Cannabis for an Alien, Part I

Several years ago, mid-morning on a Monday, I receive a text from my friend Ernie. Hey dude, I’m at the hospital. I had to go to the emergency room last night.

Ernie is in his mid-forties and in reasonable shape. But as the doctor explained to him after performing a heart exam, his heart looked like it was in its mid-seventies and not in shape. After this incident, Ernie made some lifestyle changes and he’s fine today.

One interesting little thing from this episode that we laughed about later was what happened at the hospital when they asked him if he smoked, a very relevant question for someone in the emergency room with chest pain.

Cigarettes, no. But Ernie does regularly smoke the devil’s lettuce. And decriminalized or not, we were all living in Texas where pot is illegal. So, when Ernie was in the emergency room bed and a nurse was asking him a checklist of questions, Ernie starts worrying about whether or not he should say that he smoke’s pot or not. He knows at some point that question will be asked. Its not legal, remember.

Towards the end of a substantially long health questionnaire the nurse asks, Do you drink?  Ernie tells her yes. How many per week? “Like 2 or 3,” he says. Next question, Do you smoke? He knew the question was referring to cigarettes, but if he needed to tell her about his pot usage, this might be the time. After one last debate in his head, he makes a face like he’s doesn’t want get smacked and confesses, “I smoke weed.”

Ernie has never been in this situation before. His own personal usage is far removed from doctors and hospitals, and authority figures of any kind. Pot is illegal. ILLEGAL! The nurse looks at him and asks a follow-up question, How often? Like a little kid who doesn’t want to get into trouble but thinks he might, Ernie says slowly with his voice rising at the end, “Ev-ery-day..?

The nurse glances at him quickly and does this quick mini-shrug. She doesn’t even add a note to the questionnaire.

The mystery still hanging in the air today is… if it didn’t even matter, why did she want to know how often?


My Honey Is EXTRA Suweet 😉

2017-2018 were a couple of rough years for me and sleep – falling asleep, staying asleep, sleeping long enough into the next morning -none of these things were happening. In the days, weeks, and months after the break-up, I’m pretty sure what I was going through was normal under the circumstances. It was a 10 year relationship that had ended. We were a great couple in many ways; we’d even gone around the world together. It didn’t matter to my grieving that I initiated our break-up. The emotional path of living through such intense adult themes runs through a dark valley, regardless of how you got there.

I have this one friend in Austin that is known for her superb knowledge of “herbal” remedies, if you know what I’m saying. In 2017, I personally had zero practical experience with marijuana. It was just another one of those things tons of people do that I historically (see previous post) resisted. But since I was having such trouble sleeping and I’ve heard many people use cannabis to help them sleep, I asked my friend what she might suggest to help me.

I tell her that in past rough periods of my life when I’ve had trouble falling asleep, I would drink some Sleepy-Time Tea- the one in the green box that has the bear falling asleep in front of the fireplace. My friend thinks on it for two seconds and comes up with the perfect solution. I leave her place with a jar of honey.

That evening around 9:30 PM, after the water has come to a boil and the grassy-leaved tea bag has soaked for 5-7 minutes, I twist open the jar of honey I’d paid $20 for. It looks just like any other honey, though its scent includes a few molecules of cannabis oil. My friend suggested one teaspoon stirred into my tea so that’s what I did. 

I got better sleep that night. And the next night, too. 

Drinking the Sleepy-Time Tea before bedtime is as much about the ritual, as it is about any actual effect chamomile and lemongrass has on the mind or body. [me whispering: that’s what Sleepy-Time Tea is- chamomile and lemongrass.] When I begin preparing the tea, I am signaling to my body that bedtime is coming soon. When I drink the tea I am in a comfortable chair. It’s dark except for the light still on in the kitchen; more notes to my body that I am winding down. Adding a teaspoon of cannabis-infused honey to my ritual was simply giving me the extra help that I needed to fall asleep during this challenging post-breakup time in my life.

The mental prohibition against using cannabis I carried into my 50’s was similar to the one I’d had against alcohol up until my 40th birthday. I was the 40 year old alcohol virgin! Let that sink in for a second. In my teens, my 20’s, my 30’s, I never touched alcohol. I didn’t. I wouldn’t. I deferred a thousand times simply saying, “I don’t drink.” A granite conclusion was formed in my head long ago that alcohol was more bad than good, so I wouldn’t drink it. And so I didn’t. 

Forty is a threshold-year for birthdays and a natural time for reflection. When I reflected on my reasons for not drinking, the reasons I told myself, at least, all those reasons came back N/A. This was a slight bit of “progress” in my changing and growing as a person, but nothing equal to the transformative moment I am living through now and blogging about today. At forty plus one day, I was still marching down the same corridor as always; this time I was willing to have a drink in my hand. 

As the challenging months of 2017 trudged on, I returned to my herbal remedy friend several more times for the jars of honey that were helping me heal by helping me sleep. One day, probably because she was out of honey, my friend suggested I try cannabis in “tincture” form- a tiny bottle of liquid cannabis extract with an eye-dropper for a cap. She warned me it didn’t taste “sweet as honey,” but I took it anyway. On the October day of 2017 when I departed Austin to begin my Reboot, a full mini-bottle of tincture was packed in with the rest of my toiletry items.

Physics 102 and Baby Steps

While living with my friend in Modesto, I took a college-level physics course. Why? I’ve always been very science-minded, and solidly regret not pursuing one of the sciences as my chosen field of study. Become an accountant and you’ll always have a job, is what I heard over and over. They didn’t tell me I’d be miserable and that choosing a course of study out of fear was a bad idea. You hear me people?! NEVER MAKE A LIFE CHOICE OUT OF FEAR!

The two college-level Intro to Physics courses are Physics 101- Motion, and Physics 102- Electromagnetism. I had taken the course on motion roughly 10 years prior and thoroughly geeked-out on it. With my heart set on getting into solar, the time was right for me to tackle electromagnetism, which is essentially the study of electricity. 

Here’s really why I’m telling you this. Understanding physics (for me, at least) is a brain buster. It’s the world of atoms, invisible force fields, and the conductivity of everyday substances. To grasp the concepts, I had to mentally dive deep into the material. I was taking a no-joke online physics course taught by a highly sought-after Physics Professor from Rice University. I would spend hours inside the Modesto Junior College library studying my physics course with crazed determination. At night I would wind down for sleep but still be doing mental battles with some of the more challenging homework problems. 

At this point in time, my hard break-up happened nearly a year earlier. Even so, I was still not standing on enough firm ground and hadn’t fully regained my ability to sleep like a normal person. Thankfully, my cannabis extract, in the form of that little bottle of tincture, was still there to help. The bottle I’d left Austin with was almost finished, but…being in California where marijuana is legal, I could easily get more. It lasted quite a while with me because I was only taking half an eye-dropper every 3 or 4 days. 

