The “P” Stands for Punishment

In an effort to regain some semblance of physical fitness, I’ve started a round of P90X. I know what you’re thinking: “You’ve tried this before, haven’t you?” 

Why yes, yes I have.  Thank you for paying attention so closely.  “Tried” is the operative word. Having never finished a complete round, I thought I’d give it another go.

If you’ve followed my blog recently–I’m shocked.  Since there have been no new posts since the Haiti earthquake, there hasn’t really been much to follow.  So what exactly have you been doing?  Reading old posts?  Imagining new ones?  Muttering to yourself about the waste of valuable cyberspace?  Well, whatever it is that you’ve been following…thanks for sticking around.  Your patience has paid off.  I’m writing again.

I figured that one of the best ways to sustain my motivation for working out is to write about my experiences each day.  Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into a commercial for P90X.  There will be no banner ads (unless WordPress puts them there).  There will be no offers to sign up in my Coaching Club for a small fee, so that I can encourage you in your own quest.  It’s just going to be my thoughts, observations, and ramblings as I puts my body through the rigors of a workout program designed to make grown men cry.  And possibly vomit.

I’ve already completed the first three days…so I’ll try to hit those highlights in my next post.  For now, I’m off to ice down my deltoids, triceps, lats, quads, calves, neurons, eyelids, and hair follicles.

Really, Uncle Pat? REALLY?!

Originally, I was going to write a post about Crazy Uncle Pat and his latest venture into the public eye, but I think I’m going to just provide a link to a friend’s blog that echoes my thoughts on the matter—just more eloquently.

Oh, who’s Uncle Pat, you ask?  That would be Pat Robertson.  I call him Crazy Uncle Pat because while he shares the same family name (Christian) and looks adorable in his Christmas sweaters, there’s a reason nobody lets him have the microphone at wedding receptions.

Here’s the link….One Evangelical’s Response to Pat Robertson’s Remarks on Haiti

Well said, Mark.

Elvis Has Left the Building (Really!)

Much has been said about the decline of American society.elvis

Much will continue to be said, I’m sure.

Tonight, I simply add my two cents to the discussion.

This past weekend I witnessed what may be the single,most telling sign that America has lost its moral, ethical, and philosophical compass.

No, I didn’t see a child being refused the right to pray in school.

No, I didn’t see a Christmas display in a store that opted to spell it “Xmas”. (Well, yeah, I did…but that’s not the sign I’m speaking about)

The aforementioned harbinger of our country’s demise–subtle, yet undeniable–was encountered in one of the great bastions of Americana.

That’s right….I wept for my country in The Waffle House.  And the more I think about it, there is no question that the USA is scattered, covered, smothered, and chunked–UNLESS we reverse course, and we do it NOW!

What could possibly create this level of alarm?  The jukebox.  Yep, the good ol’ fashioned jukebox that is as much a fixture in these diners as line cooks named Shorty.  As is my tradition, when my family chooses to dine (term used loosely) at the Waffle House, I put a dollar in the jukebox and play 3 songs.  When I strode to the trusty, mechanical DJ on this crisp autumn morning, I first noticed that my old friend had been replaced by a younger, sexier model.  I quietly wondered if restaurants can go through mid-life crises.  Never one to judge, I decided to proceed with my selections.  Tradition required this of me.  I hit the left & right buttons and flipped through the CD selections.  Then…the watershed moment.  My trusty third selection was no longer a choice.

My first two selections were always a matter of whimsy.  They were dictated more by chance or current mood than anything else.  However, one hard and fast rule that I live by is: No trip to Waffle House is complete until Elvis sings “American Trilogy”.  Elvis was my closing act.  Save the best for last.  Well, this was no longer an option. (I’m tearing up even as I writer this).  I flipped again…and again…and again…refusing to believe what my eyes were trying to tell me.  I saw Toni Braxton.  I saw Tim McGraw.  Three Dog Night.  Johnny Cash.  The Backstreet Boys (I wish I were kidding about this one).  Garth Brooks.  Monster Rap Hits of the 90’s.  But no Elvis.

The King had left The Awful Waffle.

