Friday, September 30, 2005

The Story

I plan on writing it this weekend.

I've avoided it up until now. I've given brief overviews and a few glimpses, but the entire timeline, all the details of the story - the Gomez family's story of the "Escape From New Orleans" - that I haven't put completely into words.

I realize it sounds like the title of a bad movie...I only wish it was.

Our blended "family" went grocery shopping this afternoon. It's been a long time since Amy and I loaded up two grocery carts with food and clothing, but we've laid in enough supplies to last for a long while - even with two teenagers in the house.

Ana and I also stopped by the drug store and picked up her pictures from her family's final days in New Orleans, including a few shots of their travails taken before her camera got wet.

At some point this weekend I'm going to scan some of those photos - making sure I have the facts straight - then I'll do what I've been avoiding... try to put it down in writing where it will seem more real.

Ana, Lee and John' have no trouble talking about it...Amy and I have trouble hearing them...imagining it all.

The photographs remove all aspects of imagination from the picture. I won't to write too many words.

It's odd, as I have been writing this my mind wandered back to the origins of the Bible. I think about how those "stories" were spoken aloud, passed on from generation to generation...until someone wrote them down.

I suppose those "stories" became more "real" for a lot of people at that point too.

The Gomez family story is coming...

Thank God someone took the time to write down the Bible stories - I wouldn't be able to tell this other story without it.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Here There Everywhere

It's been one of those days when the day slipped away. Driving here, driving there, driven to frustration if I'm not careful.

One day at a time.

This one slipped away, but there will be others.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Quiet Time

I suddenly have found myself in the middle of "quiet time" which should be noted with a degree of caution because I have no idea what silence is going to do to my thought process mechanisms.

Amy is sleeping - awaiting word from one of her doctors on how to treat the bulging disc in her back. John' is still at school and Erin (our former roommate) took our other two newest roommates to a local college to help Ana with the admissions process. Erin, being a recent college student and highly organized, saw this as a task that she might be able to help facilitate - bless that girl - if we could only brainwash her into moving back in...we'd find the room. Okay I'll be truthful, we'd rely on Erin's organizational gene to figure out how to make room.

In any case, suddenly I realize I have had a nice nap, the dogs are inside happily sleeping in the air conditioning - Fall in south Texas lasts about 9 hours during one day in October or November then Winter arrives - because it's like 111 degrees outside which is only a slight exaggeration...and it's quiet.

With five people and three dogs living here these days, the quiet moments are few...heck when I got up to go to work this morning (at 1:30 a.m.) John' came downstairs to talk. The net result of that conversation was a new household rule on the consumption of caffeinated beverages - the rule doesn't apply to coffee addicts - but it certainly does to 13 year olds who have to be ready for school at 6:40 in the morning.

I really don't have any specific topic to write about today, but I didn't want to waste these quiet moments. I guess I could update folks on a few things: I finally did contact a real person at NetFlix who was very nice and promised that my name was not going to end up on a blacklist because of the various problems I had reported with missing or wrong movies. She actually knocked off 25 percent of next month's bill, and laughed hysterically when I mentioned I was thinking of trying to sell the phone number for NetFlix customer support on Ebay since it's impossible to find on their website (I'm still thinking seriously about doing that by the way). I spoke to her while driving home yesterday and of course as soon as the mail arrived all of the missing movies were there, along with replacements sent by NetFlix.

For those of you who have been bored enough to follow the financial trials and tribulations of the Main household over the past couple of years I'll pass along another number - this one has no potential value on Ebay - 708. That is my current "credit score" which is the first time we've broken the 700 barrier since I started watching our credit card companies like a hawk. I believe I already mentioned that Chase finally backed down and admitted they repeatedly lied about the interest rate they had promised me versus what they were charging. Today I got our first Chase bill since that letter of admission arrived and it shows they're actually abiding by their word, which is very cool. Unfortunately the bill arrived today but it was yesterday when Chase sent me a customer satisfaction survey asking my thoughts on how our recent issues were handled. I won't go into too much detail other than to say I essentially told them since I hadn't seen a new credit card bill yet I couldn't believe them due to their documented history of lying and their "Michael Main score" was still sub par with a lot of room for improvement. I was tempted to offer them the opportunity to get monthly updates on their "Michael Main score" for a small fee, but I didn't think they'd see the humor.

In case anyone is curious and since I'm rambling anyway, I didn't pay to find out our credit score. One of our credit cards provides that information for free which is the only reason I keep that card.

That leads me to remind anyone who might not be aware that you are now legally entitled to a free copy of your credit report - a really free one with no strings attached - from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. It's a fairly new law and you can take advantage of it once yearly. The best place to start is at

It won't reveal your credit score, but it was amazing all the wrong or outdated stuff I found on mine...Amy's was pretty wacky too - yes, anyone with credit in your household is entitled to a separate report even if there are shared credit cards, bank loans, whatever. For the identity theft paranoid, it's an excellent way to keep tabs on credit cards being issued in your name. I should also mention that you don't have to get all three reports at once - you can get one from Experian...then 3 or 4 months later get one from Transunion...then a few months after that get one from Equifax.

Okay there must be something more fun to write about - I'd hate to wrap this up sounding like someone who actually had financial sense...

Oh, I know!

We've all heard of bear hugs, but have you heard about bear kissing?

Pucker up!

The Discovery Wildlife Park in Alberta, Canada offers visitors the opportunity to kiss various bears. Really.
People pay good money to do it.
Sober people.

Of course now that I think about it, I'll bet there is a lot of quiet time there too...probably a lot of prayers being said as well.

Maybe I'm not giving bear kissing enough credit.

8 p.m. update
P.S. - To the "Loving Heart" who left the early/late "birthday" gifts for Ana on our doorstep tonight while we were at church, thank you. Ana is certain I know the identity of the gift giver, so I had to explain to her that there are so many loving people I wouldn't know where to begin.

Thank you for that too.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hearts & Art

I took part in a new game today...a game I'm calling connect the hearts.

The cool thing about this particular game is that my role is something akin to that of a rich man's butler who moves pieces about on a chess board for his boss...I'm not really playing or in control but I get to help the players. Plus I have a ringside seat.

A lot of folks who read my blog also read my Pastor's, "" and know that he is collecting funds to help the Gomez family members living with us as well as another Katrina displaced family with whom our church is working. RLP's readers have been very generous and Gordon has been immensely helpful in quietly distributing cash to help offset some of the costs that come with having an instantly enlarged family.

Three other people - I'd name them but I haven't asked permission to do so and knowing them I suspect they might prefer to remain anonymous - have given direct donations to Amy and or me either through our church or mailed it to us. Those three particular people are folks I know; one is a longtime friend of ours, and although I've never actually met the other couple we've corresponded frequently and have a "blogging" relationship. These are blessed people and I hope they realize how much we appreciate their love and support.

That being said I wanted to mention someone else as well. I've struggled for a word to describe her since calling her - and the other people who have pitched in for the Gomez Family Project - "donors" or "contributors" sounds far too sterile. My mind keeps coming back to the phrase "loving hearts" and for now that's the best I can do. She is a loving heart.

This particular loving heart and I have never corresponded with each other before in any fashion. The other day she wrote me an email saying she was a regular reader of RealLivePreacher and occasionally read my blog too. Then she said she had given the Gomez family 50 dollars via the Paypal link on my blog. She said she was struck by the photo I originally posted of the family and particularly my mention that Ana hoped to study art in college. She asked if at all possible - knowing that there were many needs to address - if her money could be used to help Ana fulfill her dream. It wasn't like there were strings attached to the contribution or anything, she made it quite clear if there were other things for which the money was needed that I had her permission to spend it as I saw fit.

I saw it as an answer to prayer.

