Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Years Eve

Counting down the last hours until 2009, I am working out of the Muse coffee shop in Lynchburg today. I will join my family in a little bit, have New Yorker for dinner. (About the best sub you will ever eat.) Overall, New Years Eve will be pretty quiet, outside of the boys squeals of delight as they are playing. It's New Years Eve, so they get to stay up late.

What are your plans for New Years Eve?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Trashman Cometh

Today was Christmas in Roanoke, our last stop before heading home from the Holiday tour. Waking early, we unwrapped our gifts and bagged all the boxes and wrapping paper to make room for our play. Eventually the men were sent, in true Mesolithic fashion, to spear dinner at the local Heavenly Ham.

Having secured our bounty, we returned home to find a wrapping paper explosion had devastated the front porch. Wading through ankle deep debris, we discovered the ladies had nary a clue. (Initial observations: a. I was just glad it did not happen on my watch, as it usually does and b. who is going to pick this up?)

Two little boys, with grins as wide as watermelons, unearthed themselves from the refuse. Seeing our faces aghast, they explained, "We were just playing trash man." Cole and his cousin, Sean, having arrived at the "landfill" were spreading their layer of trash.

As parents, we find ourselves faced with these moments, when we question the genetic anomalies that came together to form these beings called our kids and neurons that produce the choices that they make. Earlier in life, I probably would have recommended evisceration or at least solitary confinement, but realise now that these are opportunities for unstructured fun and learning.

As we played "trash man" in reverse, picking up the mess, they got a kick out the crushing noises I made compacting the colorful paper and cardboard. One man's trash is another man's treasured moment.

Seussical New Year

Today you are you,
that is truer than true.
There is no one alive
who is youer than you.
~Dr. Seuss


It is the end of yet another year. A time when many people will look both forward and back, to see where they have been and plan where they are going. Resolutions will be made, decisions of change...at least until February, the month resolutions go to die.

When ruminating about the previous year, it can be easy to see little accomplished, when we look for life altering events in our own lives. Change takes time. Inner growth is not as easily perceived as outer, but without the the inner change the outer easily crumbles into dust.

You were created special, put here for a very specific purpose, that may take you all your life to figure out. You will have opportunities to touch lives, that others will not. This coming year, my hope for you, is to be the you, you were created to be.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Incredible Hulk - Blog # 100

The lilting tones of the piano as you watch him hitchhiking into the horizon. Hoping someone will give him a ride, yet hoping they will not make him angry…you won’t like him when he is angry. What is he is running from? What is he running to?

Watching David Banner search for the cure for the gamma irradiated monster inside was a weekly staple in elementary school. (Yes, He was David, not Bruce in the TV series) Watching The Incredible Hulk, special affects have come a long way since the green dyed Lou Ferrigno, too bad the same can not be said for the monster inside.

It seems many of us journey through life, like Bruce, trying to suppress the monster within. Our monster comes in many shapes and sizes, not just Hulk-like anger. Self hate, low self esteem, eating disorders, over spending…they are numerous, but we tend to follow his example in managing our Hulk.

Believing it will never really go away we try to control it, harness the monster, choke him back into his cell inside. Other times we try avoidance and isolation, staying out of situations that might bring the monster to the surface. We keep to ourselves, never really letting anyone get close, fearing that the monster may break free and hurt them, or that they will play our “General Ross” and expose our secrets.

These really don’t seem to work, all it takes is just the right trigger to unleash our inner demons. So how do we deal with them?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Love in the Fast Lane




I took time to slip away for some special "Dad time" with each of the boys today. This morning, Logan and I skulked the local comic shops. before hitting Target for the $1.50 popcorn/drink special. Can you say "nutritious lunch?"


This afternoon, Cole and I visited Bristol Motor Speedway. We started by messing around in the museum, but that wasn't enough...upon closer inspection, one of the gates were slightly ajar. (Cue the Mission:Impossible theme song) We slipped through and had the track to ourselves as we checked things out. Cole wanted to sneak the van onto the track, but figured it best that we not spend more time together in the local police station.


