Monday, November 30, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 30 -- Christmas Tree Lighting

Tonight, we went to the city's tree lighting in front of the community center and library. This is the second year of our attendance, but this was the first year that K-Man was really looking forward to it -- especially seeing Santa. Before you have a kid, you have these visions in your head of what certain events will look like when you experience them with your child. Up to now, most of our visions have been light years apart from actual events. Rarely, if ever, is Kee as excited about whatever it is as we are hoping he'll be. In fact, he's sort of conditioned us not to expect much of a reaction from him -- certainly not a sustained level of excitement. (Of course, none of this applies to anything involving trains. If it involves a train, he's as excited every time as a dog is to see its owner upon re-entering a room only seconds after leaving.)

Tonight, K-Man was anticipating the arrival of St. Nick. We had explained that he'd be coming to light the city's Christmas tree. Having been to this the year before, we knew where to stand to get a good vantage point for his arrival and the tree-lighting. Santa did not disappoint. Nor did Keegan. His eyes lit up when he caught the first glimpse of the jolly one. He yelled out "Hi, Santa!" He followed him through the crowd and as he climbed the garland-wrapped ladder preparing for the lighting. Kee counted down from 10 and oohed and ahhed when Santa signaled the lights on. He waved to Santa as he left the festivities shouting "Good-bye, Santa!" as he walked out of sight. Then he re-lived it again all the way back to the car as we walked hand in hand. It was a great opening to the holiday season.

Before Santa arrived, Kee took his picture with Frosty.

He surveyed the un-lit tree before Santa's arrival.

He leapt into Mommy's arms when she met us there.
(And was telling her all about what was coming.)

And he waved bye to Santa as he went back to the North Pole
to finish up that last batch of toys before the big day.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 29 -- Serenity Now!

So I was looking at the NY Times online yesterday and noticed an article about a skeptic who has reversed his position about the originator of the Serenity Prayer. The Serenity Prayer is a mainstay in Alcoholics Anonymous. The prayer opens:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Apparently, the man who edits the Yale Book of Quotations did not believe that Reinhold Niebuhr was the originator of the prayer as has been widely held for decades. Niebuhr was an American protestant theologian/philosopher. If you have not read any Niebuhr, I highly recommend it, but leave your dictionary by your side, because you will need to refer to it regularly. Niebuhr is not easy reading, but if you spend some time with it, there is much to gain from his thoughts.

So apparently, this editor has been persuaded by a recent discovery by a researcher at Duke University. The Dukie found an old student newsletter dated to the 1930s that credits Niebuhr with authorship of the prayer. The version of the prayer in the newsletter reads:

Father, give us courage to change what must be altered,
serenity to accept what cannot be helped,
and the insight to know the one from the other.

I can't help but wonder why the Yale editor was so averse to attributing the prayer to Niebuhr when there already was ample evidence to credit Niebuhr. I kind of prefer the older version over the more common one. I like the notion that we should take courage to try to change things before we accept what cannot be helped.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 28 -- Rivalry Weekend

The weekends on either side of Thanksgiving are riddled with football games between in-state rivals. Thursday through Saturday this week especially saw matches that often pit family members against each other. Combining family dysfunction, holidays and football is a dangerous mix.

There were a few upsets this weekend too. South Carolina got the best of Clemson in Columbia. NC State pulled the upset over North Carolina. As I am writing, Georgia is leading #7 ranked Georgia Tech, but Tech is driving for the winning score. Tech failed to get the winning score. Poor play-calling on Tech's part on that final possession. All of a sudden, Tech tried to win the game through the air before it had to. There was time on the clock for Tech to try to win with their option attack and shorter, surer passing routes.

In Gainesville, Tim Tebow left The Swamp with his fourth win in a row over arch-rival Florida State (Florida's sixth win in a row over FSU). Tebow threw for 3 touchdowns and ran for 2 others. His play keeps him in the Heisman discussion, but he has to have a 400+ total yards performance next weekend in the SEC Championship game to have any hope of winning the award for a second time.

Colt McCoy kept Texas' championship hopes alive defeating Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night. But he also edged ahead in the Heisman race with an incredible offensive performance against another swiss-cheese Big 12 defense. Texas faces Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game in Dallas next weekend. That Nebraska defense could be the antidote to the Texas offense and ruin the lives of many Longhorn fans. But if McCoy can perform well against that defense, he likely would cap off the Heisman race and book a slot in the BCS championship game.

It's been another great regular season of college football. Hard to believe that it's almost over. I'm not quite ready to watch college basketball yet. But don't worry; I will be.

Friday, November 27, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 27 -- Life Lesson

Our new approach to disciplining K-Man and teaching him about the realities of life.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 26 -- Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving Day is all but done. We had a good one, but a long one as usual. Made it to the gym this morning to work off 500+ calories to credit my gastronomic account for later. Made my oatmeal chocolate chips cookies as is our custom. They turned out well. (For those who care, I start with the Nestle Toll House recipe and add additional sugar, brown sugar and flour to make it a drier mix, plus the oatmeal to add a notion of healthiness.)

My youngest sister (Nicole) and her husband (Jonathan) came over to the house for dinner. Jonathan cooked the turkey at our house. Turned out very good. We made a ham because I'm not that fond of turkey. The ham was nice and will make some great sandwiches for the next several days -- maybe even a western omelet if I'm feeling particularly adventurous one morning. Nicole made her favorite side dish: green bean casserole. Jonathan also made his mom's dressing which was a solid compliment to the proteins on the table (That's how they refer to the meat selections on Top Chef. Nothing is "fish" or "pork" or "beef." They're all "proteins."). K-Man was his finicky self. He had a bite of ham, a bite of green bean casserole, a bite of dressing. He did eat a heaping portion of baked sweet potato though. With how much energy that kid uses throughout the day, it is a wonder he doesn't collapse from lack of fuel given his bird-like eating habits. Of course, he was all over the chocolate chips cookies. And they do have oatmeal in them, so he's fine.

I guess I can't write a "Thanksgiving" post without the obligatory "I'm thankfuls." So here goes.

