Donny's Ramblings


Almost a Week on My Own Again

Last Sunday I moved into a tiny studio apartment only a few miles from my son. It’s basically a hotel room with a bathroom and kitchen. It’s perfect.

The owner of the place asked if I’d prefer a larger one or two bedroom unit but I declined. For some reason, this studio just fits what I want out of life right now: simplicity.

I’m still within driving range of the churches I enjoy attending, but now it’s a 5 minute drive to see Caden and Wendy. It’s only a few minutes further to visit John, my best friend. In fact, the two of us took a 3 hour walk yesterday morning, which probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do right before work. I’m used to exercising half that amount of time. It was also not such a wise decision to choose yesterday as the day I doubled my exercise time because I had to follow it with nearly 3 hours of driving to photograph more than 100 cars in the nice, too-warm 85 degree California sun.

One positive: I slept very well last night. 🙂

Living alone again, yet being so close to my son, has been great so far. I don’t have to worry about getting dressed every morning just to walk the hall to the bathroom (that has to be the worst part about having roommates). Now I can just run around in my “natural state”.

Fortunately for my neighbors, I keep the shades drawn.


A Face to Melt For…

This morning I started my day by walking the trail for almost 3 hours, taking my time and enjoying being outside in the nice weather.

I sat at home most of the rest of the day, occupying my time with things like organizing photos and reminiscing. It was very nice. Here are a few photos of Caden from December 10th, 2005. We were on our way to San Diego to visit my mother.

I sure love this kid! He’s an amazing child.

I added several photos of him to my “Caden – Random Favorites” set on Flickr. Click here to see them. If you click each photo it tells a little about it.

Yep, I’m a proud proud daddy!

I had to add this one, of Caden as Ring Bearer….

After reading this blog entry Kelly Koolhoven from Bella Rose Photography emailed me this photo of Caden, which until a few minutes ago I had never seen. Beautiful!!!


Random Ramblings

I’m sitting at Starbucks in Chico, California surfing the T-Mobile Hotspot. I have a monthly recurring account because I really love the ambiance of Starbucks. It’s a great place to sit and write.

On my IM list I’m having a conversation with a homosexual I knew from my days in the porn industry. He has a heart of gold and needs to know Jesus loves him no matter what others might say. He’s telling me that he and his boyfriend are doing well. I think he’s a fantastic person, and I can’t understand why fundamentalists give people like him such a hard time. Have we all lost sight of the message Jesus came to give? I don’t think so. Jesus loves John Paul as much as he loves your Pastor.

Today I took a trip to Chico just because it’s such an awesome little town. The population is 90,000 but it has the culture of a town 10 times that size. They have this little lounge called “Monk’s Wine Lounge and Bistro” that I love. I had three glasses of a very good Chardonnay, along with some cheese and roasted garlic. Yum!

Yesterday I moved out of my house. The bank took it back. It was for sale for several months, but no acceptable offers came in. Am I bummed? Nah. I don’t really mind. Credit will recover with time. I could have stayed another two months, but they made me a cash offer to be out by this past Friday. I took it. I was a little bummed but was resolved not to cry. I didn’t quite make it. I cried for a total of 10 seconds. It’s not the same as the house I just moved from, but the new place is pretty decent. Last night was my first full night there, and I slept like a baby. This morning I took a shower in a normal sized shower. I’m used to having a lot more room.

I’ll adapt.

I had an amazing day with Wendy and Caden today. Wendy and I are such great friends. I’d go into more detail, but Wendy thinks this whole blogging thing is a bit odd. She doesn’t completely understand it. For that reason I’ll keep her out of it as much as possible. She also dislikes it when newspapers interview me. She deals, though.

My family is very happy my brother surrendered his life to God last week. I am too. I knew he would, just as soon as he heard the message of Jesus’ love, rather than condemnation. As I said before, there’s nothing unattractive about love.

Life is good. I look forward to each new day.


I Stole Some Pics

Yep. I did. I did indeed.

I just added them to my pics page on myspace (unfortunately you can only see them if you’re logged into myspace). They belong to Wendy, but I had to seize them for my profile. It didn’t have enough pics of my son and his mommy.

If you have a Myspace account, click here to see them (the Tahoe pics on the bottom), but be vewy vewy quiet about it and don’t tell her I swiped ’em, k?


