Fleeting Moments

I read a blog today of a lady’s unexpected health problem and the fear she is now experiencing.  I understand completely her fears, not knowing the answer is the most difficult part.  One can deal with a diagnosis, good or bad, we can move on, make plans and get busy living with the time we have left.  In 2008, I came down with the flu really bad.  So bad I developed vertigo.  I was so dizzy I couldn’t stand, I couldn’t see, and I couldn’t type.  The latter issue being the worst because it was smack dab in the beginning of tax season.  My livelihood depended upon being able to crunch numbers and place them in tax software.  When the vertigo didn’t cease I had to go through all the tests including a CT scan to determine the presence of tumors.  This is when mortal fear sets in and you realize you just might be seeing your life flash before you.  Luckily for me, after a few more tests, it was determined a nerve from my ear to my brain was irreparably damaged and the only course of action was to retrain my brain with exercises for the eyes to takeover the equilibrium mechanism. After 8 months of therapy, my equilibrium was restored.  I’m one of the lucky ones, or maybe my prayers were answered, just not in the time I expected them to be. I believe in the power of prayer, I’ve seen its power for others and for myself, more than once.

One of my clients, an orthopedic surgeon in the same town, had a similar issue but it attacked his central nervous system and he lost the majority of his motor functions.  He lost his ability to work and was burdened by a daily expensive cocktail of drugs to make life bearable.

It was about that time that the economy took another dive.  This being the fourth one in my adult life.  It is moments such as these that you reconsider life as you know it.  Those things we’ve chased only to be outrun, or run over by them.  Time is all I have and its quantity is unknown.  When desires and people waste that time, it takes your mind to a new realm.  A realm where life is not taken for granted, and that money and social acceptance are unworthy goals.  This year my wife and I went to Hawaii, the island of Kauai.  For those of you who are spiritual, a visit to Hawaii is a blessing to all your senses.

We took a drive to Kalalau lookout.  That day the Pacific and the sky were one color, as though eternity stood before me.  I felt as though I was in the presence of God.  It was at that moment all my anxieties of the future were released.

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On our last day of discovery we took a dinner cruise where we stood at sea level looking back up 4,000 feet at the point I described above.  There I had the same reaction – blissfully awed and at peace, with the sound of rushing water providing a calming rhythm.  I was brought back to a time 34 years ago when I climbed the 8,000 foot summit of Guadalupe Peak in Texas, where I sat down alone and viewed west Texas and Mexico to the south, with only the sound of wind and the sights of earth and sky as my companion.  I also recall that same peace, only to forget it later from the demands of family and career over the next three decades.  How did it go by so quickly?

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So what is my point?  We search our entire lives for seemingly unattainable goals.  You reach a salary point, and then you want more. Then in the flash of a second you can be forced into a sober analysis of the path you were taking.  You step back and look at all the trinkets you’ve obtained made from the resources of this remarkable planet, realizing none of it truly was what you wanted, but thought were supposed to have. We plunge ourselves into ultimate driving machines with ultimate debt, and even reconstruct our own bodies to cheat mortality.  But as it has been said wisely, “He who dies with the most toys, is still dead.”

My health issue was a moment of rebirth, the answer that all my 2-year and 5-year plans were absolutely absurd. So I am selling everything I own and looking to live the remaining years more on the minimalist side, down-sizing to what a man and wife really need – basic shelter and the environment to rejuvenate our body and soul.  For me it is not about the quantity of my life, but the quality.  When I stood at the Kalalau lookout, I was at peace with myself and if God truly wanted to take me, I was ready.  We live in an age where belief in the unseen is mocked.   My trials and tribulations have only made my faith stronger and I am unashamed of admitting it.  It lead me to write my mythological trilogy and the upcoming series to complete my mythology of good and evil, faith, and the simple things of life we take for granted, such as the sounds and sights of creation, and the peace  a moment spent alone in that surrounding can bring.

Paradise and Soul Reborn

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We are born and lessons we must learn; to be possessed by our possessions only later to be burned, and adorn our homes and lives with accessories we think we yearn.