Defeated, I trudged back to my seat.  The grits were tasteless, the bacon anemic. My over-easy eggs were extra weepy.  How fitting.  Perhaps most telling was the fact that I only had one cup of coffee.  Yeah, you read that right.  One. Cup. Of. Coffee.

My wife, always able to read me like a book, asked what was wrong.  I tried to relay my discovery without my voice cracking like Peter Brady.  There would be no musical selections today.  Breakfast as we know it had changed–perhaps forever.

I’m a pretty optimistic guy, but this scares me.  What kind of country are we leaving for our children?  Sure, we might find a way to plug the hole in the ozone layer.  We might find a way to reduce, reuse, and recycle so much that we actually refreeze the polar ice caps.  We might even crack the code of William Shattner’s massive public appeal.  But without Elvis on the jukebox, the Waffle House is the new site of the Heartbreak Hotel.

If we don’t act now, the ripple effect of this egregious act may be felt for generations to come.  I call on you, my fellow Americans, to stand up and demand that they return the King.

God bless you, God bless America, and Thankyouverymuch.

 

 

Childhood Illness Inspires Nostalgia

sick-kidThis morning I woke up feeling less than ideal.  I decided to go to work anyway.  As I sat at my desk, I kept waiting for the day’s activities to take over and make me forget how horrible I felt.  Didn’t happen.

Sitting in front of the computer, I thought back to the “good ol’ days”—when I was in elementary school.  Back then, if you were sick, you missed school.  Simple as that.

There was no consideration of lost wages or wasted PTO.  No thoughts of leaving co-workers with an increased workload.

Sure, there was homework to make up, but come on…how hard was that?

You got sick.  You missed school.  You got better.  You went back.  It was that easy.

The simplicity of those elementary years got me thinking of what I remembered most about staying home when I was sick.  Here are a few pieces of nostalgia that stuck with me through the years:

 

    • I remember shuffling around the house (always with spectacular bed-head) and watching the clock until it showed 8:05am.  At that point, all my friends were sitting at their desks, and I was still in my PJ’s.  Not the worst thing ever.
    • The PJ’s.  (Hand-me-downs—even though I was the oldest child.  Go figure.) I got to wear them all day.   Somehow they helped you heal faster than regular clothes would have.
    • Lying on the sofa…with the blue afghan…dozing during The Price Is Right, but always waking up just in time for the Showcase Showdown.  Bob Barker was the man.
    • Chicken noodle soup & saltines for lunch: Synergistic homeopathic effect when used in conjunction with the aforementioned PJ’s.
    • Finally giving in to sleep during the afternoon, and then waking to the sound of Phil Donahue on the TV saying, “Go ahead….Caller.”
    • My brother coming home from school signified that the lousy part of being sick had now set in.  I was still sick, and school was out for the day.  The novelty officially wore off at 2:55pm.

As an adult, being sick is nowhere near as memorable.  Life goes on whether you’re sick or not…it doesn’t have the courtesy to slow down for illness.  Stupid grown-up responsibilities!!!

What about you?  Any memorable sick days when you were a kid?

 

Talking Furniture

writing desk picThis post is the result of a writing prompt on Writersdigest.com.  Nothing profound.  Just a little something to keep the writing process fresh.

Writing Prompt:

You return home from work to find a Dear John letter on your kitchen table. Oddly enough, it’s from one of your favorite pieces of furniture. What does the letter say?

Dear Sir:

I’m sure that you’ll be surprised to read this, as I know your intentions have been good.  As a matter of fact, they’ve been so good for so long that I allowed myself to get lost in the promise of what could be.  Your hopes became my own.  I knew that together we could accomplish so much.  You spoke of your plans many times.

When I first came to your home, I heard you tell others how long you’d searched for me.  Just for me.  I had the “special something” that you hadn’t found in others.  When you showed me to my own space in your home, you made sure that everything around me was set perfectly.  You stood back to admire me, and you smiled.  It was a genuine smile born of contentment.

Maybe that was the problem.  Maybe you were content to simply find me.

I heard the rumblings from the others.  They said it wasn’t rare.  You did this kind of thing all the time.  I would get used to it and become resigned to my fate.  I didn’t want to resign myself to anything, I told them.  I had done that before.  It’s not a good feeling, and I believed your words enough to know that this time would be different.  I hate being wrong.

