Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My 500 Things

Now the update you've all been waiting for (all three of you - I thought there was just two, but I discovered another reader).

My goal was to own fewer than 500 things. It has been a continual process of organizing what I own, examining the purpose of ownership with a critical eye (mind) in light of my goal, and either keeping the object or eliminating it.

I've given away a lot of stuff.

As of my latest count, I own 470 things. WOOOOHOOOO!!!!

For a while, I thought 500 was not possible. I could never get down to that few.
Now that I'm there, or below it, it doesn't seem that difficult. I haven't experienced any difficulties. I haven't felt deprived of anything. I've said it before - the more I release, the more free I feel.

I am unencumbered by material possessions. Things don't have as much meaning. Of course there are things I've kept that have only sentimental value. But with my rules, meaning is meaning, purpose is purpose.

I'm trying to live for today. I don't keep things that I might use someday. Someday never seems to get here.

More later.

Leisure Update 2008

I worked at Canyon Springs Golf Course this summer. I even played a few rounds of golf.

I also played a round in Tucson, when I was there for the ASCA LDI. I shot 89, but I was 11 over on the last 4 holes. It was 105 degrees, and I hadn't played much golf. By the time we got to 14, I was out of gas. Considering I was playing with rental clubs on a course I'd never seen before, it was a good round of golf.

I'm still a member of the USGA Mid-Amateur Championship Committee.

I love photography. At the elementary school last year, I put together the yearbook.
The kids actually titled it, although they didn't know that's what they were doing. During recess, whenver they would see me with my camera, someone would run up and say, "Take me a picture." It had about 750 pictures of kids, not your typical yearbook.

I did some senior portraits, and a family portrait session. Both taught me something new:
  • I love taking photos
  • I love helping friends
  • I hate charging money for doing it
I'm not about to turn my hobby into a job. I did that with golf and ended up hating it.
Photography is my creative outlet, the artistic side of me finding expression. Charging for doing what I love will just corrupt the process.

I had to give up racquetball. I haven't been to the gym in who-knows-how-long. I know I should go; I just don't have the energy or motivation. Maybe this year.

Spirituality Update 2008

The journey has been long, and difficult at times. That's not exactly true. It's been difficult more often than not. In fact, I can't think of a single time in the last 2 years when my spiritual walk has been easy. Of course some would say it's not supposed to be easy.

After Thanksgiving, I went through the lowest low of my life. I've never experience true depression, but that was close. Some mornings I was almost frozen with indecision. It was not permanent though. Much of that condition was related to my physical difficulties.

I've been meeting with my pastor, which is helping, a lot.

I've also read two books recently that have made me think, deeply, and consider the nature of my spirituality. The Shack is an amazing book. It has created some strong reactions within the church, especially from fundamentalists, who seem to believe it's heresy. If you read it as non-fiction, or theological discourse, or biblical commentary, prepare to be disappointed.

I read it as a fictional story (which the author makes very clear with the word "FICTION" on the cover). It is a great story of one man's encounter with God and his struggle with life and religion.

On their website another book is recommended: So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore. This book made me think even more than The Shack. It's a story about a present day man who meets John, which just might be the original apostle. It addresses our relationship with Jesus, the nature of that interaction, and how God wants us to approach him.

I have not lost my faith, although it certainly has been damaged. The pastor I'm seeing said at one point he lost all faith and had to start over, rediscovering Christ. I think that would be an interesting and worthwhile journey for me.

I'll let you know what happens.

Work Update 2008

I still love my job. I think I have the best school counseling job in the whole state.

There have been some difficulties this year. At the first staff meeting of the year, in each of my schools (elementary and middle), I outlined what I do as a professional school counselor.

Despite this time spent in educating the staff, there are still people who think I don't do anything. One person thinks all I do is hug kids - that's it - and it's only a matter of time before I get in trouble for hugging kids. I don't put too much stock in their opinion. I have no respect for what this person does. I realize their job is necessary, I just don't think they do it well.

I have tried to take the criticisms I've received and use them to help me become a better counselor. Luke Kelsey, the middle school principal, sat me down one day to relay some staff concerns that had been brought to his attention. He is a good principal, who is obviously concerned for all the people in his building. When he offers criticism, I don't get defensive at all. Part of that is my personal growth, part of that is the spirit in which he offers it. I know that if push comes to shove, Luke will support me.

I was surprised that the concerns weren't brought to me by the people who are concerned. Do they not have the guts to confront me? Are they so insecure that they can't offer constructive criticism? Or is it that they just like to complain. At the beginning of the year, they didn't listen to me so they have no idea what I do.

Nothing I can do about inconsiderate people.

The problem is really one of perceptions and I wrote a "Counselor Improvement Plan" to address those perceptions. I have definitely changed my routines, and I don't like all the changes. But the behavior changes have addressed the mis-perceptions about my responsibilities and how I spend my time.

I am currently the President-Elect of the Idaho School Counselor Association (ISCA). When I agreed to run for the office (unopposed, I was so surprised when I won!), I didn't think I was qualified, or capable. That personal perception has changed, due to several factors:
  • Anne Jensen, she is the ISCA President this year. She is an amazing person to work with. So efficient, so capable, so compassionate, and highly respected within the counseling community. Being around her is not only making me more confident, it's making me more capable. She and I are moving ISCA in a positive direction, and the ISCA Board is supportive of the changes we have initiated.
  • I attended the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) national conference and Leadership Development Institute (LDI) this last summer. Both were amazing experiences. Those experiences showed me that I can run a state association, and that I don't have to do it alone. We have so many incredible counselors in Idaho. As next year's ISCA president, my job will be to tap that talent.
  • I have presented my name to current ASCA board members, letting them know that I would like to be involved on the national level. At the conference I set a personal goal of being ASCA President in 10 years. Check back in 2018 and I'll let you know what happened.
When I was in graduate school, we were required to track our hours for practicum and internship. I did mine in a spread sheet because I hate doing things by hand that can be automated.

That spreadsheet has continued to evolve. This year at the ISCA Fall Conference, a copy of the spreadsheet was given to every ISCA member. I copyrighted the format even. Where will it go? I don't know. I do know that it seems to be practical, useful and user friendly. At least one school district is now requiring it's counselors to use my program for reporting.

The question is: What will 2009 bring?

I don't know, but won't it be exciting to find out?

Financial Update 2008

Although it's been a long time (it's getting close to 10 years now), at one point in my adult life I was in financial trouble. More specifically, credit card trouble. I wanted to be the one to pay for dinner, to buy my family and friends nice gifts. I did not want to admit or recognize that I'm not a millionaire. Everything went on credit cards and soon the debt was more than I could handle. How did it get so out of control?

I made a decision to take control of the situation, and my finances. I cleared it up.

When I moved to Twin Falls, I used my house to pay off the last of the debt. Now, four and half years later, I still have no credit card debt. Yes, I use it, but I pay it off. I recently received the last bill for 2008. I owed $19.20, which I paid in full (rather than paying the $10 minimum payment). My only debts are my mortgage and my student loans. I do owe my parents, in my mind at least. They've been kind enough to write-off what I owe. But I've kept track and I hope to pay them back one day.

