Thursday, November 16, 2006

That's Jewish

On the heels of a superior Mel Gibson fumble and in the middle of continued conflict over Israel, I feel compelled to jot some thoughts down on all things Jewish. It will become fairly obvious that I do not know much. In fact, I probably have more questions than answers. However, I rely heavily on commentary to set me straight and am hopeful that many of you will have something to add.

Religion or Race – The first conundrum for me is the actual definition of a Jewish person. Many claim the heading because of their lineage and in this case the implication is that of a racial tie-in. In this scenario it seems possible to be Jewish from your heritage but not necessarily practice any type of religion. What is interesting to me about claiming a racial tie is that there are no real defining differences between a Jew and an everyday Caucasian. Yes there are stereotypes that sometimes fit the bill but unless a guy is wearing a
Yarmelke and has curly black locks with full beard, it isn’t so easy to walk around pointing out Jews. And when will fill out applications that ask our race, I never see a box for Jews. If all Caucasians decided to define race in this manner we would have boxes for English, French, Dutch, German, Australian, and Mutt.

The other scenario has those practicing Judaism being labeled Jewish as well…whether their heritage warrants it or not. I assume that one can convert to Judaism even if they were formerly a gentile such as me. So how do we properly define this group? When the Bible speaks of God’s chosen people is He referring to one group or possibly both?

Christian vs. Jew – This is perhaps more confusing to me than the former category. It seems that some Christians have a problem with the Jews. I don’t get that. The New Covenant (Christianity) was built upon the foundation of the Old (Judaism). Without the former you do not have the latter. The only real thing that separates us is the belief in Christ’s deity…who was a Jew! The Bible (assuming Christians read it now and then) explicitly explains that the Jews are His chosen people. Thankfully the New Covenant makes it possible for a nasty Gentile, like myself, to qualify for eternal bliss but I am not a chosen one as dictated by the Bible. Further implications in Revelations prophesize that it will be the Jews that figure out that we are in the End Times recognizing various prophesy to be true. The speculation goes on to wager that many of these Jews will also realize that the Messiah has indeed already come (in the form of Christ) and 144,000 will convert. So…do you see why I get confused about any conflict between the two groups? There is nothing Biblical to set us apart, only evidence that we should be very cooperative with one another.

Jews Killed Christ – This is perhaps the most inaccurate statement ever made. First of all, if you want to get technical, the Romans killed Christ. Argue all you want that the Jews called for his head but Pontius Pilate had full authority to do as he pleased. The Roman soldiers beat and whipped Him. They disrobed Him and spat on Him. They marched Him up the hill and nailed Him to the Cross. And they pierced his side with a spear to finalize the deed. However, even the Romans get off the hook in my book. A proper Biblical perspective says that you and I killed Christ. He died for our sins even before we were knit together in our mother’s womb. No one person or group crucified Him…we all did. And since I believe in Christ’s deity, I realize that He could have stopped the events that led to His death at any time. Yet He chose to go through with the sacrifice to establish the New Covenant!

Protection of Israel – We are entering a new era that concerns me. Previous generations never questioned America’s protection of Israel likely because this nation has predominantly been Christian since the days of its foundation. This fact becomes less and less true as new generations turn to other faiths or no faith at all. Even modern day Christians seem to be losing their grasp of Biblical truths and prophesy leading the way for a shift in thinking. I have heard and read many rumblings of disdain about our protection of Israel. Many are starting to speak out and demand that the Palestinians also have rights to that land and that our protection of Israel needs to be removed. I am not the most superstitious of people but that idea scares me greatly. Modern day America is pushing the envelope to be on par with Sodom and Gomorrah. I sometimes believe that the only reason God has not sent down his "smite rocket" at us is that we continue to protect His Holy Land and People.

It’s your turn now.

1. How do you define a Jew? Heritage or Faith practice? Both?
2. Do you think there is any good reason that Christians should despise Jews or vice versa?
3. Do you think we should continue protecting Israel?
4. Other thoughts?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Touch of Psychosis

I often tune into a morning radio show that has a new bit running and I find it quite enjoyable. Using a popular song out right now, they invite listeners to call in and confess a compulsion or a strange quirk. Upon doing so…the track plays “Does that make me crazy? Does that make me craz-eh…possibly.”

I’ve touched on some of my strange behavior before in a post called
Marriage Quirks
and its worth a re-read if you are not familiar with it. The callers to this show absolutely make me feel better about my most strange habbits but they also call attention to things that I never really considered as abnormal. Many callers, like my wife, are just OCD to various degrees. They have to do things in multiples of fives or they touch a doorknob three times before turning it. Then there are people that are off the charts with nerosis. One guy confessed to always peeing in an empty bottle instead of the toilet. Another likes to lick the heads of bald men. It was a female thankfully but very strange all the same. Still another likes to rip off several of his entire toenails.

I fall into a very minor category compared to most of these but I believe that we all have strange quirks that we perform on a daily basis. We may even do these things without awareness until a radio show or someone makes us stop and think about it. So I present to you some of my ticks. I might be missing a few but these are what come to the forefront of my mind. I fully expect to have some good confessions from you in the commentary.

Toothpaste – As confessed in the previously mentioned post, I cannot handle it when the tube is depressed in the middle. Before I can even squirt a bead onto my brush, I first smooth the paste from the back to the front, leaving the cap on. Only when I have a perfectly shaped tube can I take the cap off and begin my brushing regiment. The strangest thing about this quirk is that I am just about as far from being OCD than anyone else I know. What might be stranger is my OCD wife is the one who squeezes the tube in the middle forcing me to reshape it every day.

Hot Air – I get cold in the winter like everyone else. But my wife gets cold in the dead of summer if the AC is on. So the battle over the thermostat creates some interesting fun especially in the car. The Durango that we drive has a nice feature that allows me to control my air vents and she, hers. However, there is often an occasion that my wife switches all controls to hot and rightfully so since the air outside this time of years is rather chilly. The problem comes when she leaves the setting to blow air through the normal vents rather than the floor. I CANNOT stand having hot air in my face. I could be trapped in ice and would still go ape if someone decided to defrost my encased body by blowing hot air on my face. I can only speculate that it has something to do with the feeling of not being able to breathe. Stuffy, hot air is not the easiest thing to inhale. A constant stream of it has me rolling down the window to escape from its evil nature. Needless to say, I quickly tell her to switch the controls to blow on the floor before I hyperventilate.

Being On Time – This is common for a first born child. But despite being married to another first born, she often likes to arrive a bit late. She is good about things that are important…like getting to work, weddings, etc. But a casual get-together is something a bit different. She hates being the first one to arrive whereas I have a deep-set inclination to be fifteen minutes early in most cases. I CANNOT handle being late. What might be worse is that I cannot handle others being late. It gets me in a rather fowl mood. My mother claims that I had this quirk from birth, having entered this world on the exact day that the doctors predicted.

Door Locks – Last but not least I have a nightly routine where I secure the locks in my home before hitting the sack. Not so unusual on the surface as I am sure most Americans lock the doors at night. My problem is that I check, double check, and sometimes triple check my work. If I don’t make a major mental note as I am doing it the first time, this little voice creeps in and says, “You forgot to lock the front door. Better go check and see.” And because I failed to make a mental note and perform this routine in a half asleep state, I cannot even remember the previous thirty seconds prior when I was turning the very lock in question.

So what are your quirks? Come on…I know you have some. And I am willing to bet a few of you can make me look rather sane.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Guns & Paddles

Here is a headline from today’s news:

Wisconsin Lawmaker wants teachers to carry guns.

Ok…let me make sure I have this right.

Prayer – not allowed in schools
Corporal punishment – not allowed in schools
Gun toting teachers – lawmakers thoughtfully considering

Don’t get me wrong, I think prayer has practical applications to the individual. Any forced, group prayer is likely not going to get my support. But we do our best to remove God and time honored disciplines from schools and then become so outraged with the ensuing results that we are now proposing a militia of teachers? Am I the only one lifting an eyebrow to this?

There are so many problems with this idea that it would be like shooting fish in a barrel to point them all out. However, I would at least like to mention one: not all teachers should be packing heat. What is keeping Ms. Nearing A. Breakdown from popping a few caps in a fit of rage because the class didn’t read their assignments?

“By the way, Ms. Breakdown…I need to see you after school for some tutoring.”

“Can’t do it Billy…I have mandatory target practice and gun training today.”


The Paddle – What kept me and many generations of school aged kids from acting out too terribly bad was the thought of having Principal Pete paddle your posterior. Normally this wooden threat would just hang on the wall above his desk as a reminder. You always heard rumors of someone getting a good swat on the backside but I never actually saw it happen or had any friends at the bad end of the stick.

