Thursday, December 23, 2010

This Christmas thing is strangely exciting

It's been a while since we had a first Christmas with any of our children until this year. E was just a pup so his first Christmas was like most babies and he's since learned Christmas like any of our other children, by watching their siblings and following the societal queues and absorbing those first few years. We weren't really sure what to expect with F being that he's 3 and never been through Christmas, it's been hilarious to watch for sure.

A few weekends ago we began pulling out all of the boxes with decorations. He probably thought we were moving again already as he had just seen this whole boxes piled high in the living room scenario in October. Melissa began locating all of the stockings and each one has a child's name on it, but of course F didn't have one yet. Now he didn't understand what we were getting ready to decorate for, but he darn sure knew there wasn't one of these over sized puffy sock looking things with his name on it and he let us hear about it! "Where my stocking, where mine, you get me stocking"? Over and over and over again. Melissa knew if we didn't have one for him come the Saturday we got ready to decorate full force, we'd have a pint size hurricane blowing through the house for sure. So the Friday before she bought a stocking like the other children's and had it monogrammed. She even took it up to school when she picked up E and F that afternoon. Needless to say he was about to explode with pure joy! The kind of joy that most of us quite frankly have probably forgotten about. It was HIS stocking, not one he had to share, but his. When I got home, I got the play by play from him about every stitch on that stocking. Several minutes into his description of everything, and I mean everything on it, I of course wandered a bit in the conversation. He promptly stopped talking and said, "Daddy, look at me, look at me, look at me!" Upon eye contact he promptly picked up where he left off and continued describing each image, color, and nuance of that precious stocking that was ALL HIS. He played with that thing for 2 days straight! Oh to get such pure joy out of the simple things in life.

Getting the Christmas tree is always fun too. We go to the local boy scout lot and pick one out as a family. We usually get it one night, set it up, let it settle a bit after it's been wound up in string and still standing at attention that first night. This was more than F could take. "Why we put tree in house? What tree for?" Once we explained about decorating, he couldn't stand to wait, are you kidding me? "When we decorate Christmas? When we put Christmas up? Why we not putting up Christmas?" All night we heard this! Much to F's chagrin we didn't give in and waited until the following day to put up lights and ornaments and he was a big helper for sure.

A few days later D. had picked up some gifts at a school function for a few of us and C. helped him wrap them and promptly placed them under the tree. The next morning F. came and grabbed Melissa in a fit of excitement, come here, come here mommy! He drug her to the tree and said, what are those? Melissa told him they were presents. Wheels turning, wheels turning.... "they from Santa"? No those are from D. Wheels turning, wheels turning.... "I open them now?" No, you have to wait until Christmas day. Wheels turning, wheels turning... "oh, ok". It seems every day there is another question he asks and begins the whole processing piece again around what in the world this is all about. If you ask him though, who's birthday is it Saturday, he get's a big grin and exclaims "Jesus!" I think he's getting it.

Oh, and he loved seeing his name on hanging from the mantle along with everyone else's. He has a home to call his own, and it's all his.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

UConn Women’s Basketball and Jesus Christ’s Ministry

Last night there was a small ripple across the sports landscape with the women’s basketball team winning 89 consecutive games to surpass the 88  by UCLA’s famed men’s hoops team from the 70’s. There has been some interesting discussion around this leading up to the game last night and it struck me while running this morning some of the similarities of this team and coach to that of the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Love or Hate
Geno Auriemma is either loved or hated, almost nothing in between. Apparently he’s loved by his university, administration, and players, he’s been there forever. Of course winning never hurts one’s longevity and covers up a multitude of dislikable characteristics. He’s almost unanimously disliked outside the UConn circles as a brash, arrogant, loud mouth and loathed so much in Rocky Top country for dissing the queen of women’s bball he’d probably not make it out of Knoxville if he crossed into the city limits.

Jesus was loved or hated throughout his ministry by those he came in contact with and caused disruptions for. He was loved by the common man and those in his inner circles, so much so they were martyred in his name. He was loathed by the religious leaders and too was labeled brash, arrogant, and outright defiant of authority. How could he claim to be the son of God, forgive sin, and talk to such characters he chose to talk too? Didn’t he know the laws of the land? How dare he?

Not the “real” thing
Some are arguing there shouldn’t be any comparison between the women’s streak and the men’s streak. How can you compare apples and oranges like this? Women’s bball competition doesn’t have the parity of men’s, it’s not as difficult to whip just a few decent teams over the years, etc… If the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater continues to win games at their current rate, there’s no way it would be compared to Oklahoma’s behemoth run of victories in the 50’s, right?

Many during Jesus’ time argued he was a fraud; he can’t really be God can he? The temple leaders, Sadducees and Pharisees were quick to point out Jesus wasn’t following the rules, he doesn’t represent “real” religion does he, surely not!