If I could pay off my student loans ($40,000 worth), I'd be so happy. It should only take me about 107 years to pay it off.

I have a goal this year for saving more money. I've set a goal, I have a plan, and I hope to have that much in savings by this time 2009. It does help that I don't buy as much as I used to. Gas and food are still expensive, and I spend way too much on medical, but I have enough for today.

I recently finished a great book, So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore. I'll write more about that in the Spirituality Update section, but one character in the book says that God does not promise to get me through the year, or the month, or the week. He doesn't promise to make the money last through the end of the month. He does promise to get me through today. There will be enough for today: enough money, enough energy, enough family, enough friends, enough time. I guess I can't really ask for more.

Why Write?

Junot Díaz said about writers: "What we do might be done in solitude and with great desperation, but it tends to produce exactly the opposite. It tends to produce community and in many people hope and joy."

taken from The Writer's Almanac for December 31, 2008.

Health Update 2008

My rheumatoid arthritis seems to be stable. Although it hasn't gotten worse, it also hasn't gotten any better. I never thought I would be one of those people who require a pillbox to remember what pills I'm supposed to take on what days. I can't believe how many meds I'm on.

Because RA is an auto-immune disease, and the medication to combat it lowers my immunity, I seem to be susceptible to everything. If there's a germ, virus, bacteria in Idaho, I'll catch it. I've had so many sinus infections (or maybe it's been just one infection that I've had for 3 years now) I can't remember what it's like to breathe normally. I use a neti pot twice a day, sometimes 3, which certainly helps, but it doesn't solve the problem.

About 2 months ago my lower right leg was swollen. I dismissed it for a while as a symptom of the arthritis. It had started with a swollen ankle, so I didn't think much of it. At school one day, I showed it to our resident EMT, Sue Sawers, just to get her opinion. (We actually have two paramedics in the middle school, which is very comforting).
"Sue, what do you think this is?"
"Chris, I think you should call your doctor."
"Okay, I'll see if I can call him this week."
"No, I think you should call today."

So I called the doctor.
"My leg is swollen below the knee, and an EMT in the building said I should call for an appointment."
"Chris, I think we'll get you in as soon as possible. Can you be here at 12:30?"

The doctor sent me right over to the ultrasound, where they found a blood clot.
My doctor told me, "Not very long ago I would have put you in the hospital for 4 or 5 days."
Fortunately, they now have outpatient therapy. I was able to take home the necessary blood-thinning injections until the coumadin took affect. The downside? I had to stay at home for a week with my leg up. Do you know how hard it was to keep my leg up all day? I hated it. After a week at home, I needed to get out of the house, so I went back to work, for a full day. I know, it wasn't very smart.

I ended up taking the rest of that week off because that one day took so much out of me.

At one point I was fighting the blood clot, arthritis, sinus infection, ear infection, and cough all at the same time. I'm not ashamed to admit, I wasn't winning any of those battles, let alone the war.

I had to get some support socks to keep my leg from exploding. Who knew a doctor could give a prescription for those things? I didn't.

The ear infection reached its worse during Thanksgiving. I spent the weekend at my parents' house trying not to die. At least that's what it felt like. It was a horrible weekend, but I'm glad I was around family.

I don't think my sinuses will ever clear up, but it's bearable.
I think ear infections are probably the new norm for me. I'm going to talk with my ENT (not EMT) about tubes in my ears.
I only have a month left on blood thinners, then we'll see if the blood clot is still there.
The RA hasn't taken away every activity, but it has taken some of the most fun. If my health stays the way it is now, I'll survive, not thrive, but survive.

2008 Year-End Summary/Update

For everyone who reads this blog, I promised an update, and since this is the last day of the year, I probably should get to it. But, I don't want to put both of you through the task of reading a huge amount of text all at once, so I'm not going to put it all in one update. I'm going to spread it throughout the day, focusing on different areas of my life.

There have been so many things happen this year, so many chances for blog postings. The problem was, much of what I went through, and my personal reactions to them, were not public fodder. My thoughts and emotions this year - in relation to so many situations - were not something I want to share with the whole world, I mean with both people who read this blog. In fact, some of it I didn't want to share even with those closest to me. Some things are better kept private.

Here are the areas I think I'll be posting on today:
and of course, the whole reason for this blog in the first place: my 500 things. I'll save this one for last because ... just because.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Family Christmas

Last night, Christmas Eve 2008, we had our Family Christmas.

We do things specially in my family. We exchange names for Christmas, so each person gets one gift. And there is a $5 limit. There aren't very many things you can buy for $5 that are meaningful, so often people make something for each other. I already know that when I get back to school, people (kids and adults alike) will ask the inevitable question, "So what did you get for Christmas?" And I will respond with, "A calendar."
"Is that all you got? A calendar?"
"In the words of Esther Aimesworth, 'It's much more than that.'"
Let me explain.

Last night began with Steve, my brother-in-law. He had drawn Susan, my sister and his wife. When she opened her present it was a box of Fruit Loops. Now a box of cereal might not seem like much of a gift, but you have to know our family, which Steve obviously does (mostly because he's a great husband, father, son-in-law, brother-in-law and all-around great person). When Susan opened the gift, she got to tell the story of why cereal has meaning.

When Susan and I were young, we weren't allowed to have sugared cereal. Except on Christmas, when Santa would bring us one box each. Susan always got Fruit Loops. I usually got Apple Jacks, but sometimes something else. Cereal never tasted as sweet as it did on Christmas, and not because it was 90% sugar.

Then it was Susan's turn. She had drawn Debora, one of my Brazilian nieces who is living with Susan and her family while attending Northwest Nazarene University (NNU). Earlier in the day I had heard what Susan was giving Debora, which turns out to be part of the gift. Susan had told the story about waiting to get Debora's gift because, "it's a simple household item I can pick up at the thrift store anytime." Of course when she went to the thrift store, there weren't any left. So she went to another thrift store, and found one. It was broken, and Steve wasn't sure he could fix the handle, so they decided to try another store. A third store was found, with ever increasing frustration in my sister, only to be denied once again.

Steve, who was Susan's chauffeur for the day, was ever the calming personality. Throughout the ordeal, he just enjoyed being with his wife, despite the miles, and traffic, and empty stores. When the the third thrift store was a bust, they went back to get the broken one at the previous store. You already know what happened next ... it was gone. Sometime in the previous 30 minutes, someone else had decided it was too valuable to pass up, broken handle and all.

After the second thrift store (the second time), they decided to try Fred Meyer. Surely they would have one. Nope.

Last chance: Walmart. With prayer on her voice, "Please let there be one here. Please let there be one her," Susan walked down the aisle. There it was, the last one, hanging on the rack, and under the $5 limit.

Back to Debora: when she opened the gift laughter was her first expression. Susan had found the perfect gift, a wooden rolling pin. Of course you're thinking, "A rolling pin? What kind of gift is that? Is she a baker?" No, she's not a baker.