The boys had a great day, that is what is important. About a year and a half ago we started doing weekly mom and/or dad dates with the boys. It is a great time to connect with your kid, you will be surprised what they are thinking about, and the conversations that happen, even at four and six. What keeps you from dedicating special time with your family?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Death: An Interlude

"I am not going to move! I am going to stay right here until he wakes up. He is not really dead, his eyes were still open before they buried him. That means he was just asleep."

A few weeks ago, my niece's cat, Simba, got hit by a car. We tried to prepare the boys, but this morning they found the grave. Logan, in a state of denial, wanted to make excuses on why Simba could still be alive. Then he just wanted to sit by the grave and wait for Simba to come back. Finally, we picked ourselves up out of the grass and moved on to other pursuits.

Lives live on in the stories we tell. Until all is made new.

A boy and his toy


So we are in Bristol, where Al Gore forgot to invent the internet, I am sitting on the front porch, holding the computer at just the right angle, catching the faintest of signals. I rather look afflicted with some bone disease in this pose so here are some quick pics...
Cole continues to work on his skateboard tricks. A few spills and chills along the way. I ate asphalt pretty good yesterday, showing him how it is supposed to be done. lol. Further updates when I return to civilization.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Truth About You

I recently became a book reviewer for Thomas Nelson. The first book up…The Truth about You.

I did not want to like this book. Don’t get me wrong, Marcus Buckingham’s books First Break all the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strength as two of my favorite management books. I was a little frustrated with the third book Go Put Your Strengths to Work, so going into this review I was a little apprehensive.

The Truth about You is at best a primer or reminder of core concepts explored in the other books. The book is straight forward and simple, addressing five myths that we learn early on in life. The message Marcus shares is important; understand your strengths and identify ways to utilize them.

The book does an adequate job, but the highlight of this toolkit is the DVD. When Marcus speaks, the words that may have seemed drab in print come alive and stoke the fires of inspiration inside each of us. Being the highlight, it was not without it's own flaws, as I had a hard time accessing the DVD on PC from the pop up menu, it took some tinkering to get it to work.

The notebook included in the toolkit comes off as an after thought and does little to add value to the toolkit. If you are looking for a book to help you get started in identifying or understanding your strengths, this may be the book for you. If you are looking for something beyond that, I suggest you start with one of Marcus Buckingham’s earlier books.

Over simple, over priced.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Out with the Pork, In with the Moo



This is the first year, since being married (12 years), that we have celebrated Christmas in our own home. It has been quite refreshing not to have to carry around presents from every stop across multiple states, adding cargo carriers along the way. It has also been nice to begin some of our own holiday traditions. What better way to start than with the food...

While most of us gorge ourselves on the fatted pig this time of year, and we will as we begin visiting family over the next week, this evening we went islander again with steak and key lime pie. We fell in love with key lime pie, after living in Florida for several years, with a lime tree in the backyard. On Saturdays we would pick a large bowl of the tart fruit and make fresh key lime pie. Tara also put together a Raspberry Spinach salad, that was amazing.

What are some of the traditions around your house on Christmas Day?

Early Christmas Morn




Is Santa here yet? After hearing that question every two hours from 12:30 AM, at 6 AM we finally gave up hope we would get any more sleep. The boys are having a blast. Cole is loving his new skateboard and ramp. Logan is on his 7th straight hour of Superhero adventures. An early favorite is a cardboard house we found in Williamsburg. It's all black and white and ready to color, so we periodically stop to add some more artwork. Tara got stuck behind the camera the first part of the day. I'll make sure I swap out this afternoon. Hope your Christmas is going great!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dragons and Vinegar

Betcha won't. Words that awaken something deep with in the male psyche. Usually followed by something that should be on America's Funniest Home Videos or results in a hospital visit.

Yesterday, We spent the day at the Ferguson Center preparing for the Christmas Eve extravaganza. It's going to be amazing! A peaceful lunch was interrupted when Rob threw down the gauntlet. What was worse, there were people in the room. The choice, laugh it off and walk away or prove my manhood.

Why is it we feel like we always have something to prove? That we are strong enough, smart enough, that we have what it takes. It never seems to end, as it infects us at work, at home and even in our play. My cousin used the phrase "chasing the dragon."

