Sunday, December 31, 2006

We're Here!

We did it! We survived 25 hours of travel and made into Moldova. They celebrate the New Year here until WAY past 4 or 6
a.m.. The firecrackers may well be left overs from the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal.

It was loud.

I slept through most of it until Amy came upstairs to wake me and ask that we pray the house didn't burn down. I guess the prayer worked.

Air Moldova wasn't as frightening as it sounds. It was a fairly modern aircraft and actually since it was a little older, we
had real leg room.

The only oddity was when they served dinner, the flight attendants passed a basket of bread rolls. No individually wrapped stuff here.

I couldn't help but think how appropriate it was to break bread as we entered Moldova and to think of Christ's body broken for us.

Internet account is "pay by the minute - dial up " so that's all for now!

Prayers for Amy please, she's worried she'll have the stamina and be able to adhere to the team schedule.

Bless you all!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Off We Go!

We may be pulling an "all-nighter" getting ready, but it appears we're actually going to do this thing...this Moldova thing.

Of course, Amy is not yet packed, and we've got to get a few extraneous details taken care of - some business stuff and some dog stuff (our Veterinarian offered to kennel our dogs for half price, and since Shell is starting a new job with undetermined hours, we are opting to take advantage of his generosity).

In less than 11 hours we'll be meeting our "team" at the airport and actually begin this new season of our lives.

It's been a long time coming, and we couldn't be making this journey without the prayers, encouragement and financial support we've received from so many of you.

We can not thank you enough.

This will be my final post for a while I suspect, however I did remember that I can "email" a post to the blog. I'm still uncertain of the computer/internet access we'll have in Moldova, but I think I'll be able to at least send out an email.

I've tested the email posting feature and it works - sort of. The formatting is a little awkward and it doesn't appear to allow me to publish photographs, but if nothing else, I hope to dash off a quick note saying, "We made it!"

It's going to be hectic for a while, and I'm sure the travel is going to tax our patience and probably our nerves a little...but we feel safe in God's will, and trust that He is guiding us.

I know Amy and I made this trip our "Goal" nearly a year ago, yet now it seems like it's come upon us so quickly.

But we're ready.

Please know that in addition to the bunch of "stuff" we are taking to the children in Moldova, we are also carrying the many blessings we have received from you.

I pray we can be good stewards of so many warm, generous and loving hearts.

Off we go! Next stop...Moldova!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Best Main Plans

We'll be at the airport preparing for the long journey to Moldova in about 44 hours and there's lots I should be doing.
But I'm not.
Sometimes God steps in and reminds us that He'll work things out...and He'll also direct us where we're needed.

A couple of days before Christmas, the 19 year old son of some very close friends died.
It is a tragic situation the circumstances of which need not be borne out here.

But we heard God calling and reminding us that our bags would get packed, we'd remember our passports, and Shell could handle any minor household emergencies we didn't plan for before we left..

Right now we had to put those preparations aside, we're needed elsewhere...with our friends in their grief.

Death, especially the unexpected death of a teenager, requires so much of us, not only emotionally and physically, but answering all the questions, filling out all the paper work, figuring out what to do with family and friends... planning a funeral you prayed you'd never live to see.

So we've tried to be there and do whatever we could.

The funeral is planned.

Gordon will preside, I've written and will try to deliver a eulogy...Amy will sing. We've tried to remove some of the unthinkable burden from our friends. In between we've hugged a lot of people, prayed with a lot of people, and cried with a lot of people.

I don't know if we've done all we could, but I'm reminded that oftentimes in situations such as this the best approach is, "Don't just do something, stand there!"

Simply "being there" is often far more comfort than any words or action.

About 19 hours after Amy sings our friend's son into the grave, we will board a plane with the partial intent of bringing hope to children in a very far away land.

We'll be on that plane, but we pray that before we leave we will have helped re-plant a few seeds of hope here too.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Uh...Mmphello Mffster Preffident..

Gerald Ford is the only former President of the United States whom I spoke to with my mouth full.

Gerald Ford's passing last night brought back the memory of my one and only meeting with him. It was 13 or 14 years ago, and he was in San Antonio.

The former President is probably best known for pardoning Richard Nixon, but in San Antonio he's probably better remembered for a culinary gaffe...he was offered a tamale and didn't remove the corn husk before chomping down on it.

That's the type of thing that automatically pegs you as someone unfamiliar with Mexican food...sort of like wincing when you see someone pour salsa on eggs. It was an understandable mistake, if you've never had a tamale how would you know how to go about eating one? I've had any number of visitors from other states who've asked the procedure for devouring tamales.

Anyway, that incident happened I believe when he was still the President. My meeting with Mr. Ford happened after he had left office, although it did involve food.

It was a campaign year, and an upstart Republican named Henry Bonilla was making his first run for Congress in a traditionally Democratic district. Bonilla had held no previous political office, but he was well-spoken, Hispanic, and - at that time - married to a very popular television news reader.

Anyway, Mr. Ford was making a campaign appearance on Bonilla's behalf at a swanky downtown hotel, the first stop on a rapid fire swing through South Texas. I went to cover the event, and being an experienced reporter, I knew that morning news conferences usually involved food. Since this event was being held at a nice hotel, I figured it would be good food too. I made certain to get there with plenty of time to spare so my feasting would not be interrupted by actually having to cover the news.

Sure enough, I arrived and was directed to one of the hotel ballrooms where there was a fine spread of coffee, juices, donuts, fruits, and other delicacies...all of which fit very well into my budget at the time.

In other words, they were free for the taking.

I was the first person there; the ballroom was vacant except for me and the breakfast bar, so I started digging in.

I was well into my second or third sticky bun when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I thought, "Oh great, probably some political wonk who's going to direct me to a seat and away from the buffet."

So I turned around, my mouth still half full, and evidence of gluttony scattered all over my shirt, only to hear,"Hi, I'm Gerald Ford."

And sure enough he was...the Gerald Ford...the guy who pardoned Nixon, got shot at by Squeaky Fromme, the only man to ever serve in the Oval office who had never been elected to a national political post.

And he was alone.

It was only me and him with a rather curious number of pastry crumbs between us.

I quickly tried to be discreet and wipe the sticky bun residue from my hand as he reached out his hand in greeting.

Admittedly, Mr. Ford had not been in office for a number of years, and presumably Squeaky Fromme was well medicated, rather than self-medicated, some place where she couldn't get near him, but I was still a little shocked that the former President of the United States was wandering around alone.

My first words were literally spoken with my mouth half-full of free foodstuffs - and I was certainly unprepared for this encounter - but I did manage to greet him as respectfully as possible while still trying to swallow the remnants of a croissant.

My tape recorder was on a chair near the front of the room, so I wasn't prepared to interview him. My mind raced trying to think of something to talk to him about, I mean I don't really run in the same circles as former Presidents...heck, I don't even hang around people who play golf. I was a bit numb, and I'll confess I was also trying my best to position myself in front of the buffet table so that Mr. Ford might not notice how seriously I had ransacked it.

Besides my first words of introduction, which were at least respectful, albeit somewhat muffin muffled, I could only think of one other thing to say....

I asked Gerald Ford, the former President of the United States,"Shouldn't there be someone here to protect you from people like me?

I think he began to laugh, but then, as if on cue, the "handlers" came rushing in...they included Henry Bonilla and his then wife, who gave me a look like I had done something truly underhanded, yet I knew she couldn't possibly have had the chance to see the glaring glazed donut disparity on the buffet table.

They ushered Mr. Ford away and soon began introducing him to more important people, which wasn't hard to do...the busboy at that hotel probably earned more money than I did at the time.

The political staging then got underway in earnest and I was kept in my proper place, close enough to get a sound bite or two, but too far from the buffet table to snag a bite of anything else.

It was a brief interlude, my one-on-one with Gerald Ford. However he did strike me as a very down to earth kind of guy. Someone who felt comfortable enough to walk into a virtually empty ballroom...EARLY...for a political event and strike up a conversation with the only other person there.

I always thought a little differently about Gerald Ford after that...

He overlooked my crumb-laden "free food" frenzied face...I figured I could forget about that one little tamale.

Gerald Ford

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

May God grace you and bless you...
May you always know His purpose for you under heaven.

Merry Christmas,
Michael & Amy Main

Sunday, December 24, 2006

It's Beginning To Look Like Insanity

In our home there is one Christmas tradition which is unfailing...procrastination.

If there is something we could have done/purchased weeks ago, months ago...we will wait until 1 hour before the only place in town that has that particular item or service closes on Christmas eve to try to get it in under the wire.