Since I was virtually always studying, the nights I fell asleep with the aid of cannabis were the same nights I’d worked through a good deal of physics homework problems. What I noticed was that on cannabis-nights my falling asleep mind was creating wonderful visualizations of the microscopic world. Electrons, for example, could ricochet down a copper wire, knocked off their host atoms by the repulsive forces of electromagnetic energy. I was ever so slowly, so cautiously, so carefully, beginning to experience a small sliver of marijuana’s potential.

Baby steps indeed.

Feeling Funny

My slow trek down Pot Lane that began with the addition of cannabis-infused honey to my Sleepy-Time Tea, was actually predated by three other late-in-life cannabis experiences. Because no one could explain to me how to approach pot, I made the classic mistake of doing too much and only became more confused than ever about why anyone would want to do pot in the first place. Just like on my 40th birthday, when I relaxed my prohibition against alcohol, I did the same with pot on my 50th. Since I wasn’t even close to overcoming my aversion [see Smoke ‘em If You Want To Live] to smoking a burning anything, I ate a bit of some dessert-type treat with cannabis oil as one of the ingredients. 

We reserved two bowling lanes at Speakeasy’s in downtown Austin. Make no mistake, Speakeasy’s in not a bowling alley, it’s a bar. They just happen to have 4 bowling lanes on the second floor just for funzies. The whole set-up is a throw-back to the roaring 20’s, so it makes sense that the bowling lanes do not have electronic scoring; you have to keep score on your own.

We are on the third frame when the edible starts really kicking in. Having no prior experience with pot, all I know is that I start “feeling funny.” It’s my turn to bowl and I become acutely aware that things are different. I throw my next ball down the alley and don’t get a lot of pins. I’m not much of a bowler anyway so this isn’t unusual. But my mind starts rapidly questioning my actions. Did I only hit 3 pins because of the pot? Is the ball taking forever come back to the ball-return, or is it just me? Am I acting weird? After hitting a couple more pins on my second throw, I try to add up my score. But I can’t. I keep losing track and second-guessing my ability to add simple numbers. Someone steps in and I go back to the chairs. Is it getting warm? I tell the friends around me that I may need to skip my turn the next time around.

I leave the cluster of chairs at the end of the alley and find a nearby couch. It’s getting still warmer. Sweat starts accumulating on my forehead. I need to be still. My girlfriend and others are checking on me, the birthday boy. Someone touches my arm. “Whoa, you’re really clammy.” I tell them I am feeling nauseous. Seconds later someone hands me a glass of water. I take a couple of swallows. What is happening? My 50th birthday was supposed to be extra great because I was doing pot for the first time. Instead, it just got weird and awkward for everyone.

One of my two friends that has the most experience with pot suggests I “go get some air.” I walk with both of them, one in front, the other behind, as we wind our way through the night-time crowd of people, down one flight of stairs, into and out of more people, past the two overweight bouncers at the entrance, until we are outside in the cool night air. Once on the street we find a bench to sit on. I feel flushed and discombobulated; the fresh air helps. When I speak, I am in no way incoherent. So, to my pothead friends there to the right of me on that Congress Avenue bench, I say, “I don’t understand why you guys like this stuff.” 

If only I knew then what I do now. Cannabis for an Alien, Part II is coming soon.

Maybe I’m Jesus

The true story that follows is of a family friend, someone I’ve known since I was 17….

Margaret had to get out of the house. The yelling, the screaming, the arguing were too much to take, even when she was an active participant. 

Margaret is 8th in line out of 11 children, most of them boys. It’s San Antonio, 1957- large families are more the norm than the exception.

“Why doesn’t Jose ever have to mop the floor?!” Margaret screams at her mother. Her younger brother Jose doesn’t hear this because he’s already left to go play with his friends. Jose is just one year older than Margaret’s 14 years. The unfairness is grating upon her insides. It’s been this way for as long as she can remember.

Each of her mother’s long black strands of hair are partnered with two competitors in gray. She is never without a scarf on her head and has a face that looks weathered at home, but softens in mixed company. When she speaks to Margaret, it’s always an order. When she speaks to Jose, or any of Margaret’s brothers, the tone changes for all to witness. 

Margaret’s younger sister Prieta had another seizure today. Margaret even got yelled at for it. At 2 ½ years old, while at a family gathering, Prieta took an awkward fall and struck her head on concrete. Details of the incident are intentionally not discussed anymore, but the result is that Prieta has not developed normally, and someone will have to take care of her the rest of her life. The future will bring medicines that can control the seizures but someone will have to see that she takes them.

On this hot summer San Antonio day, Margaret disobeys her mother and pushes away the mop handle. The side door slams loudly when she leaves with the screen door bouncing three times for emphasis. 

Margaret walks her anger down the hot sidewalk, past her neighbors’ houses, humble and hardworking, all of them…and nearly identical to her own small, overcrowded, family home. Three blocks over and one block up, Margaret comes to a Catholic church. It’s not the same church her family usually attends. This one is two times larger and three times nicer. Margaret enters. It’s cool inside.

Two nuns softly approach Margaret with warm, welcoming smiles. They are young, too. Not teenagers like Margaret, but young women, wearing the full habit and simple black smock. The nuns are beautiful, charming, understanding. They listen to this young girl and validate her feelings. They give Margaret comfort, safety, friendship, and most of all, an escape from the harsh, unjust home she will have to return to that evening to help prepare dinner for her father and brothers…and her sister Prieta.

Margaret walks back to that same church again and again in the days, years, and decades that follow. It’s where her heart can sing, where she feels protected, where she has found a second family. 

Whenever I find myself in a discussion about whether or not God is real, you will soon know what I believe. I am fully aware, however, that what I know to be true, that God does not exist, is totally dependent on context. When I think about Margaret and what is true for her, God exists again.      

When Margaret turned 18 she told her family she wanted to become a nun. Her mother would have gone along, but her father said no. Today, Margaret Assisi is 74 years old and goes to church everyday: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I list each day alone so you can fully appreciate the seriousness and consistency of her commitment. Often it’s twice a day. God, Jesus, Mary, Holy crosses, Saints, the Rosary, these are all elements of Margaret’s daily life, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Margaret still lives in San Antonio, in the exact same house she grew up in. She argued with her mother up until that tough little lady with the thinning long gray hair and scarf passed away 7 years ago. Margaret still takes care of her younger sister, Prieta, and sees that she gets her medication every day: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. 


There is a good chance what I’m about to tell you is the most foundational moment of my life. This is the big one. This is the scene that locked me into a trajectory I’ve been stubbornly slow to veer from ever since. First, you’ll need a bit of background before I get to the clincher.

I have early childhood memories of being made to dress up in my “Sunday best” and attend services at St. Luke’s Methodist Church with my parents. We are talking about late sixties Houston, Texas, and a cookie-cutter society that hadn’t yet been breached by the hippie-led counter-culture. Churches back then had much higher attendance than today and were more intertwined with communities, even in larger cities like Houston. 