This has been quite a year for us. There is much to be thankful for. I am thankful for:

-- My family. For Jen who has encouraged me throughout the year as we work to get the law practice off the ground. For Kee who has regularly reminded me why I want to be at home more to see him grow and develop and live his life. Our parents who have supported our decision to make more time for our family.

-- My friends. Who have listened to me for hours as I wade through the rough waters of starting a business. Who have challenged me to be a better husband, father, friend, and person, including the friends I've made in Scotland over the last two summers.

-- My Lord. This year has been one of constant reliance on my Lord. I've been given a lot of talents, but that doesn't always translate into huge success. But we've always had what we need. Not always at the time we would've preferred it, but when we had to have it. I'm thankful for the relationship that I have with Jesus because it adds a covering of peace when the winds of anxiety are blowing all around.

-- Freedom. The sacrifices made by military veterans and those in uniform today serving all over the world to defend our democracy. We can have blogs like this and write about just about anything because of the freedom those men and women fight to maintain.

-- Many otherwise mundane things. Tivo -- the ability to freeze television is nothing short of miraculous. My laptop -- the freedom to do work on my computer at a coffee shop, the lake, the library, or Scotland makes life a lot easier. 24-hour fitness centers -- the freedom to work-out at any hour -- even when I can't sleep in the middle of the night. Costco -- because it wouldn't be right not to be appreciative of a place that sells stamps, tires, baby wipes, half-gallons of salsa, and cheese cakes the size of a stop sign all under the same roof!

There are a multitude of other things -- serious and humorous -- for which I am thankful. And they all remind me that I am incapable of living this life on my own. Never stop reminding me of that.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 25 -- Thanksgiving Prep

So tonight, I was at home prepping for Thanksgiving. What does that mean? Well, Jen was out wrapping up some piano lessons and then having coffee with a friend. So, I had K-Man Duty.

Now, when you're married and you have kids of your own, you no longer engage in "babysitting" when it involves your own kid. That's just parenting or "watching your kid." But I digress.

I fed Keegan and bathed him. Read a nice story about Jesus calming the storm and said our prayers. Then, I collected the laundry and started separating. Now, I know how to do laundry -- contrary to Jen's opinion. I started with what we call "work-out clothes" because they're all polyester, washed on cold, and Jen thinks they're the hardest for me to mess up. Got that load washed, dried and folded. Then I started the whites. Threw in a good dose of bleach too. Got that load washed and in the dryer. Then I washed the jeans and gray sweat shirts and t-shirts. She can't possibly complain about my efforts to minimize any potential damage I could cause.

When Jen got home, she immediately took note of the laundry in progress. She was skeptical. I encouraged her to be thankful ... because it's Thanksgiving. Sheesh. She asked why I insist on doing laundry. I repeated, just be thankful. I described the loads that had been done already. She rifled through the remaining piles on the floor without audibly disapproving of their respective contents. Then, she noticed a couple of sweaters of hers set aside in their own pile. I'm not stupid. When garments feel that soft and are not made of man-made fibers, I know better than to lump them in with my sweatshirts and boxers -- even if they all are "dark." (Which really means I remember a prior discussion -- or four -- about how certain items of hers can't be washed with my boxers even if they are the same color!)

Every Thanksgiving, I cook chocolate chip cookies as well. I've set out the ingredients on the counter but haven't decided whether I will mix everything up and leave the baking until morning or just do everything in the a.m. I think I'll just wait until morning and keep sipping on my cocktail while Jen looks at train sets on the web for possible gifts for Kee.

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 24 -- Almost-4-year-olds

The last few weeks have been challenging with K-Man. Whoever labeled the "Terrible Twos" was a liar. The "Threes" -- especially the last three months of the Threes -- are the terrible times. Now, not every waking minute is terrible, so put the phone down before you call the authorities.

The kid is a whirlwind of will. Every instruction. Every request. Every comment. Every demand. All are met with a retort. Nothing Aristotelian. Actually, it often is the same retort: "Why?"

And we are not above relying on the staple of parenting: "Because I said so."

The kid's not even a pre-teen, and we seem to be constantly fighting a battle of wills. The most difficult part of this is how cute Kee is. He shoots a look in between melt downs or he flashes his dimples or his million dollar smile. Hard to hold your disciplinary ground when the subject of your instruction makes you giggle. Who among you wouldn't crack up when your kid asks you to come look at his poop?

These challenging moments serve as a reminder to me that this parenting thing is a full-time gig, and it will continue to evolve -- uncovering new battles and new opportunities for instruction. The key, even now, is being consistent. I am somewhat hopeful that as Kee ages, his ability to reason will make certain aspects of this easier while at the same time giving him more ammunition with which to fight. It this were a Texas hold 'em poker match, I would say that I am "all in." When we get to the flop, the turn and the river, I'll still be at the table.

Monday, November 23, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 23 -- Final Home Game

This is the end of an era. Saturday, the Florida Gators host their in-state rival, the Florida State Seminoles. In any given season, this game is huge for both schools. Like Auburn-Alabama or Georgia-Georgia Tech or Oregon-Oregon State or USC-UCLA. It's rivalry weekend all across the nation.

But in Gainesville, this week is the last home game for Tim Tebow. The Heisman-winning quarterback that many Gator fans like to call Superman will run out of the tunnel at The Swamp one last time. All season, Tebow has run out last in an effort to soak in his final season in a Florida uniform. It is senior day this weekend, but the crowd will be there to watch the guy who will go down as the greatest Gator of all time and perhaps, the greatest football player in college football history -- at least the greatest to this point.

The reality that this is the last home game for Tebow hit his coach today at Urban Meyer's Monday press conference. Below are the highlights of the press conference, but at about the 2:10 mark, he comments about the impact that Tebow has had -- not only on the football team, but also on him as a person. Coaches build strong ties with their players in all sports, but rarely does a player have an impact on a coach off the field. In Tebow's case, his consistent, unselfish, God-centered lifestyle impacted Meyer so much that he took his family on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Those things don't happen every day.

