Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mongo's Mongolian Barbecue

We decided to go check out Mongo's Mongolian Barbecue on Saturday night. It was quite an adventure. It's a really cool concept. The menu is very simple. There's a stir fry bar (my word) and a salad bar. You can go to the bar for one price, add a trip to the salad bar for a little more or do an all you can eat deal for about $15.00. The bar has all kinds of veggies and meats. I was pleasantly surprised to find in addition to the chicken and steak I expected to find an assortment of meats including lamb, calamari, shrimp, tilapia and scallops. There was a wide variety of sauces to put on your dish. You could go from anything as mundane as just spaghetti with marinara sauce to the most wild creation you wanted to make. There was also a variety of herbs and spices. Making our own dishes was fun. Watching the cooks cook our food was fun. But, I think the most fun was watching other people at the bar seeing how full they could pack their bowls.

The meal wasn't super cheap once you added in the fact that Kayla is no longer a kid by their standards (under 10). I may have tipped a little generously considering the servers' only responsibilities were bringing drinks and bringing our tab. But, it was a lot of fun and very good.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Xmas 2007

Christmas was fun. The girls were ecstatic with their haul, as usual. They got iPod nanos (last generation) as a surprise. They were not expecting them. (Those are the best kinds of gifts). I lucked into finding a Wii almost two months before Christmas. I happened to be at Costco at opening one day and there was a pile of Wiis. I hadn't even given a Wii more than a few passing moment's thought before then but when I saw people grabbing at a pile of stuff, I grabbed one too, then figured out later what I had (isn't mimetic rivalry a weird thing?). I called Ty and we decided to keep the Wii. But, she made me wait until Christmas to present it to the family. It was a hit, even though the girls had no clue they were going to get one. They hadn't even asked because, for some reason, they had figured they would not get one. I'm not sure why because there's much they have asked for that they haven't gotten.

I bought a Troll bracelet for Ty. This was another sweet gift because she had asked for it so late and I had convinced her that there was no way I was buying into that racket. But, after visiting a shop with Jon and spending a couple of hours looking at the things, I became convinced they actually are very nice (even if priced at about 2X what they are worth). You can buy charms for those special occasions in life. We started her off with six beads including "Ty", her birthstone, a Xian fish symbol and a couple of glass beads.

Ty got me a nice speaker system for the iPod (so I could have music in the basement). The remote was broken however, so we returned it and I went to Costco and picked up another system. I also got the Eagles' new album which is fantastic!

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gingerbread House

Shayna was so intent on getting this gingerbread house when she saw it at Costco. After getting it and getting it home, we realized the reason was she thought you put it together, then proceeded to eat it. Ever obsessed with anything sweet, she thought this was a pretty good thing. She was still excited to put it together and leave it on display. But not nearly as excited as if she had been able to devour it.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Treasured Locks Bracelets

Always looking for ways to promote Treasured Locks, we found this site where we could get customized bands. It was interesting trying to photograph this and not have a distracting background. Thanks to PhotoShop Elements I think this turned out OK.

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Watching TV with Shayna

A rare picture of me.

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Judyism

I miss some of the cute little sayings the girls used to have and the few words they would mispronounce. Kayla calling Monopoly Mono (short o) Poly (long o). They way they both said renember instead of remember (still do sometimes). But, Shayna still gives us a chuckle every once in a while.

Last night we were coming back from dinner at Macaroni Grill and were discussing the holiday season and different people's celebrations- Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, etc. We were talking about Dave and Kristi and the fact that he, a Jew, married a non-Jewish woman. I was explaining to the girls how Judaism was traditionally handed down through the mother's line. Shayna said "Judy? I thought her name was Kristi."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Two Places At Once

Last night (Friday), the girls had overlapping events. Unlike most of the families around us, we are not usually over committed even though the temptation is always there and seems to grow. Kayla has sewing classes and Girl Scouts. Shayna has dance, basketball and Brownies. But, on Friday, the perfect storm came together as Kayla had her Christmas play on the same night Shayna had her Winter dance recital. The dance recital started at 6:30 and the play at 7:00. Throw in that it was the night for the annual IBM reunion in Lexington and something had to give (guess what was the first thing to go).

Ty took Kayla to play rehearsal at 3:00 and she was there until her play started. We drove separately to Shayna's recital in case something went wrong and one of us had to rush to Kayla's play. Shayna was scheduled for the first half of the recital (just before intermission) and Kayla was not going to be doing the main part of her performance until after 7:30. So, if everything went perfectly, we'd be on the road around 7:10 and get there just in time to see Kayla do her thing.

The dance recital started on time. So far so good. The numbers were timed and were back to back. So, it went without a hitch until... In the middle of Shayna's number, the music stopped. We later found out someone had created a chopped off version of the song and put it on the CD given to the guy playing the music. The girls were devastated as their song stopped, the handlers rushed the stage and herded them off with looks of disbelief on their little faces. The next group was up and since they didn't have the right version of the song, they were just out of luck. I had no choice but to leave, it was 7:06 and I had to get to the car and on the road to catch Kayla's play. Ty would pick up Shayna and meet us at the church where Kayla's play was.

Ty called me about 5 minutes into my drive. They had found the full version of the song and were going to let the girls perform again. Good thing. They were crushed. I guess there were no tears. But, they were close.

I got to the play in time to see Kayla do her cheerleader routine (yeah, Kayla as a cheerleader). Ty and Shayna missed it. Thank G-d for camcorders. I missed Shayna's dance routine and Ty and Shayna missed Kayla's cheerleader deal. So much for the timing working out.

p.s.- turns out the electronics curse struck again. Ty recorded her conversation with me (over the cell phones) where she asked me how to use the camcorder. But, she did not record Shayna's routine. So, all we have is the cut off version that I shot before I left.

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Monday, December 3, 2007

The Season Ends on December 2nd.

Maybe it's just frustration at how we continue to find ways to lose games. But, I'm almost inclined to say yes to firing Marvin. Last night we lost to the Squealers for the second time this year.

I've found this season particularly frustrating as the only consistency has been our inconsistency. The offense can't play when the defense plays decent ball and vice versa. We start off a game looking great and finish looking like a bunch of guys who have never played football before. Our offensive line goes through periods where they can't seem to stay in their stances until the ball is snapped. Last night, I finally saw that deer in the headlights look you guys have been talking about. Of course Marvin had to throw that challenge flag. Near the end of the game, Chad didn't know when it was 4th down. How do you not know that?

I'm extremely frustrated. I figured 8-8 at the beginning of the year. But, this team is worse than I thought. Something has to be done. Last night we handed another game to the Squealers. We have proven we cannot win two games in a row and we have to admit the 4 wins this year are more of a fluke than the 8 losses. The only problem is when you're so inconsistent in so many areas, it's hard to figure out what to do. Would firing Marvin help?

When I predicted 8-8, I didn't think the season would end on December 2. It's officially over now boys. We get to play 4 games for "pride" now. And, we don't even get to look forward to any good things like possibly playing the Squealers to knock them out of the playoffs.

I'd have to put the loss last night on Carson. He was awful. The defense continued to get turnovers for us. They played decent ball. But, the offense couldn't do anything with it. The conditions, of course, were awful. But, Carson was even awfuller.

I'm trying to find the silver lining in this season. But, it's pretty well hidden. Maybe we'll get a new offensive and defensive coordinator out of it (probably not). I'd like to say this frees up my next four Sunday afternoons. But, like a true masochistic Bengals fan, I'll continue to watch this train-wreck until the end.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Kayla's Birthday Party

Kayla had a few girls over for a skating party, pizza and a make over. Then, they watched movies until the wee hours of the morning. She's 11 now, well into her "double digits".

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Bengals/Titans

I only made it to one game this year (and fortunately it was a good one). It was cold and windy though. The sun was supposed to come out. It never showed up. But, amazingly, both the Bengals offense and defense did on the same day!
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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving/Kayla's Birthday

Kayla's birthday fell on Thanksgiving this year. One of her birthday wishes was to spent the day with her cousins in Columbus. We headed up in the morning and came back Thanksgiving evening. The only reason we still live in Ohio is so we can be near family (is there any other reason to live here?).

The trip was nice. Traffic was light. We took Zoe up for the first time ever. It might have been the first time she was ever in anyone else's house. She was great. She loved all the attention and the scraps. She was so distracted by all the people and the food that she didn't eat her own food. But, she didn't jump on anybody or try to take food off the counters (and she could). Mom was so proud of herself that she allowed a dog to be in her house and didn't freak out.

Shayna insisted that Kayla wasn't 11 until noon. So, during the morning or when we first arrived, she would correct anyone saying that Kayla was 11. I pointed out to her that she would not be so happy with that rule on her birthday since she was born at 10:45PM and most likely she would be in bed before she actually turned 8. Kayla told her her little rule was going to "bite her in the butt".

Ty made pecan orange french toast casserole for Kayla's special breakfast. Kayla wasn't too thrilled with the way it sounded. But, it turned out great. So good, that Kayla wants it again for her birthday party next weekend.