The Note Home – This was almost as bad for me as any potential spanking. I have such a highly developed sense of pleasing my folks that to disappoint them was outright scary. I would beg my teacher not to tell my parents and promise all sorts of good behavior if they’d just tear up the note. I am sure some instructors saw my pleading as a sign of abuse at home because of the sheer and utter display of desperation. But I really did not get spanked often. It really was the fear of being a disappointment that worked on me.

The Parents – I had good ones. Not everyone does but this is where the discipline blame game starts and ends in my opinion. It is very rare that I hear of good parents with a devil child. Whether parents are abusive or just neglectful…the kids will act according to their upbringing…period.

There are other things like detention, suspension, standing in corners, banishment at recess, running laps, etc. but the main three I grew up with are listed above and were effective. Some of these techniques still exist but most are laughable if used at all. I also realize that the older the children get (i.e. highschool-aged) the less effective most punishments are. This new generation seems to have no fear of consequences. So I guess the only viable solution is to arm everyone and see who comes out of the fray.

What do you think?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Cry Challenge

I’ve said it before, so I supposed admitting it again won’t hurt…I am a wuss. I think last time I used the word pansy. Life is cyclical in so many ways. I started out as a very sensitive child. Overly sensitive might even be the proper analysis. Through hard knocks, some training from dad, and the sheer need to assimilate into this fraternity called manhood, my sensitive side faded. Insults no longer pierced the armor. Physical pain might cause me to wince but dry eyes never let loose their precious saline bounty. I became rock solid and still am in many ways.

But the circle has me on a path of revisiting my inner child. The strangest things get me going. It always starts out the same. A big and impossible lump begins to form in my throat. If I don’t immediately put the kibosh on this…tears begin to well up and spill over. Maybe this return isn’t so bad. As an adult, who do I have to impress these days anyway? If another man is not so inclined to join my pansy party, then good for him. To each their own.

In my last installment of this sort, I confessed to three things that had recently got the rain drop machine to churning. So in keeping with tradition, here are the most recent tidbits. Oh…and you might be wondering about the title. This is a challenge of sorts. I am quite sure that a few of you will pass with no problem. However, I know that this will at the very least touch you. And if that fails…I will officially be scared of you.

Crocodile Hunter – I talked about him in a
previous post, stunned by the animal that caused his end. But recently on 20/20 Barbara Walters interviewed his spouse. Most of the interview was sad but almost none of it cause waterworks for me. I love animals and all but her passion and Steve’s are off the scale…so I just could not relate in many cases. Then she talked of her son. Lump forming…we have a blip on the radar. She caught her son walking to the garage armed with a screwdriver. Curious, she followed to see what he was doing. There he was, clanging away at Steve’s old motorcycle engine…not really using the tool correctly but making noise as though something was getting accomplished. Lump growing…saline alert…code yellow. She inquired as to what he was doing and this was his reply, “I am fixing daddy’s old bike so he has something to ride in heaven.” Code red, mayday, mayday, we have spillage. Begin evacuation plans. Granted…being a parent helps. Imagining my son doing something like this should I meet with an untimely death is what really got to me. But I couldn’t help but sit there and wonder why I managed to let the Crocodile Hunter of all people affect me is such a way.

Autistic Basketball Player – The video speaks for itself. I found it on one of my favorite funny sites of all places. This boy served as the basketball assistant since his limitations kept him from actually playing competitively. Depsite his handicap, he ingratiated himself to the team and was their number one fan. Then a chance presented itself…
click here. (I post links quite often and realize that some of you do not follow them. All links on this post are well worth your time. Plus you cannot claim to have passed the challenge unless you actually participate.)

A Father’s Love – If by now you have remained unaffected, this is my biggest challenge of the three. Again, being a parent helps but you will likely get something from this regardless. The
link here will give you the full back-story which in and of itself is touching. I had received the story in an email and liked it but never got pushed over the line of wussery. This time was different because the page you will visit has a video at the end (so scroll down after reading the story). You can actually watch this amazing father take his very handicapped son on some wild adventures. I am counting on this third installment to finally get even the best of you to fail my test. Please let me know the results of this challenge in your commentary.

I suppose a prize should be awarded to the winner. I will have to think of something good to give out. A heart transplant might cost too much but that is all that immediately comes to mind ;).

Friday, September 29, 2006

Traffic Report

Chopper 5 here flying over the Mixmaster. We have a three car pileup with police on the scene. Traffic is backed up to Egypt and there is no end in sight. By the time you get to the point of origin, the wreck will be cleared up and you won’t even have the satisfaction of rubbernecking. What’s more is that this will be the 20th time you are late to work and written up despite leaving your house a 5AM. Here’s hoping you still have a job! Chopper 5 out.

That might as well be the daily report here in Dallas. From what I’ve been told we still do not rival cities in California or New York but it is bad. If it ever got worse, I would surely have to beat my head into the steering wheel until unconscious. It is 2006. I just thought I would remind everyone of that because aren’t we supposed to be in flying cars by now? We have the Jetson’s to blame for this expectation as well as countless other programs and movies. What year was it again that Marty visited in the future? I don’t see us progressing as fast as we often like to brag.

Here are some typical frustrations you might relate to: (Special thanks to Zaphod for giving me some of these ideas)

Cones For No Reason – Ever have to merge out of the lane you are in because orange cones have been place in the way? You think to yourself, surely these cones are there because of construction of some sort. Yet you move over and edge forward inches every five minutes only to witness three miles of cones, blocking nothing. Maybe the cone fairy visited last night. Maybe this was Joe Construction’s practical joke. Maybe the shipment intended for Madonna spilled out on the road. Whatever the case, I assume someone is hiding around the corner laughing as traffic stacks up for miles.

Stripers and Sweepers – Lately it is all the rage in Dallas for road crews to hit the highways to sweep and stripe the various lanes. Typically there are no less than 7 trucks in a row. Four or five of these trucks just carry large displays with flashing arrows directing traffic to merge over. It is only the front two trucks that actually sweep or paint. Seems like overkill and another unnecessary jam of the roadways. Their favorite time to conduct such services are during rush hour. I guess the middle of the night might be too inconvenient for city workers. On one particular day, I ended up traveling on three different highways to take my son to a doctors appointment. All three had this truck brigade as it was obviously National Stripe Day. Stupid me for not checking the calendar.

Copper Calamity 1 – When pulled over the police are specifically trained to minimize the life damage by parking behind you. All traffic on the main freeway slows down to look at the cop (thus impeding traffic). When the car is ready to leave, an UNSAFE entry must be made by the stopped vehicle (0 mph) must enter and merge with freeway traffic (60+mph). This is a MORE dangerous hazard than most offending cars that were traveling 10 mph over the limit to keep up with the general flow of traffic.

Copper Calamity 2 – We’ve all been flying down the highway and come upon a police car traveling the same direction. For some strange reason this police officer is traveling BELOW the posted speed limit, laughing histerically with donut powder circling his mouth. So what does everyone do? You guessed it…everyone feels compelled to stay in pace with Mr. Police Man. So we trudge along in one big merry clump all praying that this jerk will exit the highway and let us return to our speeding ways.

Copper Calamity 3 - When a police car is "hiding" to capture his next speeding victim, many cars see the cop on the side of the road and hit their brakes; which causes a chain reaction and a possible wrecks. The police are there to prevent such things…right? I am not picking on the Feds, just pointing out some obvious irony in their practices so please don’t mistake me for a person that has it out for The Man.

The Christian Cut-Off – It’s bad enough that we have such reckless drivers and rampant road rage these days. But it is something quite different when the jerk that sped around you and cut drastically back in front of you with middle finger wagging in the air, has a proudly displayed Jesus Fish on his car. I wish this was a rare occurrence for me but I’ve had many a fellow Christian witness to me in such ways.

Road Ragers – These people are like the fish toting variety but have no actual fish on their cars. They exceed speeds well beyond what is posted, they weave in and out of traffic, they ride your bumper, they cut you off, and you are lucky if the only thing they point at you is a little birdie. I cannot count the number of news reports of highway shootings between two vehicles that engaged in a bit of roadplay.

Granny GetouttaDaway – Old people. Need I say more? I plan to be one myself someday but I have made a few promises for the betterment of mankind: I will either stop driving if incapable of going the posted speed limits OR be the fastest old fart on wheels. When is the last time you saw Geezer Gary revving his engine at a stop light? Right...never. I am going to be the first so watch out for the year 2056.

I am sure to have neglected many other situations that are common. Enlighten me to your experience with your commentary.

Friday, September 22, 2006

It's Not My Fault

We learn the blame game as children.