We run the race of affluency and gather in loud circles nodding agreeably and knowing we are not heard. We wonder why we do this and we wonder how it became so blurred.

In that moment at the summit of our success, we discover it was the valley that we truly missed.  We recall the freedom, the innocence and the simplicity of bliss.

We can continue on or trade all we possess, the last chance to be reborn. To connect our soul to the beauty and symphony of nature, for which we must all be returned.

Context & Construct

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I visited with my sister this weekend and we spoke about my trilogy.  She has a masters degree in creative writing.  She has tried to read my trilogy but states all the other authors and editors do not write the way I write.  That you must hook people quickly into your story.  I understand completely her viewpoint, this is what the majority opinion is.  But I have to ask a simple question.  How creative is this? If we all march to beat of the same drums, aren’t we just robots catering to the machine?  Do you ever feel like you are reading the same story over and over again, with just a few new character names and locales?  Don’t you know what sex is by now?  How many ways can you spin eroticism and vampires?  I’m not knocking these authors or readers, but don’t you want a change of pace?

I am a CPA.  I am analytical, linear and logical.  I have done computer programming which must be controlled by logic with “”If this, then this, else this” type construct.  I literally despise stories without context and logical construction.  I have heard people say,

“I want a quick and fun read.  I do not wish to think.”

If this is true then my stories will not appeal to you.  If you like books like the The Shack or the Life of Pi, then you are seeking a book with a deeper meaning of life and spirituality.  Yes, it has to be entertaining, but don’t you want the ground work established first?  Here is how I constructed my trilogy based on my love for J.R.R. Tolkien’s wonderful and mesmerizing world of Arda and Middle Earth.

Book 1 – Rise of the Fallen, Chapters 1-9 are the history of the universe and Allivar.  Think of the Silmarillion in a compressed form.  A mythology must have an origin narrative. There must be a narrative on the source of evil and the history to create the myths of immortals and heroic mortals. These chapters establish the construction of all that follows and provides subtle clues to the surprising ending of the story.  If you rush through this, you will definitely miss the point of the story.  Sorry, I didn’t spend ten years just to have battle scenes, sex and a pointless battle over a throne.  My story is much deeper than this.

Chapters 10-16 begins the story of the hero in the dawning of the seventh age of Allivar.   Like the Fellowship of the Ring there is the bonding of characters of various races on a journey the Chosen One was selected for, which is to determine if mortals are worthy of life.  If you wish, just jump to Chapter 10 and begin there.  Then maybe one day you will want to go back and have context of the origin of my mythology.

Now this book cannot be more exciting than book two, nor can book two be more exciting than book three.  There must be a crescendo of action and emotions.

Book 2 Bound to Forbidden Lands ratchets the excitement after all the ground work was established in book one.  The Two Towers gave readers the thought that all would be lost, but that the faith in men would rise to counter the acts of evil.   We were left begging for the conclusion with the Return of the King.

Book two introduces romance and the continued rise of evil, an epic coliseum battle, fighting with dark demons and a journey through lands, guarded by dragons and watchers, the hero has been told to avoid.  But he has no other option.  The ending of the story must compel you to read the third story, so it has a cliff hanger unlike any you will ever read. He lives!

Book 3 – Last Stand of the Living is the culmination of the entire mythology with the greatest mythological battle ever to be written, where the fate of the universe will be decided, and where mortal and immortal alike come to battle. Here you will finally understand all that was written in the first nine chapters of book one.  I recall the Return of The King’s influence on the ratcheting of the battle scenes and emotions with the arrival of the Rohirrim and the eventual defeat of Sauron.  Readers who have taken the challenge to read my trilogy are utterly exhausted emotionally in this third story.  For the creator of the universe makes his stand with the seven mortal races.

I can guarantee you this much; you will laugh, you will cry, and you will cheer.  You may even contemplate life as we know it, for it is allegorical to our times.

But I am not done with you yet.  Forthcoming are the Chronicles of Allivar, sixteen stories, equally as intriguing as the trilogy. It introduces a parallel journey of the Armies of Light and the heroes of the six ages.  Here the compressed history is expanded, laying a blueprint for the construct of an equally exciting series.