Being so young at the time (ages 1 – 6), I had no sense that my dad wasn’t too into being a church-goer. I only learned about it years later from my mom who pegged his lack of enthusiasm towards the church on an incident from much earlier in his life. Seems his car was stolen from a Catholic church parking lot one fine Sunday right there during mass. Yes, apparently my dad was raised Catholic, though by the time I came around overt signs of those influences were long gone…perhaps left in the trunk of his stolen car. One remnant of my family’s catholic history endured through my dad’s sister Helen (my aunt), who, much like Margaret in the story above, was a highly motivated Catholic her entire life.  

Once old enough, being at my parents’ side in the main church was replaced by me getting herded into the annex hall where donuts were served and Sunday school was taught. My present-day self knows very little about the differences between being a Methodist, Catholic Baptist, Presbyterian, or any other flavor of Christian. But one thing was for sure, at St. Luke’s Methodist church the life of Jesus was something my little mind had plenty of exposure to. The big takeaways for little Gary were just three things. Heaven is an awesome place where good people go. Hell is a terrible place where bad people go. And Jesus is great. Really, he’s amazing! That story of him walking on water…? How cool is that?! 

And when you’re 3, 4 and 5 years old, nobody is taking the time to explain biblical events as stories, fables, or metaphors for life. It’s all presented in a very convincing fashion. By the time I am 5, thoughts of Jesus are occupying an ever-increasing portion of my little kid brain. But here’s the thing, all my life up until literally now, I would have said that I did NOT grow up in a very religious household. We only went to church on Sundays because that’s what people did in those days. It’s not like our home was adorned with religious symbols, it wasn’t. We didn’t say a blessing before each meal, only the big ones like Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. We didn’t scramble to find a church if we were out of town on a Sunday, thank God. However…I did say a prayer at the side of my bed each night before crawling into it. If this was your experience too, then you and I were both going to bed with God.

I believe my parents were convinced, as are billions of other parents around the world, that raising your kids with religion will make them better people. It’s like getting a little help from Santa Claus… so your kids stay on the nice list. 

Heaven, Hell, Jesus, these were all big influences on my impressionable little mind. And there’s no question about it, I wanted to be a good kid because of them. 

Here’s the Clincher! 

One night when I was 5 years old, my mom was tucking me into bed. The bedtime story I got that night was a kids book about Jesus. The church library was always happy to lend parents religious books for their kids. Part of their 25 year business model, I suppose. I remember the book having big illustrated pages, always with Jesus leading the scene, and only one or two short sentences at the bottom. This particular book had a drawing of Jesus as a little boy, like maybe around 9 or 10 years old. This caught my attention. Perhaps I’d never thought about Jesus being a little boy. At Church, I’d only seen Jesus as a baby in the manger, or as an adult with a beard and hippie-long brown hair.  

There was something else in my 5 year old mind, too. The idea that Jesus would one day return to Earth and save us. This was one of the “teachings” I’d already been exposed to. 

Five year old me is putting this all together in my head. Here’s how I think it through: 

So, if Jesus was once a little boy….like me. And…. he’s going to return to Earth. I guess he has to start out being born and growing up first. I wonder how old Jesus was when he learned he was Jesus, the Son of God. He probably didn’t know at first, he was just a really good kid, like… he was really smart and knew how to behave and did stuff right. Well, I’m a good kid like that. 

My little wheels are turning fast. All of this information is pointing in one direction: 

Maybe I’M Jesus!


It’s funny now. But it’s not like it didn’t make sense at the time, right? The next day after what may have been my first (and worst) “epiphany,” I woke up feeling mindful that being the next Jesus was a distinct possibility. Again and Yes, that I am literally the next coming of Jesus Christ, son of God, our Lord and Savior. I carried this thought around with me for at least two days. By day three, after giving it additional consideration, I had come around to the more rational conclusion that I was probably not right about that whole being Jesus thing. 

Here’s the consequence. Even though this episode came and went in a matter of days when I was a child of 5, its effects are still echoing in my head today. It was foundational in that it set me up to want to always stay on the extreme “good” side of everything. 

An example from my childhood would be, If it’s not good to say bad words, I won’t say them. To this day, my instinct is to not cuss. You will see this throughout my blog, too. I have zero moral objection to people who tend to incorporate a lot of curse words into their communication. And, I will use curse words sometimes when speaking or writing, too, but it will always be in a very deliberate context. The most glaring example from my adulthood is my decade’s long abstention from drugs and alcohol. 

There’s plenty of religious people in the world today who would hear my story and say, “Mission accomplished!” I see it quite differently. It’s a burden. I have mental prohibitions other people don’t have to think about. There’s an energetic pop song from the 80’s called Goody Two Shoes, sung by Adam Ant. Part of the chorus says, You don’t drink, don’t smoke. What do you do? Subtle innuendos follow. Must be something inside. That’s me. I was Goody Two Shoes with no subtle innuendos to balance me out. It was something inside….

Damn you, Jesus!!!

The crushing truth is that my natural tendency to not cuss or drink or smoke is not natural at all. And it is not a direct legacy of any single moment from so long ago. My arrival to that Maybe I’m Jesus moment at 5 years old and the further conditioning I received in the subsequent years….up until I was old enough to start thinking on my own. It’s something I should rightly be pissed off about. I was misled, conditioned, and indoctrinated by religion, and by the parents that fed me to those lions. I know their intentions were only good, but my parents, as well as any parent that raises their children in the church, were and are playing with fire. Jesus was a Saint, a peacemaker, a savior of the world, or so the story goes. I was a little boy growing up in a dysfunctional household. My chances of growing up “normal” were less than zero.

I fully left Christianty for good around 15 or 16 years old, but the damage had been done. And now, all these years later, I am still working to uncover who I really am. 


Next up, cannabis gets explained to an alien.

The Puzzle of a Thousand Pieces

I cannot remember my brother’s face. I was six the very last time I saw it, and blood was everywhere.

The garage was always creepy to me anyway. Too many times we’d walked into the garage of my family home and seen a rat or two running for cover. My dad tried to rid them with poison and traps, but they always came back. Any time I entered the garage alone, I did it slowly.

“Tommy?” my little voice called. I couldn’t see him right away, my line of sight was protected by the pool table, but I heard his breathing. It was rough, gurgling. For a split second it sounded like snoring, like they do in the cartoons, loud, exaggerated, and with the line of Z’s vibrating above. I relaxed a bit. I’d found Tommy and he was sleeping in the garage.

But he wasn’t sleeping. He wasn’t snoring. These were my brother’s last breaths.

Because I was only as tall as the pool table then, I couldn’t see him lying face up on the thin green layer of AstroTurf that covered our garage floor, until taking one additional step around the pool table’s angled corner. The visual memory of what I witnessed is barely inside my head today. I saw Tommy. I saw the red blood all about his head and how brightly it contrasted against the green of the AstroTurf. I never saw the gun.

Instantly, I turned and ran for help. I have no memory of why my mom wasn’t home at that moment, but she wasn’t. There was no need calling for her. I raced to a neighbor’s house in tears, distressed and sobbing to the point it was difficult for adults to make out what I was saying. To the first neighbor that answered their door, I pleaded, “Something happened. Something happened to Tommy… I think he got bit by a rat.” That’s how my little mind put two and two together. I had no concept of suicide, no understanding of what it was like to be 19 years old and hopeless. I was six. I knew rats were scary and had big teeth.