“The dog ate it.”
“Johnny made me do it.”
“It wasn’t me.”
“No one told me NOT to flush the entire roll of TP down the toilet.”

As adults personal accountability doesn’t change, the excuses do.

“I was told there were Weapons of Mass Destruction.”
“It depends on what your definition of is…is.”
“My parents screwed me up.”
“I am genetically predisposed to being fat.”
“It’s an addiction, a disease…I can’t help it.”
“My grandmother died…for the forth time.”
“I’m sick and can’t come to work…fishing is an illness, right?”

Free will is a gift and a curse. We use it for better or worse and have to deal with the consequences of our mistakes. What amazes me is how we react when a mistake becomes obvious. The mature thing to do is take accountability for it, learn, and make changes. But the word accountability is not one that many practice. And I don’t think this is particularly unique to our generation though the temptation is to say so.

Personal accountability is not easily learned, it must be instilled over time and usually in childhood. The lack of accountability is what leads so many to have a sense of entitlement. “I deserve all things good and deserve nothing bad,” seems to be the mentality. The correct phrasing should be I’ve earned what I have both good and bad. I realize this logic is somewhat flawed as we all tend to have things happen that are beyond our control. But with those exceptions in place, my argument still stands.

So until we find a miracle pill that cures us of entitlement and installs accountability, I will have to keep hearing phrases like those listed above. How awesome would it be if Bush (or any almost politician for that matter) stood up at the mike in front of TV cameras and said, “Hey, I screwed up and this is what I’d like to do about it.”?

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Unfinished Email

The following email letter is fictional and my personal way of remembering the tragedy of September 11th.


I tried calling several times but keep getting a busy signal. Cell service and land lines must be tied up with all the emergency calls. I am at a desktop on floor 95. After an explosion below us we all searched for a way down but stairwells are blocked and elevators seem to be out of service. This floor is a bit smoky but seems to be in the best shape from some of the others I’ve been on. Some of our office crew is on their way to the roof in hopes of rescue but I am certain that we just need to stay put and let firemen instruct us. Ron says he will come back for me if the roof idea works out so I just wanted to take a moment and send you a message.

The mood is somber and serious but no one is too panicked. We don’t know what the explosion was and we’ve heard several more since the initial boom. I cannot see tower two but I assume the problems are just with our building. I remain confident of rescue but want to say a few things just in case.

I love you. I love our little family. Please reassure Madison and Matthew that daddy is fine. I am not always the best husband or father and it is times like these when I am reminded of the important priorities. I will make a huge effort to improve when this is all over. I need to take you out on more dates. I need to play ball in the yard with Matt more often. I need to play tea party and Barbie with Madie. Work is just work. It pays the bills but I make it too much of a priority. I want to be the man you deserve and the father that the M&M's need.

I still remember the first day I met you at the Christmas party five years ago. How crazy is it that you and I both had dates with different people and ended up ditching the festivities for a cup of coffee? I think Brian forgave you for that but Susan never talked to me again. Oh well, I got the better girl. Not just the better one but my soul mate. You are so beautiful, kind, loving, and gentle. You are the world’s best wife and mommy and we are so lucky to have you. Your smile lights up a room and your laughter echoes in my heart when I think of the good times we’ve shared.

The Caribbean Cruise comes to mind and the snorkeling excursion had me in stitches. The way you would jump every time a fish brushed against us. The way you kept asking about sharks and getting salt water in your mask. We need to take another vacation soon. No more excuses about work and kids and responsibility. We’ll go somewhere tropical again but no snorkeling, I promise. Just you and me on the beach with a tropical drink and sunshine. Gosh that sounds nice. I cannot promise to keep from splashing water on you or pushing you in but I'll try to behave. And we have to get the spa treatment. Remember the massage we got last time? I fell asleep on the table and you laughed when I started to snore?

Well, it is getting hotter and the air is thick. I am using my shirt to cover my nose and mouth but all I can taste is smoke. I need to find the gang and see if that roof idea panned out. I am sure it is just a matter of time before rescue teams make it to us and show us an escape route. But just in case, I need to be proactive. I will try calling you again but please do not worry. I’ll be home soon and

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Nerd Nonsense

I normally don’t click on links to participate in quizzes that tell you what celebrity you most match up with or what star wars character you might be. In fact, I still haven’t participated in any of those but I did something similar after reading a blog site I often patronize. The quiz was intended to score your level of nerdiness. I have always suspected that a nerd lies within but this quiz tells me otherwise and I am not sure how proud I am about that.

Wikipedia defines the term “nerd” as such:

Nerd, as a stereotypical or archetypal designation, refers to somebody who pursues academic and intellectual interests at the expense of social skills such as: interpersonal communication, fashion, and physical fitness. It is also the name of a candy made by Willy Wonka.

One might hope that this label ends with high school graduation but it really doesn’t. Granted the likelihood of getting wedgies at work significantly decreases but the term seems to still float around. Bill Gates is often deemed King Nerd and offers hope to all living in Nerdville without the ability to vacate.

Here is my score on the quiz:

I am nerdier than 1% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

First off, I don't despise nerds as the results indicate. Also there is a problem with this quiz and many like it. For one, you can easily identify the answers that will give you the desired result. They have a few questions that you either know or don’t know but most of them offer you choices that you fully expect to give you a higher or lower nerd score. My score indicates that 99% of the participants of this quiz were found to be nerdier than I with a final conclusion that I must be cool. Sure, I buy that. Yet taking the quiz alone seems to indicate more nerdiness in me than they were able to determine. And finding out you are cool on a quiz seems rather…un-cool.

The definition above seems to be all encompassing but I have an issue or three with it.

1. Intelligence - The implication of a nerds academic pursuits implies to most that this group is intelligent and likely smarter than the average Edge. The intelligence quotient of a person is not related at all to their book smarts or the ability to regurgitate information…though it might help some. My IQ and SAT’s are the perfect example of this paradox. On an IQ test my score indicates that I am just shy of Mensa levels (Mensa indicates that you are a genius). The SAT test I took indicates that I might be lucky to go to Technical School and graduate.

2. Social Skills – The difference between a nerd and a dork seems to lie firmly between Intelligence and Social Skills. Those that are smart AND socially inept get to be nerds. Those that are not noted for intellectual prowesses but still suffer socially seem to be dorks. Though I seem to be fairing quite well socially these days my ability to be a popular socialite in high school was lacking. Thus I was more of a dork and I am quite fine with that. The only point of contention I have with the definition is that it again implies something untrue. If Wikipedia is correct then one might assume that a nerd does not develop socially by choice, seeing more value in academia. I contend that academia is a safe haven for those that are missing a key social element in their personality profile. Not all socially lacking people turn to their studies but many do. So I might argue that a true nerd has little or no ability to socially develop even if they put the books down.

3. Fashion and Physical Fitness – This epidemic is much further reaching than Nerdville. The only reason I have matching colors and updated styles on my person is due to the help of my lovely wife. Physical fitness is a dear friend of mine but we have lost touch quite a bit these last few years. So again, these attributes can easily be assigned to a non-nerd. And I assume some nerds also have wives with fashion sense as well as a decent physical fitness regiment.

So I guess, like many of life’s labels no one description can describe an entire group. I think that we all tend to become more and more well rounded as we age even if we are relatively helpless to make huge changes. Those that only concentrated on the books hopefully go out and participate in social settings beyond that of Star Trek conventions. Those that only concentrated on popularity hopefully completed that college degree and realize that something valuable lies in intelligence and education. Still there are the extreme examples that will likely never make strides toward the middle ground.

How nerdy are you? Take the Nerd Quiz and leave your score in the commentary.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Don't Play With Fire

I don’t consider myself “called to the ministry” in the traditional pulpit preaching sense. I stay active with my church, volunteer, lead groups and such but nothing you might consider Pastoral. However, before moving from the UMC to a Bible Church I was given the opportunity to preach a sermon. Once a year my old church had something similar to open mike night except it was during regular services and people were selected or invited to participate. Somehow my name was submitted and I got the call to preach. I was quite flattered and accepted having no idea what I would do or what I might have got myself into.

I ended up using the title above and it was based on a personal transition that had recently taken place in my life. I had been what I considered to be a Christian for 20 something years but never really understood my own faith. One night while watching the Comedy Channel, Steve Harvey was on stage. He went into a bit about heaven. It went something like this:

“Lines. Everywhere lines. Lines at the supermarket. Lines of traffic. Lines at the ballpark and at Six Flags. I hate lines and if you are like me you always have your eye on the horizon looking for that lane that is open or moving quickly. We will do ANYTHING to get through them faster. We cut people off in traffic, we zoom ahead faster when we see someone else headed the same direction, and we only have our own intentions in mind. But can you imagine the line in heaven? That is a line I am scared of. That is a line that will make me think twice. I can see it now. Ole Bob is twenty spots ahead of you and you know he was a good man. Then Saint Peter points him to the left instead of the right and I really get nervous. If ole Bob didn’t make it what chance have I got? ‘Hey man…want to have cuts?’”