We can debate Tebow's abilities as a quarterback and whether he can succeed at the next level, but you can't debate the young man's ability to inspire his teammates, coaches, fans, friends, and even complete strangers.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 22 -- Dinner with Friends

Jen and I have been attending a small group at church for the last couple of months. The focus of the group was parenting. All of the couples in the group have from 1 to 4 kids. A pair of seasoned couples led the group. They weren't experts per se -- and more importantly didn't profess to be experts either. They simply had a few more years than the rest of us do raising their kids -- a number of whom are married already.

It's been a great opportunity to get to know the other couples in the group better as well as gain a few new ideas on how to deal with K-Man's more challenging moments. Tonight, one of the leader couples hosted us for dinner. They lived in France for a number of years, and the evening was a typical French meal. The meal itself was great: heavy hors d'oeuves, boeuf bourguingon, salad, fromages (cheeses), and sorbet. But the best part of the evening were the many conversations around the table. Stories of how the couples met, first dates, deciding on baby names. It may seem mundane, but the shared time was food for the soul. In today's fast-paced world, we often eat as quickly as we can to get to the next thing on the schedule. It's refreshing to sit for a few hours an enjoy a meal and the company of friends.

I'm glad to have shared these last few weeks with this group and look forward to more shared time and shared meals.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 21 -- NAIA playoffs report

So I drove the nearly 4 hours to Pulaski, Tennessee today for the NAIA playoff match between Asbury College and the home team, Martin Methodist College. The drive was a pleasant one, although it would've been spectacular three weeks ago before the leaves fell from the trees.

I arrived about 10 minutes before kick-off -- having learned late that the NAIA had moved the start time up 2 hours. The weather was comfortable: partly sunny with some wispy clouds ribboning the pale blue sky.

The game started quickly for Asbury, with freshman Rebecca Batey putting the visitors on top in the 4th minute on a breakaway. Batey calmly slotting the ball past the MMC keeper. My first thought was that the Eagles scored a little too quickly. But it did seem to settle the women down and confirm that they could play with the 2-time NAIA champs (2005 and 2007).

After the quick start, I took a minute to look at my program, and by "program" I mean the 2 pieces of paper that had the team rosters and team season statistics listed. The thing that jumped out to me right away was that MMC's roster of 23 players included 12 women who were not from the United States. Then, I looked on the field and started matching shirt numbers with names and countries on the roster sheet. All 11 MMC starters were foreign-born. Asbury has one non-U.S. player on the roster, and she's from Canada (a well-known soccer hotbed).

After absorbing the initial blow from Asbury, MMC started to maintain possession of the ball and dictate play a bit. The quality of the MMC players also emerged. MMC equalized in the 16th minute on a corner kick. Poor marking resulted in a powerful header that skimmed off the keeper's hand and cross bar back to another unmarked MMC player to tidy up.

A mere 4 minutes later, MMC went ahead 2-1 in transition showcasing speed and skill. Within another 10 minutes, the home team went up 3-1 on a corner kick doomed by more poor marking. It was clear at half-time that MMC was the more physical squad and were wearing down the Eagles.

The second half was a better half for Asbury, but they did concede a final goal on a free kick in the 70th minute. The kick, from about 25-yards out just to the right of center was taken well. The shot rose and fell into the far left corner. The strike reminded me of many shots I've seem Cristiano Ronaldo take for Manchester United and Real Madrid. Cristiano would've been proud of this one for a couple of reasons: (1) the technique was spot on; and (2) the MMC player was a fellow Portuguese countrymen.

For the rest of the match, the Eagles did a good job playing an offsides trap to foil a number of goal chances for MMC. They sprinkled in a couple of breakaway attempts of their own, but the Martin Methodist squad was never in danger. The final whistle saw the result 4-1 in MMC's favor.

The match is a great stepping stone for the Asbury women's program. This was an eye-opener in many ways. The women now know what it will take to compete at this level. I trust it will push them in the off-season and push them throughout next season as well. They know they need to increase their fitness, their technique, their intensity, and their physicality. I'm excited to see how they respond next year.

But I'm left wondering about the climate in NAIA soccer. The make-up of the MMC team -- especially the starting XI -- is typical of the better teams in the NAIA. Unlike the NCAA, there is no clearinghouse to evaluate the eligibility of the foreign players. If you look at the best men's and women's teams in the NAIA, you will see as many or more non-U.S. players on those squads. This situation has been building since I last played in college. In 1991, Lindsey Wilson was just starting to build its program, but they were doing it with foreign players. At the time, I enjoyed the challenge those players brought, but to say that it has gotten out of hand is an understatement.

Without a clearinghouse, the NAIA teams who want to can field teams of foreign players who may have played in semi-pro situations overseas -- something that the NCAA would never allow. In fact, the NCAA has been known to disallow players who were not paid but who played on club teams with other players who were. I am encouraged to hear that the NAIA will be introducing a clearinghouse that, hopefully, will level the playing field a bit more.

Friday, November 20, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 20 -- NAIA women's soccer tournament

On Saturday, the women's soccer team from Asbury College plays in its first NAIA playoff match. This day has been a long time coming. Asbury has won the regular season and conference tournament for four years running in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC). However, this is the first year that the KIAC has had enough teams for the winner of the tournament to receive an automatic bid to the NAIAs.

Asbury's coach, Paul Nesselroade, was awarded the conference coach of the year following the team's 14-6
season, including 10 straight wins to this point. Coach Nesselroade takes his squad to Pulaski, Tennessee to face the #7 seed team from Martin Methodist College on Saturday. Nesselroade has been building the program for seven seasons to get to this point. The Eagles senior class has won over 50 games during their time on campus and have worked hard to get to this point. I fully expect their commitment to serve as the foundation of success for years to come.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 19 -- Irish Eyes Are Crying

The World Cup is in South Africa next summer (well, it'll be summer in the northern hemisphere anyway). On Wednesday, the last major group of teams qualified for the tournament. One match that has received a considerable amount of attention is the match between France and Ireland. It was actually the second match between the nations. They played two games, and the first one was in Ireland. The French won that match on Saturday 1-0. In Wednesday's match in Paris, the Irish captain, Robbie Keane, put his squad up 1-0. In the world of international football (i.e., soccer), that meant that the teams were tied 1-1 on aggregate with both teams having an away goal. At the end of the full 90 minutes, the teams went to overtime.

