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The Empty Tomb: Putting the Symbol Out Into the World

Previously – The Empty Tomb: “Why Can’t There Be a Symbol of the Living Christ?”

I had created what I thought was a simple, elegant symbol to represent the Empty Tomb of the living and resurrected Christ. Two circles, side-by-side, one of them open and one closed. The closed circle is the stone that was rolled away on the third day after Christ’s crucifixion. The open circle is the empty tomb where His body could not be found because He lived again.

FirstEmptyTombSketchPretty straightforward symbol. Pretty simple.

But maybe it was too simple.

I showed the symbol to my wife, Erin. I told her what it meant. She looked at it, considered it, and said “Huh.”

She didn’t know what to make of it. It seemed unique, but also familiar. I’m certainly not the first person to put two circles together. But, in my gut, I kind of felt like I onto something.

And then I sat on the design for three years.

* * *

In late August of last year I lost the job I’d held for 12 years. 24 hours earlier, Erin had lost hers. It was a devastating blow not only to our personal sense of identity (we’re productive members of society, dang it), but also to our financial, emotional, and spiritual stability. We got low. And then we tried to pick ourselves back up again. That set us on a long, unexpected road.

In April of this year Erin and I went to Italy. We’d purchased the tickets a couple of weeks before we lost our jobs and decided to go mostly because it was already paid for, but also because a trip to Italy would never again be so cheap as we’d be staying with friends the entire time.

On Easter Sunday, April 5th, 2015, I was in the Italian apartment of our friends Pete and Lisa, sitting and listening to lessons on Christ and his sacrifice, when the symbol of the Empty Tomb popped into my head once again. This time, I couldn’t shake it. I felt inspired to get it down on paper and just put it out there and see if anybody else thought there was something special about it.

Having no paper, I used my iPad instead:

April 5th Empty Tomb Drawing

I posted the drawing on Facebook and Instagram for everyone to see and judge. The response was immediate and overwhelming. There was something about the symbol that spoke to people on a deeper level than I even anticipated. They got the depth of what the symbol says immediately, almost without explanation. It seemed to do for them what it did for me: express an aspect of their faith in Christ and that no other symbol quite could.

People even started seeing meanings in the symbol I didn’t even realize were there.

They saw the tomb and were pleased by the design, but those who looked closer saw an implied infinity symbol. Several people even assumed it was an intentional part of the design. “Infinity” is a wholly appropriate idea to get from the Empty Tomb symbol. The tomb was empty because Christ became the “firstfruits of them that slept.” (1 Corinthians 15:20) He became a resurrected being. Resurrection is everlasting. Eternal.

I think all truly great art tends to do this. Great art gathers meaning unto itself the author or artist may not have been aware of nor intended. That “gathering of meaning” serves as, if nothing else, an affirmation of the original inspiration behind the creation of the art.

I didn’t even have to say it. Within just a few short minutes someone popped up and said they’d like to see the symbol on a pendant or a ring. They could see it on jewelry. Thankfully, I’d brought my laptop with me to Italy. Inspired, I opened Adobe Illustrator and made this that same afternoon:

Poster

While the eventual first pendant we’d create with the design would look a bit different from this, the idea of what this symbol could be–and even its logo–was born.

Once again, Facebook and Instagram went nuts. Several people wanted to place their orders right away. Some of my Protestant and Catholic friends messaged me privately to ask if the symbol could only be worn by Mormons. A Buddhist friend of my Mother-in-Law even inquired if she could get one. She just liked the look of it. Even my atheist and agnostic friends complimented the design.

It honestly hadn’t even occurred to me until that very moment that anyone outside of my faith would be remotely interested in the symbol as a meaningful thing or as a piece of jewelry at all. I gladly responded in the affirmative. It’s not a Mormon symbol. It’s a symbol for all Christians. It’s a symbol for Christ.

The symbol of the Empty Tomb seems to strike just the right balance between clarity of meaning and subtlety. It’s that balance–that sweet spot–that makes the symbol effective and attractive. People want to express their faith, but most people don’t want to hit anyone over the head with it.

I hope it’s not crass to say this, but it’s nevertheless true: based on the responses I got through social media that day, the thought occurred to me that there might actually be a way to make money again. I don’t need to be a rich man (we all know what Christ had to say about the difficulties that attend that lifestyle), but I do need to make some money to feed and clothe my family. I couldn’t help but be preemptively grateful for the gift of the symbol and the enthusiasm of so many.

Of course, I had no idea how to make jewelry out of this thing, nor distribute it. I needed a partner.

Next: Partnering with Kennington Jewelers and making the first pendant.

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Why Going on Vacation is Necessary

My wife I just got back from Italy.

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Needless to say, it’s a bit windy in a bell tower.

