Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Fun!

Here's a hint - whatever you do, never let Santa get your family the stomach virus for Christmas.  Max was the only one who didn't have it; he got over it a couple days ago.  I didn't leave the couch all day.  It's not as fun opening presents on the couch.

We had crackers and water for Christmas dinner.  But, I think we're all doing better today.  Maybe we'll actually break out Guitar Hero World Tour tonight.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Icey

It's cold and icey out there this morning. If you have to *sigh* go to work this morning, be careful out there.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Seven Pounds

Krista surprised me with a night away, so we stayed at Bridge Street last night, saw a couple movies, did some Christmas shopping, and just hung out. (Thanks, Nana and NeeNee!)

One of the films we saw was Seven Pounds. It's one of those movies you can't go into knowing very much about the film - and it looks like the they did the marketing with that in mind. Will Smith is a great actor with amazing depth (I thought Hancock was a pretty good movie, too), and this film is fascinating. Seven Pounds is intense, thought provoking, non-linear, and one of those movies that you talk about for days after you've seen it. It gets a little slow in the middle in a couple of spots, and you can't go in expecting a feel-good Christmas movie, but if you can deal with those things, I think you'll be blown away.

Pop Rocks Popping Bubble Gum

Shopping for my daughter at Limited Too, I found Pop Rocks Bubble Gum! Awesome!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Eddie Murphy as the Riddler?

I don't know...didn't we learn our lesson with Jim Carey? Well, if anyone can pull it off, Christopher Nolan can.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Julianna's Dance Chronology

Julianna has always been a dancer. I finally put some of her video together, taken over the last few years.  (Plus, I knew I'd be in trouble if I kept uploading videos of Max, without any of Julianna.)

Julianna Dances (and Saves the World)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Rockbottom Prices

I cannot believe I just filled up my gas tank for $17.50.

Finally

Beat Guitar Hero I on Expert...so it's not as hard as its successors, but it doesn't have a practice mode, and hammer-ons and pull-offs are nearly non-existent.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Keeping History

One of the thing that's so hard about kids is trying to make sure you have ways to keep those memories without being obsessed by capturing every second on camera instead of spending time with them. When Julianna was born, we bought a camcorder, but kept if for less than a year when I figured out every time I wanted to record a memory, by the time I unpacked the camcorder, Julianna had stopped doing whatever we wanted to record. And the last thing I was going to do was walk around with a camcorder glued to my hand just in case she did something cute.

So, we've done our best with a camera - taking pictures when we remember, grabbing short videos now and then.  And a little while back we bought a Flip video camera - which is about the simplest camera to use. I try to record a few when I can - here are a couple of my attempts to keep history recorded.

Bubbles




Night, Night


Saturday, November 29, 2008

We have the most fascinating mail

You can't really tell, but this is a photo of our mailman reading our Entertainment Weekly this morning.  We watched him for a few minutes while he just flipped through it, apparently interested in upcoming movies and TV.  This was the best picture we could get before he finished and popped it in the mailbox. Personally, I think he was reading the article on the Twilight movie.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Space Needle

Odd- looking clouds in Gatlinburg.

Mr. Tablecloth

I'm going to get all my Christmas shopping done at Mr. Tablecloth!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election News!

Well we (that is Max, Julianna, and Krista) made the local WAFF news!  Take a look...

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election: The more things change...

I've held off on my election thoughts, but here at the eleventh hour...

I'm going to link to a blog post I wrote 2 years ago:

MP3s, AFR, and WWJD

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reaction (4 and 5 of 7)

I'm very reactive. 

I think, as people who follow Jesus, we're called to be proactive.  But I tend to be reactive.  It's kind of like Risk Management (the field I work in).  The whole point in Risk Management is not just to be reactive to Issues or Problems - things that are already happening, that you can't prevent and have to fix.  The whole point is to be proactive and figure out the Risk (a Problem that hasn't happened yet) and prevent it before it rears up it's ugly head and bites you in the...

