beats you to death if you're going over 45mph. I've tried all kinds of driving positions in order to keep the bugs out of my teeth: lying down in the front seat and watching the road with a handheld mirror; crouching in the back floorboard and steering with a stick, nothing works but sitting upright behind the wheel with swimming goggles and a snorkel on. It sure hurts the coolness factor but I can stand only so many flies whizzing down my throat.

Speaking of a snorkel, I know a fellow in Fall City who holds a pumpkin carving contest every fall. (that made no sense at all but hold on - it will) Over a hundred people come to participate and there are some tremendously talented artists among them. I went with Rick and Ruth and their kids and brought along a pumpkin but wasn't really sure I'd go to the trouble to do any carving. The pumpkin in my arms was basically just my ticket to get in so I could enjoy the potluck dinner and keg of microbrew. Most of the pumpkins in competition were already carved when we got there and they were so awesome that it was intimidating to even consider what Rick and I would come up with. We took our pumpkins into the barn though, among the ruins of what had been whittled earlier and I saw something on the wall that sparked my imagination.
 

"Rick! Let's put the snorkel on him!" Rick grinned and stuck a knife in his pumpkin and made a small round hole for a mouth.  I poked the snorkel in it. Then Rick stretched the matching goggles over the knobby orange head and we doubled over laughing, it was so ludicrous looking. The coup de maitre though, was the set of fins we found. Rick's pumpkin was tall and skinny, like a jack-o-lantern that had had the shit squeezed out of him. With the goggles and snorkel on, we placed it upon the rubber fins and went into a wheezing, slobbering fit - it was one of the funniest sights I've ever seen in my life. By now it was raining out and we took our entry outside and sat it alongside the truly artistic ones. Instead of putting candles inside like everyone else had done, we put two candles in front of it to light the snorkel and goggles. You just couldn't look at it without falling down laughing. It looked like a lanky Humpty Dumpty had been swimming around in carrot juice. Within minutes there was a howling crowd gathered around our jack-o-lantern, laughing as hard as we were.

After I'd milked the crowd for all the compliments I could, I grew tired of the attention and drove back to town. The next day Rick called me. "Hey buddy, we won."

"What do you mean?" I asked. I couldn't think of what in the world he was talking about. (there was polka playing on the radio, so my memory was shot)

"The punkin' carving contest, we won the grand prize." He acted as if it was the most natural thing in the world, but I was blown away. I've only won a couple of things in my life. One was a box of Tide - which really, I guess you could say I didn't actually win - it was just in my mailbox one day. The other was a watermelon seed spitting contest when I was in college. I had a gap between my front teeth back then I could spit a pecan through.

"You are shittin' me! We beat the guy who carved the witch flying over the moon? And that dude who whittled the entire Seattle skyline?"  

"Yep, crrechcherrenncch!" Rick seemed to be chewing on something, 'cause I could hear a crunching and splitting sound that reminded me of walnuts under car tires.

"And the woman who carved Mt Rushmore? We beat her!?" I was incredulous that this was even possible. It was like Martha Stewart winning out over Vincent van Gogh.

"Yeah, yeah, we beat everybody, my friend. I wish to hell you'd have stuck around though to take some of the heat off me. The decision was hotly contested, there were some pretty bitter dissenters in the mob, especially the two women who carved the Oprah punkin. They kept shoving me and calling me a looser. Listen, you don't want to be anywhere near an angry mob in Halloween masks, people lose their sense of decency pretty quick. I'm sure there's going to be new rules next year so that you actually have to carve something to win."

Sore losers, I thought. But I didn't let it ruin my day. I spent the afternoon gloating, savoring the way Rick and I had outsmarted all them dang talented artists. It's good to be king of something, I thought, even if it's just a wacky punkin' decorating contest. I've coasted on that glory long enough though, and now I'm beginning to look for my next challenge. Perhaps cupcake decorating...hmm...
 

If you haven't received my newsletter yet, you probably will soon. In early September I began working on writing and laying it out, the first one I've created in more than two years. I was working with a friend who built and maintains my website, Brian Dina. I prefer to call him my "webguy" rather than "webmaster," though he encourages all his clients to "just drop the prefix and feel free to call me Master." We did surprisingly well being cooped up together for several weeks, but a couple of times punches were thrown and feets was flung - never with the intention of doing serious damage, but simply because growing boys has gots to git the tension out.