That is the case today. I am currently waiting for a critical element of a "Christmas Project" to be completed so that I can go and try to convince some folks to help me slap it together on Christmas eve, right about the time they should be getting off work.

I have faith.

But I'm losing my mind.

All I want for Christmas is a second chance at sanity...

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Quick Christmas Freebie

As most of us are these days, we're running around trying to get a lot of stuff done. Family is coming in today to spend Christmas with us...of course some of our family members can't be with us in San Antonio.

I came across a freebie the other day that I thought I'd pass along if you want to get your whole family together - no matter where they are - in a conference call. You can use your regular phones, but the person signing up has to use a computer to sign up - their call can be made on a regular phone too. You can have up to 10 folks talking at once....sounds just like Christmas dinner...

Anyway, it's at and it's only free on Christmas day. There doesn't appear to be any "catch" although I'm sure the email address you use to sign up with get plenty of offers for phone service from Jajah, so make sure and use an email address that receives spam, gmail, hotmail, yahoo... you know the drill.

Anyway, it sounds like a good deal, a way to get everyone together in a free conference call on Christmas day, and it's easy to use.

Here's the link for Free Christmas Day Calls.

Okay, now I need to go wash the dogs....

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Good Things Come In All Packages

We don't leave for nearly two weeks, and we're halfway packed for Moldova!

Of course, this was not by choice...we were forced to pack half of what we're taking since all the team members had to divide up stuff for the kids so Customs or the Mafia, or whomever decides to search our bags, doesn't think we're smuggling in dental floss for the black market.

Could there be a black market for dental floss? What would an underground floss peddler look like?

Okay, so that's a bizarre tangent...let's leave it be....

The point I wanted to make is that we had A LOT of stuff to pack: Sweaters for all the kids, hats, socks, beef jerky (these kids don't see a lot of meat...jerky is a fan favorite) toothbrushes, toothpaste

Sorry, I'll get the image of profiteering floss hawkers out of my mind now...I hope.

We really have a bunch o' stuff we're taking to these kids...

And I only took pictures of some of the items...

Alright, I'll admit it...I took one photo of...well, you know...

Anyway, we folded and moved items around between bags so no one had too much of any one thing. We stuffed and we crammed and we weighed each bag - every bag has to be under 50 pounds - and at the outset I don't think any of us believed we'd actually get all that stuff into 10 suitcases.

But we did...with room, and certainly weight, to spare.

It's amazing how, when you let Him , God can make room for you in a myriad of ways.

Later in the week, it did get me thinking though...

One of the things I want to do, and am in fact tasked to do, in Moldova is help take pictures of all the kids and assist in printing them out each night, so every kid can have a picture. I've got a fairly decent digital camera, nothing too fancy, and I have several memory cards that can hold a ton of pictures, which I also use for my MP3 player. Still, when I saw an ad for a really inexpensive (after annoying mail-in rebate) two-gigabyte memory card I decided to snag it while I could.

After shipping - and the annoying mail-in rebate - it'll cost us less than 20 dollars.

I couldn't find the link to the same deal any longer, but I know some of you will ask, so I looked about and found a slightly different SD memory card on the same site, "Tiger Direct," which is actually even less expensive....after the annoying mail-in rebate.

Good while supplies last, as they say.

So, I bought the card. They shipped it out the next day, and last week it arrived.

In case you're not familiar with the size of an SD memory's a little bit bigger than a quarter.

It arrived in this box:

Yes, those are my toes and one of our dogs - Avery - I wanted a little size comparison....Avery is a small dog. I have big toes.

Admittedly the card itself was sealed in that annoying "form plastic stuff" that requires a hacksaw -at minimum - to open, and in worst case scenarios blasting caps...but it still isn't very big.

And when I took it out of the annoying "plastic stuff which ought to be outlawed" and placed the card on the box - that's it sitting atop the label in the photo below - only one thing that came to mind...

"Man, they had room enough to shove a lot of floss in there too..."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Moldova Monies

Tonight is our packing meeting for our Moldova mission...the night we all shove toothbrushes, along with sweatshirts, socks, floss, toothpaste and assorted other items into one of the two bags per person we can take with us...everything in those first bags is designated for orphans and orphanage workers.

I just made our final payment for our trip. Our expenses were a little more than I bargained for, but we'll rebuild our emergency fund and still have money for Christmas with a little scrimping. I wanted to have the money issue behind us so we can focus on preparing for the trip, packing, getting all the other stuff done we need to do - did anyone else notice Christmas is like two weeks away? How did that happen?

For everyone who contributed to our madness, whether it was financial or floss or words of encouragement, again thank you.

You are the body of Christ.

We've decided to try something a little different with our personalized thank you notes - besides actually sending them, which would be a feat in itself for us, we still have Christmas cards to mail from 1996 - we're hoping to get pictures of some of the kids in Moldova and mail everyone who contributed, in any form, a personalized note with a picture of one of the kids, and maybe a little information about them. I really haven't broken that idea to Amy yet - I've typed every word I've written for 30 years, Amy has even taken to signing my signature so that it looks like something quasi-legible so she'll be tasked with hand-writing thank you notes, but it also relieves us of the stress of trying to get thank-yous out in a timely manner.

On occasion, there's a method to my madness...on occasion.

Anyway, the next couple of weeks are going to be hectic. Between trying to get "ahead" at work, Christmas shopping, fumigating so that visiting relatives don't leave wishing they'd been vaccinated before visiting, continuing our church journey, keeping Amy from overdoing, and making the house look as if we don't really live here, the truth is blogging will be sporadic.

I will keep you posted...probably in blurbs....we leave in three weeks with Christmas madness in between.

I will also have access to some type of computer in Moldova and hope to at least keep you folks updated a bit on our day to day adventures...I've already had some thoughts on flying air Moldova, which might substitute as a eulogy in a pinch.

Although I may be away from the computer, please know you are in our thoughts and prayers. We thank God daily for the support we have received from you nutty folks who read this blog, at a time in our lives of great hope, and honestly a heck of a lot of turmoil.

Please keep praying for Amy's strength, and that we will be able to convey the word we feel God is calling us to bring to these kids in a way that will resonate far beyond our brief visit. We are taking each of you with our hearts.

Most of all, please know we are so thankful for our blog community, you have touched us in a time when we needed it most..this too I attribute to God. One day perhaps I'll be able to explain more fully the void which so many of you filled.

May God shine His face upon you and bring you peace.

Bless you all.


Michael & Amy

We Are The Weird

I know this is a joke of some kind...I mean simply putting the names of Erik Estrada, Lou Ferrigno, and Kato Kaelin together as spokesman for a "cause" seems to automatically imply it's a parody.

Then when you factor in that they've supposedly joined together for a campaign to "Save Mistletoe," well it seems rather obvious.

Plus they've put together a song for the cause. It's not exactly "We Are The World."

Listen for yourself

Plus the website for the Mistletoe Appreciation Society of America seems to mention a certain brand of booze more than mistletoe.

Then is Hollyweird.

I'm just sayin'....

Friday, December 08, 2006

Sometimes I Get Tired ...

I write about dead people.

Some years back my boss did an investigative piece on the most likely people to be "murdered" in San Antonio. As you might expect, we were able to show that if you weren't on drugs, hadn't been drinking, weren't at a bar at 1 or 2 in the morning, your odds of being "murdered" were minimal. People who lead "normal" lives, who are in bed at a decent hour, who aren't on drugs/selling drugs, and remain sober...don't tend to get murdered.

So most dead people I write about make the "news" due to the circumstances of their demise.

If this type of thing were measured in quantity, today's been a good day for people who write about dead people...not such a good day for the people they write about of course.

One guy I wrote about this morning got shot in the back of the head at a pool tournament where folks were drinking a lot. Someone starting shoving someone else...someone had a gun. Someone's the "Happy Hut." I wrote the story in 40 seconds...I've written the same story with different players so many times in nearly 30 years that it's almost become mechanical.

And miserable.

I try not to become immune to those type of stories. Someone is dead...someone is grieving, no matter the circumstance. However in truth, I don't delve deep enough to care, I can't allow happens too often. Here are the facts: booze, guns, bars, drugs, death. Stack 'em up as you please.

Last night's murder was at "Happy's Hut" - the victim: 28 years old. Earlier this week, it was "Santa's Place," another bar, another argument, another dead man in his 20's. The irony of the names of the murder locations already outweighs the memories of the victims.

But there are the other dead people I write about too...the even more senseless dead.

Getting shot in the head at "Happy's Hut" during an argument over pool is, of course, senseless, but these other dead people died for no reason except for the failure to take basic precautions and I don't mean avoiding drugs, booze, and bars...