Overtime in these matches is two 15-minute halves, and they are not sudden death. Just before the end of the first half of overtime, France scored a goal to tie the match 1-1 (and go up 2-1 on aggregate). But as you can see in the clip below, Thierry Henry, the France captain yesterday, handled the ball -- twice -- before he passed it to William Gallas to head in from about 2 feet away. Anyone who's ever played soccer knows that only the goalkeeper can touch the ball with his hands.

Everyone on the Irish team saw the handball. The Irish coach saw the handball. Henry admitted after the match that he handled the ball. But somehow, the referee and the linesman missed the whole thing. From the replay, it does look like the ref was shielded by the Irish defender covering Henry, but the linesman looks to have a clear view of Henry from the other side of the field. I'm not an advocate of the conspiracy theories running around, but it is very odd.

There are many in Ireland and around the world calling for a replay of the match to make it fair, but even if you take away Gallas's goal, the score was 1-1, and there was another half of overtime to go. France could've scored in the second half. A tied result at the end of overtime would've led to penalty kicks to decide the winner. I'll take France at home in any such shoot-out. It's an unfortunate end to the match, but it's not the first time a handball has played a huge part of an important international match -- Diego Maradona's "Hand of God" goal comes to mind from the 1986 World Cup. Perhaps the Irish fans shouldn't have enjoyed that Argentina victory over England so much. (Soccer karma perhaps?)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 17 -- Building Windows of Opportunity

I went to an event tonight hosted by my alma mater, Asbury College. The college has begun construction of a new building for the Communication Arts program. The college president spoke about the program's history, where it is headed, and how this new facility will equip students for making a difference in television, radio, journalism, and public relations.

Asbury's communication arts program dates back about 25 years. Over that time span, the college has developed a strong reputation for preparing students to work in broadcasting. The college has trained students for nine Olympics. They help producers and directors. They film Olympic competitions. As a result, networks seek out Asbury students when filling openings.

The original building for the program was designed to house about 75 students in the program. There are over 300 in all of the Communication Arts programs today. The new building will not only accommodate those students but also better prepare them for the fields they enter because they will be working with state-of-the-art equipment.

The college is calling the capital campaign for the new facility, Building Windows of Opportunity. You can learn more about the new building at the Building Windows site. There are several videos that discuss the building, the program, and what Asbury students are doing in their respective fields.

If you know a high school student who is interested in broadcasting, television, radio, journalism, or public relations encourage him or her to take a look at Asbury.

Monday, November 16, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 16 -- Specialization

There was a time when the practice of law was like a trip to the general store. I'm not saying that practicing law was once like stocking shelves with cans of peas, an assortment of jerky and shot gun shells. But there was a time when the local attorney helped people with every variety of legal need. Like medicine, that is really no longer the case. Today, the practice of law is specialized. "The law" is impacted by the laws passed by Congress and state legislatures, as well as federal and state courts. The constant "updating" of the law makes it difficult for people to be "generalists." Our litigious society doesn't help either.

Which brings me to a call that I received today. I practice labor and employment law. Primarily, I help businesses with their employee issues, although I also help employees. But the bulk of what I do involves labor and employment law. Today, however, I received a call from someone who got my name from someone I met at a networking meeting. The call involved a pseudo-common-law marriage situation via a religious union with which I wasn't familiar. Additionally, there was a car involved. The car was purchased in the woman's name, but the de facto husband was using the car and occasionally making payments on it despite a verbal agreement that he would make every payment. All of this information was followed with the ubiquitous question: "do you handle things like this?"

No I don't. I know people who practice family law. Not aware if they handle situations involving certain religious rites or practices. But I'm glad to refer people to those who have more experience.

I love to help people who need assistance. But lawyers can't help everyone in need of legal assistance. The nature of the practice doesn't allow that anymore.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 15 -- Words

We heard a good message this morning at church about the power of words. David said that the average person speaks 16,000 words each day. (Jen would argue that I might do that in a week.) Regardless, we speak a lot of words over a lifetime, and they have an impact on those who hear them. Speaking words of encouragement is not something that comes naturally to me. Having a child though magnifies the importance of developing that skill. You would think that having a wife might, but what can I say? I'm not perfect. Not by a long shot! I'm not proud of that; just being honest.

But having K-Man around really does make messages like this morning's hit me in the face. And it's not just about saying words that build him up. It's as much about avoiding words that retard his enthusiasm. I need patience to deal with his off-the-charts energy. I'm not wired that way. I'm also not 3 years old. I need to adjust my reactions to things because it's not fair to him to expect him to have that much self-control. When I examine this, I generally come back to my selfishness. I get caught up in what I want to do or not do. It doesn't apply just to Kee's demands on my time either.

David made another good point this morning about the words we say. It's not just about words we say to others. We also need to stop saying a lot of the negative things we say to ourselves about ourselves. Is there a more powerful influence on our psyche than the words we let fly in our own heads? I think not.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 14 -- Saturday Sports

Another Saturday, another stilted performance from the Gators. This has been such a hard season to watch the Gators which is somewhat difficult to believe because they are 10-0 after winning today on the road at South Carolina. The game started well with a long pass play from Tim Tebow to Riley Cooper, but as has happened in most games this season, things bogged down after the first quarter. In the end, they remain undefeated. They finished the SEC schedule undefeated and await Alabama on December 5th for the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome. I try not to complain when the Gators have won 20 games in a row, but these close games are giving me (more) gray hair than I want.

