Thursday, August 9, 2018

Rob







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July 24, 2018




Dear Rob,


I confess—back before I really got to know you I was surprised that you interviewed for a Community Assistant position at University Pines. I was probably the most introverted CA on the day we interviewed you and, per my first impressions, you seemed even harder to cram into the mold of dynamic salesman and community organizer than I was. I’m glad my concerns were overruled. Becoming coworkers, and then roommates, would lead to the great friendship we shared in the years to follow.

I’ve been married almost 10 years to a beautiful, emotional, impulsive, hyper-empathetic woman with a tendency to spontaneously combust. I guess it takes a dose of irrational passion to bring balance to the life of a stoic. If you two were competing for best roommate, it’s a tough call in some categories. But at least she knows how to clean a bathtub. I recall almost always being the first to break down and conduct the hazmat removal when we lived together, but not before the soap scum felt like a half-inch thick layer of contaminated board wax. There were points when I could’ve pulled off Michael Jackson’s anti-gravity lean with bare feet while taking a shower.

I can’t count the number of times over the course of my marriage (10 years this October) I’ve invoked our friendship. No joke. Unfortunately, I can’t say that doing so has ever really helped my case. When conversation with Jenn overheats, I try to draw on a true-to-life example of how two people who couldn’t disagree more strongly could still have an intellectually stimulating and enjoyable conversation without anger getting the best of them—and become even better friends as a result. Our late night philosophical and theological debates at Whataburger always come to mind. Combing through my journal, the first time on record appears to be August 16, 2001. The last I can find was March 4, 2005, shortly before you moved to Waco. I’m writing to thank you for the good times.

You might be surprised at the fact that I relate to your position slightly better now than I did then. It took years of moving around the country, thinking outside the Book, and reading things they don’t sell in a Lifeway. But I’m no longer the Bible-thumping fundamentalist zealot who used ancient poetry to try and convince you that his take on truth was the only legitimate approach to fire insurance.

I give some credit to the Trumpist movement. That offered the last push I needed to get off the Evangelical train at Grand Central Station. I found the various transit maps there so interesting that I’ve yet to board another rail car. Faith is much easier when you’re indoctrinated. It’s another thing to switch gears as an adult once I allowed myself to question the infallibility of my inherited ideology. 

It’s easy to believe something when there are no competing ideas, but a rational person can’t objectively study the pros and cons of a belief system and blindly commit to one at the same time.
All religions demand a degree of devotion, so I guess my struggle shouldn’t come as a surprise. I find it difficult to pull the trigger on the purchase of a garden hoe after reading Amazon reviews for 8 hours—probably for the same reason behind why I don’t have any tattoos. Commitment isn’t my forte, especially when there are many options (or ideas) juggling different pros and cons. The potential for regret later doesn’t help. The fact that I ever got married is quite an anomaly.

I haven’t written off a higher power, but find it harder and harder to buy into a particular belief system constructed by mankind in an effort to understand things beyond our capacity to grasp. When a system is customized, institutionalized, commercialized, and sometimes leveraged to wield power over others or justify oppression, that makes it even harder. I’m learning to find beauty in the mystery instead of pretending to have all of the answers. Faith feels a lot more like hope and a lot less like a license to wield the so-called “sword of truth.”

Anyway, I hope this letter finds you in good health and spirits. All of this TMI is just to touch base and say thank you—for being one of very few friends in my life with whom I could always respectfully disagree while enjoying your company immensely.


Sincerely,









Dan


P.S.  I still think most anime totally sucks. J

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Thursday, August 2, 2018

Alan




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June 26, 2018




Dear Alan,


I’d be willing to bet that life’s changed a bit since you married the mother of my significant other.  Are you having fun yet? Sometimes I see the spittin’ image of Lynn in Jenn. It usually comes a split second at a time when she’s taking one of those rare moments to think about something with her mouth closed. She’ll purse her lips as the gears turn and flash an inadvertent duck-face. When that happens, it’s like Lynn materializes in the room! You can’t help but love those women.

I want to commend you for your bravery and thank you for joining the family. It’s a raucous fracas when the Jordans, Fredricks, and Loffers descend on your life at the same time. I wouldn’t be surprised if the eyebrows of Nolan Ryan in that painting on your wall are a notch higher by the time we all leave. You forfeit your peace for a time, and a significant amount of your beer and liquor, but remain so gracious as to send a jug of that glorious Pennsylvania maple syrup now and again by way of the post. Thank you for that!

Don’t let the fact that we now live in the most liberal municipality in the United States deter you from a visit. It’s quite peaceful on Vashon. Our activists here may be the squeakiest of wheels, but the down to earth are a very tolerant silent majority. The lighter population density relative to Seattle, island-life collectivism, and the patience it takes to tolerate a life dependent upon the Washington State ferry system all result in a live-and-let-live vibe. If I were you, I would still introduce myself to Vashoners as a consultant, rather than a lobbyist. Maybe mention your foray into the legalism of Marijuana for some extra street cred.

