I spent a couple hours in the early morning yesterday cleaning up my home workspace. I didn’t take a before picture but, trust me, it needed some attention.
It’s an adjustable desk, but I only use it standing up so I don’t need to adjust it frequently. This opened up the opportunity to create a “back wall” for storage and display.
The wall itself is a set of stacked wooden boxes with the Monty Vern logo etched into the surface. These are extra boxes from an old project I had. The project didn’t really work out, but the boxes have proven useful. I’m also showcasing a couple of my books. The frame includes a miniature version of one of my book covers (also left over from that aborted box project) – I’ll probably print out a larger version that can fill the frame at some point, but this is good enough for now.
What I appreciate the most is the lack of clutter. I’ve housed some stuff inside the boxes while also taken the opportunity to clean-up (i.e. throw away or recycle) lots of old papers and stuff that had piled up.
I’ve got an old computer monitor and keyboard + mouse that I don’t use anymore that I’m going to try to give away. They used to be on my desk but never used. That also took away a lot of clutter and made room for the “back wall”. At the moment they are on my wife’s desk, which she is not appreciating, so I will get on that soon.
Overall I’m pretty pleased with the result and its re-energized me about working in this space. I especially like the little Bluetooth speaker that I have tucked into one of the cubby holes and provides great sound when I’m not on a call and just doing some productivity work. Yesterday I was listening to a Tibetan chant while writing emails and felt very chill.
Today’s post is just a little snapshot of my life. I’ll be getting back to poetry and art sometime soon, but these days I appreciate the outlet to simply share what is going on.
We’ve entered the rainy season here in Shanghai. I believe today is the official first day, but we got a little head start. The greens are vibrant. Not the deep greens of an old forest, but the fresh and lively greens of new.
Shanghai is a city of new. Sure there are some old structures and temples, but even those have been restored with new paint or even remodeled into something modern inside. During my time here, the metro has grown from a single line to the largest city rail transport system in the world. Down the street from us they are pulling up trees from the roots to make room for another metro station. We moved here in the late 90’s and it was all but farm fields surrounding us. The city has grown to embrace us. The new metro station feels like a capstone of this growth.
And within this city we hold onto our little patch of green. They don’t approve new building permits for single family homes this close into the city anymore. We are not alone, our community includes hundreds of such homes, but we are a relative rarity. It’s a blessing to live in such beauty, while surrounded by such convenience.
I grew up in the countryside. In Vermont where nature provides a colorful display of wonder throughout the year. From bright blue summer skies and shimmering lakes, to vibrant autumn foliage and all the shades of winter whites and of course all the greens of spring. Vermont is called the Green Mountain State for a reason. It’s a place of pure beauty. But it’s also a place of absolute inconvenience in comparison to city living, let alone living in a modern city like Shanghai. Everything was far away. A friend was within bicycling distance but everything else pretty much required a ride from mom. I’ll always appreciate my growing up in such beauty, but I’m not sure I could go back now after experiencing all that I have experienced in living in Shanghai.
But I digress. It’s a rainy morning and the droplets provide a beautiful shimmer on all the green leaves. And my point is that I feel blessed to be here.
At the recommendation of my brother I’m reading Luke in the Bible. I’ve tried to read the Bible before but I always got stuck early on and never made it past Genesis. This time I asked for advice and I’m glad I did as reading Luke is proving to not only be easier but interesting as well.
Back in middle school I had a classmate that was the daughter of a pastor. We once got into debate about the authenticity of the Bible. As a nonbeliever I claimed that it was written by humans and was nothing more than a story at best. An attempt at manipulating the masses at worst. We went at it for awhile and then she asked me if I’d even read the Bible. Of course, I hadn’t. Why would I? Well, she said until I read it I didn’t really have a valid opinion on the matter. It made me pause. She had a very good point. So I told her ok, I will keep quiet on the topic until I’d read the darn thing. I’m pretty proud of myself for this response. I feel I exhibited a pretty reasonable attitude for a middle schooler. In the end, we never spoke about it again. I was too interested in Stephen King’s novels to do the work to read the Bible.
Well, now I’m finally doing the work. Or at least starting to. One of the passages that I underlined was: “And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” Wow, that’s a lot of sinning and repenting and forgiving in a given day! It struck me as requiring a lot of patience and acceptance. More then I tend to show those that annoy me, let alone ‘sin’ against me. I’ll take it as directional guidance and do my best. If I fail, I guess I can always repent and ask for forgiveness myself. That’s the gift of it. If I can forgive, then I can also be forgiven.