Ole Miss took Tennessee to the wood shed today. I saw many a pundit calling for UT to win this one on the road. Given all the distractions in Knoxville this week, I had a hard time seeing it. Dexter McCluster ran all over Monte Kiffin's defense. Good win for Ole Miss. I'd like to see Snead stick around for another season at Ole Miss to see if he can lead that team farther next season. I suspect Sam Bradford's experience at Oklahoma this year will weigh heavily at the end of the year when he contemplates his decision.

My Saturdays in the fall usually start with English Premier League matches. Most Saturdays, there is a "lunch time" match that starts at 7:45 a.m. eastern, followed by a handful of matches at 10:00 a.m. But this weekend, there is a break in the Premier League schedule to accommodate the last small group of matches for World Cup qualifying. There were also a number of international "friendlies" for the nations whose World Cup fates were already decided. So there were some matches on this morning, but I wasn't interested in watching a friendly that didn't matter.

I was glad to see the University of Kentucky become bowl-eligible today with a win on the road at Vanderbilt. That makes four consecutive seasons that UK will head to a bowl. They've won the last 3 bowl games. Here's to a fourth consecutive result in their favor.

Hats off to Georgia Tech. With their win at Duke University today, the Yellow Jackets are 10-1 and will play in the ACC Champhionship Game on December 5th. Paul Johnson has a talented group that has bought into his option system, and they wear down teams over four quarters. Lately, they are also getting some big pass plays from Josh Nesbitt at quarterback when on the few occasions they let him throw the ball.

Stanford scored 55 points against Southern Cal today -- the most points EVER given up by USC. EVER. Jim Harbaugh has done a great job at Stanford in his short tenure there. This year, he has 2 huge wins against Oregon and USC. I suspect some major programs are going to be knocking on his door very soon. Notre Dame anyone? I wonder if the Michigan man will get a call from some wealthy boosters about coming back to Ann Arbor to restore the Big Blue tradition given Rich Rodriguez's struggles with installing his spread system.

I'm not a huge NBA fan, but I can't ignore how well the Atlanta Hawks have started the season. They are winning again tonight and will move to 8-2 for the first eighth of the season. Last night, they earned a huge road win in Boston against the Celtics. I applaud the Hawks ownership for sticking with the coaching staff over several years as the team was rebuilt through the draft and the occasional free agent pick-up. The addition this season of Jamal Crawford and Joe Smith seem to be the final pieces that could propel the team into the conference finals if everyone stays healthy and continues to build on the quick start.

How did your favorite teams do this weekend?

Happy Birthday to my sister Anita today. She's enjoying a birthday weekend in Athens.

Friday, November 13, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 13 -- I miss liner notes

I really enjoy listening to music. Always have. I still have some of the records I had as a kid. The Eagles (The Long Run). The Village People (Cruisin') -- the one with "YMCA" on it. KISS (Destroyer and Double Platinum). And I may have been the only 8-year-old with the triple live album by Paul McCartney and Wings (Wings Over America).

Then CDs came along when I was in high school. I adjusted to the new format.

But the great thing about records and CDs (and even cassettes) was that they came with liner notes that almost always included the words to the songs. One of the things I used to enjoy about buying a new CD was getting home, popping the CD in and reading the words as I was listening to the songs. It really helped cement the songs in my head.

But today, so much of the music I buy is downloaded. And liner-note-free. Some downloadable CDs come with a pdf of the insert, but I've never gotten iTunes to open even one of them.

At my age, I really need the words to the songs if I'm ever going to learn the songs. I could go buy the CDs the "old fashioned way" but it's so convenient to just click and have my music right there.

Anyone else identify with this at all?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 12 -- Unknown package

So I got an email tonight confirming shipment of a package.

Normally, I like getting those emails. I'm totally on board the online shopping train! Anything that allows me to find products I need without having to encounter the bastions of customer service that populate today's retail centers must be sanctified, right? Or is it sanctimonious?! (Look it up for me, will you?)

I've ordered many a thing online. I've ordered:


University of Florida championship t-shirts. (Actually, I've done that four times since 2006 for you Georgia fans reading.)

Wine. (Had that delivered to California as a "thank you" to some friends.)

Toner cartridges. (Ink jet and laser)

Pants (Jeans and khakis)

Shoes (running shoes, cleats, and slippers)

Books (of the legal variety as well as ones I wanted to read!)


The problem is I don't know what this package is.

I don't recall ordering anything recently.

Doesn't seem likely that someone would steal my information and order something for themselves but then mail it to my house. Right?

I don't take Ambien, so I don't think I woke up in the middle of the night, got on the computer, ordered something and went back to bed.

Nonetheless, something is coming in the mail. Or so the internet told me.

I'll let you know when it arrives.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 11 -- Veteran's Day Tribute

Yesterday was the 234th Anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps. Fittingly, today is Veteran's Day. I cannot put into words my appreciation for the sacrifices made by all the soldiers who have served and are serving to defend the freedoms that we enjoy.

As I have indicated on this blog before, I love the Band of Brothers mini-series that HBO produced a number of years ago. Not only does it do a great job of telling the story of Easy Company and its journey through D-Day and the end of World War II, but it spends time talking with surviving members of Easy Company. The clip below is the last 7 minutes of the mini-series and talks about what happened to some of the soldiers in Easy Company, including some final comments from the men themselves. They say it best about what it was like to serve. All I can say is "Thank You."

The people that produced Band of Brothers (Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, etc.) will be bringing another mini-series to HBO in March 2010 called The Pacific. I look forward to learning more about that part of the war that often gets lost in the shuffle -- if that's possible -- when compared to the drama of the D-Day invasion. Here is a preview of that forthcoming production. NOTE: some violence in this.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 9 -- 20 years ago

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the Berlin Wall. I remember that I was sitting in the cafeteria at Asbury College during my sophomore year when the news broke that the wall was coming down. I've always felt a connection to Germany. My connection initially was to West Germany because I was born there while my Dad was in the army. I remember doing a report on West Germany in 4th grade because of this connection I had. We had a lot of reminders of Germany in the house when I was growing up, including a cuckoo clock with the metal pine-cone weights that helped the clock keep time. One of the first things my mother did when she woke up in the morning was to pull the chains on the clock to reset the weights at the top. That sound announced the start of the day.