Anyway, I'm reactive.  I spend a lot of time reacting to what other people say and do; reacting to my circumstances in the world, reacting to things that happen that are out of my control. Even in my spiritual walk - I wait until I see or hear something bad or wrong, then I jump on it.  Actually, that's why this blog is called Jim's Running Commentary.  Because I seem to have a commentary on everything, and just made it my outlet to complain or say "what the heck?" when I see something I think is off. Instead of "going about doing good", I just look for the bad and talk about how it needs to be fixed.  Two problems there. The first is just reacting to the bad (which I understand is part of what we need to be doing - look at how many times Jesus and Paul corrected something that was wrong), but you have to be doing good in parallel with fixing the bad.  And the second part of the problem is just talking about what needs to be fixed, and not actually doing anything.

But being reactive isn't just in my spiritual life.  I've talked about how I'm reactive in my health habits.  How I'm reactive in judging people.  How I'm reactive when something sets me off. Things just bug me. It's a deeply ingrained part of my personality.  I talked about this with Krista the other day, proud that it was this amazing new self-analysis that I did that made me realize something new about myself that wasn't obvious to me.  She was borderline shocked that this could be any kind of revelation to me.  She said I've been like that ever since we've met (17 years now!), wondering how often has it been that I don't give people a chance because I think they're obnoxious, or stuck up, don't like their attitude, or something else moronic.

It's almost like I look for the bad in everything and let that color my life. And it's such a part of me, I don't think I can switch it off.

Well, I can't by myself.  It's the kind of thing that takes a lot of prayer, a lot of love, a lot of soul searching, a lot of help.

You know, I've been doing some reading on the seven deadly sins.  And something I've found interesting was that Sloth was not just intended to be avoidance of work and effort or getting by with doing as little as possible or not living up to your potential.  Writings from St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope St. Gregory I (St. Thomas talks about it in his Summa Theologica, and references Gregory's writings) include sorrow and despair and not caring about things. It's kind of like depression - you start to wear this groove in your brain by finding the bad in everything, and it feeds on itself until you don't care for anything and you feel hopeless like there's nothing you can do; and there's nothing you want to do. I'm sure to do it justice, this needs to be a more in-depth discussion, but I just don't feel like it, now.

Ha! That's a joke, in case you didn't know.

Actually, this post would be way too long to go into it too deeply. But how often do we feed ourselves in this matter.  Don't get me wrong - I believe there's a point in depression where you just can't fix it yourself and need professional help - I know; I've been there. But there's something warm and cozy about that melancholy place that makes it hard to leave, sometimes, even when you can.

And it seems like Sloth is linked directly to Envy (well, St. Thomas links it to all the Deadly Sins).  When I'm finding the bad in everything, I can't even see the good in it when good things happen to other people.  Do you ever react like that? Asking, why do they get that?  Why do they deserve that?  Why can't I have that?  They already have more than me, and look, now they're getting more!  Of course, I forget to look around and see how blessed I am.  It's hypocritical, really.

Good grief - what's up with that?  I can't even celebrate when good things happen to good people.

I know it takes a lot of hard work to reverse deeply ingrained habits, but that's what I've got to work on doing.  It's easy to say, "that's just the way I am." But I have a feeling that particular attitude won't stand up before God.

I'm Old

Huh!  I've been at this a while and never been "tagged" before (thanks, Krista!). 

So...what was I doing...

20 Years Ago (October 1988)
Good grief, I'm old.  I was in my first semester of my senior year of high school. (That means next year is my 20-year-reunion. *sigh*)  Anyway, I was starting a decent Senior Year, after a rough Junior Year.  After receiving my first C's (plural) my Junior Year (that's not the only reason it was troubling - there was lots of crap going on), I came back my Senior Year, got all A's, was an Associate Editor of the school yearbook, and finally looked forward to college. I was a big, giant dork in high school (so not a lot has changed): in the National Honor Society, the Science Club, and was, of course, President of the Chess Club. I enjoyed my classes, but lunchtime was always my favorite, hanging out with best friends Steve Hatfield or Ron Johnson.

