Friday, February 11, 2011

Drivers-ed all the time around here-

Living in south Florida for 8 years I learned to drive with a, shall we say, . . . purpose. Some would call it aggressive; I call moving in an efficient manner from point A to B. You dart, turn right on red without even coming to a complete stop, yield generally means "keep driving but slow down a bit." There's a lot of blue hairs rolling around the streets to you've got to learn to avoid them from impeding progress. It somewhat of a game. It's just how you drive down there.

Not so much here in the D.C. area.

For a city in such a rush, they move so slow!! Drives me nuts. (But maybe it makes sense as many work for or with the government so there's always desperation and talk complaining about the traffic but no one does anything about it; ya that's it. Just the culture here ; )  Here's my main beefs with the greater D.C. area motorist:

1) People do not turn right on red. I literally have to honk my horn (which is considered highly aggressive here; it's as if all cars are mute on these streets there's so little of it going on) to get them to move. Then when I do use this communication tool, it's as if they're like, "My oh my! What does this young man want? Oh yes, I did forget that it is legal to turn right on red. But I'm not going anywhere until there are absolutely NO cars coming!" Each day home from work I make a right on red or try to. There are three lanes of oncoming traffic but FOUR lanes right after the light as it's an on ramp to 495. So, visualize with me, three before, four after. That means, if you're turning right on red, you'll ALWAYS have a clear lane to turn into even if there is oncoming traffic. But for some inexplicable reason, I'd say 90% of people still wait until the coast is COMPLETELY, and I mean completely, clear. Ridiculous and annoying as the light is a 3 minute light (no exaggeration!)

2) D.C. people also believe the speed limit is just that; the absolute limit at which to travel; not the speed at which you're suppose to maintain while driving as to keep the flow of traffic moving. It's very common for the NoVA resident to cruise at 10 mph below the speed limit and then look at you as if you've gone mad if you're traveling 5 mph above.

3) On ramps/lanes are not places for you to stop!!! The only time you are supposed to stop is at a stop sign or when a red light is in front of you. All other times you should keep moving and merge with other traffic in a smooth and fluid manner. Don't slam on your brakes when the merge lane begins to end, just begin to move over and room will appear. Or beat everyone to the punch and accelerate on the ramp so you have four less cars in front of you. That's how I do it. Feels like you're legally skipping the line ; )

4) Really a sub point of #3 but if you want to change lanes, then change lanes!!! Don't brake and jerkily swerve after seeing that someone is in your blind spot. This is often followed by a moment of panic where excessive braking occurs leading to a chain reaction behind you. You do this instead; think ahead a bit, check your mirrors, even turn your head if need be. If there's a wide open slot, go ahead and move over; it's yours! If you are more of a pre-cautious type, just put on your blinker and wait for an opening WHILE maintaining current speed. If you're 3 lanes to the left and need to exit suddenly on your right; don't D.C. peeps! You don't have the skill to perform such a maneuver. Just keep going and exit at the next available or pull a U turn (but I know how those frighten you.)

So there are my four main complaints. I know it won't change. I also know that if our beloved urbanites around here read this, they'd all agree and not realize that they are who I'm talking about. As I began this rant with . . . drive with purpose ; ) Please and thank you-

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Joseph the Afghani-

Written on Sunday, January 23, 2011 at 2:51pm

Walked up to a house this a.m. looking to inquire about a vehicle for sale. A well dressed man, with peppered gray hair and stone blue eyes greeted me outside. He had a gentle voice, thick with a Middle Eastern accent. After going over the car, he invited me inside. As we walked in, I asked why he sold vehicles from his home (a very nice/large home it was; didn’t fit what you’d think an independent used car dealer would have.) Joseph immediately responded, “I used to own a car dealership but the past couple of years were very rough so I had to close. I lost $500,000 the last year I was open. So now I just do what I can from home. Have to pay the bills somehow!” He smiled; wasn’t ashamed or timid in the least. He apologized for the mess that his 5 kids had made as we walked through the kitchen and dining room back to his home office. As we sat down, I asked him when he came to the U.S. He said, “All the way back in 1981.” Always interested in the stories of immigrants, I began a barrage of questions and he freely answered.

Joseph’s journey began in 1978 (the year I was born.) Afghanistan was in a time of turmoil and war. He was 14 at the time and the men in his town were asking his father to hand Joseph and his 5 brothers over so they could join the local militia. Joseph said that he immediately told his father that he had no interest in fighting; especially since it would be against his own people. His father told him there were only two options: fight or leave the country. Joseph decided to leave and crossed over into Iran. He was alone. Not a soul with him as he risked his life to get out of the war zone. He was in Iran for two years holed up in a room he rented in a crappy hotel. He said that he worked day and night selling cigarettes, fixing birdcages and working labor jobs; anything to survive.  He didn’t see his family at all during that time. Finally, his parents said that they would meet him in Pakistan if he could get there. He was now 16. One brother had made it over to the U.S. already so his parents thought maybe the three of them could go next. But saving money and getting the documents in line wasn’t that easy so they spent a year in Pakistan. Again, Joseph did whatever he could to make money. I couldn’t help but say, “But man, you were only a kid! How’d you do it?” He paused what he was writing and looked up, “What else could I do? You do whatever you need to in order to eat. When I was 14, I was equal to a 25 year old American. I had to hustle with grown men and work alongside them. I just had to do it. It didn’t matter that I was treated poorly and had no one. Nobody cared so I just did what needed to be done.” I must have said wow 50 times in the 20 minutes we were talking. Couldn’t get over his drive and perseverance!

But as he wrapped up his story, telling me that his whole family made it over and now live in the DC metro area, he said, “And that is why I love this country . . . there is nothing like it anywhere! At the worst here, is better than the best where I came from. Hard isn’t hard. Why? Because you’re safe and that is priceless! There is no war. Maybe you can’t pay your bills, like I’m having a hard time doing now, but that is very small problem in the grand scheme.” I just sat there and said meekly, “You’re right bud. I can’t fully comprehended or empathize with what it is you’re saying, as I’ve never come close to experiencing what you have, but I hear you. We are blessed. Life is good.” I stood up, shook his hand and thanked him for taking the time to share with me.  He said that he enjoyed it.