He performed this much better than I can paraphrase plus his mannerisms and facial expressions had me laughing out loud. But something hit me like a ton of bricks. The rest of his stand up routine became a blurry background as I stared into the gleaming glow of the TV in deep thought. What would I do if caught unexpectedly standing in a heavenly line? Do I make the cut? Can anyone really know the answers? How do I find out? Who knew Steve Harvey saved souls?

The rest of my sermon took the audience through my experience of researching answers and the conclusions of that search. While my conclusions have me in an assured state of confidence, not everyone finds the same religious path. This post is not to convert anyone or to explain why I came to the conclusion that I did. Rather, I would like to know from you, if you’ve ever had this type event happen. Even the most devout atheist must sometimes wonder…what if I’m wrong? Can I find truth? How do I begin the search? Is life on earth really all there is? If not, how are we judged eternally? Are we judged at all or do we all get to hop around the Universe at whim? If judged, will I make the grade? Is heaven and hell the only choice? I am a good person…is that enough?

Questions like that plague the mind if uncertain. Some are content to NOT have the answers and just hope that some type of Universal justice will allow them to pass go and collect $200. To me, this mentality is like not carrying life, car, or medical insurance under the presumption that nothing will ever happen to you. It would drive me nuts. What about you?

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Coma

Janie took her normal seat next to the hospital bed and clasped his hand in hers. It had been 3 weeks now since the accident but it seemed an eternity. Scott laid there unflinching as though he was in the deepest and most peaceful sleep humanly possible. Doctors encouraged her to speak to him as data indicates coma patients can hear you. She whispered softly into his ear and let her warm breath meet his skin in hopes that he might respond. Seeing no effect, she sat back in her chair and began the daily ritual of reading the paper aloud. Scott was a man of routine and she wanted familiar things to fill his day. Since coffee cannot be administered intravenously, the day’s headlines would have to suffice.

Janie had an ability to read but not engage fully. She would often drone on about the gas prices, the war in Iraq, and the latest sports updates all the while drifting off into her own world. Today she recalled their first meeting at the restaurant. He the manager of a quaint diner and her a customer seeking nothing more than a burger to tame the growls of hunger. He was so cute in his own little way…overly proud of managing such a dive. His smile sent shivers down her back and she was unsure if his piercing look was meant just for her or if he tore everyone apart with his beautiful blue eyes.

She stared at him casually from the corner booth as he rang each guest up at the register, smiling with a bright white gleam. He caught her eye and she quickly, bashfully looked down at her fries with a quiet giggle. I cannot believe I’m flirting with cheeks full of greasy treats. He must think I look like a chipmunk storing nuts for the long winter. As gracefully as she could, a napkin met her lips to catch the mustard oozing from the corner. As she looked back up, he was gone. Hmm…must have retreated to the backroom for a break, she thought.

“Hi, I’m Scott”

Startled that he had managed to creep up on her unexpectedly, she almost shot milkshake from her mouth as she regained composure and swallowed. Her cheeks turned a light shade of red as she held her hand out to greet him.

“I’m Janie.”

“Nice to meet you. And how’s the food today?”

She was nervously tapping her foot under the table wondering if his inquiry was part of his managerial duty or because her flirtatious body language had snared him.

“Very good, though not of the healthy variety that I should be eating.”

“No, nothing healthy on our menu but it will cure what ails ya.”

“Either that or put me in an early grave.”

Nodding in agreement he continued, “I get a lot of regulars around here and assume that you’ve never graced us with your patronage.”

“Nope. First time. I’m pretty new to the area and was told this was the best burger joint in town.”

“Well the burgers are good but the manager here is what makes the experience so wonderful,” he said with a sarcastic smile and a wink. “All kidding aside, I hope you come back when the healthy food starts getting bland.”

“Thanks. I certainly will.”

“Great. Nice meeting you.”

Sure enough Scott continued table to table, striking up small talk and asking about the food. Maybe he was just being a good manager. I cannot just leave. Well sure I could, I can always make an excuse to come another time. Yeah that is what I’ll do…don’t want to come on too strong and get embarrassed.

Janie collected her things and started for the door. By this time Scott was behind his counter again and was meticulously wiping down the trays.

“Bye now,” Janie said over her shoulder with one last look of interest.

“Wait. I mean…just a second.” He removed his apron and smoothed out the wrinkles of his work shirt as if to primp before moving in for the kill. Noticeably nervous after being so confident earlier he offered, “Umm…you are new to town, right?” Before she could answer he went on, “And I am sure you already have several friends and all but…if you ever need someone to show you around, I’d be glad to. I mean…I know this area pretty well. Banks, grocery stores, the health foods market,” he let out a nervous chuckle.

“Actually friends isn’t what I have. They are just co-workers and I would love a tour. Let me give you my number.”

Pen still behind his ear, he fumbled for it with shaky hands and offered it to her.

“I don’t have any paper, do you?” she asked.

“Here, just write on my hand.”

Her smile gave away her thoughts that even this was just so cute…and typical male.

“I promise I will write it down when I get in the office and have paper,” he said apologetically.

“No problem. Just don’t wash it off by accident before you do.”

The sound of Nurse Bailey checking Scott’s vitals brought Janie out her day dream.

“How’s he doing?”

“Still stable with good readings,” Bailey touted heartily.

“When is the doc making the rounds today?”

“Should be any minute ma’am.”

“Ok…thanks.” Her tone gave away the sadness in her heart. She realized that she needed to stay positive but the burden of this was getting too big to handle. If only she had not asked Scott to go out for milk and eggs that drunk driver would have never crossed his path.

Doctor Reid entered the room looking down, fastidiously studying Scott’s chart. Laying the clipboard on the patient’s legs he leaned forward with stethoscope in hand. Janie studied the expression of Doc Reid’s face, looking for any clues of good or bad news. He listened intently averting her direct gaze and began shining his pen light into Scott’s eye. First the left one, then the right.

“Well.” Doctor Reid began. “I have wonderful news.”

Now leaning forward in her chair, Janie said, “Yeah, is Scott making progress?”

“Oh no…not at all. But I did save 15% on my insurance by calling Geico. A fifteen minute call could save you that much or more. Get a free rate quote, view your account and pay online.”

Got you again, didn’t I?!
To make up for it, have a laugh by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Blathering Pansy

I confess. Despite my hardened exterior, puffed up chest, and big talk…I am a softy. Really I always have been but I got pretty darn good at hiding it and pretending to be tough for a while. And I needed that time in my life because I learned many lessons about manhood and the proper place for emotion. But the older I get the more I seem to return to my wuss-roots. For heaven sake, it was all I could do to get through one episode of Extreme Home Makeover without a huge lump in my throat and a saline droplet threatening to plunge over the rim of my eye.

Like most guys, I know when I’m caught and quickly blame allergies or try to explain how this dust bunny was just running along and jumped into my eyes, causing severe irritation. My wife knows better but usually does not make too much fun at my expense. Having these episodes become more frequent is starting to concern me but this confession is hopefully going to have the masses kicking me in the pants and straightening me out.

Here are a few recent examples of total wussery:

Hallmark Movie – So I’m in a hotel room over the weekend as my wife is a bridesmaid in her good friends wedding. It is 11PM and we are still wired from the days events. I begin flipping through the various channels and stop when I see this familiar face dressed in western gear. After driving myself crazy for ten minutes trying to figure out who she is, I did it. “It Izzy from Grey’s Anatomy,” I declare proudly to my wife. If that statement alone was not homosexual enough, I began getting interested in the plot line. Granted I did not realize until the first commercial break that this was indeed a HALLMARK MOVIE but by then it was too late. They had their claws in me and I had to know: Does she stay with this lonely man and his daughter who so desperately needs a mother figure OR does she go home and start over now that her husband is dead? Thankfully I never let those bastards make me cry damnit but they sure as hell kept me watching till the very end.