Now that is, of course, insane. While I’ve settled on how I’m going to make money for the forseeable future, it’s not exactly like I’m making a ton of it at the moment. So, a jaunt across the pond for 10 days in the historical, beautiful country of Italy seems like a terrible idea.

I know it seems like a terrible idea because pretty much everyone who we told about our trip beforehand reacted pretty much the same way: total silence followed by… “Oh.”

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Looking out over Florence

Recognizing their discomfort, I’d try to explain why we were going despite everything else going on. At that point they’d usually back off and say something like “Hey, you don’t have to explain yourselves to ANYBODY. You guys have had a rough year. You deserve it. Bring me back a gelato.”

After explaining that an ice chest is not my carry-on of choice, I had to admit that–you know what?–we have had a rough year. But I still didn’t think that would be reason enough to take a vacation to Italy. It just seemed so indulgent. “Deserve” is not a word I ever find easy to associate with what fortunes and good blessings I may have.

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Florence again. We couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day.

Once we got there, Erin and I didn’t hide what we were doing at all. We posted on Facebook at the end of each day, sharing with our friends and family the trips we took to Verona, Vicenza, Vinci, Luca, Florence, Pisa, Venice,Rome, and more. When Erin and I danced in the streets of Venice, we showed off our moves in video form. We were public about it all. We just never shared why we were there.

So, naturally, the question we got when we got back from this amazing European vacation was “So, how’d you swing that?”

Now, only a few people dared ask this, but I take those people as representative of a rather large population who were privately screaming “HOW’D THEY SWING THAT?!??!?”

It’s a great question, and one most of you have probably figured out by now: it turns out my wife is a previously unknown descendant of William Randolph Hearst and she just this year received her time-released inheritance on the occasion of her 34th birthday.

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Rome. What was incredible–and oh so foreign to us–was the way the centuries just stacked themselves next to each other in the buildings and ruins.

No, in fact we paid for the vacation before we lost our jobs. In further fact, it was just two weeks before we lost our jobs that we bought the tickets. How’s that for an extra sticky stab in our fragile, unemployed hearts?

Like most big decisions we make (and we consider leaving the country to be a VERY big decision), Erin and I bought the tickets after prayerfully considering the matter. Nine months is a long time between purchase and use. Anything could happen in nine months and a little plea to He for whom the past, present and future are all one doesn’t hurt.

And, of course, it did. Happen. Something happened two weeks later that left Erin and I looking askance up at God and saying, “Really?”

The timing seemed horrible. And the timing was crucial as we knew Pete and Lisa were moving to Belgium the following Summer. No offense, Belguim, but I don’t really know much about you. But Italy? I’ve wanted to go to the Colosseum since I was in the sixth grade and built a replica out of cardboard as part of a school project. Setting my feet on that previously quite bloody ground was never going to be so cheap again. Ever.

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I’m not going to pretend we didn’t buy trip insurance because we did. We could have gotten refunds for the tickets due to our job loss, but we simply didn’t do that. We kept the tickets and the jar of extra cash we’d saved for spending money while abroad (though we did dip into that now and again when things got rough).  We kept it because, after all, we prayed about this trip. We got the green light. It wasn’t like God didn’t know we were going to lose our jobs.

So, at the end of March, we left for foreign shores and spent 10 days galavanting through Italy.

So, how did we swing that? Well, first of all and most obviously, it helps to have paid for tickets months and months in advance–and you have no idea how cheap a trip to Italy can be when you fly a Russian airline with an 8-hour layover in Moscow.

Second of all–and this was always the plan anyway–we stayed and traveled with our friends Pete and Lisa who have been living in Pisa, Italy for the past three years. The expenses that little jar of cash was supposed to cover were less than half what they would have been otherwise. You eliminate hotels almost entirely and most of the food budget (Lisa was kind enough to cook for us every day) and things get easier.

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Erin was a particular fan of the lighting in the one hotel we stayed in.

So, there were some real, practical, spiritual, and timing reasons to go to Italy right now. Great reasons. But the real reason we went?

We friggin’ needed a vacation.

Lisa and Erin in Florence. This guy made like a statue and wouldn't let Erin's hand go.

Lisa and Erin in Florence. This guy made like a statue and wouldn’t let Erin’s hand go.

Our friends were right to some extent–we needed to take a break because of everything that’s happened. Yes, things are looking up for us now, but the stress of unemployment and not knowing where the next paycheck will come from ever looms and are not set aside so easily. Selfishly, Erin and I wanted a recharge. We felt like we kind of needed one.

Ah... Venice.

Ah… Venice.

And we got one. When we set foot back on American soil we got just a huge rush. We were excited to take on the new life ahead of us and get to work. That is, duh, why we go on vacation. But I don’t think I’ve ever really seen the necessity in fun like I do now. The necessity of relaxation. The need to step away, see anew, and experience a perspective shift that can only come with removing yourself entirely to another place and then coming back.