As a child of the 70s and 80s, I remember the Cold War. I remember the division between Eastern Europe and Western Europe. That division was epitomized by the wall that divided a city. I remember not understanding why anyone would live in West Berlin when it was "surrounded" by East Germany, starting with East Berlin on the other side of the wall. But if that was where you were from, why leave? It's just as much your city as it is those who live on the east side. And thankfully, those residents never left, because I am sure their presence in West Berlin served as a beacon of sorts to the many easterners who longed for a better existence than the Soviet structure provided.

I saw a story tonight that included an interview with a man who looked to be about 35 or so. He grew up in West Berlin and now lives in what once was East Berlin. He commented that he and his friends growing up thought the fall of the Berlin Wall was an inevitability. That was not my feeling growing up. And I think there were a lot of people older than me who didn't look at it that way.

For about half my life, there was a Berlin Wall, and the other half has seen the reunification of Germany and the fall of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe which fell in relatively rapid succession. It truly was an historic time. And an inspiring time because it was a tangible demonstration of the power of ideas. Freedom and democracy won out.

We could debate what caused the Wall to fall, but this doesn't feel like the right time for those discussions. I'd rather thank the German people who clung to their dreams of a unified nation and refused to be silenced forever.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 8 -- Thoughts from a coaches meeting

Last spring I helped coach a little league baseball team. It was a group of 10-, 11- and 12-year-old kids. I enjoyed it so much that I am helping again this season. You might be thinking, "It's early November; why are you talking about baseball now? The World Series just ended. Didn't the off-season just start?" I could understand your confusion. But alas, tonight I went to a meeting of the coaches in our league in preparation for next spring. The meeting was called by a couple of parents who serve on the park's board. One of the topics raised by the board members was the level of instruction on fundamentals that the players receive. The message was that some parents had raised some concerns that the instruction varied depending on which team their sons happened to be drafted on. In an effort to "help" the coaches, the park is going to pay to send all of us to a coaches' clinic to give us some ideas to help us. I think I heard the phrases "another tool for the tool box" and "sharpen our saws" about 8 times throughout the meeting.

I love watching people attempt to deliver subtle messages and then soft sell the real point because they're afraid of hurting someone's feelings. The real point was that the park thinks that some coaches are not giving their all, and the kids and parents can tell. While the park realizes that we're not paid for any of our time, it's only right that if you volunteer to coach, perhaps you should actually coach.

I see nothing wrong with delivering that message. Personally, I don't get it when I look around at how other coaches are doing things (or not doing things). Why bother? I understand that it can be difficult when your team may not win a lot of games, but there's more to coaching than just winning games. And even if this year's team may not win a lot, the players you have who will come back next year can learn a lot if you take the time. There also are lessons that can be taught beyond the game itself. Hard work. The value of practice. Being a part of a team. The lessons learned through failure. Perseverance. Endurance. The list goes on and on.

The other interesting thing about providing the coaches' clinic is that there are a lot places to find instructional assistance. The first one is Google! You can google baseball practice or baseball instruction and find hundreds of sites with ideas. But you have to want to find the information first. It doesn't take much effort.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 7 -- 36 hours at the lake

I took K-Man with me to the lake Friday afternoon. Boys weekend. We stopped by Ingles on the way for some supplies: Kraft Mac & Cheese, hot dogs, "orange chips" (i.e., nacho cheese Doritos), Cheez-its crackers (Scrabble edition -- so we're working on the alphabet and enjoying that cheesy greatness), bananas, bagels and donuts. I also picked up a surprise for him (like the above was not awesome enough, right?)!

After we got our rations, we proceeded to the lake house and made dinner: Mac & Cheese, orange chips and half a banana. I went with a couple hot dogs, and a glass of wine. (If you're interested, I found the Bogle Merlot went well with the Hebrew National dogs.) After dinner, we played with trains, cars, and trucks, and watched a little Toy Story 2. Then off to bed. No bath. We weren't trying to impress anyone.

The morning started with some coffee -- for me, not him. He had milk. And of course, donuts. K-Man picked up where he left off the night before with the trains, cars, trucks and Toy Story 2. And he stayed in his pajamas. I asked a couple of times if he wanted to put on some clothes and go outside to play. He declined. He loves wearing his pajamas. After a few hours, he tried to convince me that he should go sans pajama bottoms, but I put my foot down. We can be total slobs on boys weekend, but we'll be wearing pants. The kid'll never find a wife if he thinks pants are optional. No need to feed that monster.

Lunch was PBJ and a banana. Then, I offered him a choice: orange chips or a surprise. The kid didn't hesitate. "Surprise" was his cry, eyes dancing. So I told him to close his eyes. He buried his face in his hands. I set up the surprise on the table in front of him and told him to open his eyes. There it was. He hesitated. Smiled. "That's Woody," he said (from Toy Story). Then, he moved Woody's head back to reveal the strawberry pellet of goodness! Oh yes, a Woody PEZ dispenser. He was familiar with PEZ before this, so it took him all of about 10 minutes to finish the sleeve of candy in Woody's ... neck, I guess. He did give me one piece.

We spent the afternoon playing cars, racing trains, tickling, wrestling, and swapping out Toy Story 2 for Ratatouille. We snacked on a few Cheez-its to tie us over until dinner along the way.
He got a bath before dinner, so he was fresh and ready for bed early. He had another bowl of mac & cheese, some orange chips and a glass of water. More trains, cars, trucks, and wrestling.

Before bed, we've been reading out of this great book that Jen found with Bible stories. The first one is about "little" Zaccheus. We've read it so much, Kee knows the story by heart. I asked him to read it to me. There is nothing cuter than a 3-year-old reading a Bible story -- with enthusiasm. It is also a little spooky to watch him do it, because he says the exact words on the right pages, turning page after page as he goes. He does the same thing with his Curious George book too.

It's been a good weekend together. We've just hung out and done nothing, but we've done a lot too. Hopefully, it's a small deposit in a lifelong account that will return with interest!