You see, I have constructed a mythology using a linear approach from origin to the end of time, with proper context so that you don’t end the series wondering what happened to certain characters who dropped out.

You have a choice. Follow the cookie-cutter formulaic stories and construct that the masters and literary gods tell us that must exist, or take a chance on something new, independent, original, and frankly – creative.

My final point is this.  Many people take life way too seriously.  They seek affirmation from others of their worthiness in this lifetime.  They wish to dominate life by determining who is allowed to participate in the private clubs of industry and intellectual institutions.  They control who will be successful and who will not, through regulation, etc.  The publishing industry loves to bully, yes I wrote bully, to tell you another person’s attempt at writing is garbage because they weren’t involved in the editing, distribution and profit-sharing aspects of your creativity.  They belittle every person or story that reaches success independently.  I do not like erotica, but I applaud E.L. James for dispensing, once and for all, that only the publishing Gods know what stories will interest you.

Self-publishing has provided an opportunity for those of us who love to tell stories, even with grammatical errors, to remain independent and reap the potential success of our own risk. This was once referred to as entrepreneurship, not vanity publishing.  Vanity should be described as the envy of others who have not found a way to piggy-back on your imagination.

In the end, it is you the reader who independently defines what stories are good or not.  I am going to keep writing because one day I can tell them to my grandchildren.  Like Tolkien, these are the stories I want to read, but are not being produced by the publishing Gods.  I hope one day you will find my stories appealing enough to tell to your children and others.

To my sister, I have to say this, do not waste another second of your life looking for the accolades and affirmation of others.  Their aim is profit-motivated and honestly, quite vain.  The only one responsible for your happiness is you.  Life is risk and by not taking any risk, for the fear of the opinion of others, including your own family, is not living.  Stephen King said it best in his story, The Shawshank Redemption:

“Get busy living or get busy dying.”

Sacrifice

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A few days ago I blogged about the role of faith in an epic high fantasy story.  Now, if I mentioned faith and sacrifice in the same sentence would you automatically think, “Oh no, here comes a Jesus Christ reference!”

Think for a moment of a soldier.  A soldier is one who goes to battle to protect those he loves from what appears to be of evil intent.  He has faith in his commanders judgment and is willing to lay down his life for what he believes is the highest of chivalric and noble character – to give one’s life for something greater than himself.  Now, this certainly is no reference to Jesus Christ, who died to save mankind of its sins.

Now go one step further.  If a person received a command by the highest authority, his creator, and was supplied with gifts to set off on a journey to free seven enslaved races, knowing full well there will be tests and possible sacrifice, would you still insist the story was about Jesus Christ?

Here’s the setup.  The Unseen, the mythical creator of my universe, pondered the creation of life, both immortal and mortal.  What would happen and which would be more noble?  His first thought is that the immortals would be, so he creates ten to steward over ten heavenly worlds, until he sees very quickly that from free will there are those that will not submit to his authority.  He then creates mortal beings and for the immortals to be their stewards.  He then proclaims that one day from the line of the first prophet, in the seventh line, a seventh son, Arimar, the messenger, will be born and that all evil will attempt to destroy him and his followers.  The rebellious steward, Haggarfuse, unwilling to submit, designs to destroy everything and one-by-one nine worlds fall to complete death and darkness.  It is on the final world, Allivar, which means The One Family, converges with their created beasts and demons.  Arimar at birth is rushed and veiled until he reaches the age of wisdom and is then called to set off on his task.  Having free will he almost commits suicide for the stress is too high with the expectations placed on him from prophecy, which is no more than a test.

Now that you have an idea of the brief history, Arimar sets off on his journey, which is just as perilous as any you have ever read.  There is a journey to the north to confront a possessed king and then there is a journey home through a land where evil’s creations are Bound to Forbidden Lands, with every step being a test of faith.