Tommy left behind a note for my mother. It said, “I owe Stewart $10. Please pay him back for me.”


I’d already done a lot of contemplating about where I wanted to live and work. Yet, there was another, even bigger, puzzle I needed to solve. This would turn out to be the biggest puzzle of them all. 

I have 25 years to live. What am I going to do?

It’s now July of 2020 as I begin telling you the story of how this grand puzzle gets solved. As if it were a physical jigsaw puzzle to be dumped from its box onto a table, I’m giving this puzzle the name: 1 More World. Look on the side of the box, this puzzle has 1,000 interlocking pieces. As I share this particular story with you, bear in mind, it will not be completed in one post, just as any puzzle of a 1,000 pieces would not be finished in one evening. I will tackle different sections of the puzzle individually until enough of it is finished for you to see the same picture that was revealed to me. Even though parts of it remain unfinished today, I know what the 1 More World puzzle is showing me. 

I expect all of the pieces to be found and dropped into place over the course of the next 6 to 12 months. For now, I will take you back to the end of last year when I was finally ready to be selfish…. in the best possible way.

Re-thinking Selfish

Ah, your immediate reaction is probably to question whether selfishness could ever be a good thing. I assure you it can. The word “selfish” most certainly gets a bad rap. If we’re talking about people who struggle with the concept of sharing, then I’m totally on board. But if it is a person taking time to reflect on what they want out of life, I will be the first to come to their defense. Call me selfish and I will thank you for the compliment.

Unfortunately, most people never have the opportunity to truly be selfish. Or, they weren’t selfish enough when the opportunity was there. Once one enters adulthood, life’s immediate challenges of money, job, relationships, family, house, holidays, etc., always seem to take precedence and the best of selfishness gets no attention.

After a year of me living in Denver… life was, for the most part, pretty good. I’d made a few good friends. My job was tough, but I felt good about it. The biggest frustration I had at home was my struggle getting a consistent water temperature out of the shower. The house I lived in was 120 years old and its original claw-footed tub and shower faucet couldn’t hold a steady temp, even with the rubber bands we tried to strategically stretch around the handles.

Joy and happiness have always been elusive concepts to me, And my new life in Denver hadn’t changed that. However, stability and certainty were at their highest levels ever in my life. I had no fires to put out, and no fish to fry (being a vegetarian and all). And finally, I was sitting on more life experiences than at any other point. 

My table top was cleared. Let’s work this puzzle.

Debbie Downer Rocks My World

One of the best media outlets I’ve found is an online news show called, The Young Turks (a.k.a. TYT) – the largest and longest-running news show on the Internet. If you have never heard of them before, they are totally worth checking out. I think most people learn about them through their YouTube channel, but their show is also televised on Roku, Pluto and many other platforms. Their news is founded on journalistic integrity and facts, but it’s the outspoken commentary of the hosts that really makes the show unique and often fun even when the news depresses. The core of The Young Turks is a daily 2 hour long “main show,” but they also offer additional content for $10/mo subscribers (like me). One of those “extra content” shows is the Friday Post Game. The show’s three co-hosts talked about starting up a book club. Their first chosen book was, Civilized to Death by Christopher Ryan. Not wanting to be left out of the club, I read it.

Holy Mother of Thor! Talk about pulling back the curtain on everything! Civilized to Death is a point-by-point takedown of the universally accepted idea that we are far better off now as a species than at any other time in our human history. In some narrow ways, mostly related to specific advances in medicine, we are surely better off. But there are many measures by which we fall short. 

The book’s core message is that humans evolved over millions of years to live one way and that the advent of civilization swept us off in a direction we’re not really suited for. If you want the details, take my recommendation and read Civilized to Death.

That Sounds Awesome!

As I was reading the book, I would tell my friend Vanessa about all the ways the book says ‘we suck.’ Well, Vanessa….being the stay positive person she is, didn’t really enjoy hearing me recount the fall of mankind; so, pretty soon she starts referring to the book as ‘The Debbie Downer Book.’ I can’t say she’s wrong, either. 

Like any good book, The Debbie Downer Book makes you think. And when I did my thinking, I wondered how I could live my life more in-line with my true evolved nature. [As you can tell, I bought the book’s premise.] Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. The book makes a compelling case that prior to “civilization” people used to “work” an average of 3 – 4 hours a day. So I’m thinking, Man, that sounds awesome!  And I have “work” in quotes because prior to civilization, the concept of “a job” as we experience it, did not exist..

I read the book and just took this information in. Nothing in my life abruptly changed as a result. However, in terms of my puzzle analogy, that book did a great job of helping me to connect a whole lot of pieces together. It wasn’t nearly enough for me to know what 1 More World was showing me, but the puzzle was one step closer to being solved. 


Regarding stories from my past, like the one I share with you at the top of this post, these too will fill in significant sections of my puzzle. These are the broken pieces… and the ones that appear to have gone missing altogether. I am finding them now. I am making a few repairs. All of the pieces of my life will have their place. 

Next up, I will introduce you to Jesus. And it will all make sense.

Smoke ‘em If You Want to Live

That’s strange. Where’s my garden hose? I wondered to myself. The disturbing answer to my question came much later in the day.

I only noticed it was missing because I wasn’t able to water the flower beds that morning before going to work. It was Austin, late in the summer of 2016, and my flowerbeds couldn’t go too many consecutive days without water.

Around 2:30 pm that same day, I am camped in my cubicle at work. My cell phone vibrates on the desktop next to my computer. It’s a call from a number I don’t recognize. I answer…because I’m like that.

“Hi this is Treasure, M’s girlfriend. I’m really worried about him. Do you know where he is?” There is urgency and stress in her voice. Immediately, I am feeling just as worried. I know M’s been in a bad place lately. I tell Treasure I will do my best to find him.

Seconds later I call M on his cell phone. He’s always hard to get ahold of, even on his good days. Today, I’m preparing myself to double, triple, and quadruple-call him.

But he answers right away with a flat, hello. I could tell through the phone he’s somewhere outdoors. 

“Hey, what’s going on? You okay?” Really, I’m shocked that he’s answered. 

“Not really. I don’t know.” He is speaking from a sunken place. “It’s just hard. I’m trying.” I can hear what sounds like a police radio in the background. This is America. M’s six-foot-seven and black by birth. 

“Where are you, man? Tell me where you are and I’ll be right there.” 


A recurring theme of this blog is paradigm-smashing; how old ideas can get up-ended by ah-ha moments. Since smashing paradigms is considerable work, let’s take a “smoke break.”

For most of my life, I harbored a preternatural personal disdain for smoking. Of course, there is no shortage of people who dislike smoking, but not like I did. All for reasons I will attempt to explain. I will also build a new case for why smoking cigarettes should not be looked upon with such negative judgement, but is instead deserving of broad and empathetic understanding.  