You see things differently. You see how small even the biggest concerns can be when viewed from far away. It’s nice to know they can shrink like that. And that Italian pizza is the best pizza.

Because, duh.

Lisa, Erin, Myself and Pete eating in Florence.

Lisa, Erin, Myself and Pete eating in Florence.

* * *

In other news… I know I don’t update too often anymore. I hope that trend can stop, but I have to tell you… I been busy. Doing projects. Settin’ meetings for those projects, etc. This is a period of great creativity for me and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

More on that in another update coming soon.

Day 27 – The Perks and the Panic of Unemployment

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Wednesday – September 24, 2014

I am officially the regular pickup parent at school. Cami’s teachers know to look for me, we have conversations that continue from one day to the next, and they feel free to give me pertinent information. I remember when I would go pick up the kids once in a while and Cami’s teachers would reintroduce themselves every time. I like being more in touch with things, but it also represents a loss of… status? No, that’s not right. Something though. I lost something to gain something there.

* * *

Our friends Pete and Lisa, who live in Europe, came over to hang out for pretty much the whole day. They brought pizza, then later when we were done with that they bought bags and bags of candy. We all blew our diets to smithereens as we played games and laughed and talked. In the middle of the freakin’ day. I felt like I was getting away with something. I know I took a vacation already this year, and yet I didn’t have to ask for time off to do any of it.

There are perks, is all I’m saying. There are perks.

Cami

Cami

Cami was particularly insistent on her share of candy, even going so far as to say “candy.” I’ve mentioned that Cami is a our middle daughter with special needs, but I don’t know that I’ve ever explained what those needs are. The sad truth is we’ve got no idea what is up with Cami–she does not have a diagnosis. She’s smaller than other kids her age, less coordinated. She doesn’t process information the same way we do and it’s hard to gauge how much she understands because her vocabulary is only in the double digits. Whatever it is that delays her development so very much, it impacts her speech in a big way. Once in a while–once in a great while–she’ll come out with new words out of the blue. Today, it was “candy.”

A couple months ago, when we still had jobs and went on that vacation and could do things like spend money freely (we were so young! so innocent!), we were with family in Oregon when Cami all of the sudden decided she could say “Daddy.” She said it over and over again, particularly when I entered the room. This wasn’t a case of interpreting a sound to make it mean what we wanted–she was really saying my name (well, title).

How do I even explain what that did to me? I have been waiting nine years for Cami to call me “Daddy,” but I’ve never even heard anything close to it coming out of her mouth. Cami is always excited when she sees me, but there was something about her actually saying my name that put a big ol’ rock in my throat. I could not be more connected with Cami, and yet, instantly, we were more connected. She was my little girl and I was her Daddy for what felt like the very first time.

There are two sad codas to this story:

1. She has yet to say it again since we’ve come back from Oregon. (This is Cami’s way–she’ll do a thing and then either never do it again or wait several years before making it a regular part of her behavior.)

2. She has still never said “Mommy.” To be fair, she seems completely unable to make the “m” sound. I think Erin will honestly break down in tears if it ever happens.

* * *

Had a good time this evening drawing for my online comic, The SuperFogeys, after everyone went to bed. I don’t do a whole lot of drawing these days because I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to, but every once in a while, for a change in pace, it hits the spot. This was one of those times.

One of my favorite SuperFogeys strips.

One of my favorite SuperFogeys strips.

Unfortunately, right in the middle of this late night drawing session, I was hit with a wave of panic. Ever since losing my job I’ve been getting these now and again. There’s no real rhyme or reason to when they happen–they just happen. When the wave hits, I feel lost and abandoned and, worst of all, like I’m just not doing enough and am somehow responsible for the current state of my life. Like I’ve broken faith with my family and could have done something that could have avoided all this.

I don’t honestly believe that (the circumstances of my job loss had nothing to do with my performance on the job), but it’s hard sometimes to not play the blame game a little. I look around, I try to find someone to blame, and I land right on me.

I’ve called moments like these George Bailey Moments, and that’s still accurate. I’m getting better at shaking it off though. I’m able to rationalize my way through it as an unproductive line of thought, a lie the weaker part of myself is all too willing to tell.

That part of myself? That guy that brings me down? He’s a tool.

The Asthma Killer, Part Four (of 4)

With the healing effects of the caramelized onion coursing through their bodies, the room started to glow and light shot from the tips of their fingers as their bodies were lifted magically into the air and spun. Once set back down again, they each stated in turn, “I’m cured.”

Except of course for Pete who said, “Whoa. I can’t breathe.”

Okay, so that didn’t happen.