I have described the Gomez family members as "stoic" and "weebles" and amazingly resilient, all of which are accurate depictions, but as you might expect for a family that has literally lost everything, they are at times also lonely. Sometimes they feel isolated and confused. Sometimes they are overwhelmed by simply trying to process the enormity of what is before them. Truthfully Amy and I spend much of our time trying to remind them that every issue or problem doesn't have to be resolved today. We've adopted a one day at a time lifestyle...long before the Gomez family members graced our doorstep.

Lee and John' have something that Ana does not...they have school which, although difficult, serves as a distraction for them. It keeps them from "thinking" too much or too often about their struggles and that's a good thing - if you've ever suffered hardship or loss you know sometimes time can consume you.

Ana has not yet enrolled in school (the admissions process starts tomorrow) so she has been literally "stuck" at home with little to do, but think...and worry. She's not a big TV watcher, so we helped her get a bunch of books by her favorite author, and we try to take her out and include her in even the most mundane aspects of our lives.

I think right now life is hardest on Ana. She never complains about anything, but I know she cries sometimes. She is homesick for a home that doesn't exist any longer. She is lonely for her friends, family life as she knew it, for normalcy.

So when this "loving heart" made her Paypal contribution I vowed that no matter what other "needs" we might have that might indeed be more practical, all of that 50 dollars was going to go to Ana and her "art."

Ana is the first to admit she doesn't know enough about art, but she is eager to learn. She dreams of trying painting, and using different artistic mediums to express herself...things she's never had the opportunity to try before.

So that's how I spent part of today in a game of connect the hearts. I told Ana about the "loving heart" from New York who read about her and the 50 dollars. I asked if Ana would come with me to a local arts and craft store.

She tried to hide it, but I saw the tears.

Ana cries sometimes...when she's happy too.

We wandered up and down the aisles looking at this and that, and I made a few suggestions while trying to gauge her interest in various things. Finally it became apparent to me that Ana wanted to explore using pastels and she also wished she could try painting with something other than inexpensive water colors.

I asked a few questions of the store employees and finally found something of a "starter kit" which included everything Ana had expressed an interest in. She looked at me and said, "But that's too expensive Mr. Michael."

Ana's Mom insists the kids address Amy and me with respect - hence the "Mister." Amy and I insist the kids don't call us Mr. and Mrs. Main, hence "Mister Michael."

I assured Ana the art kit was within our budget and that we could also afford a desktop easel, something her mom had already told me she had always wanted. Ana was quiet after that. She didn't cry, but I think she might later.

I then drove her over to Big Lots and bought a tackle box, explaining to her that the "art supply box" at the store where we had made our other purchases cost 10 dollars, but the tackle box at Big Lots - which was actually more versatile - cost 3 dollars. So we were still within our budget.

As soon as we got home Ana proudly displayed her purchases to her Mom and to "Miss Amy" and then went about carefully putting each item (besides the easel) in her new "art supply box."

And I was given the privilege of being witness to her joy.

My stepson is an artist, he's graduated from an expensive art school and his art work is all over our house. Ana looks at it and often remarks that she "isn't as good." Amy and I remind her that she is only 18 and she's only beginning to learn.

She's shown me some of her paintings and drawings (she lost everything in her portfolio in New Orleans) and I've been honest with her, saying they show talent but she needs to learn more. She's anxious to do exactly that.

Ana is a blank canvas right now. I believe her future will be vibrant and beautiful.

I may not know art...but I know what I love.

I love the game of connect the hearts. Bless you "loving hearts" for allowing us to play it.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Pain In The Back, NetFlix & A College Kid

I realize the title of this post might actually be redundant, but I'm tired and didn't want to give it much more thought.

I got a call the other day from a local college student studying "Mass Communications" who had an assignment to interview a "mass communicator." He chose me because, "he had been listening to me all his life."

This was an alarming statement made all the more so due to the fact that it was true. He grew up listening to one of the country music stations I work for and still listens to today. I've been doing news on that station for 18 years, so in truth he had spent more time listening to me than all three of my children...combined.

He knew all about me in terms of my writing style, the type of news I like to do, my particular brand of wit, and the changes that had been made by other folks at the station which essentially eliminated my chance to use any of those talents which he found quite upsetting.

However he didn't know my name.

That particular station is the only one where I have used a fake name - another story for another day - so he was a little surprised when I told him my real name, my real job, and invited him to come up to the studios. I told him I'd be glad to give him 15 minutes of my wisdom, which is about 13 minutes more than I normally have in stock.

He showed up early and actually asked some very insightful questions...a lot of them. Suddenly, before I realized it was happening, I had become "Chatty Kathy" - in a figurative not the fashion sense - spouting all sorts of stories and pretending I was important. Before I knew it, it was close to noon and I had other stops to make on the way home, so I ushered both him and me out the door.

It was actually quite flattering and fun as long as I kept suppressing the idea that I had been this kid's primary source for news most of his life. Suddenly I felt like over the past couple of decades I should have left off a few stories about passing gas and put in a few more about nominating Supreme Court justices...but what's done is done.

I got over it...and got home to find Amy in pain. This is a relatively new pain unrelated to all her previous problems and soon we got the diagnosis, a bulging disc in her back. This could turn out to be a good thing - not that I want Amy in any form of pain - but I have felt she's been overdoing it lately and now her back is reinforcing my opinion in a manner that gets through to her no matter how much she tries to tune me out.

So I settled in hoping her sedentary state would allow us to stay in bed for the afternoon and watch movies we rented from NetFlix only to discover we didn't have any films from NetFlix. For some reason lately NetFlix either loses every movie we mail them or the postal service loses every movie NetFlix mails us. In any case I went on my usual complaint rampage which when dealing with Netflix requires you to fill out various on line forms. Each time I filled one out I got a very prompt response from Customer Service representatives and each time I could tell they were reading from a manual that instructed them how to respond. They all had nice names like "Mike" and "Chet" and "Brad"...but I'm relatively certain they were probably in India or some other distant land (or planet) and no one in their families ever called them by those names.

The final straw was when "Todd" or "Tim" or whomever it was I was dealing with, suggested that I get a P.O. Box to have the movies sent to, and that I take the movies I was returning to the post office to send back. I wrote back to "Brian" or "Bill" that if I had to get in my car and drive to pick up my movies as well as mail them, I might as well go to the video store.

I was quite polite during each exchange but still fairly blunt and definitely firm. Finally, I simply had enough and wrote to "Ethan" or "Jack" or "Watson" that it was apparent to me he was completely oblivious to my real issues and that I wanted him to forward my email to a Supervisor "in the United States" and ask that the Yankee supervisor actually LOOK at my account, otherwise I was quitting NetFlix.

Now I should mention that only two months ago I quit NetFlix because seemed to offer a better deal, but in a matter of one month I realized Blockbuster had so many flaws it wasn't worth even talking to their equivalent of "Rudy" or "Sam" or "John." I came back to NetFlix boasting about how much better their service was only to find it had gone rapidly downhill in the short time since I had been gone.

By the end of the day, after flurry after flurry of multiple email exchanges, a small vein in my head started to bulge like the disc in Amy's back and I was certain I was going to need an injection of whatever she was going to get in order not to sell everything we own, fly to India and no doubt be arrested for wandering around asking for people named "Mike, Chet, Chad, Brian, Andrew, etc." whom I intended to strangle on the spot.

Still, patience being a virtue and all, I decided to give NetFlix one more chance to respond and then I'd quit and either go back to or go back to renting movies the old fashion way.

Within minutes I got another Netflix email...from "Steve." However this one was was from "Steve H." an indication his name might really be Steve and what was even more exciting is that "Steve" gave me his PHONE NUMBER!

I know...I was shocked too.
I'll give you a moment to absorb my excitement vicariously.

Okay, moving on...

Here I was armed with an actual phone number for customer support from an on-line service. A phone number to someone in the U.S.. To a real person. I was absolutely fact I'm still too excited to call him.

I want to savor the victory so I'm going to wait until tomorrow to call.

I realize it's possible Steve H. won't be able to appease me, but if that's the case I also know that I am now in possession of something quite possibly more precious than gold...a working phone number for U.S. based customer support at NetFlix.