We then got to hear the story of why a wooden rolling pin had meaning. Several weeks before, Debora had been sitting on the stairs near the kitchen, when she heard a rapping, a gentle tapping at the kitchen window: three knocks. From the stairs, the picture window in the kitchen isn't visible. And anyone looking in from outside, through the window, would not be able to see the stairs. Since it was late, and because of another situation involving her sister Haline (which you'll get to read later), Debora was scared. Did she imagine it? Who was at the window this late and why were they knocking?

Then it came again, three small knocks on the window. Debora bolted downstairs to the bedroom, where Haline was there to comfort and reassure her.

The next morning, Debora and Haline were at the breakfast table, when Debora saw something move in Steve and Susan's dark room, which was thought to be empty. The motion came again. With all the bravery she could muster, Debora sprang to the kitchen, opened a drawer, and pulled out a wooden rolling pin and big knife. "I'm going to see who's up there." Slowly down the hallway, wielding the two weapons, Debora crept toward the dark, dangerous room. "Who's in there? I have a rolling pin and I'm not afraid to use it."

A nervous voice responded, "Debora? It's me, Steve."

We all had a great laugh.

So Debora was next and she had drawn Janae's name. Janae is my niece.

When Janae opened her gift, it was a purse, a handmade purse, just the right size. Janae said, "I remember seeing this fabric on your bed and asking you what it was?" She had been told, "It's for something." She had seen her gift in the process and didn't even realize it.

Janae was next, so she gave her gift to Steve, her step-dad.
He unwrapped the gift to find a second layer of wrapping paper.
He unwrapped the gift to find a third layer of wrapping paper.
The third layer (or fourth, or eighth; to be honest I lost count) was completely wrapped in clear tape, completely.
Steve said, "I gave you this tape!"
He told the story of how Janae had come to ask for tape and all he had was packing tape. I think she used it all.

He unwrapped the gift to find an apron. Janae had made an apron for Steve so that he could bake his wonderful pies, and barbecue for the family in the summer. It had a pocket on the front, and it included all Janae's effort, and love. She had to learn how to sew to make it.

Since Steve had already gone, that circle of gifts was complete, although the stories weren't. My mom, Gramma Jan, went next, giving her gift to Braeden, my nephew. It has become a Christmas tradition that Janae and Braeden receive new pillowcases every Christmas. Mom - Gramma Jan I mean - had made Braeden new pillow case, which I'm very jealous of. It's dark blue fabric with planets and stars all over it. He also received a softball sized rock. "Is this rainbow obsidian?" It is. I didn't even know my nephew was a rockhound.

Braeden was next, but he deferred until the end. We would all have to move to see his gift. So dad went next. He had drawn Haline's name. She opened her gift to find a handmade book. Rather than retell what she read aloud to us, I'll include it here. Dad - Grampa Ernie - had written stories about Haline and our family.

You're Family Now: The Adventures of a Girl from Brazil Now Living In Idaho (As told by Papa Ernie)

Welcome to Idaho

You were excited when Steve and Susan invited you to live with them. That they lived just a block and a half from Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) where you would soon be a freshman made it all the better. Then you met their son and daughter, Braeden and Janae, and felt even more at home.

You were a long way from your own family in Africa, where they were serving as missionaries, so you were eager to be part of your new Idaho family. Then you met Susan’s parents. That would be me and my wife Jan. “We’ll see you around,” we told you. “We live right next door.”

And so we came to dinner and sometimes walked to church together and watched you settle in. You didn’t miss much. You listened carefully before you spoke and quietly observed before you acted. You wanted to fit in to the American culture and get to know your new family before you began your studies at NNU. You couldn’t have known what strange things you would encounter until that night in September soon after you arrived.

It was late evening, already dark outside, when all the lights inside the house went out. At first you weren’t surprised. No country has a reliable source of electricity 24/7 does it? No big deal! You had lived with power outages on the mission field. “That must be what’s happening in my new home,” you thought.

Then you spotted movement just outside the window. Someone was walking around the yard, shining a light into the windows. One by one they looked in each window. Memories from the mission field raced through your mind. They’ve cut the lines to the house and are going to come in and kill us all! But why? This is a nice family. Why would anyone want to harm them? I am too young to die this way. Why did I come to NNU?

Shaking, you hit the floor to avoid being seen, crawled upstairs to the bedroom of Steve and Susan, and in a loud whisper called out: “Steve! Susan! Someone is outside trying to get in. And He’s going to kill us all.”

Steve opened the bedroom door and came out. Then somewhat to your surprise, he went outside to investigate. He found nothing out of the ordinary; saw no intruder shining lights into the windows. The electricity was off in the whole neighborhood, but that was all. Steve re-assured you the electricity would be restored shortly and everything would be okay. Then he went back to bed.

But you had had way too much excitement. You just knew you would lay awake the rest of the night listening for the intruder; you felt sure he was still out there. Your welcome to your new home-away-from-home was packed with too much adrenalin for sleep that night.


Welcome to Papa’s World

I was proud of my daughter and her family. They opened their home and hearts to you so you could attend NNU without worry about paying for room and board. It was a generous and compassionate thing to do; the sort of thing that makes a dad’s heart swell to realize his daughter is following the Christian principles on which she was raised. I knew your coming would be good for my daughter and her family.

I also wanted the experience to be wonderful for you, Haline. I was as excited about your being here as you were and ready to help in any way. You didn’t know yet that in my enthusiasm and spontaneous way, I sometimes jump in too quickly to help and make everything right for everyone. But you were soon to discover the truth about “Papa Ernie”. Your new Idaho Grampa. So I’ll include here “the rest of the story” about that eventful night the lights went out.

I was still up when our house lights flickered and went off. I went to the circuit box to reset the breaker but found no breakers tripped. Then I looked out the window. Our whole neighborhood was dark. Must be a major power outage, I concluded.

Then my “protector” instinct kicked in. “Our new ‘granddaughter’ will probably be scared,” I thought. “Susan and Steve probably don’t have candles. And Haline certainly wouldn’t know where they are anyway. I better get over there.” All the “probable’s” called Papa Ernie to the rescue!

Grabbing a flashlight, I raced next door. I wanted to be there for all those groping around in the dark wishing someone would come and help. I shined light in the front window, then headed toward the back yard, aiming the flashlight in every window as I went to make sure no one was stumbling around in the dark.

After searching in every window and seeing no activity inside, I concluded everyone was already in bed. So I made my way back home and back to bed. I was proud I had tried to be helpful. At least I knew my family, including you, Haline, were safe. I slept soundly with a sense of contentment, knowing I had done what I could and everyone was taken care of.

Some days later, when the family gathered for a Sunday dinner, you began to relate, with great animation, your frightening experience the night all the lights went off in the whole neighborhood. The night an intruder circled the house, ready to kill the whole family. In America even, you thought!

I had to confess. I had to tell you and the rest of the family that I was “the intruder”. I was the one who scared you to death. Somehow, my just wanting to be helpful that dark night did not resonate nearly as well with the family “being rescued” as much as it did with the one I guess the knight in shining armor sleeps better than the one thinking she’s about to be eaten by a dragon.