Several years ago I was listening to a Freakonomics Radio episode about cigarette smoking. [If you don’t already know this show/podcast, it’s one of the best.] Two things from that podcast stuck with me in particular. The first was when one of their guests, a medical researcher, described nicotine as, “Good drug. Bad delivery method.” The researcher went on to explain nicotine’s “health benefits,” such as increased levels of beta-endorphins that reduce anxiety, to name just one. 

The other amazing fact they reported was that the most commonly shared characteristic among cigarette smokers is “mental illness.” [Screech!] Stop right there!! I wish to be super clear this is what they reported and substantially different from the better and more nuanced personal conclusions I’ve made on the subject. Stay with me while I attempt to connect a few dots.

Can I Get A Light?

I have never been a smoker. Well, not voluntarily. From as early as I can remember, and even before I can remember, smoke was in the air. My mom was a smoker and didn’t even think to slow down her habit while being pregnant with me. My dad didn’t light up as frequently, but he smoked on occasion, too. It was the 60’s. Practically everyone smoked. Even my first words were, “Can I get a light?”

When you are the child of a smoker, you are in a tough spot. You cannot simply make different lifestyle-choices and avoid being constantly surrounded by cigarette smoke. I disliked it VERY much. And once information started coming out in the media about how smoking was bad for your health, I despised it even more. I loved my mother, duh!. Watching her smoke pack after pack of cigarettes was the worst. Then, the final straw… I was maybe 14 or so when I became aware that some people thought I smoked cigarettes because my clothes, laundered by my mom, smelled like it.

My kid-logic brain created a monster-strong aversion to cigarettes, cigarette smokers, and pretty much anything smoking related. Smoking = bad. End of story. 

Now that I’ve accrued a decent amount of life experience I am able to understand the phenomenon of smoking in a far more robust and nuanced way. There are people in my life today that smoke and, while I don’t care to sit downwind from them at a table, I still appreciate them without negative judgement. 

A Tether Back to Earth

Several years ago a very close friend of mine- let’s just call him M -was going through a life-threatening personal crisis. He was distraught and suicidal like I’d never seen him. I was letting M stay in the spare bedroom of my house at the time; though he was out so much I rarely saw him.

On the day he planned to take his own life, M unscrewed the garden hose from its bib on the front of my house and carried the green coiled up mass towards his vehicle. In the dark hours before another unbearable day began, M parked his beat-up SUV behind a nondescript retail shopping center, right next to a dumpster. His plan was to stick one end of the hose up the exhaust pipe and leave the other end inside the car, windows up.


My friend M is a smoker. When I found him that day in a suburban neighborhood alley, in the midst of four police officers and two squad cars, he was smoking like a fiend. Finish one, light another. Repeat. On that day, in that city, those cops were (thankfully) the good guys. They helped M find a clinic where he could get some legit help. The whole story is compelling and maybe someday the time will be right for me to tell it in full. For now, we need to stay at his side.

While three of the police officers were occupied by standing around, one was making arrangements so that M would have a safe place to go. For a few hollowed out moments, my friend and I were able to talk. Like I said, his cigarette smoking at that moment was in high gear. Out of pure curiosity, I thought to ask him, “What is happening when you smoke like that?” 

I found his response both revealing and fascinating. In the middle of this high-stress, intense, existential reckoning, he gave my question a moment’s thought and uttered, “It’s like…Okay, I’m alive.” This stripped down, raw, visceral response cut through so much mystery for me. Nicotine and/or the other compounds in cigarettes were somehow providing a tether back to Earth at a moment when stress levels threatened to hurl my friend into the darkness of space. 

Resolving the Rubik

On another front, I’ve been exposed to several different discussions of late about chronic stress that have me thinking about its connection to smoking in a new light. Each discussion had a completely different context, but I am seeing them all as different colored squares on the same Rubik’s cube. There was a story a couple years ago on NPR about the psychological effects of living in the US while being undocumented. More recently I heard about studies that show how simply being poor can put a person into a state of chronic stress, which makes total sense. An entirely different source, and at a later time, discussed how being black in America induces chronic stress, too. And one more- Recent deep dives into my own personal history have taught me how chronic stress can be the body’s innate response to even relatively mild forms of trauma during childhood. 

The last cube to turn… About 2 months ago, someone suggested I listen to Joe Rogan’s interview with an engaging Brit named Johann Hari. Ostensibly, the discussion was about depression, but that’s only where it started. Addiction. Medication. Self-determination. Civilization, and much more. It’s ALL connected. The podcast is 3+ hours long and totally worth a listen. The giant takeaway from the interview is that depression results from a much larger list of societal ills than most of us ever imagined. By the way, that someone who suggested I listen…was M.

Now I’m ready to resolve the Rubik and put all of these seemingly disparate data points on the same side. It’s not mental illness that is the most commonly shared trait among smokers, it is anxiety. Survivors of trauma whether acute or constant, and victims of chronic stress, have to battle anxiety with each breath. The chemistry of cigarettes gives those that smoke a brief but desperately needed respite from anxiety. Finally, I can look upon my mother’s smoking addiction with fresh, sympathetic clarity. The mother I knew as a child was steeped in worry. She was trying to survive her trauma, both past and present. She was stressed the fuck out! 

Her husband, my dad, suffered from his own issues and was honestly impossible to live with. Their constant arguing over everything from the thermostat to the “right” way to slice a stick of butter, created a home environment for her that was a petri dish for anxiety and stress. It’s long been my conclusion that when it comes to relationships, emotionally healthy people are drawn to each other and, unfortunately, the opposite holds true for the damaged.

My mom would never have ended up with my dad were it not for her own trauma-filled past. At 13 years old, my mom left for school one morning… without a clue she would never see her own mother again. When she came home that afternoon, strangers were going in and out of her house. She was told her amazing mother, the closest, dearest, most loving person ever in my mom’s young life, had died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. The strangers helped my mom gather up a few belongings before sending her to live with an aunt. This was only temporary, as were the series of foster homes she would be placed in while finishing out her teenage years. These were also the same years she takes up smoking.

Cured By The Flu

There you have it, full circle. My mother’s addiction to cigarettes makes disturbingly perfect sense within the context of her own personal hardships. 

It should be noted, by the way, that my mother eventually did quit smoking. She got sick with the flu one season and was seriously knocked off her feet for several days. While coping with a fever, sore throat, chest congestion, sinus pain, and all that comes with the flu, smoking a cigarette was the furthest thing from her mind. After getting better, her motivation for that next cigarette mercifully never returned. Her addiction to cigarettes was miraculously “cured” by the flu!

Though, I have another theory. The last 20 or so years of my mom’s life were perhaps her happiest. She had a part-time job she mostly liked, a quiet, peaceful living situation, several wonderful new friends, and at one point, three quirky cats she more than adored. The stresses and drama of her prior lives were now absent. Smoking was no longer needed.

My mom lived to be 84. The final year of her life may have been her best, and I hope to tell you about it in a future post. She passed away 9 years ago…

…from lung cancer.

