An old entry that was too close to publish at the time

A few weeks ago I was processing lots of stuff - lots and lots of stuff which I guess is not that usual - I wrote this entry but did not post it. I have several entries like this - seven or eight all told. When I started this blog I told myself to only blog for me - to ignore the world and only write for myself. That has gotten harder and harder to do. My mother asked me why I write about such personal stuff - to which I responded - "Would you read it if I didn't?" That's why this blog is here - it lets me vent and process, makes me think, and learn. Hopefully the things I learn, the knees I scrape, and the lessons I process can help in some small way. I don't pretend to know anything special - all I can share is what I'm going thru, what I've been thru - and in sharing it - I find it. It's like teaching trigonometry - you don't know it till you can share it, till you can teach it. Writing this blog is one way for me to share it, one way for me to learn it, one way for me to know it. So when I write something and find it to be a comfort, when I write something and find that in that process I have learned something, something about myself, something about God, something about His love for me - than I need to share it.

It was titled

"Making things right . . ."

Written on December 5th at 3:36 am

The joy of making things right. It has been bouncing around my head these last few days. And joy is complicated - it's not happiness - its sometime like it, it can cause it, and it can exist within and beside it - but joy is different. Listening to friends set things right, and seeing that joy. Finding things that I need to address in my own life, setting them right. Goals, pursuits, submission, reasons, drives, and plans - my life is not my own - what does that mean? Do I live this way? Does this ring true?

I read about Saul and see myself, my pride, my plans, my desires. So often I find myself trying to bring things to the cross - how can I be an engineer for Christ? How can I be a leader - a brother - a friend. I keep trying to do things, forgetting to heed Samuel's warning -
"Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams"
I keep bringing the fat, when God wants me. O Father that I would consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing You. I press on to take hold of that for which You took hold of me.

That is so easy to type - and so large and all encompassing.

I was advised to guard my heart a few days ago. Advice I was not expecting. Advice that I did not question till today, when walking home. The thought sat in the back of my head waiting in line to be processed. And there I found it on the corner of Maple and Whitman. I found it grouped in with the oddest companions. The advise, a quote from Braveheart, and a verse, were all sitting at that corner, waiting for me.

Guard your heart. . .

"My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever."

"Your heart is free . . . have the courage to follow it"

Is a guarded heart free?
Free to feel? Free to fail?
Who is my strength?
Who is my portion?

Guard you heart . . .

Is a guarded heart free?
It is safe.
Safe from what?

Who is the strength of my heart?
Who is my portion?

What if you fall?
What of it?
I know who is the strength of my heart
I know who is my portion

Guard your heart . . .

Father you have my heart
You are it's strength, You are my Portion
In you I am free


Feeling home

I'm starting to realize that I need a laptop - a laptop with Photoshop CS3 on it. I have neither. And by need I of course mean want.

I've got tons of pictures I want to process, a few I want to post, and stories! Stories that I'm dying to share. The stories are just like the pictures - they need to be processed before they are posted. The don't need a laptop however - just time - time to be processed, time to unpacked and examined, time to become my stories. I was able to see people, to see family that I have not seen in so long - I was able to visit with my Uncle, to talk my cousins husband, to see another cousin happy in her home. To see what a good man she is married too, to be proud of him, a quite guy or at least maybe it was me that was being quite.

It was fun.

We talked blogs and photos and websites and pictures. We talked about energy and wine and jobs and the future. We talked about food and flan and flights - skiing and mountain passes. Not the sort of things that are remembered years later - I never remember what was talked about at a family events - unless it was exceptionally funny or more likely - awkward. It's the being there, that I'll remember - I'll remember talking and laughing and - and even more than that I'll remember how I feel tonight.

The feelings are what I'll remember years from now.

Feeling home - feeling home like a favorite sweatshirt that has been folded up and put away in the closet for a season, only to be found again on a rainy day.

Feeling home.


The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry . . .

I'm very tempted to vent my woe's, to tell the world how put upon I am. For "those who do not complain are never pitied" - my best laid plans are crumbing around me. Last night I had my little pity party - an old roommate Josh would have called me a "sufferbaby" and he'd have been right. Dick Hammer would have told me to accept my responsibility's and he'd be right. It's no fun when things go to crap and it's not anyone's fault but you are responsible for it. But who said that life has to be what my definition of fun is at any time. I could hang on to my plans for the break - hang on and let the fact that they are not coming to frution poison the remaining time I have. And last night that was exactly what I was and what I wanted to do. I was mad, and still, and quiet. And I wanted to stay that way - to stay that way until the rest of the world was more miserable than me, till the whole world knew how I suffered. Till I knew that they understood - then once there was no joy left in the world, then I could be happy, or at rather I could wallow in justified misery.