Fortunately, as time has passed, that night has become a story you enjoy telling and we love hearing. At least I hope that’s true.

Scooters and Keys and Wires … O My!

“So you’ve misplaced your keys; no big deal. I’ve hot wired a few cars in my day. I can get this scooter running in no time. Then when you find your keys, I’ll put the wiring back just like new. Before I start though, let’s make sure you didn’t leave the keys in the luggage compartment. That would be easy to solve too. I picked a few locks when I was a youth minster … just when necessary, you understand.”

So I got some tools and I told you I’d have the scooter ready to go by the time you returned from class. I planned to remove the switch, take it to a lock smith and have a new key made. Your scooter would be as good as new.

I took off one shield, then another, then another, trying to get to where the switch should have been. I finally located the switch but it did not come out like I thought it would. I was a little nervous about the broken plastic pieces lying around (just small ones). I hadn’t thought I was prying hard enough to break anything.

Though my back was hurting from bending over longer than I was used to, I began to put back the shields and was able to camouflage the small broken pieces. However, my ego was bruised. When you arrived back at the house, the scooter was no closer to being fixed than when you left for class. And I had promised. What could we do?

I didn’t want to give up and I did not want to wait for real help. So in spite of your nervousness and uncertainty, you and I and Braeden loaded the scooter into Steve’s pickup and headed to the locksmith shop. I’m sure you wondered as you had many times before: What have I gotten myself into and who is this neighbor who keeps “helping” me all the time?

Well, the locksmith did his thing (without ever having to remove the scooter from the back of the truck) and you headed back home. Then, because I forgot to secure the scooter when it was loaded, the scooter fell over when you turned a corner. Now it not only had some broken pieces, camouflaged as they were, but some fairly visible scratches. What was your new friend going to think? The one who gave you the scooter? You’d already lost the keys and now it was all scratched up.

At that point in time, I’m sure you had more questions than answers: What happened to the keys to your scooter? Will they ever be found? Should I learn how to hotwire a scooter? Or how to pick a lock? You thought you were coming to Idaho to gain all knowledge from NNU. Silly girl. There is so much to learn and Papa Ernie is just the one to help. All you have to do is ask him.

I won't include the "Personal Note." That's for family.

Haline went next. She had drawn my name. As she brought the wrapped present, she said, "It's not quite done yet, but it will be soon." Earlier in the evening Haline had asked for a picture of me with Janae and Braeden. I didn't put too much meaning to the request at the time.

Haline had made a 2009 calendar for me, with pictures of my family at the top of every month. This is not the kind of calender you can get in the store, or the kind of calendar you can make it an office store. You know the kind - upload some photos, print out the whole thing, bound at the top with that plastic spiral binding. No, this is homemade. This was effort and love and time bound with bright green ribbon. However, two months were missing photos! Ahhhh, that's why she needs a picture of me with Janae and Braeden. December with have a picture of the whole family, all 9 of us.

Next, obviously, was me. I had drawn my dad's name, and had written something for him. Here's what I wrote.

From the Government office for the development of

Magnificent Centers for Noise And Ubiquitous Gongs of Habitual Truth

RE: Genetic Update on Familial Unit McN03

As you know, Familial Unit McN03 – Code Name: Christopher – has experienced certain difficulties, which have necessitated a file review. This is a summary of that review.

Recent circumstances necessitated the replacement and repair of various physical components. In our treatment of McN03 we intermixed genetic components of McN01 – Code Name: Ernest. The material used was being stored in a box labeled “RA.” According to our records, RA is the company acronym for “Recently Acquired” leading us to believe that the included material was safe. We have since discovered that the RA on this box actually stood for “Really Awful,” “Reported Anguish,” or “Rheumatoid Arthritis.”
We are investigating how this box was mislabeled, and the true meaning of RA on this package. No matter the true meaning of the label, the genetic components have afflicted McN03 with various ailments:
• physical pain,
• joint stiffness, and an
• inadequate immune system.
Chemical treatment is keeping the conditions under control, but no improvement has been documented. We do not expect the subject’s condition to reverse or improve.

Various other side effects have been noted:
• McN03’s Healthy Ubiquitous Grip System (HUGS) has become overactive. McN03’s HUGS occur as many as 100 times per day, sometimes more. It seems, however, that this overactive system has not been a detriment, but rather may be therapeutic in nature, alleviating some of the ailments of RA described above. We expect McN03’s use of HUGS to either increase or at lease remain constant, allowing for continuing therapeutic benefit.
• McN03’s Nocturnal Activity Protocol System (NAPS) was in excellent condition before the most recent upgrades, but genetic components of McN01’s NAP system has added increased functionality and efficiency. McN03 is able to utilize the NAPS at any time, and seemingly for any length of time. This increased ability for restoration has become a necessary asset in light of the RA described above. We anticipate increased usage of this system, in combination with the regularly scheduled nocturnal rest periods.
• McN03’s Emotional Management, PAin THreshold and Youth (EMPATHY) system has become more sensitive. McN03 has an increased appreciation and awareness of McN01’s physical condition, including pain levels, fatigue, and NAPS requirements. McN03 also has experienced the accompanying mental fatigue and resulting lowered emotional well-being. The EMPATHY system sensitivity has extended to include McN02.
• McN03’s Future And Immediate Theological Health (FAITH) has been adversely affected by the RA and other complications. However, the system is stable; we do not anticipate system failure. McN03’s FAITH seems to be a direct result of McN01’s FAITH. The strength of the FAITH system can only be attributed to the strength of the bond between McN01 and McN03. Further study on McN03’s system is indicated and treatment has begun to repair the current damage.

Evidence of the use of McN02’s – Code Name: Janice – genetic material has also surfaced. However, we will reserve that evidence for another report.

Although it should be impossible for genetic material from McN04/BUT02 – Code Name: Susan – to infiltrate the body structure of McN03, we are documenting significant similarities between the two units. This too will be addressed in another report.

Conclusion: McN03 is progressing normally through a difficult transition. It is apparent to the file review committee that other familial units in the McN design type have had a significant affect on McN03. We expect this positive influence to continue.

I know it was a good gift because Dad cried when he read it.

So now we were back to Braeden. We all adjourned to the TV-Family room, downstairs.

Braeden had received a musical instrument from Gramma Jan several years ago, with the accompanying encouragment, "I'm expecting big things."

Braeden had taken that advice to heart and made a DVD of himself playing four songs. The title of the DVD: Great Things. It even included a blooper song. Although he explained before that song, we still had to ask, "What were you trying to play there?" At the end of the blooper song we heard Braeden realize how badly it had gone, "Oh crud."

I am part of an amazing family.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Still Alive

Yes, I'm still alive.
Yes, I know I haven't posted anything in forever.
No, I haven't changed my mind about owning fewer than 500 things.

An update is coming soon.

For now, check out these links.
I have a photo in Wikipedia.
The same photo is in two articles; an article about BASE Jumping, and an article about the Perrine Bridge.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Pretty much says it all.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Idaho Youth Summit 2008

The Idaho Youth Summit in Driggs, Idaho (at the Grand Targhee Resort, which a great venue with wonderful facilities and staff), was an unforgettable week.