10 Years Ago (October 1998)
Krista and my paths met about 7 years ago, and we've been married a little over 5 years, now.  We're the best of friends (though have our rough times), and have lived in Florence for about a year now (after moving from Baltimore), being convinced by Jerry and Trina Ross that it's a great place to live, and really liking their church.  I've finally got a decent job, though one that's going to have me commuting to Huntsville every day (Krista was temping in Huntsville, so at least we could commute together). Good grief, what were we doing back then? I think we lived in Coffee Manor - those apartments over by what used to be Coffee High School. We were enjoying getting into Darby Drive Church of Christ events and spending time with new (and old) friends. Those were some lean times, especially before I started working in Huntsville, but they were good times. (At least gas was hovering just over $1 a gallon!)

5 Years Ago (October 2003)
Julianna's a year-and-a-half old.  And how she's talking! We're just loving spending time with her.  She's been the perfect baby.  The only thing we really complain about is how it took an hour of laying down with her to get her to sleep. We're thinking, one kid is good for now.

1 Year Ago (October 2007)
We've got Baby Max now (he's about 6 months) and are gearing up for the CrossPoint Harvest Festival. Julianna is going to be Tinkerbell, and Max is Peter Pan.  I guess his homemade costume makes everyone thinks he dressed as an elf (even with his hat with the feather in it, and the plastic knife in his belt).

Yesterday (October 25, 2008)
Yay!  It's Saturday!  Julianna played soccer in the morning, and we spent the afternoon at the Florence Renaissance Faire. Oh, and can't forget that we got a babysitter for Max, so we could take Julianna to High School Musical 3: Senior Year. (My, how things have changed since I was a high school senior!)

Today (October 26, 2008)
Church this morning, church tonight, and the requisite "chillin'" in between.  Finally took some time to write today.  My time and mind has been all chaotic lately and I haven't really had the time or inclination.

Tomorrow (October 27, 2008)
I always look forward to Mondays.

*sigh*

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Why?

(This is the halftime devotional I gave at the Upward soccer games this morning.)

I'd like to share a short story from the Bible in the book of Matthew.


Back in the boat, Jesus and the disciples recrossed the sea to Jesus' hometown. They were hardly out of the boat when some men carried a paraplegic on a stretcher and set him down in front of them. Jesus, impressed by their bold belief, said to the paraplegic, "Cheer up, son. I forgive your sins." Some religion scholars whispered, "Why, that's blasphemy!"


Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, "Why this gossipy whispering? Which do you think is simpler: to say, 'I forgive your sins,' or, 'Get up and walk'? Well, just so it's clear that I'm the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both. . . ." At this he turned to the paraplegic and said, "Get up. Take your bed and go home." And the man did it. The crowd was awestruck, amazed and pleased that God had authorized Jesus to work among them this way.


Passing along, Jesus saw a man at his work collecting taxes. His name was Matthew. Jesus said, "Come along with me." Matthew stood up and followed him.


Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew's house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus' followers. "What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?"

(And here we get to the important part!)

Jesus, overhearing, shot back, "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: 'I'm after mercy, not religion.' I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders."

One of the things I love most about Jesus, and one of the things that got Him killed, was that he loved everybody. He showed that he didn’t come to save stuffy, self-righteous church people – the people that thought they didn’t need Him. He came for the people who needed him – those people that the stuffy, self-righteous church people didn’t want around. So remember this – whether you’re someone who has a practice of going to church every Sunday, or you’re someone who has never stepped foot in church building. None of us are perfect, and you don’t have to be to come inside. God’s family has always been full of people who make mistakes – sometimes horrible mistakes. That’s why Jesus died – to save all of us.


(Story taken from Mt 9, from The Message.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gas

I just went over 500 miles on a single tank of gas in my Cavalier. Pretty good, considering I've got a 14-gallon tank. My fillup ended up being just over 13 gallons. That would actually give 39 mpg on this tank of gas. Can that be right? I haven't been using my air conditioner, but still. I'll have to check that again. Bonus: I paid $2.65 for gas so my total fillup dropped by about $10 to $35.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hitting a Patch of Fog

I can't really tell where I'm going. What an interesting coincidence.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thursday Morning Painted Sky

Wow.

