Friday, December 28, 2007

Keegan's Story (Part II)

[WARNING: I think Part II may be longer, but I broke it up again for you.]

So Jen called Marcia. Marcia gave Jen the contact information for the agency out west. And Jen called that woman. She gave a little more information. It was a baby boy, and both of his birth parents are Hispanic. She had been on the phone on Christmas Day with a couple who considered the boy but ended up saying “no” because he was “full” Hispanic. (Huh?!) She was on the phone with a second couple but she thought they were going to say “no” for the same reason. So Jen and I talked for a little bit. We were comfortable with his Hispanic background. But we didn’t know anything about the birth mother’s medical background. Had she gotten any pre-natal care? Was she an alcoholic? Any drug use? We couldn’t get that information before the agency would want to know if we wanted to be considered. So we moved ahead on faith. That this was who the Lord wanted us to have and everything else would take care of itself. So Jen called the woman back and said we’d like to be considered if the second couple turned him down.

I immediately went online trying to get a flight to that area of Florida so we could be there by 6:00 p.m. No dice. Not many flights available the day after Christmas. I found one seat to a nearby city, so I bought that for Jen. She would have to rent a car and drive over the rest of the way. Then we just had to wait. But if this was going to happen now, we really should have some stuff for a kid. All we had was a bassinette and a swing. That’s not enough. So we went to Target.

At Target, we went to the baby area and looked at car seats. Found one. Then we started looking at bottles and formula. Too many options. So Jen called a couple of friends to get their input. What bottles? Which formula? Then the other line rang. It was the adoption agency. Jen clicked over. The second couple said “no;” he’s yours if you want him. Are you freakin’ kidding me? A rush of excitement, fear and joy overwhelmed me. What the hell was happening?

Thus commenced the Target mad dash. Bottles, formula, t-shirts, onesies, socks, pacifiers, diapers, wipes, lotion, baby powder, butt cream, blankets, towels, and on and on. Nearly $400 worth of stuff all crammed into a red Target buggy.

The agency said they needed a copy of our home study. Ooops. We didn’t have the final report. Jen called the social worker. No answer. Jen left a voice-mail to call her back as soon as she got the message. We went home. The ticket that I bought for Jen wouldn’t get her to Florida by the 6:00 p.m. deadline. Jen called the agency to let them know. The agency made arrangements to let the baby stay in the hospital another night. Jen called the social worker and left another message.

The social worker called Jen back from the airplane she was on traveling back for the holiday. She was going straight to her office to print out the report, but she needed my medical exam. (This is where it does not pay to be a procrastinator.) Who is going to be able to give me a physical on the weekend? Of course, Jen’s OB/GYN. We hoped anyway. He goes to church with us, so we called him. Sure, he says. Meet him at his office. So I go to Jen’s OB to get my medical exam, and Jen has to leave for the airport. We would reconnect in Florida.

At the OB’s office, as you can imagine, I got some weird looks from the nurses. But the doc assured them I was in the right place. He was able to do the complete physical except the TB test. OK, we’ll take care of that tomorrow sometime. So I go back home and pack all of the newly purchased baby stuff from Target into the Explorer, grab some clothes and head to my office. There, I grab some work-related things I needed to take care of that week and sent a mass email to everyone telling them where I was headed. I had let most of them know that we were planning to go through this process, but I didn’t think it would come this quickly. I got back in the car and headed south on I-75.

I have driven into the wee hours of the morning before, but I have never been as wide awake as I was on this trip. I was making calls to people telling them where I was headed, and my Blackberry was buzzing as everyone replied to the email I sent out.

I arrived at the hotel around 4:00 a.m. I slumped into bed and quickly fell asleep. Around 9:00 a.m., I got up, and we went to find a place that could do the TB test. We found a worker’s comp clinic that fit the bill just down the street from the hotel. They ran the test and told me to come back for the results.

We went back to the hotel to wait to hear what was next. Around lunchtime, we received a call from the attorney’s office. They said they’d like us to be at the hospital around 4:30 p.m. She said that the birth mother might want to go to dinner with us to meet us and talk to us. I was not in favor of this. I’d just rather pick up the baby and move on. If she wants to talk at the hospital, I’m fine with that. Jen agreed with me. But as the time crept slowly by until 4:30, we both softened. If she wants to meet us, we could do that. We’d have the rest of our lives to be with this baby. She deserves the chance to meet us.

Eventually, enough time passed that it was nearing 4:30. We went to the hospital and waited in the maternity lobby. The attorney came out to us with the paperwork. The birth mother had signed the paperwork and revoked her parental rights. What about the birth father? Well, he was not available to revoke. He was in Panama. The attorneys would have to go through the process to notice the birth and give him an opportunity to come forward before they could consider his rights revoked. OK. Would’ve preferred a little more closure on that, but we’ll deal with that. We signed all of the paperwork and then the attorney walked us back to the room. She said that the birth mother was feeding him.

When we walked in, she was sitting on a bench seat feeding him a bottle of formula. Jen sat down next to them, and I stood looking at the baby. I’ll admit it; I was looking to see if there were any problems with him. There didn’t appear to be. He was beautiful with his stocking cap on sucking on that bottle. So at peace.

She asked Jen if she wanted to hold him. She did. Then the woman started to tell her story. She is 35 and from Panama. She has 3 kids. A 16-year-old boy, a 15-year-old girl and a 5-year-old girl. Her mother lives with her in Florida, but her father lives in Panama. She visits him periodically. On one trip back to see him, she went out and met a construction worker. They had sex, and she got pregnant. She did not tell the guy because she didn’t know him and his construction work was somewhat nomadic. He went to where the jobs were, and he was not living in her father’s town still. She had not seen or heard from him since that night. (We found out later that the birth mother had returned to Panama a number of times during her pregnancy and received pre-natal care on each of those visits.)

She did not tell anyone about the pregnancy. She was planning to move her family to a new house in a new school district, and another child was going to complicate that. She managed to go through the entire pregnancy without telling (or showing) anyone that she was pregnant. On Christmas Eve, she was at a party and felt her contractions start. She got up and drove herself to the hospital. Had the baby. An hour-and-a-half later, she checked herself out of the hospital. She said they made her sign a release before she could leave and gave her some Tylenol to take with her. She went back to the party so that people would not suspect anything. She had not seen the baby since she left that night.

On Christmas Day, she went on the internet to find an adoption agency. She had done some research during her pregnancy but didn’t get involved with one earlier because she was trying to keep the pregnancy secret from her family and friends. She called an agency in Florida, but it was closed because of the holiday. Several others she tried were closed as well. She managed to locate someone at the agency out west, and that is how they became involved.

We thanked her for making the decision that she made and trusting us with the baby. After sitting with us for about 30 minutes, she said she was happy and felt that she made the right choice. She took one of the stocking caps they had for the baby as well as a card with his footprints on it. We hugged her, and then she left. I can’t imagine how she felt walking away that day. I do hope that she felt a peace about it. When the door shut after she left, Jen was crying – no doubt thinking about the strength it took for this woman to give us this incredible gift.

The nurse gave us a quick lesson in diaper changing and feeding. The attorney gave us a little information on what would happen next in the process and that she’d call us in the next day or two to give us an update. Then they let us leave the hospital with Keegan. They just gave us this kid, and let us walk out the door. Unbelievable.

Here’s a shot of him on that day.


So we went back to the hotel after picking up some dinner to take back with us. We laid him on the bed and just stared at him. Did this just happen? Did they give us this baby to take care of? This kid? The one laying right there on the bed?

We had to stay in Florida until the State of Florida gave its initial approval. Then we had to have Georgia’s approval to bring him across the state line. That could take 7-10 days they told us. I had to go back and get my TB results. They were negative. No TB for me! That was the final part of my medical exam. I faxed that to the social worker. And the home study was complete.

Then we went to Babies R Us, because we had never registered for any baby stuff – despite the encouragement to do so from others. We spent most of that week in the hotel room waiting to hear from the attorney. I did have to go to the bank to arrange for a wiring of money to pay the adoption agency. (They made a lot of money for 3 days of work by the way.)

On Thursday, we heard from the attorney that Florida had given its approval, and the information had been forwarded to Georgia. On Friday around lunchtime, I called the attorney to see if they had heard from Georgia. No, not yet. If they didn’t hear on Friday, we wouldn’t hear until Tuesday because Monday was a holiday. So I prepared myself for another 3 days in the hotel. Around 2:00 p.m., the phone rang. It was the attorney. Georgia gave verbal approval over the phone. We were free to go. I rushed to the front desk to see if they’d let us leave without paying the extra day. Under the circumstances, they were more than willing to do that. We decided not to go the whole way back to Atlanta given the late start, so we went to Gainesville for the night. We met our friends, Greg and Stephanie. Stephanie is at UF med school studying pediatrics, so we made her give Keegan a good once over. Everything checked out. It was good to get another opinion. I mean, he seemed perfect to us, but the second opinion never hurts. On Saturday, we headed home.