What’s interesting to me is that the more I understand the nature of God. That His grace is free, no strings-attached, I can sin and repent as many times a day as I want and be forgiven, the more inclined I’m becoming to be a better person. It’s happening naturally, without effort. I feel at peace. My addictions and unhealthy thoughts are quiet. External temptations bead up upon my mind’s surface and shed off. The more I understand that I will be forgiven, the less I feel the compulsion to do what needs to be forgiven.
There is deep wisdom in this irony. I wouldn’t have come to this conclusion on my own. It makes me wonder whether my classmate was right. Perhaps, just maybe, these words were breathed by God. I’m not fully sure yet, but let me read on. Let me continue to seek, for if I seek, I just might find.
I did it. I shaved it all off. This isn’t my first time. The first time was my senior year in high school. Or more accurately towards the end of the summer just before my senior year started.
I was pulling an all nighter at the movie theatre I worked at. We were painting the bathroom stalls. During a pause in the work, my boss, shaved my head. I still remember the cool touch of the bathroom stall walls on my freshly bald head when I bumped up against them while finishing the painting job. When I got home in the morning my mom said my eyes looked beautiful…she later confessed that she was searching for something positive to say and finally landed on the eye thing. Haha. I loved all the new sensations I felt. Rain drops were the most delightful. The breeze refreshing.
It wasn’t all positive though. It was the beginning of soccer season and heading the ball without any cushion was much more painful. Those were the days when the balls were pretty heavy. Ooff! Playing in the full sun also proved painful. My virgin skin burned badly. Ouch!
The next time I went bald was more of a economic driven decision. I was in college and couldn’t afford a haircut. My roommate offered to help out. It wasn’t long after he started that I realized there was only one way out…going full bald again. Anything less was going to look awful. One might argue that I looked awful bald but at least it looked intentional vs. just getting a bad haircut. It’s a choice. This time it was winter. Smart, right? No issue with sunburns for sure. I was in upstate New York, though, and the winter was quite severe…and my head missed the bit of insulation that it had once had. It was so cold! And it was hard to put a wool hat on because it grabbed onto the stubble and refused to pull down. I ended up wearing a baseball cap and just dealt with it.
About a year ago, I asked my wife if she would be comfortable with me going bald again. She’d never seen me bald before and wasn’t too excited about the prospect but said it was totally up to me. I ended up just getting a particularly short buzz cut and postponing the idea. Until last Friday. Last Friday, the buzzer was wooing me. Urging me on. Thirty minutes later I was full on bald. Then ecstasy in the shower with the droplets massaging my skull. I missed that feeling!
It would be a surprise for my wife. She’d been sleeping downstairs in our spare bedroom as she recovered from her surgery. I sent her a message that I gave myself a “very short haircut” and then, feeling more light headed than normal, crashed for the night.
In the morning the response was muted. She politely said it will take some getting used to. My wife took the below picture of me and Jack, who had also just got a haircut and sent it off to my kids. I got a lone “🥚” response back from my daughter…then she said Jack looked cute (which is true). My son didn’t even bother to respond. It’s ok. I didn’t do it for the looks. I did it for the fresh feeling. And it feels soooooo fresh! No regrets (yet).
I took Mrs. Monty in to the hospital today to have her surgical staples removed. She was a trouper as she alway is. It clearly stung her when they were pulled out, but aside from a scrunched up face and maybe a slight “oomph” it was a quick and undramatic affair. After it was all over, they said come back in after a month for a check. Possibly the final one, they said. We are in the home stretch.
Mrs. Monty’s goal is to be able to walk comfortably again. She doesn’t care so much if there is a scar or slight limp. She accepts these potential fates. She is especially excited about the prospect of riding a bicycle again. Her eyes light up like a little girl when she talks about it.
What a journey this has been. The initial accident during the Covid lockdown and all the craziness of trying to get her to the hospital that night when she was in excruciating pain is burned into my memory as clearly as the scars on her leg. We spent almost an entire month in the hospital – locked-in. Unable to leave to get a change of clothes or my work computer, I slept on a sofa watching my wife maxing out the morphine drip in tears as even that couldn’t numb her pain.
This time, when she had the surgery to remove the three metal brackets and fifteen screws from her previously shattered ankle, she didn’t press the morphine drip button once. I only slept two nights on the sofa and was able to go out anytime I wanted. And Mrs. Monty didn’t even take a single dose of the pain meds that came home with us. She said that after the pain of the initial accident and surgery, this was nothing. She wasn’t being a hero, she literally said that there was some discomfort, but no real pain. Wow, what a difference a year makes.
She has three more days of wound care, then the bandages come off and she can shower normally again. One more month before they take an x-ray to check the bone’s status. Then what? After over a year of recovery, what’s next? If I had to guess, I think we might just take a bicycle ride around the neighborhood to celebrate. I can already almost see her smiling and hear her giggling while she peddles around like a little girl on her first bicycle. I’m looking forward to that day.