Yesterday, we smoked a turkey and we'll be making a Thanksgiving feast (including cranberry salad for Kayla) today. Shell and the boys are coming in today to spend the night.

Here are pix of the day: .Mac Gallery of Thanksgiving

OK. Time to make the cranberry salad!

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving and Kayla's Birthday

Kayla's Birthday is always right around Christmas and the Ohio State/Michigan football game. As everybody knows, I threatened to miss her birth if she had waited until her due date, which was 11/23, the day of the Big Game in 1996. Fortunately, for all involved, she was born a day early.

This year we celebrated with an orange pecan roll that Ty made for breakfast then headed up to Columbus to spend the day with the family.

It was a historic trip for Zoe. She came along with us and did great. It was her first time out of West Chester.

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Playing Dolls

I love the way the girls get along with each other. While they are way beyond their years in some ways, they still love playing dolls and what they call playing "Voices". In "Voices", they essentially play dolls, just without the dolls. They have a running narrative where Kayla will say "Pretend she said..." and Shayna will respond in her character. They can do this for hours.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Gods don't want that...

Last night we were watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (of the movies in the trilogy, it's by far the darkest and most violent- I hope I didn't warp the girls for life). During the scene where the priest is sacrificing an innocent victim, Kayla looked at me and said "Gods don't want that."

Just yesterday I posted on The Beautiful Heresy about all the unlearning so many of us have to do as adults due to the religious baggage we carry around. I was so proud to hear Kayla at 10 with her simple understanding of what it has taken me years to unlearn.

Kaysha Kids

We're about to launch our new line of products for kids (girls). Not quite sure what products we're going to have yet. But, we know we're working on the branding. Yesterday we received mockups for the logos. HIred a firm out of Argentina for next to nothing to create this for us. (Ain't a global economy grand?).

Kaysha is a combination of Kayla and Shayna and the logo will feature caricatures of each of them. They've both complained about how the girls look and the nicknames we're going to use for them. Kayla and Shayna think they own the characters.

Here's the first mockup.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Mixed Bag Football Weekend

Oh man! What a disaster for the Buckeyes. They didn't show the Steelers/Browns in Cincinnati (weird) and they didn't show the Bengals/Ravens in Columbus (not so weird, I guess).

The Buckeyes were actually outplayed on both sides of the ball by Illinois. I expected a competitive game. But, our defense shocked me with their poor play. It was almost like the Florida game all over again.

I'm trying to find the good news in this defeat. It, of course, dashes any hopes of a national championship no matter how everyone else finishes. They will never give the Buckeyes a shot since they no longer have an unblemished record. Since both OSU and Michigan lost going into the Big Game, I actually expect that game to be a great one as each team tries to prove we're the better team.

This was supposed to be a rebuilding year anyway. No one expected us to even win the Big 10, let alone the National Championship. I guess rather than taking this defeat as a huge disappointment, we should look at the earlier part of the season as an unexpected bonus. Next year is our year.

OTOH, the Bengals did manage to pull off a victory over what has turned out to be the lowly Ravens. Their defensive secondary has been even more decimated than our linebacker corps. Yet, we managed zero touchdowns against them (a troubling statistic). Even with them giving us six turnovers again, we only managed 7 field goals, which was enough to win the game only because their offense was even more inept and self-destructed every time they got close enough to score. The game was an effective shut out, with Baltimore putting up one touchdown near the end to only lose 21-7.

The good news is we know our defense can stop someone. The not-so-good new is it's the worst offense in the NFL. But, a W is a W.

Peace,
Brian

Friday, November 9, 2007

Kayla's Skirt

Kayla is really getting into sewing.  She goes to a class one weekend a month and has a class weekly.  Here is her latest creation, the skirt.



Kayla's Skirt

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Snugglin'

Even though Kayla is nearly as tall as Ty now and the girls present quite a lapful, they still love curling up next to us.



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Sunday, November 4, 2007

Anniversary Trip

Ty and I made it to (gulp) 17 years!  We took a trip to Columbus and dropped off the girls with the grandparents.  We then spent the weekend shopping, catching a movie (our first and only "adult" film of 2007) and went to the Ocean Club and Bon Vie for dinner.  We met Kevin and Julie the first night and saw "The Kingdom".  

The girls slept in my old room.  Still the original furniture from something like 42 years ago!



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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween

The girls are so creative. They came up with their own idea for Halloween costumes this year. Kayla went as a painter and Shayna went as her easel. They put the outfits together themselves and Shayna used glow-in-the-dark paint to create the painting.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

1-4 (Bengals)

One and four. Need I say more?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Busy!

I haven't been posting because I've been extremely busy since getting back from Disney. It's not all work though. I put together a movie of the trip and even got it burned to DVD to send to the technologically challenged in-laws.

If you'd like to see the movie, it's at the new website I just launched:

http://www.brianandtywana.com

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Bungles Are Back In Town

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a picture of my Tuesday Morning Quarterback chair. I sit firmly seated in it now and declare that the answer to the question I posed "Are the Bungles Back?" is an unqualified "yes". Let me tell you why.

OK, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Pats are a better team than the Bengals. 50 states out of 50 picked them to win. Even all the pin-heads on Monday Night Football picked the Pats over the Bengals. But, in a game where the Cards beat the Steelers, the Browns beat the Ravens and Auburn beat Florida (I know it's college) all in the same weekend, there is a reason they play the game. The Bengals had a shot at knocking off New England and they blew it.

My confidence in Marvin is beginning to wane. The Bengals had a lousy game plan. The Pats averaged 38 points a game coming in. That's against normal defenses. Our defense was no good before the injuries. With just four healthy linebackers on the roster going into the game, how did we possibly imagine we could hold them to less than 38 points? So, how many points would it take to beat the Pats? A first grader could tell you we had to put up 39. So, why come out in that conservative offense trying to establish the run? Why not more throws to Ocho-Cinco and T.J. early? We had to take chances to have a chance at winning this game. A conventional game plan with that banged up defense and New England's stellar defense was not going to get it done. We needed to roll the dice, early.

OK, so that's the game plan. Then there are the mistakes. The interception at the end of the first half was a game breaker. Going into the locker room down three would have been a huge moral victory. After listening to all the praise lavished on the Pats before the game by the "pundits", I was ready to turn the channel to Prison Break and save myself the trouble of watching what was clearly going to be a good old fashioned butt-whooping by the Pats. But, the Bengals' defense held their own. The frustrating thing about this team is that on the rare occasion where the defense does step up, the offense seems to go away. The Bengals could have and should have put up 35 points last night. Penalties and mistakes once again killed us. Zero penalties in the first half and eight in the second half (five in the first 10 minutes of the half). Two interceptions by Palmer. When this team has to play flawless ball to beat an opponent that clearly has us outclassed, we just can't step up.

Just three games into the season, my 8-8 prediction is looking like a long shot. We are now 6-11 for the last 17 games and I think 1-6 for the last 7 (or 1-7, I can't remember exactly). This is not acceptable football for a team that was good for a minute. Right now, we are not a good team. I know we're hurt. But, that brings up another point. Is anybody looking at the Bengals conditioning? We had a linebacker get hurt last night on a play where he didn't even hit anybody. Hamstrings, groins, Achilles tendons is anybody stretching? What happened to the Yoga instructor?

The frustrating thing is not last night's loss. I don't think anyone would have been surprised at the beginning of the season if told this team would be 1-3 after our first four games. You probably would have assumed Baltimore would shut us down in the first game, we'd throttle Cleveland, Seattle would light it up against us and the Pats would blow us out on both sides of the ball. None of that happened though. What's frustrating is the way we lose games. We pulled out the Baltimore game. But, we gave the Seattle game away with mistakes. We had a good chance to give the Pats a run for their money last night and just didn't get it done. I have to give the team credit for playing as well as they did last night. The defense really stepped it up. But, overall, we just didn't get it done again.

My buddies last night wanted to pick a back up team; a second team to root for. I'm not doing it. I'm sticking with the Bungles till the end. The bye week is coming at a great time. Maybe we'll get some players back. All-in-all 1-3 ain't that bad given our early schedule. We're just a few plays from reversing that number. But, why do those plays seem to elude us?

p.s.- thanks to having to listen to the drivel about the glorious Patriots for an hour last night before the game, they are now officially my most hated team in the NFL. I will root for anyone over the Pats, including the Squealers. I thought Tony what's-his-face was going to run down to the field and propose to Tom Brady. It as a love-fest I was not enjoying at all.

p.p.s- There, it's all out of my system now. Let's hope we can go 3-1 in our next four games and get this season back on track.




Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fascinated By Technology

I'm still amazed by technological changes and how fast they come. A couple of weeks ago we got Ty's new CX-9. The thing has BlueTooth built into it so that her phone works hands free with the car. The car knows when the phone is there and uses it to send and receive phone calls on the car's audio system. Today, I went to the dentist and they took digital X-rays. No more film. No more gagging on those cardboard things they used to jam in your mouth. No more waiting for the results. The X-rays popped up on the screen as the technician took them.