Friday, November 6, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 6 -- Who says soccer's not a contact sport?

Many of you have probably seen the video clip of the Mountain West Conference women's semi-finals soccer match between New Mexico and BYU. A New Mexico defender takes physical play to a completely new level. You want your central defenders to be tough and to play a physical brand of soccer. And I can sympathize with the New Mexico player as this back and forth starts. She is marking a BYU forward who gives her an elbow in the chest. This obviously does not sit well with the defender. Her mistake is that she rares back and punches the forward in the top of her back. The situation clearly calls for a forearm in the lower back -- a strike that says "I won't be pushed around by you BYU forward." Message delivered. But no, rather than standing up to the opponent and moving on, the punch to the back is just the appetizer of a 10-course meal of violence. No white table cloths at this affair either. This is like a torch-lit Viking buffet of slabs of meat -- killed and skinned table-side -- and casks of ale. Not exactly fine dining.

For those of you who haven't seen the video of Thursday's match yet or those who can't see it enough times, here it is again:

I was asked today if I ever had my hair pulled like that in a match. I had hair that long in the late-80s, but I never pulled it back in a pony tail. The mullet was sufficient. But no one ever pulled the mullet. (Why would they? At 5'8" no one ever mistook me for Samson.) Plenty of elbows in the sides and back throughout my play in high school and college. I can identify with the emotion that this New Mexico player obviously felt the other day. Not justifying anything she did, but the game gets heated if you care at all about your performance and your team's performance. Emotions can get the best of you from time to time. One particular instance comes to mind when I was a sophomore in college. We were playing our homecoming match. I was playing in the midfield on the wing. An opposing midfielder knocked me down as we were fighting for a ball by the sideline. Then, he stood over me and/or said something unkind. As fast as my shoulder blades hit the ground, I popped back up. In one motion, I stood up and shoved him in the chest knocking him on his back and stood over him. My Old Testament approach got me a yellow card. (The stereotype that the Irish have short fuses is probably based on thousands of similar incidents in towns on both sides of the Atlantic. At least mine didn't take place in a bar in Dublin or South Boston!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 5 -- Our mailman

I work out of the house, and my office currently is at the front of the house. There is a park across the street, so I get to watch our neighbors walk their dogs. I saw a coyote on a cold morning in February -- probably the one that ended the existence of our former cat.

But one of the things that has stood out to me all year is the timing of our mailman. As most of you know, during a week absent a federal holiday, the mail is delivered 6 days per week. Five of the six days the mail comes no earlier than 5:00 p.m. On the sixth day, the mailman drops off the mail around 2:00 p.m. When mail is delivered, one would probably assume that the sixth day of mail might be Saturday. You'd be wrong. Ironically (perhaps in the Alanis Morrisette sense of irony), the sixth day is not Saturday. In fact, it's not any one day. It's one of three days -- but not the same day each week. For some reason -- that I have yet to determine -- on either Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, the mailman delivers the mail earlier than every other day of the week. But never the same day each week. Why? Is he just bored with the usual route, so he mixes it up once a week but never the same day to take the "mixing it up" to the next level?

I like nothing more than my routine. When routines go awry, chaos ensues. Chaos is bad -- except in theoretical physics courses and summer camp games! The variable rate mail delivery schedule upsets my routine. It means that there is no routine for three days a week or that there are 2 days each week when there is an unnecessary routine. More importantly, why do I care?

I just saw a hilarious scene in the HBO show "Curb Your Enthusiasm." Larry David, the star of the show, is visiting the cemetery site where his mother is buried. His father is with him to show him the new tombstone he bought for his former wife. After he reads the tombstone, Larry notices that the inscription reads "Born - Sept 18, 1920" and "Past Away Oct 21, 2001." Larry proceeds to chastise his father for misspelling the tombstone by using "past" instead of "passed." The punch line isn't that it was a mistake the widower failed to catch, but rather that it was cheaper to go with "past" over "passed" because the cost was $50 per letter. He saved $100 using the shorter word, and most people think it means the same thing anyway. To me, that's funny. (Now you have a little insight into my personality. Feel free to block my number if you must.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 4 - Deep Water

In mid-July, I helped co-lead a mission trip to Scotland with our church. This was a return trip for me, but a new leadership role. Even with the added responsibilities, it was a great trip made better because Jen came with us this year. I enjoyed introducing her to my Scottish friends and vice versa, and now they are her friends as well.

I had several questions from people about why there might be a need for a mission trip to Scotland. Many hear "mission trip" and associate that with third-world countries where clean water is a luxury or in remote areas where the Christian faith is a stranger. There are plenty of mission trips to those areas. Our trips to Scotland involve providing a summer camp for middle- and high-school-age students where we try to create an atmosphere where they can learn what the Lord thinks about them and the plans He has for their lives; an atmosphere where they can ask questions; an atmosphere where they can unashamedly worship; an atmosphere where their concerns about their level of acceptance at school or at home doesn't determine anything about their standing in life. We partner with a small church outside Glasgow that has a huge heart for the students in the area and across the country but doesn't have a budget to match.

The church in Cobb County that sends us to Scotland has a summer camp each year for hundreds of our students and their friends. That camp has been going on for over 30 years. We attempt to capture the spirit of that camp and pack it up in Rubbermaid bins and fly it over the Atlantic with us. We spent the better part of 6 months meeting and planning and praying for our 11-day trip this year. The Scotland camp included about 35 Scottish students this year. Our theme was Deep Water, and we wanted to challenge the students to go deeper in their faith; to trust the Lord more deeply; to get to know Him in a deeper way.

This was the third year of the camp -- although just my second year on the trip. Some of the students have been to all 3 camps, and there were several new students who came this year because of the changes they observed in their friends who had come the year before.

We had a team of about 22 people this year -- about half of which were high school students from our church's youth group. One of the highlights for me each year has been watching our high school students model their relationships with the Lord for the Scottish students. Any number of the adults on the team can talk to the students about ways to deepen their relationships with the Lord, but when it comes from a peer, it's just different. I love watching that happen.