What a Perfect Day

Am I allowed to just tell you all I had a good day? Do I have to figure out a creative way to do so? Can I just make a list of what I did today?

Okay, thanks for giving me permission. I’ll tell you what makes up a perfect day for Donny.

First, I sleep in until 6am. That’s an hour longer than what’s become my norm as of late. I read a chapter of Acts and meditate on it a bit, get on my computer, check email, write a few and then get ready to leave to shoot photos of 200 vehicles for a new client.

Stopping to get a Sausage McMuffin with egg is splurging lately. I’ve been watching what I eat but figured I’d be working hard enough to rid myself of the calories. That weight’s gonna come off, I tell ya. 200lbs, here I come (245.0 as of now, by the way… that’s 26 lbs lost so far)!

45 minutes of driving and I’m at the new client’s place. These guys rock! They have two employees to help me. I just have to shoot the photos, they’ll move the cars. 800 photos are taken: about 80 cars for the day. I’ll finish the rest on Wednesday.

Off to take Wendy and Caden to Chico. Wendy ordered some new tile for her house. What was I thinking when I offered to use my car to haul it home? I looked like I was trying to be cool or something: the rear end of my 2006 Accord was lowriding while the front end stuck up in the air. I have to admit, I was a bit embarrassed by that.

Off to the Christian bookstore where we spent a good hour browsing, listening to music, talking to each other and enjoying the sight of our son running around with a ball he’d found.

Wendy must think I’m a pack animal or something, because she volunteered me to haul all the tile upstairs once we arrived back at her house. My arms ache. Tile is HEAVY!

She cooked me dinner, my friends. The woman cooked me dinner. It was a simple dinner that was so good, and I can’t tell you how much fun it was to sit and eat with Wendy and Caden.

“Caden, I promise I won’t tickle you (as I tickle him while speaking) if you keep sitting on my lap! No, don’t get up, I promise I won’t do THIS again!” (uproarious laughter from a very happy 7 year old accompanies this scene)

It’s time for bed, as tomorrow there is school. Daddy must go home. Goodnight, dear Caden and Wendy.

I challenge any of you to describe a better day…

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Caden Friday Part II: Grandpa and Caden

When my dad left full time ministry as a Pastor, he worked for a few years as a Correctional Officer for the California Department of Corrections. I ran across this photo late last night. I’d forgotten it existed.

Caden was 6 months old when this photo was taken, and was fascinated by Grandpa’s whistle. This shows a tender side of my dad that makes me smile.


Caden Friday

click to enlarge
Originally uploaded by Donny Pauling.

Tonight I’ve been going through a bunch of photos of Caden that were taken during his first year on earth. I shot several thousand photos of him. For some reason I started uploading more than 1,700 photos to Flickr tonight. While doing so I thought to myself, “Hey, I should start having Caden Friday’s where I upload a different photo of Caden each week.

Sounds good to me.

I love this photo of 4 month old Mr. Toothless.

I had a hard time deciding between the photo you see in this post, and this photo here.

This one also brought back some great memories. I loved feeding him. Wendy used to laugh at the faces I’d make while doing so. I guess I’d open my mouth hoping he’d open his.


Spare the Rod. Spoil the Child.

Today we celebrate the birth of my son. Caden won’t actually turn 7 until tomorrow morning, but his party is this afternoon.

This morning as I was preparing for the day I decided to blog a bit about what an amazing child he is and why I believe parenting is the main reason that is the case. I needed a title. “Spare the rod, spoil the child” came to mind. That’s a word-for-word saying my mother used to use, right before she picked up the wooden paddle my father had carved. Mom truly believed that our butts needed to be reddened in order to help teach us right from wrong.

A wooden paddle was used after belts were outlawed following an incident at my grandmother’s house. I’d misbehaved, and dad pulled off his belt to adjust my attitude. He swung and it wrapped around, hitting me in the balls. He felt horrible. After that incident, only solid “rods” were used when administering discipline.

“Spare the rod, spoil the child” was my mother’s summation of a verse in Proverbs. When my own son was born, however, I rephrased her saying:

Spare the rod.
Spoil the child.

As a parent, I see that phrase as two separate commands.