I guess I haven't had much to say lately. Or, rather, I've had lots going around in my head but haven't had the time to organize it into any kind of cohesive thought. 'Course I've been blogging for going on 4 years now and I've just been tagged for the very first time (by Krista). I guess that's as good a place to start as any.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Blimp over Mt. Carmel

What a weird sight - we're driving east on Highway 72 and just passed under the Goodyear Blimp. I hope the picture turns out...I took it with Krista's phone, sent it to mine, cropped it, then posted it here.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

This is my Friday...

Thank goodness for the loooooong weekend. The Zoe conference starts tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On the way home...

Good grief - accident on highway 72 between Madison and Athens. There weren't any ambulances...I hope that's a good sign.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Like a second look...

I came across this video on YouTube purely by accident, but it's got some cool stop motion effects (always interesting when done with live people).  And the song's pretty good, too.  The singer is Lisa Mitchell, and I'd never heard of her, but she apparently got popular on the Australian American Idol

It's called Incomplete Lullaby.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Way better than the "Can you hear me now?" guy...

Another cool foreign commercial.  This time it's for a cell phone company...but you'd never know that...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mmm...Tahitian Treat Fruit Punch Soda

Good stuff!

(owned by Dr. Pepper / Seven Up!)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ghost Town

I guess Ghost Town just too good of a movie to come to Florence.  Rotten Tomatoes gives it an 80%, and MetaCritic gives it a 70.

But what am I complaining about?  We've still got Disaster Movie (0% and 15)and House Bunny (40% and 55).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I Met Wendy!

We're at Wendy's for a fundraiser, helping to raise money for a track and a pavilion for our soccer fields at church. Pictured here with my son Max, is our wonderful Children's Minister, Gena Killen.

Here Comes the Sun...

I think I see it peeking out from behind the clouds.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

Communication

I missed getting a picture of it (the above pic is from last night), but I just passed a church sign that said, "Patience is trusting in God's timing."

*sigh*

God teaches us in many ways.  I sometimes wish it didn't take so long.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

On Weathering Storms

I was sure by now,
That you would have reached down,
And wiped our tears away.
Stepped in and saved the day,
But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

Why is it that that we wait until we're in so deep before we go to the place we should have been all along? We have to wait to get burned before we step away from the fire, or hit the bottom before we try to climb out of the well.

At the beginning of the year, I made a commitment to spend more time with God.  To pray more.  To read His Word more.  And I've been praying at least once a day.  And, at least over the last several months, I've been picking up my Bible at least a few times a week. But I've known that's not a real commitment. Though it's more commitment than I've had most of the 3-and-a-half decades I've been around.

Throughout the last month, though, I've stepped up my commitment. Praying has become nearly an hourly thing (or at least several times a day). And reading has become at least a daily thing. What's prompted me to become so disciplined?  Is it because I'm spiritual?  Is it just because I made the decision to be disciplined and I'm sticking to it?

No.  It's because of external circumstances creating an intense need to figure out how to keep God as an integral part of my life - not just an afterthought. Over the past month, my job's become extremely stressful. The kind of stress that makes you obsess.  Obsessing through nearly every waking hour.  And some of the sleeping ones.  From the time the feet hit the floor in the darkness of the early morning to the time the head hits the pillow in the darkness of the late evening. Every thought consumed - in the shower, having dinner with family, even when watching a movie or trying anything to try to tear my mind away from the constant compulsive thought. Jesus said, Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Why can't I do that? I've begun to empathize with David, when he wrote things like
O LORD, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.
In the midst of all this, a couple weeks ago, I was reading about Solomon's great grandson Asa. He was fighting for God, and at one point, God told him, Be strong, and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.  I don't really believe in coincidence. And though sometimes it's hard to connect with a God who I cannot touch, who seems to far away to my closed eyes and unlistening ears, I know He's there, He's listening, and He talks to us.