Closing caveat: Most certainly there are many good people who smoke for reasons having nothing to do with trauma, stress, or anxiety. Can they not just enjoy it? Yes they can. You know, it’s not my jam, but different people like different things for all sorts of reasons. We should all be careful not to develop preconceptions about every smoker before getting to know them.  

The next post is….well…I’m really not sure what to say about. It’ll be interesting.

Shining in the Colorado Sun

I’ve never worn jeans to an interview before. These are my best pair- dark denim, no rips. My buttoned-down, long-sleeved, collared shirt is not tucked in.

Caitlin greets me as I enter. She’s young, like everyone else I will meet at this industrial park office. She has long, straight hair between brown and blonde, and carries her tom-boyish good-looks with confidence. “Hi Gary. It’s nice to meet you. I’ll let the manager know you’re here.” 

I sit down in one of the six black-plastic, stackable chairs, lined up just inside the building’s entrance and wait. I’m fidgeting with the corner of the obligatory binder in my hands. It has extra resumes and references I know won’t be needed. Am I nervous? Nah, I have too much life experience to get nervous before interviews….so that’s not the issue. Honestly, I am excited. I’m getting my shot.

Caitlin reappears, “We’re ready,” motioning for me to come with. The walk to the conference room is short and soon I am shaking hands with Tim, the branch manager, and Tyler, the construction coordinator. I sit. They sit. It’s 3 against 1. I like my chances.

Tyler apologizes in advance for having to read from a prepared list of questions, “Sorry, but we have to do this to keep the interview process consistent.” He then reads outloud a long preamble about the company, and a little more about equal employment practices. I appear to be listening. On the inside I’m shouting, When do I get to tell my story?!

After getting through the cookie-cutter part, they are finally looking over my resume. The branch manager speaks, “I see here you did some traveling. What can you tell us about that?”

Aww yeah! This is the question I want. Stand back and put your shades on, folks. ‘Cause I’m about to shine like the sun!


Rocky Mountain High(way)

Reboot completed, I now had a plan. On August 30, 2018, I crossed the border into Colorado. The bed of my trusty Toyota pickup and the small trailer that chased behind it were stuffed with everything I wasn’t ready to part with. The emotions I felt entering Colorado were complicated; excitement and anxiety were playing for a tie.

The interstate that carried me into Colorado from the south had me winding through the mountains immediately. I knew just what I needed to hear. At the first scenic overlook, I slowed my truck to a stop and searched YouTube for John Denver’s classic song, Rocky Mountain High. For me, the brilliance of this song has never been the chorus. It is the song’s opening lines that resonate. 

He was born in the summer of his 27th year

Coming home to a place he’d never been before

He left yesterday behind him

You might say he was born again

You might say he found the key to every door 

My 27th year has twice passed, but the sentiment that life can begin at any moment….any age, I believe is universal. I played the song loudly, sang along badly, and garnered a trace of macho mist around the eyes. 

Anxiety was still very much in the game, but excitement had taken a small lead.

Where the Sunlight Meets the Glass

My first task upon arriving into Colorado was to find a place to live, which I did without much trouble. A Denver Facebook page for finding roommates helped me quickly settle-in to an old (built in 1900) house not far from downtown. Task number two was finding a job in solar. Colorado has an average of 300 days sunshine. How hard could it be, right?

Banking on the job-seeking adage, It’s not what you know, but who you know, I started my job hunt by pursuing connections to folks I’d met at Solar Energy International, the organization where I’d done my solar training. Within just a few days one of those connections resulted in me having breakfast with the CFO for a local solar company. This was significant; it felt like I was making headway at lightning speed. As I would soon learn, however, this CFO was not interested in me because of my inspiring passion for solar. No, not at all. His company was growing and they needed someone to help with their finances– someone with my type of background. 

Right there on the patio at the Snooze restaurant in Union Station, downtown Denver, over a tasty plate of mixed berry topped waffles, the CFO casually asked me, “Would you be interested in working at my company as a financial analyst?” His question was not a formal job offer, we were simply conversing. Nonetheless, his directness totally caught me unprepared. 

My determination to get into solar was crystal clear; however, exactly what my job within the industry would be was about as clear as a glass of milk. So quickly finding this super solid job lead forced my hand. Before saying yes to this job, or any job, I still had a few things to figure out. 

Computer or Hammer

Since I was starting with a clean slate, I first had to think about what type of job I wanted. Here’s what I asked myself: What did I want to be doing on a daily basis, both physically and mentally? Did I want to work alone or with people? Did I want to be in an office, or wherever people go that don’t work in offices? 

The traditional advice about doing what you love has never helped me a damn bit. Within the context of working, I don’t know what I love to do, man! I have never known. And I don’t think anyone else knows either. So, skip all that high-minded hooey and think about the day-to-day basics- sitting or standing, office or field, people or no people, computer or hammer. And if you can at least aim towards a specific industry, like me with solar, you’re more than half-way there.

Pretty quickly I figured out that sitting in front of a computer all day long and manipulating spreadsheets was off the table…even if I was working in solar. I left yesterday behind me. My life reborn had no interest in spreadsheets. What I envisioned for myself was some sort of hybrid position where sometimes I’d be in the office but then other parts of my day I’d be up on my feet, movin’ and shakin’. I also landed firmly on the idea that I’d prefer working with a small team of smart folks as opposed to working alone. [I’ll let you know later how well I achieved these early job-wants.]

The day following my breakfast with the CFO, I sent him an email explaining that taking another analyst position seemed too close to the job I’d left. As graciously as I could say it, the answer was, No, I am not interested. If I was going to be in solar, I needed to be where the sunlight meets the glass, out in the field, on the roof, talking to customers. What sweet relief it was to finally have enough clarity to narrow my job search. From that day on, I no longer applied for jobs I didn’t really want. Thankfully, I had enough savings to resist any ‘I just gotta get a job’ impulses. For the first time ever in my life I was going to find a job I was actually excited about.

A Shameful Realization

What a sad and shameful realization it is to know that at no previous point in my working life had I ever taken a job based on my enthusiasm for what the position entailed. As I reflect on it now, it’s truly infuriating. I was guided (or more accurately, misguided) over and over again by a society that steers us towards its own one-size-fits-all notion of how to create a good life for yourself. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying I was particularly driven by society to “achieve success,” in either the professional or materialistic sense. What I’m pushing back against is the entire corridor of this supposedly advanced civilization we are all expected to march down, unquestioningly. 

Not all of the blame for my zombie-like allegiance to the go-to-school, get-a-job, work-hard, save-money, retire-and-go-on-cruises lifestyle rests on the shoulders of society. There were some key shortcomings in the parenting I received that left me unprepared to make enlightened choices later on. Of course, my parents were simply adhering to the standards of their day; one does not blame the fish when the river has left its banks.

However, I am also thinking about the effects of having been raised by an angry, unnurturing father, and a well-intentioned but disconnected mother. You don’t have an older brother commit suicide in your house if everything’s okay. [Yes, I will elaborate in a later post.]

Buying What I’m Selling

With the added clarity of knowing what I did and didn’t want from a job, the wind was now at my back. Only a week or two out from my arrival into Denver, I scored my first formal interview. The job was Solar Technician, and the company was Sunrun. Though not a household name, Sunrun is the largest residential solar company in the US.  