We have this inner need to be the Hero of the Day, questing to prove our very existence and sense of self worth. Maybe even doing things we would never do otherwise. You only have to go so far as the daily headlines to read about ruthless decisions made by CEOs to make sure their company remains in the uber elite. Lets face it, we do the same in our everyday ordinary life as we try to earn the love of our family, achieve greatness in our chosen field or even bargain for the love of our God. It hardly results in filling the void of that which we really long for.

How could we accept such simple love that was given many years ago in a little town called Bethlehem? That years later, in a second and greatest act of love, would die to slay the dragon. Receiving it can be hard, because it means we have to lay down our armament and let Jesus become the hero we long to be. There is no dragon to slay except our foolish pride.

On a side note, if you drink a whole ramekin of Subway vinegar everything tastes Italian for the rest of the day. Thanks Rob, I really need to brush me teeth.

Santa Tracker

Anticipation. Tonight, children around the world will go to sleep, dreaming of a jolly man dressed in red sneaking into their house and leaving wonders beyond their wildest dreams for their discovery in the morning.

Growing up, every Christmas Eve we would go to Mack and Anna's house. We would partake a meal with relatives and friends. My mom would take marinated brussel sprouts, which is a taste I never acquired. A highlight of the night was talking to Santa on Mack's ham radio, because Santa'a sleigh was obviously not equipped with technology of the modern age.

Technology seems to have caught up as Google is teaming up with Norad so you can track Santa in his journey around the globe. Their site http://www.noradsanta.org/ will go live at 6 pm EST, with Santa's location on a Google map. You can even receive updates on Twitter by adding @noradsanta.

So have a little fun with the kids, maybe it will get them to bed a little earlier and allow some extra time with Mrs. Claus. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Laugh

Shared laughter creates a bond of friendships. When people laugh together, they cease to be young and old, teacher and pupils, worker and boss. They become a single group of human beings. ~W. Lee Grant


One night, a friend and I were coming out of Target when we noticed two guys trying to get into a car. They had locked themselves out of their car and being the good Samaritans that we are we offered to help. On an island of light in the vacant parking lot we plied a bent coat hanger to the task at hand, but our efforts were in vain.

Our hope dwindling, we heard a sound, "rup-pup-pup-bang", repeating and drawing closer. Out of the darkness appeared a battered woody station wagon, trailing smoke as if on fire. As vehicle stuttered to a halt, the first thing we noticed was all the refuge crammed high above the windows. Second, the immense man that separated himself from it.

His t-shirt covered most of him, and ash for the dead cigar in his mouth covered the rest. He strode to the locked car and announced his arrival with "Locked yerself out of your car." As he bent to inspect the situation, the inch of ash on the end of his cigar crushed against the window and mushroomed, but he did not notice.

Like a wise old doctor, he bumped his hip against the door while swiping the coat hanger and pronounce, "Sometimes you just gotta jigga (jiggle?) little." The door popped open. The man returned to his chariot and backfired all the way across the parking lot, leaving the four of us agape.

True story. One of the funniest things that ever happened to me.

So let's be human beings together. Laugh.

Tell me your funny story.

Monday, December 22, 2008

All I want for Christmas

Every year, I get the question, "What do you want for Christmas?" I usually have a hard time thinking of any one thing I really want. My typical stand by answer is "clothes or books." Clothes are practical, books are my recreation. (I keep my Amazon wish list pretty up to date.) Outside of those two things, I don't want for much. Try to keep it pretty simple.

Tonight, I found the perfect gift! Why couldn't this have come out months ago and not 2 days before Christmas! This amazing book tells the history of UNC Tarheels basketball. If you are a fan, must have...great pictures, good stories. Every couple pages there are inserts of replica tickets, schedules, postcards, promos, you name it. The only downside, it will be out of date when we win the championship this year!

I have included my favorite picture. If you are having a hard time reading the sign the fan is holding up, "Breathe if you hate Duke." Pretty much says it all.

Mom, maybe it will go on sale by my birthday (hint, hint). This year for Christmas, all I really want, is my family to be back together in the same town.

Merry Christmas!

Bones

So, I have moved on from MacGuyver to season 1 of Bones. In the episode I was watching tonight, the question was asked, "How do you go from the freedom of dance to being crammed into a refrigerator?" Of course this had to do with a forensics case, but it got me to thinking.

I guess it comes down to how you define freedom. Growing up, freedom had more to do with being able to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. Not having someone to tell me what I needed to do. The freedom to choose. Conversely, being crammed in a refrigerator, sounded more like obedience felt.