When we arrived at home, we were completely blindsided by what had occurred in our absence. Amy Fritchman and Misty Eldridge came in and cleaned the house. They took down our Christmas tree and decorations. They went by Babies R Us and picked up the crib we’d ordered and put it together. They picked up the changing table. They painted K-Man’s room!! And set up everything in there. It was unbelievable. They were all there waiting for us when we got home. It was great to celebrate with them.

Here are some shots of Amy’s and Misty’s handiwork.











On April 27, 2006, we had a telephonic hearing with a Florida State Court judge who finalized the adoption for us. Everything was legal from that point.

So that’s the story. I think I covered it rather completely. Now you know the rest of the beginning of K-Man’s story. Two years later, he remains the blessing that he was on that first day. He’s just much more mobile now and capable of wreaking greater havoc.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Keegan's Story (Part I)

[WARNING: This is a long post. I can’t help that. There’s a lot to tell. I tried to break it up into easy-to-chew paragraphs. If you can’t read the whole post in one sitting, you can come back later to finish.]

This time two years ago, I was speeding down I-75 headed to Florida and Jen was already down there waiting for my arrival. We were only hours away from seeing K-Man for the very first time. But before we get to that part of the story, there’s much prologue to cover.

Sometime in 2000 – it doesn’t matter when at this point – Jen and I decided to start a family. No, that’s not right. We were already a family. We’d been married almost 7 years by that time and been through 2 advanced degree programs for me. We decided to try to have a baby – the traditional way. Well long story short – we were unsuccessful in that department. Not for a lack of trying I can assure you. They say that practice makes perfect. They are lying.

Come 2005 – and way too much unsuccess for anyone’s psyche – we decided to go the adoption route. We decided rather than spend $10,000+ for the privilege of me giving Jen shots all the time and trying in vitro, we would spend that money (and then some) on an adoption. We, of course, looked into the costs for such a thing. They are many. There’s a fee for the adoption itself. There’s a fee for the lawyers involved in making it legal. In some cases there are fees for the birth mother’s medical expenses and living expenses. There’s a fee for the home study – to be evaluated by a social worker to get a report that says you’re fit to be parents. There may be travel expenses depending on where the birth mother is. And there’s a fee if you use an adoption consultant. That's a $%&#-load of fees. It’s a racket really when you look at the grand total and consider what some of the fees are actually for. It’s tragic to let costs be an obstacle when there are so many couples who would love to adopt the hundreds of kids out there waiting to be adopted. (But that’s for another post.)

Now that we’d decided to adopt, we needed to figure out how to do it. My sister had a friend whose aunt (I think) had used an adoption consultant to walk them through the process. So we checked her out. She has two children, and she adopted both of them. After working herself through those processes, she decided that there was a need to help other couples navigate the adoption waters. When we met her, she had been helping couples for about 15 years. We started by visiting an informational meeting. We liked what we heard. She provided example after example of adoptions that only took 3 to 12 months to complete. We know people who waited years from the beginning of the process to when they picked up their babies. We wanted to move as quickly as possible. She was no-nonsense. She was a little animated for me, but I appreciated her passion for helping couples. Now that we knew that we wanted to adopt and we had a consultant to use, we had to figure out how to pay for the adoption.

We bought our house in the summer of 2004. Twelve months later, the prices in our neighborhood had risen about 20%. This allowed us to refinance and use our second mortgage to cover the expenses. I had always doubted that we would be able to pay for an adoption. Thankfully, the Lord had other plans for us. Armed with the means to cover an adoption, we moved forward.

In the second week of November 2005, we had our first meeting with the consultant. She runs her agency out of the basement of her house. Normally, I would be skeptical of such things, but oddly enough, I wasn’t in this case. Before we met with Marcia, she gave us some paperwork to complete. One of the items was a tolerance inventory. This was not a measure of how many adult beverages it took to make us tipsy. The inventory asked us what aspects of the birth parents’ history would we tolerate. Black? White? Hispanic? Asian? Mixed? Heart disease? Drug use? Marijuana? Cocaine? Heroin? Cancer? Smoker? Alcohol use/abuse? Sickle cell trait? HIV+? The inventory went on and on. Tough issues to consider. Makes you think hard about how much you want a child and how bigoted you really are. The kicker is that the more you tolerate, the quicker you’ll get matched with a birth mother. Before we left that first meeting, we scheduled the second meeting with her for the first week of December. Oh yea, and I wrote a check for the first half of her fee.

When we left Marcia after the first meeting, we had a couple of assignments. First, we had to get moving on our home study. Second, we had to get our “profile” done. Marcia gave us the name of a social worker that she had just started working with. Jen called her to get that ball rolling. Next, we called Mike Moon and asked him if he could help us put together our profile. What is a “profile?” I know you’re asking yourself that question. Glad you asked. A profile is really a set of marketing materials about you as a couple. Here’s Bill and Jen. The way Marcia explained it to us, when a birth mother reaches the point of deciding which couple to give the baby to, she uses these profiles to decide which couple(s) to consider. We collected pictures of us and our families to use. We wrote copy for the profile about each of us as individuals and as a couple; about our interests; and about our families and friends. We gave Mike the pictures and copy, and he and Sabrina (his wife) put together the best profile – bar none – that we could ask for.

At the second meeting with Marcia in early December, we showed her our profile and let her know that we were moving forward with our home study. She gave us a binder chock full of information about five or six adoption agencies that she thought would fit us best. One of our goals was to adopt in a state that had a very short revocation period . . . or none at all. Our homework was to choose one or two agencies to apply with. [The idea was that we would select an agency and apply with them. That agency would work with Marcia if they had a birth mother who matched with us and wanted to talk to us. At some point, we might meet with her and a match would be made. We would then wait for her to complete the pregnancy, and we would get a call when the baby was coming. That was the “usual” way this process works. As it turned out, there was nothing “usual” about the process we would follow.]

Over the next couple of weeks that December, we finished our three meetings with the social worker for the home study. We would need that done to move forward with the agency we would decide to work with. On Christmas Day, we spent the bulk of the day at my parents’ house with all of the other relatives. It was a fun day, but it was long. We came home that night and crashed. We slept late on the morning of the 26th with plans for a very lazy day. [Again our plans would be thwarted.]

Some time after lunch on the 26th, Jen decided to check her email. She had received an email from Marcia shortly around 11:00 p.m. or midnight the night before. Marcia was forwarding an email that she had received earlier Christmas Day from an adoption agency out west. The email said that there was a baby in a hospital in Florida who was going to be placed in that state’s version of DFCS if he was not picked up by 6:00 p.m. that night. I was in the living room reading the paper. Jen called me from the study with an understated tone like the tone that Donald Quinelle might use after discovering that he’d brought the wrong bullets to a survivalist exercise. (“Hey Bill, you’re not gonna believe this…"). I read the email and stared back at Jen with a look of disbelief I’m sure. She broke the silence.

“What do you think?”

“Call her and see what she says.”

So Jen called.

Tomorrow, you can read the end of the beginning of Keegan's Story.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Holiday Party Advice

I know that the Christmas Party season is about over, but there's one full weekend left -- and then there's New Year's Eve -- so this is still good advice. And humorous to boot. (There is one adult word in there, so ear muffs may be appropriate given the particular audience around your computer.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Musical Progeny

Thanks to Kooky for sharing the link to this live concert video. (Aren't all concerts "live?") I tried posting the video itself, but Blogger won't seem to take it. Click the link and guess whose progeny this is?

Fiction Plane

Yet more evidence that I am getting old.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Timmy HE15MAN


The last 48 hours have been fairly busy. We had a progressive holiday party in the neighborhood on Saturday night (where I may or may not have participated in a little Karaoke). And then decorated for Christmas all day yesterday (in the 70-degree weather!!).

We stayed behind at the appetizer house on Saturday night to catch the official announcement of Tim Tebow, Heisman Award Winner! The first sophomore ever to win it! Herschel didn't do it. Bo knows nothing like this. Pat Sullivan? Nope. Barry Sanders? Negatory.

The numbers speak for themselves. In his first year as a starter, Tebow threw for 3132 yards and 29 TDs (with only 6 INTs). He also ran for 838 yards and 22 TDs. For you Athens grads/fans, that's a total of 51 TDs. The first player in D1 to ever run and throw for 20 TDs in a season. I suspect he'll be a 30-20 guy after the bowl game against Michigan. He's thrown at least 1 TD and ran for at least 1 in every game this year. He played the 8th toughest schedule in the country (compared to Hawaii's 117th toughest schedule -- can't wait to see June Jones in Gainesville on August 30th so he can observe Tebow run Meyer's "system" all over his Rainbow Warrior Princesses!). His 22 TDs this season are the most ever by an SEC player. More than Herschel, Bo, Shaun Alexander, Billy Cannon or Lars Tate! More than anyone who's ever toted the rock in the SEC.