Today, my router died. The thing had to be 7 years old. I also had a wireless access point for my laptop. I was able to replace both of them for 100 bucks. I think that's less than I paid for either device. The new router is 9X faster for wireless, the same speed for wired networking and it's smaller than either device alone. That's it sitting on top of the two devices it replaced. The box on the top does the job of both boxes underneath it and does it faster and for less money. Wow!

New Router

Monday, September 24, 2007

Here We Go Again?


I have a bad feeling about this season. I get the sense Bengals fans are still hung over from the way we closed out last season. Even worse, I think the players are too. I hang out with some pretty dedicated fans and only three games into the campaign, there is a sense that our team is going to let us down again. This is the first time I've felt this since Marvin (the man we thought was going to be our savior) arrived.

Yesterday, we lost our second close game in a row. While we only lost 24-21 to a good team, on the road in a formidable place, it's the way we lost (again) that is so frustrating. The offense played a pretty good game. Carson lit it up, TJ lit it up, Chad lit it up. The defense played surprisingly well. But, just a few big plays tipped the game in Seattle's favor. This time it was the special teams that killed us. The 80 yard return of the opening kick off put us in a hole early. The decision to go for two after we scored our last touchdown and were up by 4 mystified me. Then, Shayne Graham kicks the ball out of bounds. For an NFL kicker, that is the absolute worst thing you can possibly do on a kick off. But, the decision to go for two ended up being a moot point since the special teams put the final nail in our coffin by fumbling the kick-off, taking the ball out of Carson's hands. Given the way Carson and the wide outs were playing, we had a good chance of driving down the field with 1:00 left and tying this thing up.

I feel for the coaching staff. How do you coach players to stop making bone-head plays? Some times it looks as if the Bengals just don't want to win. Seattle three just a few bombs that ended up being the difference in the game. The defense would play great for so long, then just take a play off. Guys, in the NFL, that's the difference between winning and losing.

So, now we're 1-2 having lost two close games. Squandered opportunities. One team we should have beaten soundly. And, one team we had a chance to steal a game from. Which hurts more? And, next it's New England on Monday night. As hard as it was to believe we had a prayer against Seattle, it's harder to believe we can beat New England.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bungles?

I missed the game against Cleveland. I was at Disney strolling the streets of the MGM when the Bengals apparently once again became the Bungles and the defense gave up 51 points to the Cleveland Browns (who had scored a total of 44 points over the previous five games).

So, once again, I ask which team is this? The defense apparently took a huge step backwards. I haven't seen any highlights. Haven't read any analysis. I'm not sure I want to.

So, how do I stack up against my preseason prognostication? After Monday night's win over the Ravens and with the Browns next on the schedule, I was confident I would be proven wrong over the course of the first two games. When I realized I had to miss a game of the first six, I thought for sure missing the Browns game was the safest. Surely, if there was a team in the NFL we could beat, it was the Browns. Oh, how it hurts to be proven right. At 1-1 and with a loss to the Browns, my 8-8 prediction is looking pretty strong.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Our Florence Nightingale

We were at Epcot wrappping up our last day at Disney. The plan was to hit the few things we had missed during our 1/2 day there on Thursday and to revisit a few highlights (like Space Mission and Test Track). As we were just walking in, I asked the girls and Ty to pose in front of the dome at Epcot. As I was taking their picture, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to find a little Disney employee asking if I wanted her to take the picture with me in it. This was one of the very nice things about Disney. Not only the employees volunteered to take pictures with our digital camera, other guests would volunteer as well. So, for this vacation, you’ll actually see some shots with me in them (Ty also took a few). Back to my story, Florence the Disney Employee, after taking the picture asked where we were headed. We said to The Land to check out Soarin’. We had missed Soarin’ (and The Land) on our first pass through and wanted to catch it before dinner. She asked if we had checked out the wait. I was a little taken aback because the park was pretty empty and we hadn’t waited any time for anything on Thursday. She took us a few steps over to the board where the wait times were posted. 45 minutes for Soarin’. We hadn’t waited 45 minutes for anything in the 4 days we had already spent at the parks. She said “Do you want me to take you to the ride with no wait?” My thinking was that she was going to steer us to another attraction that we could get on my more quickly. But, she then said that she was with the Year of Million Dreams team and that she was adopting our family to make our dream of getting on Soarin’ come true.

As Florence led us to the ride, she told us about how long she had worked for Disney and that she was actually a college math teacher who took this as her “fun job”. She alternated between handing out gifts, handing out Dream Passes (a group of six Fast Passes for the most popular attractions, randomly handed out during the day (we had gotten some on Star Wars the day before at MGM)) and handing out this special treat. She led us to The Land, gave us a walking tour on the way there, telling us the story of the handmade inlaid art work done by a guy and his daughter with over 155,000 pieces each (the two walls were identical except for one green stone, he added to commemorate his daughter’s birthday). Florence had been searching for years to find that one stone. As we walked up to Soarin’, I felt like a VIP. Florence walked up to the guy accepting Fast Passes and told him she needed five. He handed her five and we walked through, right past a 45 minute line and up to what Bob Euchre would call (and a line I had been repeating all week “The Front Row!”. Florence asked the girls what each of their favorite Disney characters were and asked if they had gotten into pin trading. They had not.

Kayla was a little nervous about the ride as she is afraid of heights. The ride is a simulated hang gliding experience where you are in a row with about 8 people and are raised up in the air and thrust into a screen that surrounds you on all sides, above and underneath. You really get the true sensation of flying as when you look anywhere in about 180 degrees peripherally and 360 vertically, you see hang gliding scenes taken from the California sky. When you fly over the orange groves, you smell oranges, when you fly over the trees, you smell the forest, etc. It was truly an amazing experience. I comforted Kayla by having her try to get out of the seat before we took off (so she could see it was impossible to fall). While we were flying, she because a little overwhelmed, so I had her look to her left to see the people beside us to get a little perspective and close her eyes when it became overwhelming. She did great. I was so proud of her!

After the ride, Florence gave each of the girls a pin. Donald Duck for Shayna and Minnie Mouse for Kayla. Then, we thanked her and she was off to do her next good deed. As she left I thought of a few things. Was this a life changing experience (aren’t they all)? If I had not stopped the girls and Ty (who were several feet ahead of me) and directed them back to take the picture in that spot, we would not have met Florence. Had we not met Florence, we would not have gotten the opportunity to walk right up onto one of the two most popular attractions at Epcot (unbeknownst to us at the time though). I We would have headed home never having experienced what was an amazing experience for all of us. As a Black man, in a White world, there’s always that little feeling in the back of your mind of how White people really perceive of you. When a 60 year old White lady who can adopt any family she chooses, chooses our family, and not only takes us to the ride, does it with us, talks to us before and afterwards and shows genuine caring and concern for us, it reinforces my faith in people. It was one of those little magical moments at Disney that I’ll always remember.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Disney Day 2- Animal Kingdom

Day Two at Disney World, we visited Animal Kingdom. The girls had a blast. Kayla and Shayna both love animals. Visiting brought back memories of a 6 year old Kayla at the zoo, giving us little known facts about every creature we encountered.

Animal Kingdom was not my favorite park. The rides were just OK. The biggest stand out was Expedition Everest, which we did twice at the park opening with no wait. The girls and Ty did Kali Rapids while I stayed dry. We loved the Harambe or Kilaminjaro Safari. But, overall, the park was not a whole lot different than visiting the Cincinnati Zoo.

Dinner tonight was at the Grand Floridian with Cinderella, Prince Charming and the rest of the Cinderella crew. The girls insisted on doing a character dinner even though we suspected they would not be into it. And, they were not. They only reluctantly asked for autographs and posed for pictures. They are old enough to realize these are just people dressed up. But, the dinner was good. Kayla, Shayna and I had prime rib (Kayla didn't like hers). The desserts were huge. Served family style, we had a plate of pastries and a huge slab of bread pudding. It was my first time actually having bread pudding (which sounds disgusting). But, I liked it.

If you haven't been there and seen this tree, check out the detail here:


View the photo set here:

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On The Way to Disney

Today, we rose bright and early and left for our five day trip to visit The Mouse In Orlando. Shayna and Kayla were both out of bed with no problems. Shayna was a bundle of nerves and energy. I waited until the last possible moment to pack (as always and ran out of time). We hustled out of the door at 6AM (in spite of getting up 20 minutes earlier than planned) and had to make an unscheduled stop to pick up a smaller container of contact lens solution. So, we rolled into the parking lot at the Dayton airport at nearly 7AM with our flight scheduled to depart at 8AM. Fortunately, the Dayton airport is a morgue at 7 o'clock on a Thursday morning and we breezed through security.