As I drove away, and even now 3 hours later, his words keep ringing in my head. His thankfulness even in the midst of major loss he experienced in the past year was contagious.  Good stuff-
So that was today. That was good. Joseph was his name.

No trust= no happiness

                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Written on Friday, November 19, 2010 at 8:50am

True happiness can't exist without trust. 

Yup- I'm convinced of that. Had a conversation with a friend yesterday that reminded me of this. Yet again our culture doesn't seem to realize what it's doing to itself. In the age of "me first" and "whatever makes you happy", we've short circuited the process by which happiness and joy are natural by products. Try having a friendship, any relationship for that matter, without a basic element of trust. Not even a deep set trust but just starting with a sense of "Hey, I trust this guy." Without it, the relationship goes absolutely no where. You have interactions/transactions but there's nothing beyond that. Unconsciously your thoughts are full of questions and strategies to limit personal damage. It's exhausting. How can any form of happiness survive in that climate? It can't; fundamentally! You might have "victories" and moments of satisfaction but there's nothing that can last. In order for happiness to be cultivated in a relationship, both parties have to be for the other; not for self. Obviously, we all make selfish choices each day but in the department of honesty, if we snowball small lies to our mate or friend, the whole strength of the relationship starts to weaken. Doubt fills the holes created. Why? Because the trust is leaving and, with it, the healthy relationship. We start running; scared to death. Dishonesty is essentially selfishness, pride and self preservation (for the short term.) But the battle (and I call it that because it is a ferocious battle) of being truthful, always, so trust can develop, yields huge rewards! In a marriage, it strengthens the bond and gives a depth to your love WAY beyond emotion.

So that's my two cents on it- take it or leave it ; )

Love at first sight-

Written on Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 3:12pm

Today was the day- the day the "theory" of Nat's pregnancy turned into a full motion, awesomely beautiful reality of a little girl on the screen in front of me. Growing, moving, heart beating at 139 bpm . . . you most definitely meet God in those moments. You get to see His genius and gift all wrapped up into a future bundle of joy.

I've always been amazed by our world and the life that resides in it but when a piece of life is yours . . . when you know that you started this in motion and now will nurture it into a full blown person; the thought staggers you. My mind bounced from love at first sight to taking a walk with my future daughter and picking a flower for her to seeing my wife in a new light. All stunning in their own right.

I believe there are few moments in life when you experience the essence of love- today was one of them. Tried hard to keep my hands back from touching the screen. It drew me in; sat captivated. A completely different kind of beauty. Nat was cute laying there on the table. She was glowing and giggling. Loving seeing her daughter and her incredibly tiny arms and hands folded across her face as she slept. You could see the twinkle in her eye when the doc said all was well as the little legs kicked gently. Truly a moment when you wish someone could record your soul-

As a man, I felt a this mantle of protection fall. Giving Nat a hug, all I could eek out was, "I will protect and love you to always."  Immense responsibility but not in an overwhelming way but rather just answering a call. It was as if something deep inside turned on and put into motion this intimate sense of sacrifice.

I pray that today remains fresh when life gets hard and when I'm tired. That I remember that each day is a gift . . . Amen.

Muslims and McDonald's

Written on Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 1:10pm

The country agrees (for the most part), according to unbiased polls (?) that freedom of a religion is a right . . . cool. But many argue that doesn’t matter now, that sensitivity trumps constitution.

Not so good.

I get what the fuss is about. Really do. Didn’t lose anyone in 9/11 but knew a few who worked in those buildings and made it through that horrible day. But I ask this question: Is this the first time in our history that someone has been afraid of/hurt by another’s choice or thought it may be harmful to their way of life? Heck no! Granted this current issue is on a national scale but it’s no more insensitive and potentially damaging to our society as a whole than when . . .

*a new McDonald’s boasting of “healthier options” opens in a neighbor where half the people are obese and dying of congestive heart failure or diabetes and offers them all free meal coupons (only with purchase of 3 items from the dessert menu)

* a pharmaceutical company markets and sells a drug to the masses knowing full well it’s long term side effects can be lethal but steam rolls a widow when she tries to expose how it killed her husband

* a health insurance company pays for abortions, no questions asked, but won’t cover fertility treatments for a mother who is struggling to conceive

* American Indians are largely written out of history or their stories are edited to make their experience MUCH less painful/devastating than it really was (but please, continue to dress up and do your cultural dances for us)

* tens of thousands of Americans proudly slap stickers of the Confederate flag on their car knowing full well what the same flag means to African Americans ("What do you mean? I'm just proud of being from the south?" all said with a bewildered look on face.)

* a church in Gainesville is going to hold a Qur’an burning on their lawn on 9/11 (just like Jesus would do)

* yet another TV show pops up that applauds extra marital affairs and other promiscuous behavior which causes a recently divorced person that has experienced the very real destructiveness of such behavior, to feel that pain re-open with each commercial (c'mon- it's just TV, my kids love that they have two houses to choose from now)

* American citizens hold signs reading “Your son died because God is judging our country” and “God hates fags!” at a fallen soldiers funeral
(but please join our church for worship this Sunday at 11 a.m.- food is served after!)

So yes, see it or not, we are surrounded by insensitive decisions that are possibly more damaging to our society than that of one Muslim community center near the 9/11 epicenter. It may be scarier to certain people but it doesn’t spell the end of America as some suggest. So please, do continue to get angry at all Muslims- curse them out! Throw rocks through their windows. Tell them to get out of our country but just do so in a loving, calm and sensitive manner.