I “spare the rod” and never spank my son. I did so just one time in his life and I will never do so again. It happened so long ago Caden doesn’t even remember it. Sometimes I’ll say something like, “I’m gonna have to wup on you Boy!”, and he laughs at the thought of daddy spanking him. It’s just not something that ever happens, and he knows it never will.

I “spoil the child” with love. I’ve never once raised my voice to him, and I’ve never let him hear the words “because I said so” escape my mouth when he asks “Why?”. Instead, I tell him “why” so that he understands.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not feel mistreated in the slightest by my own parents, but I can honestly say I learned nothing positive from my mother’s yelling and spankings. Does anyone truly have a change of heart if they obey out of fear? I don’t think so.

Caden is a fantastic child. Is he perfect? Of course not. Only one perfect human existed in all of history. But Caden is so well behaved his teachers frequently comment on it, as do others who spend a little time around him.

My heart burst in my chest when I received one of the verbal reports given to his mother by his Kindergarten teacher last year. Caden, she said, has a habit of putting his arm around crying children on the playground and walking them to the teacher. He tries to comfort them.

This year, in first grade, his teacher recently told Wendy (my ex-wife) that during reading time, when other children mess up while reading aloud and most of the other children laugh and snicker, Caden doesn’t do so. He simply doesn’t find it acceptable to ridicule others.

I was bragging about him to Pastor Bill Giovannetti. We were in Bill’s home and several children were present. Not 5 minutes after telling the Pastor about those two incidents I just shared with you the children came tearing into the room, being chased by a “monster” in the form of an adult. One little girl tripped and fell. Rather than hurdle over her and continue running, Caden stopped to ask if she was okay. The Pastor noticed and commented about it to me. I’m surprised my shirt didn’t tear as my chest expanded with pride.

It just makes sense to get rid of violence and yelling when dealing with children. Let me get into your face, screaming, and you tell me how that makes you feel. If I don’t like something you’ve done, let me hit you. Does that make you want to cooperate with me?

Children feel no differently. The only thing yelling and spanking accomplishes is to instill fear and anger, and as stated before, fear does not change hearts. It hardens them. Spanking and yelling results in children who hit others and yell at people when they’re upset.

When correcting Caden, I get down on one knee and look him in the eye. I speak in a loving tone and tell him “why” he should do something differently. I make sure what I’m saying makes sense to him, which is why “because I said so” has no place in my vocabulary. That saying, my friends, is a cop-out used by parents who are too lazy to put in the work required of them when raising a child. Work that actually results in LESS work down the road. If the work is put in while they’re young and they UNDERSTAND why things must be certain ways, their behavior changes. They aren’t confused. They understand for themselves why things must operate by certain rules.

If we’re in public, or in front of others, I pick Caden up and hold him in my arms as I whisper in his ear about any behaviors he needs to change. There is no point whatsoever in embarrassing him. After all, I am the adult. He is the child. I am the one expected to have enough brain power to correct my child in a loving non-violent manner (which includes refraining from yelling or using bad attitudes).

In return, he obeys out of love and respect, not out of fear.

Despite the fact that we divorced several years ago, Caden’s mother and I talk to each other daily. We want to be on the same page in matters relating to Caden. We feed off of each other. She spends much more time with Caden than I do, but we discuss nearly every aspect of parenting that arises. She’s the one doing almost all of the work with our son. I simply get to follow the same parenting guidelines while he’s with me.

We all spend time together a few times per month. Instead of fighting about our own differences, as divorced people often do, we try as hard as we can to remember that our son is much more important than petty disagreements we may have with each other. Most of the time we succeed. If we do happen to bicker, Caden is quick to let me know Mom is always right. He loves sticking up for her.

My dad has been raising my brother’s daughter. She’s almost a year younger than my son and has lived with my dad and step-mother for a few years now. Some of the most flattering compliments I’ve ever received are when my dad asks my opinion on parenting issues. He sees how well behaved a child Caden is and respects the parenting decisions we’ve been making while raising him. It’s really cool to be able to compare parenting notes with one’s own parents.

Caden, my son… I love you so very much. Happy 7th birthday, buddy!

PS: after a previous blog entry one reader commented via email that he/she was proud of the parent I’ve become since surrendering my life to God. Let me assure you, I have always been a very good father, long before surrendering my life to God. Let’s get that straight. 🙂


In War You Shoot The Enemy, Not The Hostage

I wrote this blog entry while on an airplane bound for Grand Rapids.