I may never rent a movie again, but I may be able to buy every movie I want to see with the profit I'll make by selling that number on Ebay.

Sometimes I can be a real pain...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Ad One For The Good Guys

I suppose I'm too small a fish in too big of a pond, but the various attempts I've made with "blog ads" have not produced any tangible results for me. I initially tried "Google Ads" and I was pleased that they gave me some control over content, although I found I had to monitor them to ban ads for sexually oriented sites or sites that I certainly didn't want my kids - even though they're all grown up - visiting. After several months the ads produced less than 10 dollars worth of revenue and Google doesn't pay you until you at least make 10 bucks. I don't blame them. So I took down the Google ads and tried two different services, one called LinkGrotto and one called Pheedo.

LinkGrotto ran a small unobtrusive ad on the sidebar and like Google was supposed to pay me "per click" after I received a selected number of clicks. I ran it from July until now and I think the total revenue was about 2 dollars - which they didn't pay me because like Google they require you to at least make a certain amount before they go to the trouble of paying you.

Pheedo isn't designed to generate revenue as much as generate web traffic. In return for allowing Pheedo ads to run, an ad for my blog would run on other websites. This site, depending on which measuring service I use - I have four available to me - averages between 200 and 600 unique visitors daily which I find startling actually...there are a lot of bored people out there. Anyway, I couldn't see any vast difference in those statistics after I became a schlepper for Pheedo and some of the ads that ran on my site I found led to places which made me uncomfortable. So Pheedo has been cast to the wayside.

Thus I am ad free except for the blatant plug I put up on my own for ReallivePreacher's book, Chuck Sigar's book and the recently added - albeit reluctantly - PayPal button for donations to the Gomez Family Project.

Call it serendipity if you like but while making these changes I noticed that my link for RLP's book needed updating and I also spotted Chuck's latest column in the newspaper for which he writes. It's about the Gomez family and the Main family.

Chuck had recently sent me an email asking if I would mind if he wrote about us. I figured his proposal was better than the multitude of ways I envisioned my name coming out in the newspaper so I said okay. I didn't really give it any more thought until today when I stumbled upon the memory of our brief email conversation and his column.

It's funny how these things work. Those of you who know me know I believe God has a hand in this type of stuff. In a few minutes - Lee just came upstairs to prod me saying, "we're going to be late" - I will hop in the car with the Gomez family members. We will giggle and laugh our way down the church. Once there we will listen to Amy sing, and to Gordon preach.

And I will thank God for the multitude of ways He reminds me of the truly important things in advertising required.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Off The Rita Meter

I'm in a complete fog and there's no telling what that's going to result in me typing...although it's a fairly good bet it won't be confused with wisdom.

You've been warned.

I had a flashback last night when I went to pick up John' following his first high school football game in San Antonio as a band member. I thought back to all the times I drove to our kids high school (which was significantly further away from our home than the school John is attending) and waited for their band buses to arrive. John's band director told us to expect them back at 10:15....they drove up around 11:15 and then spent 30 minutes unloading and putting away uniforms.

Ah yes...the memories...

That actually wouldn't have been an issue at all - I was expecting it - but this morning I had to work...and not the usual easy Saturday morning shift thanks to Hurricane Rita. I did get to sleep in - until 4 a.m. or so. Then I spent 8 hours at a fairly frantic pace trying to keep up with a storm that was quickly outrunning its hype.

A large portion of my time was spent writing and broadcasting stories advising people who evacuated to San Antonio before Rita hit not to rush out of town trying to get back home because their hometowns weren't ready for them.

Those advisories of course worked like a charm.

Oh well, they were warned.

I also spent a significant amount of energy answering angry phone calls from people upset that some golf tournament was being pre-empted on TV by storm coverage. I probably answered 30 calls of that nature, all of them really snide people who started barking at me before I could say a word...or five words: "You've reached a radio station."

Admittedly it only took a few minutes for roughly 80 percent of the callers to click to the fact that you don't watch golf on the radio...still almost every caller hung up on me either in anger or embarrassment.

I suppose there's a lesson in here somewhere but the only one that comes to my tired out fuzzy mind at the moment is - don't disappoint golf fans....they tend to get really teed off.

Sorry, but I did warn you.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Bible Or Iskabible?

From the Associated Press Broadcast Wire today:





I was intrigued by this idea, and personally I have no objections to schools teaching the Bible. I will admit to being a bit befuddled by the BLP "gear" they sell on their website. I suppose it's fine...but I must admit I'm curious as to how many orders they get for these...

The Bible Literacy Project bib.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Children Of The Storm

John' has his first football game as a member of the high school band tomorrow. Ana is practicing her flute and saxaphone while voraciously reading Patricia Cornwell novels. Lee is haggling with various government agencies and trying to figure out a new town, a new college, new technologies...a new life.

And they laugh.

I am continually amazed by the joy of our little adopted family. I know there are times of sorrow and homesickness (which Amy is great at intercepting) but the Gomez clan is doing fine. Laughter fills our home, along with music and movies I rented played too loud but watched over and over again.

There is normalcy here, as abnormal as that seems.

We all know there are new challenges almost every day, but we've been amazingly blessed to have "adopted" a family that is so adaptable.

I can't help but wonder how I would cope had I suffered such loss and uncertainty.

They give me hope...these children of the storm.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. -Psalm 31:24

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Speed Reading Salvation

And from the short attention span theatre.... the 100 minute Bible.

I suppose it's like the Reader's Digest condensed version of the Bible.

I really love the line in the press release,"The 100-Minute Bible is primarily intended for people who have an interest in Christianity but not the time..."

Thank God for grace.

The Weight Of Waiting


I've been in waiting mode all day.

Waiting for Rita to decide a course which will dictate much of my actions over the next few days.

Waiting for something to write about.

So far Rita hasn't decided and so I'm not going to wait for inspiration any longer either.

I suppose that means you'll have to wait too.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

We All Carry Them

Mercifully I fell asleep before the Dallas Cowboys started playing like the Cowboys I've come to know....sigh.

We all have our crosses to bear. Especially this guy.

The New Orleans Saints are playing a few of their games in San Antonio this season since they like most folks in New Orleans were displaced by Katrina. It's no secret that San Antonio has been trying to prove to the NFL that the city could support an NFL team, but the NFL Commissioner is making it quite clear what his opinion of our city is...too bad my keyboard doesn't make hand gestures but his message to San Antonio is clear enough.

We didn't exactly get an outpouring of support from our church members when we asked for help transporting the Gomez family around, which is not exactly a surprise to me - I spent years trying to get help mowing the lawn at church and finally decided having me and another guy who want to do it is better than spending my time trying to convince someone else to give to God through service. I think you have to reach that level on your own if you're going to reach it all.

I was pleased that one church member did volunteer to relieve Amy of some of the driving one day a week...every little bit helps. We're determined to make this work and I haven't run out of ideas, I may approach the Catholic church down the road - the Gomez family is Catholic - to see if they might have some members who could assist us a bit although I haven't run that idea by Amy or the Gomez family yet. Plugging them into a church of their own faith seems a logical step though.

One way or another we'll muddle by...I was driving to work today and thinking what a miracle it was that God provided us with a second car recently otherwise we'd really be in a jam, so I'm confident God has this worked out...all we have to do is figure out what His plan is....ain't that always the case?

Rita is on the way...still no one really knows where....that's always the case too.

We'll bear that cross when we come to it.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Rants,Rita and Arrghs

Arrrrgh...I'm preparing for Rita at the office. I already volunteered to work an extra shift this Saturday to pick up some easy money and now the latest guess is that Rita may hit Texas and or Louisiana Friday night or Saturday, possibly as a hurricane. I've been through enough of these situations to know that it's way too early to start planning much but in light of the destruction of Katrina I also know officials along the Texas coast will not be taking chances and evacuation orders will come quickly if they feel there is any threat at all. San Antonio will be the primary city for evacuees if the storm hits near Corpus Christi, so we may become storm victim central.