You get what you pay for ; )

Written on Sunday, May 16, 2010 at 3:43pm

Out at Chipotle, as I was finshing up a chicken fajita burrito, my wife says, "So we have an appointment at 1 p.m. to get a massage. Surprise!" She goes on to explain that it's at a massage school so we'll have students working on us. Doesn't matter to me- never had a bad massage even from a novice.

Natalie, thinking there's only one school in Vienna (but never checked to verify) points me in the direction and off we go. Get to the place and it looks a bit sketchy- we enter a pretty obscure door and walk up some carpeted stairs that have seen better days. There's a combination of smells- a lively blend of hospital, salon, and non-descrip asian food. To my right, on the wall is posted an ad for all people wanting to enter as contestants for "National Ms. Korea." Nice! As we move down the hall, we pass a room full of students in caps and gowns. This isn't feeling right- two guys run into us and ask if we're here for the graduation. We say no and that we're here for the massage. He says, "Well, we can do a facial massage at 2 p.m. Would you like to join us for lunch before graduation?" Huh- very inviting guy. We try to explain that we're here for a normal massage and he replies that they don't do that there. He cracks a smile and says the lady must have misunderstood Nat on the phone. I was thinking the very same thing but felt better that he said it because he was Asian.

We left- Nat was convinced she had made an appt. to get a full body massage; not a facial. Thanks to Mr. Blackberry, we found out that there was yet another school a couple miles away. Off we went!

Got there a few minutes past our scheduled time- this place looked a bit "used" but seemed more like a massage school. A very tall and . . . u hhh . . . Russian lady of healthy weight welcomed us. Classic! We sat. She asked, "Which you come with me for massage?", in a thick accent. Nat and I looked at each other- awkward moment passed. I broke it and offered to go.

We went in the room. The decor was an afterthought but I reminded myself that this was a school. She explained what she was going to do. As I was left standing in the room, waiting to dis clothe, my eyes searched the massage table sheets. I like to feel like I'll be laying in clean sheets when in public areas. These sheets had oil stains all over them- I slid under hesitantly and closed my eyes. Here goes nothing!

All the while Nat had a rookie and the instructor at the school working on her. The pupil wasn't much for learning though. Numerous times she told her instructor that she didn't want to mimic his moments after he asked her to. She said that she'd incorporate them into her OWN style. Didn't know you had your own style when first learning something. Right from the get go she says loudly to Nat, "Girl, you've got some rough feet! Gotta take care of those-" That's the way to loosen a stranger up before you rub 'em down. Insults work wonders to calm the nerves! As she moved her way to Nat's back she paused again and said, "Girl, you've got a black head on your back. Want me to take care of it?" What? How do you even respond to that. Just before she turned the massage into a zit popping session, her cell phone rang at full blast! Her reaction; answer the call and leave the room. Ha- She comes back in and continues to not follow the lead of her instructor; all in a voice meant for a bar, not a massage room. To make things even more relaxing, Natalie's head rest falls 3 times leaving Natalie's neck oh so relaxed. Unexpected collapse is the ultimate muscle relaxer- try it sometime! To cap it off, her phone rings full volume for a second time and she leaves.

Back in my room, I'm just waiting for Elena (that was her name) to inflict serious pain. She didn't. Her hands were completely relaxing and professional while my wife was suffering in the lab next door.

Quick check out by a shaking hand-

Written on Monday, March 29, 2010 at 9:12am

Normal afternoon- normal thoughts of nothing and everything. Up the escalator to grab my usual spinach, carrots, and anything else that may promote health. Wasn't thinking about suffering, perseverance, or unusual strength by others just to make it through the day but then I saw him. A man; slight of frame with peppered gray hair. His body, in the shape of an S. His spine and legs not cooperating with gravity in the least. He stood next to me selecting his veggies and then he moved. It was awkward and labored. His feet dragged and threw him off balance.

My immediate reaction was to pray for this guy. Sometimes you don't know why but it just feels right. I know how difficult life can be at a purely physical level with a healthy body, never mind the challenge of your mind and muscle not working in one accord each and every day.

As my eyes left him, I took two more steps and right in front of me stood a young girl; all of 25. She stood over the bananas, her eyes and hands searching for the ones with the least bruising or so it seemed. Her face was calm. She had the green basket hung on her right forearm. This was the prime of her life or was it? My eyes moved to her uncovered head. Her blond hair was thin and missing in patches . . . a sure sign of chemotherapy. You don't often see that as many people who are losing their hair often cover it with a scarf or hat. She must be proud of her struggle I thought. Unwilling to let it change the way she dresses in public. So my prayers moved from him to her as I know, without a doubt, she is hurting. Whether she is owning her disease or it is owning her, the pain remains the same during the process.

My heart was heavy for these people. Didn't expect this to be part of my normal routine. Didn't expect to be reminded that my health is a gift.

Moving on past her, I made my way to the bread isle and grabbed some bagels. Not wanting to wait in line at the normal registers, I hurried to the Starbucks in the corner of the store. I could see from a distance that no one was checking out there. As I approached, I noticed that the man behind the register was thin. His shoulders hung. His fingers were long. They didn't know heavy labor. Behind his wire framed glasses were kind eyes. "Good evening sir!", he said. There was a waiver to his voice. As he grabbed my items, I could see that there was no strength in his hands. They shook. If he was an older man I would have expected this but he couldn't have been more than 45 years of age. Again, a disease had come between mind and body.

A lump formed in my throat. Less because these people were in obvious pain but more so because they are the forgotten; the unseen. Maybe not for you but for me. I am more aware of my own struggles, as small as they are, than those around me the majority of the time. Instead of my eyes being open to the hurting, I want to go to the grocery store and get in and out as fast as I can. Head down, food in hand.

I am sorry sir. I am sorry miss. You remain in my thoughts and prayers today . . . like yesterday and the day before.

You're better than Picasso!