It’s Friday, December 1st at about 1:50pm Pacific Time. I’m sitting on an airplane thirty-something thousand feet in the air. As I type this we’re flying directly over the Great Salt Lake. If the bottom of the plane were to fall out from beneath my feet and I plunged straight down I’d land directly in the salty water below. I was hoping to fly over this lake because I’ve never seen it in person, only in photos on Heather Armstrong’s website as well as her husband Jon’s website. I wanted to see if the lake was really as ugly and dead as it appears to be in those photos. From here it looks like that is the case. I wish it was possible to make a quick pit stop here in Utah and have coffee with Jon and Heather. I’d love to meet them, kiss their little girl Leta on the head, and scratch the ears of Congressman Chuck (the dog). Or maybe just balance a doggie treat on his nose.

“Someone Saved My Life Tonight” is streaming from iTunes through my headphones and into my ears.

Just a few moments ago I was praying and reading a few scriptures from Eugene Peterson’s translation of the New Testament (The Message). I’ve also brought along one of the books of my-new-friend-whom-I’ve-not-yet-met, Donald Miller. Someday I intend to shake that man’s hand and thank him for writing such thought provoking books. Many of the ideas he presents in his books have been going through my own head recently, but Don has a way of putting them into words in such a beautiful way. As Forest Gump would say, “Momma always had a way of explaining things so as I could understand them!” Substitute “Donald Miller” for “Momma” and that sentence would be an accurate way of explaining how I feel about these books of his. I’m most of the way through Searching for God Knows What (I wish I had the money to buy every Christian a copy). The book is so damned good I’ll probably read it again when I’ve finished it, which will most likely be during the next leg of this flight to Grand Rapids.

J.R. Mahon from XXXChurch will be picking me up at the airport. He says it’s snowing. Hard. I’m glad I decided to wear my boots today.

At the moment I should be contemplating the answers to some of the questions J.R. will be asking tomorrow morning at “Porn and Pancakes”. Instead I’m writing a blog entry in Word for Mac and saving it for later publication. Some of the thoughts that have been racing through my head have built up a mental pressure, for which the only relief is to write.

In Searching for God Knows What, Donald Miller wrote something that, if I had an internet connection up here in the friendly skies, I’d set as the quote above my name on my MySpace page. Hold on a second while I find the page it’s on so that I can share it word for word. Okay, I found it. Take a breath and get ready, because this is deep ladies and gentlemen. Here goes:

“In war you shoot the enemy, not the hostage”.

Think about that for a second and then apply it to Christianity. It almost made me cry for some reason, but that’s not really too hard to do lately. I’ve been experiencing so much of Jesus’ love lately that, at times, it’s pretty difficult not to become emotional.

Let me share with you the direction that sentence took my mind. Tell me in the comments section where it took yours. Don used that sentence to sum up the idea that Christians too often focus on attacking the person sinning, rather than the source of that sin. Man may be sinful by nature, but covering him with the true love of Jesus can alter his nature. Instead of attacking and “killing” people, let’s focus on the Enemy and not on the hostage. The only way to kill the influence of evil within another person is to cover the hostage with the love Jesus challenged us to show to all people. That love will smother the one who tries to hold each of us hostage.

It seems to me that Satan has really used the church to do his bidding. Much of the world is so turned off by the war Christians have raged against “hostages” that it refuses to listen to the true message it’s meant to hear. That message is love. That message does not focus on sin. That doesn’t mean sin should be ignored, just that it needs to be placed in proper context.

Since the word “sin” has been used as an arrow with which Christians pierce the flesh of others, let me break it down a little. That word has always seemed scary to me, because I definitely don’t want to SIN. I was always taught sinning will send me to hell, and nobody wants to book that trip on Expedia. Tell me if you agree with this or not:

Sin is simply behavior that separates us from God. It drives a wedge between us. It’s not some big scary monster; it is a behavior. Jesus didn’t dwell on it, because it’s not something we should use to bash each other. It’s just a behavior that needs to be corrected, lovingly. If you’re a parent you know that children develop lots of behaviors for which they need guidance to overcome. With growth and proper guidance, they naturally mature and many of those behaviors become ancient history.