And I've finally found some peace, some relief. I finally figured out that there are things in our lives that we need God's strength to overcome. So I've begun to scratch the surface of what Paul means when he says, Pray without ceasing.  To get a glimmer of what Moses is talking about when he says,  Memorize God's laws and tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you're at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning.  And at last, Thursday night, even though work hasn't much changed, I was sitting having dinner with my family, enjoying the time spent with my wife, daughter, and son.  And it was the first time in nearly 5 weeks that I was truly relaxed, living in the moment, without the nagging thoughts in the back of my head.

I wish I had realized some of these things before getting into situations like this.  Like sometime in the last 37 years. But then, I guess sometimes we need adversity to strengthen us. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. (James wrote that.)

As the thunder rolls,
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain,
“I’m with you.”
And as You mercy falls,
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives,
And takes away.


*************
It's always frustrating when you pour your soul into a bit of writing and it's taken away.  It's nearly impossible to get back the original flavor of something after you've recorded it the first time.  I finished writing this nearly an hour ago and just before I published it, Internet Explorer crashed.  About that time I remembered that this version of Blogger doesn't automatically save, so I had to recreate the entire thing from scratch.  A fitting final paragraph to this post, I think.

The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
                          -Job

(Lyrics from Praise You in This Storm, by Casting Crowns)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

By Comparison

Some days I appreciate my job more than others.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Managing Risk

Risk Management: leaving a massive cushion between you and the car in front of you because the person behind you thinks that a single car length is an acceptable distance between cars when going 80 miles an hour.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Storms

It's nice to see the sun break through the storm once in a while.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Home

Waiting at the gate for my Huntsville flight. Woohoo!

I didn't think I was going to make it. I had 40 minutes to make the gate, and I made it in under 20. That's getting off the plane, going through immigration, getting my luggage, going through customs *and* security, and taking the shuttle to another terminal.

I'm currently sitting on the plane, breathing a prayer of thanks. If I missed this flight, I would have had to wait 4 hours for another.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Quote of the Day

"This is just delightful."
-Julianna

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Friday, August 08, 2008

Ah, Friday

The weekend couldn't come at a better time.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Sky

Wondering what God has planned for me on the horizon...

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Chains: Unfettered (conclusion)

As I began discussing the other day, the people of God are a free people (see the beginning of this stream of thought: Shackled). We aren't bound by the rules and the difficulties that mire us down.  If only we decide to see it that way.

This is all tied into our perceptions and how we see life.  I think this is why I love movies like The Matrix or Wanted that start out telling the story about a person with one perception of life, that later comes to realize they're living a lie - that the truth about life is something much deeper.  And when they find that truth - they're freed.

That's why living for God - living for Jesus - is freeing - he's freed us from all these things that complicate our lives. As I mentioned before, if I can be free from grumbling and complaining and dwelling on the things I don't like, I can be free from worry and stress; I can actually experience joy. (Though this process is going to be a bit more difficult than I first thought.)

When Jesus died he didn't give us a new law - the new testament isn't a new law; it's a new covenant - a binding agreement. A new law would only chain us down more (see the amazing letter Paul sent to the followers of Jesus in Galatia). Paul said that law cannot free us - it can only enslave us. The whole point of all the things Paul, Jesus, and the other apostles say is not to give us a new list of rules to follow - it's the opposite - to take away all the rules.  We don't have any rules to follow.  We have all these ways Jesus tells us to live - but they're not rules, they're things that help us have better lives.

We chain ourselves - God has given us the keys to our own freedom - and we stand here and hold them, not even realizing it.  It's living for Jesus, learning about Him, loving Him, that helps us to realize that connection. It's living for Him that helps us unlock the chains.

All rules do is chain and control - rules are about control.  I think that those who say we do have rules, and make their religion about catologuing those rules, want to control. They don't want to lose that control; they don't want to open themselves to God; give that control up to God.

Just because we don't have rules - does that mean we have license to do what we want?  I'm sure people will read this and thinks that's what I'm saying - if we don't have rules we can live however we want to live. But Paul answered this same question when he wrote his letter to the believers in Rome. Should we do whatever we want because we don't have any rules? No! We do these things not because we have to but out of our love for God and what he's done for us. As soon as we start doing them because we have to or out some sort of obligation, we take our heart out of it and are once again enslaved by the law.  That's why Paul wrote his letter to those in Galatia in the first place. He asked them if what God started, they thought they could finish by their own efforts.