He said what?
The administration at UConn probably cringes every time they see a news story with Geno Auriemma as part of the story. They’ve got to be afraid just about every time he has access to a microphone around reporters. There are even pages upon pages of Auriemma quotes that I’m sure UConn would rather not persist in cyberland forever. After winning game 88 he went on a rant that likely had administrators looking for the delete button.
All the guys that loved women’s basketball are all excited, and all the miserable bastards that follow men’s basketball and don’t want us to break the record are all here because they’re pissed.”
You could just hear the breaks on the UConn PR machine screeching in the distance. One step forward, two steps back for Geno.

The disciples had to have just about soiled themselves with some of the things Jesus let loose during his ministry time. Filthy rich young successful guy wants to join up with Jesus and his merry men, and what does Jesus drop on him? Sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and then you can hang with us. Uh, do what?! The disciples had to have wanted to tackle Jesus! You know they wanted to rush to the rich young ruler who was slinking away and begin the spin machine to get him back on the team. This was a prize recruit, how can we let him get away? Surely they wanted to scream at Jesus, we’ll never be the fastest growing church in the tri state area without the resources and influence of a guy like that, what are you thinking?! Eat my flesh, drink my blood, let the dead bury their own, oh please Jesus, stop the insanity, we’ll never get anyone to follow us if you keep talking like that.

It’s over, this is it?
So the game is over, UConn has won 89 games in a row, now what? (no, there isn’t a Disney World promo here) I know, let’s get the outspoken, obviously mad at the world coach to do a drawing to give away a couple of Wii consoles after the game. That’ll make this celebratory moment a highlight and make some memories, right? I could only watch with what must have looked like that confused look a dog gives you with tilted head when I saw this, huuuuhhhhh? The coach is pissed about women’s basketball not getting the respect of men’s and someone in the athletic department thought it would be a good idea to do a quick raffle and give a way some Wii’s like it’s bingo night in Storrs, awwwwkward! Somehow I don’t see Coach Wooden, Coach K, Dean Smith, or heaven forbid Bobby Knight actually taking the mic and giving away video games after such a momentous moment! Heck, no one would even dream of asking them to. I could only scratch my head in disbelief.

The clouds have rolled away and the breath has left Jesus. The disciples have to be looking around and thinking, this is it, where’s the bolt of lightning smiting these jerks, where is the phoenix rising up to squash all of these punks? This is it, what the heck? I left my family, my friends, my job and there’s no apocalyptic judgment reigning down on these heathens?! They had to be scratching their head in disbelief and thinking, great, what do we do now?

The good news obviously is that Jesus did indeed rise like the phoenix in triumph over death and sin just like he said he would. And oh yeah, Geno didn’t provide any further quotable moments in the midst of having that open mic last night. Whew!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Charter Customer Support Redemption and now Alabama Power Fail

I never like to have someone's good redemptive stories go unnoticed or unannounced so I need to take a moment and praise Charter customer service for stepping up. They apparently have a group of social media hounds in their customer support group and one of the snooped out my Twitter posting leading to my blog post and screen shot of my instance the other day. He subsequently left a comment on my blog with contact information and through a few email exchanges has been tracking down my issue for me. So in this instance I'd have to say nicely done Charter.

Now onto Alabama Power and their paperless billing system. I currently pay all my bills online and getting a paper version in the mail isn't all that necessary for me. At one of Alabama Power's promptings I signed up for paperless billing, which apparently has an infinite loop in the system and I now can't pay my bill.

I receive my first paperless bill email notification last month, click on the link to access my account online and dutifully make my payment. Alas I am met with the screen prompts above which are asking me to set up my account, including providing an access code that is only found on, you guessed it, the paper bill! I contacted support to have them activate my account so I could actually pay them, but I once again was met with the above screen today upon receiving my bill notification via email.

You'd think once you set up to receive your bill notification electronically it would pass you through to the account to let you actually pay it. Uggh, best intentions.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Charter Customer Support Fail

Seems like everywhere you look these days there's a fail blog of some sort around various topics. I'm thinking about starting my own customer service fail blog and this is my first entry (not really but this did happen to me today).

So we purchased a new tv after our hand me down one we've been using for at least 10 years finally broke. I was having issues with HDMI cable and getting sound. I had a few minutes and customer service chat is usually way quicker than wading through all of the phone prompts so I went that route to ask a simple question or 2 regarding the cable box we have and the HDMI connection. Apparently this was a question too difficult for whomever they had on the other end of the computer as evidenced by my screen capture here. I didn't even get an attempt at a response from this, ahem, customer support person.

So Charter Communications gets my first ever customer support Fail blog post for using really good technology simply to tell me to call them on the phone.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What kind of scary a%$ church do you go to?