But beyond all the stats, Tebow is a great guy. He has a strong relationship with the Lord. He was born in the Philippines when his parents were missionaries. He regularly visits the Philippines in the summer to preach at his father's mission. When his family was planning the trip to NYC for Saturday night, they were not expecting one of his sisters to come. She and her husband are missionaries in Bangladesh. Tebow received a call on Thursday night while he was at another award show (Where he won the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's top quarterback and the Maxwell Award as the nation's top player. Ho hum.). It was his sister on the line. They were going to be able to fly from Bangladesh for the presentaton. Who cares about some trophy at that point? It would be the first time the whole family would be together since last Christmas. They planned to throw a party to celebrate that -- regardless what happened on the stage that night.

But of course, we all know how things worked out on Saturday night. It is rather amazing that a kid who came in with such hype has actually lived up to it -- if not surpassed it. Freshman year? National title. Sophomore year? Heisman. Junior year? SEC title? Another national title? At this point, can we really doubt that he won't deliver?

So UF now has three Heisman winners. Three QBs. Spurrier, Wuerffel, Tebow. All three have one thing in common. They are all PKs -- Preacher's Kids. But even there Tebow is a little different. He's also an MK -- a Missionary Kid.

Here is a video including all 51 of Tebow's TDs.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Anxiety

It's funny because it's true.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Au revoir Novembre et NaBloPoMo 2007

First, let's address the law school exam question. Hats off to Bekah for at least taking a shot at the fact pattern. And Bekah has some good legal instincts. The issue of verifying the date of the service on the DVD is important. But R confirmed that it was the Sunday morning in question. And Q didn't challenge that point. Q's main argument was that the company's sick leave policy didn't specifically state that employees on sick leave couldn't go to church.

That might seem plausible if it wasn't so laughable. Come on. She said she couldn't work because her back hurt. But she can wear high heels standing on the choir risers, sway to and fro for a good 45 minutes during the singing portion of the service, and then be on catching duty for the prayer at the end of the service?

Then when she comes back to work, she brings in a note that says she was completely incapacitated all weekend?!?! Which is it? OK enough to go to fully participate in church or complete incapacitation? It's one or the other, but not both.

The suspension is warranted because the employee abused the sick leave policy. Sick leave is designed to make up the employee's wages lost when she has to miss work because of illness. Keep in mind that when the employee missed the shift, the company had to call in someone who already was scheduled to work a full week. So that cost the company the overtime wages that it had to pay the employee who filled in.

Well, it's been a fun and long month of NaBloPoMo. Jen is glad the month is over because too many nights were spent trying to come up with something half-way decent about which to write. I've enjoyed the challenge of trying to identify something worth posting. I may have missed the mark a few times, but I gave it a go. Thanks for reading all month. I may take a day or two off, but I like doing this too much. So you'll see a new post before too long.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Law School Exam Question

Here's your fact pattern:

Employee Q is scheduled to work Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Friday, Q complains of back pain and requests to leave for the rest of the day. Her request is granted. On Saturday, she reports to work and after a few hours complains again of back pain and requests to go home. Her supervisor offers to let her perform duties that will allow her to sit down the remainder of her shift if she will stay. She declines saying that her pain medication makes her sleepy and if she sits, she'll just fall asleep. Her supervisor asks her if she is going to report to work on Sunday. She says no; she doesn't think that her back will be any better. Her supervisor instructs her to call someone to replace her on Sunday. She does and elects to take sick time for the missed day on Sunday.

On Monday, Q's co-worker, R, tells his supervisor that he saw Q at church on Sunday morning. Singing in the choir. Swaying back and forth. In high heels. R reports that at one point in the service, people are being prayed for at the front of the church and Q is helping to "catch" them as they "fall out." To the supervisor, this seems inconsistent with Q's complaint of back pain that required her to leave work on Saturday and rendered her incapable of coming in for work on the same Sunday morning. When Q next reports for work, she brings in a note from her doctor indicating that she had been completely incapacitated all weekend and unable to report to work. To the supervisor, this seems inconsistent with the activity that R described observing from Q.

The company decides to investigate the situation. They obtain a DVD of the church service to conduct their own observation of Q's conduct at the church service. It confirms what R said he observed Q doing. The company decides to suspend Q for a day. Q doesn't think that's fair.

This is a 3-parter:

1) On what basis could Q argue that the suspension is unfair?

2) On what basis could the company say the suspension is warranted?

3) Who's right?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ronaldo and K-Man

I've been inundated with inquiries about the outcome of the Champions League match on Tuesday between Manchester United and Sporting Lisbon. Well, after a full 90 minutes, the match was deadlocked at 1-1. The fourth official held up the board and indicated there would be 4 minutes of extra time. After two minutes of extra time, ManU were awarded a direct kick from about 30 yards out. Cristiano Ronaldo lined up the kick and well, watch it for yourself:




That was pure.

That look on Ronaldo's face after the kick. Where have I seen that before? Hmmmm.

Oh yea, here:



(We've seen a picture of Ronaldo as a youngster, and there is a bit of a resemblance. Jen's worst nightmare. Jen is not excited about keeping all the womens off of K-Man. The boy is cute with a capital UTE!)

I saw this cartoon today and thought it was not only hilarious but incredibly timely or NaBloPoMopriate.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Right place right time?

Jen's favorite football team is the Washington Redskins. And she is hard core. In fact, we originally signed up for DirecTV because she wanted to watch her Redskins play every week, and DirecTV is the only satellite or cable system that offers the NFL Sunday Ticket. During our senior year of college, she was in Washington D.C. for a broadcasting convention. It just happened to be the same weekend of Super Bowl XXVI featuring her beloved Skins and the cursed Buffalo Bills. On that Sunday night, she made her way to Georgetown and celebrated in the streets with a couple hundred of her closest friends.

She has always been a huge Joe Gibbs fan. I think the only time she has ever said anything nice about the Skins current owner, Dan Snyder, was when he rehired Joe Gibbs as the coach. Many wondered why he would come back to coach this team after he'd already been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Maybe the events of the last couple of days with Sean Taylor are just the reason he's back at the helm. Who knows? Mark Schlereth thinks there's no one better to help the team in this situation. After you watch this video, you'll see why.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cornucopia

I don't really have a theme to today's post. So I am cramming everything into a horn-of-plenty-useless-thoughts.

1) In the Thanksgiving edition of the AJC -- the one with all the sales papers for Black Friday -- Jen noticed a circular for Dollar Tree. Isn't everything already super-cheap there? You know, like a dollar?


2) We have a space-heater in K-Man's room. He's figured out that he can control it by turning the temperature knob. In a way, it's now one of his toys. Tonight when I got home from work, he dragged me in there to play with the space heater . . . for 20 minutes. Off . . . on . . . off . . . on . . . off . . . on . . . off . . . on. Can you spend 20 minutes any better?


3) Tomorrow is Match Day 5 in the Champions League group stages. Manchester United takes on Sporting Lisbon, the Portuguese futbol club. ManU has already advanced to the knock-out stages of the Champions League competition by winning its first four games of the group stage. The match, being played at Old Trafford, will feature two ManU players, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani, playing their former clubs.




4) This is not my inner Gator talking, but it would be wrong if UGA plays for the national title without even playing in the SEC championship game. With the way this college football season has gone, I would not be surprised if Pitt beats WVU and OU beats Mizzou this weekend. With Ohio State and UGA not playing, they would likely move into the #1 and #2 slots in the BCS poll giving them the spots in the title game. That would be wrong. The only good that could come from such an anomaly would be the creation of a +1 game for next season.


5) There is a part of me in this cartoon:


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Seventeen years ago . . . .

Seventeen years ago tonight, I was sleeping in a bunk at a Salvation Army camp in Sharon, Massachusetts. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

When Jen and I started at Asbury, the college was still on the quarter system and had been for years. As many of you have likely noticed, during the holiday season, the Salvation Army descends upon malls and shops across the country with companies of bell-ringers. When Asbury was on the quarter system, fall quarter ended the week before Thanksgiving and winter quarter didn't start until after New Year's. This made the Asbury student population perfect candidates for the thousands of bell-ringer positions across this great land. Each fall, the Sallies (as they are affectionately called) came to campus and recruited students for teams in various cities -- Dallas, TX, York, PA, Baltimore, MD, and Boston, MA to name a few. The fall of my junior year, Jen and I decided to sign up for one of the teams going to the Boston area. We signed up for a smaller Salvation Army center in Sharon, MA. I was excited because my parents are from MA, and I had a number of relatives in the area that I had hopes of visiting on off days. At the time, my paternal grandparents lived in the next town over from Sharon.

I was assigned to stand outside a grocery store in Sharon. I came prepared for Boston in December. I had ski gloves -- that provided enough digital flexibility to grasp my assigned brass bell. I had a hat. I had a nice winter coat that had an outer shell to help break the cold winds. And I had long johns and thermal socks for every day of the week. I was prepared.