Let me tell you about the people who made it unforgettable for me: my family group. At the beginning of the week, all the campers, staff and chaperons (I was there as a chaperon) were divided into groups of about 12 people, including one adult leader and one youth leader.

Steven was my group's youth leader. He looked younger than his age and acted older than his age. He is wise and mature beyond his years. It was a pleasure to watch his leadership style develop throughout the week. He was open to criticism and suggestion, firm when necessary. He is going to accomplish some great things in his life.

Breanna, what a wonderful person she is. My first impression of her (recorded during a group activity) was "creative." During one of her self-descriptions she mentioned her creativity. Although she was often quiet, she was never uninvolved. On the contrary, I think she observed everything. Whatever was said, she heard; the body language, she noticed; the mood of the group and individuals, she was aware and sensitive. During our last group activity she gave me one of the best compliments of my entire life. But, what's said in group stays in group, so you'll just have to wonder what it was. She knows.

Ashlynn is a walking smile. Her personality and demeanor are so sweet and cute and kind, without being sugary. Just being around her brightened my spirit every day. Add to that her intellect and she has incredible potential. I don't think she realizes how smart she is. Once in a while she would say something that was so insightful, or notice something that others had missed. I believe that Ashlynn is a born leader waiting for a group to call her to a leadership position.

Austin is a self-admitted big-goof. One of our group activities involved learning a dance. Austin is not a very good dancer. I can say that because I'm a worse dancer than he is. Even so, he committed himself to the process 100%. Austin does not care what others think about his "foolishness" but realizes that his willingness to participate - freely participate - inspires others to do the same. During the dance, there was one head, taller than all the rest, right in the middle of the dance floor, being the perfect "Austin." He inspired me to participate, which is no easy feat.

Nicole. She is unlike any 15 year old girl I've ever met. Confident without being cocky, plain without being invisible, opinionated without being judgmental. She is such a strong person partly because of the things she has been through. She doesn't use her difficulties as excuses, but rather takes pride in the success she has experienced because of them.

Diana (pronounced dee-anna) was completely closed off at the beginning of the week. Her attitude, body language and words all said, "You can't get close to me so don't even try." However, it was a thin shell. Every single day, sometimes hour by hour, she opened up. Her face became warmer and happier. One of our group activities was the trust fall. One person stands on a barrel, like a 55 gallon drum. They fall backward as the rest of the group catches them. Diana wasn't sure she wanted any part of that, not believing we could catch her. I will never forget the look on her face after she trusted us. I almost cried right there, but her joy and excitement overtook the moment.

Levi was the most quiet of the group - at the beginning. Just like most other group members, suspected that he would not participate during the week. His voice was almost too quiet to hear, and even if I could hear him, his answers were typical adolescent answers, "I don't know." He made more progress during the camp than anyone else. He found his self-confidence somewhere. It was hidden, but no so deep that he was unable to bring it to the surface. I like to think that we - as a group - played a part in that search and discovery. He has a great sense of humor and adventure, a truly fun person to be around.

Cade is one of the strongest people I have ever known. Not just physically, although he definitely has physical strength. During our low ropes course, one of the activities involved passing all the members of the group through a web, each one through a different hole. I went through before Cade, and part of my task was to hold his upper body while the family members on the other side held his lower body; the body cannot touch the webbing. As I grabbed him around the chest I could tell that he is 100% muscle. His more impressive strength is found in his character. His natural leadership ability and willingness to lead is so evident. He was always ready to step in and take control. However, he was equally willing to assume the role of follower, allowing the leadership of other family members to be exercised. I have no doubt that Cade is capable of someday leading a city, a state, or the country.

Sarah, what a bundle of energy she is - non-stop energy. Sometimes her energy wore me out. I remember wondering if she ever slows down, and deciding that she probably doesn't. What makes her energy so amazing is the perpetually positive nature of it. Despite all the things she's been through, more than any person deserves in a lifetime, she is a genuinely positive person. I admire her indomitable spirit. I don't think there is any force in this world that will ever convince her she is unable or incapable. When she decides to do something, guarantee it will get done.

Halie is one of the most competitive people you may ever meet. She is one of those "win at any cost" type of people. Except, I know for sure that she would never hurt another person in order to win. As much as she wants to win, and enjoys winning, the kindness in her whole being is the umbrella under which the competition must operate. If she had to chose: win and hurt someone or lose and help someone, she would choose to lose every time, and take pride in her decision. There are some people who smile and make other people smile. Halie is like that. Seeing her smile, even thinking about her smile now, makes me smile.

Last, and certainly not least, Kas (short for Kasidy and don't call her Kassie). She was the adult group leader, and I use that adult term loosely. She is all of 20 years old, still a kid to an old guy like me. Even so, she could not have been a better leader. She lead by her words, by her example, by her emotion. Kas was the first to cry, which to me showed how truly strong she is. Her willingness to share her inner self, to open herself up and model what it means to be vulnerable to your family group - that is true courage and strength. Every time she cried, I cried with her. I'm just emotional that way. Her genuineness and honesty are so needed in this world, especially by adults toward adolescents. She is going to touch so many lives. I know because she has already touched mine.

Overall, I could not have asked for a better group. At the beginning of the week I told them I have rheumatoid arthritis. Because of the RA, I find it very difficult to sit on the floor, where most of our family groups were held. They accommodated me, allowing me to sit on a chair with the circle of them around me. Occasionally things around us would get too loud, and our group circle was too big to hear. Steven would say, "Circle up." Inevitably someone would say, "Around Chris." It was so touching. They included and accommodated me without making me feel like an imposition.

There are things I wanted to say to my group, but couldn't. Because I was tired and sick, my emotional regulator was basically out of order. I knew that if I had tried to say it, I would never make it through. So, I'll say it here and hope that some of them read this.

You eleven kids, and you are all kids to me, inspire me more than you know. In my job as a school counselor, I sometimes tell kids, "You know I care about you, right?" I usually get a look like, "You're just saying that because you're the counselor. You get paid to care about me." Or something more like, "Whatever. You don't even know me. You can't really care about me."

I suspect that kids react this way because they don't have any adults in their life who really care about them. Sure, they have one or more parents, who may or may not say, "I love you." But, it's possible to say that without meaning it. They also react this way because they can't believe that genuinely care.

God has given me a heart for kids, a passion for the well-being of children and adolescents. When I say, "I care about you," I mean it. I never ever say that just to hear the words come out of my mouth.

You kids, in the family group, you have no idea how much I care about you. It's true that I don't really know any of you. We've shared some deeply personal things here. But whatever those are, they only scratch the surface of who you are, who each of you are as a person. Even so, I care about you as if you were my own kid. I would be a lucky father indeed to be able to call any of you my son or daughter. If I could call all of you my sons and daughters, I would be the luckiest father, man, person on the face of this earth - past, present or future.

You inspire me to be a better person. I am now a better person than I was a week ago, simply because of you.

Friday, June 6, 2008

My Good Friends, the Nebekers

Often I've wondered, "Why would God give me arthritis. Why would you do that God?"