What did happen was precisely nothing. Aside from the horrible tastes in their mouths and the stink produced by their exhaling, neither my wife Erin, nor our friends Danny and Pete them reported any difference that night whatsoever.

As soon as it was over, we ate the dessert and pointed and laughed at them. Just as we had planned.

10 YEARS LATER:

Today the effects of that night can be easily observed by a quick survey of the participants.

DANNY: It’s been several years since we’ve talked to Danny. He reported no asthma-related symptoms for 3 weeks after that night, but soon enough he did experience a shortness of breath and an attack or two. As far as I know he suffers from asthma to this day.

PETE: He never did get asthma, but he did receive our admiration. He married a few years later and travels the world with his wife as often as possible, breathing all kinds of air with no trouble whatsoever.

ERIN: After dealing with asthma and asthma attacks all of her life, since that night Erin has not had even a hint of lung power loss. She never used her inhaler again and has never been to a doctor or to the hospital for any asthma-related reason. Her last attack was shortly before ingesting the sugar onion and there were a string of severe attacks before that, but none since. No one is more surprised than she, and it’s not something she really likes to talk about because the only explanation we have sounds so ridiculous. However, she is my wife and I have been able to personally observe her and I can confirm that it is true.

Make of it what you will.

THE END

The Asthma Killer, Part Three (of 4)

It was decided that we would all meet in a couple of weeks to try the cure. We knew it was going to be tough on Danny and Erin to do this disgusting thing, and we all wanted to be there to support them and take pictures and point and laugh.

There was one of our number who took pity on them, however. He alone saw the test they were about to endure and knew the opportunities it presented. Only he had the clarity of vision to understand the very specific nature of the party we were planning and what it could mean for him personally.

Pete knew it could be another notch in his belt of “Strange things I have ingested in my life.”

Pete and I became friends during High School and prior to getting married, Pete was my roommate in college. It was during the time we were living together that he ate what was hands-down the most disgusting of all the things he’d ever eaten.

It was my first attempt at spaghetti and it had been in the fridge for eight months. Time enough to become sentient. A living, breathing, moldy civilization had formed beneath the plastic wrap and the beginnings of a revolutionary plot to seize our apartment was being organized from within. If we’d had the proper equipment, I’m sure communication would have possible and some sort of peaceful agreement reached. Instead, Pete opted to simply destroy the entire spaghetti world by stabbing it with a fork and ingesting the purple, hairy mass. I nearly threw up just watching him do it. Pete’s reaction? “Not bad.”

So Pete surprised no one at Game Night when he volunteered:

Pete: I’ll do it too.

Me: But you don’t even have asthma.

Pete: So? I wanna try it.

Me: That’s gross.

His working theory was that if onions and sugar cured asthma in those who had it, maybe the combination would GIVE asthma to those who didn’t.  (I don’t think I should have to remind you that there is no science in this story.)  In any case, Pete was willing to find out.

The following week, everyone gathered once again at our apartment. Michelle and Ryan, Aaron and Amy—about a dozen people showed up to watch the spectacle.

Danny, Erin and Pete had each selected their onion. Pete’s was the biggest, followed by Erin’s. Danny’s was the smallest. We wondered if the size differentials would affect the results and figured it was worth testing it out. Pete’s thinking on choosing the biggest may have been a little different. The more disgusting the better.

Before we could do anything, we had to decide how exactly to prepare the onion with only Danny’s vague recollections of Paco Jose’s story to go by. Do they eat the half with the baked, caramelized sugar AND the spare half? Or just the half with the sugar?

We decided that eating a half onion with the carved bowl of sugar in the middle would be enough. We wrapped foil around it to insure stability while it was in the oven. Once the onions were done cooking, we brought them out to the coffee table in the living room and everyone gathered around the test subjects as they readied themselves for consumption.

Danny’s wife Danielle had prepared an elaborate, seven-layered dessert just for the occasion. A concoction of chocolate, whipped cream and graham cracker crumbs, it was to be the delicious reward for out test subjects for getting through the ordeal.

“GO! GO! GO! GO!” we chanted as the three of them chowed down and ate and ate. They cried, they winced, they smelled awful. To their credit, they each got through it.

To be concluded with the results…

The Brockford Files

File this under: just for fun.

When I was younger, I was notoriously sensitive about my first name. I hated it. There were so many ways to make fun of it. The least of the insults was “Broccoli.” When high school came along, the name-calling got more creative. One of my good friends, Pete, started calling me “The Brockford Files” and that stuck for a long time.

I’m still friends with Pete. Even roomed with him in college. Thanks to Facebook, our friendship is now public and on the internet for all to see. Yesterday, he posted a picture of James Garner with the Rockford Files logo on my wall to remind me and keep me humble.

I decided to go him one better and created my own version:

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve learned it’s better to laugh at yourself than to constantly whine “Stawp iiiiiit!”