I'm a little stunned that the Mayor of New Orleans is seemingly so anxious to get people back into the city when it's highly possible Rita could bring heavy rains to that area. I don't see the logic or understand the rush. Truthfully I've had a hard time understanding the Mayor's actions a lot in the past few weeks.

Our "adopted" family is not going anywhere for the immediate future. Our biggest issue is working out some transportation issues - none of the Gomez family members staying with us drive - and with two out of three enrolled in school and the third planning to be enrolled next month, getting folks to band practice, bus stops, making it easy for Amy and I to remember how quickly we got used to the "empty nest" syndrome. We're sure we'll figure it out eventually and it'll all become part of the routine. Right now though it's a little chaotic.

On a lighter note I hope you've said "Arrrrrr" or "Shiver me timbers" at least once today.

Today is Talk Like A Pirate Day

I know that's a little weird pirate picture....but anyone could have put up a skull and crossbones.

Go ahead...say "Arrrrr"... you know you want to matey!


Sorry...saw this picture this morning and it wigged me out.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Alamo Adventure

I took the Gomez crew on the obligatory San Antonio tourist attraction spin this afternoon and we all agreed on two things:

It's hot and the Alamo is cool.

We cut short our trip when John' suggested we rent the Alamo movie, which sounded like a fine idea to me and then spent the rest of our adventurous afternoon trying to remember where I parked the car.

This is a day of rest and I think we're all in agreement that we'll abide by that concept. John' and I went to Blockbuster to find "The Alamo" but all the copies were already rented - why I have no idea, I heard the movie was terrible. John' opted for Godzilla instead. Close still keeps us in the air conditioning. Ana is reading, Lee is studying and John' is watching people get squished between giant green toes.

Is there really anything more we need today?

God provides...I'm glad He provided us with air conditioning today.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Doing Right In Righteousness

I hesitate to do feels a little creepy...yet I'm not really certain why, I suppose it's because I've seen people take advantage of other's hardship and I don't want anyone to think that's what I'm doing. That being said I've had a number of people ask me via email and elsewhere how they can donate to the family Amy and I are hosting - the Gomez family - or to other folks in need as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

There are several ways: the first I would recommend is to send a check to our church made out to Covenant Baptist Church with a notation that it is to be used for "hurricane relief" or if you want to specify the Gomez family that's fine too. Do keep in mind though that another woman in our church is helping another family currently living in a hotel and our church congregation is working with a Baptist organization that has taken displaced people from the main shelters in town who have "special needs" - that means the elderly, the sick...sometimes the dying. There are plenty of people to help. Another reason I suggest you donate via the church is that such contributions are tax deductible and no "fees" are charged.

That being said, I've also been asked if I would take Paypal donations. I resisted this at first because Paypal does charge a small fee and I'd prefer every penny go to the Gomez family or others not Paypal, but I've also come to understand that people often want to do something NOW. So, after a lot of prayer, today I put a Paypal link on the side of this page, there's also one on Amy's blog and on RealLivePreacher's blog. RLP does ask that you add a note to donations sent via his site that the money is meant for relief efforts since he also uses Paypal to help feed his own family. No one sends Amy or me money on a regular basis so we will know your intent should you choose to donate through either of our sites.

As I mentioned, I was hesitant to do this at all but in truth this is going to be a long term situation. The Gomez family - in all or in part - will be staying with us for some time - quite possibly until the end of the school year as Lee doesn't want to yank John` out of school and disrupt his life any more than it already has been, and I fear that interest in Katrina survivors will gradually fade...such is human nature....while their needs won't. I'm confident God will provide, but I also know God doesn't expect me to sit on my hands during the process so it seems sort of silly not to make it as easy as possible for people to give. I can promise that any donation sent either to the church or through Paypal will be spent -100 percent - on meeting the needs of these families.

If you are not in a position to give please don't feel guilty...Amy and I have certainly been there too, in fact we are still there to a large degree, that's one of the reasons we opted to open our home, because our checkbook opens only so far before it begins to mockingly laugh at matter how noble we might be trying to be.

If you will keep the Gomez family and all of the Katrina survivors in your prayers we would consider that an enormous contribution too. Pray that Amy and I - as well as our church family - can work patiently together to meet their needs and find solutions when problems crop up as I'm sure they will.

This has already been a rewarding, yet heartbreaking experience. Today I took Lee and Ana to a Half-Price book store and Ana lit up like it was Christmas. She found books by her favorite author and couldn't believe it when I told her the hardback editions were only 4 dollars. Lee found the book she had been reading when they were forced to flee their home and was so happy we could buy it so she could find out how it ended! Ana loves to read but she confessed to me she hadn't really read an entire book until she was 17.

I also watched the few minutes of home video Ana shot of the hurricane. I sat on the couch in silence as Ana and her Mom pointed out their family truck which was swamped with water...I stared in wonderment as they described what they were feeling as flood waters reached their doorstep and ruined almost everything in their household. I held back tears seeing video of the dogs they had to leave behind.

That video ended before their story really even began...Ana's camera got wet...but I was able to see their home, a home they were proud of, surrounded by 4 to 5 feet of water. The family feared leaving while Katrina's wrath was still evident and by the time they "rode it out" the flooding had gotten very, very bad. I asked Ana the obvious question, "So how did you get out?" and she replied, "We walked...the water was up to my nose."

I was never so thankful for a wet camera...had I watched any more I'm not sure I would have been able to hold myself together...and I'm certain that's something that I must do. We must all do.

If this little family can leave almost everything they owned behind knowing full well it would all be ruined, the least I can do is try to keep my head together and help lead them back to solid ground no matter how long it takes.

Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.. -Psalm 143:10
Mailing address:

Covenant Baptist Church
19204 FM 2252
Garden Ridge TX 78266-2554

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Best Things In Life Aren't Things

"Top Shelf" - that's a term used in bars and restaurants to describe "the good stuff" when it comes to liquor. In San Antonio it's not uncommon for a waitress or bartender to ask if you'd like a "top shelf" margarita which means a margarita made with one of the finer - and most expensive - brands of tequila.

When I was a serious drinker I steered clear of the top shelf...I found more value in quantity than quality which is probably all I need to say about my drinking days.

These days there are far different things on which I could not put a price, the one that springs to mind this evening is the feeling I get when I awake from an afternoon nap and realize it's Friday. The value of that realization is incalculable.

Over the past few days, our house has been filled with sounds including the welcome resonance of laughter and joy. To hear Ana giggle or John` laugh out loud is something else I have quickly come to cherish as priceless. I know the trauma they've endured is still vivid in their memories - everything which had always brought them comfort: home, family, health, school - is now in a state of upheaval. John` was amazingly upbeat almost as soon he arrived and he has grown more comfortable with each passing day. At first Ana was quiet and I suspect a little unsure of what to expect, but now she's obviously at ease...she feels safe again.

Both Ana and John` play instruments - so I hear them practicing and it brings back memories of Joey's French horn...Lisa's oboe...Tiffany's violin. I remember listening to our kids practice - admittedly some of those early memories still make me wince a bit - but eventually each mastered their instruments to varying degrees, Lisa foremost among them...the little girl I recall praising for making her oboe "squeak" eventually became first chair in the state orchestra and is currently pursuing a degree in music education.

To have musically talented kids in our house listen as they proceed on their journeys of joyful discovery...what's that worth?

On several occasions over the past couple of days I've spoken with Lee and the kids about what they were forced to leave behind when they fled New Orleans...the short answer is: virtually everything. Lee has no intention of going back to New Orleans to stay but she hopes to be able to return for a short while once it's safe so she can retrieve "her valuables." There is no jewelry or fine china...Lee's "valuables" are the baby pictures of her children - images of the past - memories frantically stashed on the highest shelf of their home before she and her family members scurried for their lives to New Orleans convention center where the children became witness to the indignity of human life devalued...a lesson no one should have to learn at any age.