This letter hurts.  It hurts because I still believe that you can do everything you’ve planned.  Your ability has never been questioned.  The magic that cannot be given or taught is there.  The only obstacle standing in your way is you.

I’ve been here for you from the minute you showed me to your study.  The refuge you created for me is the stuff of legend.  The bookshelf filled with works of all the great masters.   The antique area rug giving the room a warmth that fosters creative inspiration.  The reading chair in the corner.  Your grandmother’s reading lamp.  I was the last piece: the most important, you said.  Our study, you called it.  This is where great writing was to take place.

Well, the writing never happened.  Too many things got in the way.  So it’s my turn.  I’m a writing desk.  My name is derived from the fact that I was fashioned to give authors a platform on which they can transfer thought to paper.  This never happened.

I love being a writing desk, but by definition, a writing desk that never assists in writing is simply a desk.  While you may be content to hide behind your untested potential, I am not content to be just a desk.  So I’m writing.

I am once again a Writing Desk, though not in the sense you intended.

You are missed,

The Writing Desk

Wisdom Found In Life’s Little Moments

From time to time life provides us with little moments that, if noticed, demonstrate the depths of God’s wisdom.   If we’re honest with ourselves, these moments happen more often than any of us realize.  From observing basic laws of nature to the contemplating the vastness of the universe….from conversations with a child to quiet moments of personal reflection…God’s forethought in designing everything around us is evident.

Last weekend, while on vacation, my wife & I were able to witness one of these moments.  We had the rare privilege to actually capture the moment on camera, and I thought that I would share it with you, my readers—my friends.

The lesson learned?

Sometimes God’s decision NOT to give us something actually frees us to focus on the more important things in life.

I hope the photograph is as uplifting to your spirit as it was to ours.

Tiki Pic

Java Jury

coffee courtLadies and gentlemen of the jury, thank you for being here today.  You have been assembled, not to determine guilt or innocence, but simply to provide clarification on an issue that is at the heart of one man’s identity.

This is an issue born of selfish interest.   I have gathered you here today to assess two charges that have been leveled towards Yours Truly.  After hearing the evidence, you will be asked to decide which, if either, of the labels applies.  Your decision will be final.  With this in mind, I ask you to take a moment to contemplate the gravity of your actions, and to realize that based on your recommendation a man will be labeled for life.  Yours is the power to hurt or to heal.  I trust you will understand the gravity of the situation and judge accordingly.

This brings us to the nexus of our discussion:  Am I a Coffee Snob or a Coffee Connoisseur?

You have been chosen as jurors because I trust your intellect and value your judgment.  This process will be simple.  I will provide you with facts and opinions that apply to the person I see when I look in the mirror.  From there, I will allow you to determine which moniker applies.  Let’s begin.

 Fact:  I appreciate a truly good cup of coffee.

Opinion:  Good coffee is not readily available to the masses.

Fact:  I choose to roast my own coffee at home.

Opinion:  A French Press is my preferred method for brewing.

Fact:  Milk & Sugar are perfectly acceptable additions to coffee.  For women.

Opinion:  Starbucks jumped the shark when they introduced their own instant coffee.

Fact:  I have never once ordered a Venti Triple Skinny Half-Caff Latte Extra Hot Extra Foam No Whip With Caramel Drizzle.  Never.

Opinion:   Flavored coffees are unnatural and just plain wrong. (this can also double as a Fact)

Fact:   I prefer ordering a “large” coffee.  Not Venti.  Not Sumo.  Not Mega.  Not Ginormous.  Just Large, please.

Opinion:   The perfect complement to a good cup of coffee is a refill.

 

While this list of facts and opinions is by no means exhaustive, I feel it gives you a firm grasp on where I stand on the subject of coffee.  To me, these seem perfectly logical stances.  To other, perhaps they are extreme. 

 The decision now rests on you, good people. 

Coffee Snob or Coffee Connoisseur?

 My psyche awaits your verdict.