The devil doesn't want us to open our eyes and see this - that we can truly be freed by God. He wants us to keep our eyes closed, shuffling along in our little lives, complaining about the little things that bother us, stressing about the other things. He doesn't want our eyes and our hearts open to the joy that God can bring.  If we can stay focused on being slaves to some rules, being shallow and judgmental - missing the bigger pictures of love and joy, he can keep us under control and keep us chained.  As long as we don't see what the truth is we're kept under control. "The Matrix has you."

Sometimes the difficulty and pain and sacrifice tears us from our own lives and opens our eyes. Showing us that the really difficult things - putting ourselves last, loving others, truly putting God first in our lives - are really what God wants for us and what really free us (I want go in more detail here, but have before, talking about what God really wants). I think that's why these movies speak to me - they are allegory for us keeping our eyes shut to the reality of life.  The process it takes for us to be yanked out of our reverie to see the truth can be painful.

As these movies show, it's our own misperceptions that keep us chained.  It's these illusions that keep us shackled.  Handcuffed to the cardboard box.  They keep our eyes closed to the real world around us. Keep us believing that we're ordinary and pathetic.

There's a character in Wanted - The Repairman - he fixes bad habits. I seem him as the metaphor for the pain we sometimes experience when we open our eyes and see reality for what it is, and how difficult it is to tear ourselves from the chained lives we live - to begin to live truly free lives.

I'm sorry - I had to get all this stuff out of my brain.  Last weekend we went to a memorial service for my Grandma who died last week.  And we took my Dad to Wanted  to get his mind off things (it was his Mom).  Plus, I finished The Shack a couple weeks ago. I've been doing a lot of heavy thinking over the last few days...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Chains: Shackled (beginning)

Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains.
-Jean Jacques Rousseau

I find it interesting how things in this life are woven together - like a giant tapestry. If we start to pull on a thread in one part of our lives, things start to unravel in another part. I came to a realization yesterday while driving home from a trip to Michigan, that the stress I have in one part of life is caused by the attitude I have in other parts of my life. All of my stress and anxiety is tied to the fact that I "need" to complain about and dwell on things I hate, things that bother me, things that annoy me. I'm overly sensitive. In my life, I spend too much time reacting to what happens to me. If someone makes me angry, I spend too much time thinking about it. If someone hurts me, I spend too much time dwelling on it. If something bad happens to me, I spend too much time complaining about it. And it's that very part of my personality that causes me stress when I worry about things that may or may not happen. That same part of my brain dwells on the details and the bad things that are happening to me.

When I'm complaining, I'm dwelling on the bad stuff that has happened to me in the past. When I'm stressed or anxious, I'm dwelling on the bad stuff that might happen to me in the future. If I wasn't sensitive to all the stuff that bothers me, I wouldn't be sensitive to the stuff that causes me stress.

It's all linked. So, in effect, all of these personality traits - my "enjoyment" of going off on things that bother me, my "need" to complain about how people have slighted me or hurt me, my "obsession" with how other people do things wrong - these, in a sense, cause the stress I have in other parts of my life. I make myself a slave to all my fears by dwelling on the things that make me angry.

So in trying to figure out how to be less anxious and less stressed, I realized that I need to be less complaining and less angry. I'm the only who has control over how stressed I am. If I want to be less anxious about life, I need to do something about it. I've always like this painting (based on a Mr. Boffo comic strip) that illustrates this pretty well.


"Handcuffed to the bars of a cardboard prison, he waits out his time like the fool he is."

This has always been real powerful to me because it illustrates how close we truly are to freedom - we just usually don't do anything about it.

I guess if I want to change some things about myself, I have to change some things about myself. I better dust off that bracelet that reminds me to stop complaining.

