Sunday, September 16, 2007

Church Art

I’m a doodler. I do my best thinking, my best pondering and decision making when I’m doodling. Or rather, when I am thinking deeply and making big decisions, I doodle. I guess that would be more accurate.

One of the places I end up doodling the most is at church.

I am totally engaged in what my pastor is saying, and process it all better while drawing meaningless shapes on a piece of paper. Much more so then when I just watch him (or anyone speaking). Not sure why- it just works that way.

I thought I would share with you my doodling masterpiece that has been a work in progress for several months. I collect the sermon notes from each week, fold them, and put a rubber band around them. Earlier this year I doodled on a bulletin and liked the way it looked, and so folded it around the other sermon notes and it took on a life of it’s own as a book cover of sorts. Since then the doodling on that cover has expanded to occupy almost the entire surface on both sides, and it also bears witness to the different weeks at church when I had different pen ink colors.

Monday, September 10, 2007

650 Girls

Our girl A had a doctor’s appointment a few weeks ago. Several years ago, as in infant, she became very ill and had to have emergency surgery. Since then we have always kept an extra special eye on her health.

She has always been petite, and even early on she was projected to be a small girl, but we have been a bit concerned about her lack of weight gain lately. She’s a picky and light eater, and we have to encourage her constantly to finish her food. She seemed to have been making some progress, and this recent appointment was a check-up on her weight.

Meanwhile...our doctor’s office recently made a decision to pawn off the more routine work done by nurses to a less expensive group of workers they affectionately call the “650 girls.” These are young, inexperienced teenagers and temporary workers that get paid $6.50 an hour. One of these checked in A (used to be done by one of the nurses). The friendly 650 girl took A’s temperature, checked her blood pressure, weighed her in, recorded basic information, and led Michelle and A to a patient room to wait for the doctor. Michelle noticed that the girl seemed to be a bit unsure of what she was doing, and stumbled through the pre-appointment procedures.

The doctor came in and noted A’s wight loss over the last several months- about 5 pounds. She told Michelle she was concerned and ordered up some extensive blood work. About $700 worth of labs that should give us a more complete look at A’s health and identify any problems she might have.

The blood work came back, and the doctors office called. There is concern A might have something called Celiac disease. It’s a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate a protein called gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in products we use every day, such as stamp and envelope adhesive, medicines, and vitamins. If she has it, it will completely change her diet and lifestyle.

The interesting thing, the doctor said, is that A only has 2 of the 5 symptoms (weight loss, and she's shorter than average), and one of the key symptoms- anemia- is not present. A’s iron level is fine which seems to indicate she has no problem absorbing nutrients. The doctor ordered a visit to a specialist and a rather invasive and expensive procedure to “rule it out.”

We know A is thin, but it just does not make sense that she is several pounds lighter than her younger sister- she just doesn’t look it. So, on a hunch, Michelle bought a new scale from Target. With the digital scale purchased and unpacked, the weigh-in began. According to the scale, A was actually 10 pounds heavier than the 650 girl had recorded. Michelle had a flash-back. She remembers seeing the metal bar on the doctors scale (there are bars for 100’s and 10’s and then that little sliding doohickey for 1’s) sitting on 50, not 40. So we think the pleasant and "inexpensive" 650 girl will cost our doctor a pretty penny when we send them the bill for A’s unnecessary blood work.

What a bunch of worry, stress and crap for nothing. Thank you very much.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Silent Communication

Yesterday I wrote about a high school football game I attended. Something I observed was left out on purpose so I could expand on it a bit. It was fascinating. The students I watched at the game, not including the players and marching band of course, were all doing one of three things.

1. They were engaged in animated conversation punctuated by dramatic hugs and fake cheek kisses.

2. They were looking around for the next person they knew in order to have more animated conversations and dramatic hugs and fake kisses.

3. Their heads were down, noses planted in a cell phone, and fingers flying in a wonderful show of dexterity and eye/hand coordination as they sent text messages flying around the airwaves.

They most certainly were not watching the game.

Even as I drove my daughter K to the game along with her friends J and D, the text messages were flying. They don’t seem to have verbal communications anymore. They sit next to each other sending text messages most likely to avoid parental oversight. Either that, or they are slowly losing the ability to communicate verbally, which, if you have heard groups of under 18’s talk, seems very likely.