Written on Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 11:46am

Been reading the Faith & Culture devotional on and off since Christmas (recommend it!) Yesterday the author was talking about Picasso- the guy's personal life was a wreck! He was not only a master of painting, he was a master of the affair. His personal life was a collage of all the pieces of lives broke from decisions he made. I've never taken the time to read about him as his work does little for me. That may be considered blasphemy to all you art lovers but art is in the eye of the beholder and mine says, "Yuck!"

Anyway, what struck me about the piece was the blurb in which Picasso summarized himself as an artist and person. He said, "I have satisfied the masters and critics with all the changing oddities which have passed through my head, and the less they understood me, the more they admired me. By amusing myself with all these games, with all these absurdities . . . I became famous and that very quickly. And fame means sales, gains, fortunes, and riches . . . But when I am alone with myself, I have not the courage to think of myself as an artist in the great and ancient sense of the term. . . I am only a public entertainer who has understood his times and exploited them the best he could . . . Mine is a bitter confession, more painful than it may appear, but it has the merit of being sincere.

Isn't it amazing that Picasso didn't feel as if he even qualified as an artist? He knew the crown he wore was little more than ashes and dust. Why? Because who he was and what he was creating lacked sincerity. It didn't matter that he received accolades from the masses. Even if no one recognized it; he did. And so it is, that nothing else matters in that moment when you look in the mirror and know full well who you really are, what you're really capable of and what you've done with that. "That" doesn't have to be great things; quite the contrary. To be exceptional doesn't equate to doing and being on a grand scale. That is a cultural illusion. But what it does entail is that you live above and outside yourself each day.

As my t shirt often reminds me . . . walk in love. See the inherent God-given value in others and act accordingly with sincerity. The rest in life is details.

Not just for the Hallmark card-

Written on Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 4:47pm

It's brutal. Ugly. Desperate. It's made up of all the things that make us question. How can they not? At least for me, times like these ramp up my communication with God. I plead on behalf of the people. I ask Him to make himself known in the devastation. To bring something . . . anything from heaven to earth.

And then I am confronted and reminded of the relative indifference of the masses. My heart breaks when I see people acknowledge what has happened in Haiti but that's where it ends. A brief moment of empathy, if it even qualifies, and then on with their life. A turn of the channel is enough to make the images disappear. Out of sight; out of mind. God forgive us!

But that implies what is wrong with the bigger picture. We are a world that may feel empathy for our fellow man but it rarely turns into true sympathy which then yields compassion; where real change occurs. Below are the definitions. Which best defines how you feel when confronted with a situation on a grand scale like Haiti, forget everyday problems?

empathy-the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another

sympathy- harmony of or agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another

compassion- sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it

It's no wonder that Americans often can't feel much past empathy because we don't have the sense of being connected to each other. Just as the definition states, to feel true sympathy you must move from intellectually understanding a situation to sharing the pain with those in the situation. We are isolated from each other and make choices which best suit ourselves which turns our hearts cold. And because our lives aren't interwoven enough to share/deal with life's troubles in a sympathetic manner, compassion is just left for Hallmark cards- it's tossed around but not understood.

So when something like Haiti happens, we can move on in 24 hours.

Cultivate compassion-

Check the N/A box if you want it to all fall apart

Written on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 at 10:46am

The coffee shop diaries continue . . .

A certain customer that we'll call Mr. T comes in frequently. Big, loud guy that demands attention. I've run into few guys that are as . . ummm . . . overwhelming as he is. He doesn't know the meaning of "small voice" and usually mixes in some colorful language and discussion when he's here. I've had to give him the "tone it down a bit" gesture a few times. He often comes in midday when there aren't many other people in the shop. He loves (in a not-so-good-way) women and often gawks at the passerby's while he sips on his white choc. mocha.

Yesterday he came in with one of his business partners. Par for course, the conversation went to women. I always try to interject with the positives of being married and fidelity. He often agrees, surprisingly, with what I'm saying but you'd never know it by the way he continues to spout off comments. So as we were talking yesterday they asked me what was on my mind. I answered that it troubled me that infidelity was so prevalent in society. I talked about different situations I've known about and how I wish they could have been handled/ended better. Mr. T. said his wife was the best and that he'd never leave her. There was sincerity in his voice. This is a man that is fighting with inner demons for sure! (But that's another blog.) His friend piped in that he felt that the institution of marriage no longer "worked" in our society. He went on to say that in an agrarian society it was much more important to keep a strong family structure for survival. Man and wife raised a family and stayed together because they all needed to work the fields and do their part for the survival of the whole. But life is too easy now he said. We just don't need each other to the extent we did before, therefore, people cheat on each other simply because they can. Their life isn't at stake. The only negative is temporary emotional pain but that's it. So he concluded that marriage should be thought of as ritual but nothing more.

Of course people came in as soon as he finished so our conversation ended . . . for now! As he was walking out he said, "We'll continue this!" Absolutely-

But let me say that argument doesn't work at a fundamental level. I know I often say that but its true. Whether you believe in biblical principles or not, if the family unit breaks down in a society so goes the structure of society itself. Look at the inner cities as an example; the main reason for the crime and poverty in those areas, according to the experts, is a lack of a father figure in the families. Yes there are many other contributing factors but most agree that it all stems from the lack of strong traditional families. So to for society as a whole. If we devalue the institution of marriage because its not "applicable" or necessary for survival now, we will pay sooner rather than later! I believe that with all my heart.

If kids aren't shown what it is to love, sacrifice, and be committed by their parents, they miss developing that "piece" of themselves. And that piece doesn't just affect our relationships. It affects all of our "transactions" in society as a whole; you could even call it the "societal cornerstone". We aren't all independent from each other. Society, if it is to function properly and in a sustaining manner, needs to be built on interdependent relationships that have a deep level of trust and commitment . . . STARTING IN THE HOME!

But I guess I should be saving all this for when this discussion continues with my regulars ; )

Craigslist resume-

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Written on Friday, September 18, 2009 at 4:56pm
                                        "Disclaimer"-The below is all true; no fiction or embellishment, I swear!