Around 4:30 this morning, I was finishing up the various versions of the stories I was writing about the Happy Hut murder, along with a plethora of other stupid acts of violent crime which occurred overnight, some of which may eventually become stories of dead people, but so far those "victims" are hanging on. Then I heard the words.

It was the fire department scanner: "Fire...House in 'full bloom'...six people may be inside."

In San Antonio this year at least 16 people have died in house fires...nearly half of those have been in the past few weeks.

I've written stories about most of them...I write about dead people.

Several of these dead people were children, including a five year old girl killed in that fire this morning, along with at least two adults...another adult "had a pulse" when they pulled her out of the house guarded by burglar bars which was engulfed in flames by the time firefighters got there.

Another little girl died two weeks ago in a house fire, the granddaughter of a former State Senator I knew. He died with her. Her Great-Grandma died too.

Those 16 people who have died this year weren't in bars...they weren't carrying guns, on drugs or drunk...most were sleeping. Almost all of them did share one thing though...they lived in homes without smoke detectors.

Last week a fire official told a reporter I work with, "In the years I've been doing this job, I've never been to a fire where someone died if their home had a working smoke detector."

You can buy a smoke detector for five dollars.

In San Antonio, you can walk into any fire station and say, "I don't have a smoke detector and I don't even have five dollars to buy one." They'll give you one...firefighters may even come to your house and install it for you. No charge.

Do me a favor, make sure you have working smoke detectors.

Sometimes I get tired...of writing about dead people.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Career Direction

They've installed a new voice mail system at my office.

I know that's exciting news.

I think the company may be trying to tell me something, although I'm not quite sure how to interpret it.

When someone calls my voicemail extension they get the elevator.

I'm not kidding.

This is a slightly edited version of what callers hear.

I suppose I'll be an optimist and assume my career is headed up.

Then again, it does depend on your viewpoint.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Shell Of A Time

I kidnapped Shell Saturday night.

Shell is the young woman, 19 going on 40 going on 19 in the 1960's, who has shared our home and our hearts for several months.

My friend, and co-worker, who is the announcer at the AT&T Center, where the Spurs play, called me at about 5:30 on Saturday afternoon and asked if I'd use his seats for the game that night, at 7 p.m....90 minutes from tip off. I, being of unsound mind and totally oblivious to anything but the words "free tickets" said, "Sure!" and raced out the door to retrieve the tickets from under his doormat across town, along with a couple of quad-venti lattes from a Starbucks on the route to help keep me and - I assumed - Amy, awake for the game.

As I was rushing across town on my single minded, quad-venti, mission Amy called to tell me she was, "throwing up." Being of unsound mind and totally oblivious as stated previously, I came up with the touching and loving response of, "You'll rally."

Yeah, I scored big points.

Amy really wanted me to go and started actually calling people, anyone and everyone, to see if they'd "sub" for her. She was pretty far down the list before I called her again, two quad-venti lattes in hand, and realized her strategy. I begged her to stop and not to worry. I've gone to games alone before, the tickets were free.

Plus there were some folks on her "desperation" list whom I didn't really want to spend the next few hours sitting next to...even amidst a deafening crowd.

It wouldn't have been the first time I've had a last minute invite and gone it alone. In past instances, I've found someone standing in line looking to buy a single ticket and simply handed them my extra saying, "No charge, enjoy the game." Most of the time those recipients didn't believe me until they squeezed by the lady with the beehive hair-do who has season tickets on the same row and realized I was sitting in the seat next to the one that had dropped like manna from Heaven into their laps. Almost always the only response I've received has been a rather incredulous - oftentimes suspicious - look and a mumbled, "um thanks."

I don't blame 'em, I mean in today's world you don't expect strangers to appear out of no where and give you something you were seeking for free. I wish that weren't the case, but that's a tangent I'll let your mind chase solo....I was still in full Spurs' frenzy.

So, by the time I got home and saw Amy struggling to put on make-up so she wouldn't look like the walking dead - I won't remark on the success of this effort, I love this woman and also am fond of my life - there was little time to strategize, but I knew there was no way I was going to drag Amy to the game despite her rather sorry but admirable "put me in Coach" attitude.

I snagged my latte and started scrambling out the door just as Shell was walking in. Shell is not a sports fan. Shell has never been to a Spurs game. Shell has never been to the AT&T Center. Shell couldn't tell me which team was the Spurs when we were sitting 40 feet away from them.

I grabbed her arm and said, "Great! You're here just in time! We're going to watch the Spurs!"

Being 19 years old and misplaced in time - she really should have been born in the 60's - her response was, "What the *&%# man!" Followed by, "Sorry, I wasn't talking to you."

She's 19, she had a cell phone to her ear talking to some poor schmoe who I think was expecting her somewhere else.

So it goes. My rules. You're always subject to being least those were the rules Saturday night.

If you're going to take a hostage, you really can't get bogged down in their lives.

Moments later, we were in the car. There were a few more expletives, a little bleary-eyed wonderment (Shell tends to sleep days so my 6 p.m. is like her 6 a.m.) and then she said, "Where are we going? How long is this going to last? Why am I going?"

All good questions considering the circumstances, I responded with my usual wisdom, grunting, "Free tickets...Go Spurs Go!"

The blessing is that Shell really is a child of the 60's, or should have been, and her protestations stopped rather quickly, apparently deciding to go with the flow, the karma, or whatever she was experiencing at the moment.

We arrived at the game with time to spare. I was well fueled on caffeine and Shell was beginning to wake up, at least enough to shout, "FOUR DOLLARS FOR A COKE? YOU COULD FEED A FAMILY FOR THAT!"

I ushered us to our seats, past the beehive hair-do lady, as fast as I could avoiding a few wary-eyed security guards who still had Shell's spontaneous remarks about the price of a bottle of water going through their heads...and eardrums.

The game was sloppy and Shell spent most of the first half text messaging her friends, presumably the folks she was supposed to be with, but no one showed up to arrest me for kidnapping so I'm assuming she kept it tame, or she didn't remember our exact seat numbers - thank God for sell-outs.

At half-time, Shell left to use the restroom and I expected to hear a skirmish, but mercifully that's the one thing the AT&T Center doesn't charge for....yet.

She came back moments before the second half tip-off muttering something about the price of nachos and the homeless, I breathed a sigh of relief, and then the action resumed...on court.

Soon I noticed Shell was paying less attention to her phone and more to the scoreboard. The Spurs could have put that game away early, but they managed to make it a squeaker and it came down to the very final fragments of a second with a desperation heave from a Sacramento player.

It missed. The Spurs won, and Shell was jumping up and down with the best of us maniacs. I still don't think she understands or cares a lick about basketball...but as we were walking out of the arena she turned to me and said, "Thanks for kidnapping me...that was fun."

How many kidnappers get to hear that?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Climb

It's been too long Lord...
Too long since I have knelt before You with Amy at my side,
and prayed as one.

It's been too long Lord...
Too long since we have sung from our hearts,
and left our heads behind.

It's been too long Lord...
Since we have worshipped without worry,
and given our full attention to You.

It's been too long, Lord...
Since I've wiped away her tears,
and known they were at last tears of joy.

We're still searching Lord...
Seeking Your guidance and discernment,
but for this one day we felt unfettered.

We're still journeying Lord...
There are many questions we must answer,
but for this one day we didn't ask them.

We still worry Lord...
About the road that sprawls ahead,
but for this one day we lived in the moment.

It's been too long, Lord
since we've left our baggage at the door,
and let You lead us...unencumbered.

It felt good, Lord.
To be in Your arms again,
and to reach out without question.

We know the climb will still be hard, Lord.
There's a murkiness ahead,
but for this one day, we remembered.

We remembered...
how it feels to reach out,
and touch the solid rock of Ages.

It's been too long, Lord...far too long.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Christmas Is In The Air

Ah...the season is upon us. I can tell by the "dead Santas" strewn about our neighborhood.

It's become something of a holiday tradition in our house. Last year, when the Gomez family was living with us, Ana and I would drive around the neighborhood and try to count "dead Santas." Pitiful, deflated St. Nicks...during their downtime.

I'm not a big fan of the inflatable decorations, but I shouldn't complain considering there's still a pumpkin on my porch.

Last night, Amy and I drove up to the church for our second to last "Moldova Team meeting" before we actually go to Moldova. On the way to church there's a charming little shopping "village" which we've watched grow over the years. All sorts of budding businesses have taken root there from a British tea shoppe to a dog groomer.

This year I noticed they're attempting something new, I'm assuming it's a version of Dicken's "Christmas Carol," although the sign doesn't really explain much.

I'm not sure exactly what to expect, I haven't gone in. You have your choice of "driving thru" or walking in and there are signs to direct you depending on how you opt to take it all in.