Those are images I wish Lee and her children didn't carry with them, but I know those visions are etched in their minds...close to the surface - the giggles and the laughter...the music and the dreams of songs to come - will not erase best they'll serve as concealment of a sort..

So we're praying that tucked high on a shelf in the remains of a house in central New Orleans childhood photographs are still in tact...memories that mean so much...there is not enough money in the world to convince Lee to part with them.

That's the real "top shelf" stuff.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Talent Tales

I'm too tired to write tonight. We're still trying to get folks settled in and figuring out how to get documents, transcripts and bus schedules.

One day at a time is the motto of the house.

In any case here are a few shots* from last night's church talent show.

Some folks danced.

Some folks sang.

Some made joyful noise.

There were a few clowns...

Story tellers too.

Some of us simply sat back and enjoyed.

For we were all in harmony...

*Click on any picture to enlarge.

Google Again

Another day...another new service from Google

I wonder if this will eventually result in Google's primary search engine not scanning blogs.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Stupid Human Tricks

We call it "Talent Night" at the church but it's a lot closer to "Stupid Human Trick" night. That's not to say we don't have a lot of talented folks in the church, it's more that most folks keep their talents hidden...well hidden...real well hidden.

Anyway tonight is Talent Night so I've been practicing my talent...for several minutes. I don't play an instrument. I don't sing...or at least I don't sing well. You can scratch dancing, joke telling, impersonations and being a mime off the list too.

My talent is....pillow spinning.

I can take a small couch cushion or other pillow and twirl it on my fingertip.

Don't laugh...this took years of laziness to perfect. I spent hours and hours lying on the couch watching reruns of M*A*S*H or shows that were equally challenging to my mental acuity while mastering this particular skill.

Now each year people come from miles around to see me "perform" for I only pull out this marvelous ability once a year on our church "talent" night.

Okay, we also serve dinner and that might serve as a mild inducement for some of the folks who show up, but others I'm certain are there to see the pinnacle of pillow spinning.

As you might have discerned by now a large part of my "act" involves must because each year several people actually remain in their seats to watch me spin a pillow on my index finger.

This year I'm incorporating something assistant. Ana, one of our houseguests, still thinks I'm joking but I plan to drag her up front with me to help as I mesmerize and astound the crowd.

Okay, I'm not above using a teenage girl who fled New Orleans in my act to avoid getting booed. starts in 25 minutes...I better get ready and put in some practice. I wonder if we have a pillow?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Weeble Wonderment

"Weebles Wobble But They Don't Fall Down"

We grabbed all our house guests last night and went out for pizza since everyone was still fairly exhausted and CiCi's pizza may not be wonderful but it's plentiful and it's cheap. Once we got past the "Hi, Welcome to Cici's!" girl we were able to sit and talk while being careful to skirt the temptation to come up with "to do" lists or write down itineraries. It was understood by everyone that we had a lot to get done and we'll be running around for several days until all those things settle down, but last night I think everyone wanted merely to settle in.

We ate too much - okay I ate too much - we got comfortable and we learned a bit about each other.

In fact I was struck by how "normal" the conversations were...we talked about Michael going to Houston, about him maybe finding a job for a day or two before he leaves...we talked about school and pizza and football.

The Gomez kids are respectful of each other, of us, of their Mom and of God and it's obvious this is not simply a result of them being on their "best behavior," this is the way they were raised.

There were certainly signs that they are a family in mourning. I haven't fooled myself into thinking these kids have always been this quiet... they're very aware that they have lost more than "things." Yet I was truly stunned at the entire family's resiliency. I'm not so certain I would "bounce back" or "roll with the punches" had I been through half of what they've experienced and there would be no distracting me...I would obsess over it.

On the drive home, Michael and I spoke for a few moments about it and he said, "We've simply got to do what we've got to do" and I knew he wasn't rattling off a cliché as much as stating a determined fact, with which he had come to terms.

When Amy and I went to bed we held each other and discussed our amazement at this family's strength. We both were certain had we endured such hardship we likely would not be so stoic. In fact we're in agreement you'd find us curled up somewhere in fetal positions drooling excessively.

Amy cried a lot last night...every time she started to envision how unimaginably hard it's been for the Gomez family and for so many other families like them. We both cried thinking of how we have come to be so undeservedly blessed.

"Weebles Wobble But They Don't Fall Down"

I suppose a lot of folks don't remember Weebles. They were heavily advertised toys that reached their peak of popularity in the late 60's I think. Weebles were hard little egg-shaped dolls. Even when their popularity waned in the late 70's and a last ditch marketing effort was made with "tumbling" Weebles I believe their slogan remained the same:"Weebles Wobble But They Don't Fall Down."

You could surround yourself or your kids with all sorts of Weeble accessories - Weeble cars, Weeble homes, entire Weeble towns and Weeble railroads.

Maybe I'm remembering things as I want them to be, but I'm convinced of one other thing about Weebles - they never sold them separately. I'm almost positive they were always sold in families.

I'm equally certain that the scientific explanation of why Weebles never fell down is due to their shape...but I like to think that despite some wobbles along the way the real reason Weebles always buoyed back up right is that they were never ever alone.

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. - Psalm 62:5

A House...A Home

Meet the Gomez you have some faces to put on the name "Katrina."

Click to enlarge.

These are the members of the Gomez family currently staying with Amy and me. We are ecstatic to be able to provide them with a "safe" -somewhat normal- living arrangement.

In the photograph, the Mom, Lee, is standing in the back, her son Michael is the tall guy on the left. Michael is 20 and will only be staying with us a few days before heading for Houston where he has friends. Ana is next to Michael...she's 18 and enrolling this afternoon as a freshman at the University of Texas San Antonio with hopes of studying art. Lee is also enrolling in college. The youngest son is John´(pronounced like the French Jean) and he is 13.
For now Mr. Gomez is opting to stay at the shelter about 20 miles south of us because he is hesitant to distance himself from the health care he is receiving there. Mr. Gomez, Michael and Lee all have some health issues worthy of prayer in and of themselves. There are medicines they need...Lee lost her eyeglasses which should be replaced in a couple of days. These needs are being met via the bureaucratic process and quite frankly I get the impression the Gomez clan is more used to dealing with the snail-like pace of the government than I again I suspect God is sending more teachers my way armed with lessons in patience.

I promise day it's gonna take.

In truth, I have only spent a few minutes with this family. I had a late meeting at work and caught up with Amy and the gang at Whataburger (the family's first trip to a Whataburger - they were quite impressed) and then Lee and Ana went off to enroll in college while Michael and John´opted for a nap - yes, we're going to get along fine.

Some say you can't tell much from first impressions, but here's what I can tell you. This family has been through an ordeal most of us can't - nor would we want to - imagine. They were at the Coliseum in New Orleans when no one seemed to know people were at the Coliseum. They witnessed brutality...they witnessed death up close and ugly.

This little family has seen humanity at its worst - perhaps its most helpless - but not its most hopeless.

They literally "lost" their father in the chaos of it all - Lee and the kids went to East Texas and Mr. Gomez came to San Antonio. When the other family members found out where he was, they came here - thanks to the help of some generous folks in the Baptist community - to join him. However the sight of the shelter in San Antonio was too much for them. Although it's clean, well organized and a far cry from their previous surroundings, it is crowded with people...and their minds are still crowded with unpleasant memories of places far too similar.

So 80 percent of the family is at our house, and one family member is across town. Soon Michael will be a couple hundred miles to the east. But I don't think this will ever be a family separated by anything besides distance.

These Gomez folks are strong. They smile a lot. They are happy to be alive and thankful for the blessings God has bestowed upon them. They have a vision of the future and a plan to get there and they know they have each other.

Amy and I and our church family, as well as loving friends from the Internet, will do our best to make this family comfortable here. I pray we can remind them of the better aspects of human nature, and maybe help make sure they never lose sight of what "home" is really all about.