Our bad habits and bad traits chain us down - we all create our own prisons. What God has attempted to do is set us free from these things. If you look at our lives and all the things that Jesus said, all the things that Paul and the other apostles wrote about to the early Christians - these weren't rules...they're good things that help us live better lives. I've got some more to say about that, but that, but I'll save it for tomorrow, for the conclusion of this discussion. My brain is already starting to hurt.

More Customer Service Tales

We're in the AT&T store in front of the mall in Florence, and we've walked around for several minutes without anyone asking if we need help. But every time a young attractive girl with large breasts walks in she gets instant attention. Another arrow in the heart of customer service. If you need anything here, be sure to ask for Drew.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is this a joke?

I'm sorry - when I first saw the trailer for Beverly Hill Chihuahua, I thought it was a fake movie. Like something you might see on Saturday Night Live.  Nope.  It's real. 

If we're going to boycott movies, these are the kinds of movies we should boycott.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Grandma Manchester

It's the odd little things you remember. You know how Grandma's house always has that certain smell? Well, the smell in Grandma Manchester's house was mostly coffee.  It was other things, too, that I can't place, but it had this coffee smell infused in the walls. I remember going to her house as a kid.  I didn't grow up on sweet cereal - we were a Cheerios and Cornflakes kind of house.  But Grandma always had good cereal.  Fruity Pebbles sticks out in my mind. And she always used to send away for stuff for me from the back of cereal boxes. I remember this one bank in the shape of a robot - when you put change in, depending on whether it was a penny, nickel, quarter, or dime, it would slide into one of its arms or legs.

When I stayed with her, I remember sitting on this massive cushioned swing she had out on the enclosed porch. And I think I remember playing Old Maid.

She had an immaculate lawn.

She liked the movie The Jerk - she thought the way Steve Martin danced was funny. I think she would catch it late at night, edited for TV.

At Christmas she'd do her trailer (she lived in a mobile home as long as I could remember) up like Bronner's - this massive Christmas store in Frankenmuth, Michigan. And she'd always buy the grandkids the same things. If one of the boys got sweatshirts, we all got sweatshirts.  And I think she was always an optimist. Even as I was growing out of XLs, she'd continue to buy me Mediums. Christmas afternoon with the Manchesters was always followed by a quick trip to KMart to exchange the stuff that was too small.

When I went to college she always sent me care packages.

She was very crafty.  She was always crocheting some new odd thing, or making needlepoint tissue boxes, or something.

I Love Lucy came on the TV yesterday.  People always said she had a lot of the same facial expressions as Lucy.  We watched it for a while. She did.

She was Grandma Manchester to me; Nor Nor to my kids; Ma to my Dad; and Eleanor to everyone else, as far as I could tell.

She was always going, though she'd had to slow down the last couple years. She turned 83 this year.  I didn't spend as much time these last few years as I think I should have. She left Thursday morning to be with God.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

*sigh*

It's been a long freakin' week.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

"Ah, the American Dream"

(I have to attribute that quote to Krista.)

Friday, July 04, 2008

Snapped

We just got Oxygen on cable - isn't that the channel that's advertised as being for women? Anyway, Krista's been recording this show called Snapped.

I'm wondering...is there anything I should be worried about?

Lars and the Real Girl

I've become a firm believer in the idea that the less you know about a movie before you see it, the better.  We went and saw Hancock this week, and I'm glad we saw it on sneak preview night, before the word got out that Will Smith is actually one of the aliens he fought in Men in Black. (oops!)  Just kidding.  Seriously, movies like this are only better the less you know going in.  Unfortunately, studio execs think that they can only get people into the movies if they give away most of the plot, except maybe once in a while the surprise ending. And unfortunately, that may be true to a great extent. I realize that the less you know about a movie, the more likely you are to walk into a real stinker, but I think it's worth the gamble. Because then it makes a great movie so much more wonderful. Especially if the things you wouldn't have known about from watching the trailer make it so much more enjoyable.