I learned first hand what a great job airport security is doing of keeping us all safe. They confiscated my toothpaste, less than half an ounce of face cleanser (in a one ounce bottle) and my shave gel (in less than a 2 ounce tube). I was told if I had a ziplock plastic bag with me (because doesn't everyone carry one of those?), I could take my stuff. Otherwise, I had to place it in my checked bag (at this point making its way past the maze of conveyor belts behind the airport) or relinquish it. Good-bye toothpaste, hello Orlando.

We had a direct flight that went without a hitch. We were in Orlando airport at just after 10AM, boarded Disney's Magical Express and were at our hotel (French Quarter at Port Orleans before noon. Amazing. Unfortunately, the room wasn't ready. So, we had to hang out for a while. We had lunch in the hotel and walked around while they prepared our room. Our bags had been magically transported from the airport to our room (we didn't even have to claim them in Orland0). We had our park passes in our hands. So, by 3:15, we we were headed out for Epcot.

The girls were so excited. They were almost giddy as we headed for Epcot, which was a short bus ride (less than 15 minutes). The park was almost empty. We were able to visit Mission Space, The Seas with Nemo, Journey Into Imagination and Test Track less than three hours. The girls absolutely loved Test Track and Mission Space (we did the beginner's trainig- Green Level). They wanted to immediately go back and do the advanced training. We had dinner at the Rose Crown Pub & Dining Room. Ty thought I would enjoy fish and chips. She's right. I would have. But, the fish was the worst cod I have ever had. I think it was underdone. It was actually kind of tough rather than flaky. But, we had more than enough food as Ty got a lambshank that had to be every bit of 12 ounces of meat. Kayla decided she wanted a children's meal (pizza) even though she was on the adult meal plan. With the appLinketizers and desserts we each got as part of our meal plan (Ty and I), there was more than enough food. We did get out of there just in time for the fireworks and laser closing. It was amazing and with the VIP seats we had been comped, we had the best seats in the house. The girls were exhausted. We closed down the park, got back to the room before 10pm. But, they were so excited, they each got a second wind and we stayed up late talking about the day.

View the photo set here:


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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Oh Me Of Little Faith


An open letter of apology to the Bengals' defense... Forcing six (that's a lot) turnovers. Two interceptions (by linemen at that). A secondary that covered people. Putting unending pressure on Steve McNair. A goal line stand to save the game (twice). Keeping Baltimore from running the ball down our throats. Holding the Ravens to 13 points (I can't count Ed Reed's punt return against the defense). And, everybody hitting hard for four quarters. Wow! This was the defense I expected to see when Marvin came here. This was not the defense I was expecting to see after all the injuries and suspensions over the last couple of years.

Last night's game was great. It was competitive. It was exciting. Beating a tough divisional opponent, on Monday night, in our season opener, at home was a huge statement for this Bengals team. The question was (is?) "Are we the playoff team of two years ago or still the Bungles of the closing stretch of last season?" Using this one game as an indicator, I am hopeful the answer is we are the team of two years ago. The offense will get better. We can only hope the defense sustains the level they set last night. Special teams (coverage) should improve also.

Can I revise my 8-8 prediction now? Who Dey!


Monday, September 10, 2007

Kayla Builds-A-Bear / Officially Quits Violin

Kayla is really enjoying sewing. Saturday, she made a bear for Brandon and Holly's unborn baby. She is so proud of that bear. I can't wait until she gets the chance to present it to them. Kayla is so thoughtful when it comes to others feelings that it's just great to watch her light up when she can do something for someone else.


Kayla's Bear

We took her violin back last week to turn it in. We weren't going to even tell Kayla she had quite (she hadn't noticed even though she hasn't had a lesson in about four months). We wanted to see if she ever mentioned it. We were talking about musical lessons just a couple of days before with her in the car and it never seemed to even cross her mind that the thing that had been "a part of me" just a few months before when we encouraged her to quit had completely slipped her mind.

Ty had to take Kayla with her to turn the violin in because she was headed that direction to run some other errands. So, Kayla caught on (duh!). She was not in the least bit upset. In fact, since we had been renting for 6 years, we had accumulated a nice credit we could use toward the purchase of a violin. But, Ty and I agreed that it was pointless to put any money into a new violin since Kayla had never (not once) picked up a violin without being told in the six years she was taking lessons. In the past four months, she hasn't even mentioned it. So, the odds of her playing again are pretty slim. If she does, we'll buy her a violin. The people at Antonio's did give us a free one that she could use if she get really violin-sick. But, I don't see that happening.

Shayna- what a trip!

Shayna came to me Friday evening asking why she might have a nosebleed. I explained to her these things happen sometimes and there was nothing to worry about. She seemed to have it under control, there was no blood anywhere (on her or her surroundings) and I was very busy. So, I asked her if it had stopped. She said yes and went away.

A few minutes later she came back with her "Dad, I have some very bad news." (the same line she used when she had a dream in Kayla's bed the other night and wet the bed in her sleep thinking she was in the bathroom.). She told me she had stuffed tissue up her nose and could not get it back out.

My first thought was "No big deal". Worst case, I can get it with some tweezers. But, then I remembered Shayna has the world's tiniest nostrils. She can't even get her own finger in her nose. I looked up her nose and the tissue was so far up, I knew there was no way I could reach it. I asked her how that happened and she said that while trying to pull it out, she had actually pushed it further up.

For a second, she looked like she was going to panic. I thought she was going to cry. But, she remained very composed.

Now, I'm envisioning an ER or urgent care visit and on the verge of panic. But, I thought I've got to try one thing first. I took her into the bathroom, had her close her mouth, put my finger over her other nostril and had her blow as hard as she could. The tissue came rocketing out. Disaster averted.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Dad Has Prostate Surgery

Dad had surgery to remove prostate cancer Friday, September 7. I am writing this post on Monday morning.

I woke up Friday morning and decided to meditate (a habit I had fallen out of). I'm not really sure why I decided to meditate on that particular day. While I was meditating, a verse came to me. "Perfect love casts out fear." Since overcoming the panic attacks (actually during the process which I am still in), this has become one of my favorite verses. But, I was wondering why this verse had come to me at this time. I wasn't feeling fearful about Dad's surgery or his cancer at all. They caught his cancer early (PSA screening) and he had done his homework on his options and had chosen the best laparascopic prostate surgery guy in the country to do his procedure. But, one thing about Dad that amazes me is during his by-pass surgery and during this time he has never shown one bit of fear. He completely trusts in G-d. During his by-pass surgery, I thought it was a front he was putting up for the rest of us. But, thinking about it during the six years since then, I no longer think that. I think the verse came to me because Dad has that love for G-d that does cast out fear. How it's possible with his image of G-d, I don't understand (I really don't understand). But, the evidence is there in his actions.

The surgery went great. Unfortunately, I got to Columbus too late to see him before he went in. Even though his surgery was scheduled for noon, they took him back into pre-op before 10:30am. Since it's a teaching hospital, the set-up takes longer as they have to explain things to the interns while they are doing them. The "live" update board turned out to be not so live as it told us he was still in pre-op at 11:45. But, then, an hour and a half later, it said he had gone into the OR at 11:15. It was after 3:30 before they got him to a room. Ty and I had to leave to get back to do shipping for Friday. So, it turns out I didn't see him at all. As I thought, the family reported, he was pretty much out of it Friday evening anyway. I don't think he would have remembered seeing me.

The surgery went completely as expected. The doctor was out of there in an hour (it used to take him 5-6 hours to do the procedure). There was minimal bleeding. Dad is very comfortable now. I spoke with the family Friday night and I called Mom on Saturday to get a report. Dad was sitting right there and she was relaying messages from me to him and vice-versa. But, I didn't speak with him. Yesterday, Mom called and she did put Dad on the phone. He said he is having no pain (or even any discomfort). He's got a pump installed for pain medication and a catheter. He removes the tube for the pain medication himself on Tuesday (has a prescription for pills if the needs them then). And, he sees the doctor on Wednesday to have the catheter removed. His only "fear" (and it's really more of a slight concern) is making sure he doesn't overdo things because he's not feeling any pain. He doesn't want to be sore when the pump is removed.

For a long time, I wished Dad and I were more like "buddies". But, I've accepted that will never happen. He is who he is and while I'm changing, I can't change enough for both of us. When I expressed dissatisfaction about our relationship, it was like I was speaking a foreign tongue. It only created discomfort for him. Discomfort which apparently is not there now. So, it is what it is. I'm grateful the surgery went well and he is doing great.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Who Dey!

Before I read what the experts have to say or the season starts I have to go on record with my best guess of how the Bengals will turn out this season. For the first time in a while (since Marvin arrived), I actually hope I am wrong.

I am concerned about the Bengals. I'm afraid they peaked two seasons ago when Carson's knee injury in the first playoff game against Pittsburgh ended our hopes. Last season, we played way below our potential; squandering a golden opportunity at making the playoffs. I'm afraid all the suspensions and injuries are going to catch up to us this year. I think our defense will let us down again (and again). I think the offense can put up points. But, without Chris Henry for at least half of the season, I'm not sure they can put up enough points (I'm not sure any offense can). The Bengals defense proved they can give up a bunch of points, in a hurry. I was there for the collapse against San Diego last season. 42 points in a half! Given that Marvin's background has been as a defensive specialist, I find our defense especially troubling. Defense is what makes for consistent play week in and week out. Defense is what wins championships (in any sport).