I don't think it's presumptuous of me to assume its the traditional story of Scrooge...considering each sign also contains very specific instructions.

It's nice to know someone is busy keeping Christmas traditions alive...

Okay, it's a little deflating...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Magi Mainly

We've renewed our journey in earnest...

We still have a church home, but we feel an increasing calling to spend Advent not only waiting for Christ, but seeking Christ in new ways.

I began our wanderings checking out a church on-line, sort of a satellite church of a MEGA-church in San Antonio which a friend attends - the mega-church that is.

A mega-church is not ever going to be our least I don't feel God leading us that way. In fact, I believe God is leading us to smaller gatherings than even the tiny church we currently call home.

I thought this particular fellowship was in a distant part of town which would in truth hinder us, but as it turns out, it's right around the corner and truly focused more on home churches or groups that gather weekly and then re-gather together on Sundays to worship together.

All we did today was wander...on the internet...then a few minutes on the phone...and eventually opting to "stop by" and talk with the worship leader who happened be the only guy in the place.

It felt least for now.

They've got a coffee bar...I'm just saying...

One step in our journey. We'll see where it will lead, but it was comfortable in many ways.

So this Sunday that's where I suspect our journey will take us...we may decide it's not the right step...and most certainly that we need more time.

But the season of Advent is upon us and we are wandering and be guided by God.

I'm certain the wise men of old took some steps they were unsure of too...

In the end, whether we turn around or race forward, I know this much...God won't steer us wrong.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Various Ramblings

Anyone have 125 toothbrushes they're not using?

There's a sentence you don't hear/read too often.

I've put up a revised schedule of our Moldova Mission along with a list of items we're planning on bringing and or buying in Moldova. If someone is interested in donating these items - we need to bring enough for every kid - please email me and we can discuss it.

I'm getting a little apprehensive about the trip and excited at the same time. I think my apprehension may be that I saw how long it took Amy to pack for a two day trip to Dallas...

I may start her packing for Moldova this afternoon.

Other ramblings...

Interesting statistic: On Sunday the U.S. was officially "at war" in Iraq longer than the U.S. participated in World War II.

Every day I start my day by writing at least one story about American casualties in Iraq...the total is heart-wrenching, some 2800 plus.

For the record, the U.S. lost 406,000 troops in WWII.

I'm not trying to minimize one life lost...but I do wonder what American resolve was like some 60 years ago. Maybe there wasn't some guy like me writing a story every day about every casualty...

Anyone in need of a priest? You can rent one you know.



Most of these priests are Catholic but not recognized by the Catholic church because they're married, but I suppose they fill a void. I have a friend who wants very badly to become a priest in the Catholic church, but can't because he's happily married with five wonderful daughters. Perhaps I'll suggest he join Rent-A-Priest.

It looks like the Playstation III market is booming, at least on eBay. It's amazing how many people are willing to pay so much when another shipment will arrive in a few weeks.

eBay saw sales of 14,675 PlayStation 3 consoles between the Nov. 17 launch and last Friday at an average price of $1,186, according to eBay Marketplace Research. Between Oct. 17 and last Friday a total of 28,233 PlayStation 3 consoles have been sold on eBay at an average of $1,370.

The PlayStation 3 is available in two versions, one costing around $499 and the other costing around $599.

We could buy a lot of toothbrushes for that...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Roots & The Road

We're home.

Even when we travel though, I realize we're never far from our roots.

On this trip, which took us to my Aunt's house in Dallas, we brought along the dogs. I believe this might mean we've fallen victim to "Stockholm syndrome." We've come to empathize with these little terrorists who haunt our lives on a daily basis so much that instead of blissfully leaving them at home so we could "sleep in," we instead brought them along so we could be awakened each day by Winston howling.

Although we only get to Dallas about once a year, my "roots" are there. My side of the "family" is there, although the eclectic bunch with which we try to gather each year is made up of a diverse group of folks most of whom I'm not related to at all, and none of whom constitutes an actual "blood relation."

However my Aunt Kathy, although not technically a "blood relative" has been my de-facto "Mom" for more years than either of us now wish to count, and she's the heart and soul of our Dallas "family."

It's at her house we all gather, sometimes a huge number, this year a smaller number.

No matter how many people are there, one thing never changes...we always have more than enough love to go around...and far too much food.

Amy managed to get in some cooking time, so she was happy...

I managed to get in more than my share of eating and football, so I was content.

The dogs stuck to their routine, waking everyone up far too early, and Winston even managed to find his roots, or at least his pattern of bizarre behavioral quirks.

Thanksgiving morning in a city several hundred miles from home as I walked him and his sister, Avery, on a deserted street...Winston started trying to rush ahead.

You need to know that Winston is not the type of dog who "runs," he usually is dragging up the rear, sniffing at the ground, or stopping cold in his tracks to give you a stare that seems to say, "You are taking us toward food right?"

But Thanksgiving morning he was suddenly pulling at his leash trying fervently to get to something up the street. Then I realized what it was...a pair of socks.

Giant bright red socks.

Winston's sock fetish has been well documented here before and who knows, maybe it was Santa Claus, but someone dropped a pair of socks in the middle of the street...the street the one dog on the planet who will turn down food for socks (okay that might be a stretch) happened to be walking down...what are the odds?

He snatched those socks and proudly carried them back to the house where they became the source of great entertainment.

Besides a looming car repair bill (some type of gasket blew as we arrived in San Antonio - thank God it didn't happen on one of the tiny back roads we frequent in our attempts to avoid holiday traffic) we didn't really spend much money. We bought a few gifts/trinkets/junk at a little gift/trinket/junk shop in one small town...and not much else.

We always stick to back roads and small towns, it's a much more peaceful drive, and Amy and I enjoy the scenery from the fall leaves to the "holiday" lights in Marble Falls...albeit my photography skills don't do the lights justice.

As I was trying to get a photo of the lights in Marble Falls...Amy was busy too...trying to get a decent wireless connection for her laptop...from atop the car.

No, we're never far from our roots...

And I wouldn't want it any other way.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Time Of Thanks

We're falling into the trap...rushing to get a bunch of things done before we go out of town for a day or two. It seems we always set goals that invariably result in us a: Failing b: Being irritable for the first half of our trip.

I'm on vacation and I haven't worked this hard simply trying to get basic stuff done in a long while.

So we're going to wave the white flag.

Not all the laundry will be done, our house won't be clean, my computer won't be fixed, and maybe we'll be able to rest and enjoy ourselves.

I am so thankful for many things this year that I think it's time to step back for a second and say, "Whoa!"

Let's not play the game.

We'll get out of town, when we get out of town. We don't have to pack for a month, we could get by with a toothbrush and a change of underwear considering how long we'll be gone.

It's my fault. I start making "lists" and then the items on them become GIGANTIC.

So we're stopping. I tossed a couple of pairs of jeans, underwear and a few t-shirts/sweaters/socks in a bag and I'm done.

Amy and I were rushing until rush hour trying to get her some new glasses from some "$39.95, You don't mind squinting do you?" store which made them in an hour.

She still wanted to cook a "family" dinner tonight for Shell, whose wisely declined our offer to experience our traveling mania, her beau and Cindy, our dear friend from Austin whose been staying with us this week.

However, after a stressful afternoon we've nixed that plan too, in favor of a peaceful meal where we can focus on those things that are truly important.


I may blog from the road, I don't know. If not, let me say Amy and I feel very blessed by the friendships we've established in the "blogosphere." We have an exciting few months ahead of us, including our semi-mad mission to Moldova.

Amy is getting stronger every day, and soon it will be two years since she spent any extended time in the hospital. Reading back through the archives, that alone is something for which I feel compelled to fall to my knees and thank God.

In fact I do...quite often.

We've had some rocky times over the past year, some seemingly lost times, and some real God time. I'm thankful for all of it.

We have grown.

Certainly there has been some pain, but pain is a necessary thing...find someone who lacks the ability to feel pain and you'll likely find someone in a constant state of fear and panic. Pain is a blessing in many ways.

So I'm thankful...for all of you who wade through my mental meanderings. For our family and friends, who understand our imperfections and with whom we can honestly journey.

I'm thankful for time.

Time to reflect. Time to pray. Time to spend on things of substance, most of which aren't "things" at all.

Amy and I have more time together than most couples and I am indeed thankful for that...I couldn't make it without her patience and persistence.

I'm thankful for the time to come as well. A future that has some grey areas, but in which I also see a shining light of possibilities...of melting horizons replaced by new horizons.

Most of all I'm thankful for a gracious and forgiving God...who redeems time and is timeless at the same time. Only God would let me get away with a sentence like that one.