It’s like some sort of weird science-fiction film where the young have evolved into higher beings that can communicate with each other without talking. The future is now.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

High School Football

Last night I went to my first high school football game since the fall of 1983. Nothing has changed. The stands are filled with only parents, except for the far right side where the students escape parental supervision and act like crazy people. The cooler students wander the outside edges of the field paying absolutely no attention to the game, and the two school bands duel each other across the field with musical rifts that can barely be heard.

In the fall of 1983 I quit high school football as a junior. I had played 9th and 10th grade on the varsity squad at Ft. Meade High School in Ft. Meade Maryland. Our family moved to Gaithersburg Maryland half-way through my high school career, and so started a new school in 1982.

When I tried out for the Gaithersburg football team, I figured out pretty quickly that Coach Harvill had his favorites. Boys that had played for him a few years and spent every waking minute in the gym lifting weights. I just didn’t fit in. After reaching the half-way point of the one season I was on the team, and not having a single second of playing time, I quit. When I left our record was 0-4 without a single touchdown scored. By the end of the season it was 2-8.

I guess I would have been more understanding if the team was on a rip and the starting squad that had played together 2 or 3 years prior to my arrival was allowed to rein terror on the field, but no… the “starters” were horrible. I watched missed tackle after missed tackle that I imagined I could have made. It was torturous. I walked away from the “team.”

The only other time I was on a high school football field was 2 years later on graduation day. Since then, for 23 years, I haven’t had occasion to go back on one. Until last night. The memories came- great football games (at least at Ft. Meade), playing in the marching band during half-time in my football gear, rowdy cheers and celebrations after the victories (again, only at Ft. Meade).

With K now in high school, and the Friday night ritual an apparent must to keep pace with the social activities of peers, it looks like I’m in for a few years of this.

Friday, September 07, 2007


Last night one of my daughters called me on the carpet. She took me to school. She laid me bare.

As I tucked her in she asked why we don’t pray anymore at bedtime.

She said she knows since I got this new job I've been really busy and sometimes at night have to get some “paperwork” done and don’t have time, but she misses it.

I had noticed, of course, that of late the regular, every single night, bedtime rituals had lapsed because of my work. It used to be like clockwork- short chat about the day, back scratch, prayer with each child individually, tuck in, kiss goodnight. Lately the 7 day a week ritual has dropped to…well…much fewer. Not good.

So, it was just kind of hanging there in the air when she asked the question. It took me a moment to recover. It was something that was bothering me in the back of my mind, but had it not confronted me yet. It did last night. I am recommitting to this important nightly ritual, even though its harder now as the four girls have 3 different bedtimes. It was easier when you could get a 4-for-1. Now bedtime is spread across a 1 ½ to 2 hour spread.

I will do it. It’s important.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Billing For 27 Seconds Worth Of Work

Problem- consulting clients requires great focus and attention to detail in order to track the work and progress made each day, week and month, and reporting those details to the client. How on earth do I do that if I get and need to respond to 150 emails and 30 phone calls a day across 8 clients that may take 8-10 hours in a day?

I’m considering coming up with a new system for billing. Instead of an hourly rate, either a fee by the second, or by the email.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I Am Elvis

Last month was some sort of Elvis month thing. Not really a big fan, and don’t follow the news on him much, so I assume it was some sort of celebration of his birth, or death, or something or other.

A couple months ago I was in NYC for the Licensing Show, and stopped by the Elvis booth. EPE, or Elvis Presley Enterprises, is the faceless machine that keeps him alive, scooping up gobs of money for the use of his name and likeness. There is no reason to believe EPE won’t be doing the same thing a hundred years from now.

It kind of creeps me out. I was walking around a huge booth with giant images of Elvis, music and video pouring out from various spots around the booth, and bright shiny young people in suits and dresses shaking hands and handing out Elvis Info Packets.

I wonder, do these dead celebrities plan on these things when they are still alive? Do they sit at a conference table with their managers and loved ones and review images, models for miniatures and dolls, napkins, table cloths, plush toys and all sorts of licensed goods to get the stamp of approval while they still breathe?

Does a ‘After Death Marketing Specialist’ layout the 50 year plan…” Mr. Elvis, we are really excited about this part here…approximately 30 years after your death we will launch an exciting new line of apparel including scarves, boots and jumpsuits. Our finance team expects to generate some significant licensing revenue with this campaign and believe it will set up your ‘Death Plus 40 Years” promotion centered around home décor! We hope you LOVE it!”

Or, perhaps, it just isn’t mentioned and the rights to do this in perpetuity after their death are neatly tucked into various legal documents that are signed while watching TV and eating fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Mean Activist People Scare Me

This world is getting meaner. People that spout “tolerance!” show anything but when people don’t agree with them.