Life Lessons from “The Sound of Music”

NEWSFLASH:  I’M NOT AS SMART AS GOD!!JS1567084

Don’t tell my kids just yet…I’ve got them fooled for another few years.  OK, OK…they’re not really fooled, they’re just really good at humoring me. They learn that from their mother.

But it’s true. I’m not as smart as God, and I know that He knows that.  Fortunately I’m not alone in this condition.  I think it affects most humans–with the notable exception of my good friend Mark Lattimore.  I’m fairly certain that he & God compare notes on a regular basis.

The proof of God’s superior wisdom and knowledge is shown in how he chooses to relate to us.

Parables & Real Life Parallels.  (Translation: Stories & Object Lessons)

Recently, He’s needed to use an object lesson on me…and I’m extremely glad he did.  Here’s a little background on this particular lesson:

Over the past week, my wife and I have been trying to make sense of some pretty crazy events surrounding our foster daughter.  Perhaps we’d gotten ahead of ourselves, but based on the information we’ve had at our disposal, we were fairly convinced that we were floating merrily down The Adoption River with her in tow.  According to our own interpretation, it was a no-brainer that we would be the very best home for her to be raised in.  I’m not sure about my wife, but I know that I had pulled one of those “it’s a good thing I’m doing, so it’s OBVIOUSLY God’s will” rationalization maneuvers I’ve perfected over the years.

Well, like I said before, God’s smart enough to know that sometimes I need to be kicked in the spiritual undercarriage to jar me out of my self-righteous God’ishness (quite different from Godliness).

Last Thursday, the kick was delivered.  Squarely.

Within a 24 hour time frame, we were informed that it looked like she was going to go up for adoption (Oh! The joy!  The rapture! The elation!), and we were NOT the family selected for her. (Oh! The helplessness!  The shock!  The numbing shock!)  True to form, I immediately launched into my natural defense mode.  I like to refer to these as moments of righteous indignation–it sounds better than me throwing a temper tantrum. I spent the next two days spouting off to anyone who would listen about the unbelievable atrocity that was being heaped on this precious little girl (read as: HOW AM I NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO BE CHOSEN!?!?).  I sent out the prerequisite prayer request to friends & family asking for God’s will to be done in the situation. (read as: Please, ask God to see it MY way)  Bottom line, I tried my best to seize control of the situation.  Phone calls, e-mails, faxes, more e-mails…it was an exhausting display of panic. With every communication it seemed that this little girl was slipping farther away.  Then my wife sends me a devotional while I’m at work on Friday.  The whole point of the passage was pointing out that sometimes we find ourselves in situations that can only be handled by God.  The more we try to force on our own, the worse it gets.  The less we do, the more He can show his power.

I didn’t like what I read at first.  Fortunately, I have a wonderful wife who knows the thickness of her husband’s skull.  The next day, she sent another devotional that she had just read.  Same basic message.  Then on Sunday, the hits kept on a-comin’.  The Sunday School lesson was about how hard it is to surrender ourselves to God’s plans.   The message in the following service?  Yeah, you guessed it…more of the same.  Our pastor spoke about how most Christians claim to be siding with God in a given situation, but in reality all they want is to be able to prove that they are right and win the argument at hand.  Sometimes I wish our pastor would just pontificate on the merits of various worship styles!  That one hurt.

But it worked.  God finally got through to me.  My wife and I talked all weekend about the situation, and by Sunday night, we had finally given it over to God.  We were done getting in His way.  To borrow an old song lyric…we basically told Him, “It’s your baby….You rock it”.

On Thursday afternoon we got a call from the case workers involved, and they informed us that they had reconsidered their previous course of action, and told us that our little girl would stay with us for now and we would be allowed to continue on our path to becoming a licensed adoptive home.  There are still no guarantees that we will be the chosen family, but with each day she remains in our home and the bond with her strengthens, so does the chance that she might stay forever.

So, shocker….God comes through again.  I’m realistic enough to know that not everything that is His will will turn out all Puppies & Rainbows like this, but I’ve learned a lot about just resting in His ability to handle all the details.  And this is where the object lesson comes in.