I was prepared for something other than ringing bells outside in Boston in December. After a few days of relatively mild weather, December in Boston came to reign over me. It took about an hour for my fingers to feel the gloves' inability to withstand the really cold weather. Thankfully, after about a half day of my quixotic stand against the elements, the kind employees of the grocery store invited me inside to stand in the front lobby. Oh sweet warmth of a grocery store entry! The only catch was that I couldn't ring the bell inside the store. That was an easy call. After about an hour of ringing that bell, I wanted to plunge one of those sandwich swords into my ears to make the ringing stop! This would avoid all that carnage. And the guy managing our team of ringers wouldn't care if I was still able to raise money sans bell.

Another funny thing about ringing bells in Sharon, MA is that Sharon is well-known in the Boston area as a predominantly Jewish town. So I received a lot of disclaimers from the Sallies not to expect great donations. I can testify that the warning I received was complete bunk. I raised a lot of money over the course of my weeks in Sharon. In my experience, the Sharonites are a very generous lot. And I was able to strike up a lot of conversations with the employees of that store who saw me come from Kentucky and stand in the frigid air outside their store and then saw me stand in the lobby day after day to raise money for a great organization.

A funny story from our time in Boston that winter: We went out to lunch one Sunday afternoon with another Boston-area team of Asbury bell-ringers. We were ordering our drinks when one from our party ordered sweet tea. The waitress looked at her like she was on crack and responded, "We only have that during the summer." Priceless.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Almost foiled by network broadcasting

So I was watching the end of the UK-Tenn. game today -- torn between not wanting the Vowels to win and not wanting Georgia to go to the SEC championship game next week. I was really just waiting for the game to end, so I could watch the UF-FSU game which was kicking off at 5:00 p.m. Unfortunately, the players in the game in Lexington refused to end their game in a timely fashion. So CBS stayed on that game. Forever.

In Gainesville, they kicked off. In Lexington, Tenn. scored a touchdown and UK answered. Second OT. In Gainesville, the score was 14-6. In Atlanta, we're still watching the game in Lexington where Tenn. scored another TD and UK responded in kind. Oh joy, a third overtime. In Gainesville, the first quarter is over! I am now screaming into a throw pillow. Not because of a bad play by the Gators -- because I haven't seen play one in the game I truly care about -- but because I don't have the option of watching the game I want to see that is being broadcast by the same network.

In the third overtime, nothing gets decided. Of course not. So we're onto the fourth extra period. And in Gainesville, Tebow throws for another TD and the Gators are up 21-9. In the fourth OT, the game in Lexington is finally decided -- ending in another escape act by Fat Phil and Co. And I finally get the privilege of watching the Gators last drive of the first half! Which ends in a field goal. With less than a minute before half-time, FSU did manage to get a field-goal attempt off. A 60-yarder. And somehow, the team that has brought us so many wide kicks manages to line-drive through a 60-yarder. Unbelievable.

But the Gators got the ball back to start the second half and promptly managed five first downs on consecutive plays. Game (essentially) over. The final was 45-12. The Gator seniors leave The Swamp victors one last time. And I think Tebow probably wrapped up his Heisman-winning campaign with another 3 TDs through the air and 2 more on the ground. And the missionary kid also managed a few verbal jabs towards the Criminole sideline too. Amen.

Happy Birthday to DA in Omaha! For his birthday, I am dialing up a little snow for later in the week. What's the last week in November in Nebraska without a reminder that winter is another month away but Mother Nature wants to get things started early! DA celebrated his birthday by having dinner with his parents. Such a nice boy.

Also Happy Birthday to Caroline who turns ???? tomorrow.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Keegan's first movie

We took K-Man to his first movie today. The new Coen Brothers flick.

I'm kidding.



We took him to see the Bee Movie. Well, most of the Bee Movie. We arrived a little late. That didn't stop the ABC movie theatre from charging us as much as possible for the tickets. In case there are any ABC movie theatre execs reading this, let me just say that paying $7 for a child's ticket is no bargain. In fact, it felt more like robbery.

Then we waited in line for some distractions. I mean refreshments. We bought some popcorn and a large Sprite. When we got in the theatre, not only had the movie already started, but it was packed. Of course it was. We did manage to find a pair of seats at the end of the row about half way up the rows of seats. After we sat down, Keegan wasn't so much interested in the movie as he was the popcorn and Sprite. The distractions were working well. Maybe too well.
He watched the movie but was not overwhelmed by the animation. Or the dialogue. He just ate a lot of popcorn and drank a lot of Sprite.

This experience will go down as one of those things where the parents have greater expectations. I cannot tell you how the movie ends, because we weren't there when the credits rolled. All in all though, it was a good experience. That is measured by the lack of a public display of uncontrollable screaming or crying. Any time you can take an almost-two-year-old to something where the expectation is that he will sit for more than an hour and that actually happens, you chalk that one up as a win in the parents column. Even if you paid way too much for the privilege to buy overpriced refreshments and missed the previews in the process.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

I thought about trying to be different and posting about the things that I am not thankful for today. But that would be disingenuous. I think there's something to learn in all of the things that we face. So I may include some of the things that I could do without but for which I am thankful.

1) My wife. She is someone who has such a full heart. She puts up with all of my shortcomings -- and there are a truck-load of those. She is an awesome mom to K-Man. She is a great friend. She knows when to challenge and when to encourage.

2) K-Man. Having a kid is a life-changing experience. He draws out the kid in me. And everyone should have someone who does that.

3) Friends. There are way too many of those to mention here. You know who you are. Several of you have been by my side for nearly 25 years. You've helped me through hard times and celebrated great moments as well. Thank you for your constant presence.

4) My job. My job provides us the means to put a roof over our heads. To pay for the cars we have. To pay for my student loans. To put food on the table and diapers on K-Man's butt. It helps build a retirement as well.

5) Our church. It provides a place to be fed and many opportunities to serve. Opportunities that I don't take full advantage of, but we'll skip the self-imposed guilt trip today.

6) DirecTV and Tivo. You knew eventually I would get past the traditional focuses of thanks and get to the superficial aspects of life. I am thankful for satellite television for several reasons. The main reason is that it provided me with the means to tell the cable companies to take a hike. Plus it provides me access to scores of English and European football matches. And by football, I mean soccer.

7) Everyone who defends our freedom. People who leave their families for months, and sometimes years, on end to fight enemies known and unknown; seen and unseen.

8) Music. I don't play any instrument, but I love music performed by those who can. Thank you to all the musicians who make life a little more pleasant.

I could go on and on, but I won't. I'm going to pour another glass of wine and enjoy some family time. Thanks for hanging out today. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Contagious silliness

Tonight, I came home from another day at work. Much like every other day, except that I left a little earlier because of the pending holiday. When I got home, Keegan was full of energy. He was running around. Impish smiles. Just full of himself. Jumping from the couch to the recliner and back again.

Jen was on the phone with a friend when Keegan decided to do some laps through the kitchen and dining room, back down the hallway and through the kitchen again. (If you've ever wondered how K-Man stays so lean, I can attest to the fact that he never stops moving. The lap-running is a regular thing with him. The stamina is inspiring.) I was standing next to the counter looking through the mail. He's just jogging through giggling and being goofy. On one of his laps around I watched him round the corner past the oven and head toward the dining room. Jen was standing next to the fridge on the phone. As he was nearing Jen, he cocked his arm back and slapped her on the butt as he ran by. Nothing rebellious about it at all. I think he was just including her in his silliness. It was the funniest thing I've seen in a while. Made us both laugh out loud.

Great way to start the holiday weekend!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Trucker Butt

When I was a senior in high school -- more than 20 years ago -- I attended a Methodist church after an invite from Fritchman (he was always inviting people to church -- he has a gift for that sort of thing). Eventually, there was a whole group of us there. The pastor of my current church served as the youth minister of that Methodist church. For the sake of this story, we'll call him Tom. I don't want to speak for him, but it didn't take long for Tom to notice that the group of us had a certain energy -- especially together.

One day, Fritchman, Kooky and Sean decided to have some fun with a video camera. (I was working this particular day, so I missed out on the first videos.) Sean had the camera. Fritchman and Kooky decided to do a video on the differences between life in Christ and life without Him. There was a cigar involved. The hugging of a tree. And a banana. To this day, I still catch myself periodically uttering 2 phrases from that video: "The answer?" (in a high-pitched, nerdy voice) and "Want a banana?"

So we showed this video to Tom. For some reason, he thought it was hilarious. He said he was planning a talk on peer pressure and asked us to do a video on that theme. Simple enough, right?

So we met at my house, brainstormed a plot and found some props. There were jelly beans. A beach ball. A bucket hat. And an old Boy Scout shirt that my step-brother had in his closet. (I was never a Boy Scout. I was a Cub Scout for about 6 months but quit when we never went camping. I earned a Bobcat badge and a Wolf badge before hanging it up though.) It was decided that I would play the boy who was dealing with the peer pressure. So I wore the Boy Scout shirt. Of course, right? Who succumbs to peer pressure more than Boy Scouts? It's not all walking grannies across the street and archery demonstrations, you know. I also wore the bucket hat, which is not a part of the Boy Scout uniform. (Important distinction, we thought.)