Then again, I suspect God may use them to remind us of the very same thing.

Monday, September 12, 2005

God's Time Has Come

Sure enough, I post about being patient and God says, "Okay let's get moving!"

We're making preparations to bring a family - a Dad, Mom and 3 older teens - into our home. It appears this is going to happen today, which is fine...we're ready in terms of space and confident God will provide whatever else they need.

I think my only duty will be trying to keep Amy from smothering them with mothering...I have a feeling she'll be cooking like crazy.

We're not sure how long this family will need our space, but we've got plenty of room and we've got time.

God's time.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Noting of Nothing

I feel almost obligated to write something about 9-11, but I have no great insights...nothing we haven't all thought about, written or said before.

We're still working to put our home into service for victim's of Katrina, but I have nothing new to report on that front's a waiting game to see how God will use us in that regard. I'm confident He will... such is God's time.

It's been a rainy, lazy, do nothing weekend.

It's also been a fairly carefree weekend.

I think I'll let that reality set in for a while...on this September 11th.

God's time.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Chasing A Tale

This is going to be brief, but I know at least two people read this blog because they have decided our lives are better than the soap opera they had been watching on T.V. so I feel obligated to make passing mention of two letters I received in the mail today. They are a follow-up to the saga I outlined last month in this post.

One letter was from "card member services" at Chase bank. I'll skip the first few lines and cut to the...sorry that would be too's the line that matters: "We are pleased to confirm that the APR for purchases is 7.99% fixed...we apologize for any previous discrepancies....Please be assured that these APRs, along with a credit for any applicable finance charges and fees, will be reflected on your next billing statement."

The other letter was from the Better Business Bureau of Delaware...coincidentally it contained an exact copy of the letter from Chase and asked if I considered the matter closed.

I do.

I still also plan to close our account with Chase. It shouldn't have taken complaints to the Better Business Bureau, the Texas Attorney General, and various members of Congress to get the company to honor its word...but I must admit I'm feeling a little smug.

Don't worry, I'll get over it...tune in tomorrow.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Groan Up

I acted like a grown-up today.

I finished the process of getting some extra life insurance. I have had life insurance through my work for many years - getting life insurance via the company is easy...all I have to do is check a box each year that says, "Can we take more of your paycheck?"

However I realized recently if the company were to kick me to the curb before God hopefully kicks my butt upstairs I wouldn't have any life insurance to provide for Amy and the kids.

A month or so ago I got ticked off at Allstate when they tripled the "fee" they charge me because I allow them to automatically deduct our auto and home premiums from our bank account and when a friend dipped his toe into the insurance biz I opted to throw our money his way instead. It's a much better deal. It works out that we'll be paying less than I was paying Allstate except the policies will include the house, two cars instead of one and I have the added life insurance. It pays to shop around.

Still it was one of those adult decisions that I normally try to avoid - I want to get to Heaven as much as the next guy, but in truth planning for it is a lot more fun if I can surround the process with prayer, a few hymns and maybe a sermon...if it's brief.

Today a nurse or EMT or someone licensed to do this type of stuff came by the house to get an EKG, grab happy samples of my urine and blood, get several blood pressure readings and verify that I've put back on 15 pounds since I've been lazy and started saying, "It's too freakin' hot to walk!" She then asked all sorts of personal questions which will be converted into statistics and plugged into a computer that will determine if I'm a good bet to live for 10 years. Much like Vegas the company will take the bet no matter what - but they'll do their best to tilt the odds in favor of "the house."

All the tests looked good - the questions made me realize that I have a serious vice deficiency...and the scale -which I swear is skewed - made me vow to get back into the routine of walking.

All in all I suppose this was a positive experience...still I'm sort of melancholy.

Earlier today I was cleaning the church with my friend Roy, who - as he puts it - has had "two or three" heart attacks and "doesn't even buy green bananas." Roy told me he's uninsurable so instead he's invested in, "a piece of dirt" - the plot where his Mom is buried along with a grandson and other young relations he carries the sorrow of out-living. The "piece of dirt" is in a Catholic cemetery down the road from our church. Two Archbishops are buried there, I don't know if Roy knows that or not...Roy is not now, nor has he ever been Catholic, but he told me, "I like it there...I've got friends there." You don't have to be Catholic to have a "piece of dirt there" anyway. I should add some of Roy's friends are still above ground ...he knows several guys who work at the place...he stops by to visit them some days.

Anyway my good friend Roy told me he's got his spot all picked out beneath a big old oak tree and he's happy.

And all I've been thinking about ever since is that some days I don't like being a grown-up.

Let's Go Fly...

Someone steered me to the kites and birds, and things that fly.

I went sailing on that day...I hope it comes again someday.

Cool Kites

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Good Jorb folks pray very well.

The federal government has used its power of discernment to realize that Amy is indeed disabled.

There was some lawyering and compromising, and no one is going to retire...but in a couple of months we're going to be able to kill some more dragons and Amy can now focus a lot more on getting healthy and worry a lot less about money.

Our next goal is for Amy to declare to the federal government that she is "able."

But it sure is nice knowing we don't have to fight anyone over this issue any longer.

Bless you for your prayers and many kindnesses.

We're taking the rest of the day off.

p.s. To my editors out there - the title of this post is correct. You need to lighten up...go find an Internet cartoon to watch or something :)


This Is The Day

Today Amy goes before the Social Security Judge. I can't be in the room unless I'm called as a witness which our lawyer has not indicated he's planning to do.

I've got to get to the office, get some work done, and get Amy and our paperwork ready.

It's been over a year that we've waited for this hearing and I will confess it has been stressful.

Even after today we won't get an answer for some two months...welcome to the way the world works.

I am praying today simply for a relief of stress and for common sense and wisdom to prevail. I would be most grateful if you would join me.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Ramblings About Email, Patience & The Kyzynskis

I can't receive email.

This is really a place of terror since I communicate via email to all sorts of folks not the least of which are creditors...well actually they may be the least, but that's besides the point.

Amy "fixed" my computer enough to keep me limping along...we've decided to switch out my computer with a nicer one I bought Amy for her birthday...before I bought her another one for...well I'm getting off track. Anyway, with a few modifications I'm going to simply upgrade to a better computer so there's no sense installing a bunch of stuff on this one. Instead we'll eventually wipe this computer out and take it to our youngest daughter Lisa at Baylor in a week or two since her computer is starting to c r a w l.

Yes, Lisa that's a promise.

I can't receive email.

I hugged my oldest daughter Tiffany this morning for the last time for what will be a long while. We shared a coffee before she had to go run errands. Tomorrow morning early she boards a plane to a new season of life in Boston...Cambridge actually...Harvard. What an amazing kid woman she's become...and in a year she'll have a Master's degree...from Harvard.

Once she pays off her student loans she'll probably make enough money to support us....there's a bright side to everything if you look hard enough.

I can't receive email.

Some digital cretin has been breaking into the server I use and sending spam so the mail I receive gets co-mingled with 800 thousand offers of mortgages, drugs and goodness knows what else, so the server company will simply eradicate all of it.

One of those was a lengthy email from Tiffany...luckily she'll resend it tonight when hopefully the mail issues will be worked out.

For the interim though I can't receive email...and I'm complaining. What a whiner.

To think of what so many have lost in recent days and I'm bemoaning the loss of email?

Somebody kick me.

That's merely a figure of speech for those of you within distance to actually do it.

I'm rambling...I know it. Moments ago I read a heartbreaking entry on Deb's blog and I worry a little because I know the hill she's climbing. You're not alone never will be.

Tomorrow, Amy has her hearing before a Social Security judge whom we have to convince that Amy was not able to hold down a meaningful job for the past couple of years while she was being fed through tubes...given enough drugs to spark a "Doors" reunion complete with Jim Morrison returning from the grave...not to mention the 18 or 19 hospital stays...including the three and a half months of last year she spent hospitalized.

We expect the judge to turn her down. She's too young to be government standards.

We'll survive.