I’ve said that I’m glad  I have children, because it helps me understand God a little better.  Once again this proves true.  Last night, I had the chance to take my 8 year old daughter out on a Daddy-Daughter Date (known as “3-D Night” in our house).  We went to a nice restaurant–decidedly more upscale than Subway for a change, and then we went to see the local Children’s Theatre production of “The Sound of Music”.  It was a fantastic night that will go down as one of my All-time Favorite Nights.  As we were sitting in our seats, watching the Von Trapp children serenade us, I reached over and patted my little girl on the knee.  Without making a big deal of it, she simply slipped one arm under mine, hugged my arm, and rested her head on my shoulder.  I dare you to find any better feeling in the world.  Can’t be done.

That’s when it hit me.  She knew that I had all the details of the night handled.  She didn’t waste any mental or physical energy trying to arrange transportation downtown, parking, restaurant reservations, restaurant bill, theatre seats, paying for ice cream after the show, paying the parking attendant, or driving home.  Her daddy had it covered.  She was able to rest against my shoulder with complete confidence in the knowledge that I had things under control.

On the ride home, she rested against my shoulder again as I drove.  She also told me that this was one of the best nights she’d ever had.  I told her the same.

I have to think that’s how God sees it when we finally give Him control.  He’s big enough and He’s strong enough  (and doggone it, people like Him!) to handle whatever we can throw at Him.  I truly believe that when we see His plans ultimatley work out for our good (maybe not the way we originally planned), He loves feeling us hug his arm and rest our heads against His shoulder.

Somehow those times that often seem the most difficult on our own power turn out to be “one of our best nights ever” when we rest in Him.

Thank God for object lessons!

A Little Courtesy Goes a Long, Long Way

I’m sure that you’ve seen the commercials on TV for the company BASF.  While their name may not be recognizable to you (which might actually constitute an ineffective commercial, now that I think about it), their tag line certainly is.  They spend the entire 45 second spot pointing out products that they don’t make.  Their entire business model is based on improving the ideas of others, hence their tag line: “We don’t make a lot of the products you buy….we make a lot of the products you buy better.”  I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of that concept.

It must be nice to get paid millions of dollars to not come up with new ideas.  Even better would be the fact that you’re tasked with pointing out flaws in the ideas of others and making recommendations to those that actually did give birth to the concepts.  This is a dream job for every armchair quarterback and backseat driver.

This brings me to my idea:  I’m going to improve GPS.

Now lest you think that I’m some sort of technical genius masquerading as a regular guy, I assure you I’m not.  Sure, I like technology, but I would not consider myself an expert in the technology field.  That distinction goes to the people that design and manufacture the products that BASF improves later.   My goal is to simply make technology–specifically GPS units–more user friendly.

Admittedly, I’m a GPS rookie.  I actually used one for the first time last week on a drive to Atlanta, GA. For the entire drive, this woman’s voice  ordered my every move with a warm tone and slight British accent.  “Go .7 miles and turn right onto Interstate,” she would instruct.   “Drive .3 miles and bear left onto Exit 12. Stay in right lane after that,” she implored.  While her instructions proved to be impeccable, I found myself slightly unnerved but couldn’t figure out why. However, as she directed me to “Stay right and proceed through the roundabout then turn right on Exit 17” in downtown Atlanta, it hit me.  Never once during the entire trip had she said “Please”  or “Thank You”!

How hard would it be for her to simply say, “Please drive .2 miles and turn left”, and then after I make the turn simply chime in with a brief, but hearfelt  “Thank you”?  I know enough about technology to realize that this could most likely be corrected with a simple programming change in the GPS software.  On various GPS units, I know that you can choose to have a male voice or female voice.  You can choose multiple languages.  You can even choose  a voice that speaks English with various accents.   So if you can program your GPS to direct you in the voice of a German beer wench who learned to speak English in a small Mexican village just south of Brownsville, TX, why can’t you program her to say “Please & Thank you”?  I think you see my point.

So now all I need to do is find someone with the requisite programming knowledge, and we should be able to provide the world with GPPS just in time for Christmas.  (Yes, that stands for Globally Polite Positioning System).

Just for fun, we’re also going to equip the voice with a lisp for those road trips from Simpsonville, South Carolina to Sessumsville, Mississippi.

“At GPPS we don’t make the GPS unit you use, we make that GPS unit nither.”