God puts it all in perspective.

May God bless you and keep you in this time.

Be thankful for all you have, and know Amy and I are thankful that we have all of you.

Grace & Peace.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Michael & Amy

Monday, November 20, 2006

Big Trucks & Big Foot?

I think I saw Bigfoot last night...and he's cleaned up his act...sort of.

Amy and I had the opportunity to attend a concert for "free," and it dovetailed nicely into the fact that I'm on vacation. Yes, I got these particular tickets for "free," but so did everyone else in the audience. It was the wrap up of Toby Keith's latest tour, sponsored - heavily - by Ford, and the concert was for "Ford truck owners." Anyone who believes that because I'm in radio that I get free concert tickets all the time doesn't realize where I am in the food chain.

I'm not a Ford truck owner, I have been, but after Amy and I were married and the kids started to grow, I realized cramming three kids into my little pickup was not going to fly unless we stopped feeding them. That didn't appear to be an option, so we ended up getting rid of my pick-up and getting a van.

I once had a friend who remarked that when you buy a mini-van, "it sucks the cool right out of you."

That's probably's not the last time that pragmatism won out over pride...but that's another rabbit trail.

Anyway, a public relations person offered me tickets to this show which was Ford's first attempt to stage a concert exclusively for buyers of its trucks, as sort of a reward.

San Antonio is apparently the staging ground for the great pickup truck war. Last week Toyota opened its huge new truck making facility here and the battle is on for the hearts and long term low interest debt of pickup truck buyers.

It was a wonderful concert/extended Ford commercial. We had good seats, there was no charge for parking, and we managed to stay up past 8 p.m. on a Sunday, which is a feat in itself.

Toby Keith put on a raucous patriotic show and a good time was had by all.

However, I was intrigued by the opening act. I must admit, I never could hear the band's name, and I couldn't find their name on the web either.

Okay, I didn't waste a lot of time looking...

I was struck by how much they looked like a band of rock 'n rollers from my haze days. Country music has come a long way from the suit and tie days of Tom T. Hall.

The lead singer had hair down to his waist, and did not appear to all that fond of soap and water. And then there was this guy:

He was tall, not including the odd stovepipe hat he was wearing...but he wasn't that tall. However his feet...they were huge!

They looked stretched out.

Amy said maybe he was wearing over-sized shoes to "match his outfit."

This guy didn't hit me as a fashion trendsetter by any means and wearing silver shoes makes a statement in and of itself in my mind, but I've also tried on shoes that were too big and it's not easy to get around in them. You end up stubbing your toe, or what would be your toe if your shoes fit, and tripping quite easily. I can't envision hopping about on stage with a bass in giant clown shoes.

No, I think those are his real feet. They had to be size 17 or 18.

So I think I've found Bigfoot. He's shaved, put on a hat, and is playing bass for Toby Keith's opening act.

Then again...I could be mistaken...maybe he was someone else entirely.

I'm probably just chasin' rabbits.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

At One With One

Looks like I'm going to church alone. Amy had a sleepless night, and we have a "date" this evening which I'm giving equal importance to, plus a friend is coming in this afternoon to spend a few days with us, so Amy needs some rest.

I was tempted to stay home too, but that's not a healthy plan..although I do need to stop "furbling" at the computer, and go shower, shave, it's not quite as obvious I'm in vacation mode.

I'm not big on going to church alone, I used to never do it, but then I decided if I was committed to Christ, I needed to be in church even if the kids were sick, or Amy was sick, or the Cowboy's played an early game.

In truth, I need to spend time with God and I'm never alone when I do that.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Week That Was

Thank God.

That phrase should really follow the title of the post, but it's probably not a bad way to start every thing I write.

Let's see, we're still in a little church limbo, it's tough to feel in community when you feel like there's an elephant in the room, and I have to be someplace where I can worship God freely.

A dear friend has asked me to go with him to a church he wants to check out, something less GIANT than the church he currently attends and I'm sure HUGE compared to Covenant. I haven't decided on that, the kids are performing the service at Covenant this weekend, so I'd like to be there. Some of those "kids" are not too far from college, and I taught them Sunday school when we were all trying to find our path to God...I suppose somethings never change.

My company, the media giant who shall remain nameless so I won't violate any corporate policies, announced it was "going private," which sent a few nerves a tingling. Amy was, quite frankly, hoping some benevolent soul would buy the firm, fire everybody and give everyone a years salary for every year they've been there - I've been there 21 years - I don't make a fortune but that type of money would rechart our course rather quickly.

I know that's what she's been praying...she prays very loud least I can hear her.

That didn't happen - God knows what's best - however it appears the folks I wanted to "win" the bidding war have won, and they're doing the things I had hoped they'd do which will free me from ever having to say the word "synergy" again. Plus, if things play out as I hope, I will keep my various duties, and make a few fast bucks that were supposed to be long term shekels. I'm not banking on that, but I'm employed and seemingly going to stay that way for a while longer. That's a relief.

My computer is running at home but it's in shambles...okay, most of our house is in shambles, but the computer is more of a mess.

Okay, I've tried repeatedly to get blogger to post this photo and it won't so, I'll have do it manually, an appropriate way to end a frustrating week.

Yes, that's a fan, blowing on my hard drives, which are perched between an interior fan trying to keep them from frying. The only advantage to this arrangement is that it does keep the dust and dog hair in a constant swirl which is occasionally amusing, albeit I'm easily amused.

Okay, it took longer to get that photo uploaded than I had planned and I can smell the computer - that's not a good thing, so I should probably assume I'm on borrowed time.

Anyway, we survived the week...things don't look too bleak after all, and there's still a lot of uncertainty in our lives. So what else is new? When has it ever been different?

Truthfully, we all lead lives of uncertainty and I'm sort of glad about that; I wouldn't want to always know what to expect next.

My computer is full of dust, God is full of surprises.

Oh...and I'm on vacation...looking forward to the week that will be.

Surprise me, God...You always do.


My home computer has died...or is dying...

However I noticed an update this morning to the "Toys For Tots" story...The Marine Reserves have decided they can accept the "Talkin' Jesus" dolls. A victory for Jesus...or for a toy maker who managed to manipulate the press and essentially blackmail a charity.

From the AP:

The Marine Reserves' Toys for Tots program has decided to accept a donation of Bible-quoting Jesus dolls, reversing course after saying earlier this week that it couldn't take them.

"The talking Jesus doll issue has been resolved," the organization announced on its Web site Wednesday. "Toys for Tots has found appropriate places for these items. We have notified the donor of our willingness to handle this transaction."

The short note on the Web site did not explain what it would do with the dolls.

Earlier this week, the program declined a suburban Los Angeles company's offer to donate 4,000 of the foot-tall talking dolls. The battery-powered Jesus is one of several Bible-based dolls manufactured by one2believe, a division of the Valencia-based Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Co.

In explaining the initial decision, Bill Grein, vice president of Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, in Quantico, Va., had said the program didn't want to take the risk of offending a Jewish or Muslim family if they received a Jesus doll.

Toys for Tots distributed 18 million stuffed animals, games, toy trucks and other gifts to children based on financial need in 2005.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Talkin' Jesus

"The media" is oft times like lemmings...someone does a "story" and the rest of the pack jump on. This often makes what was not really a story to begin with seem huge, and it really makes me wonder how easy it is to manipulate reporters.

I was thinking of how Bobby Knight's "slap" of a Texas Tech player was going to be played up as I listened to a sports talk station on my way into work this morning. I watched the "slap"...over...and over...over...on ESPN. I know Bobby Knight is a hothead, but does anyone really think that was abusive? "Hey! Kid! You! The one getting the free ride at college! Can you look at me when I talk to you?"

I thought it looked more like Bobby Knight on thorzine compared to his past antics...but I suppose it's his past that's really the story.

Then I came upon this silly "controversy" involving the wonderful, well-intentioned charity - Toys For Tots. If you missed it, apparently a company that makes talking religious dolls, offered to donate a bunch of "Talkin' Jesus" dolls to the Marine Reserves to give away.

These are dolls that look like what a lot of folks imagine Jesus looked like, which talk when you pull a string. They sell 'em for about 25 bucks a throw.

The company started out in Beverly Hills making expensive Teddy bears...they've also made plush dolls of Shrek, Precious Moments, and a variety of other dolls. They know the doll business...they know the advertising business...

The Marine Reserves refused the offer saying essentially they don't know every kid's religion and they didn't want to offend anyone. Plus, and these are my words, I'm sure it would be more of a hassle than a help to try to get these dolls - which no doubt are a delightful way to teach your child about Christ if you so choose - to the right families. That's a pretty valid argument to me.