The gist of the story was that I was enticed by the popular kids to try drugs -- hence the jelly beans. (They showed up better on our no-budget camera.) In time, I gave in to the pressure and tried the drugs. At the end of the video, Kooky runs into the room to find me OD-ed on the bed. He bends over my sprawled body and yells out something like "I told you not to try the green ones!" Bent over, we get the slightest glimpse of Kooky's crack. And then we hear him whisper "trucker butt." Fade to black.

This wasn't Sundance material. It may not have even been worth youtube had Gore invented the innernets earlier. But it delivered "a" message about peer pressure, which was our task. We showed it to Tom. Again, he thought it was hilarious. You'd think this is where the story ends, because I already gave you the "trucker butt" line and that is the title of the post. But you'd be wrong.

Tom decided to show the video at MYF on Sunday night. He decided that he'd show it at senior high and junior high. The senior high folks laughed hard, in part, because some of their own were in it. I was not present for the junior high showing, but I can imagine they -- for the most part -- thought it was funny too. It turns out though that one junior high kid was in the Boy Scouts, and when he saw the video, all he focused on was the shirt I was wearing. Uneasy about the implications of doped-up scouts run amok, he mentioned the video to his father when he arrived home. His father was a little more than "uneasy" about what his son told him he viewed that night. . . at junior high MYF . . . at church!

Now keep in mind, the father never actually watched the video. I am sure if he had viewed the piece, he would've been overwhelmed by the obvious parody captured on tape. That's neither here nor there, because the father decided to talk to the senior pastor of the church about the outlandish video that he thought disparaged (even unintentionally) the fine name of the Boy Scouts. This resulted in a meeting between the pastor and Tom. Correction is never fun. I'll just say that.

And thus began the age of censorship in youth ministry video snippets.

It was unfortunate too because a couple of months later, we were working on a man-on-the-street type video. We were walking through Kroger late one night. Tom was on the mic trying to ask people some questions. We look down one aisle. A mother is perusing cans of soup. Her daughter is sitting in the cart looking at us. Precious little angel of about 5 or 6. I point the camera at the girl. She gave me the finger. That's right. The one-finger salute. She told us we were #1. Unbelievable! You can't write this stuff. We decided not to show this at Youth Camp that year regardless of the comedic content. (See, we are teachable.)

These videos still exist because Fritchman's dad showed them at his rehearsal dinner. But I haven't seen them since that night. Hopefully, they remain in safekeeping because Keegan will need to learn about peer pressure one day too.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Laughter

Why is laughter so hard to come by at times? There is much about which to laugh. Often, there is much to laugh about in the mirror. I know my reflection doubles over a lot.

I can remember when laughter was so easy to come by. For a while now, laughter comes not so easily. That can be disheartening. I don't like that. I like to laugh.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Why Do This?

The question has been posed: Why do I do this? Why do I blog? Why do I post on a regular basis?

It really is a multi-faceted answer.

1) I enjoy writing. I see this thing as a way to develop that. I think my writing can use all of the practice that it can get, so I'd like to think that the more I do this, the better I'll get. You can be the judge of that -- and I'm a big boy, so don't be shy with the blog-crit.

2) I am opinionated. This gives me a place to share some of those opinions. Some days, I am more comfortable than others sharing what I really think about things.

3) I enjoy being a part of this sub-culture. I enjoy the connections that develop over time as people read my blog and I read others. I like to think that from time to time I might have something to share with fellow bloggers (and blog-stalkers) that provides them with an opportunity for some vicarious learning. I know I have benefited from reading others' posts and comments.

4) I have a really cute kid. This gives me an excuse to post pictures of him and tell goofy stories about him. And talk about how awesome he is. And about how thankful Jen and I are about being entrusted with the task and privilege of raising him (foreshadowing).

[I made a new playlist for the holiday season. I promise not to start it until after Thanksgiving. I hope you will like it.]

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Police

As I type, The Police are performing at Philips Arena in the first of two shows this weekend. When I recall my high school years, the soundtrack playing in the background is The Police and Sting's Dream of the Blue Turtles. When I was a freshman in high school, The Police were on their Synchronicity tour. I missed that show when it came to the Omni in Atlanta. Didn't go to my first concert until the following year when I saw Sammy Hagar's I Can't Drive 55 tour. (And yes, that was before Hagar became the lead singer of Van Halen. I'm that old.) Krokus opened for Hagar on his stop in Atlanta.

Anyway, since 1986 when it became official that the members of The Police were going their separate ways, I have been waiting for them to decide the time was right to put their differences behind them and cash in on the musical ATM that is a "reunion tour." Alas, they have hijacked that armored car and are raking it in. They charged $100 just to join their fan club and get the privilege of pre-ordering concert tickets. How magnanimous. When the time came for this tour, Atlanta was not originally on the schedule. After the band saw there was an audience for this tour and that they would pay out the wazoo for a seat, they decided to expand the tour and a show was added for Atlanta. When that show sold out in a matter of hours, they added a second show for the next day. As long as people keep buying tickets, why not add as many shows as possible, right?

And yet, even with the option of 2 shows in my back yard, I didn't buy tickets.

I've seen Sting perform live. I've watched DVDs of old Police shows when they were in their prime. I've even seen some footage of the group performing on this tour. In the end, I just didn't have the desire to fork over my cash to see a group that couldn't live up to the image that's been in my head for over 20 years. The group will always be at their peak . . . in my head. It's like images of Jordan as a Chicago Bull. If I never watched him play for the Washington Wizards, then in my memories, he'll always be the guy that one 6 titles for the Bulls. The guy that was at the top of his profession.

I won't begrudge them one last money-grab. They have bills to pay too. I know Sting has a huge estate in the U.K. that he has to maintain. (I know this because he lives near a British military base and complains all the time about the RAF's planes taking off and landing over his property. Sorry Gordon, but you knew the base was there when you bought your land. Deal with it.)

So I'll stick with my collection of The Police music and the great memories I have from high school with all of my friends. And read the review in the AJC tomorrow.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Dangerous Book for Boys

On the way home from work tonight, I stopped by Costco for a few things. I picked up some cashews, some adult beverages, gum, Skinny Cows, and stamps. After making my way through the CDs -- because I cannot ever pass up the chance to peruse the music -- I noticed a hard-bound book with a bright red cover. The title jumped out at me: The Dangerous Book for Boys.

Intriguing. So I opened it and started rifling through the pages.

Wow. Here is just a sampling of the topics covered:

-- The Five Knots Every Boys Should Know (with complete illustrations)

-- Making a Battery

-- Timers and Tripwires (I must admit, this one made me wonder if this was a manual for Berkeley mathematics professors, but there are no sections on building log cabins -- just a tree house.)

-- Famous Battles

-- Understanding Grammar -- Part One

-- The Rules of Rugby Union and Rugby League

-- Insects and Spiders (with color photos)

-- Why Is the Sky Blue? (Every parent should know this because the question is inevitable!)

-- Navajo Code Talkers' Dictionary


-- The Ten Commandments


-- First Aid


-- Sampling Shakespeare


-- Seven Poems Every Boy Should Know (including If by Rudyard Kipling and The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost)


-- The Solar System

-- The Rules of Soccer (The clincher that this was a book that I had to purchase!)

I cannot wait to go through this book with Keegan. Some of these things we'll learn together. I imagine some of these things he may teach me. I hope by the end of it, the pages will be worn from all our visits to its contents. Because that will be a tangible reminder of time well spent. Time to share discoveries. Maybe time shared at the E.R. Who knows? But it'll be hellacious fun!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Long day

Today (and yesterday frankly) were very long days at work. What I thought would take half a day to finish (yesterday) ended up taking two very long days to finish tonight. Days like that wipe me out mentally. I didn't have any energy to make dinner either. To put that into perspective, that means that I didn't have the energy to take 5 minutes to microwave a frozen dinner. For dinner, I had 2 packages of peanut-butter crackers. I mixed it up and had one package with the orange cheese-flavored cracker and one plain faux-Ritz-cracker package. Then I had some left-over Halloween candy and a beer. All of that is Atkins-compatible, right?

I did manage to wash and dry a white load and wash a load of khaki-ish colored stuff and some boxers. So it wasn't like I was a total sloth all night.

I am watching a little of the Oregon-Arizona game on ESPN. Looks like Dennis Dixon, the Oregon QB, left the game with a twisted knee. Could that unfortunate occurrence for Ducks fans open the door for a Heisman for Tim Tebow? Mmmmm. We'll have to see. Most of the latest polls had Dixon and Tebow in a neck-and-neck battle for the trophy. It also looks like 'Zona may upset the #2 Ducks. Could Kansas play in the BCS title game?

Need to fold the white load and hit the hay.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Journey

No, this post isn't an homage to the great '70s/'80s band that inspired a great arcade game that I used to play at Six Flags in the summers of my youth.

What I was thinking about is the infinitive "to journey." What does that mean? What draws me to it? What keeps me from it?