Most of the time the locals will even serve you if you walk into a coffee shop with the Wall Street Journal under your arm! Believe it or not, there are far more non-biodegradable WSJ receptacles shamelessly screwed to mailboxes all over The Rock than there are dispensaries downtown . . . though I suspect some residents may subscribe only to supplement the crafting of paper mâché Trump effigies for ceremonial immolation.  

Anyway, all of that was just to say thanks— for accepting all of us as part of the wild and crazy package that came with your lovely wife. I always enjoy our conversation, and look forward to next time.


Sincerely,







Daniel

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Mama




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June 25, 2018




Dear Mama,


You may have noticed that I’ve procrastinated a bit when it comes to writing some of the most obvious people to whom I am forever indebted. When it comes to some, I could write forever and still leave something out.  You are a prime example.  I’ve procrastinated because It’s so hard to envision where to begin— and then where to stop.  I’m going to suck it up and take a stab at yours with a different approach in an attempt to avoid the easy clichés and typical Hallmark Mother’s Day card drivel.  Here is a list of reasons I’m forever thankful for you.

Thank you—

1)     For marrying that cowboy from Texas who was so lonely he’d taken up needlepoint and, in a thick cloud of Aramis, swaggered into the needlecraft shop in Mississippi where you worked in search of raw materials.
2)     For putting up with him to this day.
3)     For the fateful bluff that brought about my conception.
4)     For every hour of sleep you lost, and every nasty diaper you changed as a new mom.
5)     For being brave enough to give me an amazing little sister after what my birth and infancy put you through.
6)     For the hundreds of times you tucked me into bed, sang Jesus Loves Me, and listened to me pray before I fell asleep.  Sometimes I wonder what the exact date was the very last time that happened.  There had to be a last time.  I wonder why that was the last time, and why I can’t remember it.
7)     For the times you answered my prayers with Christmas presents, and for the times you didn’t.
8)     For the countless hours spent reading to me instead of turning my mind over to a TV screen.  I owe my passion for words to that selfless investment of your time.
9)     For thousands of delicious Dagwood-worthy sandwiches made with love and more than three other components.
10)  For instilling in your kiddos a sense of fairness and justice.  One of us poured the can of Coke into two glasses, and the other chose their glass.  We could split atoms when it came to that one can per week that we had to share on Saturday.
11)  For investing all of your mad teacher skills in me via homeschool in Kindergarten and 1st grade.  I have no doubt the momentum from that academic head start carried through to the following 14 years.
12)  For sending me on to public school in the 2nd grade, so I didn’t become a total weirdo.  I needed socialization badly by that point.
13)  For supplementing my reading habit with those bi-weekly trips to Mt. Pleasant that required two library cards for one family.
14)  For all of the well-rounded dinners you cooked while working, mothering, and homemaking full-time.  Including Jell-O soup and chicken enchilada casserole, with or without beans.
15)  For every time you made me go outside and play.
16)  For every lunch you packed, for the lunchbox notes and, most of all, the ones that were poems. 
17)  For encouraging curiosity and fostering creativity.
18)  For letting me drive down the red dirt backroads of East Texas without a license.
19)  For your attention.  You were often my audience of one.
20)  For your example of steadfastness.  When people around you and close to you went through “phases,” you were steady as rock.
21)  For always, always being available for a hug.
22)  For trusting me enough to let me go on the day I turned 18.  I distinctly remember the first time I asked for your permission to do something after my 18th birthday.  You asked why I bothered to ask, since I was an adult.  The sense of responsibility that came with the mantle of your trust to make my own decisions and do the right thing proved to be one of the most powerful motivators in my life.
23)  For venturing all the way to the Pacific Northwest to visit us on your own.
24)  For not voting for Trump (or Hillary.) 
25)  For everything else I’m forgetting to mention.

I love you,









Your “baby boy”



Thursday, July 19, 2018

Amy



Side note:  The link to one of my !favorite letters - Drew Todd / Norman Maclean - in the sidebar to the right has been fixed, it was previously taking readers to that of Alister McGrath.

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Dear Amy,


I didn’t actually remember your name on April 9, 2006— the day I turned around at Freebirds on Greenville Avenue in Dallas with my five-pound burrito and saw you grinning back at me. But I knew I’d seen your warm smile before. What a small world! Our circles overlapped somehow when I was living in Brenham and you were in College Station years before.

It was the community at Fellowship Dallas that you helped introduce me to, and the privilege of serving as a pseudo-uncle (and living booster seat) for the adorable Katydid that helped keep a lonely bachelor’s heart and hope afloat during those memorable years in the Big D. Thank you for helping to get an introvert integrated, and most of all for the memories. Give Dan, Katy, and the rest of the fam a hug for me!


Sincerely,







Daniel

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