Today, as I'm writing, Brad and Jennifer are pulling weeds in my yard. Schuyler, their son, is mowing my lawn. Isaac, another son, is walking my dogs.

Why are they doing this for me?
Two reasons:
1. They are incredibly nice people, who are always willing to help.
2. I need the help.

I just got back from the Idaho Youth Summit at the Grand Targhee Resort. It was an amazing week. I'll tell you more about it another time.

During the week, I tried to keep up with my family group, a group of teenagers. The oldest one is 20. I overdid it and came home so sick. All my joints are stiff and sore.

Jennifer wouldn't even let me drive home from Wendell by myself. I told her I could, but she said no.

It is so hard for me to receive help, and harder still to ask for it.

I wonder now if this a lesson I'm supposed to learn through arthritis.

Thank you Nebekers.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Other Blogs

I'm always surprised when people - other than my mom and dad - read my blog. Imagine my surprise when someone comments - other than my mom and dad.

So, I commented back.

Baby Boomer

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Psalm of Coercion

I've talked before about the radio station I listen to, and it seems that every time of their pastors or evangelists comes on recently, their message is so pertinent to my situation right now.

Yesterday, in one of those 2 minute snippet sermons, the guy was talking about Psalm 23.

"He makes me to lie down in green pastures."

Here's how I interpret this (with a little help from the guy on the radio).

When stress gets too much, when my situation becomes overwhelming, God asks me, oh so nicely, to lie down in green pastures. To relax for a little.

If I don't listen, and just keep on piling the stuff into my life - despite my efforts to eliminate excess - he forces me to lie down.

"Chris, I asked you nicely to lie down. You didn't listen so I'm going to make you lie down."

Is that what this arthritis is about? Is this God's way of making me slow down?

I feel like I have a pretty stress-free life, but maybe my perception's off.

It's an interesting thought though.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Closer to 500

I realize that some of these entries aren't directly related to stuff-elimination. but I figure that every time I write something down, I'm eliminating the need to remember it. When I write it, it's there - on the Internet - forever.

Whether or not that's a good thing ...

This morning I was putting away the dishes I had washed last night. I lost another fork. Really? How is that possible? I think that maybe my dogs are hiding them.

Chessa: Hey Chloe, grab that fork on the counter.
Chloe: Why?
Chessa: Chris will think he's lost another one.
Chloe: Okay

I don't have proof, and I don't know where they're putting them, but I'm convinced it's them. What else could it possibly be? It helps me reduce my number of things, but this is not the method of reduction I had in mind. Missing one fork was fine, but with two gone, and only 2 left, I 'm going to have to replace them. My parents might come down for spring break. I should have at least one fork for each person.

Conference Hogs

Yesterday and today I attended a conference on children's mental health. It never fails - every conference/workshop/presentation has them: people who think their opinion is more important than everyone else's. They comment on every topic, respond to every question, monopolize the time. They are conference hogs.

There were two of them in this conference and I was lucky enough to sit within 10 feet of both. I call them "green" and "red." They sat at the very front, close to the speaker, which makes perfect sense. Had they sat in the back, they couldn't comment on everything - the speaker wouldn't hear them. They needed to be in a place where they could be noticed by not just the speaker, but also everyone else in the room.

After lunch yesterday I started keeping score. Every time one of them would comment, I kept track. In three hours, green won by a large margin. Keep in mind, this is in a room with about 75 people, all of whom are highly qualified in their field.

Green: 72 comments
Red: 33 comments

Had I kept score in the morning, I'm sure that green would have been over 200, and red would have been closer. I think red got tired in the afternoon.

The second day (today) was only a half day, but I kept score anyway.

Green: 43
Red: 12

Green would have had way more, but she got cut off by the speaker. It was hilarious, at least to me. At one point green tried to comment on something. I could see the irritation in the speaker's face. "We're running short on time so I'm going to have to move on." Green was crestfallen. She had been rebuked by the person whose approval she most craved. I'm not sure if green's going to be okay.

Tribulation and Joy

So I was listening to The Effect the other day. It's alternative Christian rock, and although a 41 year old school counselor is probably not their target demographic, I really like the music.

At 8:00 they have a show by Pastor Britt Merrick. This particular night he was speaking on Romans 5:3-11

(NIV) We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

He referenced Job, who, when all things were taken away, worshiped God and praised. In the midst of his life falling apart, he worshiped. Are you kidding me? Brit said we should rejoice in our tribulations. Well, not exactly in the trial itself, but in the fact that God will see me through. In the midst of tribulation God is getting ready to do something to me, or through me, or around me.

Am I seriously supposed to rejoice in my arthritis? Surely whatever is going to happen - to me or through me or around me - could be done some other way.

I'm not saying I disagree with the sermon, or the scriptures. I'm just saying ... that is not an easy point of view to adopt.

I have to admit that knowing God is going to use this arthritis is an exciting prospect. But it doesn't seem exciting enough to create joy in me.

Where is the joy in pain?

Mom and dad gave me a book titled Pain, The Gift Nobody Wants.

I never it. I got rid of it along with hundreds of other books. Maybe it's time to find it again and give it a read.

Pain - a gift? How?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Catcthing Up 2

I get to remove an item from my list. I sold my 1989 Ford Ranger. It was bittersweet - but much more sweet than bitter. I've had that truck for 15 years, 204,000 miles. It was a good truck, but it was time to go.

My "new" 1995 Ford Ranger only has 95,000 miles. Heck, it's practically off the showroom floor compared to my last truck. It has 4WD, power steering (which is nice with arthritis), and most impressively - a tailgate that actually works. My last truck has an ... uncooperative tailgate. For about the last 7 or 8 years I've had to coerce it open with a strategically placed screwdriver, unwilling to get it fixed, or even to see how much it might cost to get it fixed. This new truck's tailgate works just like it's supposed to work.

The 4WD has been nice. Recently we've had a lot of snow in the Magic Valley. There have been a couple of days that I'm pretty sure my old truck would not have made it either to work or home again. I feed safer with 4WD. Although I still drive slower than a lot of people on the highway. I don't know yet what kind of mileage it's going to get. I've been hauling around 350 pounds of sand bags in the back. Hopefully I'll figure out the mileage on my next trip to Nampa.

Last week I was in Mrs. Brown's class. She read a book titled, "The Quiltmaker's Gift."

In the book, the king has a lot of things, but none of them make him happy. So, he gets rid of all his stuff. What a concept.

I need that book, but in order to get it, I'll have to find two things to eliminate from my list.

She, "Why two? You're only adding one."
Me, "If I want to get down to 500, I can't just trade one thing for another."

So, I'm currently looking for 2 things go so I can buy that book.

Any suggestions?

Catcthing Up 1

(These two posts are catch up posts. I actually wrote these several days ago - more than a week ago for this first one - and am just now getting them online. And when I say wrote, I mean actually wrote, with a pen, not typed.

I know!! Can you believe people still do that?)

At the elementary school the other day a friend said, "I think you have to count all your golf clubs as separate things. You can't count them as one thing."