In LA a few months ago, nice people heading out to get into their SUVs and head to work found their tires slashed and profance notes telling them they were killing the planet.

Today I saw a car that had a yellow ribbon showing support for our troops and someone had used a permenant black marker to scribble all over it and write on the car “murderers.” Then of course there are the absolutely insane people that want to stop abortion by bombing clinics and killing abortion providers. The world is teetering on its axle and about to spin out of control.

A few weeks ago our family pulled up to a restaurant, and as I got out of the car I noticed a hand-written note under the windshield wiper of the car next to us. I read it and was saddened. The car next to us had one simple, small bumper sticker- a W a few inches high and wide placed discretely on the back window.

The note spewed hate. The writer ripped the driver of the car up and down, and a KIND version of what he said went something like this:

“You are complete ass****. I don’t know how you people can live with yourselves. How can you support a moron, murderer and liar like George Bush! You make me so mad I could kill you and the world would be a better place without trash like you. I bet you don’t even have kids in Iraq. You send other people’s kids off to Iraq to get killed and its your fault. I hate you and hope you die a painful death and rot in hell.”

Good news, I tore the note up and the person that owned the car never got it. I am sure his/her meal was good, and when he came out to the car he didn’t have his evening ruined.

Bad news- there is no freedom of speech if you don’t agree with some people. I would never put any bumper stickers on my car that communicated my positions on issues. I learned that lesson along time ago. America has changed.

Monday, September 03, 2007

We Have No Idea

This morning I gleaned through the headlines on the Drudge Report and bounced around a few other news sites like ABC, Fox News, AP, Reuters and Breitbart. After a few minutes something I had read over faily quickly started to sink in. My subconscious sort of asked my heart, “wait- do you realize what you read a few minutes ago and passed right over just as quickly as the story about CBS “Kid Nation” controversy?”

It started to sink in, and I went back to the story: “Rocket Lands by Israeli Day Care Center.”

9 Kuds-3 rockets were fired into Israel from the Gaza strip this morning. A Islamic Jihad website said that the attack was "a present for the start of the new school year." One of the rockets had landed in the play yard of the pre-school (while in session), and 12 people, including some babies, suffered shock and a building was damaged.

How absolutely sick is that? How do the parents in these areas- Jews and Arabs alike- live like this? Last year our youngest girl finished her last year at Berry’s Chapel Pre-school. I cant imagine how I would feel if I got word that rockets had landed in the playground of her pre-school. Firstly, I would have to be restrained by police because I would find out who did it and make their life miserable… and likely shortened by some great amount. If there was a hint it would happen again and no one could stop it, I would do whatever it took to get the heck out of here to find somewhere people valued life.

I simply can not imagine such a life. A place where death can rain down from the sky at any moment.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Spaghetti Bolognese And A Nice Merlot

Last night Michelle made spaghetti bolognese (fancy name for spaghetti and meat sauce) and I cracked open our last bottle of merlot. Its time for another trip to stock up soon.

After dinner I retired to my office to get in a few hours of work- it’s the end of the month and time for documenting the months work and issuing invoices. It’s the worst time of the month for me. If I have to do it, a large glass of merlot along for the ride at least makes it bearable.

So, a couple hours later I took my last swig and savored the end of the house wine. As I did I felt something in my mouth, and thought perhaps (sorry for the grossness here, but it gets worse) a bit of basil or pasta had been caught in my teeth and had washed out in the wine. I picked the bit of food off my tongue with my fingers and was about to toss it into the garbage can when I realized what it was. I froze. I stared. My stomach turned. I grabbed my wine glass and spit whatever I could out of my mouth into it.

It was a fly.

About a half hour or so before I had finally rid myself of a bothersome fly that kept buzzing around my head. I grabbed a DVD case and swatted away. I was certain I made contact- I heard something- but I wasn’t able to find the victim. I searched around the desk and on the floor, but no dead fly body. Now I know what became of him.

I ran and got a glass of water, washed my mouth out several times, and started to feel sick. I assured myself that any nasty bacteria or other germs on the fly were killed by the alcohol in the merlot…but I’m not entirely sure of that. By the way, If you’re looking for a nice merlot that is affordable, tastes great, and has body, try Toasted Head.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Picture and Story 10

Sometimes a throw-away picture- one you snap for fun and don't think much about- ends up capturing something you can't put into words.

This is L. It captures so much of her. Her good heart, kind look, loving gentle smile, and playful spirit.