What I perceived to be the biggest hurdle in making this huge career pivot was convincing a potential employer I was for real. Why would a 50+ year old guy with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, a former licensed C.P.A., intentionally seek out an entry-level, blue collar job making $17 per hour? This question had an answer; an answer that made total sense, but only within the context of my larger story– trip around the world, doing something meaningful, big changes, new challenges…. I was selling an exciting real-life story of rebirth, renewal, and personal growth. I was inspired by solar. Would they be inspired by me?

Evidently so. I got the job.

Does This Blue Collar Make Me Look ???

My very first job after graduating college required me to wear a suit and tie…. everyday. Subsequent jobs were not quite so rigid, with business casual (i.e., slacks and buttoned-down shirts for the guys), being the rule. And then finally there were the halcyon days of “Casual Friday” when the dress code Gods allowed us to wear jeans one day a week. Are they not merciful?

All of these dress-coded jobs paid me a salary. Getting paid by the hour was simply not part of my post-college work-life. Clocking-in and clocking-out was something I’d not done since being a waiter at the Olive Garden. Everything would be changing with my new job in solar. I was leaving the familiar world of the “professional class” to drive around town in a company truck and wear shirts bearing my company’s logo. I would be setting up ladders and standing on rooftops; crawling through sweltering, insulation-filled attics; seeking out restrooms in 7-11’s, fast-food chains, and grocery stores, because the convenience of having a clean bathroom down the hall was gone. I would be one of them.

Accepting the Solar Tech job forced me to confront my class-conscious, judgemental, elitist self, head-on. Even though I entered this world of physical labor willingly, it was hard not to feel like I was stepping down a level or two within society. I most definitely felt self-conscious about it. Some small, insecure part of me was asking, What will my friends think? Countless times I found myself telling people, prospective Sunrun customers even, how I used to work in an office. I’d like to believe I did this because I’ve got a cool story to share. But the truth is I felt the need to let people know I’m not really the guy they think they’re seeing. 

I do not like admitting this to you…my friends…that I’ve spent my whole life judging as ‘less than’ those who don’t wear khakis and collars to work, and spend their days in the glow of a computer screen.  

To this day, I’m still not 100% comfortable wearing the blue collar. But living this new life in the way that I am is certainly striking a blow to whatever sense of class-consciousness I used to have. And that’s a good thing. This experience is also making me realize that wiping away assumptions you’ve held in your head for decades isn’t so easy. Like so many things, you have to live it….to get it.

I had no idea the large number of mental paradigms I needed to smash. Just wait ‘til I tell you about me and drugs. 

But not quite yet. First, we will take up smoking….and you’re gonna love it.

2017 Reboot

Hands-on Training at Solar Energy International

The door finally opened. “Hey, you made it!” I heard coming from a big warm smile.

I broke. Tears came but words did not. I tried to speak, I tried again, literally nothing. I could only hug and my friend had no trouble receiving me. I cried. Gary actually cried.  

My feelings are always complicated and hard to find. But as soon as I stood there at the door of my friend’s house in Modesto, California, I felt some kind of happiness; the type of happiness that floats on relief, and the type of relief that follows a three-day cross country road trip fueled by uncertainty.


YOU Try Finding Modesto On A Map

In the old days, when your computer (or even your phone) started giving you trouble, the first thing you might try was a reboot. Power it down, let the cache clear, restart it “fresh.” This was what my life needed. My way of rebooting was to leave Austin, get my emotionally-charged self into a clearer head-space, and hope the material of my next chapter would somehow organically appear. 

I headed west.

One unique thing about me is that I have no living family. My family was small to begin with and over the years everyone but me has passed away. This personal circumstance is certainly not unprecedented, but rare in my experience. In fact, I have never met anyone else that was like me in this particular regard. 

My family today is my cherished network of friends. Filling the role of brother-from-another-mother is my longtime dear friend, Minh Nguyen. Minh first entered my life as a roommate back in the early 90’s. 

On a skype call to Modesto, California, where Minh and his wife Deyanira, have been living for years, I asked if I could come stay for a while to get my head cleared up. With predictable generous enthusiasm, Minh told me the price was right and to “Come on down!” That right price, by the way, was free. Exactly what I needed to take any financial pressure off living through my reboot.

Modesto is one of those cities that everyone has heard of but few could find on a map. It is located roughly in the center of the state, both in the north-south and east-west directions. If playing darts on a board shaped like California, Modesto would lie near the bullseye.

The two big questions I needed my reboot to answer were… where do I want to live and what do I want to do? The answers to both questions had roots in my trip around the world, which at this point in the story (Fall of 2017), was three full years in the past.

Where Oh Where…?

My experience living in Modesto was overall quite positive. In many respects Modesto exists in the Goldilocks zone of cities- not too big, not too small, not too expensive. Not too far from both the coastline or the mountains. Modesto and the smaller towns that surround it have a vibrant Ultimate Frisbee scene, too. Despite all of these plusses, the knowing in my bones said that Modesto was only a temporary stop on my journey, not the destination.   

The process of deciding where I wanted to live going forward wasn’t an easy one, but once the answer became clear, it seemed almost obvious. Here’s what I did know- I was going to leave Texas. It was my home for more than 50 years, but now the deep emotional and psychological ties I felt towards the state needed to be both challenged and interrupted. Traveling the world expanded my sense of “home,” but Texas is a big state with lots of gravitational pull. Folks not from the Lone Star State don’t get it. Texas really IS special. Texas pride becomes part of your DNA. And what other state has been made into a waffle maker? 

So, if not Texas, then where? I mentally placed myself in each state. Could I live in New Mexico? Could I live in North Carolina? Could I live in Vermont? Nothing was resonating until I considered Colorado. 

When I was around 14 years old, I went on an adventure trip with a group called Meyer’s Mountain Men. It was a summer camp thing, but we didn’t go to a camp. We loaded onto a custom-modified school bus in Houston where I grew up, and drove to Colorado. It was a fantastic and memorable experience that would forever ‘elevate’ Colorado in my psyche. One thing I remember liking in particular about Colorado is the way my hair looked in the lower humidity. (And we all know how important that is.)

Once mentally settled on Colorado, the next question was what city?  With no job and attempting a huge career-pivot, I went with the most pragmatic choice of Denver. 

Gang Influence

As I mentioned in a previous post, podcasts were a consistent go-to during my 2013-2014 travels. One podcast in particular planted an important seed in my brain. It was the Energy Gang podcast from Green Tech Media. I stumbled onto the podcast quite randomly. If I remember correctly, we were traveling by bus through Turkey to a place called Pamukkale (a.k.a. the “cotton castle”), when a news article about renewable energy came into my feed. Embedded within the article was a link to the podcast used as source material by the author. The discussion was wicked smart and over-my-head technically, but the hosts were also impressively personable and engaging. The big takeaways for me from that first Energy Gang podcast was, A) Solar and renewables are the future, and B) Wouldn’t it be great if I were to catch the renewables wave while it is still (relatively) early? New podcast episodes were released weekly and I became a regular listener.