In "The Great Divorce" Lewis talks about how pity often can be used the wrong way, how some will try to use it to hold joy hostage, the idea that Hell can rule over Heaven. That sadness and despair should to tell joy when and where it can be. Despair's wish that joy must be dependent it's permission before it can do it's work. That is where I was last night, or where I wanted to be.

And the rather funny thing is - that I have a wonderful prospect in front of me - I get to spend 6 to 7 hours with a very close and dear friend, with my best friend - and I've come to realize that I can truly say that. Sure the week is blown - my plans have gone phut - but, but that's not the point - I can't change that - let it go. Focus on what will be the highlight of your break Neil - focus on that, don't worry about what you can't change. Swallow your pride, stop being selfish, and have fun! Enjoy the time you've been given.


Already you're smiling
Already you're excited
Already you are thinking of the next trip over.


I've got short legs - look at the cuff

Why this shot and not the others?

I'm not sure. . .

I like this accident shot. I like the others too. I love the others. But this is the one I'm posting. It's late and I'm trying to - trying to process the last few days. Thinking thru my fingers, too cold to drive - to tired to talk. So that leaves thinking . . . thinking and typing. But I don't like to actually process thoughts here. It's to messy, like cleaning a buffalo, I'd much rather present you with the train of though, dressed and cleaned, the choice cuts displayed up front. But tonight I'm thinking thru my fingers, processing on the screen.

Met a lot of new people last night - lots of names - lots of connections.

Do you ever meet people that awaken parts of yourself - parts that have been lying asleep, dormant for years. Interest's that you've forgotten you had - you see how much they love something and you remember having that same love and wonder where it ever went. The more you talk, the more you listen, the more you remember. And you begin to realize that it never went away, it changed, was redirected, found new outlets - but it never left. You just needed to be reminded, to be awoken.

There are days where I am ready
There are days where I am eager
There are days where I am determined

I love the whirlwind.


Warning - Contains Ramblings

Fell asleep at two . . .
. . . woke up at five

Wonder if I'll get anything done today.

I'm tired

tired and cold

tired and cold and happy

maybe I'll crash on the couch - that might work

maybe I'll write some more - that might work too.

Here's a random thing:
I've started noticing people's eyes.
When I talk to them, listen to them, I get distracted by eyes.

Some eyes more than others.

Do women realize just how distracting they can be when they talk to you?
I don't think so.

At least I hope they don't - just imagine what would happen if they ever decided to use their powers for evil . . .

I was not expecting this to happen when I took up photography, this new mode of seeing.
Now I frame the majority of what I see. I keep track of where the sun is in relation to the people I pass. I drive home and think "spring in the morning - the fields will be green then" or "Winter at noon" I can't turn it off - I think of long exposures, and lens filters, and camera stands.

This has happened before - once after playing Battlefield for - well lets just say - a "sustained duration" I found myself looking for sniper nests, and being wary of doorways. That gut instinct only lasted a few days - this - this photography stuff has been going on for a couple of months. It won't turn off.

Would it be as much fun if I had to do it?

I don't know.

I'm going to crash

I'm tired and cold and happy

I fixed my car, was up till 1 last night working on the brakes.

New pads - new rotors

Starting to study Colossians - good book, Colossians and the Sermon on the Mount, should keep me busy over break.

Why am I rambling here?
I don't want to be the guy with the rambling blog?!?!?
I don't want to be that guy!
No more rambling!!

I'm going to crash on the couch now and not sleep for an hour.


Boston sometime in the early 40's

I have this wonderful, smart, caring, wise, intelligent, sharp, woman in my life. I call her on a regular basis. I tell her about my life, about school, work, and SOMA . I ask her about her days, long days now. Life has changed for her in the past months. Sometimes the conversations are short, she's tired, or she's headed out, but sometimes - sometimes when I've asked the right questions, and she's up for it I'm treated to a bit of the past.

I forget now what brought the topic up - I might have asked her about how she met my Grandfather, or dates she found especially memorable, or I might have shared a song with her that I especially liked.

