Thursday, March 10, 2016

Before I turn 40...

As I approached the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, I did a little introspection.  I started to think about not just the personal shortcomings that I want to fix, but the things that I want to do.  I also had the realization that I am 35, and in 4 1/2 years, I will be 40.  It is not that I fear turning any age, but when I was little, I looked at my great-grandparents, and knew they were in their 80s, and that seemed ancient.  One grandfather died in his late 50s, the other in his early 70s.  I am halfway to 70, so my little "aha" moment may have started a mini-midlife crisis. 

When I was in college, one of the things that made me choose winemaking over vet medicine and the priesthood, was the realization that we do not live forever, and the idea of having two or three professions is very difficult, to say the least.  This line of thought prompted me to do some real thinking.  I took the idea of New Year's resolutions, and I tumbled it into a list of things that I want to do before I am 40.  I broke it up into areas of faith, finance, family, fitness (running), career, and a miscellany file.  I even built up a reading list of books that I want to go through in the next few years.  There is one item that has been bugging me today:  I put down that I want to be done with my corporate winemaking career before I am 45, preferably sooner. 

I want to be independent.  I want to be able to express my enological creativity with the grapes from the ranch, which is ultimately an expression of my family's hard work for decades.  I want to be free from the mundane, the ineptitude, the stupidity, and the unimaginative machinations of corporate minions. 

What brings this on?  I have learned my trade through corporate winemaking, both good and bad.  Being in Corporate America has its advantages; a paycheck every 2 weeks or month, paid benefits, and so on.  However, at the end of the day, even the best employee is just that, an employee.  Someone who is a number in the HR database, just as replaceable as a burnt out pump, sucked in tank, or beat up press.  If companies merge, and people's jobs are made redundant, there is at best an attempt to be fair about picking the best (i.e. lowest cost, highest profit, most productive) employee, and deep-sixing the loser as quickly and humanely as possible.  The shareholders must get their dividends at all cost. I did not spend an extra 3 years of my life in grad school and deny myself other careers and callings to be someone else's burnt-out pump after 30 years service.  

Monster Winery and the others in the Cohort have been sold to a New Company.  Today was The Day of Promotions, Demotions, Transfers, and New Org Charts.  Monster Winery was largely unscathed, except for a couple of colleagues. I like working with these folks, and do not want to see their livelihoods lost.  If they lose their jobs, The Company will move on, and the rejected get to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. 

45 seems like a reasonable time to get out by.  It must be absolute.  By then, I will be middle-aged, but not too old to be scared and stuck.  I will not give Corporate America my entire working life.  I cannot; I deserve more.  My family deserves more. 

It is Lent; so I must focus on increased prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Tonight, my prayer is for my friends, that they can keep their jobs.   Pray that we can find the courage to seek the will of God and to stay true to our calling.

Pax et bonum,

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Here is a quick line about us clicking over the Gregorian Odometer again.  So long, 2014, we had our ups, downs, and flirtations with mediocrity.  Hello, 2015, may you have some promise.

I was looking over my "New Year's Resolutions/Self-Improvement Plan" for 2014 a week or so ago, and found that I had a snowball's chance of finishing my reading list, weight loss, running goals, and other ambitions that I set out for myself.  I will try the same type of organization plan for the coming year, but I don't think that it will be quite as ambitious.  I have in the top-line of this blog that I am a Catholic, husband, father, and winemaker.  I know that I have a lot of room for improvement in all of those areas.

If there is anyone out there who still looks at this page anymore, I wish you a Happy, Prosperous, and Grace-filled 2015.  God love you!


Saturday, April 26, 2014

A vigil for four Popes

As I start to write, it is 10:30pm on Saturday, 26 April.  In about two and a half hours, a momentous occasion will begin, the canonization Mass of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II.  For an institution that has seen over two millennia of human history, to say that tomorrow will be unprecedented is no small statement.  Pope Francis will celebrate the Mass that elevates these two to the honors of the altar.  Even more unprecedented will be the presence of Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI.  He is set to concelebrate the Mass with the cardinals.  For those of you who know me, you know the esteem and affection that I hold for B16, and you can imagine that I am excited to watch this unfold.