My Son’s Appointment – I have been dreading the inevitability of my son getting this corrective helmet for some time now. In an earlier post I have even invited those of you that want to support LB to don helmets of your own and send me a picture for a future post. Whether any of you do it or not, I am determined to wear my bicycle helmet around him fairly often to show daddy is just like Little Boy. I am officially declaring August 7th Helmet Day for those of you that want to participate…so send your entries soon. The 7th is the day his apparatus gets positioned for its 3 month nesting on my sons head. All that being said yesterday was The Casting Appointment. Ever break your arm or leg and get a cast? If so, you know that the doctor covers the area with a netting, then puts very hot strips of wet cheese-cloth material over the nettings containing plaster. In this hot form it is very moldable and claylike but uncomfortable to a certain degree. Now imagine getting a cast over your entire head AND then imagine being a 7 month old baby. The only hole left open for my poor child to remain in touch with the outside world was one cut for his nose and mouth. Fifteen minutes is a freaking long time when your baby is screaming bloody murder and desperately wants you to rescue him. Instead, mom and dad hold him down so that the doctor can keep applying this crap, making his head heavier, hotter, and more uncomfortable. Finally after non-stop bawling and screams of terror, they released him from the plaster dungeon and he lunged into our arms not wanting to let go at all. He had white plaster in his hair, in his eyes, in his ears, and all around his neck. I was a good father…stayed calm for his sake…held his little hand and spoke softly to him during the whole ordeal. Inside, I was dieing. It was all I could do to keep from plastering this lady to the wall, chisel my son free, and head for the hills. The wave of emotions finally hit me as I loaded my son into the car. He looked up at me with those innocent, trusting, but still red eyes with a look of “I love you daddy” on his face and the battle began. The impossible to swallow lump formed in my throat and the saline substance began to materialize. For the better part of the next twenty minutes I wrestled with my attacker and the outcome was a draw. I kept him from turning me into a mush pile of writhing sissyness and he kept me from speaking or doing anything whatsoever that might send me over the edge. I cannot explain the hold a child has over your heart. I am sure both of my babies will cause my heart to break multiple times and if this is any indicator, I am in for it.

Goodbye Dear Friend – So if the above experience was not enough for me in one day, I return to my mother’s house (to retrieve my daughter) and have a very good friend of mine call and ask if he can meet me. He agrees to hook up at my parent’s house since he is in the area. His goal in this interaction? To tell me goodbye…possibly forever. I have had friends come and go throughout the years but few of his caliber. The only sissy foul I committed during this painful interaction was a hug. And I made sure that it was as manly of a hug as possible with the obligatory ‘slap, slap’ of my hands on his back. So rest easy, there was no BrokeBack moment but that does not make his departure any less bearable. I suppose we’ll see him now and then during the holidays. And I guess that responsibilities to our respective wives, children, and jobs already had properly strained any efforts to constantly stay in touch. But you always take for granted that a good friend just lives down the road…available anytime, for any reason. And with guys you can always just pick up where you left off even if years have passed by. Well after at least 10 years of friendship, countless trips to Mexico & Colorado, running a Pizza Shop together, college partying, multiple workouts (see now…something manly, right?), chasing girls, standing up for each other at our weddings, and holding each others infants…the chapter closes. I remain hopeful of a comeback tour but realize that life deals different cards sometimes. So until next time Ryan…much love.

So as you can see, I need help. I need to have a day to sit idle in my underwear, scratching what I may, drinking a beer, belching, and watching the UFC. Either that or a good sock in the jaw. Feel free to set me straight in your commentary!

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Alright. So another story from the Middle East snuck up on me and had me confused. Being the ever constant news Ostrich with my head in the sand, I had to do some brief research to see why every news outlet is talking about Isreal and Hezbollah. Here is what I found from MSN:

Formed in 1982 after Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, Hezbollah (Arabic for “Party of God”) is considered by the United States and the European Union as a terrorist organization. Consisting almost entirely of Shiite Muslims, it has received support from Iran and Syria and is a recognized political party in Lebanon. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in June 2006, which triggered an Israeli attack on targets inside Lebanon. Hezbollah expresses sympathy for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another radical group.

Despite its 24 years of existence, this is the first time I am hearing anything about them. And I really don’t care if you are Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Qaeda, or ComOnIwanaLaya…I am sick of the bombings and hatred. I have never seen a religious group and nation of people so angry all of the time. Whether they are pissed off at a cartoon drawing of Muhammad or unable to wash the sand out of their butt cracks, they always have a reason to terrorize another race, nation, or opposing group. If this was not the year 2006, I would be convinced that these are Barbarians fighting over Brontosaurus meat and Hagred the Hot from cave tribe 7.

What is really strange to me about all of this is the knowledge of the original problem. And I blame Abraham, though he is a very important figure to my Christian roots. All of this modern day conflict stems from one of the oldest stories of family dysfunction. Abraham (you know the song…Father Abraham had many sons and many sons had Father Abraham…) was unable to have children with his wife Sara. So (as was tradition during a time when medical science for fertility options was non-existent) Sara gave Abraham permission to plant his seed in the womb of their slave-girl, Hagar (not to be confused with Hagred the Hot). Well let’s let Wikipedia explain it in better detail:

As Sarai was infertile, God’s promise that Abram’s seed would inherit the land seemed incapable of fulfillment. His sole heir was his servant, who was over his household, a certain Eliezer of Damascus (15:2). Abraham is now promise as heir one of his own flesh. The passage recording the ratification of the promise is remarkably solemn (see Genesis 15). Sarai, in accordance with custom, gave to Abram her Egyptian handmaid Hagar, who, when she found she was with child, presumed upon her position to the extent that Sarai, unable to endure the reproach of barrenness dealt harshly with her and forced her to flee. Hagar is promised that her descendants will be too numerous to count, and she returns. Her son Ishmael thus was Abram’s firstborn, but was not the promised child, as God made his covenant with Abram after Ishmael’s birth (chapter 16-17). Hagar and Ishmael were eventually driven permanently away from Abram by Sarah (chapter 21).

The name Abraham was given to Abram (and the Sarah to Sarai) at the same time as the covenant of circumcision (chapter 17), which is practiced in Judaism and Islam and by many Christians to this day. At this time Abraham was promised not only many descendants, but descendants through Sarah specifically, as well as the land where he was living, which was to belong to his descendants. The covenant was to be fulfilled through Isaac, though God promised that Ishmael would become a great nation as well. The covenant of circumcision (unlike the earlier promise) was two-sided and conditional: if Abraham and his descendants fulfilled their part of the covenant, Yahweh would be their God and give them the land.

So what it comes down to is a family divided. Isaac was the promised one and chosen son to lead great nations and fulfill destiny. Rightly so, to some degree, the first born son, Ishmael (also promised to have many descendants that became great nations BUT not the chosen one) was a bit pissed off. Isaac’s descendants became the nation of Israel (Jews) and Ishmael’s descendants became the many nations of Islam (Muslims). I suppose this brotherly tension was passed down from generation to generation because here we sit thousands of years later watching these two nations continue to fight and war with one another.

The U.S. being majority Christian or at least originally founded that way have always sided with the Biblical choice…that being Isaac or the Jewish nation. Thusly we protect Israel and often fight Muslims due to our alliance. This is also why so many Islamic terror groups hate us. It is quite conceivable that they could overtake Israel if not for our constant protection. There is even a prophetic verse in the Bible that a great Eagle from the West will spread its wings in protection of The Holy Land (Israel). The day that we remove our alliance or protection is the day I get really scared and start hiding under a rock. I am pretty sure that modern day America resembles Sodom and Gomorrah moreso than we would like to think. I could be wrong but part of me believes that our alliance and protection of God’s chosen ones is what keeps Him from throwing a flaming ball of extinction at us.

All serious discussion aside, I have multiple ideas that might bring resolution to this long standing family feud:

  • Offer free enemas to the terror groups – Once they rid themselves of the corn cobs stuck in their posteriors, real change can begin to happen.
  • Follow up with suppositories – Now that the corn cobs are absent we must quickly replace them with caffeine laced suppositories. This will keep the area blocked from further corn cobs and deliver the much needed relaxing dose of caffeine rendering a calm never seen before in the Middle East.
  • Hook up the Cable – The real reason these nations are so angry and always fighting is that they have nothing else to do. Give them cable television and watch them slowly turn into the cattle-like, doughy-eyed nation that we are. Who has time for suicide bombing when Grey’s Anatomy is on?
  • Initiate the UFC – For those that cannot be calmed and must have their day of fighting they must face their opponents in the octogon. No weapons, bombs, burning flags, or gun toting protests. Just a no-holds-bar match with Joe Rogan providing the commentary. The first one to tap out or get knocked out loses.
  • Common Enemy – Perhaps the most brilliant idea would be to use the conflicts to our advantage and distract these groups by uniting them against one common enemy. Tell them that the North Koreans are always drawing cartoons of Mohammed and making jokes about the Jews. Before you know it Israel and the Islamic Nations will unite and take down North Korea and we won’t have had to lift a finger. To ensure the missiles are destroyed we need to paint a cartoon of Muhammad on the side of the missile silo.
  • Build Disneyland – This is another form of distraction but I think it will work. If we put a huge theme park right in the middle of all this conflict, people will put down their weapons and start riding roller coasters. Who can be mad when Mickey Mouse is skipping around with Goofy?
  • Let them have Bush – Since Georgie cannot serve a 3rd term for us (what a shame) he should go lead and unite the Middle East. We all know how good he is as a leader in general and look what he has done to create bi-partisan unity in our country. It would be a complete shame to let those talents go to waste in retirement at his Texas ranch.