I was surprised to say the least:
  • These are my rules; I get to count things however I want to count to count them. (This line should be read with the same tone as, "You're not my mom," or better yet, "You're not the boss of me.")
  • Someone - other than my family - actually reads my blog. (Turns out she doesn't. She just remembers me talking about how I was counting things. Bummer.)
  • This statement came completely out of the blue. We weren't discussing golf, or counting, or listing everything we own and trying to slowly whittle down the list. (As if there are other people who talk about those kinds of things.)
The conversation turned to fast food - I have no idea how it got there - and my 2008 Decision to not partake of fast food or pop for one year.
She, "No fast food?"
Me, "Yes, no fast food."
She, "You mean like none?"
Me, "I figure Subway® is okay. The veggie sandwich is a healthy meal." (I always use that little R in a circle whenever a speak about something that is registered. Although sometimes I get confused between ® and ™ because I'm not sure if Subway™ is a registered name or a registered trademark. Of course when I'm only thinking inside my head, I don't add those symbols. That would just be silly.)
She, "But ... it's fast food."
Me, "I write the rules. It's my decision how to apply those rules for the most benefit to my life." (At least that what I intended to say. I think it came sounding like a 7th grade girl, "WHATEVER!!! You're not the boss of me!" I'm ashamed that phrase has shown up twice in one blog entry.)

Although I haven't yet taken advantage of my exception, I do have one other fast-food-allowable option: Taco Bell
®. I think their crunchy taco, no cheese, is a healthy option.

On the fitness front - things haven't been going so well. I had started going to Spinning
® classes again, with the intent to attend several classes per week, but that's become less frequent.
Monday - I teach a parenting class: can't go Spinning
Tuesday - I'm supervising NNU Counseling Practicum students: can't go Spinning
Wednesday - Spinning
® (that symbol is getting a little annoying, don't you think?), but only when I feel good enough, which hasn't been often lately. And the last three weeks I've gotten home too late to make it to class.
Thursday - Spinning
® class
Saturday - The arthritis shot I take on Monday is wearing off by Saturday, so often I'm not able to get up early enough to spin (I don't know if that word used in this context should have a
® or not.)

I don't know if it's the weather or my that arthritis is getting worse, but I haven't felt strong or limber or energetic in a long time. I've noticed something interesting about my vocabulary usage. Sometimes I call it "my arthritis" and other times "the arthritis." Ownership of this disease apparently varies by my mood, like parents who's ownership claim is dependent upon their behavior.
"YOUR son broke the window today."
"How come he's mine son when he does something wrong?"

My arthritis is getting worse. Ownership implies control.
The arthritis is getting worse. I have no control, hence no ownership.

There's a different meaning altogether. I don't know which I use more often, or which I should use, or which is more accurate.

To be honest, I just don't know a lot of things.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Struggling with Disease

Saturday was a hard day. I still can't believe that racquetball may no longer be an option for physical activity. Will my wrists get better? Good enough to play again? I hate to hold on to all the equipment if I'll never be able to use it. Seeing it lay around unused is just depressing. On the other hand, what if my wrists and shoulders do improve?

On top of that, this weekend made me think ahead to summer. Am I still going to be able to play golf? I don't play much, but to be forced into no-play-at-all doesn't seem fair. I was once a good player and I still enjoy the game.

I think I'm willing to give up everything for Christ. (I realize this is a fast transition from sports to spirituality.) I'm willing to sacrifice in order to become the Christian man I'm supposed to be. Do I really have to give up everything? Or is the willingness sufficient? Psalms 103 says: He will satisfy my desires with good things so that my youth is renewed.

I want/desire to be physically fit. I want to play racquetball and golf and hike in the mountains and run and jump and play basketball. When will my youth be renewed? Only in Heaven?

While walking this morning (an activity I can still do and love to do with my dogs) I asked God to heal me. I haven't ever asked that before. I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe I'm afraid he won't answer. What will that mean? Psalm 103 again: He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. What if I claim that promise and he doesn't heal me? For a while I wondered if I deserved to be healed. I haven't exactly been a model Christian - come to think about it, I don't even know what that means. I guess I haven't been the Christian I want to be. That being true, how can I presume to ask for healing?

I know diseases aren't just physical. God is healing me of other diseases: pride, envy, discontent. But as Paul says in Philippians: I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty [of course I'm hoping that God will show me what it's like to have the plenty of millions of dollars]. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.

Do I have to be content with arthritis? Should I ask only once to be healed? Or am I supposed to ask every day for the rest of my life? If a Christ-like person can ask for healing, and have that prayer answered, surely my dad would have been healed decades ago. God didn't heal him, why would he answer me?

So maybe part of this process simplification, this elimination of excess is advance restitution. "See God? I got rid of all this stuff. Now you can give me better stuff."

What's the Latest Number?

I wish I could give you the exact number of items, but several things have changed since my last count, and I haven't taken the time to figure up the new total.
  • I lost a fork (What? How is that possible?)
  • I've moved my racquetball bag and stuff to the guest room, which I'm calling "Item Purgatory" - not quite gone, but not quite here.
  • Although my r-ball stuff went with the bag (gloves, balls, goggles), I took out the shoes. They're in really good condition since they've never been worn outside. I also took out the Sport TX (a physical therapy instrument) that Kenny gave me a long time ago, which I'll be returning to him soon.
  • I have a new truck, which came with another sandbag and some sort of tie-down strap.
  • Looking through my medicine cabinet I noticed some things I hadn't counted. I have a beard trimmer - which is on the list - in a stand - which is not on the list - which also includes a comb and a brush to clean the trimmer - both of which have never been used - and a tube of lubricating oil. (Is it proper to use that many hyphens in one sentence?)
  • Knowing that I'm going to sell my old truck, do I take it off the list now? or wait until I actually sell it? The ad goes in the paper tomorrow. I hope it sells by the weekend.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I'm starting to hate arthritis

I've never enjoyed arthritis, not in the 18 or so months since I was diagnosed. But now I really don't like this. Today I went to the gym to play racquetball - not so much play as just hit the ball around for a while. I couldn't do it. Even the weakest forehand shot made my wrist hurt. When I decided to simplify my life I thought I was only eliminating things and stuff. I guess that part of the simplification process is eliminating activities. I hate to do it, but I think I'm going to sell my racquetball stuff - racquets, balls, goggles, everything. I guess that'll make my list shorter.

I've also decided that I know for sure which item is going next: my scale.

I know I need to lose weight, and I'm working on that. I've used the scale to measure my progress, but I think maybe it's become a hindrance, or at least a distraction. I know what I need to do to lose weight: eat less, exercise more. I'm doing that. If I really want to weigh, I can do that at the gym

One other list issue: I have to add my new truck. So now I have two trucks instead of just one. However it's only temporary. I'm going to sell my 1989 Ford Ranger. If you know anyone who wants a good truck - that needs some TLC - get a hold of me. I'm selling it for $750 and the ad comes out Tuesday.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Three Weeks into 2008

I haven't updated in a while, and one of my non-resolution/goals was to write more often. There are some good things to report.