How it started I don't remember - now that I think about it, it must have in person not over the phone. In person because Ravel's Bolero started out low and quite in the background.

So here I was sitting on a twenty year old couch that has somehow managed to stay as hard and uncomfortable as the day it was brought home. Sitting in a room that was 15 degrees warmer than I would prefer, riveted as I listened to her tale.

I'm a romantic, or so I've been told, and I think more guys are romantics than the sex as a whole would like to admit.

I don't know much about my Grandmothers life, I don't know all the details - she's 92 so that means that she would have been about 25 ~ 26ish at the time. I know that she had vivid red hair, the ghost of which you can see even today. Her story was not along one, maybe lasting three to four minutes, just a statement of facts. My mind has filled in the rest.

She told me that one of the most memorable, most enjoyable dates that she had ever been on was with a man who was not my Grandfather. I don't know who he was, but he sounds like a gentleman of good taste whoever he was.

My Grandmother was living Boston at the time - I'm not sure doing what - I think it had something to do with the war effort - but that is not what this is about - she was in Boston, and she went on a date that she still remembers 70 years later.

During the course of the evening, which as best as I can tell was a walk around Boston - they passes by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. They sat outside and talked and listened. Then this song, Ravel's Bolero started - started out very quite, I'm sure that you could not have heard it outside at first - it must have creeped into their conversation. Slowly, filling the evening air, growing louder and louder as the song progressed. By the end of the piece if I remember the story right - my Grandmother and this young man were dancing together. Dancing in the streets of Boston, outside the Boston Symphony Hall, as the sound filled the street. I can see it in my head, all in black and white. Wet pavement and street lights, and music and danging

Listen to something tonight, something that you've never listened to before. Listen and realize that it has made countless numbers of people before you feel as you do. That the human condition, that love and stress, and worry, and bliss, and fear are ancient things, things that are new to me but older than the words I use to describe them.


Sparkler Study

It was not supposed to be that creepy

900+ Shots

5 Sparklers

753 Deleted

57 selected for editing

15 edited

11 posted

Usually I have a much higher snap-to-blog ratio


(more to follow as I re-shoot)


I'm not really sure where this sleep deprived post is going. . . .

I see hurting friends - friends with baggage - friends with issues - black eyes that color their outlook on life. They see things differently than I do. Respond to things differently than I do. Things they struggle with are easy for me. I see their weaknesses. I don't know how to help them. There are times to throw a rope to a drowning man, and there are times to dive in after him. Some people I just want to slap and say "Hey! I love you!! What are you doing to yourself!!!" Some people need a wake up call, some need a that rope tossed to them, others - others are lying on the bottom of the pool, lying still and quite - and you rush diving in after them.

I see friends who pursue the right things for the wrong reasons. I see friends who can't let go, friends who won't hang on. I see friends not at peace with themselves, looking for affirmation in all the wrong places - thinking that if only they could attain this goal - friends who let others define them.

I am somebody's friend - I must have these things - things that I have bound so close to my heart that I can no longer see them. Insecurity's that I am unaware of, prejudices that I'm blind to. How do I step outside of myself and see what others see?

How do I change? How do I help others? When is being supportive listening, when is it time to say "Hey" - Do I love someone enought to risk our friendship - I want to be that guy - that guy that cares more for you then he cares for how you percive him, I want to be that friend, because those are the friendships I want.

I find that when I'm open and honest with people, when I tell them where I'm at - when I give away my stories, and my freindship, when I let people inside, let them see me - I find that's where friendship can begin to start.

It takes two - it takes time - it takes shared experiances - talks, and walks, cups of coffee, and drives. It can take a painful closeness for growth sometimes.






[A night in the engineering lab passes]






Having just spent 22 of the last 24 hours in Sloan 152 please understand if I seem more disjointed than usual.

Where I did I leave off. . . .

Ah yes friendship - I found myself working on a project from 11pm to 6am with a guy that honestly I had been getting a little irquied with. I had been letting him kind of get away with a lot. And over the course of the night I found myself telling him stories - it was just the two of us in lab - burning the midnight oil. Soon our study session turned into a three hour talk, we put down the pencils and talked. Folding my hands and putting my feet up - I listened. For hours I listened. I met the man I had been working alongside for all this time.