I've been involved for a number of years with an all volunteer charitable group in San Antonio that distributes toys to kids every Christmas, and the logistics of simply finding people to deliver the toys is a nightmare. They go to great lengths to find out how old the children are in the house (and that's not always easy) so they can give them "age appropriate" toys. They also try to find out if they are little boys or little little boy wants to wake up on Christmas and get a Barbie.

Okay, some might but we really don't need to go there do we?

Simply trying to find current addresses for some of these families is hard...I couldn't imagine trying to also determine their religions.

The company makes a variety of talking religious dolls by the way, they didn't offer any talking "Talkin' Moses" dolls or even "Talkin' David" dolls, which would at least have given the Marines a few options.

Just "Talkin' Jesus" - take Him or leave Him.

The Marines politely refused the offer of some 4000 "Talkin' Jesus" dolls.

Anyone doubt the Marines were polite about it?

Didn't think so.

So then how did it become a news story? It's possible, I suppose, that some devout person working for Toys For Tots was offended and called a newspaper.

That's possible...but again, I've worked with like-minded charities and believe me they're awful busy trying to get stuff done that needs to be done. I've never met anyone involved in such a charity who would do ANYTHING to hurt that charity.

Then again...a disgruntled, impolite, Christian Marine could be the source.

On the other hand...we do have this company...this for profit company...that makes "Talkin' Jesus" dolls...

Could they have a motive? I'm just saying...

Their website, which I was going to link to but then decided I didn't want to give them even that, says "their mission" is "to see that 10 million children are effectively taught 50 Bible stories by the end of year 2007."

I want to teach kids about Jesus too, but I'd have a hard time stepping on the Marines to do it.

I counted 240 news stories on this today.

Looking for a gift for your kid this Christmas? How about a G.I. Marine uniform...and a Bible.

Tell your children about Jesus...from your heart. They'll listen, and no one will have to pull any strings.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Quiet, Numbskulls, I'm Broadcasting!

Ah the classics... I came across "" this morning. One of the numerous sites that feature video where you can waste hours and hours. I wanted to give it a test.

Make sure you click "off" the "autoplay" function...otherwise it will play as soon as anyone hits your site, which - to me at least - is annoying. Also it adds a bunch of stuff like adding video comments to your post, something I'd prefer not to have, so we'll see if it works if I remove that code.

If it does, then that's all for now...I need to get back to real work...or broadcasting.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Hits, Stats, Stacks & Wives

I've been cleaning clutter from my blog template for two reasons:

1. It allows me to avoid cleaning the house, primarily folding laundry, which is what I really should be doing.

2. I think since I'm now "Philosopher King" of a web hosting/web design business I'm going to put a few ads or links on the blog to other sites I want to promote or that pay me money.

However as I was getting rid of things I put up long ago and long ago forgot my passwords on how to even access them, I saw the "SiteMeter."

The little thingy at the very bottom of this page finally rolled over to 200,000 on Friday.

This, I suppose, is something to celebrate, but I don't put much stock in its accuracy.

I have numerous other ways to determine web is Google Analytics, which I like because it shows me pie charts and maps and it has lots of little "clicky" things I can play with, none of which make sense to me.

Being the Philosopher King of The Aspen Group, I also have other magical ways, unavailable to the great unwashed, to look at statistics. They show up like this:

There's only one problem with all these gizmos...they all provide different results. According to that last one, the blog had over 240,000 hits in October. Sitemeter says in four years or so, I haven't come close to reaching that total, Google Analytics goes up and down and honestly I usually play with the area that shows where visitors are from, "Hello! Whoever it was who stopped by here from Hong Kong yesterday!"

None of this really makes any difference to me. I long ago stopped really worrying about site traffic, as evidenced by the fact that several other site "stat" things I have now deleted from the bottom of the page, I had forgot existed.

I also don't think this post makes much of a difference to anyone, but it's 6 a.m. and Amy is sleeping. There are stacks of laundry I need to fold and this was the only thing that came to mind to get out of it.

As I left my sleeping wife,
I came upon a time of strife.
Stacks of laundry piled quite high,
if they're to be folded, I'm the guy.
Instead I played with web design,
and stats and hits took form of rhyme.
But now it seems the rhyme is done,
so I'm off to fold with the rising Sun.

What? You expected good poetry at 6 a.m.?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Dogs, Squirrels & McGriddle Amends II

I have no idea where I'm going with this...which, to tell you the truth, is how I usually write.

My dogs are nuts.

And I'm still the Google King of McGriddle recipes.

Glad I got that off my chest.

Confused? We've only begun.

We've been blessed with tremendous weather lately, actual rainfall on occasion, cooler temperatures finally...okay it's 82 degrees today but that's cool in South Texas, and for reasons best left unwritten I had the opportunity to once again see where I was in the almighty McGriddle recipe standings with Google.

For those of you who haven't paid rapt attention...okay, for everyone...a couple of years ago, I made a mocking comment about how to make a McGriddle...and then I noticed an amazing upswing in "hits" to this website, along with an occasional hate mail, when folks realized I basically said, "pour syrup on a McMuffin."

If you go to Google today...two YEARS later...and type in "McGriddle Recipe," odds are, depending on Google's odd mood swings, this blog will still come up as the first choice...hence the hate mail...that keeps coming in. It's the only hate mail I've ever gotten from anything I've written, and this post coincidentally (according to Google) puts me over 1500 posts.

Every hate mail has been about McGriddles.

People like their McGriddles...and they don't like me for making fun of them for liking them. I apologize...blame Google...I only did it as a joke!

I actually tried to make amends to those people seeking McGriddles when McDonald's was closed (I didn't realize McDonald's did close but that's another rabbit trail and I'm already wondering how the heck I'm going to get back to my dogs being nuts) in a post a year or so ago where I listed the actual McGriddle recipe.

To make amends again to all of you strangers who wandered here looking for that recipe, first let me say it's for a "lo-cal" McGriddle, but I presume you can substitute all the fattening stuff for the lo-cal items and come off with a pretty good McGriddle knock-off. If you click HERE it will take you to that post, with the recipe. It's not mine...I STOLE it from a site called Recipe Circus. Recipe Circus should be getting all the hits from people seeking McGriddle Recipes...but, alas, I know that this post is going to doom that possibility...I'm sealing my own fate. So again, if you want the recipe click HERE!

Okay, now that I've cemented myself eternally in Google's McGriddle Recipe matrix, let's move on.

My dogs are nuts.

While I was doing my...I'm not going to put in the word again...research on that McDonald's product in relation to my blog, I remembered a comment someone left about how much they liked it when I wrote about our dogs.

So I thought I'd write about our dogs today.

Our dogs are nuts.

With the nicer weather, we spend a great deal of time on what we call our patio, which is really a cracked slab of dirty cement, detached from the house. I actually scoured it a few weeks ago...THEN we got rain.

Two years, no rain...I scrub the patio...deluge.

Anyway, that really has little to do with anything, except that I've noticed how crazy our two little West Highland White (grey in our case) terriers have become. They are obsessed little beasts...obsessed by a squirrel.

It's a tiny squirrel. A baby squirrel.

Oh, don't let it fool's on its' game.

This squirrel harasses, teases, toys, and tinkers with the already somewhat addled minds of our dogs...especially Winston, our "special needs" dog, who sits in vigil for the squirrel to make a move.

And it makes the same moves...every day.

It jumps perilously from a tree in our yard, to the covering over our cracked, now dirty, and sinking patio, up another tree...down the top of our fence...onto the neighbor's roof, where it sits, giggles, and then shoots out of sight.

The dogs bark...they run...they try to climb trees...they chase it down the fence...they backtrack...and watch it go up the roof...giggle at them...and then they turn around and behave.

This happens ten times a day.

It would happen more, if we let the dogs out more often.

It's a game between a baby squirrel and two mixed up, or entertainment deprived, little dogs.

I might add that every time this happens, Amy or I both scream at the dogs to stop.

That never works.

Still we do it.

Every time.


I''ll admit it.

Maybe it's not our dogs that are nuts.

But you folks who are looking for a McGriddle're not exactly sane either.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I don't care how you voted.

I'm not obsessed with elections or politics...I'm afraid I'm jaded in that regard.

I don't blog about politics, because too many people do it and they do it better.

I personally think politicians tend to muck things up, are too caught up in raising money and feathering their own nests and that the only way to play the game is to steal money from you and me and pretend to give it back to us.

But my opinion really doesn't matter.