God will take care of us one way or another.

Lots of folks are climbing hills I suppose.

I will admit I found some humor in the fact that the folks in Houston tried to move some of the refugees from the Astrodome today and failed - at least at this writing. They wanted to put them on cruise ships that would stay in port but they still would be floating on water. The folks in the dome - most of whom need I remind you had been rescued from a flood - said, " thanks" or possibly words to that effect that were slightly more colorful.

Can you blame them? If you had just survived what many say may have been the worst natural disaster in our nation's history would you want to then go on a the Gulf? Sorry but if I made it through that ordeal, being offered a boat ride would be about as appealing as opening presents at the Unabomber family Christmas.

I spoke with Gordon this morning to pass along some thoughts and concerns about helping Katrina victims and found he's discovered some new ways our little church can assist them...tangible, do-able, Christ-like ways. Still I'm frustrated by the pace of it all.

I'm also frustrated that we can't inform the church because our email list runs through the same server as my email.

Patience...God finds lots of ways to teach me that...or at least attempt to teach me.

Well, what do you know? As I typed that sentence three emails came in.

Too bad Google grabbed the name Gmail...that really would have been a good one for God to trademark.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Next 20 Years

I'm stepping away from talking about Katrina today although I will point those of you who have contacted me about ways you can help our little church as we try to provide concrete aid to individuals to our Pastor's website,, for some tangible suggestions. Amy and I hope to open our home to at least one family but these things take time and planning and we are trying to be patient.

I'm in the process of backing up what I consider the important stuff on my computer, so I (under Amy's supervision) can wipe it out and start anew. That's sort of appropriate today because this is my anniversary...not my wedding work anniversary. It was 20 years ago today I started work at WOAI. That's something of an oddity in the broadcasting industry, although it's becoming more common now. It used to be three years was considered a good run at any radio station.

Two decades later a lot of things have changed.

I certainly have.

I started at WOAI coming in to work at 6 p.m. and working through the night chasing death on the streets and in my spare time re-writing copy to put a fresh spin on it for morning. I would leave at 2 a.m.. Only a few months into my job, my first wife and I divorced. That is still the single biggest regret of my life...not that we divorced, but that I did not work harder at our marriage, I gave up easily.

Our marriage lasted less than two years and our divorce provided me with the flexibility to work whatever hours I was needed, do whatever job I was called upon to do, and it left me alone to drink a drugs...and wallow in a good deal of self-pity...years of self-pity I realized later.

Regrets are easy... but had that not happened I would likely not be in the job I am in today and I would certainly not be the husband and stepfather I am today. It's highly possible I might not even be a's not unthinkable I'd be dead.

A couple of years after I started at WOAI, I had a new boss who put an end to switching my shift around saying it wasn't fair to I started coming into work consistently at 3 a.m. - somehow I considered this a promotion - and I've been working similar hours ever since, although now actually I'm usually at the office at 2 a.m.

When I started, Clear Channel Communications owned 8 radio it owns some 1200 in this country, plus billboards, and TV stations. I'm on the air on 8 radio stations in three cities.

When I started there were no computers in newsrooms, there were still manual typewriters being used by some folks. Big clunky wire machines spewed out news and I remember the noise they made, plus the inky mess created trying to change ribbons on them. Today I have to explain the concept of "editing tape" to our reporters, they can't conceive of using a razor blade to "splice" audio bites together. The digital age marched in virtually unannounced and radically changed the way I do what I do...and provided me with more opportunities to do it.

There will be no celebrations or parties for my "anniversary" - for one I didn't go to work today (seniority does buy you a few perks like an occasional holiday off). No one will make mention of it tomorrow either. That's fine with me because this anniversary has little to do with "work" in my mind's more of reminder of a sense of seasons.

I have changed radically in 20 years. I am sober. I am drug free. I am a Christian. I am a husband and step-father....and I am better for all those things.

My company has taken a lot of flak in recent years, an easy target for criticism, but I've never been asked to compromise my integrity, I've always been paid on time and it's always been interesting. The company has provided me with security when I needed it most and hopefully will continue to do so.

I have felt a calling lately which may lead Amy and I in new directions some time in the future, who knows...but if I spend the next 20 years working in the same place, doing the same basic things...I suspect I will still have very few long as Amy and God remain at my side.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Computer Meltdown

I couldn't sleep last night, which I suppose is going to become something of a regular occurrence, and I awoke at four a.m. thinking I would write.

Instead I made one little "dinky" change to my computer, which bollixed it up beyond all imagination. The more "fixes" I tried the worse it got and now I must deliver it to a higher power...Amy.

What's worse is Amy will look at me with those, "I told you so" eyes. I don't fix things well. I'm good with computers...but if you add "fixing" to the mix, the results are undoubtedly going to be less than desirable...especially if it's my computer.

I spent several hours on it before church (hey, no one was awake to tell me to stop) and then let an on line virus scan work for six full hours.

It found one virus...removed it...and then my computer demanded that Windows or some Microsoft product be validated immediately...I ignored that but couldn't get past it. So I validated it whatever it was...which then suddenly allowed my computer to appear normal...except it's not. It doesn't get on the doesn't print...there are programs that have reappeared from months and years ago...I have a feeling I'm running some morphed form of Windows...a hybrid of Microsoft Office...and goodness knows what else.

Anyway, Amy went to Starbucks where I believe her primary duty now is Hurricane relief. We're feeling pretty positive that we'll be able to bring some folks in to our home via Starbucks and possibly into our church as well. There is a lot to be done...which means my computer woes are going to be on the back burner.

This of course means one thing...

My posting will only occur when Amy isn't here.

It's not like she wants me using "her" computer...can you blame her?

Eeek...she'll be home soon...I better cover my tracks.

Watch for ways you might be able to help a small church help in a small way with a big cause!

And please continue to pray that we use this tragedy not as another tool of divisiveness...but as an example of how God can work in the world...when the world works with God.

Amy came home at computer, while still is fairly sorry shape and no doubt destined for a complete now working.

Why do I even bother to tinker?

That's a rhetorical question dear...I love you.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Reclaiming Repentance

There is a young woman in our church who doesn't believe in God.

She is a teenager and her mind is in that teenage place where she is beginning to question instead of simply accept what she has been told or taught. Right now she believes she doesn't believe. It's okay...she's a great kid...loves church and I believe God believes in her.

Yet when Katrina hit, Amy turned to me and said something to the effect of, "You know for people like 'our teen friend' this might serve as proof that God does not exist...they'll be thinking, 'why would God let such things happen? Why would God allow suffering of such magnitude?'" Hopefully I'll come back to that concept in a moment, but I must mention that to others Katrina was the exact opposite: formidable proof of God.

Of God's wrath.

Let me state clearly in advance I believe these people to be idiots. If you are one of them - sorry if I insulted you...but in my opinion you are an idiot - please leave because I will only insult you further. The best example I can point to is the Pennsylvania based group "Repent America" and before anyone criticizes me for actually putting up a link to their hatred let me state that I am also a believer that sunlight is the best disinfectant. For those who don't want to see their hatred allow to me to paraphrase...they're spouting that New Orleans was destroyed by God in retaliation for the decadent lifestyles of some of the people there...most especially of course homosexuals. Apparently some gay event was coming up in New Orleans and to these hate-mongering "Christians" this therefore all follows Biblical prophecy.

Um...where? I mean where were the Prophets? Was Jeremiah at the gates of the French Quarter? Was Isaiah banging on the door? Was Moses issuing warnings? Were all of the Prophets overlooked by CNN, MSNBC and even FOX?

Oh, I know there are examples in the Old Testament of God destroying cities, unleashing His wrath...but I'm trying to remember examples of where God did not plead with the people or towns to change their ways. He sent Prophets to warn Israel over and over and over...He sent Moses to warn the Pharaoh over and over and over.

But God sent Katrina to kill the poorest of the poor in New Orleans because of an upcoming "gay convention?"