As many of you know, getting this coffee bar off the ground started off easy but came to a grinding halt when it mattered most. Nat and I had prepared financially as best as we could but sometimes that just isn't enough. Amidst the frustration, there has been some intermittent moments of comedy; actually a lot of it. Now, we all know that running out of money makes all of life seem a bit overwhelming. All of a sudden the financial desperation drives the joy out of some great moments- but when you realize the lengths you'll go to to ease the pressure, it just has to make you smile.

Nat and I have gone where few dare to venture during the past few weeks in an attempt to make some money: CRAIGSLIST! I know many people hate it due to the illicit activity but it's actually a great tool if you need temporary work. I wanted to share with you our "resume":

We either completed, waiting on, or have applied for the below temporary jobs . . .

1) expert in the art of hip hop- job description finding new talent
*I am not an expert and rarely listen to rap but I think I could weed out the wanna be's ; )

2) couple to be servers at a private party/Clambake in Potomac
*whatever- we can be some rich guys servants for a couple hours; the only requirement was that we be attractive.

3) dressed up as a mascot for a PBS event
*don't have to talk; just move around and act goofy . . .Nat wants to do that ; )

4) various research panels- from web design to body lotion
*might as well get moisturized while we make some money; hopefully we're not allergic

5) Kia event- talk to people about a new car
*sure, as long as they don't ask me anything about the engine

6) many ads for male swimsuit models- JUST KIDDING ABOUT THIS ONE!!!

7) childcare for an 11 month old for 4 days
*she got bad diaper rash because Nat didn't change her enough- ha!

8) Nat cutting off all her hair for $800 to be used for dolls
*I said NO WAY!

So yes- these are the oh so humbling tasks we have undertaken in order to someday serve amazing coffee/espresso to the masses!

How glorious the process of opening a small business ; )

Rugs or drugs?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Written on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 4:13p

Running around today like usual trying to get my dang building permit ; ) but in the midst of the running, while waiting at one of the hour long stop lights we have here in No. VA, I noticed a small, decrepit house/building across the intersection. It sat all alone. Wasn't in an industrial park or near other houses. Just there . . . molding all by itself. It had deep brown water stains running down the front. The gutter was loose on one end. The roof had a sag in the middle, probably from the droppings that the two huge trees overshadowing it produced year after year. There was a green tinge to it- couldn't tell what it was from a distance but I figure it was moss or something similar. On the front hung two huge signs- both heavily weather worn displaying the fact that rugs were the commodity being sold there. One even claimed they had thousands in stock but I doubt it as the whole building didn't look more than 20 ft. long and about the same deep. 

One question that immediately popped in my head- how could thousands of rugs fit in there? Was there underground storage of some sort? I imagined this old dude, wearing the same clothes he's worn for 40 years, surrounded by paperwork and rugs. I could just smell the sour tinge of old pipe smoke. He sat in a space carved out just for him- No room to breath, let alone move. Made me smile.

Second question- how has that place been in business so long? There's no way this guy was getting heavy traffic or doing internet sales. By the look of things, their footprint has been there for a LONG TIME!

Third question- There were two cars outside, 1) a pretty new Mercedes 2) and a brand new Audi (one of the expensive sport ones- how could this guy own these cars or were they customers?

And then the story starting unfolding in my head. This wasn't a rug place at all. Nope- this old guy has been running a mob business for years and using this location as a shell to run the money through. I could just see two young greasy guys, both with thick accents, meeting with the "godfather" to discuss current dealings about some hot, new illegal Europeans imports. Topic of discussion today was whether or not they should include one of the local customs agents at Dulles in the latest deal so it'd make things easier.

That's what this place was- all the characters straight out of a James Patterson book. And then the light changed . . .

All in a trip to the parents -

Written on Friday, September 4, 2009 at 8:40pm

As I drove to mom and dad's today I ran into two awesome examples of contradiction. Made me laugh out loud.

The first was in a little mom and pop gas station somewhere in PA. I knew I was going to find something interesting/nauseating when I saw the restroom sign handwritten on a dirty piece of paper taped to the "Employees Only" door (that in itself didn't make sense.) But the note and urge to pee made me disregard the employees only sign and walk into the back room. To the left was a video monitor on a small desk with a chair in front like someone should be watching. There were soda crates stacked up and holes in the dry wall. At this point I was thinking, "Thank the Lord I'm a dude because this is gonna be nasty!" Taped to one of the crates was another bathroom sign with an arrow indicating that the bathroom was right around the corner; it even had the arrow in a scribbled out L- shape. Whoever drew it was not gifted in the art of drawing lines. As I entered, all my expectations were met; everything was dirty and carried a film. A stale pee smell lingered and the floor was a bit greasy. Did my business and turned to wash my hands- I needed to take a shower but disinfecting my hands was the best I could do at the moment. As I stood over the sink and reached to turn the water on, my hands froze. I couldn't move- There, inside the clear plastic water knob was a tumor of sorts; really inexplicable in its nature. I'm guessing it was a massive chunk of mold sealed oh so perfectly in the faucet. That was the first contradiction ; ) But I proceeded to wash my hands, dry heaving the whole time.

Second- I was following my parents home after our dinner. Just off the small country road, about 4 miles from their house is this old, dingy bar that's been there for years and years. Looks pretty small town innocent but then you see on the signage, "Live nude dancing between 1-6 pm" or something like that. First thought is, I bet those are some lookers gettin' down in there but that's besides the point. What made me really laugh was that right under the sign for nude dancing is a clothes and shoes drop for the Goodwill! Awesome- I wonder if any of the dancers have grabbed something after their afternoon shift?

The small things in life ; )

The DMV- turns saints into sinners!

 Written on Wednesday, September 2, 2009 at 10:24pm

The DMV- otherwise known as satan’s summer home, was our afternoon destination today. As soon as you walk in the door, you can feel the tension; ticked off people everywhere. Bitter workers return the animosity. Crappy vibes all around- I swear, if I ever get shot, it’ll be there.