In his stories I met the woman that he is crazy about, I got to hear the story that every man loves to tell, and longs to share with ears that will treasure the story as he does. It's like having a secret spot that you want everyone to know about - but you want them to know it as you do. It is the secret beauty of that spot that makes you want to share it - all the while knowing that in doing so you risk the very quailty which defines it. I heard his story - story that never grows old, this story that is constantly being written. Day by day. I heard of his tought times, of dark times in life, of his plans to work on his realtionship with Christ.

I can tell I'm tired - I'm jittery and moody - happy and a weird sort of exuasted sad. I need to breath non filtered air - I'm going to take some pictures - and maybe a nap. I might read some more of 1st Sameul or maybe or maybe just do some talking myself. Lots to talk about, lots to relfect on.

Less than a week and then life changes and stays the same all at once.

I'm starting to shiver - I should go to bed. I should leave this chair where I've spent the last 18 hours.

Good day


A double post day

Couldn't sleep and wouldn't sleep. . .

Its late - or early depending on how you decide to look at the clock. I love clocks. I have an uncle back in the mid west that collects them, hows that for a random fact.

It's late and I couldn't sleep and wouldn't sleep. Karl and Alan are leaving early in the morning. There is nothing to do. So I sit and blog - listening to my Pandora Postal Service mix - it often is my blogging soundtrack. I'm not really planning anything here - no deep thoughts to air out. Just rambling at one in the morning. I've got one light on in my room, a small desk lamp. The shadows it casts, coupled with the quiet and the chill remind me of house sitting for my Aunt and Uncle. I miss my family - I called home on Thanksgiving - I've not seen them in quite some time - it was weird being the guy passed around on the phone. Not enough time to connect. So I invariably had the same conversation 15 times. The quick token "Hey - how are you?" It was tough wanting to talk their ears off and being able to tell that they were full, and tired and while they wanted to be nice, they also wanted to be not on the phone right then.

I feel like they've moved on a little bit. I so want to be as close to them as I am with my friends in Pullman. I want to hear their stories, hear their troubles, to cry and laugh with them. I feel so close to people out here. I want that back home. I love them and they feel distant. It's not this way with my parents, I'm as close to them as I've ever been. It's not this way with my Grandmother - I can hear her light up when I call. My cousins and extended family are the ones I feel I'm drifting from. So much life has happened in the past three years - I am not the guy who left home. I want to meet them afresh. Family is an odd thing.

The conversations I enjoyed the most this thanksgiving were with family members that I know the least. My Uncle Dick, and cousin Travis. And while the conversations were short they were good. I loved having Thanksgiving with the Murdocks. It was so much fun, and the odd thing was - the beautiful thing was I was at home there. They were not a sort of replacement family, but an extension of my family. I worked on puzzles with Grandmas, played games with Moms, teased sisters, hung out with cousins. Cooked with Aunts, listened to relationship advice from the wise. Laughed with brothers. I love these people too. It was a weird mix of wishing I was there back home, and wishing that my family was here at home with me. That they could know and understand my friends, because I want them to know and understand me. I feel like there are so many Neils. All the same guy, but different strains. The engineer Neil that thinks a certain way, the photographer Neil that sees a certain way, the friend Neil that feels a certain way, the brother Neil that acts certain way, the guy I am battling with the guy I want to be.

And I know that I will have to let go of a measure of the closeness that I have here in Pullman. I am loath to give that up - one thing however does comfort me. The world is peopled. Put me in a strange and foreign land and I will make new friends, not replacement friends, but more friends. It will be a devastating sort of comfort to find out who I stay close too. Those friendships that time and distance will not snuff out.

It's late and I'm really rambling - if I'm not careful I might start really opening up my head and letting you all look inside.

Opening up is almost easier to this blank screen. Easier but maybe not as profitable - the screen does not talk back, it does not question my motives, or ask me where my heart is. I'm only left with myself to dialogue with. And so I talk out loud and ask myself questions - and then try to answer them as best I could.

I think I'll sleep on the couch tonight the porch is so far away - I'm starting to feel the hour.

My spelling is getting progressively worse.

What a week though - I could tell you of the progress I made with my senior design project - but that was not the highlight of my week. I really enjoyed the late night war councils. I enjoyed 1st Samuel - I enjoyed the frost and my camera. I enjoyed being referred to as "that guy that takes those pictures". I won't ever remember the homework, or the classes, but talking to Mel, and eating breakfast with Dick will stay with me for a long time.