I tend to ask a lot of questions. At work I'm always asking, is there a better way to do this, is there a better delivery method for this curriculum, are there better systems, better technologies, why do we do things "this" way when "that" way seems to be more efficient, bigger, better stronger? "Because we've always done it this way" is one of my least favorite phrases, gets my hackles up, and is an open invitation for a barrage of targeted questions and pinpoint accurate statements intended to unveil the errors of continuing to do it "that" way.

I have a bit of this in me when it comes to churchy stuff too, but I find myself in no mans land these days. While I do have a tendency to ask why a lot, I'm watching what appears to be a fad of intellectual church questioning that is beginning to look/sound like young hipster Christians with nothing better to do with their time than attempt to stick it to the man, err church, by nit picking anything and everything. So much time and energy seems to be spent in the blogosphere and twitterland marketing statements like, "i quit Christianity", "Calvin was a racist", dropping f-bombs in the middle of "keeping it real" Christian commentary, etc... I ask questions for better understanding, these folks seem to be asking questions for attention, to be disruptive, or just generally lost in their own self absorbed thoughts.

Reading some of these and the flood of pandering, look at me, you so "get" me and my plight comments does make me feel for some of these folks and their apparent doom and gloom outlook with their view of Christianity and life in general. You'll see, "oh so and so, as always you've made such a perfect posting about how the church doesn't get it", "i have felt so oppressed in the church all of my life and i can't tell you how refreshing your blog is to me", "i'm an outcast in my church and only you get me", etc... In a Chandler Bing moment I want to ask these Joey's of the faith, what kind of scary a#$ churches have you all been going to?

I just can't imagine being in line waiting to enter into heaven and see my name in the book of life and the guy behind me tapping me on the shoulder and asking me if I am a Calvinist, or Armenian, or Southern Baptist, or if I believe in whatever "-ism" is being heatedly discussed these days. While I find much of this movement interesting in as much as I love a good intellectual conversations, the amount of energy, passion, and complete faith in these time and emotional sucking discussions is worrisome. None of them exude a child like faith, unless your children are some super crazy intellectual freaks well versed in social justice by the age of 10. Mine are good if they can remember where they put their back pack let alone be able to argumentatively discuss the finer points of church doctrine and why the church is right, wrong, or otherwise. I was once discussing variations in bible translations with my wise old father and law and he finally stated, they're all good for me because I choose to have the faith of a child and the faith of a child doesn't spend time nitpicking the Greek translations and nuances and explaining why the English language doesn't do justice to the true meaning of blah, blah, blah. Hard to argue with that I suppose and makes a lot of sense.

It's also interesting to note that many of these avidly followed self doubters of "church", yet committed to Jesus, folks are also hawking their next new book or attempting to keep their brand relevant until the next book arrives.

It will be interesting to see if this wave of self doubting Christians goes the way of the most rebellious stages of life... trickling away once the "leaders" of these movements have made their money and eventually become "the man".

In the meantime, unless you're in the Pacific Northwest where choices are limited, find a bible teaching, loving church that "gets" you and is ok with you asking questions. While I will never be asked to be a deacon at my church, i'm comfortable in my skin there and will keep asking questions for clarity.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thanksgiving at the beach

So this year we decided on Monday before Thanksgiving it would be a nice change of pace to take the kids and head to the beach for Thanksgiving. We did this 2 years ago and had a great time and the same can be said about this year! On Monday when I saw how nice the weather was going to be, I checked out some options and found a deal that was too good to pass up. Sometimes it's the last minute trips and plans that end up being the best as there are no expectations leading up to the point of pulling the trigger.  We hadn't been as a family in several years and the kids have been pretty good about not asking to go every summer as we went through another adoption process and other financial milestones over the past several years. Needless to say when I got home Monday night with the news, they were very excited!

We ended up at Splash in Panama City and to say the weather was "nice" would be an understatement. The water and beach lived up to it's name of the Emerald Coast this time around! We went down Wednesday and came back Sunday. We spent the majority of our time on the beach it was so nice. Thursday morning I got the turkey ready and in the oven, then me and the boys headed to the beach until lunch was ready, it was a great day for everyone I believe. A little turkey, dressing, thanksgiving, sun, water, and sand. The smell of Thanksgiving mixed in with the sights, sounds, and smell of the ocean had all of our synapses firing for sure, it was great! Here are some images of the gang enjoying our time together relaxing and decompressing.
Fisher running from the surf!

Fisher thought he was going to swim with the sting rays!

Dutch boogy boarding away

now how did Dutch make this thing work?

98, 99, 100, whew!

just taking it easy

Eli's favorite thing, just playing in the sand
sand castle number 20, at least...

how do we get off this island?

the 3 amigos!

my fair ladies

are these all your kids?

the whole gang