All kinds of people . . . documents flying everywhere- It’d really be a fun place to people watch if you weren’t so annoyed the whole time and lacked the ability to feel any empathy. As we were standing in line, a guy in front of us was trying to prove his proof of residency. His proof- an 8 year old girl standing next to him as if she was a walking utility bill. His license had been previously revoked in another state and he had no other form of identification so he was pleading to let the kid next to him be proof- the poor girl was just standing there, holding onto the front of the desk, with a look of “I’m totally lost right now but I know they’re talking about me” on her face. Needless to say it didn’t work.

Finally our turn- the lady riffles through our stuff and says, “No, not right document. See . . .” but I had already tuned out. I knew what she was saying but she wasn’t listening to me. This was our second time there and we had already corrected the first visit’s mistake. A bit of self righteous indignation started rising at a tremendous rate. Before I knew what she had decided, a number was thrown at us and we took a seat.

Somehow the guy next to us was dozing in and out of zen-like slumber. How? I have no idea. How could anyone fall asleep with that automated voice droning on with “N 1345, please proceed to line 3 . . . A 3465, please proceed to line 13" . . . and so on. Over and over. No rhyme or reason so you’re just pinned to the voice, waiting for your number to be called. But this guy must be a true master his emotions- he could sleep in the DMV!

We had two numbers for some reason which meant we had to go to two different lines. Chances that the two would be called at the same time was one in a million We thought we’d be fine but the stars aligned and as we were in line for our registration, the license ticket number was called- so off Nat went. Oh h h boy! One of my docs was in question so the lady had to go talk to her manager to see if it was ok. This never turns out well- but it did! I asked the lady if I could go check on my wife- before she answered I was gone.

As I was about 10 feet from Nat, she turned, with fire in her eyes (rarely does anyone see this level of anger besides me; not pretty) and said, “This girls got a problem. She won’t let you get your license with me. We have to get another number.” I calmly, because she obviously was ticked off enough for the two of us, said, “Nope I’m not waiting another hour and half. I’ll just stand there until they make me move.” And with that, turned and headed back to my counter.

By some providential intervention, we left 10 minutes later with license plates and new licenses in hand- dang!

Marriage is________

                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Written  on Sunday, July 12, 2009 at 6:57p
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        To take this vow

is to choose to love above yourself
outside yourself

it is to realize you were made for another

this vow is what holds life together
a bond on which to live and die

its standard high

not of state or tradition
but of a higher law

She will not be put down
replaced or forgotten
Her patience will not wear or weary
For it is of God

Uphold her
For she is good
she is right

Bag your leaves for goodness sake!

Written  on Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at 7:09pm

Driving back to our new home in VA today I noticed that most of our neighbors had trash bags out. Knowing that the "real" trash has to be in bins I looked closer and noticed that these trash bags were full of leaves and other natural materials that had been rounded up from their lawns. Now this may, and I use that loosely, be necessary if you live in a community with houses stacked on top of each other or if you live in a condo but that isn't the case where we live. Everyone, yes, everyone has a pretty big yard bordered by the forest or at least a small part of it. So why have someone haul it away? Makes no sense to me. Why take your lawn clippings, leaves, or sticks and ship them away in a plastic bag to some landfill? Seems even more absurd as these people are directly responsible for choosing to turn something natural into pollution.

But why do it? Really? Why? Does that pile in the woods just turn your stomach? Are we so OCD that we must get rid of as much as we can to make it all look as manicured as we can? Hmmmm-

Kind of makes me wanna run through yards during the fall and kick leaf piles all over the place-

The sky is falling . . . .!

Written on Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 8:27pm

Anybody else want to take the media out behind the woodshed?

For the past year they've been driving me nuts! They're as much to blame for the bad economy as the banks and bad mortgages! I think we'd be well on our way to recovery if these guys thought for a moment instead of blasting doomsday headlines to get ratings. According to them (about two months ago), we should have all been arming ourselves with spears and growing large vegetable gardens because the economy was crumbling so fast- And then you'd think that everyone and their brother was unemployed but come to find out only 3 more people out of a hundred are collecting unemployment benefits compared to a year ago. What? But I thought they said . . .nope! Now I realize we've got problems, bad problems that take awhile to fix but any economist will agree that a large part of our current situation is due to the "fear factor" and we'll be on the path to recovery if people just don't stop believin' as the wise Journey sang- ; )

And now we've got the whole swine flu "pandemic" on our hands and the media says don't panic all the while publishing headlines like "CDC says U.S. swine flu deaths are likely as outbreak spreads." Are you serious? You'd think the black plague was knocking at our door! Like I tell my students, the normal flu kills 36,000 Americans a year. Ol' piggy flu has killed 165 so far out of the entire country of Mexico and the U.S. So what is to fear more? The regular flu looks a whole bunch scarier now doesn't it . . . .C'mon people! The other little known fact is that we have 50 million vaccinations for this "killer." So far 1,300 have been infected- that leaves a few vaccinations left over doesn't it?

Now I'm not saying that they don't report any good news- not at all. I'm just sick of the "selling panic for ratings" garbage that we've been submerged in for the past year or so. Ya with me?

Your collage-

Written on Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 7:57 a.m.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A bunch of snapshots- some burned permanently into the mind, others fleeting, but all are the ingredients in this shepherds pie we call life. 

It seems like these moments have been more noticeable as of late. Time has slowed down- kind of like when you're in the zone while playing your favorite sport. Everything is clear and it feels like you can see all the others players and predict their movement; your senses are firing- your awareness is a level above. Truly surreal if you've ever been there. Feels like I've been there in life. Not that I'm doing great things professionally or spiritually but just that I'm "seeing it all." Life is in 3D or so it seems-l

But anyway, the most recent moment happened yesterday while talking with a student about several bad choices that were made this past weekend. He hasn't quite grasp the concept that he's moving into a time in life where there aren't any "freebies." All bad choices have a price- some can change your life trajectory in the completely wrong direction. But he doesn't see that. Many people don't see that. They just make a decision NOW! But that "now" leads to the next "now", which leads to the next and so on whether positive or negative. And then before long they don't even remember where they were headed or what they believed in the beginning.