Then the final battle of good and evil arrives in Last Stand of the Living.  Here all the captains, the seventh son of he seventh generation of each race, rises from the fallen ages, to stand united. There in the battle, that is being lost, Arimar sees all that he loves: his captains and Elissia, whom he hopes to marry one day, sacrifice all they are, but appear to die to in a vain attempt.  When he could easily lose his faith, Arimar is given a choice, to leave with the Unseen and not experience death, or to stay and die with all that remains of his mortal family.  He then bargains with the Unseen that if he gives his own life, would the remaining peoples of the races be saved.  The Unseen asks if he would truly do such a thing.  Arimar offers it freely.

This is where I will tell you no more, because the battle takes a turn you will not see coming, yet was hinted over and over again in the first nine chapters of Rise of the Fallen. All I can say here, is that the battle is the largest I have ever read, which includes those found in the Lord of the Rings.  How is that for a teaser?

The moral is simple, are we the living more worthy of stewardship than the immortals?  Will the pain of loss and death teach us more of racial harmony and the stewardship of worlds?  Are we able to withstand every test and stand for our faith?  Will we, the living, stand against evil in all its forms and do what is right?  Are we worthy enough? We will not see the fleeting nature of life, and the futility of war and hatred?  We will understand the gift of life with all its pains?

This is the gist of the trilogy, then there are the upcoming Chronicles of Allivar, which is a parallel journey of history and events of the nine fallen worlds, the first six ages of Allivar and the final story in the seventh age – the age of light.  When you complete the trilogy you will understand the nature and path of the chronicles.  The first in this series is titled – The Fall of Helloria.

Seven is a significant number for it represents perfect completion.  This is a hint for you as a reader.  All you need to do is take a leap of faith and enter my world of Allivar.  You will think, you will cry, but I promise you this too… you will cheer.

This is a mythology covering creation, life and the end of the ages.  Those who love The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings should easily understand the context and construct of my stories.

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A Life of Passion

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If I could wish anything for my family and friends, and even strangers – is to live a life of passion.  It has been said that doing what you like is what will provide the most happiness in life.  For most of our lives we are working.  Yet most go through the motions to obtain a paycheck.  Then they go home turn on the TV or the computer and indulge in the news or entertainment of the world – other people’s worlds.  Get busy making your own world.  Over the years I have found solace in many forms:

  1. Exercise and sports – I’m 54, but I still have passion for shooting basketball and playing tennis.  I have a desire to stay fit and trim, to beat the odds that I won’t be a sedentary senior.  I’d rather go out in life young pushing that limit than to be pushed around in wheelchair.
  2. Gardening – I live in Norman, OK.  Not necessarily a place of natural beauty, but with effort and passion I can watch plants bloom to fill the green and brown void with various color. Create your own paradise.
  3. Travel – We have this world created for us filled with immense beauty.  I have a passion to see these great natural wonders and to set out on unexplored paths, but if I can’t I find places nearby.
  4. Passionate People – nothing is greater than being surrounded by people who are passionate about life.  If you stop and listen to them you will hear them tell their stories with a glow on their face.  Then after listening to them, they will want to know about you.  You cannot expect to have these friends if you cannot give them a moment of your time, no matter the distance between you. When you go out of your way to see people, you are telling them, “You are special to us.”
  5. Guitar Playing and Singing – I am not a great player or particularly great singer, but I love to try to figure out the chords to a favorite song or how high I can pitch my voice.  I would dance, but I am crappy dancer.
  6. Drawing – Ever since I was a young child I have enjoyed drawing what my mind sees.
  7. Writing – I may not be great writer, but I do have a great imagination.  I find peace putting those thoughts into a story, short or long. Take a chance at poetry. I can entertain myself without the use of technology.

None of these require any great deal of money.  What they do require is the sacrifice of your time.  You have a choice, to work yourself to death for material possessions or to live life.  Yes, some people are willing to risk the loss of time for these possessions.  In my experience through life I can say I have never met a truly passionate and happy wealthy person.  Their time is more concerned with the maintenance of that wealth than actually enjoying all that wealth can provide. As a CPA I have seen people stress over taxes as though they might lose an arm or a leg.  Take all your allowable deductions, pay your taxes and then get busy living a passionate life.  When you bring your stress to a CPA, we become stressed.