As a co-leader this year, I spoke during the morning sessions Monday to Thursday. I am not a preacher, but I felt like there was something that the Lord wanted me to share with the students each day. Months before we left, I had thought I would be sharing a certain group of talks, but as the trip approached, I kept feeling that there were some other things that the Lord wanted me to share. When we left for Scotland, I had 1 talk and 2 outlines for 4 messages (that doesn't add up for those of you reaching for your abacus). That meant for some long nights of writing and very short nights of sleep. But, in the end, I think the talks went well.

Before we left in July, we had already decided on the dates for the 2010 camp, and within a week of our return, the camp had been booked for our trip for next year. I am looking forward to going back, although I'm not sure if Jen will join us again. The 11-day separation from K-Man was quite a lot to ask of her. As much as we would love to bring him over with us (and our Scottish friends have encouraged us to do just that), the pace of camp just doesn't mesh well with a then-four-year-old (regardless of how cute he is).

As we did last year, at the end of camp, we tried to capture camp in video form. The highlight reel is provided below. The four student testimonies at the end are worth listening too. There are some accents to cope with, but I encourage you to try and hear what they have to say.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 3 -- Nearing the end

So I played some softball tonight. We've played in the fall and the spring for several years now (except for the one season the manager forgot to send in the registration on time). I enjoy playing. We're in the playoffs. Usually, we'd be done by now, but the weather has not cooperated on a number of Tuesday nights this fall. We won the first game tonight and lost the second. The second time in the double-elimination playoffs that we've had to do this. I've learned something over the course of the 2 doubleheaders this season. I am really getting old. Not only does my body not want to play two games in one night, but it makes me pay the next two days following. So I am not looking forward to the pain I will be in tomorrow and Thursday (over-the-counter pain relievers only go so far!).

Not only was tonight the last softball game of the season, but it was also the last one I'll play in my 30s. By the time the spring season rolls around, I will have crossed that threshold of the big 4-0. "They" say that 40 is the new 30. But I remember when I was 30. I was still playing 90-minute soccer matches then. These softball games last an hour, and one hour leads to a day-and-a-half recovery that I never had at 30 after soccer. So "they" are liars!

I don't have any real issues with the prospect of turning 40. I know my body has issues with it, but my mind likes to think that I am still 18 at times. (I'm not proud of that necessarily, but at least something in me is trying to defy the passage of time.)

At 40, I'll have a 4-year-old. When my Dad was 40, I was graduating from high school. I think that is just the era we live in. I know so many parents who are older. In fact, I went to K-Man's fall party last week at school, and the majority of the parents in the room would remember the 70s and 80s from personal experience, not from the History Channel or some decades music special on VH1. (In fact, they know that the "VH" in VH1 stands for "Video Hits" and that the channel once played videos 24-7.) Many times at Kee's activities, I am more surprised when the parents are in their 20s. All that to say that I think K-Man is helping keep us young. Even when my body may want to rebel, I can push through it to watch him enjoy himself with some activity.

So I may be nearing the end of my 30s, but I ain't dead yet!

Monday, November 2, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 2 -- Halloween and the Pumpkin Patch

Last night I promised some pictures from Halloween. Our little Buzz Lightyear. K-Man's first Halloween, he went as Hulk. That may be the last time that he didn't complain about wearing a costume -- probably because he wasn't verbal enough to express his displeasure. Oh, were that the case now!

Kee has embraced the cheesiest of smiles when asked to smile for pictures. It is on full display below. His best smiles are when he's laughing. He hasn't learned the art of smiling on queue like his mom.

Out on the street. Going to the 7 houses that he could last in the costume.

Back home to hand out candy to the kids who stayed in their costumes in pursuit of tooth decay!

Dad with Buzz (and a side of cheese)

Buzz and Mommy!

A couple of weeks ago, Kee and his 3-year-old class took a field trip to the Pumpkin Patch. Here's K-Man with 2 of his best friends in his class this year.

Cannon, Keegan and Jacob.
(contemplating their next move.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaBloPoMo 2009 Day 1

So here we are again with another attempt at posting every day for the month of November as part of National Blog Posting Month (i.e., NaBloPoMo) 2009. It's been about 4 months since I last posted, and I apologize to any reader who may still remain out there. Life sometimes gets in the way of this blog thing. It's funny because when I first thought about starting a blog, I think I did it because I was looking for a distraction from the life I had at my old job. Over the last 10 months of working for myself (and/or trying to find work for myself to do), I haven't had as much interest in making time to post here. Perhaps you're thankful for that.

Yesterday was Halloween. K-Man went as Buzz Light Year from the Toy Story movies. The kid loves those movies, but he hates wearing costumes. He wore it for about 5 minutes last week at his school's Fall party and barely lasted 8 houses last night on our street. He was much more interested in handing out candy to the kids that came to the house. He's a giver. Jen has some pictures that she's going to upload so I can put a couple on here for my reader to see.

My law practice remains a challenging venture. I have a meeting tomorrow about a new project for a company. I've had a number of positive networking meetings over the last few weeks. There seems to be some momentum building. Throughout the whole process Jen and I have tried very hard to trust God for how this venture is playing out. Sure, we'd prefer to have a steady flow of work and payments coming in, but He appears to be embracing an approach that requires our steadfast reliance on His provision. Surprisingly, I'm not completely gray or bald from this faithfully variable schedule.

I couldn't write without mentioning the 8-0 Florida Gators and their victory over Georgia over the weekend. It has not been the smoothest of rides for the Gators this year. As defending BCS champs, every team is gunning for them every week. Plus, they have to deal with the expectations of repeating as champs. I speak for all Gators when I thank Georgia coach, Mark Richt, for retaining the services of defensive coordinator Willie Martinez. It was nice to watch the Gators break out of their offensive slump yesterday, and Willie had a hand in that. Thanks again Coach Richt!

Over the next few days, I'll give an update on our Scotland trip from the summer, including a video from our trip. (That's a tease to get you to come back here!)