To journey:

to go to class

to skip class

to pull an all-nighter

to ask for an extension
to work fast food

to quit the best job you ever had

to take a road-trip

to knock on your neighbor's door

to total your first car

to make your first rent payment

to burn your mortgage

to buy a new suit

to donate a crate full of clothes

to bail out a friend

to reach out for help

to watch A Clockwork Orange

to read Where the Wild Things Are

to refuse an aspirin

to fill a prescription for Prozac
to turn your back on the ones who love you
to say something you can't take back

to laugh
to cry
to cheer
to sigh
to sob
to work
to forgive
to play
to cling tightly
to let go
to pop a zit
to color your hair
to be resented
to shave your head bald
to make mistakes
to triumph
to beg for relief
to crash and burn
to marry off your daughter
to bury your father
to pray
to sing
to talk
to console
to yell
to horde
to shun
to share
to freeze
to take a leap of faith
to journey.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Outrage

What outrages you? I don't get outraged by much. And I'm not sure why that is. (And I'm not talking about pet peeves here. I have plenty of pet peeves.)


There are a couple of things that outrage me though:


1) When church-folk mistreat non-church-folk; and


2) When church-folk mistreat church-folk.


Now you might wonder how church-folk could mistreat other church-folk? It's easy really. When Christians judge other Christians for their human frailties, I get outraged. When Christians sit idly by while others struggle with life, I get outraged. This notion that Christians are, or should be, immune to the downside of life is plain stupid. Whoever started that idea is a liar. It's bad enough when these attitudes color relationships inside the church. It's worse when Christians allow it to get in the way of reaching out to those outside the church. There are so many who crave a relationship like the one Christians know. But when we treat each other so poorly, who could blame those on the outside from walking the other way? Not me.

And don't think that my outrage is pointed in one direction. The mirror holds some outrage too. I get "too busy" to lend a hand. I get tired and don't want to help out. I am selfish. I am lazy. I'd prefer to watch the game or my favorite show on TV. And that's outrageous.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wake-up Call

Are you a dog person or a cat person? I am a dog person. We have a great dog, Murphy, that we've had since law school. A few years ago, however, we acquired a cat. Jen used to work at a low-cost animal clinic (shocking, no?). The clinic had a million cats that lived there waiting to be adopted. One cat, Tiki, was unlike the other cats. He refused to hang out with the other cats. He preferred to play with the dogs. Because Jen is also a dog person, this quality about Tiki attracted her. So she asked if we could "temporarily" keep him at our house to assist with a slight overcrowding problem at the clinic. I agreed.

When Tiki arrived, he immediately tried to befriend our two dogs. Our spaz dog, Moses, loved it. He had a constant companion. Murphy was not so enamored with the cat. But then Murphy could do without anything or anyone that interferes with her entitlement to everyone's attention. I found that Jen's description of the cat rang true. He was oddly dog-like. Not only in his enjoyment of other dogs, but in his play. He enjoyed wrestling and rough play like our dogs too. And of course, after a couple of months, we took Tiki in.

There's another interesting feature to this cat. He doesn't use a litter box. He goes outside -- just like a dog. That's almost evidence of reincarnation. The downside to this quality is that it means that Tiki has to go outside in the middle of the night. In the summer, that is not a problem because he tends to prefer sleeping on the front porch. But when the temps drop in the late fall and winter, Jen prefers to bring him inside for the night. This generally doesn't affect me because when Tiki has to go out, he bugs Jen. But Jen and Kee are still away. So that means that I am the one who gets the wake-up call. The amazing thing is that Tiki has an internal clock that is so consistent, the government could use it to set the official atomic clock. The last 2 mornings, I have been awakened at 4:34 a.m. EST to let Tiki out. And this isn't a gentle reminder that he needs to go out. This is an annoying array of meows and laps around me like I'm Jericho, and Tiki's determined to collapse my walls. For a perfect visual of this, enjoy this video:

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mission Accomplished

So I went into work again today to finish up the task of the annual cleaning of my office. It took a lot longer than I wanted it to, but it looks much better. There is so much space now to pile up new sets of paper. (No -- I will not create new piles! I will not create new piles! I will not create new piles. It's sort of like a praise song. That last one was a capella.)





But as you can see, if I wanted to stack some paper, there's plenty of room.



Do you like the new artwork on the wall there? We had some art consultants come through our office recently and hang art in all of the offices. I had a print of my own in that space. I came back from lunch one day and found my picture in the floor and this piece on the wall. I asked if they wanted me to take my other picture home. They just wanted it on a different wall. They said this piece took up more of the blank space there. Of course, they've never returned to hang my print anywhere. It's not like it's a velvet Elvis. It's a nice print of the valley in Yosemite. I think I'm going to have to bring my own hammer and picture hook.

I have more to write about especially after the message I heard this morning at church, but I'm not ready to write about it right now.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Paper and Pigskin

With Jen and Keegan out of town, I decided to go into work today and clean up my office. I do this once a year because if I didn't, I might die under an avalanche of paper. In anticipation of today's chore, I secured the delivery of an over-sized garbage can. I received one of those huge cans with wheels just like the one I use at home to take our garbage to the curb. After 4 hours of cleaning, I filled the can to the rim with an assortment of paper I had accumulated from various cases of mine over the last few years. I called building maintenance to see if I could get a second can, but there were none available. And I had a lot more to toss. So I had to truck the can to the basement of the building to dump my load.

With an empty can, I returned to the task at hand. And I filled it up about half-way in round two. But I'm not done. I haven't even touched the top of my desk! I'll be back in tomorrow to finish the task. I need a better system to help me clean as I go. And when I think about holding onto something that I think I might need down the road, I need someone to whack me on the back of the head.

Some observations from today's college football:

1) Good for Sylvester Croom. The former Tide player. who didn't get the Bama job when they gave it to Mike Shula, got a win today against his alma mater. Even bigger, Misserable State became bowl-eligible with the win.

2) The Zookers take down Ohio State in Columbus. That could set up an LSU-Oregon BCS championship game which I think would be an entertaining match-up. But there is plenty of time for the top teams to lose and create other possibilities for the title game.

3) I think Keegan has a stronger arm than Auburn QB Brandon Cox. How many throws did he one-hop today? That is, when he wasn't holding onto the ball too long and getting sacked! Sixth-year senior? Really? Really?

4) Another week, another service academy beats Notre Dame in South Bend! Air Force ran all over the Irish.

5) After giving up 76 points last week in a loss to Kansas, Nebraska's offense showed up and laid 73 points on Kansas State. Bill Clownahan still loses his job when the season is over. Look for Bo Pellini (the LSU Def. Coord.) or Turner Gill (the Buffalo head coach) to get the Nebraska job.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Fish out of water

So Jen and Keegan left town today to visit Jens' grandmother and great aunt in West Virginia. Jen could use your prayers because it looks like her great aunt has only a few days left in this world.

So tonight, I finally accepted the invitation of a co-worker of mine to visit his hang-out of choice. He frequents this watering hole at least once a weekend. Sometimes more often. Let me just say this was an odd experience for me. I haven't dated in a VERY long time. Jen and I started dating on January 5, 1990. MORE THAN 17 years ago!! So I have no idea what it's like to date now or what it's like to strike up a conversation with a member of the opposite sex in a dating context. So I sat there somewhat stunned as my friend did what singles guys -- apparently -- do today in the dating world. There was flirtatious conversation. There was observance of body language. There was the attempt to interpret the slightest glance or nod or wink or mouthed words. I was in awe. In awe of how anyone ever actually gets together with anyone to actually go out on a date. It was like Jane Goodall or Diane Fosse watching apes interact. It was worthy of a hidden camera and miked participants in an attempt to document what was occurring. Hours of film and countless more hours to observe the tapes was the only way I had any hope of understanding today's dating rituals. For those of you who are still in the middle of the dance that I observed tonight, good luck. I sit on the outside thankful that I am not on that dance floor. Because if I was on that dance floor, it would be a repeat of 7th grade, and I'd be leaning up against the wall watching everyone else dance to Greg Kihn's Jeopardy.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

BBC World News

It's late, and I am struggling to find something worth writing about (this is actually the second topic I tried to develop into a post; I'm not sure if the other idea that I was working on will make the cut this month). I am watching BBC World News. I don't know if any of you ever watch this news program, but I encourage you to give it a shot if you haven't. On BBC America, they show BBC World News in the morning starting at 6:00 a.m. Recently, they've started showing it at night too at 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. The thing that I like about this presentation of the news is the reluctance to sensationalize. There is enough inherent drama in what goes on around the world that the news shows don't need to resort to hyperbole. I think the English penchant for understatement helps. The program also benefits from the BBC's sheer size as a news organization. The BBC has reporters everywhere in the world. And the reporters do a great job of reporting world events by considering how these events shape the average citizen of these countries. It's not a broad brush look at an issue in a foreign land as if you're reading from a seventh grade social studies text. It's a family in a foreign land (or in America) dealing with the repercussions of the event itself. And when the BBC interviews a political leader, they don't edit the interview down into a series of sound bites. They let you see and hear lengthy Q&A.