I am sure, at some point in life, we have all struggled with this. Obedience gets painted very darkly when through the lense of oppression, which we commonly view it. To say, freedom is found through obedience raises a lot of questions.

In seeking the freedom to choose are we really seeking the freedom to avoid the consequences of those choices? Is it really freedom, when all you are dancing for is yourself?

How do you define freedom?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rescue

If you have ever needed them, you are glad they are there. If you have not needed them, you may not give them much thought, at least not since you sat in their truck and dreamed of being one of them. Saturday we had the honor of climbing aboard a Bedford County fire engine and hanging out with team 547. The boys had a blast as they were allowed to climb all over the truck, dreaming of rescuing hapless victims.

Sometimes, we can take for granted those that wait to rescue us in our hour of need. At least until the flames are too high for us to handle. Then in our moment of desperation, we scream out...help! Our faith makes immeasurable leaps, or collapses under weighty expectation. Too late, by our standards, is still plenty of time by His. Rescue is coming, Rescue is here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Gingerbread Nation Part 2





Today we added people to our house. The one in the second row looks more like something off CSI. In the bottom row, the Fantastic Four (in process) and the Grave Digger monster truck. They need transportation, how else would they get around?

Gingerbread Nation Part 1





If you build it they will come! After the Cane-deer party yesterday we built our gingerbread house. Cole really got into it and added a lot of the detail. I started a small riot when I suggested that the icing was soft enough that we could throw hand fulls of candy at it and they would stick. We now have candy all over the kitchen. Today we build the inhabitants of our gingerbread nation.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Cane-deer Christmas Party




Today was the last day of school for Logan before Christmas break. Tara organized the class party. Was much fun...book exchange, cane-deers, musical chairs, cookie decorating, food! Yeah it was all that. It would not be a true visit to Mrs. Kraje's class without getting tackled by the kids. I got to capture it all in pictures.

Here's yur sign

Sometimes, we can say some pretty stupid things, that I don't think we mean. At least not in the context in which it is received. That's the problem with communication, it's like dancing, it takes two to tango. When you say something you are dependant on the other person to interpret what you said. That can get pretty scary.

Listening to the radio while I was on the road last night, I heard a guy telling the story of his greatest mistake. He was at a party with his wife and her friend, Julie. When another friend came up, he introduced himself and "his wife Julie, and her friend..." His claim is that he will never live this down, I would agree.

In his wife's head now there are questions swirling about...does he think Julie is prettier than I? Does he not love me? It may have been Innocent and he probably broke out in hives the second he realised what he said. Maybe this is an over exageration, but the point is, if we are careless with our words, we can do a lot of damage, raise a lot of questions or even bring encouragement and new life.

Took this pic in Williamsburg last week...Here's your sign!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Island


How'd ya like to stay up late like the islanders do?
Wait for Santa to sail in with your presents in a canoe
If you ever spend Christmas on Christmas Island
You will never stray, for everyday
Your Christmas dreams come true
On Christmas Island your dreams come true.


Jimmy Buffett Christmas has come to the WEC office as part of Spirit Week. You have probably heard of "Christmas in July", well today is "July in Christmas" Day. I was a little bummed that all my beach shirts are packed away in Lynchburg, but made do with what I had. Rob, Jamey and I braved the 46 degree weather in our shorts....brrr! Meredith and Amanda sported the flip flops.

Keeping it fun around the office, especially during high pressure times (like getting ready for Christmas Eve @ the Ferguson Center...don't miss it!) seems to improve attitudes as well as productivity. I remember at the DRIVE conference, hearing how NorthPoint had a Guitar Hero competition and went all out. Happy employees are productive employees.

What do you do to make sure work fun for your employees?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What's on your tombstone?

I imagine we have all been touched by death in some way. Maybe it was a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend. It's funny, some of the memories I have associated with death. For one grandfather, I remember being sent across the street, and eating King Vitamin cereal. For my other grandfather, I remember the fire engines and the way he was honored by the fire department.

Really these have to do with the incident of death, and not the life that was lived prior. The memories we have of the life that was lived, form the stories we share about our loved ones and friends.

What is it that you want people to remember about you?