Well this list is just a rough draft. I am sure that each one can be tweaked a bit for optimum results. I’d love to hear your ideas as well. Later today I have a meeting with Dubya and he is counting on me to have some solutions.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ball & Chain

So I’ve been married now for 4 years going on 5. It has been quite the adventure and events of this past weekend have me and My Wife reminiscing as my brother popped the question to his girlfriend and now fiancé. Though my marriage is wonderful and though I would not change any of the journey, MW and I came to the same conclusion…we would not want to start over. In fact, as much as we both felt a sense of sentiment about our collaborative memories, we also felt a sense of relief to have made it through to present day. And more challenges will come, I am sure but it is nice to only have to go through it once. In the short amount of time we’ve been married we have endured:

A 13 Month Engagement – plenty of time to plan but plenty of time to witness MW and her mom argue about said plans.

Job Change #1 – I took this fragile time in my life to not only change jobs but work for a “start-up/ground-floor” company. Women love it when you do that…especially just before marriage.

Anxiety Disorder – My wedding gift to MW was to develop a full blown Anxiety Disorder with complimentary and unlimited panic attacks to boot. Aren’t I a sweetheart? This ordeal is over now but lasted the better half of our first year.

Long Work Hours – The dream job I listed above soon had me working the normal 40 hour work week plus most Saturday’s and Sunday’s at Texas Stadium, The Ballpark @ Arlington, Reunion Arena, or The Texas Motor Speedway. So time with my new bride was very limited. Another gift to my wife…I am a giver, what can I say?

House Search – Though exciting to some degree we really had an emotional roller coaster with my credit and the offer process. We missed out on three homes before finally finding our current abode. The entire process of getting pre-approval, finding a nice home, offering and losing a bid multiple times, inspection, contracts, credit repair and explanations, more offers and more losing the bid, final approval, winning an offer, closing, escrow, and moving in was just peachy. All that while working insane hours and trying to keep a new company afloat. It is no wonder I was stressed out enough to have Anxiety.

Infertility – This one takes the cake. I cannot begin to explain to you what infertility does to shake the foundations of a marriage’s emotional core. Through it all we were a team, never blaming one another but it was a burden above all burdens. Women have it worse then men but 2 years of failure after failure, after failure is enough for anyone to deal with. The crazy thing is that the doctors never did find out for sure why we were having so much trouble though indicators pointed in my direction. And at least this struggle has a very happy ending with My Nuggets being the final result.

Job Change #2 – Since the first job decision was such a gift to MW, I felt compelled to keep on giving. And since joining a “start-up” company was not challenging enough on it’s own, I decided to add an extra element of excitement by opening my own company. I tell you…I am a giver. Women cannot get enough of this kind of excitement.

Finances – This is just an issue any couple has to deal with no matter what kind of salary you bring home. There will always be unforeseeable expenses that wear you down. There will always be disagreements of how to allocate savings or lack-thereof. However common this is to other couples, it was very challenging for us because we started our marriage with NO debt. Our goal all along has been to maintain this level and though we dipped a time or two briefly into the debt dungeon, we have been blessed to get back out fairly quickly.

Just to name a few unforeseeable expenses…here is a list:

  • Broken water heater
  • Broken garage door opener
  • Broken garbage disposal
  • Broken sprinkler system
  • At least 2 visits per year to Auto Mechanics – average cost of $300 per visit
  • Medical bills for fertility testing
  • Fence repair - section 1
  • Medical bills for fertility treatment
  • Medical bills to see specialist 1
  • Medical bills for breaking my arm in two places after taking a header off the roof
  • Medical bills for fertility treatment
  • Fence repair - section 2
  • Medical bills for fertility treatment
  • Medical bills for successful treatment
  • Medical bills for ‘at risk’ pregnancy – a common term used for multiples
  • Medical bills for prenatal care
  • Medical bills to see specialist 2
  • Medical bills to see specialist 3
  • Medical bills for birth
  • Fence repair - section 3
  • Medical bills for premie care and weight gain visits
  • Medical bills for well visits
  • Medical bills to check out fake heart murmur
  • Medical bills for helmet

Seeing a trend?
There is so much more that is not medical but you get the point.

These expenses do not even include things we chose to spend money on, like:

  • Remodeling our bathroom
  • Bedroom furniture
  • Office furniture
  • Painting various rooms of our home
  • Tons and tons of baby clothes, toys, cribs, pampers, and provisions
  • Buying a Dodge Durango
  • Purchasing a refrigerator, washer, and dryer
  • Paying for several semesters of my continued education (college)
  • Two vacations – we need more right about now
  • Etc. - my brain blocked out the many other purchases

So what am I saying here? I am saying congratulations to my wonderful brother and his awesome fiancé! I am very proud and excited for you both. I am sure you will make my story pale in comparison as your love takes you on an adventure noteworthy of future literary works. Your engagement will likely be wonderful, the marriage ceremony without a hitch, and sub-sequent shared life truly amazing. I for one am the luckiest guy around to have my soulmate at my side through thick and thin. I suspect that my brother would call himself the same…and I am apt to agree.

Just don’t make me do it all over again!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Problem With The World

After extensive research and compilation of statistical data and a double blind testing procedure, I have identified it. And by it I mean the problem with the world. I know there are several problems but this is The Problem. Interestingly, I have been on the trail of this problem for most of my life (see here, here, and here) but failed to identify it correctly and categorize it as I have now. Ultimately I did this for you. Because I am generous like that and want to provide the best possible blog services on the net. Notice the word service in that last sentence? That is my slick way of using the literary method foreshadowing.

You guessed it. The Problem with The World is poor service. Sounds simple but it is very, very true. We all have our stories but here are a few pretty common and sad examples of woe:

The DMV: I beg of you to give me one example of a pleasant experience you have had at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The lines are long, the attitudes are horrid, and usually the end result is that you have to come back with other documents before accomplishing your original goal. A classic trick they like to pull is to go on break just as their window opens up for you to be serviced. Based on the personnel that I have seen at these offices, I would wager that these are the hiring requirements:

  • Must be 50 or older
  • Must be female
  • Must have horrible attitude. Smiles and positive attributes will NOT be tolerated.
  • Must have a sweater to hang on the back of your chair. Even in the summer.
  • Must have 5 years previous experience in pissing people off.
  • Incentives and bonus available for those that can incite a riot.

Call Centers: There are two types of these and both of them are putrid. Type one is the sales or outbound calling center. These are the shmucks that interrupt you at dinner time or just before bed trying to sell you a gismo or service that you will never need and could never afford. These drones follow a script and are taught to read without taking a breath…forcing you into one of two decisions, both of which are rude. Decision 1…hang up. Decision 2…interrupt them and yell, NO THANKYOU! My secret to these phone calls is to either not answer at all or answer in Spanish.

Me: Hola?

Jerk: Yes, may I speak to TheEdge?

(Did he not hear me say hola?)

Me: Lo siento senor, yo no se Ingles.

Jerk: Do you know when TheEdge will be back?

(For some reason, it is not registering that he has a wrong number and speaking to a Mexican man.)

Me: Que es tu problema? Yo creo que tu es muy loco y estupido.

(Finally registering that no communication is possible…)

Jerk: “Click”

(Sound of dial tone)

Me: (Sinister grin forms on face) Muchas gracias!

Call center number two is the one you actually need. This is the one that can correct a bill or walk you through activation or set up of a product. These people, unlike group one, do not want to talk to you. This call center will first put you through an endless voicemail maze where you have to press 1 if your head is on fire, 2 if your rectum fell out, 3 if you are pregnant with quadruplets, 4 if you sneeze funny, 5 if you love hold music and automated answering services…and so on. Once you finally get “an associate” they too read from a horrid script because they are incapable of thinking. Most times you are talking to “Ted” who lives in India and he realizes after 20 minutes that you need another department. Upon transferring you, oops…disconnected!