My prediction for this year is 8-8 and another missed playoff opportunity. I think then the honeymoon with Marvin will be officially over.

Let's hope I'm wrong. Who Dey!

The Wanting


Look at it. Isn't it sweet? Just looking at it again makes me WANT one. Yesterday, Apple launched their 6th Generation iPod and yes, I WANT one. I have absolutely no need for one. But, I found myself yesterday spending time on the Mac Rumors message boards picking up tidbits on the announcement even as the live event was going on trying to figure out how I could talk me into allowing myself to have one. It was a fascinating event to observe (the internal struggle within me, not the iPod launch).

Last night, I was reading Ethan Nichtern's (my favorite Buddhist teacher) One City book and I was on the chapter concerning rampant consumerism. Ethan revealed that even though he is a long time Buddhist and meditator he still wants a new iPod every time one is announced. Ethan talks about iPods a lot. I think Ethan shares my problem. There was a guy who started a thread titled "Just Kill Me". His wife, after forbidding him to buy a new iPod to replace his that had died presented him with a brand new 5.5 Generation iPod on the very day Apple announced the 6G iPod. He was on the board to vent a little because she had it engraved, rendering it unreturnable. He was miserable. Even as I consoled him giving him all the reasons he really didn't need a 6G iPod, I found myself starting to whisper to myself as I read about the new features "Oh that would be so cool to be able to do that! I could use that!"

In Ethan's book he talks about the general feeling of WANT that so many of us experience. It's not focused on any specific object. It's just that non-specific need to acquire. I definitely see that in myself. I wish I had discovered Buddhism 20 years ago. Because, in spite of knowing this about myself for a while, before discovering Buddhism and meditation it hadn't really been in focus for me and it was much more difficult to identify. Now when it rears it's ugly head, at least I can see it coming. Ethan also talks about how we can become addicted to a certain lifestyle or even a brand so that all an advertiser has to do is push that button and we're off to the store to buy the latest widget. I used to laugh at the Apple freaks that thought Steve Jobs was the Messiah and who spent hours, days and weeks discussing all things Apple. But, I periodically find myself attracted to those rumor boards and while we have five iPods in the house (and 4 people) and I rarely even leave the house, I found myself wanting a new iPod just because it was available. I was thinking how cool it would be to be the first kid on the block with the touch iPod. How I could use the WiFi when I'm at Panera waiting for Jon to show up. How sweet it would be to have CoverFlow (even though I hardly ever even glance at my iPod screen now. I never watch video on it. I have pictures on it that I think I've shown to one person. And I bought the one I have now simply because I got a great deal on it. I had a 20 GB one before that that I knew I would fill some day. So, I got the 30 GB when the deal was available.

It's not just Apple that has me in their grips, I realized. We got a new car for Ty last Saturday. Until then, I was perfectly happy with my 7 year old car. But, every time I take my car in for service, they give me a brand new Lexus loaner. "Ooh, that new car smell!" "How can I live without a GPS system?" All the justifications start rolling through my brain and I find myself having to fight getting that next fix of something new.

I love the rush that comes from bringing home something new. Pulling it out of the box, putting it together. It's better than cocaine (I guess- I wouldn't know from personal experience). Just typing this gets my heart beating a little faster. I can imagine unpacking that new iPod. Apple packages things so nicely, I almost hate to pull them out of the box and mess it up. But, it's such a transient high. Usually it lasts a few days, a couple of weeks at most. Then, I need that next new thing. Buyer's remorse always quickly follows any major purchase. It's never perfect. Even if I got the biggest, best and baddest, I think maybe I could have gotten by with the next model down and saved a few bucks. If I get the cheaper one, I wish I had spent the extra money to get the biggest, best and baddest. After all, it's only a few bucks.

The good news is I am a cheap son-of-a-gun. I make myself justify every purchase to myself. So, there is a pretty good governor on my spending. I WANT an iPhone. But, I've forbid myself to buy one. I WANT the new square Nike driver on the market. But, that has to wait at least two years I've been told. No new car for you until the Mazda is paid off, Mister! But, just observing this has been fascinating for me. And, now Buddhism has given me the tools to deal with it. As Ethan points out, Buddhism (meditation) is not an instant cure (or even a long term cure). But, the first step to defeating any problem is realizing you have it and the second step is admitting it to yourself. "Hi everyone, my name is Brian and I am a WANTaholic".

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

An Armchair Quarterback Needs The Right Gear

I literally wore out my last office chair. I kept wondering why I'd be sore in the rear area at the end of the day. And, I was having some numbness in my legs. I finally figured out that the chair I had had for the last who knows how many years (I'm guessing at least 7) was just worn out. When I sat in it and thought about it, I could feel the padding was completely gone and it was like I was sitting on a board.

As I was bringing the chair into the house, it occurred to me that I often play Monday Morning Quarterback, blogging about things that happened the day before and how I would have done them differently.

This morning I had breakfast with Scott, where we discussed "church" again. I never thought I would say this about Scott. But, I think Scott's pretty burned out on church and struggling with seeing the purpose of the effort. I'll probably blog more of my thoughts on my other blog continuing the theme I started last week.

New Chair For Office

p.s.- on a photography note, this is one of the only pictures I've ever taken where the color with the flash was richer than the color without the flash. This is the flash version.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Shayna- Last Day At The Pool

Who knows what goes through Shayna's mind? While Ty was getting ready to go to the pool, Shayna got bored (Shayna always gets bored). She took Ty's cover-up and fashioned this headgear.

Yesterday was the last day for the neighborhood pool to be open. I was compelled to go hang out for while before coming back to watch Tiger play a lackluster round of golf and Phil Mickelson pull off the amazing by not choking in the last few holes.

Shayna Getting Ready For the Pool

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Chuck's Weekend Off

Chuck and Deb had a much deserved rest this weekend (from the band and Early Explorers' duties). Gregg and Cydney sang and we had a guest bass player (Brent).

Gregg & Cydney Sing

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Shrimp Salad

I had a taste for something light for dinner tonight (after having wings for dinner last night and a steak last week). And because of this ridiculous heat wave we've been in. So, I decided to try a shrimp salad. Ty thought I meant the mayonnaise based version when I meant a marinated shrimp. But, we decided to try it.

It as extremely simple to make. I just thawed some salad shrimp, threw some mayonnaise and lemon juice together, chopped some celery and then tasted it. I thought it need to be a little sweet so I added a tablespoon of honey. I also threw just a smidgen of cayenne pepper (I sprinkled more on top of mine). We served it over cherry tomatoes, avocados and baby spring mix.

Kayla thought it was so-so. Shayna didn't like it because there were too many ingredients mixed together. But, it was a very refreshing dinner on a hot day.

Shrimp Salad

New Mazda CX-9

We finally did it. After about a month and a half of negotiations (probably split evenly between intra-marriage negotiations and negotiations with several dealerships), we bought a Mazda CX-9. For someone who used to buy a new car every 2-3 years, it was a long time between purchases this time (almost exactly 10 years in Ty's old car).

We battled it out on the 7 passenger versus 5 passenger issue. Given that we only have two children (and will only have two children), I saw zero need for driving a school bus 100% of the time. A nice-to-have on occasion? Sure. But, not a need. Ty, OTOH, thought we needed to have a vehicle to haul the children's friends and cousins around in. This was a very interesting thing for us. In almost 20 years together we haven't disagreed on anything as much as this. We liked the same type of house, the same type of furniture, the same colors, etc. Timing has been an issue before (like when do we need new furniture). Deciding to have children was one where we had several discussions. But, on this car thing, whoo!

Ty tried to convince me that this should be her decision (and solely her decision) since she is going to drive it most of the time. I disagreed since we're both paying for it (and the 7 passengers are more expensive to acquire and to operate) and since it barely fits in the garage and caused us to do some major rearranging. I don't like the idea of people who don't need them driving over-sized gas hogs. If you need a truck or a 7 passenger vehicle, fine. But, just driving one because you can just irks me. I find them a prime example of American waste and rugged independence. Just because you can afford to waste a resource (gasoline and clean air) doesn't mean you should).

I finally had to come to grips with the fact that what we need versus what we want is subjective. When I got the new iMac, did I need it? I say yes because I was ready to shoot the old one. But, the reality is the old one still produced documents, uploaded my pictures and did all the functions required of it. When I bought the larger TV versus the smaller one, did I need those extra inches? Well, in my mind, yes. But, honestly, no. I could not, in fairness, force Ty to prove the need to have a school bus. She wanted it and that had to be good enough.