Tomlinson Junior High, Fairfield, CT

Brian tried to assuage me by wearing a tee-shirt from his junior high school in New England which stated - I swear, "Tomlinson Rules!" Seeing as how nobody in my own junior high school could even pronounce my name, I found it astonishing that there was actually a Tomlinson Junior High School in Connecticut. That dang shirt was my undoing. Every time I'd come even close to getting a running start toward Brian, my steel-toed boot reared back for a full-on kick, he'd inhale a gutfull of air and point to that taut-as-a-drum tee shirt painted across his belly. Dang! I just could not boot a man wearing a Tomlinson Rules! tee-shirt! Unfortunately, I had no corresponding shirt for him, no Dino is Dynomite tee-shirt, so he was able to hammer me unconscious. The one good thing about this was that Brian works best when he is left to his own methods. When I'd come-to, he often had a couple more pages finished. (you can hire this fine web designer by emailing him at brian@briandina.com or by checking out his work at www.briandina.com)


Gideon Tomlinson
1780-1854
He really existed.  You can look it up on the web!

I thought I was being clever when I named my newsletter The MT Page, several years ago, but surprisingly few people get it, Occasionally, I'll receive an email saying "Oh! Now I understand! The Empty Page!" I'm thinking now I should have named it Tomlinson Rules! If you've received your copy you surely noticed the ads included in this issue. There was no way I could afford the $4000 it takes to design, layout, print and mail it to over 7000 folks without help, so I put out word that I was going to take ads and a generous group of folks responded. As you can see, the ads are all tasteful. I hope, if you see something there that calls to you, that you'll get in touch with them. If you're interested in Placing an Ad in my Springtime MT Page, feel free to get in touch. mt@michaeltomlinson.com


Whatever you're doing this fall, I hope you will remind your friends and loved ones to take some deep breaths and look around for what there is to be grateful for. Here is a verse from one of my new songs -

Every now and then, when I forget the mess I'm in
     And I take a breath and I look all around me
There is still a lot, to be grateful for all we've got
    Both the savage storm and it's merciful morning . . .

Thank you for listening to my music and sharing it with your friends. It means a lot to me.
Yer ol' fren
   
~Michael Tomlinson


Christmas Eve, Dec 24, 2003

Howdy Holidays to you,

It's Christmas eve and I'm watching last minute shoppers drive by the window of this coffee shop in the rain. If it was just fifteen degrees cooler there'd be snowflakes drifting down and I'd be out in the storm, rolling my little dawg into a big snowball. She doesn't care much for that, but we get so little snow in Seattle that I always try my best to give her a real "snow experience" when it does finally fall. I made a snowman once with her little head sticking out as his nose. It was the cutest thing you ever saw - her barking made it sound as if the snowman had a heck of a head cold. But then I got to thinking that maybe she was getting chilly in there, so I lopped Frosty's head off with a shovel and rescued her. She  seemed ever so glad to see me, and since then I've noticed that she tunes in to the weather channel daily and disappears under the couch whenever there is the slightest mention of snow flurries. What a fun-lovin' little dawg!

I was at the home of my friends, Joie and Jeff, earlier, taking notes on how to care for their cat, Cedar, while they are gone over Christmas. It's kind of a double-edged sword for them; they're grateful that I'll drive all the way across Seattle to look in on Cedar, but then they never know for sure what they'll find in their freezer when they return. It's an old joke of mine: putting unusual household items in people's freezers. You should try it sometime, it's such an opportunity for creativity. It all started when I was nineteen and froze a buddy's pants while he slept. A bunch of my friends were staying over for the weekend and Joe had warned us all that he had to get up very early to meet his fiancÚ for church. This news didn't go over at all well among us Cold Duck-guzzling fellas and I felt that it was my duty to sabotage such unwise behavior in one of my pals. After all, isn't nineteen just a bit early to begin showing up on time for a woman? Not to mention, going to church! So after I heard Joe snoring in such a way that it was apparent that a tornado couldn't wake him, I crawled under the bed in darkness and snatched his Levis. I went into the kitchen and soaked them real good in the sink, then rolled them up tight and wedged them into the freezer. It was difficult to get to sleep, giggling uncontrollably as I was, but eventually, I dosed off.

The next thing I know it's light out and I can hear Joe hollering for somebody to give him back his dang pants. You could tell he was worried about being late to meet his fiancÚ. In response, I pulled my blanket over my head to feign comatose sleep. About a minute later the covers were jerked from my grasp and I looked up to see Joe standing at the foot of my bed demanding his britches with a look of desperation on his face that said - Please! I cannot go to church nekkid! But of course, if it really meant a lot to him, he would not have let that stop him. There were guffaws coming from all over the house. Nobody knew what I'd done, but there was little doubt that I was the man behind whatever had become of Joe's britches. Seeing that it was 9:45, and knowing that church started at 10:00, I decided to give the boy the bad news - but still a decent chance to make his commitments if he didn't mind rubbing a little damp rash on his inner thighs.

I climbed out of bed and tried to tell him where to look, but I couldn't get the words out. "In the frrr. . . the ferrr. . ." I just broke up and couldn't say the word. "The k-kitchen, Joke!" (that's what we called him - Joke) "G-Go to the k-kitchen!"  It's all I could say, all doubled over and out of breath, cackling. Once in the general vicinity of his britches, I thought he'd reason it out. You know, pants, electrical appliances, etc., etc. How bright do you have to be to look in the freezer?