Lars and the Real Girl is a lot like that.  We pulled up Comcast's On Demand to watch a movie and we had a choice between this and Be Kind Rewind.  I'm sure that's funny, but Lars and the Real Girl was worth jumping into without knowing anything about it. It's enough to say that it's a great film.  It's a movie about people.  A movie that makes you think.  But not too much - it makes you laugh, too.  If you get a chance to see it, see it.  It doesn't have any action.  And the humor is subtle...not the getting-kicked-in-the-crotch kind.  But the humor is so much more beautiful and funny if you don't really know anything about it going in.  It's about a social introvert (Ryan Gosling) dealing with being socially introverted.  His sister-in-law (Emily Mortimer) does what she can to draw him out of his shell, but nothing seems to work.  Until...

But that would be giving the movie away.  See it.  Before you see the trailer.  Before you look at the website. Before you know anything more about it.  That's how we saw it, and it made it so much better.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thanks, and Good Night

Very nice.

Apparently, I look like a freaked out hippy scientist to 75% of the people who read my blog.








Thanks to all 3 of you.












*sigh*

So much for Jerry Garcia.  I'm off to cut my hair. 

















(ok, ok, I'm just kidding)

It doesn't bother me.

At least not much.

LOL!

Florence Evening Sky

You Have to Crawl Before You Can Walk

I thought I'd post a video of the first time Max crawled. It's a bit late - based on the date of the file, I think it must have been taken in February, when Max was 11 months. Does that sound right?



Anyway, I've been wanting to do this for a while. I've been working on my editing skills - the thing that's interesting about this video is it's taken in 2 different shots with a single camera, one shot immediately after the other.

Update: Krista said that last paragraph didn't make a lot of sense.  I guess the video is so seemless it looks like a single shot (she thought it was the same video she uploaded to her blog a while back). Anyway, what I did was take the overhead shot of him crawling toward the Doritos, then with the same camera, I moved him back to his starting point, and took the baby's eye shot of him crawling toward the Doritos.  I then edited the two shots together, so it looks like a single scene of him crawling toward the Doritos, but with angles from two different cameras at the same time. 

Ok, this may be basic stuff, but I thought it was cool...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

London

I was able to go to London a few weeks ago for work, and I promised to talk about it; even though I wasn't able to make it around to see much it was a pretty amazing trip.

I travelled there to speak, and that was a great experience in itself, but I have to share one of the other highlights.

I got to spend Wednesday evening in an English pub, watching Man U (that's Manchester United) trouncing Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League final. It was an amazing game. In case you're not familiar, a football (soccer) game consists of two 45-minute halves and both teams spend the entire time running up and down the field. When there's a tie, as there was this game (both teams scored once), there are two more 15-minute halves. When the game is still tied, it goes into penalty kicks. I couldn't find a good, succinct highlight reel from the game so I made one. (Watch through the finale - the penalty kicks are more exciting than you might think.) Enjoy! (Update - note how the cannons are synched up toward the end!)




Here's a pic from inside the pub where I watched the game.



Here are a couple bobbies across the street making sure the crowd doesn't get too rowdy.



And here's one of the outside of the pub - I can't remember the name.



Here are a few more pics. The first couple are at the Hurlingham Club, where I spoke, which is the first place polo was ever played. It's a beautiful area.





The Tube (Mind the Gap!)



And on the way home, I was able to snag a smoked salmon bagel (on a bed of Philadelphia cream cheese, with dill, black pepper, and lemon) in Heathrow airport. Mmmmm... (Ok, I'm not sure why I put this picture in here.)



And you know, I can't fathom what it's like for servicemen to come home after being overseas. I hadn't been gone long, and it was a good trip, but when the customs officer stamped my passport and said, "Welcome home," I nearly teared up...

It's good to be home.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Do I Look Like That?

Today I was told that I looked like the scientist guy from Independence Day. Of course, I had to look it up on IMDB and find out they were talking about Brent Spiner - Star Trek's Data.




What in the world? It's not the glasses...it's not the facial hair...what could have possessed someone to compare me to Brent Spiner? Is it because my tan is similar to the golden sheen of Data's skin?



So I thought I'd set up my first (and probably last) poll. Do you think I look like the android from Star Trek? You can vote at the right...




Ah, the beauty of the internet...