These snapshots are all part of the larger life collage! When you view life and it's subtleties like that, then the insignificant becomes significant- that's when the change happens.

From my experience, it's good and bad to take notice of the many snapshots. Some are brilliant while many are tragic- you can see the writing on the wall for so many people. You can see in their eyes and decisions that they're way behind the ball. Their life collage is so full of chaos and mistake that all they feel they have are the snapshots- NOW! It's almost habit, as if they've completely forgotten that each is connected. Tomorrow- what's that? Legacy? What's that?

So what's your photo collage going to look like? Are you going to have to photo shop out a bunch of images so it looks a little prettier? Or are you going to look at it as a whole and say, "Nice. It's not perfect but it looks beautiful to me! No regrets-"

Shower at the dentist-

Written on Wednesday, August 13, 2008 at 10:47pm

Yesterday I had the pleasure of getting my teeth cleaned - probably one of my least favorite "maintenance" things to do. It may be due to the fact that 4 years ago the dentist, with a smile, dug into my gum's like he was excavating every last bit of bone fragment. Every minute it seemed I was turning my head to spit out a mouthful of blood as if I was at the end of a heavyweight bout- not fun. It turned me from a grown man into a clammy, cold-sweat-soaked boy. Ever since, I keep these beloved visits bi-yearly.

So with hesitation I walked through the doors, already hearing the soft hum of the instruments of torture steadily at work. I walked to the window and faced the receptionist. Not another person was in the waiting room. The lady was all of two feet away; deep into conversation about office politics. I didn't say a word as I knew she knew I was standing there but it was quite obvious that she felt her conversation just had to continue. A full minute passed. All of a sudden a head popped out behind the frosted glass to the right of, lets call her . . . Ms. Story. She said, "Can I help you?" "As a matter of fact you can.", I said with a smile. She asked who I was and everything else they do in medical offices, all the while reaching over to Ms. Story's computer with her left hand to punch it all in. Ms. Story didn't budge. I bet you they have a great working relationship ; ) Then, as if this was all completely normal, Ms. Story turns her head towards the other lady and says, "Wow! Are you doing all this with your left hand? That's pretty amazing . . . Oh you're actually left handed right?" and then continued her conversation. Wowwww! I hope she was at least one of the dentists' wives.

I sat down for a bit. After about five minutes, a young lady bopped into the lobby waving me into the back. She was throwing off a pretty relaxed vibe. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad. Like I always do, I gave her the run down on not inflicting pain. How I could care less if she gets all the crud off my teeth. She laughed as she fastened the bib around my neck. I warned her that almost all dentists think I smoke because of the severe coffee stains on the back of my front teeth. She was only half listening but then understood why I warned her after sticking that little mirror thing in to take a look around. Her exact words: "You weren't kindding! What do you do? Drink the stuff black and thick like mud!" I could see that this discovery was a bit of a challenge to her. It was apparent in her eyes.

She grabbed the spit sucker and tucked it in tight under my tongue. One question, does that thing do anything but just add to the gagging? Never have I been like "Oh thank goodness I have the spit sucker in. I might have drowned on my own saliva if not!" It just gets in the way and makes your spit glands go into over drive because it dries your mouth out into something resembling the Sahara. Have you ever noticed that it makes your lips super dry too? Annoying!

First tool in was the spinning wheel thing. No big deal just annoying as all get out. Kind of like scratching on the chalk board with your nails but for your teeth. Funny part was that she stopped halfway through my bottom row and said, "Geez! You're skeetering (sp?) all over the place. You've got some pretty active spit glands." Ha! After going through my whole mouth she stopped and said, "That didn't even come close to getting the stain off. Time for the big gun!" She grabbed some goggles and threw them on my face along with something stuffed lightly into my nose. "You're going to need both of these. It's about to get messy!" What? Needless to say, this thing shot a tiny jet stream of salt water at your teeth like it was a mini sand blaster (her description, not mine.) Once, she missed my tooth and it hit my lip. I was sure she just inadvertently pierced the dang thing! Didn't really hurt because it was so quick but the force was incredible. Water was everywhere. I was laughing (as much as I could without choking) because I could hear, not see, her saying stuff like, "Oh . . .woah! Oh man, I'm soaked . . . . Glad you're my last appointment today . . . And so on. She wasn't mad. She actually seemed to be having some fun.

The waterworks stopped. The floor was wet. My shirt was soaked. My face felt like it had been dipped into the Dead Sea it had so much dried salt on it. And she says, "Hmmm . . That didn't really work either. I guess I'll have to pull out the last line of defense." I quickly said that wouldn't be necessary. She argued it wouldn't be ethical as a dental hygienist to leave it. I countered with "Well I don't really care. Having the back of my teeth shining gloriously white doesn't matter to me. Game over." She laughed-

I must say . . . It was almost fun this time.

Is Alabama in the U.S.?

Written on Tuesday, July 8, 2008 at 3:00pm

Nat and I are visiting another country this week- it's called Alabama! No really, it feels as if we stepped out of a plane (or time machine) and into Enterprise, AL. Population- who knows? Not a small town, just a weird town. Home to Ft Rucker- the temporary home of Nat's brother, Walter, for another year or so.

So why is AL weird you ask?. It could be due in large part to the vast amount of vacant homes and store fronts that we passed during the two hr in state drive. Never have seen so many places long out of business with their old, faded Coca Cola signs hanging on by the last screw. Why they were ever here is another question. Now, please don't read any of this as a "I-HATE-Alabama" blog. It's not that. It's more of a "why-do-people-live-here-for-logistical-reasons" blog. There is a difference.