Not every seed planted grows at a predictable rate. If conditions are not favorable, the seed will either rot in the ground or lie dormant until conditions improve. Once I was firmly in reboot mode, the roots and shoots of my interest in renewable energy began to spread in earnest. 

So, there I was in the over 50 club, a decades’ old degree in accounting, and no experience in solar. Where should I begin? One of my friends with connections to solar suggested I check out Solar Energy International (“SEI”), an organization that offers all kinds of solar training. My instinct told me I just needed something concrete related to solar on my resume for this career jump to be possible. 

Turns out my gut was correct. Two introductory online courses plus one week-long, hands-on training later and, as you will see in the next post, I would be teed up just high enough to land my first job in solar. 

Next up, I find my Rocky Mountain High….

The World Has Changed…Me

Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile

I look at the lady and say smiling, “It shouldn’t take me more than 10 or 15 minutes. If I’m not down in an hour, call 9-1-1.” With that, I climb up the ladder beneath the small portal cut into her ceiling and disappear….into an oven I go. 

It is 3 pm in the afternoon on a Wednesday and the heat from this Colorado summer day is peaking. Holy hell, the temp in this attic is probably near 130. I was already sweaty from laboring through my first two houses, but that doesn’t stop me from pumping out a new layer of sweat on top of the old. 

I’m wearing a pair of black jeans, Dickies brand. My two shirts both have long sleeves. The Sunrun installers shirt I wear next to my skin is gray and cotton, the top layer a solid black synthetic with a collar. And don’t overlook the Sunrun logo on my left chest. My head is covered first with my favorite cap, but then further surrounded by a “bump cap” – a hard-shelled hat I wear to blunt the nails that might greet me while measuring the underside of this roof. Around my face I wear an N95 mask for the dust. Above my forehead is a headlamp. 

There is not much room up inside this oven. I cannot stand up. Crawling on hands and knees through the insulation is my only option. The disturbed insulation creates a cloud of particles that appear to shine as they float through the light of my headlamp. On the upper part of the roof I am able to measure the rafter sizes relatively easily. The truly uncomfortable challenge will be getting my tape measure onto the lower rafters, the ones that span the vaulted living room and only enter the attic by a couple of inches. I shuffle down the joists towards my target. The sloping roof above my head narrows as I squeeze my body into lizard shape, no longer able to baby-crawl for lack of vertical space. So hot up here!

The worst part, the very worst is when I make that final reach of the tape measure, left hand going forward as far as I can stretch, the right hand awkwardly aiming the phone’s camera, my face now hovers a half-inch to the nasty insulation.   

I chose this…?  OMG, I chose this.


I Must Be Inspired, or Not

One thing about traveling is that between the sites, cities, countries and continents, there is a whole lot of time to fill. Podcasts and books have their place, but there’s still plenty of uninterrupted time left over to think. As I traveled the world, pondering my place within it was unavoidable. 

Whether I knew it or not, my world-infused ponder had invisibly shifted the relationship I had to everything. Once my world trip was over and I was re-entering normal life in Austin, Texas, I felt a fresh exuberance to do something that would connect me to some “larger goodness.” It was a rush of enthusiasm that lasted a good few weeks. An enthusiasm for…. well, I didn’t know exactly what. But as time wore on, my urge to live inspired soon gave way to the practical realities of daily living. By the time I’d been back 5 or 6 weeks, my initial zeal for doing something meaningful with my life morphed into, “I just gotta get a job.”

Next thing you know I was plugged back into a mundane job very similar to the one I had before my world tour began. With a weighted heart, but still the best of intentions, I accepted a Research Analyst position at Texas Medicaid. Spreadsheets, databases, and internal reports would be my lot in life for the foreseeable future.

Though my work life would be set for a while…my life at home was in trouble. 

The story of my break-up with Jessica, the beautiful partner I had shared so many amazing life experiences with, will not be told here. Our demise as a couple is complicated, sad, and impossible to re-tell fairly or objectively. Therefore, I will leave it alone almost entirely.

What I will say is that I was unhappy. The decision to end the relationship came slowly and with intense trepidation. But once I reached that point mentally, and our 9 1/2 year relationship was over, I was only trading one box of unhappy for a new box of uncertainty.

Fine Is No Longer Fine

Stories told by the generation of NASA astronauts that first walked on the moon reveal a lot about what it’s like to return to the ordinary after living the extraordinary. One astronaut hung up his space suit and became a priest. Another turned his attention to art and lived out his days painting. Alan Shepard, the first American in space and also one of the few astronauts that walked on the moon, was profoundly impacted by the contrast he saw between the desolate, inhospitable moon, and the fountain of life that is planet Earth. Not only did his experience on the moon amplify his appreciation of Earth’s wonders, the simplest of pleasures delighted him equally.  In one interview, Shepard describes a favorite activity of his- walking to the shopping center, finding an ice cream cone and a bench, and watching the people pass by.  

While I did not see the Earth from the moon’s surface, I did see our planet in a way very few others ever will. My trip around the world did not turn me into a painter or priest, but I did find it increasingly uncomfortable to live my old life. For example, my job was fine, my coworkers were fine, the things I worked on were fine. The problem was that “fine” was no longer fine with me.

I don’t know where this phrase came from, but I’ve always liked it:  The three most important things in life are where you live, where you work, and how your hair looks. 

After the breakup, my where you live was uncertain, and my where you work was a pillar made of straw. Even my hair was a mess! I wasn’t sleeping well. I was tired all the time. 

I really didn’t know how to move forward. I felt broken.

1 More World Begins

Exquisite composite photo a solar eclipse

Welcome! Let’s get started. There’s lots to talk about.

Start from where is the right question. After decades of a mostly unremarkable life, in the middle of 2013 I did something truly amazing. I stopped working and traveled the world for a year. I even created an enormous travel blog documenting my experiences. (

So why blog again?

It is because that trip changed EVERYTHING. The tangible changes to my life came slowly at first, after all, the trip ended in 2014 and only now, six years hence, has the circle been closed and the burst of ah-ha moments reached blog-critical velocity.

The Moment The Circle Begins to be Drawn

What was your favorite country? Which country had the best food?  These were the types of questions my friends asked after I got back from my trip around the world. I loved these conversations and had colorful replies for every question. But then one friend asked, Do you feel like the trip changed you? I gave a slow, puzzled, head-tilted answer of Hmmm…I don’t know

Though obvious today, the true answer of Yes wasn’t ready to be heard in 2014. As I said, six years would pass before it became clear. Most definitely that trip had changed me. This blog is my telling of how  – a living journey that includes both subtle shifts and sharp turns in my way of thinking…..about my past, present, and especially my future.

Most of my posts will begin with a meaningful scene from my current life, and occasionally my childhood. Each subsequent narrative, regardless the subject, will reveal something I have learned recently. With my life changing so much, my ultimate hope would be for you to read my words and find something that changes your life, too.