We considered the Hyundai Veracruz (a very nice vehicle and one that came in almost in a tie with the CX-9 in my opinion). At the last minute, we drove a Hyundai Santa Fe with the optional third row. Ty hated it. Since the price was less than $1,000 (with the options we wanted) different from the Veracrauz, we eliminated it. The Veracruz's advantages were a back-up warning system, overall length of 9" shorter (with the same interior passenger room) and the 5 year warranty. The advantages of the Mazda were a nicer interior and the fact we had owned two before and loved them. The thing that pushed the Mazda over the top was the zero percent financing deal for three years. The price came out to be just a little more than the Veracruz (once we had made our best deals on both). The financing actually made the Mazda cheaper. So, done deal.

We did the negotiations almost solely via the Internet. That is a story in itself. As a former sales guy I am amazed at the level of incompetence by most people in sales. One guy took a couple of days off in the middle of our negotiations. He's the guy we bought our Mazda from 10 years ago and we really wanted to give him the business. But, after sending me an email saying he would do crazy things to get our business, he disappeared for three full business days (and a weekend). During that time, we got a great deal from the other Mazda dealer in town and closed the deal. I have several other stories of incompetence. But, they're not worth telling. Costco let us down. They advertise this auto-buying program. But, they didn't have a single Mazda or Hyundai dealer in Ohio, Kentucky or Indiana.

Here's a picture of the new car. (Do you call these things cars?). Here we are giving the old car up. Trading In the Old Car

The CX-9 Comes Home

Friday, August 31, 2007

Golf At Walden Ponds

Jon and I finally got to play golf again (after about a month off). I started off terrible. But, I was able to relax and ended up having a pretty decent round. Jon hit his tee shot on number 9 (our 18th since we went off the back) to 2-3' and then popped in the birdie putt.

It wasn't crowded, especially considering it was the Friday before Labor Day. But, it was expensive. $55 is about double what we normally pay for 18. I'm sure after that birdie on the last hole though Jon thought it was well worth every penny.

Jon For The Birdie

Monday, August 27, 2007

Stuffed Chicken Florentine

I used to make this dish for Ty. I recently realized recently I hadn't made it in at least 10 years. So, Kayla had never had it. I grilled out steaks on Saturday (and baked sweet potatoes). I was planning to take Sunday off from making dinner. But, I mentioned this dish on the way to church and Kayla's little eyes lit up. So, I decided to make it for her. While Ty and the girls were basking in the sun at the pool, I stayed at home and did shipping labels and made this dish. I also missed most of the golf tournament. :(

It took longer than I remembered (maybe that's why I hadn't made it in so long). I have modified the recipe from the original (of course). The stuffing is spinach, basil, freshly grated nutmeg, egg white and feta cheese. I flatten the breasts with a mallet and roll the stuffing in them. Then they get floured, egg washed and dipped in Panko breadcrumbs with romano cheese. Popped into the freezer to firm up (not freeze), then pan fried in butter. Finished in the oven. Kayla loved it. Shayna wanted more cheese and less spinach. But, she enjoyed it, too. Ty made a great rice dish (kind of like risotto) to go along with it. I'll have to get that dish into our cook book.

The picture would have been better had I not had the dirty knife and fork there (from cutting Shayna's up for her). But, it's good enough, I guess.

Stuffed Chicken Florentine

Saturday, August 25, 2007

IHN Hosting

Friday night we participated in the IHN hosting that Nexus does. IHN is an organization that helps homeless families get back on their feet with a place to stay, job training and life-skills coaching. The families go to a day center during the day and stay in various churches at night. Nexus helps out by being there on Friday evenings to provide food for the families, keep them entertained and spending the night to make sure everything is provided for during the evening.

Ty and I went over to help out with the entertainment of the children. There was a family of 3 boys and a little girl and a single mother who had an 8 month old (maybe the most beautiful baby I've ever seen- sorry Shayna and Kayla). We drew pictures with kids. Gregg and I let the two older boys play with our digital cameras (maybe their first time?). Gregg obviously has more faith than I do because I'm sure his camera cost about 5 times what mine cost and probably weighs 10 times as much. We fed them ice cream cones and put in "Finding Nemo", although no one watched it. I made paper airplanes which turned out to be a big hit.

I had trouble picking a photo to represent the set. So, I chose this one. But, if you want to see that beautiful baby, click here.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

MacDaddy Has Arrived

I ordered my new iMac the day after Apple finally announced them. I had been dying from anticipation for at least the last 4-5 months as the rumors swirled and I was limping along on my old G4 that was fast approaching 5 years old.

Transitioning
iMac sitting in front of old iMac sucking data off via Firewire

Ordered on Wednesday of last week, I was surprised (and disappointed) to learn it was shipping from Shanghai China. The good news was Apple had beat their scheduled ship date by at least two full days (it actually shipped on Saturday, August 11th after having been ordered only on Thursday). Since it was a "custom" configuration (I opted for an additional 1 GB of RAM and a 500 MB hard drive), I couldn't just pick it up at the Apple store. This was my first experience shopping for a Mac at Apple's website and I thought there is no way they are going to get that baby to me by August 17th or even August 21st (the delivery range estimate I was given when I ordered). I could just picture my new iMac on a slow boat from China languishing for weeks before arrival. I checked Sunday, no status update. I checked Monday morning, nothing. But, then Monday afternoon- What? My machine is in Anchorage, AK? First thing Thursday morning, my machine had arrived in Indianapolis at 1AM. But by 8AM it was already in Cincinnati, OH. I was giddy with excitement. I'm going to have my iMac tomorrow. A full three days before the best I had hoped for. I was sitting planning for the unpacking when FedEx pulled up to the door. We get shipments from FedEx several times a week so I'm thinking this is some makeup. But, the guy rings the doorbell and waits. He needs a signature. Unbelievably, at 9AM my MacDaddy has arrived. 2 GB RAM, 500 GB Hard Drive, 2.4 GHz Intel Duo Core 2 processor, 20" glossy display. I remember the day I got my first Dell PC with a 1 GB drive. I wondered what I'd ever do with all that space. Same when I got the iMac almost 5 years ago with an 80 GB drive. It's hard to believe that in five years I'll need a machine to replace this thing. But, history shows it's true.

I, of course, immediately unpacked it and got to work. A guy had posted how he had trouble with the Migration Assistant, which is an unbelievably cool program Apple ships with every new machine. Apple assumes you have already had a Mac and want to transfer your years worth of data and programs using something faster than burning to CDs. The Migration Assistant allows you to set up your old Mac (via Firewire) as a big old hard drive mounted to the new Mac. Then, Migration Assistant asks if you want to transfer settings (network, user accounts, etc.), programs, data or a combination. I gave Migration Assistant a shot (actually two or three). But, I had problems, too. It turned out that 2 files in my iTunes library of almost 3,000 songs were not able to transfer. The problem though is Migration Assistant doesn't tell you what didn't transfer or why. It just runs until it hits a problem and then hangs (and hangs and hangs). After a couple of attempts at about 2 hours each before killing the process, I finally decided to make the migration manually. It took a little longer. But, in hindsight, I recommend it. I found a great post in Apple's support database that told me EXACTLY what to do. I've found the best support from Apple doesn't come from Apple Care (although, relatively speaking, they're pretty good). It comes from other Mac users. There are so many people willing to help you out on the occasions where you just can't figure things out. Since most Apple applications store their data and programs in one of three places (preferences folder, applications folder or documents folder), many applications can be moved without even reinstalling them. By selecting only the new applications and preferences I wanted on my new machine, I ended up with an almost clean install.

There were a couple of little hiccups. My disk for Adobe Illustrator got jammed in the new slot drive of the iMac. I realize while these slot drives are cool, they're not exactly durable. When I was on the phone with Apple care I was told don't put any disk in you even think might be funky. One guy (I talked to a couple that afternoon) told me he wouldn't even put in a disk with a paper label at all. I won't again. After going for a few hours thinking I was going to be making a trip to the repair shop (and about 100 searches on Google to avoid it), I found a solution that worked. I shut down the machine. Left it for 10 minutes, then rebooted. Apparently the CD cooled enough to be ejected and all was right with the world again. I also had a minor glitch with my SOHO Notes application. All my Notes were there but the folders weren't showing them. If I clicked "Open All", they all miraculously popped up. Once again, while waiting for support to get back to me with an answer, I figured it out on my own. I threw away the old preferences file and Voila!, presto-magico, I was back in business. BTW, I was able to get Illustrator reinstalled simply by copying the preferences file and the Illustrator files from the old machine over the Firewire.

Another glitch I ran into which I blame Belkin for is my two-port USB switch I use to share my printer between the Mac and the PC isn't supported on Intel based Macs. Poppycock! First of all the software for the Mac was always pretty lame. On the PC, I could click on the icon and switch. On the Mac I had to hit some combination of control and an Fn key that I could never remember. So, I'd have to hit control and F9 or F10 to get it to switch. So, today, I'm the proud owner of a new Iogear switch (GUB201 in case you need to know). It was more expensive. But, it has an option to switch manually (which I actually like better). Since Belkin decided to not support my new Intel Mac with their software only controlled switch, it became useless to me. So, this time I looked for a switch I could switch manually. But, just like Belkin, Iogear does give us Mac users a slightly less rich experience. The switch came with software where I can switch from the desktop on my PC. But, there is no software option for the Mac. The good news though is, unlike Belkin, I don't have to switch from the Mac. I can take or give control from the PC. But, in all likelihood, I'll switch manually anyway as it's even easier than opening up the software.