Then when the news is over, you can catch an episode of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares -- which is great television. (Not the new FOX version of that show -- which is enjoyable -- but the original BBC version.)

The Office quote of the night: "It's better to be hurt accidentally by someone you know than hurt on purpose by someone you don't know."

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

High School Memories

When we grew up and went to school, there were certain teachers who would hurt the children in any way they could.

By pouring their derision upon anything we did, exposing every weakness however carefully hidden by the kids.

But in the town, it was well known that when they got home at night, their fat and psychopathic wives would thrash them within inches of their lives.


During my senior year of high school, I walked into a classroom one morning and saw those words written on the blackboard.

I knew exactly what I was reading. They are lyrics from a Pink Floyd song on the classic double album, The Wall. (And yes, when The Wall was originally released in 1979 and available at Turtles or Peaches or The Record Bar, it was a double album that one played at 33 RPM on a turntable.) By the time I was a senior in high school though, it was available on the space-age Compact Disc format.

There were 2 things that I found very amusing about this display. First was the classroom in which the lyrics had been posted. During my senior year, I took a class called "Contemporary Affairs." Our text was Time Magazine. The teacher was also the woman who taught AP U.S. History -- which I took because I was/am a dork and I really liked history. So I was familiar with this woman's teaching style. She was a good teacher on some levels, but she also had an inflated sense of her abilities and/or stature in the high school education community. People who take AP courses tend toward the overachieving side of things. She seemed to prefer teaching the AP kids. Why? I don't know. But the students who took the Contemporary Affairs class included folks who didn't necessarily take the AP courses. This particular teacher seemed to take that opportunity to demean and mock some of the ideas and comments from those students. The assumption seemed to be that if the students didn't take AP U.S. History, they didn't take their education seriously and held opinions that didn't merit consideration. (This is where we could've used Uncle Buck to come in and fight for all of the so-called silly-hearts. See below.) So you can imagine how a student who was not used to this teacher's demanding -- and sometimes unreasonably demanding -- nature might react.

The second thing that I found amusing was that I recognized the handwriting of the person who wrote the lyrics on the board. This was funny because the teacher was not happy -- at all -- about the public embarrassment. I did not feel particularly sorry for the teacher because she had sort of made her bed. Karma is a . . . .

I don't believe that the teacher ever learned who wrote the lyrics on her blackboard -- which to high school students only enhanced our enjoyment. One person had the guts to write the lyrics, but we all felt like we got away with it because we all identified with those lyrics on some level. I think it goes without saying that high school students overdramatize the things that happen to them, but that doesn't mean the emotions are any less real to them and it doesn't give people like teachers license to ridicule them or their evolving positions on issues and understanding of the world around them.

And if they do ridicule, they may get some rebellious graffiti which hopefully shines a light on their psychotic instructional techniques.



Oh yea, the name of the Pink Floyd song is The Happiest Days of Our Lives.



How hilarious is that?



Uncle Melanoma Head

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Under the wire

Today was a busy day. My mind is a little frazzled. And it's only Tuesday. Sheesh.

I think it all goes back to that extra hour of sleep that I didn't utilize Saturday night.

Given my exhausted state, there's a good chance for gibberish.

Dyson -- that dude's a little creepy with the overdramatic way he talks about his allegedly state-of-the-art vaccuum. He's like some IKEA-ized version of J. Peterman. Does the world really need a cutting edge vaccuum?

And I noticed Mr. Dyson developed a new obsession about those air dryers that gas stations use because they are too lazy to buy paper towels and/or get up from behind the counter and add more paper towels to the dispenser (all under the guise that "it's better for the environment" not to "waste" all those paper towels). Dyson claims he was tired of everyone's tendency to use those dryers and then wipe their hands on their pants anyway because of the inefficient way blowing hot air eliminates water from one's hands. Yea, like there was nothing else he could spend his time and money on.

OK, my brain is mush. Too bad there's no Dyson product for that.

Monday, November 5, 2007

More about me

Back in July, my firm asked all of the associates to take a behavioral assessment that was supposed to measure how we operate at work. (Aside: I highly recommend the CD How We Operate by the band Gomez. You can check out a tune from that CD on the playlist that runs on my blog.) I have a master’s degree in counseling psychology, so I am very familiar with a variety of psychological and behavioral assessments. One thing that they all have in common is that the results depend on the truthful responses of the one completing the assessment. For that reason, many tests of this sort include built-in measures for untruthfulness or inconsistent responses. At the presentation of the results today, I heard no information concerning any measure to double-check for such responses. (I’m not saying that the people I work with would lie on an assessment like this, but I think some naturally might try to respond to the questions in a way that they think the partnership wants to hear – to present themselves in a way that might get the partnership to look more favorably at them. I don’t think that would be surprising to anyone – many people want to please their employers.)

So anyway, I know all of you are curious to know how I came out on this test given my past performance on that internet personality test. There really were no surprises here to me, but you may find some off the summary information humorous. Of course, if my neuroses can bring a smile to your face, far be it from me to take from you such joy.

1) Openly challenges world around him.

2) Impatient for results . . . and is far less productive when doing routine work.

3) Private.

4) Communication is direct, to the point, and sometimes brusque. (That one made me chuckle. It's funny because it's true.)

5) Little interest in small talk.

So now you know a little more about me. Just remember that this is supposed to represent how I behave in the workplace. So any of you on the Scotland trip, don't fret.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Sun-Day-in-the-life

I do this just about every year. I lose the advantage that Congress so nicely bestows on us each fall. As you know, the transition from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time gives us an extra hour of sleep. But every year, I simply use it as an excuse to stay up later. Last night, I stayed up to watch the end of the Arkansas-South Carolina game (the Ole Ball Coach's defense couldn't stop the stellar Razorback running duo). Then I watched Lou Holtz spit all over Mark May on ESPN's college football recap show. Then I flipped channels for 30-45 minutes before concluding that nothing was on, so I went to bed.

This morning, I awoke to Keegan yelling from his crib. He's not saying anything specific, but you can tell from his tone that it's something like (Hey, Mom and Dad -- I don't care which one of you -- but one of you needs to get your lazy butt out of bed and get me out of here so I can start my day. I have things to do. Milk to drink. Pages to scribble on. Marbles to play with.) This morning, Jen answered the bell because she is a great mom and she had been the wiser of this pair and went to bed at a reasonable hour so she could take full advantage of the extra hour of sleep.

I got up at the usual hour on Sunday morning. Keegan's internal clock got him up a little early given the move to standard time. After showering, I went downstairs and was welcomed to the morning by the children's songstress, Laurie Berkner. She wasn't actually in my living room. But her CD was playing for Keegan. K-Man loves this lady's CDs. Jen and I wouldn't mind if Ms. Berkner announced her retirement never to be heard from again -- Garth Brooks style.

Given Keegan's early rising, Jen decided to let him nap right about the time we would've left to go to church. So I went to church alone, and Jen stayed behind while Keegan napped. I think Jen enjoyed the quiet time alone at home while Keegan slept. Good message out of Galatians this morning. When I got back home, Keegan was still sleeping. Today was a Falcons home game, so once Keegan got up, we piled into the car and headed downtown. (I know that was a run-on sentence, but this isn't Mrs. Ferris' 7th grade English class, so pipe down.)

We park for Falcons games at the parking deck that I use for work. I am cheap. Why pay $20 for parking when I have a parking pass for my deck that I can use even if we have to walk a little farther? Don't answer that. So we park and start our trek towards the Dome. We alternate carrying Keegan and letting him walk. He loves seeing all the traffic lights up close as we walk. Eventually, we make it to the game. We buy incredibly overpriced cheeseburgers (which I justify because I saved all that money not paying for parking!!) and make our way to our seats. Upper deck end zone. Keegan helps Jen with her burger. Then I get some popcorn for Kee because I think it will occupy him and prolong our stay at the game (which I think going in the Falcons have a chance to win). K-Man liked the popcorn. He also monopolized the Sprite that Jen bought. (I know what you're thinking, but I saved so much money not paying for parking.) None of this matters as long as Kee stays relatively calm and watches the game or the lights or the Chick-Fil-A cows that periodically parachute from the rafters. We were golden until half-time. Something clicked. Not in a good way either. It's like that sound you hear right before the head cracks on your '88 Hyundai hatchback on I-85 in North Carolina. When you hear the sound, it's too late. So we saw the first half of the Falcons game today, and they were winning when we left. (And they held on for the W too as I suspected they would.)

When we got home, Keegan went down for another nap, but I don't think he actually slept at all. Of course he didn't.

I watched a good chunk of the Colts-Patriots game -- well it was on in the background while I played with Keegan. Good game. I thought the Colts had the win. Surprised that Peyton didn't put together the final drive (reminded me of his days at UT when he never beat UF). Speaking of the NFL, how in the world are the Packers 7-1?

Tonight was fairly laid back. Jen made a nice batch of sausage and rice for dinner. No sausage for Keegan though. He got a hot dog with his rice. No need to fuel a diaper failure. Simple meal but hearty.