Contractors: This may or may not be common. But since this blog is all about me, I am going to post it. I just had and have had contractors work on my home. Some experiences are better than others but this was an absolute nightmare that still has no resolution. Here is a convenient bullet point list for you:

  • Promised project length of 3 days with actual length of 10 days and counting
  • Original bid is increased due to “unforseeables”, longer time on the job, and extra equipment.
  • Essentially sharing our small home with two dirty men that track mud, grime, grease, and grout through the entire house not to mention their horrible aim when using our one working bathroom.
  • Leaving the water hose in our yard, gunk on every doorknob, caulk on the driveway, trash in the garage, and tile bits everywhere.
  • Installing the wrong color shower door and trim.
  • Failing to show up on time any day of the week.
  • Disappearing for several hours per day with no explanation.
  • Failing to work late or any weekends to expedite the finality of the project.
  • Constant grumbling and bad attitude.
  • Commentary about other jobs being more profitable.
  • Poking the belly of my twins with extremely dirty hands.
  • And so much more…

Medical Offices: In the last 15 years I have not had any need to visit the doctor, save for a trip to the Emergency room and my brief bout with Anxiety. However, when My Wife and I began the long and torturous journey of Fertility testing and treatment, the doctor’s office became a second home. As such I have been to more medical facilities in the last two years than I ever care to see again. Between our multiple treatments, tests, procedures, and then OB appointments when finally pregnant I would say that I have been to a doctor’s office at least once per month for two years. And now the Nuggets (my twins) are constantly going for check-ups. The service levels vary at each office but the problems are always the same. The front desk manager messes up your claim or asks for more than your co-pay should be. You get a call needing to reschedule after re-routing your entire day around the appointment. A procedure lasting two minutes costs two grand and “oops…insurance won’t cover it…sorry for not telling you that up front.” This last visit was exceptionally irritating as we had just switched insurance providers. The lazy woman up front needed more information about our claim number and address to submit bills to. She did not seem to feel any need to call the 800 number I provided for her to get this information as her job would dictate. Instead she acted as if there was nothing she could do and sat watching me use my personal cell phone to perform her job. Insurance is a whole blog post in and of itself but a BIG problem with service issues in the Medical field stems from dealing with various insurance carriers.

Tables Turn: Maybe it is hypocritical but I have been on both sides of a service issue. Between working retail, managing restaurants, and running a staffing firm, I am no stranger to servicing clients and customers. And just let me go on record by saying…THE CUSTOMER ISN’T ALWAYS RIGHT! In fact, most of them could use a few more IQ points and an attitude adjustment. So between customers that have an over-inflated sense of obligation and service agents that really don’t seem to care, it is a wonder products and services ever exchange hands.

Your Story: There are probably enough service providers that we all universally deal with to allow this post to set a record for length. But I would rather hear from you. Leave a comment about a horrifying service issue that you have dealt with. The best story will be published on my blog in the near future.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Speed-dial To Heaven

I confess. I have not read the entire Bible. In fact, because I never read it from cover to cover, I cannot tell you with 100% accuracy how much of it I have covered. I would wager 90 – 95% if I were a betting man. So if I missed the part where God stops talking to humans with a direct means of contact, I invite my oversight to be corrected by those of you who know.

From what I can tell though, we (meaning humans) had an uncanny access to God unlike what we experience today. Adam and Eve walked and talked with God. So did many of their descendants, so The Fall is not necessarily why He removed this element of communication. By the time Moses brought down the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai, God was appearing as a cloud, fire, and smoke…though he gave Moses a brief glimpse later on. By the time Christ came to us, the ‘new way’ of communication was through prayer and the Holy Spirit. I am not sure what word prayer derives from but it sounds different to me from talking or casual conversation. I suppose prayer can be both but the word mostly conveys a sense of formality to me. And formality garners even more imagery of separation.

So when, where, and why did this once very accessible God decide to change things? One theory I have relates to faith and the acceptance of His Son. If God still popped in on us just to say hi then there would be very little reason for Faith. Denying His existence would become a game for the delusional and belief in His Words and decrees would become easy. I say that but realize that early man still fumbled at a time when access was wide open. So any speculation is just that…speculation. And while I am comfortable with my theory I cannot help but be jealous.

The Bible says that (and I paraphrase) ‘No sign will be given to this wicked generation’ so I do not expect the veil to be lifted. But I find myself asking for a personal visit at times and have to remember my humility lessons as I do so. I mean, who am I to even merit such a request to be granted? Wouldn’t it be nice though? A personal visit of a few minutes, a brief walk through the neighborhood, or a phone call at the office?

As it stands we rely heavily on The Word to communicate to us and the act of prayer. The biggest danger with the prayer part is those that claim to “hear” His voice vary in degrees of credentials. I am not convinced at all that everyone making that claim actually hears it. I am convinced that they believe they are but when they tell you the message being received, the debate begins. I have had people tell me everything from God told me to quit my job to God told me to smoke pot. And if people start believing that you are a conduit directly to the Almighty but you receive and relay the message wrong…God help you! The Bible warns that it would be better for you to be thrown in the ocean with a millstone around your neck than to cause another to stumble as they approach the Kingdom of God.

Does this mean that we no longer have access to God or just a different kind of access? Does this mean that we do NOT receive His communication or that we need to be very careful about proclaiming such an ability?

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

(Insert Cliche Here)

Art is life. Life is art. Life imitates art? I am not sure what the catchphrase is but I think I finally get it.

I am a strange brew in case the 90+ blog posts contained herein haven’t given you a clue. Most people by my observations are either artistic or business oriented. They are either emotional or stoic. Right brained or left. Somehow the powers above converged as I formed in my mothers womb and created an anomaly.

I spent 6 years in two different art schools yet own and operate a staffing firm in Dallas Texas. I am a photographer who has created beautiful artwork yet used those same skills to land professional wedding gigs. I can be uber emotional for someone of the male persuasion, yet threaten to box you in the next breath. I am a huge nerd with my knowledge of facts, figures, and useless trivia but have quite a social tool belt that allows me to intermingle with the various clicks of the world. I am a lazy lump on a log given the chance to relax but have quite the athletic record of accomplishment in my fargone past and more recent past with plans to continue (see cycling posts).

So defining who I am has been pretty difficult for me. And who really ever gets a true sense of self in their lifetime anyway? But this post is about a realization more than it is about me. Having the unique perspective of the artist and entreprenure allows me to see a univeral thread. Whether I have created something meant to be artistic or just to pay the bills, it all has the same fiber. The same journey and the same steps are taken with the same conclusion at the end.

It’s cliché but hind sight is 20/20 and I have discovered that art and/or the act of creation is about the journey not the end. Yet I constantly work for the end, the accomplishment, and the treasures that are bound to come with it.

Case(s) in point:

As I sit here typing I have a 2X1 poster of me riding the MS150. There are a total of 3 poses. One where I am grimaced in pain, another taking a turn with a look of determination, and another that properly displays my game face. I sit here viewing these photos with jealousy in my heart. That guy is doing something. He is suffering through hills, piercing heat, muscle aches, and all the while counting down the miles and trudging along. I am jealous that I cannot be a part of that right now. Ironically the guy in those pictures is only thinking about the end. The end of the pain, the end of the hills, the end of intense weekly workouts that consume family time.

Other examples in my life are in abundant supply. I am just starting to “make it” with my staffing branch but will likely need another year or two before riches truly fall from the sky. I have a portfolio of my photography efforts that take me back to my passionate roots. I have trophies and medals from sports events. I have memories of my mission trips to Mexico building homes. I have this blog that is nearing 100 posts in a matter of 5 months and beginning to see some fans and decent traffic. And the one commonality in my every experience, every accomplishment, and every failure is...

I cannot wait to complete the task at hand.

Only I get to that place and wonder…

What next?

Enjoy the journey. The end is not always the best part.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Power of Observation

I am no Sherlock Holmes but I pride myself on observation skills. While I might be prone to missing an important date in the future, I am not the typical guy that fails to notice when the wife gets a new hair style or outfit. And maybe this gift lends itself well to writing. After all most of the stuff I bang out is a record of observations with a twist of opinion and a dash of wit. Bake at 350 and serve warm on the internet platter. Hopefully the output is palatable to those of you that partake.

Blogging has perhaps escalated this normal habit of mine into turbo. I am never lacking in words or opinions, just content. I post daily unless out of topics to cover. The exception to that rule is when work is insanely busy (like yesterday) or on the weekends. I make it a general rule to take weekends off.