For 30 years I sacrificed my time for career, family and yes, even for material pursuits.  All I accomplished was lost time and money.  I used that money to help others and rarely was it appreciated.  Now as I move into the last productive years of my life all I truly have left is time and now it is fleeting faster than a jet.

So as you consider your current phase in life ask yourself if you are using your time wisely and passionately.  Do you have something that provides beauty to the eyes?  Have you played an old tune, danced and sung to it lately? Have you taken time to write a story or learned to play a musical instrument?  Have you exercised and stretched those aching muscles?  Finally, have you surrounded yourself with those of common interest and passion and laughed so hard you almost wet your pants? These are the moments in life I treasure more than anything. I live passionately for the next moment.  All other events in human history I have no control and to be anxious of those moments is to be foolhardy.   Age brings about wisdom.

Sing your own tunes, giggle at your own book,

The more you smile and laugh, the more people look.

They may gossip, they may even be mad,

be the example of a life to be had.

Plant a seed and watch it flower,

wash away doubts from a cool spring’s shower.

A journey in a world exists in your mind,

cast away excuses and find the time.

Never lose faith or your compassion,

but live your life and do so with passion.

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Apocalypse Monthly – June 2013 Edition (So very close)

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Tragedies can change a person.  Sometimes for the best and sometimes for the worst.  This May I heard more tornado sirens being sounded that at any other time in my life.  I live in Norman, OK just nine miles from  Moore and seventeen miles from Oklahoma City.  There were horrible and heart-breaking deaths reported and very serious damage to property.  One day as I drove to the City I went right by the damage of the F5 tornado that crossed Interstate 35 in Moore.  There was no damage to the interstate but it backed up and crawled for miles.

I lived in Edmond in the 1980’s which was also struck by a tornado in May 2013.  I was taken back to the days where Oklahomans would come to a stop if there was anything on the roadside worthy of viewing and gossip. It was the first clue that reality TV was going to be big. Gawking, this is possibly the worst trait of humanity. This morbid need to see destruction, instead of moving on and getting on with life.  You’ve seen it on the news, please move on.  Precious seconds of your life have been lost and can never be regained.  Worse than gawkers are the scam artists and looters, and we have had our share of each.

One truly uplifting moment came to my vision was the sense of humor of a Moore homeowner.  Here a home barely stood and plywood covered a place where a sliding glass door stood and on the plywood the following was written,

“For Sale – New home soon to be 4 bedroom.”

This person and I could be great friends. Life will present tragedies, but as long as we have our lives (truly the greatest possession) we can rebuild and move on.

As a father and now grandfather, my heart hurt to read of a young mother who died with her infant while being trapped in her car as another F5 plowed through Yukon along Interstate 40.  That day a series of supercell storms merged to form one very large storm which spawned several tornadoes, one which veered from an easterly direction and headed due south to my community.  A tornado emergency had been declared with the same warning as on May 20, “Get underground or you may die.”  This warning sent many Oklahomans on a southward trek on I-35, congesting it to the point of a standstill and a death trap.  Me, my wife and daughter prepared for the worse.  I advised them that since I was the oldest I would use my body to shield them if it came to that point. Although I would love to live longer and experience more, I have lived a blessed life, one in which my family and home have been spared.

Normally this monthly post is about humor, but this time it is truly about an apocalypse.  Oklahoma just recently was named the number one state for Tornadoes.  We’d rather be known as number one in college football or an NBA championship.  Rarely do we human beings get a chance to reflect on life itself.  Most of the times we go through life in robotic fashion, taking life itself for granted.  There are those that will devastated for the remainder of their lives by this May.  Some may become bitter and denounce a god they once believed in.  Others may give thanks for being spared, or fall to grief wondering why they survived. Chances are we will forget and become complacent yet again.  We will talk of the need for storm shelters, but letting go of money will cloud our decisions.