I'd say the migration took a couple of days. For those two days, I was running on both iMacs and the PC. I was up and running pretty much full speed by Thursday. I didn't run into the switch issue until over the weekend (I was printing through the Belkin switch fine from the Mac, the problem was if I had ever switched it to the PC, I wouldn't have been able to switch it back). The new Mac is lightning fast and the 80 GB of data I had on my old machine is sitting comfortably on the 500 GB drive. I got a 500 GB USB 2.0 drive from Amazon for less than $120 for a total of a terabyte on my desktop. (I still remember the first day I ever heard that word when I was selling mainframe DASD). The new iMac is, oh I don't know, about 8 times faster than the old one, twice the RAM, six times the disk space and 3" more diagonally (with a brighter, sharper display) for the same price I paid for the old one 5 years ago (roughly $2K delivered with 3 years of Apple Care).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

She Who Is Part Deux

Well, part three for Julie and Deb. Part Deux for Ty, Gregg and me.

We continued our discussion of the feminine image of G-d. This is one of the things I really like about Nexus, it's about discussion rather than just a download of a bunch of things we have to believe. Actually, I find most sermons quite boring (except for Gregg's -of course). After 40 years of hearing canned speeches, I feel like I've pretty much heard them all. At Nexus, I feel like I can actually voice my opinion and hear honest opinions from other people rather. That never gets old. I think Karl called our process "collective exploration", which I've tweaked to "collaborative exploration". In other small groups I've led in the past, I could tell when I asked a question people were searching their brains, trying to find the "right" answer. At Nexus, I don't get that feeling. We're exploring together, learning from each other and are open to listening even to the "wrong" answers.

Ty & Gregg

Monday, August 13, 2007

My New iPod Case

I've been riding my bike again and like to listen to my iPod when I do. I was thinking about buying an iPod Shuffle to clip to my shirt because my jumbo-sized 30GB iPod is uncomfortable in my pocket and I can't control it while I'm riding. But... Kayla made this case for me in her sewing class. It's perfect!

My New iPod Case from Kayla

Vandalism and More?

Something strange happened last night. We don't know exactly what happened and apparently, the police aren't too interested in finding out.

About 1:30 this morning, Ty heard someone ring the doorbell. She also said she heard someone knock at the door and pound on the garage. But, she thought she might just have been dreaming. In fact, when she woke up this morning she said "I had the worst dream last night. But, maybe it wasn't a dream." She got up and looked out of the girls' window and saw a car parked on the street (pretty unusual in itself where we live). Unfortunately though, she did not wake me. So, I knew nothing until this morning. When I went downstairs and looked out the front door, I saw potting soil on the porch. When I opened the door, I found our potted plant sitting upright on the porch. But, it had been thrown against the door. As I looked down to the sidewalk, I found a half full half gallon of Southern Comfort and a pair of girl's flip flops. Walking around to the side of the house, I found an undershirt and noticed the plant had also been thrown against the garage door.

Bra and panties

I checked for signs of vandalism. But, everything else looked in tact. I wasn't going to give it too much more thought. I figured it was just some kids out getting drunk and was glad it wasn't worse. But, then when I went into the back yard, I found a bra and panties and noticed the ornamental grass had been ripped off, in what could be a sign of some sort of struggle. I decided to call the police.

When I described what we had found to the police, they seemed very unconcerned. The guy on the phone asked "Do you want to file a report or did you just want to let us know about it?" I said "I think I should file a report." They sent an officer out who was equally unconcerned. He took our statement, walked around with us and then asked where our trash can was. I asked him why he wanted to know this. He had assumed the clothing came from our trash can. I told him it had not (that's why we called, we thought a girl might have been in trouble). He went back to his car, filled out the report, had Ty sign it and got ready to leave. He said the odds of catching whoever did this were "slim to none" (I think those were his words). My thought was "Yes, the odds are exactly zero if you don't even try.". I'm not expecting them to send out Columbo over a potted plant. If that had been the only thing or even that and the alcohol, I wouldn't even have called. But, it looks to me like something may have happened here that might later be reported as a crime. I asked him if he was going to take the "evidence" with him. He told us to just throw it away.

I'm sitting here stunned. There have been so many stories in Cincinnati of people not willing to get involved after crimes have been committed. But, in this small incident, we tried to do what we thought was the right thing and got about zero response out of the police. More than likely what happened was just some kids out having a "good time". Maybe the underwear left in the yard was just a prank to make it look like something happened. But, I'm amazed the police didn't even investigate a little and did not even take the evidence with them in case someone reports something later on.

The pictures I took (the police didn't take any) are here.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Just Like Costco-Only Better

If you talk to me for any length of time, you're bound to find out about my obsession with Costco. We love the roasted chickens they sell there. So, I was inspired to try my own.

I marinated the chickens in a blend of spices, orange juice and soy sauce overnight then put them on the rotisserie and threw some hickory chips in for good measure. Less than 2 hours later, we had smoked chicken. Yum yum.

Roasted Chicken(s)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Sum, Ergo Deus Est

How'd you like my attempt at Latin? I'll explain it later. I promise. Last Thursday I was at the "She Who Is" meeting on feminist theology (yes, me at a meeting on feminist theology). We were talking about feminine versus masculine images of G-d. It was a very good conversation. It's the first time I've really been able to talk about this with anyone since reading "Is It Okay To Call God Mother?" and being laughed at by Mark and Scott. (you can continue reading after scrolling past the picture)

She Who Is Meeting


But, this post really doesn't have much to do with that. In fact, it's not at all about the femininity or masculinity of G-d. It's about doubting the very existence of G-d. It came up during the meeting and prompted a meditation session, which led to this post. I think the existence of God is something we all wrestle with from time to time. I've had doubts on and off all my life. But, usually they're pretty minor and pass fairly quickly. Doubting God's nature. Now, that's another story. I do know some people who are serious doubters though and it's often difficult for me to relate to them. I'm reading a book called "Doubt" right now. It's a history of doubt down through the ages, from the earliest recorded time up until the present. I got it to explore my own doubts and to help me better understand some people I'm pretty close to right now who have serious doubts about the existence of G-d. The author points out that we divide ages into periods of belief, but we often overlook the in between times of doubt. Her focus is on those troughs, those periods in human history where doubt seems to prevail. The book is not my usual read as it deals a lot with philosophy and history; two of my least favorite subjects. I find philosophy confusing (and often pretty silly) and history just plain boring. However, I have made it a spiritual discipline to complete this book (I must confess I have skipped one chapter so far). The book is over 500 pages of small type. But, I'm learning a lot about doubt and doubters. I just finished a section about Descartes who said "Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum". In English, "I doubt, therefore I think, therefore I am." Now here's what I'm talking about when I say philosophy can screw you up. This dude sat in a room and thought so long and hard he began to doubt his very existence. I mean, if there's one thing that is self-evident, it's that I exist. He began by doubting all his senses, wondering if he might be in dream state and (I guess) wondering if he might be a character in a dream. Finally, the one thing he could cling to was that since he had thought, he could at least trust that he existed (even if his perception of himself was an illusion). The fascinating part though is that after he finally established something he could firmly believe in (his existence), he set about to prove the existence of G-d. Amazingly, that was simple for him. Basically he said that we have an inner knowing of G-d that G-d has placed in us. We just know G-d exists. People until that time had been trying to prove the existence of G-d through looking outside of themselves, through looking at nature and through logic or philosophy. Descartes flipped the whole thing upside down basically said "Sum, ergo Deus est" (my phrase). "I am, therefore G-d exists." When I first read this I thought "Whoa! This guy couldn't figure out that he existed? Yet, once he finally established he did, he so easily 'proved' the existence of G-d from 'inner knowing'?". This is the idea I want to explore.

There's an old song called "He Lives". Mike Williams brought it up in one of his sermons at the Grace Gathering last week. At least, I assume this is the song he was talking about. Part of the lyrics are:

He lives (He lives), He lives (He lives), Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way.
He lives (He lives), He lives (He lives), salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.
Don't tell anybody. But, when I was growing up, I thought that song was a bunch of hooey. I know He lives because He lives within my heart? No, I could know He lives if I could see Him. I could know He lives if I could touch Him. And, later, I might say I know He lives because I can see His handiwork in the world. But, the last way I would know He lives is because He lives within my heart. But, I've slowly come around to this concept that G-d lives within my heart and that is where I can find Her. Once I stopped looking (and listening for G-d) so much outside of myself and started looking and listening inside, my doubts about G-d's existence and (amazingly) Her goodness began to melt away. That and giving up my false, preconceived notions about what I expected G-d to be like (not that I've completely given them up. It's just now I know they're false preconceived notions). J.B. Phillips "Your God Is Too Small" is a great little book I recommend to doubting Thomases. It's now available in PDF format for free. Click on the link above or do a Google search to find it. When I begin to doubt G-d now, I really don't doubt the existence of G-d as much as I doubt my conception of G-d.