So where am I leading you? Good question...wish I knew the answer.

Let's first put aside the idea that Katrina was God's wrath...if you believe that way then when my friend Barbara died of sudden on-set cancer...this would also be the wrath of God...but Barbara was one of the nicest Christian women I've ever known...sweeter than pie. No one could convince me Barbara wasn't "praying hard enough" or "had done something wrong" - Barbara simply got cancer...and Barbara died.

So now we're back sitting with my teenage friend...where's God? Worse yet am I now espousing that people shouldn't repent their sins or pray to God for healing?

Phillip Yancey once said,"Pain and suffering are part and parcel of our planet, and Christians are not exempt."
He makes the point that too often we look backward to find the "why" when we should be looking forward to the mountains of Biblical evidence of hope...hope that we can be "redeemed."

So Yancey's point is that we should look at events like Katrina and realize that at best this is a reminder from God of the brevity of life.

So we should repent...and we should pray.

But enough of Yancey...this is my blog.

Today the weatherman's track record was perfect...he predicted rain last night and today, and we haven't gotten a drop.

Amy had a bad night - the usual - pain, nausea and sleeplessness, so I postponed an appointment we had, put her to bed and went to the church to mow. Amy's last words to me as I walked out the door were, "Don't over do!"

I knew before I left I was going to violate that order so I mumbled, "I love you...get some rest" and headed away.

I knew I would over do because I've been frustrated and angry and have felt helpless in light of Hurricane Katrina - and I know of no productive way to relieve such feelings except to be in service to God. Oftentimes working on the land at the church alone is how I talk to God...scream at God...sing to God...worship God.

The "landscaping team" at our church is made up of me and the most Christ-like man I know, my friend Ben. Lately due to a variety of factors including having only one car (which by the way is no longer the case, something I may write about soon) I have let Ben shoulder more of the burden than I believe is fair. Ben would never complain but suffice it to say I felt over do.

I spent a great deal of time at the church today...almost six hours...mowing, weed eating, etc... It was hot and hard and dirty and it felt great. Anytime I felt run down I would take the water hose and drench myself from head to toe.

Ben and I have a list of priorities when it comes to the landscaping - it's no great mystery - we focus first on the areas that are most visible from the street...always. This is a necessity to us...this is Our Father's house and we want it to look well tended to anyone passing by. However it also means that if we have limited time - or if I've been a slacker - other parts of the property - which are less visible - go untended.

Today I was determined to do it all. I mowed and weeded the visible areas and then turned my focus to the other parts of the land. The last time I had tackled those areas was at most a month ago, but the grass was 3 feet tall in some spots.

It served as a telling metaphor of how quickly nature will reclaim what we thought was tamed if we drop our guard.

I thought about New Orleans and how rapidly "the system" broke down. How some people's baser instincts almost instantly took fast all sense of order was lost.

I started thinking how in only hours many might come to blame God...disbelieve in God or - unbelievably - even credit God.

And I was reminded.

I was reminded that we need to shoulder each other's pain and suffering. We need to spend less time looking for the "why" and more time looking for the "when." None of us will be a bystander to suffering for our entire life, so we need to keep our guard accept those whose burdens burden us...and most of all understand that Jesus was pleading us - pointing us - toward community...for it is there where we will find the answers.

It is there where we will truly find God.

Friday, September 02, 2005

It's Too Early

It's too early.

To be honest that thought crosses my mind virtually everyday...when my alarm clock rings at 12:45 a.m., but I'm not talking about time in that sense today.

I've spent hours and days listening to stories, writing stories, watching stories of the aftermath of Katrina...and it's only the beginning.

It's too early.

It's too early to find fertile foothold for political fodder and finger-pointing.

It's too early.

I answer the phone a lot at my office...and the calls have been building with each passing day - anonymous hushed voices telling me of conspiracies, and tales of bureaucratic bungling. Of FEMA "Concentration camps" and racist plots.

One man called me today to rail - in a whispered voice - that the Red Cross was incompetent! He was outraged that he called to volunteer and the Red Cross told him they could use him - all he needed to do was come to a training course. A course they were offering in 20 minutes! He demanded to know why training was necessary, why it couldn't be waived in these chaotic circumstances, why things couldn't "be expedited!" He had the time to call me...but he wasn't going to volunteer now because the Red Cross had guidelines it was following!

I wanted to simply play his voice back to him.

It's too early. came too late.
Yes...we're going to hear horror story after horror story after horror story after horror story for days and days and weeks and week on end...because those stories are easy to find.

Of course help came too late, the only help that would have been "on time" would have arrived in advance and prevented this nightmare.

Perhaps that was possible; I don't know...right now I don't care.

I do know it's too early to let the disgruntled get in the way of the guided.
I do know it's too early to let the impatient out pace the persistent.
I do know it's too early to do anything at all that isn't absolutely constructive.

There will be days, months and years to pick this tragedy to pieces...but there are people dying...people trapped...people sitting in a warehouse on a former Air Force Base tarmac 20 miles from my home with no idea where their families are, where their futures are...

It's too early.

Give....give your money...give your blood...give your time...give your house...your church...your prayers.

But don't give up.

It's too damn early.

The Red Cross
To offer shelter or to give in other ways: Craigslist

Thursday, September 01, 2005

There Are Days...

The insurance companies call it an "act of God." If only God could sue for slander.
Every day at work I am asked the same question at almost exactly the same time.

My boss, who sits four feet away from me, will turn around in his chair at around 8 a.m. and say, "So what should we be covering today?"

It's a question I'm ready's become an integral part of my job to think of "angles" remember anniversaries of big stories we should stay atune to upcoming issues, pop culture and trends and hopefully stay a little bit ahead of some of the other guys in reporting them. That's all that's involved.

I rarely write the stories any more although I may rewrite them.
I'm never sent out to cover the stories any more.
I simply supply the ideas and suggest the "angle" we should take or the reporter I think should tackle it.

I was asked that same question today....yesterday...the day before - and I'll be asked that question tomorrow.

But now I answer only one way, "We need to be talking more about Katrina."

The news business attracts, indulges and perhaps creates jaded personalities...we are good at shrugging off misery and containing tragedy with sound bites and synopsies. We are good at moving on.

But then there are days...

Days when you realize the story isn't going to go away or be marginalized. If my job is to determine what people are talking about and what people will be talking about...I can answer in one word: Katrina.

I'll rattle off angles - gas prices, skyrocketing construction costs, price gauging, coastal building trends, offers of aid, evacuee interviews...

But the story...the story is human suffering.

Suffering that is not going to fade or be forgotten.

These are wounds that will not heal. Many of the victims will live on but they will carry scars...we all will.

I've spiked 10 stories in the past week because there isn't room for them...they intrude on tragedy.

I've pocketed an investigative piece I've pushed for years which has finally come to fruition because unleashing it now means it would go unnoticed...rightly so. Compared to Katrina it's not a story at all.

My boss turned to me today and said, " What do you think? We hold that story for Tuesday?"

I smiled...and shook my head.

There are days...

Days when I know that the story has outgrown our attempts at planning.

Days when I know my obligation is only to repeatedly remind our listeners of every nuance of horror...and of hope.

There are days...when I know some things will never again be measured in days.

In truth perhaps this story beckons me because it has a face I can not minimize. Faces actually. Faces I have never seen in person, voices I have never heard, but people whom I have prayed for and who have prayed for Amy and myself - Fish and Crystal...their children. I know their story. I know their struggles.

They are family for all intents and purposes whom we have grown to know at a distance yet have journeyed with closely in an exploration of faith.

And they are suffering...

We try to think of ways to help. Amy and I are actively looking to open our home despite the bureaucrats and barriers. Our church members ask, "What can we do? Can we turn over our Sunday school building to a family or two?" Maybe, but there are protocols...there are liabilities to consider.

So we pray and remind ourselves that prayer can not be marginalized or spiked.

Prayer is a true "act of God".

"We are the body of Christ."

The Red Cross.