Pope John XXIII is a misunderstood man by many.  True, he is rightly described as "The Good Pope", and seen as a lovely, convivial grandfatherly-like man.  He called, and presided over the first session of, the Second Vatican Council.  When he called for the Council, he looked for an updating of the Church's teachings for the modern world.  That his motto was "Obedience and peace" is a telling reminder that he saw himself as a servant of God, a servant of his Church, and a disciple of Christ, in who alone we find true and lasting peace.

Pope John Paul II (styled "the Great" by many) is still in the minds of so much of the world.  He reigned from 1978 to 2005.  Until I was 24, there was only one Pope; the former Karol Jozef Wojtyla of Wadowice, Poland.  He was a philosopher, an actor, a poet, and a priest.  Of all the hundreds of documents, speeches, and homilies that came from his pontificate, there is one theme.  This was the theme at the very beginning:  BE NOT AFRAID!  OPEN WIDE THE DOORS TO CHRIST!

Sainthood is not the Medal of Honor.  Sainthood is not the lifetime achievement award of some organization for seller of most widgets.  Sainthood is not an earthly honor.  Sainthood is what we are all called to.  For these two men to be formally declared saints is to declare that they lived lives of such heroic virtue that their souls are in heaven now, and they are actively interceding on our behalf.  This is why we honor and venerate the thousands of saints on the rolls of the Church, this is why images exist in our Churches and homes.  If we cooperate with God's grace in our lives, this is what can happen!

I attended World Youth Day in Rome in 2000.  After a few days' soujourn in Italy, my group of pilgrims arrived in Rome. I scorched my feet and backside on the cobblestones of St Peter's Square waiting for John Paul II to arrive to start our time in Rome together.  I will never forget the thrill that we had as we saw him go past.  At one point in his reflection for opening World Youth Day, he asked us, "Why are you here?", "Who are you here to see?".  The correct answers were not, "St Peter's", "the Colosseum", or "the Pope", but rather "Jesus".  The whole point of these men's lives was to point us to God and his Son. 

John Paul II inspired so many of us through his life and his witness.  John XXIII inspired the Council Fathers to allow themselves to be open to the Holy Spirit.  It has been said that John Paul II told us what we believe, Benedict XVI told us why we believe it, and now Pope Francis is showing us how to act out what we believe. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and preserve in running the race before us,"  Hebrews 12:1

Popes St. John XXIII and John Paul II, pray for us!  We love you!


Friday, May 17, 2013

B16 Quote of the Week

The more the depths of our souls are directed to God, the better we will be able to pray.  The more prayer is the foundation of our entire existence, the more we will be men of peace.  The more we can bear pain, the more we will be able to understand others and open ourselves to them.  This orientation pervasively shaping our whole consciousness, this silent presence of God at the heart our thinking, our meditating, and our being, is what we mean by "prayer without ceasing".  This is ultimately what we mean by love of God, which is at the same time the condition and the driving force behind love of neighbor.

-Jesus of Nazareth, Pgs 129-130

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A blessing of a day

I am writing this post white on the road on a business trip to Tennessee.  This was a short-notice trip; I decided to take it last Saturday.  I left on Wednesday night, and arrived at my destination on Thursday morning.  That said, my travel itinerary is not the point of this post.  I have wanted to write a post that includes the abdication of the now-Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, but have needed time to process. 

Today, though, has been a blessing.  I was done with my meetings in TN last night, and opted not to do an immediate red-eye.  I stayed the night, ostensibly, just to go visit some of the big sights in country and bluegrass music.  The thing that I really wanted to do was visit an old friend.  When I was at Cal Poly, I lived in a house my senior year that was run by the Newman Center.  I was one of four men and two women who lived in the house.  Over the course of that year, they became like the brothers that I never had, and the sisters that I want my daughter to be.  Two and a half years ago, I lost one of those brothers in a plane crash. It’s slightly ironic that I am writing this post in an airport terminal.  One of the women is in a convent,with the Nashville Dominicans, and has recently taken her first vows.  She is about halfway through her formation.  My little sister, Katie, is now Sister Rose Miriam, O.P..  I visited her today on my way into Nashville. 