Well, Joke must have been hung way-over from the Cold Duck, because he looked in every cupboard, behind the stove, even in the breadbox and didn't find them. I had to actually open the freezer door for him and even then he didn't recognize his pants.

"What? I don't see 'em." he exclaimed. I leaned my head in and howled when I say how tight a bundle they were in. All covered with frost, they looked exactly like a frozen chicken with bad freezer burn. I reached inside and reefed on them with all my strength and finally broke them loose from the ice cream box they had frozen to. I chucked them to him like a little frozen football and he hollered when his fingers froze to them.

"You have got to be shittin' me!" he proclaimed. "There's no way in the world I'm going to make it to church on time!" Which made the whole thing worthwhile to me.

They were frozen so hard that I actually worried his britches would break apart. He slammed a perfect spiral into the sink and turned the hot water on and you could hear them crack as steam rose off of them. It's a scene I'll always remember, watching my friend, Joe, stand there shivering in his briefs while he waited for the hot water to thaw his britches. I won't even go into what happened next - because it involves further practical jokes that I should be ashamed of. (but I'm not - and I have to live with that) Let's just say he didn't make it to church until the following Sunday. He did still manage to get married though. So really, I guess I didn't do all that much damage.

Anyway, back to Joie and Jeff and Christmas eve. I've put so many items in their freezer over the years (dumbells, dead potted plant, shoes, lumber) that they now come home from trips and go directly to the kitchen to see what they're going to spend ten minutes trying to get out of there. I'm honest about it, too. I don't even pretend that I'm not going to work hard to outdo myself. Lately, I've gotten into puzzles. A couple of weeks ago I found some rope and tied it around the tail of a huge frozen salmon, threaded it through a couple of large pan handles and a metal grate, then wound it around a dumbell - which I sat in a pan of water. This contraption all froze, of course, and I understand that Jeff was standing in the open door of the freezer at midnight, cussing me up and down for twenty minutes while he tried to get it all untangled. If you're reading this Jeffrey, I'm terribly sorry. I meant to come up with something more challenging than that.

Before I left their house a couple of hours ago, I flat out asked Joie if they'd clear that freezer out so a man could have a little room to work. After all, I've got the Christmas spirit in me and I'd like to do something they'll remember for a real long time. Now, if I could just find a stuffed animal that looked kinda like Cedar. . .

I played a couple of concerts in Colorado earlier in the month and had a great time there. It snowed before I left and I got to see a real winter wonderland before I flew down to Texas to visit my mom. I spent a lot of time repairing odds and ends around the house, but we also got to drive around and see Christmas lights and enjoy wandering around town with each other. Mom's had a difficult year since my father passed away and I try to make it down to see her a couple of times a year now. I would have never guessed that we would evolve into having such a genuine friendship. It's been a beautiful surprise and true blessing in both our lives, getting to know each other again as the human beings we've become instead of holding each other to our memories of the past. I really want to say to you that if you have family you don't feel close to but wish you did, please keep alive the possibility that there are ways to get there that you simply cannot see from where you are. Most of us have this view of ourselves as flexible, resilient and willing people - and that the problems lie with those who are not so open to change and goodwill. The thing is, we all think we're the reasonable ones. I can tell you from what I have learned in my life and from what I feel in my heart, that no matter how lost or damaged your bond with another person may seem, it is important to leave the door open - even if it's only slightly ajar. You just may find that miracles happen and that you and someone you wish to heal with, to be close to again, will come into the same space of forgiveness in the same instant. It can happen, I promise.

I didn't plan on writing about this, but something happened to me last year as I accompanied my father in the final days of his life. As I touched him and we talked - only sparingly, he could not get enough breath to talk much - I was given a knowing that I will never forget. I'm going to share it with you because I believe it to be true about everybody - not just me and my father. As I stood beside him I "saw" that not only did the distance, disagreements and division between us over the years not matter - it literally DID NOT EXIST! The only real thing that existed between us was the bond between our hearts. All that had ever existed between my father and myself was the force of love moving eternally between our hearts.

On this Christmas Eve, it is my wish for all of us that we heal some hurt we have experienced or visited upon another. It can take something as simple as a breath, one deep inhalation of trust, openness, love, hope. And since we never know upon which breath the realization will come, each and every breath holds the potential for this healing, this coming together of hearts in a forgiving and holy way.

Wherever you are in this season, breathe, slow down, imagine feeling love. And remind your friends to do the same - including me, I forget all the time and need a little nudge now and then. Well, I must get back to my escapades with the freezer. I'm wondering if I can get the microwave in there. . .


Merry Christmas to you, my friends.   
    ~Michael Tomlinson



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