As an observer, I tend to hone in on people. My Wife and I are both like that. We could literally sit on a bench in the mall and just watch people. Sometimes we forget to carry on conversation at restaurants because both of us are scoping out the room. Two recent examples of this kind of behavior come to mind but for now I will share one:

SportsClips Guy – As I sat waiting to have my hair cut, I was mostly watching the Big Screen TV located in the lobby. World Cup Soccer was on and the game was pretty intense. But a man walked in and broke my gaze as he passed through my line of sight. Within minutes I had formulated many, many conclusions about him. Most of the facts I imagined were likely true based on the visual evidence. But often my mind takes things a step further and my intuition adds more where supporting clues leave off.

In this case I figured Mr. SportClips (SC) to be about 45. At first glance people think him to be Caucasian but I could tell he was mixed race, black & white. His completion gives you absolutely no clue to support this idea but his hair was the tell. It was dark, dark black and very kinky. I could see the pain of his bi-racial upbringing in his eyes. It was like he despised being almost all white. He would rather be all white or all black…not white with an obvious black characteristic. SC got his black characteristics from his dad, who was absentee which was another reason for harboring the disappointment. He was raised by his mother and thusly has Caucasian mannerisms, speech patterns, and behavior. While he is highly intelligent and educated, he lacks confidence. SC surrounds himself with dominating personalities, likely for two reasons. First of all, that is how his mother is. Secondly, he would never dare make a decision of his own. As such, SC gets stepped on and taken advantage of both at home and at work. He is married to a woman much like mom, though neither of them get along or see their similarities. His job pays well but does not have growth potential. My guess is accounting with a corporate firm. His confidence is what prevents constant promotion but his dedication and attention to detail give him job stability and good yearly reviews.

I ask myself during this whole game I am playing, how accurate might I be. I sincerely wish I could find out but the risk of being wrong or for that matter, right is too great. Plus, how do you approach a perfect stranger and ask him if the above details are true? I would expect to get socked in the jaw regardless of accuracy.

The evidence for my conclusions and back story:

He is bi-racial – Unlike some people from multi-cultural backgrounds, he was very hard to spot. If you were just casually observing things, he was a Caucasian through and through with a very mild tan. As stated above, his hair was the only real indicator.

Pain in his eyes – This is where my intuition filled in some gaps but there was a distinct look about him that told me he was no stranger to being an object of ridicule.

Black father, white mother – I use statistical data as my guide here. The majority of racially mixed couples have this combination but admittedly I could be wrong.

Absentee dad – Assuming I have the above fact correct, my evidence for the absentee parent is his mannerisms and speech. He carries himself like a Caucasian. He reminds me of the “typical white guy” that black comics sometimes make fun of when impersonating white people. So either his black parent was not around or they did not impress many attributes on him.

Raised by mother – Again statistics help me here and if I am right about the lack of dad being around, he only had mom as an influence. I also noted a total subservient attitude toward the woman at the front counter and a phone call to his wife later, gave me more hints.

Highly educated – This man was not in an Armani suit but he was nicely dressed and had just gotten off work…much like me. He articulates well and has an intelligent disposition. He was likely a book worm in school and leaned on his academics for what little confidence he needed. So I combine some visual factors here with intuition.

Lacks confidence – This was the most easily identifiable attribute. He hung his head, made very little eye contact with anyone, walked with feet pointing outward (like Charlie Chaplin), had his slacks bunched up, and very nervously signed the sheet up front.

Surrounded by dominant people – People like SC lost their confidence somewhere and it is usually from being dominated. As such, they despise their situation to some degree but feel the most comfortable around domineering personalities. Plus his phone call to his wife was executed more as though he needed to check-in and avoid getting in trouble rather than just calling to say "hi, I'm getting my hair cut."

Cannot make a decision – Confident people make decisions. Timid people fear them. Plus his call to his wife made it clear who made choices in their relationship.

Wife and mom don’t get along – Pretty easy deduction since many moms-in law and daughters-in-law have problems. Add to the fire that they are both domineering and you have a recipe for fighting.

Job description – Intuition got the best of me here but the other factors lead me to believe he is beaten down at work too. He prides himself on his education and work but is likely passed over for promotions when younger, more confident candidates vie for the same positions. His dependability and loyalty are likely what give him any job security, plus he is probably very good at what he does. I chose accounting because his personality exudes that he is a loner (doesn’t like interaction with people) and detail oriented.

Who knows if ANY of this is accurate? I suspect that I have many details right but will never know for sure. So beware if you are ever walking in my general direction. I may have your life story unfold in my head before I even greet you with a hello. Maybe one day I can try an experiment with some of you to see how accurate my observations can be.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Bad Day

Charlie stood frozen at the edge. He looked down nervously to assess the reality of his decision. Five stories were much higher than he thought it would be. But this had to be done right. He had heard of people surviving falls from lower levels. The last thing Charlie needed to add to his depression was becoming debilitated from a failed attempt to ‘end it all.’

A thin man, with signs of a retreating hairline, Charles Mason Jones never imagined he would be in this situation. While he never stood out in a crowd, he was not the typical outcast either. His social skills were developed such that staying at home with a book or the latest Star Trek DVD was not all that life offered…though sometimes that is what he chose.

Another quick glance over the edge and Charlie began to quiver. His knees were weak and he began to second guess his fortitude for follow through. Too late, a crowd was beginning to gather.

“Damn, why couldn’t I have just made this a quick ordeal? I do NOT need a crowd!” he mumbles angrily under his breath.

It didn’t help that many of the crowd were his co-workers returning from lunch amongst them was Jeanie. A gust of wind sent Charlie’s tie into his face and he let out a small yelp…giving away his cowardly disposition. For a moment he retreated inward, reminding himself why this had to be done.

“I have nothing. I am nothing. Forty-two years of life and what do I have to show for it?” A divorce, a small apartment, a huge alimony payment, a beat up Toyota, and a mid-range salary at Home Shoppers Plus answering phones. If I have to talk to one more old lady about shipping cost or purchase minimums, it will be all too soon! I have to do this. What choice do I have now, anyway? I am already the office loser, especially with Jeanie. Going back inside now will just cause me to be more pathetic. And Lord knows, Butch would love to take this opportunity to “let me go”. Oh sure, he would come across like the guy that was just ‘helping me out’ by sending me somewhere. But he never liked me. Always thought he was THE MAN and knew that I was not impressed.”

Charlie had new resolve and a sense of calm. His muscles steadied, he inhaled deeply and closed his eyes.

“Mr. Jones?”

Charlie could not believe what he was hearing. Who the hell is interrupting me here…I am in a zone?, he thought to himself.

“Mr. Jones, let’s talk for a minute.”

Charlie realized that this voice was very close by and he had to open his eyes out of sheer curiosity. Turning his head just to the right, he caught the gaze of Lieutenant Garza with Chicago Police.

“Great.” exclaimed Charlie, realizing he had snapped out of his calm and concentrated state. Fear re-entered the equation as he managed to open his mouth, “this isn’t the best time for a chat, buddy.”

“You give me no choice Mr. Jones. From the looks of things, we may not be able to converse in the near future.”

“Yeah, that’s kind of the point man. Can’t you let a guy have his last moments in peace?”

“I can do that…when the time is right. And that time is in the distant future, friend. Today is just a day that you failed to realize how many people care for you. Today is a day that things can begin to shape up and turn around.”

“Blah, blah, blah…what is on your script next? How many times did you have to practice this speech before leaving the notes at home?”

“Can I call you Charlie, Mr. Jones?”

“Sure, whatever. Might as well be on first name terms with the guy that is TRYING to talk some sense into me as though we’ve been friends for ten years.”

“There is no script Charlie. And yeah, this is my job. Does that make my little chat here any less sincere? I could be out writing parking tickets, you know? Save for the rare occasion that someone yells at me, it is much less stressful.”

“Meter Maid doesn’t seem to suit you.” Charlie admitted with a chuckle.

“See there? We can relax a minute and have a nice talk. Just know that you are in control and I am not going to do anything you don’t want me to do. If you think I suck at my job, then you can still ruin my day and get me fired by jumping a little later. Right now I need to tell you something…something VERY important.”

Charlie was beginning to regret this whole fiasco and felt that this guy might be on the level. He edged over a step towards Garza and said, “What? What’s so important?”

“I saved 15% on my car insurance by calling Geico. A fifteen minute call could save you that much or more. Get a free rate quote, view your account and pay online.”

I should submit this and get a job on the ad copy team, huh? Look for the commercials to air soon!

Special Note - My apologies to those that do not experience the sheer Joy of Geico Commercials. When they are not using their marketing genius to have a talking Gecko (get the play on words...Geico, Gecko) tell us why we need to switch over, they are often doing something much like what you see above. They begin a touching tale of woe or excitment, drawing you in. Once they have you teetering on the edge of suspense, the main character often breaks in and announces that they've saved 15% or more on car insurance. Those jerks! Toy with my emotions, will they?