It's now past 2 and I don't know when I started this post - I'm going to bed

To sleep

To dream

To do it all again tomorrow

Soon life will change

Soon tomorrow will be different from today


Frost and Light

I took up photography a year ago for all the wrong reasons - to show up an old roommate and to try to impress a woman.

Laugh - it's funny and shallow I know - but it's true.

If it were not for Dave and Nicole I would not have stumbled across photography.

I would not have started blogging if I did not want to post my pictures - I would not have found this avenue for processing so much of life.

Understand how it works - I take pictures - then I upload them and sit in front of the computer. I try to write something. I'll write pages and pages - reading them out loud over and over. Listing to it, mulling it over - it gets deleted - scrapped - tossed out. Nothing, I'm scraping the barrel, trying to think of something to write. Then after an hour of this, something happens, some thought presents itself and in the space of 10 minutes the whole thing is given to me - it writes itself. But in that - in that hour that you don't ever see, I process and think and learn. It's funny because while I'm out taking pictures - I'm processing. When I'm driving I'm processing. When I'm walking I'm processing. When I'm blogging I'm processing.

Is so much going on in life that every waking moment is spent thinking and talking and listening?

Lately it seems that way.

And I enjoy it. Early morning adventures with my camera. Mornings spent in the word, long conversations while walking to work. And this morning was very fun - I woke at 5 - and felt the frost. I rolled out of a warm bed - into the cold arms of winter. Spent the morning reading the first 21 chapters of 1st Samuel, then not wanting to miss the frost I went to Lawson Gardens and got really cold lying on the ground trying to get just the right angle. The sun was working against me melting the very frost I was trying to capture. But thankfully there was little to no wind.

Do something random and unplanned this weekend.

Hum while you shop.

Dance to a Buble album.

Sing some Billie Holiday.

Practice looking coy.

Tease your siblings.

Snap loudly.

Start a new book.

Brew your coffee extra strong.


Afternoons at work

I sit and think.

Think and smile.

Smile and process the paperwork on my desk.

I get lost in the work – finding myself “Commencing at a point of tangency at Station 19+38.99 on the centerline of . . .”

Coming up of air, just enjoying the quite of the office – Nina Simone, Johnny Cash, and the Dubliners keeping me company.

The hours tick by. Pencils are sharpened, maps are drawn, and boundary lines adjusted.

I drift off in the middle of a legal description, and find that I have jumbled the last three lines together.

The lights buzz overhead, and I can smell lunch being made in the senior center.

I sit and smile.

I just want to be quiet.

So I sit there and process the work on my desk.

I sit there and smile and think.

Think of everything – of pictures, and classes, and brakes, and starters, and phone calls.
Think of graduation, and work, and jobs, and Soma, and friends.
Think of sisters, and Christmas, and coffee, and fish eye lenses.
Think of dirty laundry, and dishes, and bills.
Think of traffic light warrants, and total stop times, and baklava
Think of clam chowder, and home, and wood floors.
Think of raincoats, and heated blankets, and heavy curtains, and sealant.

And I smile and think and smile the day away.


Sticks with Me

To fix this!

I was walking across campus this morning, enjoying my breakfast banana, heading down from the Bookie towards Sloan. The sun was burning off the fog that has held Pullman in its grip these last few days, and I was reminded of a story I’d long forgotten.

It is the complements said behind your back that are the truest – said out of reach of your own ears. Once when staying with some friends who were hosting a party an unbidden guest showed up. I was in the kitchen helping prepare when one of the daughters of the house rushed in to tell her mother of this odd person who had arrived. Looking her daughter in the eye with a smile on her face, she told her to go and observe her father and watch how well he would handle the situation, “Watch your Dad – He’ll do great”. The confidence and affection she has for husband is still fresh in my memory. Her daughter went and watched and even from the kitchen, I could hear him making the unbidden guest at home. I could hear him; hear the genuine welcome in his voice, and as those of us in the kitchen returned to preparing for the coming party – I realized that and not for the first or last time – that I could learn a lot from these two.

These are things that have stuck and will stick with me. To hear and see love, to see it lived in the quiet moments of life around me, to see it in the words and actions of friends and strangers – to find it in the actions of a four year old, to hear it in my Grandmother’s voice when she tells the stories of Grandpa - it sticks with me.