Now we're trying to squeeze out another couple of hours off relaxation before another week starts. I find it very hard to enjoy the rest of Sunday because I get too concerned with the forthcoming Monday to Friday. Jen calls it being in "work mode." That is not a term of endearment either. And it has nothing to do with "Business Time."

Well, I'm going to call it a night. I'm quite sleepy. What with not getting my extra hour of sleep and all.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Friday Night Lights

Last night, Jen went to hang out with a friend of hers. So Keegan and I ate dinner together. “Dinner” may be a misnomer really. When I got home from work, K-Man was working on a lollipop. What a cool mom!! How many moms let their kids enjoy a sucker as an appetizer? Uh, one? Jen was cutting up some sweet potato slices that she planned to bake for Keegan’s dinner. (Yea, I thought the same thing.) Jen took off leaving me with the task of trying to convince Kee that baked sweet potato slices are yummy. Doubting that myself, I started by spreading some butter on a few of the slices. Then I cut them up into K-Man-sized pieces. The first bite went down fine. The first of most things go down OK. Not the second one. But it did go down even if Keegan contorted his face like he had sucked on a sweaty tube sock. The third one was a no go.

Plan B. Hot dog. Washed down with a glass of milk. Whole milk too. Not that milk-flavored skim stuff. So in the end, Kee had a square meal: meat, milk, veggies and sugar. We skipped the candy corn.

When Keegan went to bed, I watched a show that I have really enjoyed over the last year. Friday Night Lights. I think what interests me the most about the show is the coach . . . and the coaching. The coach character on the show really cares about the kids he’s coaching (incidentally, the coach is played by the same explosives guy who got blown up on Grey’s Anatomy a couple of seasons ago). He wants to win. And he faces the challenges of running a football program in Texas where the expectations are high and the temptations to cut corners are great. He’s not perfect, but he tries to do the right things. The one thing that I have learned from the show is that I’m glad that I don’t have a daughter. The coach on the show has a 16-year-old daughter who is pushing her parents’ limits at every turn. No thanks. I don’t want any part of that. I’ll stick with raising a boy.

But as I said, I also like the coaching. Trying to figure out how to reach different players to get them to perform. If I could, I would love a job coaching. When I watch a show like this or a movie like Hoosiers, I get lost in the idea of coaching. A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to scout a high school player for the women’s soccer team at Asbury. One of the parents noticed what I was doing, called me “coach” and asked me if I wanted to see a roster of the club’s players. Jen asked me if I liked being referred to as “coach.” She knew the answer without asking. I look forward to getting the chance to coach Keegan’s teams – whatever sports he chooses to play.

Well, it’s time to turn on the Arsenal v. Manchester United match. For those of you who are not familiar, this match in England is bigger than Sunday’s NFL game between the Colts and the Patriots. Here’s to a ManU 2-0 win.

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Alpha

Ironically, I am entitling my second NaBloPoMo entry "Alpha." It's ironical because alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. That is one of the few things I remember from the three quarters of Greek that I took during my sophomore year of college. Yea I know, who takes Greek? After that one year, not me. But my future wife was in that class too -- although that's not why I took it. Frankly, I don't recall why I signed up for that class. Fritchman was in that class too. But none of us were in there after that first year. I moved on to French, and Jen took Spanish. Not sure what Mark did about the foreign language requirement.

But I digress.

A few years ago, our church started offering a program called the Alpha course. The course was written by Nicky Gumbel who is the Vicar at Holy Trinity Brompton in London. Gumbel is a former barrister, so I identified with him right off the bat. Depending on how you run the course, Alpha is a 10-week course that includes a 30-45-minute message each week presented by Gumbel. The course offers people a chance to explore the Christian faith regardless of their religious background or relative inexperience with or hostility towards the Christian church. The course progresses through a series of topics designed to explore the meaning of life and learn more about the Christian faith. We offer dinner, dessert and childcare for the participants. The evening usually progresses as follows: welcome, dinner, music, video, dessert and discussion.

The first time that our church offered the course, I signed up as a small group leader. The SGL is tasked with facilitating discussion about the week's video. And by "facilitating discussion" I don't mean correcting what I might think are people's misconceptions about God or Christianity. I encouraged people to be completely honest about where they were. If they thought Christianity was irrelevant in today's world, I wanted them to shout it from the rooftops. If they were mad at God, admit it. God can handle that. If they'd been hurt by a church leader in the past, I apologized for that but encouraged them to take a fresh look at things now that they were in a different place in their lives. The great thing is that when you give people the freedom to unpack their thoughts and feelings about the church or Christianity in a place where they are safe from judgment, they'll dig in and really explore. I always considered it a privilege to get a front row seat to watch people walk this journey for the 10 or so weeks I met with them. Some made serious changes in their lives in that short span of time. Others simply started on the journey again. But both were affected. And I enjoyed being a part of it all. If you get the chance to be a part of an Alpha course, I would strongly encourage you to participate or lead a table.

But one request: if you have been an active member of a church for a long time and maybe even took part in an evangelism training course like Evangelism Explosion or something similar, please leave whatever you learned there at home when participating in the Alpha course. Alpha is not designed or intended to be a place where believers can have a captive audience of unbelievers or new believers and commence firing the proverbial fish in the barrel. I cannot tell you how many times tables at Alpha have been short-circuited because one or two participants think this is the opportunity to share the Four Spiritual Laws with all the non-believers at the table or to quote Scripture or talk about the God-shaped hole they had before they met the Lord. All of that breaks down the atmosphere of trust that the SGLs are trying to develop around the tables. When a participant shares his or her doubts about God, Jesus or the Bible and is immediately met with a barrage of memorized verses or a diatribe about the inerrancy of the Bible, you've lost that participant. At best, you've set the table back because the table moves forward only as fast as the slowest member. As I see it, the Alpha course is about fostering an opportunity for seeking. Most importantly for individuals to explore for themselves and come to their own conclusions. If you don't think you can submit to those general rules, please don't participate. (Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion! I am not a spokesperson for my or any other church or the Alpha course itself. If you have a beef with the preceding paragraph, you have a beef with me; not my church or the Alpha course. I'm just saying.)

Funny story about the current Alpha course that our church is offering. (Not funny "ha ha." More like "funny how you averted that potential disaster.") About six or seven weeks into the course, we offer a weekend get-together. In the past, we've reserved cabins at a nearby park and had an Alpha Weekend Away where we offer a few of the Alpha messages in a day and a half and play and fellowship and eat. This year, we decided to hold the Alpha Weekend at the church. It gave us a chance to offer childcare which we couldn't offer at the cabins. On Saturday, we decided as part of the weekend that we would have a huge tailgate in the church parking lot. Each table had a theme for the weekend, and their tailgates were extensions of that. People set up all sorts of tailgates. The best tailgate -- as voted on by an esteemed panel of the Alpha leadership -- was a table that brought out a couch, a dinette set and a big screen TV among other things. At lunchtime, the parking lot was awash in the aromas of grilling burgers, dogs and brats.

Towards the end of the morning video on Saturday, I see a guy in the parking lot. He's with our group. He appeared to be setting up some of his table's tailgate stuff. I couldn't see exactly what he was doing because he was obstructed by a truck in between me and him. About 15-20 minutes later, after the video is done and the tables have split off around the church building to pray in groups, I was talking to Caroline and looking out the window, noticed a flame peeking up over that truck bed that had been obstructing my earlier view. I may have blinked twice. In that span, the flame shot up about 15 feet -- as tall as the tree that was next to the truck. And then billowing thick black smoke shot up as well. I ran outside to see what exactly was on fire. Turns out the guy had decided to start up his deep fryer and then left it unattended and went back inside. When I turned the corner of the truck, the fryer was fully engulfed. Did I mention it was attached to a propane tank? And there was a back-up tank sitting about 3 feet away. The black smoke? That was the rear tire in flame. The back end of the truck above the tire was aflame as well. The fire was on the side of the truck where the owner inserts the hose at the gas station, so my immediate concerns were not only exploding propane tanks but an exploding full-size pick-up. So I ran inside to call 911 and three guys grabbed some extinguishers. The three volunteer firefighters successfully put out the flames. I didn't think they had a chance frankly. Just as they put out the flames, the rear tire blew. From where I was standing, I thought it was the propane tank. I relayed that info to the 911 operator. The concussion knocked back one of the guys with the extinguishers; he also had some trouble hearing out of the ear on that side of his head. When the tire blew, it knocked over the deep fryer and the pot of grease. Thankfully, the fire was out, so it wasn't a flaming pot of grease like some medieval weapon. About 10 minutes after I called 911, and well after the fire was out, the fire department showed up to survey the damage.

At the final session later in the afternoon, one of our pastors, JM's Dad, introduced the last video. Welcoming everyone back, he said that he'd talked to the prayer team and asked them when they pray for the Lord to bring His fire that they be more specific next time. Bellowing laughter ensued. I couldn't see the truck owner to gauge his reaction.