I’m lucky to have a son who has been shown enough love that good behavior (for the most part) comes pretty naturally to him. I have to think his behavior comes from the way he has been parented. My ex-wife is a great mother, and when Caden is with me I try to be the best father I can be. I have never once raised my voice to my son, nor have I used the words “because I said so”. I’ve only spanked him one time in his entire life and regretted doing so. Instead of such “old school” corrections, I get down on my knees so I can communicate with him at his level, I look him in the eyes and I explain in a calm loving voice the reasons why I feel he should behave in certain ways. If we’re in public I’ll pick him up and hug him and whisper what I have to say in his ear so that he’s not embarrassed. Because of this, he obeys out of love and respect, rather than fear of physical pain in the form of a spanking or mental pain in the form of yelling. It is more work to raise him this way, but Wendy and I feel that is our job as Caden’s parents. Not putting in the work would be selfish and lazy.

That same concept applies to humanity in general, don’t you think? Applying the love of our Father to our lives is the only way to correct our screwed-up (sinful) behavior. Threatening someone with “hell-fire” only results in behavior modification motivated primarily by fear. A true change of heart comes from respect and love, which comes from first being shown respect and being loved.

An hour and twenty-five minutes have elapsed since starting this, and Word for Mac shows that I’m now beginning page three. It’s time to stop rambling. Post a comment or send me an email to let me know your thoughts.


My Cell Phone Number Can't Be Changed

I write a blog to my son because I want him to always know how his daddy feels about him. Later this month he’ll turn 7. I started writing to him just a few weeks short of 3 years ago. It’s kinda like a daddy version of scrap booking.

I’d like to share today’s blog entry with you:

Monday night I received a phone call from you while I was at a “Newcomer’s Meeting” for a church here in Redding called “The Stirring”. I assumed it would be your mom because it was almost 10pm on a school night. When I answered there was a brief silence. I repeated “Hello” and your little voice said “Boo!”. That’s a typical Caden conversation starter, and it always lights up my face and changes my voice.

I talked to you until you were bored. I know when that time comes because out of nowhere you say, “Good byyyye!” It doesn’t matter if I’m in the middle of a sentence or not. That means, “Sorry dad, I’m bored and have no further interest in continuing this conversation”. After saying goodbye you often simply hang up. You’re the only person that can hang up on me without annoying me. It amuses me when you do it.

This time, however, your mom took the phone. She let me know that she’d been upstairs and had no idea you called me. You have my cell phone number memorized, it was 10pm, and you just figured it was a good time to have a chat with dad. My chest inflated when I heard that.

I know I say it all the time, but I love you very much. In my personal blog just the other day I wrote about how I enjoy playing card games with you simply because you like them so much. I usually hate card games and board games. I always have. But spending that time with you and watching how much you love playing them makes me enjoy them also.

It also endears me to see how much of a mommy’s boy you are. You’ll defend her in any situation. Just last week your mother and I were on the phone and reached a point where we disagreed a little. We weren’t yelling by any means, but as we discussed the issue our tones indicated to you that we didn’t agree. I heard you saying something to mommy in the background. She came back to the phone and said, “Caden wants me to tell you that you are wrong and mommy is right.” On matters where you can tell your mother and I don’t agree, this is the case every time: mommy is right. I love that about you.

When I’m at your house, one of your favorite games is saving mommy from dad. I’ll start to go toward her and put up my hands like I’m going to tickle her. You come running to smash your body into mine in order to knock me away. The only problem with this game is that once it starts you want it to continue until long after I’m ready to stop. I usually distract you by turning my tickle fingers on to you and chasing you upstairs, which eventually leads to a game of hide and seek or a wrestling match.
My dear son, you once asked me if I wanted Jesus in my heart. We were chatting and out of the blue you asked that question. I have the conversation memorized and can repeat it nearly word for word. It went like this:

“Dad, do you want Jesus in your heart?”

I didn’t know what to say, because at the time I didn’t care about it.

“I don’t know, Caden. How about you? Do you want Jesus in your heart?”

“I already do dad. So…. do ya?”


“Then ask him!”

I think you were 5 years old at the time. That conversation stuck with me because you had such an earnest look on your face. Even so, I didn’t do anything about the lack of Jesus in my heart at the time.

Son, your daddy has Jesus in his heart now. He moved in a few months ago and cleaned things up a bit, and now I’m sure you and I will have regular conversations with him, together… one more thing we can share.

I’m looking forward to it.