The "news media" - and I am one - are quick to point out how the Democrats have sent a referendum to President Bush about the war, about the economy (anyone checked on that lately by the way?), about Congress, Donald Rumsfeld or Nancy Pelosi, or John Kerry or stem cell research...or whatever dunks your donut.

I think they're wrong.

Voter turnout is being hailed as "slightly higher" than most off year elections, an indication of voter dissatisfaction, voter determination, voter name it.

The fact is roughly 40 percent of the registered voters in the United States bothered to vote.

Let's all do the math together....100 minus 40 = 60.

Sixty percent of registered voters didn't go to the polls.

One could argue that 60 percent of Americans are too lazy to vote. I don't really believe that's true.

Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, Green Party, Libertarian,Communist...whatever, I think most Americans think - dare I say it - believe that their vote never really matters.

The people we elect don't do what they promise. Why bother?

I don't blame you for not voting. In fact, I think in this election that's the issue that is being overlooked. Sixty percent of Americans who bothered to register to vote...didn't cast a ballot.
They voted with their feet...and their feet stood still.

Not with early voting, drive by voting, absentee balloting...not with virtually every conceivable way to make it easy to vote, almost two-thirds of Americans who registered to vote said, "Nah. Why bother?"

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we are that lazy. Maybe it's too easy to vote. Maybe the folks who didn't vote are too stupid and we should be glad they didn't vote because they don't pay enough attention.

Maybe...but I don't think so.

"The Independent Election Commission of Iraq (IECI) said its initial tally of 72% had been little more than a guess based on local estimates. The panel has since revised the estimated turnout at 60% to 75%." - That quote is from the most biased news source I could think of, and it took me a while,, talking about the Iraq.

Something is wrong folks.

There's got to be a better way. I don't know what it is, but when nearly two-thirds of the REGISTERED voters in this country don't vote...I think the REAL referendum that's being sent to Washington is:"I don't care, you aren't listening to me anyway!"

I think 60 percent of registered American voters are saying, "I give up!"

And, blast it all, I don't think anyone is ever going to hear them because they're just muttering to themselves.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

From The eird orld

The Mayor of Diyarbakir, Turkey is being sued and could go to jail for six months for sending out greeting cards reading "Happy New Year." At issue is the letter "W"...really.

The Turkish alphabet doesn't have the letter W...but the Kurdish alphabet does. State agencies and other groups have been ordered to use the Turkish alphabet, so the mayor technically violated the "w law" by having the word "New" on his greeting card.

As a warning, keep in mind X and Q are also not allowed in Turkey...which make scrabble even more boring.

I Don't Care If It's Gonna Blow Up

A couple of years ago I wrote about the proliferation of balloon-like Christmas decorations and peppered that post with lyrics from a song I learned in junior high called "Plastic Jesus."

What actually startled me, was the number of folks who commented or emailed that they were completely unaware of the song. A lot of my friends were Catholic when I was a boy, so I suppose having a plastic Jesus on the dashboard was something they were more familiar with, and I simply assumed everyone knew that song.

Today I ran across a guy who's selling "Plastic Mohammeds"...or more precisely, bobblehead Mohammad dolls for your dashboard. BEWARE: The website is not polite and littered with profanity.

This guy is obviously playing with fire...but I think he lives in Hawaii so he doesn't fear a "Jihad." Still, it did get me wondering what the lyrics would be for a satirical song....

"I don't care if ______"

Any song writers out there?

Be nice.

Monday, November 06, 2006

He Lives

No, I haven't died.
Yes, I felt like I wanted to.

Something grabbed hold of me Friday and held on. I'll spare you the details, but to put it in terms internet addicts will understand, today's the first day I've checked email since Thursday.

I make a lousy sick person. I think I could best be described as a wounded bear. I want to be left alone, I growl a lot, and I tend not to smell very nice.

Poor her credit she kept trying to get liquids in me (albeit they didn't stay in me long) and tried to encourage me to move...mostly toward the shower.

The only upside to the weekend was that I managed to sleep through both the Spurs loss Friday night and the Cowboys debacle on Sunday. I also think I lost about ten pounds.

However we missed church, missed a planned birthday event for a dear friend (which we've rescheduled for tomorrow), and I missed writing...eating...occasionally breathing. I didn't miss any sleep, I think I've slept about 80 hours over the past several days.

I'm being adventurous as I write this, stepping into the potentially dangerous world of coffee, and a granola bar...we'll see how that comes out...pardon the pun.

Anyway onto brighter subjects...

Before I departed this plane, I was off to our second "Team Moldova" meeting. It was inspiring, a little daunting and very encouraging. We've paid off our airfare costs in total and I learned I don't have pay the rest until mid December - that's a not so subtle hint that if anyone still feels an urge to contribute you can still do so via CERI or send a check made out to CERI to us.

I was a little optimistic when I said we had raised enough funds and to "hold all checks," in all honesty we have the money in our "emergency fund" to pay the freight if need be, but I wouldn't be opposed to lightening our load a little more. The email I received that inspired me to write that "hold all checks" line, was actually outlining the costs for airfare and visas, and what we have raised/contributed does total almost that exact amount.

However there's about $1500 dollars in other costs. I've already paid $600 of those, plus about $700 toward our air fare/ if anyone still feels "led" the links on how to give are on the sidebar. I'm not going to belabor the point, but I might as well be truthful...I sort of goofed when I said we had raised every thing we needed. If not another dime comes in...we're still going, and to all those who have given...I still can not find the words to express our heartfelt thanks.

As to giving "stuff" we can take with us for the orphans, now estimated to be around 125 kids, this is a little dicey. There are a couple of factors at play. First off, customs agents in Moldova apparently won't allow you to bring in a suitcase full of "stuff" so things have to be packed among all the team members to look like they're for personal use...even combs, toothbrushes, etc. That means if you go to the dollar store and buy 125 combs, we'll split them between bags of our team and another team that's going...but we've decided to not to try to buy a bunch of clothes for fear they'll get confiscated. Customs agents think anything being brought into the country in quantity is destined for the thriving black market. So, we'll probably end up buying stuff in Moldova, it won't be as high of quality, but we'll be able to bring gifts that the people on the ground there say they really need. Plus, we will be bringing or buying gifts for those workers...I still need more information on that.

Secondly, we want to make sure we are giving kids what they need. Toiletries are always good, but the same rules apply: first they have to be small enough that we can divvy them up in our luggage, and second there has to be enough for every kid.

These children have very little and it can be almost cutthroat if one kid feels another kid gets more. We've been warned to expect to see fist-fights on a regular basis. We don't want to contribute to that situation. Plus, and I say this in all kindness, it's not our intent to go into Moldova and "Americanize" these children by showering them with toys and gifts at Christmas. Greed runs rampant through Moldova, we hope to inspire these children in another direction.

In fact, that brings me to the "theme" of our mission: The true meaning of giving.

We'll start each day with a devotional among the team members and then one of us will lead a devotional each morning and each evening at the orphanage. I've already agreed to lead one such nighttime devotional, a reading....more likely a paraphrase of one of my favorite authors from my childhood and I suppose still, O.Henry. The story: "The Gift of the Magi."

Amy has been recruited to lead singing each morning and was pumped to learn that some of the kids know a number of familiar praise songs in Romanian. I would expect Amy to surprise some folks when we get there...but that's all I'm saying about that.

Anyway, this idea of spreading joy and perhaps spreading a small bit of wisdom about the nature of true giving seems so absolutely on target for a mission trip that I came away from our meeting truly feeling that we are in the midst of God's will.

Now that my insides are apparently out of the clutches of Satan (coffee and granola bar and staying down) I'm eager to get to work...

So now, I'm off to memorize The Gift of the Magi...and start figuring out a way to summarize it, so that I can hold 125 kids attention as my words are translated and still do justice to such a wonderful story.

Okay, suddenly my stomach isn't feeling so good...but I don't think it's the flu this time...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Tonight's The Night

This is it...the start of the Spurs season!

Actually, I am rather excited about that, even though I'm going to miss (or at least tape) tonight's regular season opener.

Tonight, we have our "Moldova Team" meeting, which is bound to be eventful, although no one will be dunking or dribbling, unless someone brings donuts and coffee.

Today however may be an exercise in patience. Being ever prepared, Amy and I still have to fill out some forms, and get yet more dour photos for our Visas, which Moldova requires. Oddly enough they're going to stop requiring them on January 1st, but since we'll be arriving December 31st, we need to have and pay for the Visas. It's nice to know the bureaucracy is alive and well no matter where you are in the world.