I took only one thing from the storms.  The very essence of living.  That at any moment our time may end.  We may see it coming and flashback to all the time we wasted.  For me, this has reinvigorated the need to get busy living and not waste my time working for the attainment of more physical possessions, but for the enjoyment of what I have. My hope is that you will also find the time each day to set aside all that ails your mind in this modern techno politically driven world.  I am very lucky to have known a much simpler time, and soon I will return to that simple living, for the future is not an abstract idea as it is was our youth.  Time is rolling faster now and the greatest apocalypse of all is the vanity to believe we have unlimited time.  So I shall live each day with a urgent need to live it, because too many came so very close to losing it, and I could have been one of them.

“Get Busy Living, or Get Busy Dying.”

A Moment of Reflection

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May 22, 2013 – I live in Norman, Oklahoma.  As you may have read, our neighbors nine miles to the north were just hit with a devastating tornado.  I am speaking of the May 20, 2013 tornado in Moore, OK.  This tornado had winds higher than 200 miles per hour and was as wide as two miles in some portions of the 40 minutes and 20 miles it remained on the ground.  Our weather channel issued a tornado emergency, which is rarely used.  This was issued with the warning that if you could not get underground, death was likely.  Watch and you can easily understand why this issue to the public was given.

Moore, OK is famous for two other storms:

May 3, 1999 – in which the storm was declared an F5 tornado with winds that reached 318 miles per hour, or the fastest winds ever recorded on planet earth.  Over $2 billion in damages resulted.  This 2013 storm will most likely surpass this.

May 8, 2003 – yet another major tornado swept through the town.

Tornadoes are a fascinating weather phenomena, yet one you only wish to view from a distance.  I was close to one in 1986 in Edmond, OK.  Edmond was also struck on the May 19, 2013 storm.  What I saw in the 1986 storm boggled my mind.  I saw a 2″ by 4″ lumber stud lodged into a tree, with no damage on either end.  Tornado’s can turn the ordinary household item into a missile. My friend in Edmond captured this funnel cloud as it was forming over Edmond on May 19, 2013.  He too was present in the 86 storm and now another one in 2013.  Soon this storm went over I-35 and became more powerful, finally to level Carney, OK.

Many of you might ask, why live there?  No matter where you live on earth, you have the risk for some  form of major catastrophe.  It is just the violent nature of the world we live in.    Our state has many great qualities.  It is part of the bread belt of America.  It is the nation’s wind corridor producing new alternative sources of energy.  It has vast reserves of oil and natural gas. Tornadoes do not happen everyday.

But for me it is the people.  The people of Oklahoma are tough, but caring individuals. On May 20, parents lost children and some children lost parents.  We all lost neighbors and neighborhoods. Did we lose our faith or our determination?  I surely hope not.  I hope those effected by the storms have found comfort from those they do not even know and that generosity overwhelms them.  This is a moment of tragedy, but also a moment for the display of the finest qualities of being human; to recognize that we are all part of one family, trying everyday just to survive.  Most of the times these people we do not know ask no favors from us, but today without asking, we must give back and reflect what if we had traded places?

This tornado began near Newcastle, the sirens went off in my neighborhood, as they had 5 times the night before.  Could this have been me and my family?  Yes, it could have been.  This is why I take not a single moment for granted. Today is not about me, my feelings, or my needs.  It is a day of the needs of others, those that I may have religious or political differences, yet today they have the very basic human needs of food, shelter and clothing.  Will we come to the call for aid of the human family?  I cannot speak for others, but I must offer something, even if it’s just money to buy a blanket or a toy to calm the nerves of very scared child.  They will forever be changed. Events in our lives have a way of giving us deeper reflections of life than what the media focuses on.

Next month I turn 54.  Those 54 years have flown by, but they are flying faster now than ever before.  Yes we suffered a tragedy, but it is also a learning moment that can have a positive impact on our lives.  Take nothing and no one for granted.  Bury your hatreds in the piles of the torn neighborhoods and be reborn to the needs of others.  When you reach out and help another, you will receive blessings in return.  Soon admiration for you will grow and in the hour of your greatest need, those blessings will be returned.  We have suffered a setback, yet the fallen will rise again.