1. I haven't had any fast food or pop yet this year.
2. I have lost some weight, although not very much yet.
2a. I have clarified some of my physical limitations from the arthritis. I intended to walk every morning; I can't do that. Twice last week I was so tired that went to bed at 6:00pm, slept through the night. Fatigue just sets in sooner than it used to. I'm sure part of that is also age. So now I walk 3-4 days per week.
2b. I had intended to attend Spinning classes every night they are offered at Gold's Gym. Can't do that either. I attend 3-4 classes per week, which is already helping my cardio.

There are also some negative things happening. Maybe negative is too negative a word. They're definitely uncomfortable. Just this last week I had put $1000 into my 1989 Ford Ranger, which is not worth that much, but it's not like I can just quit driving. Long story short, I just bought a new(er) truck, a 1995 Ford Ranger. I don't have the money to afford a new(er) car. But I have to trust that God knows what's going on and will take care of this also.

I also came home one day to find water covering the floor of my garage. It was just a day or two after it had snowed a lot, and my first thought was that the water was from the snow that had melted off the truck. I realized it wasn't I stepped out the back door of the garage and saw a fountain flowing from the backflow prevention valve. Stupid, stupid, stupid. I never got around to having my sprinkler system blown out. The valve and frozen and exploded.

Actually, it was more an issue of pride than of forgetfulness. The local nursery who has taken care of my irrigation needs since I moved here charged me for something I didn't think they should have. I argued, they relented, I vowed not to use them anymore - to punish them. That kind of attitude, that revenge-plotting attitude, rarely works out. More often than not, it backfires, which it did in this case. Now instead of complaining about a $60 charge that I didn't want to pay, I'll be paying a several hundred dollar repair charge for something I only need because I'm stupid and proud.

As far as my list of things - I haven't gotten rid of anything else. I am continually looking for ways to simplify, and I've targeted a few items. Just don't tell those particular items they might be leaving; I don't want them to feel bad.

Friday, January 11, 2008

One Week Down, 51 To Go

I’m one week in to 2008 and already the list needs some adjustment. I had been looking through the first aid kit I keep in the bathroom, checking to see if anything needed refilled, and had left the kit on the bathroom counter. Later, while looking through my medicine cabinet I saw some tweezers and a small round mirror, both of which are on my list. I remembered that the tweezers came from the first aid kit. For the longest time I had been wondering what came out of that empty pocket … duh, the tweezers.

So now both the tweezers and the mirror are in the first aid kit and off the list.

Two down, fifty-two to go.

However, I also realized I need to add something. On my list is 6 Christmas cds (Harry Connick, Jr., two Amy Grant cds, Mariah Carey, Nat King Cole and a Celtic Christmas). As I was looking through the drawer, I remembered I had more cds that were not on the list. I had used some gift certificates to buy the latest from Mercy Me, and the latest from Switchfoot, Oh, Gravity. Plus, I have a Stellar Kart cd that I won from The Effect Radio.

Three up, fifty-five to go.

Lastly, I was doing dishes this weekend when I realized that somehow I’ve lost a fork I should have four. I only have three. How is it possible to lose a fork? I have no idea.

I can understand losing a sock, or a book – things that leave the house.

But a fork? I’m not in the habit of taking my forks for country drives, or skydiving.

So now the question is: Do I replace it? If Yes, where do I buy one fork? Maybe a thrift store.

One down, fifty-four to go, which is right where I started.

Oh well, win some add some, lose some subtract some.

And speaking of subtracting, I hope to be subtracting some weight in the next 12 weeks. Saturday, Gold’s Gym kicked off their “12 Week Challenge.” I registered, weighed-in, and let them take a photo of my fat self, with my shirt off no less. It’s the before picture. At the end of twelve weeks there will be an after picture, and hopefully the two pics will look really really different. The person determined to have made the biggest physical change (through a judging process) wins a trip for two to Hawaii. Which brings up another dilemma. When I win (which I will), who will I take? I’m not in a relationship, or dating. Heck, I don’t even flirt anymore. I’m sure that someone will be willing to spend 7 days and 6 nights in Hawaii with me. Of course it should go without saying, I won’t be bringing back any souvenirs.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

American Dream

There's a song by Switchfoot called "American Dream." It might be my new theme song.

When success is equated with excess
The ambition for excess wrecks us
As top of the mind becomes the bottom line
When success is equated with excess

If you're time ain't been nothing for money
I start to feel really bad for you, honey
Maybe honey, put your money where your mouth's been running
If you're time ain't been nothing for money

I want out of this machine
It doesn't feel like freedom
This ain't my American dream
I want to live and die for bigger things
I'm tired of fighting for just me
This ain't my American dream

When success is equated with excess
When we're fighting for the Beamer, the Lexus
As the heart and soul breath in the company goals
Where success is equated with excess

'Cause baby's always talking 'bout a ring
And talk has always been the cheapest thing
Is it true would you do what I want you to do
If I show up with the right amount of bling?

Like a puppet on a monetary string
Maybe we've been caught singing
Red, white, blue, and green
But that ain't my American dream
That ain't my American dream

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Some Goals - NOT Resolutions - For 2008

I've decided there are some things I want to do in 2008, but they are NOT resolutions. I would call them goals.

According to the dictionary, a resolution is: determining upon an action or course of action.

A goal is: the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.

Clearly there is a major difference between the two.*

So here are some of my goals for 2008.

1. I am going to study the book of Philippians for the entire year. I have always liked this book, mostly because it contains some of my favorite verses, also because it was Gramma McNaught's favorite book, and because I like the tone of it. I like the way Paul talks in it.
Here's my plan:
For the month of January, I'm going to read the whole book every day. It takes about 12 minutes to read it. I'm not going to look for anything in particular; I'm just going to read. Starting in February, I'm going to start memorizing the book.
During the rest of the year, I'll study it using different Bible studies.

2. I am going to walk 1000 miles during 2008. That sounds like a lot, but it's only 20 miles per week. On school days I can walk 3 miles before school. During the weekends, 6 miles per day. My dogs love going for walks in the morning. No matter the time, no matter the weather, they're ready.

3. Gold's Gym (I'm a member there) is having their annual 12 week challenge. Weigh-in is this Saturday. I'm going to register this year to see how much closer I can get to achieving a healthy weight during those 12 weeks. I'm not going to be one of those who works out 3 hours a day; I don't have the time or the energy. But I do have time, energy and commitment to work out 30 minutes per day.

4. I'm also going to start attending the Spinning classes again. I love that workout. Sixty minutes on a bike, listening to music, sweating. It's a great way to spend an hour.

5. I'm going to take more photographs this year. I took a lot in 2007, but lately I haven't felt very creative, so I haven't hardly picked up the camera. I'm going to change that.

6. Lastly, I'm going to write more. I've been writing on my flickr photo site, short stories to go with the photos. Some are directly related to the photo, some have nothing to do with the pic at all. I'll continue writing there. I'll write here on this blog (probably not everyday, but hopefully at least once a week). And I'll write stuff that no one will ever see except me.

*(If you can explain the difference, please do because I'm not really sure what it is.)