I've also got to stop by the CERI office today. I'm actually killing some time at my office, since I know they won't be open too early. I've mentioned having a few communication problems with the CERI folks about donations and I have to have an exact total of what has been received by them tonight in order to write a check to cover the balance. Amy and I have always intended to pay a good chunk of the costs, and even with the amazing generosity of blog readers and family members, we'll still be contributing about a third of the costs, which is fine...I simply can't write a check for "about," I have to have an exact number.

Apparently the young woman, no doubt an overworked volunteer, who has been in charge of on-line contributions has recently gotten married and gone on her honeymoon. I'm working on the assumption she's returned and has been digging through the stuff piled on her desk, which includes about twelve unanswered emails from me...not to mention voice mails.

Anyway, with time running out, and since the CERI offices are on my way home, I figured I'd drop by and see if I can't get this worked out.

Wish me luck.

Surely, it won't be more difficult than getting Amy ready for another photograph for our Visas.

Why is the theme from "Man Of La Mancha" running through my head?

UPDATE: Wouldn't you know it? Just as I was closing out my email, the CERI volunteer I've been "spamming" replied to my email promising to have the information for me by 10 a.m.

No need to go visit (not sure she really would want to see me anyway)...guess I'll be able to squeeze in a nap today after all...and watch the Spurs replay.

Tonight's the night, but today is off to a good start too.

Monday, October 30, 2006

It's A God Thing

It's been a very frustrating day. Car troubles, email troubles (I hate outlook, I would pay someone to shoot it if I could), and a few work frustrations.

So, I haven't been in the best of moods this afternoon.

Moments ago, I received an email from our Moldova team leader who said she'd reserved "Air Moldova" tickets for us (okay, say a small prayer) and that the price was LOWER than what we had anticipated.

I'm still having trouble contacting the woman at CERI who handles on-line contributions, so I called today, trying to be patient , and found out she just got married and is on and has been on her honeymoon. That explains everything. Dealing with a wedding.

I still have to get an accounting from them...but I'm feeling better about it and with the checks we've received directly, the way I add it up, I think we're going to have raised and or already contributed ourselves almost the EXACT amount we'll need for airfare and a few other basics.

I mean we're within (making a few assumptions about checks that are in the mail) 20-100 dollars away!

Bless you all!

Please keep up the prayers, we'll need them now more than ever.

I am stunned....although I shouldn't's a God thing.

We are so humbled by God's grace and your generosity.

Thank you again.

No more checks please...unless you wish to underwrite the travel of someone else in our group.

We may come back asking for actual "item donations"....i.e. toothbrushes, hair care know, things that they could use at the orphanage, but I don't know specifics yet.

I do know Your grace - you and God - amazes me.

I'm literally trying to keep from sobbing as I write.

My frustrations are in perspective...and so is my heart.

I have no other words.

Except....Microsoft Outlook is a tool of Satan :)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Because I Can

I've actually sat down to write twice in the past couple of days - it seems harder to find time when I'm either not sleep deprived, consumed by some other "crisis" in the household or have something to say - and both times "Blogger" has chosen those exact times to be "Down for repairs."

I suppose I shouldn't complain, it's not like I pay for blogger...or that I would.

It's the political probably noticed that by all the annoying ads on radio and TV...but I really steer clear of writing about politics. When I started this blog, I had grandiose thoughts of putting forth wisdom about politics versus reality...I think I tired of that in a week or two. Plus, I must admit, I started reading other political blogs for a while and realized there were far more insightful people out there than I was ever going to be.

Today, I'm going to be political I suppose, but I really think of it as religious. God calls those who believe in Him to warn people if they foresee impending crises. I'm not a prophet, but I do think there are some issues that are being used to distract a lot of us from more important things.

I don't really care about politics. I don't care if you're a democrat, a republican, a libertarian, or green party member. Odds are I'd still like to sit down and talk with you...about more important things.

I've covered politics as a reporter, I've been friends with politicians (that didn't work out real well, since the one guy I had faith in is still serving time in prison) and I have friends/relatives who are obsessed with politics. However I've seen 'em come and seen 'em go and to tell you the truth, I don't know a politician I particularly respect.

I suppose if you must label me, I'm a conservative, but I'm not maniacal about it. I'm conservative in most things except for the love of my wife, and my love of God. I'm sue me.

So this is what I believe...

I believe most Americans are ignorant of the real issues and too influenced by political sound bites and commercials when it comes to their vote, and I wish folks were more educated about reality.

I believe stem cell research is a good thing. I believe the federal government has no reason to fund it. If you actually check the facts, despite the hype around Michael J. Fox, the one time Canadian, whose now doing ads for Democrats who favor federal funding of stem cell research, you'll find that the only President who ever authorized any funding for stem cell research was George W. Bush. You'll also find that funding for such research programs has actually increased, albeit slightly, since Bush refused to authorize federal government funding for "fetal" stem cell research.

Why has it increased? Because the private sector has gotten into the game...there's a profit to be made.

I believe Capitalism wins out on most occasions.

You might also think back to the last time "stem cell research" was a "political issue" and note the date...odd how it always seems to come up around elections isn't it?

I believe we need to rethink our policies in Iraq. That's not to say I believe we should withdraw our troops. I am still sort of hoping the guys with the epaulets on their shoulders are thinking about new tactics all the time. I have faith in our military...far more faith than I have in politicians.

I believe one of the best ways to resolve some of our issues in the Middle East does involve allowing democracy to at least take root in some nations where it has been a foreign concept for centuries. That includes not only Iraq, but Iran...and Syria...and, dare I say it, Saudi Arabia.

I tend to think if you are living in a nation where women who speak their minds are stoned to death, and people who are gay are murdered without any government intervention, and the folks living next door don't allow such stuff...because they have a might look over the fence and say, "Gee, maybe we should try that for a while." Simplistic I know. Still, I think it's worth a try.

I believe the real solution to the problems in the Middle East is for the U.S. to become energy independent...AT ANY PRICE. That means allowing coal plants to be built which can essentially turn coal to oil. That means allowing off shore drilling and drilling in Alaska. That means pouring massive amounts of money into alternative fuel and conservation programs. That means staying the course until it is done.

In the 1980's, this country invested 80 some odd billion dollars to that cause. What happened?

OPEC dropped the price of oil to 10 dollars a barrel, gasoline prices dropped, Americans stopped whining and we gave up. Where the 80 billion dollars went...heck if I know...but I doubt any of the original investors in that project suffered.

I believe too many people in our country are ignorant. We allow "headline news" and "sound bites" to dictate our thinking, and we don't read enough. You want to bellow about stem cell research, global warming, or animal all means you have that right.

However while you're screaming, "The sky is falling," I believe the earth and many free nations are being or have already been taken from us.

You want something to really worry about? Take a look at demographic data on birth rates in Europe. It's startling. Do you realize that the birthrates in nations such as France, Italy and Germany are so low that in a matter of one or two generations the traditional family we think of in Europe will disappear? Run the the research. Birth rates in Europe are at or below 1.4 children per woman. That means there will not be enough young people to support their economies...especially with six week guaranteed vacations, free government health care, government supported pension plans and various other "entitlements."

How do you deal with that?

You open your doors to immigration.

Unlike what you might think, I favor immigration into this country especially. I simply want some organization to it. This week I listened to the owner of one of the most popular "tourist" restaurants in San Antonio whine at a public forum that he couldn't find adequate help because of immigration restrictions. He runs an amazingly popular Mexican restaurant in the heart of San Antonio and claimed that he could not keep a chief chef unless he hired one from Mexico. He went on to mention that job paid in excess of $100,000 a year.

I find that hard to believe. I know a lot of good cooks, Hispanics with deep Hispanic roots who would run that kitchen for $100,000 a year...and they're legal Americans.

Back to Europe, if you look at the demographic numbers, I must admit you will actually find "pockets" where the birth rates are far higher. Guess who lives there? Muslims.

Don't even start.

I'm not condemning Muslims or the Islamic faith, but Europe and its entitlement mentality needs young workers to support it, so they allow virtually unfettered immigration. Yet, those folks are not like the Irish who became Irish-Americans, or the Germans who became German-Americans. These are people who share not a country of origin, but a religion. Some, maybe only a fraction, do not adapt to the European way of life, instead they isolate themselves, and if you don't think they already wield power consider the riots in France some months ago...led by Muslim "youth."

They virtually shut down that country without having an election. Who's in control?

I believe Americans and especially American Christians are blind or too politically correct to see the largest threat to their existence.

Have a baby...have two or three.

America is the only "Western" nation with a birth rate that still, barely, exceeds one that will lead to extinction.

Make that four.

What was the most popular boy's name born in 2005 in Norway, or France, or England?

I believe we should be setting our radar in an entirely different direction...and I say it here, because I still can.

I'm done talking about politics now...anyone for a game of Risk?