It's abundantly clear to me that because I am, G-d exists. Because I am a personal, spiritual, human being, there is something greater than I, a First Cause, at a minimum. There is something inside of me that whispers and sometimes shouts the existence of G-d. Buddhists call this something Buddha Nature (although they don't talk about G-d). Christians might refer to it as the Holy Spirit. New-Agey type Christians (which I might be accused of being) refer to it as Christ Consciousness. But, I believe this spirit is in each and every human being (although it's sometimes so deeply buried by junk it's hard to find even for the person possessing it). Someone asked me yesterday if I believe I have a spirit inside of me or if the very Spirit of G-d is in me. Tough question. I can't honestly say. But, there is something and this something lets me know that G-d does exist. Now, does the big old White man on the throne with the beard and the furrowed brow exist? No. But. Sum, ergo Deus est is a proof of the existence of G-d that works for me.

Monticello Trip- Correction from Debbie Truscott

I made a couple of mistakes in my piece on What I Did On Summer Vacation. I'd like to print what Debbie Truscott wrote to me. She meant it as a comment. But, it deserves its own post.

Dear Brian--I read your blog with great interest and posted a reply but I'm not sure it "took." So I thought I'd send you what I wrote:

* * *

I greatly enjoyed your insightful and fascinating blog--so beautifully written, moving and honest--but I was struck by one statement. You wrote:

"I might get this wrong because I haven't followed this whole thing. But, I think that was pretty significant because I think the Carr family was kind of a roadblock to the black side of the family (the Hemings) being accepted as descendants of Thomas Jefferson."

Actually, the exact opposite is true. The Carrs themselves have a family association that includes members of both African and European descent. The "Virginia Carrs" have long recognized that the "Ohio Carrs" are descended from Samuel Carr and Judith Barnett, and both sides have embraced their blended ancestry. In fact, the mutual black-white acceptance of the Carr family has stood in stark contrast to the Monticello Association's refusal to acknowledge their Hemings cousins. Additionally, the M.A., which was formed about 80 years ago to maintain the Jefferson graveyard, has refused to grant the Carrs membership in the Association, even though the graveyard was created for Dabney Carr, Jefferson's best friend and brother-in-law, and the first person buried there. The Carrs have long been "inclusive" folks, and the (white) Jeffersons would do well to emulate them.

Thanks for the correction. As I said, I'm pretty new to this whole thing. I apologize for the mistake and any offense it may have caused.

Oh...one more thing...it was Janet Carr and Linda Carr-Kraft, both (white) Virgina Carrs, who began the "We Are Family" song...which has become the theme song for gatherings of the "greater" Carr/Jefferson/Hemings families. It never fails to move me, also. Linda says we need to write more verses! Care to contribute?
Another bad assumption on my part.
You are a fine writer, Brian. I look forward to reading more of your pieces.

Best wishes always,

Debbie Truscott


Debbie, thanks for taking the time to read my piece and comment on it. And, thanks for the compliment. I also appreciate your setting the record straight. I guess if I ever become a newspaper reporter, I'll have to hire a fact checker. ;-)

Peace,
Brian

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Grace Gathering 2007

I had a rare opportunity to meet some fellow on-line seekers face-to-face this weekend.  I went over to the booming metropolis of Straughn, IN to meet my blogging buddies of a couple of years, Bruce and Geo.  Unfortunately, Steve couldn't make the gathering.  I also had the opportunity to meet and listen to and meet Mike Williams in person.  The Grace Gathering 2007 was a special time and I want to thank Cliff, Bruce, Geo and Steve for their sacrifice (in more ways than one) in putting it together.



Cliff, Steve, Bruce and George have combined their blogging efforts into Bold Grace now.  The day I attended (Saturday), Mike was speaking on the difference between Redemption and Salvation.  If you think they're one in the same, you owe it to yourself to listen to this talk. BTW, a bit of a spoiler... Redemption is something we all have and that G-d has accomplished (past tense) on His own with no help from man.  Salvation is something we all need (and it's not a one time thing).  Mike spoke from Romans Chapter 10 (and Chapter 5) and did a wonderful job of breaking it down over the  period of about an hour and a half.   Friday, Mike spoke about his discovery that G-d is not angry with us.  The talks from the weekend are available at Bold Grace- here.



These guys took me under their collective wing a couple of years back when I first started exploring universalism (a word they hate and I'll explain that later).  I can't remember how I found them or they found me.  But, they turned me on to Mike Williams who is a gifted preacher and Bible scholar who happens to believe that Jesus' work on the cross is finished and He accomplished the task of saving everyone.  One thing that is interesting about these guys though is they shun any attempt at labeling them.  So, when I mentioned universalism, they kind of bristled a little.  Their impression is that Universalists believe in a temporary "hell" or period of punishment.  That is somewhat true.  Many Universalists do believe in a period of correction (burning away of the dross if you will).  But, not all.  See my post here for what my thoughts on what a Universalist is.  IMO, these guys are Universalists.



 


Bruce, Brian and George

click on the picture to have the opportunity to see the full set on Flickr.




Anyway, I digress, back to the meeting.  I walked in as they were having a sharing time.  What was funny is I saw Mike Williams sitting in the front row as I walked in and the guy speaking was addressing him.  But, I had this picture in my mind of Mike as an older guy, a little guy (for some reason his voice on the recordings I had heard sounded like a little guy) and kind of conservative looking.  But, Mike is a big, shaved bald guy who was wearing cowboy boots.  He's well-built and an imposing figure.  Kind of like an NFL tight end. 

Mike Williams





Mike's speaking voice though is not intimidating at all and his knowledge of the Bible is amazing.  What also comes across in his speaking is his absolute love and reverence for scripture and his total commitment to Jesus.  That is one thing that could not be any clearer when you listen to Mike.  As he was speaking I was reminded of a commenter here a couple of days ago who implied those who believe Jesus will save all are ignoring scripture.  No one could make that accusation of Mike.  Mike also made it very clear both days that he spoke that he believes in Jesus and the Gospel story literally (from the virgin birth through the resurrection and ascension).  Both days he spoke, he took time out from un-teaching the distortion of the gospel most of us have heard all our lives to make a declaration of his faith. It was a very detailed declaration and necessary because if you tell people you don't have to believe Jesus saved you to be saved by Jesus, they automatically think you must be some kind of lunatic or worse, a liberal.  Mike's websites are Gospel Revolution and Gospel Logic.  Many of his talks are archived there.



Something I found fascinating about the weekend is how we have come to the same conclusions via different paths.  I overheard Mike telling some people after his sermon that he feels he does not have a choice in what he believes concerning God.  Mike trusts in scripture, it sounds like 100%. Mike has a very high view of scripture. I heard him say if God did want to condemn people to eternal torment, he's God.  Certainly He could do it.  I guess I agree with that. But, what I don't agree with is that if scripture did clearly say God was going to do such a thing, I still wouldn't believe it.  I'd have to toss out the scriptures.  I believe scripture because I believe it reveals the true heart of God. But, I don't believe scripture because it says I should believe it.  It was a relief for me when I found out that scripture did not say what I had been taught it said all those years, because I was at the point where I was just about to reject scripture and Christianity as nonsensical and pointless.  I could never love the kind of God that was supposedly revealed in scripture (something else Mike and I agree on).  One thing Mike said that really jumped out at me was something to the effect of:

"The day your heart is kinder than your doctrine, rest assured it's not your  heart that is wrong."

I agree with Mike 100% on what he said there.  I don't take scripture as literally as Mike. I don't even attempt to reconcile everything in the Hebrew Scriptures with what we know about G-d today (or think we know anyway).  I believe in progressive revelation.  Paul said we see through a glass darkly. I believe that has always been the case and that the glass is getting a little more clear (even though it's still darkly).  I believe the UCC motto that "God is still speaking..." and I think we're slowly, slowly hearing.  But, what is really cool is that while we may not agree on the mechanics of how we got here, we do agree that God is bigger than Churchianity teaches and that he will (or has) redeem every last one.



George, Cliff, Steve and Bruce have a thing of telling each other how perfect they are.  I guess they are talking about being perfectly righteous because of God's grace.  But, I have to admit it makes me a little uncomfortable.  I'm more in line with Martin Zender's view that we are Flawed By Design.  I'm perfect for what I was designed to be.  But, I still have quite a ways to go to be the person I am capable of being.  However, I think their reminder of their perfection is a far cry better than the condemnation of the traditional teaching that says we are all still just miserable sinners.



Anyway, the Grace Gathering was a very special time.  I am hopeful that as George and Bruce are saying this is just the beginning of a revolution.  I'm certainly ready to do my part to make sure that happens. Where do I sign up?



Peace,
Brian