I’ve been waking up at about 3am the past week or so. I’m fully awake and there is no question that my sleep for the night is done. So I get up. And I start working. I’ve been a machine. Efficiently producing way more than I should ever let my boss know I’m capable of. I don’t want to be held to this standard. This is a temporary superpower. I’m sure of it.
I’d rather that I did something creative in these early morning hours – either writing or illustrating. Or perhaps some self-care like meditation or yoga. Something a little more for me. But my brain is on the job. I can’t turn it off.
It’s not that I’m not taking care of myself. I went for a walk with a friend at 6:30. We did about 8km so it wasn’t insignificant. I also took an hour between meetings to meditate (which turned into a much needed nap). But I’m a morning person and to think that I’m using up all my energy on work instead of something more inspiring is a bit “meh”.
All this leads me to here and now. It’s late afternoon. I’m mentally exhausted. Creatively empty. I wan’t to write, but I’m only able to write an uninteresting post about waking up at 3am.
And that leads me to you. What made you read so far? Are you giving me the benefit of the doubt that I had something meaningful to say? Have I now lost your trust? I hope not. I thank you for your patience and hope you’ll visit another day when I have something more creative to say.
Amorphous thoughts twirling and whirling; rushing through widening gaps in my failing damn mind! Splashing forcefully against blade; Spinning my wheels and gears faster and faster til my brain releases from it’s stem and drops to the ground with a crushing force; splitting open; releasing sticky-sweet juices; enticing busy bees to sip upon each escaping thought; flying them away to their hive; and diligent ants to heft large chunks of half-ideas and quartered worries; carryingthem below the soil; out of site; leaving me mindless; thoughtless; at peace, finally.
I had quite a busy work week last week and despite being already Sunday my brain has been spinning like mad. Leaving me sleepless and a touch anxious about starting the week ahead with my energy reserves too low. So I welcome the help from the bees, the ants, and any other of God’s creatures to help me let go of such excess thoughts. I know it’s more trendy to seek mindfulness these days, but I could use a few moments of mindlessness right now. At least enough to catch an afternoon nap.
The beauty in God, as I am coming to understand Him, is that He is all knowing. That I don’t need to conceal my sins. I don’t need to hide. His light shines on me – the best and worst of me. All of me. Without secrets, there is no need for lies. No complicated machinations to mask the truth. He offers a haven. A safe space to be me. Free to work on my truths.
My truths. Their messy. I’m messy. And tied up in lies, I’m complicated and confusing. But in His light, I’m simpler. Still messy, but more easily untangled. Easier to understand; to see my path forward; to make choices toward a better me.
I’m on a journey of faith. I’m choosing to believe. It’s daily choice; a daily prayer. And I’m bringing all of me.
The morning is cool. The air is a fresh floral green. The light is bright beyond the shade tree’s shadow.
My mind is knotted. My thoughts a dark murky grey. My outlook is cloudy despite my morning coffee’s encouragement.
I forgot to take my meds yesterday. I realized this in the middle of the night when my sleep was bombarded with strange thoughts and frequent waking. I was further reminded when I woke up to a head that felt like it was being cinched tightly by a giant’s oversized tool.
I’m slowly coming out of it. I’ve taken my meds. I’ve had a small breakfast and my first cup of coffee for the day. I’m sitting in the garden and it’s a beautiful morning.
I spent the weekend sleeping on a sofa chair at the hospital and that got me out of my normal routine. I think that is why I forgot my meds. Mrs. Monty finally had the metal brackets and screws removed from her ankle after a full year of recovery. They showed us the bag of metal fittings after they removed them and I was shocked by their size and quantity. There was enough hardware there to put together a piece of furniture from IKEA. I’m glad its out now and she has a chance to walk more comfortably again once she recovers.
As she came out of surgery and was hooked up to the monitors it brought me back to a few months ago when mama (my mother in law) was passing. At that time we were watching the vital signals slowly descend. This time I watched as the signals ascended back to normal. Another reminder to embrace the miracle of life while we are here. A blessing of awareness and appreciation.
At the hospital we had a room in the maternity ward due to lack of space in the ‘regular ward’. We were surrounded by the sounds of lives beginning — and their complaints about the state of the human condition. It’s been over twenty-one years since my last child was born. He also arrived with complaints. Somethings stay the same. But these complaints were another reminder of life’s miracle. Another blessing.
So while my mind may be “knotted” and in a bit of fog, I’m grateful for this day. I’m grateful for the miracle of life. I’m grateful for each blessing that reminds me to be so.