It was a rather short visit; I arrived just before noon prayer and lunch.  She met me in the chapel, which is absolutely gorgeous.  It was dedicated in 2006 because the previous chapel was not big enough to house the entire community and guests at big Masses.  I counted chairs for about 100 in the old chapel.  Needless to say, they have a wonderful problem; the convent is filled to the brim.  In fact, today, there was a retreat taking place for prospective vocations to the order; the priest-chaplain and I were the only men there.  It was an odd feeling, but I digress.  My friend was amazing.  She was radiant with a serene joy.  I know that may sound corny, but it is so very, very true.  We chatted for about 10-15 minutes, and we shared where we were with our lives.  I told her about how the Newman Center in San Luis Obispo is being remodeled.  The kitchen is being dedicated to the memory of Mike Ross, our fallen brother.  We both got misty eyed at his memory.  She let me stay for noon prayers, which I was glad to.  After the prayers, I caught the priest, and was able to go to Confession.  That priest is a wonderful confessor and a true physician for a soul.  My penance was one that I wish was given more often; to pray for my parish priest.  As I walked out of the convent, my heart was full of the grace of seeing my “little sister” and going to Confession. 

I did go to Music Row.  I toured the Ryman Auditorium, one of the finest concert halls in America, and the “Mother Church” of country and bluegrass music.  I had lunch at a pub, and a beer at Tootsie’s Bar, where many of the legends of country music got their start.  It was about 2 pm and there was a live band.  Absolutely wonderful.  I’ll put up a photo of the Ryman, and of the convent chapel when I get home, if they look ok.

Regarding Benedict’s abdication, it was a blow emotionally, as I have respected the man as a theologian and priest long before he was elected to the See of Peter.  I now have an understanding for his motive; I have no desire to entertain various conspiracy theories.  I trust that his mind was guided by God to abdicate, and trust that the Holy Spirit will act through the College of Cardinals when the conclave begins next Tuesday.  I have re-started my reading of Jesus of Nazareth, Volume 1 for the umpteenth time.  This time, though, I am looking at his text with a new appreciation.  Over the next two weeks, I will post a few choice quotations.

My flight boards soon, so I need to sign off.  The next time I post, I will have my feet on the terra firma of California.

Friday, February 8, 2013


Here's a quick post to let you know that I'm still alive and kicking.  The family is doing well; LnJ are doing great in kindergarten, and are getting tall (and still skinny). O is almost 3, still thinking that he is a triplet.  And Alie is getting kicked around from the inside.  She is due with number 4 in late may, right around the twins 6th birthday.  So far, so good with this pregnancy. She just is a bit tired.

Work is going well; we had a good harvest at home,and at the winery. I have quite a few projects that I am working on these days, but they are all meaningful.  Running took a bit of a hiatus over December and January. My weight went up a bit because of that.  Have no fear, the running has returned, and I have my sights set on the Salinas Valley Half in August for a PR.   I am shooting for a 1:45, which would be a 5:45 PR.

Short post, more to follow.  Keep calm and pray a rosary!


Friday, October 12, 2012

Vatican II, the reading list, running

It is the middle of harvest, so the idea of having a current book to read, save for the latest issue of Runners' World, and my winemaking texts, is laughable.  That said, current events are nudging me to carve out some time for real reading.  You see, yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council.  Vatican II was a council envisioned by Blessed Pope John XXIII (yes, that is 23rd) to update and rearticulate the timeless teachings of the Catholic Faith for the modern world.  Over the course of three years, the world was left with a batch of documents, a new pope (John XXIII died and Paul VI was elected), and a feeling of optimism. 

I link to a post by Whispers, and link to a video of Pope Benedict giving an off the cuff reflection.  On the first night of the council, Pope John appeared at his window and addressed the crowd that had gathered in St. Peter's Square.  That talk is referred as the "discorso alla luna", the "discourse to the moon", as there was a radiant moon that night in Rome.  Benedict took a page from John's book to reflect on his feelings on the optimism that came from the council and on the quiet, confident humility that the Holy Spirit calls us to. 

So, where does the reading come in?  Benedict opened a "Year for Faith" in the Church, emphasizing our dedication to the letter of the Council, not just the amorphous "Spirit of Vatican II", which was used as an excuse for poor teaching, catechetics, liturgy, and nearly ran our Church into the ground.  My plan for this Year of Faith is to really dig in and read all of those un-read books on the shelf:  Jesus of Nazareth, The Confessions, The City of God, Introduction to Christianity, Feast of Faith.  I plan on reading all of the Mass readings for the year.  That will get me at least 1/3 of the Bible read in one year.  I need to dedicate more time to prayer.  I can pray when I'm running, driving, or when I have a quiet moment in the office. 

Pray for me, I'll pray for you.