There doesn't seem to be any industry except for Walmart and the army base. There's lots of fields and a few car dealerships. Everything looks like it was built in the 70's and hasn't been touched since. The sidewalks are full of cracks with weeds taking up residence knowing full well that they'll be there for a long time. There are two cinemas (two screens each, respectively) that don't have any shows before 7 pm. There are about 10 Mexican restauraunts within a 2 mile radius- Hmmmm.

But the real kicker is that the closest coffee shop is 7 miles away!!!!! What!!! The rest of America changed all that about 15 yrs ago. I've never been or lived in a place that didn't at least have the workin' mans Dunkin' Donuts within 2 miles. This problem didn't even compute this morning- How could there not be a coffee shop close? Is coffee outlawed in the military or are they just so used to really bad coffee that the local gas station is just fine? I don't know.

I rolled out of bed anticipating the local brew to find that I had to drive 20 minutes to even find one but that was after I stopped at the Koffee Kettle. Bad decision- Let me tell you why.

It was already 9:30 am and the dull headache was setting in. As I pulled up to the store front, nothing hinted at the fact that they were a legit coffee shop. No cool logos or signs for an upcoming folk show. No mood lighting or aroma of espresso. Just a plain store front with really old decals stuck to the window and the peeling Visa/Mastercard stickers.

As I walked closer, my greatest fear materialized- this was indeed not a coffee destination but rather a smoky diner . . . .NO!!! "Diner" meanS, BAD . .. REALLY BAD coffee. Desperation made me keep walking. As I opened the door, stale smoke punched me in the nose (nothing like thick, old smoke in your lungs to start the day off.) I took a quick glance around and all the stereotypes were in fact true- there was the old, crusty local, Father Time himself, chatting with the waitress- the guy frying the eggs behind the counter looked like a shower had been put off for weeks, his hair just as greasy the eggs he was cooking. Nothing looked clean. All the tables had yellowed from age. You know the drill-

I knew this was going from bad to worse. But my addiction subdued my instinct and I ordered two coffees from the seemingly intoxicated waitress. She brought them over- the brown liquid was in soda cups- bad sign. She handed me "creamers" but they were coffeemate imposters. I asked for the real stuff and she said, "Sorry honey, this is all I got for ya. That'll be $2.38. You wanna add tip to that?" I wanted to reach over the counter and hold her up as she looked like collapse was only a moment away. A wave of nausea swept over me!

So I stood there mixing in the creamer and sugar knowing full well this was all in vain. Closed my eyes, took a sip, and it shot back out all over the counter . . . no, just kidding but that's what I felt like doing! It was probably the worst coffee I've ever had- no exaggerration!!!

Here I sit- my head aching, eyes unable to focus, and mind incapable of understanding the who, what, when, or hows of this place. This all without any chemical or alcoholic influence.

This my friends is Alabama!!

Real life cowboy-

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 at 2:06pm

I watch him move. I watch him shake the hands of other men; he's always seems bigger; always stronger than they are. When I least expect it, he tosses me a candy from inside his black suit. I'm pretty sure he's the only one that has these candies. Where do they come from? He turns and asks, "You comin' partner?" I nod with a smile. Are you kidding me? Of course I'm coming!

He's a real life cowboy- I watched him fight a horse and not even flinch. Watched as he's disassembled his guns on the table and said they'd be mine someday. Who wouldn't want to be his partner? He wakes before the chickens to toss hay bales and break ice in the buckets. I've got to be there with him. He walks fast. Maybe someday I can walk that fast. He speaks to the horses as if he knows them. But I guess he knows everyone and everything . . .

We finish up chores and head back to the house. I'm exhausted but he doesn't seem tired at all. He smiles and smacks me on the shoulder. "Want some breakfast?" he asks. "Ya, grandpa. I'd love some!" He always makes the best breakfast. Grandma already has sticky buns waiting. In a single motion, he flings his coat onto the hook, opens the fridge and grabs the eggs. Everything is so easy for him! In a moment, the kitchen is full of the aroma of family-

"Sit on down bud. Breakfast will be ready in a second- Want some toast?" Before I can answer he already has it in the toaster. I smile at dad as he plops down next to me. We exchange a smile. I think he can read the enjoyment all over my face. Before I can even finish my orange juice, grandpa asks if I want more. That's how it is between us- he's always busy but he never seems to forget my presence. It's as if he has a sixth Sean-sense.


I cherish the memories of my grandpa- he was what all boys need in their grandfathers. I wish I could be that same strength for him now as he battles cancer. As his once invincible body fails, I want him to feel that security . . . I hope he feels that same love that he so often gave.

You're not MacGyver-

Written on Monday, May 5, 2008 at 5:50pm

Fashion is the topic of the day today- Been kicking around in my head for a long time- Not the design or business but more about everyday fashion; the decisions that go into what we wear and who we choose to be. I don't think there are very few people (at least that I know) that just throw some clothes on without a second look before they head out the door in the morning. Or that show up at work without feeling like they have some sort of "image" they have to uphold. It's normal-

I think people all have chosen an identity of sorts. Your identity might not be wrapped up in what you wear but it is wrapped up in something. It may be that you're the most hard core hunter of all your buddies (for all you country folk); maybe you're the sharpest business man with all the ideas during the company meetings; maybe you love being the biggest outcast. We've all chosen an identity or group that fulfills that need.

What I find funny is how many people will flat out say that outward appearance or social status means nothing to them. I hear it over and over again! That they are completely secure in who they are. I must say that in the vast majority of those conversations, the party you're talking with is in denial. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we're all stuck on being validated outwardly but I AM saying that it matters. A little or a lot; it matters. Even you moms- you might look like a wreck but that's because you like looking like the mom that "gives it her all" and puts her kids above all else. You very well may be giving it your all but, the opinion of other moms (especially other moms), is a motivator of your behavior. Why? Because we all want to feel like we're just a little bit better or more put together than the other guy?

People who are into fashion or body image are the most obvious "offenders", if you may, but that's just because they're easy to identify. The "closet" offenders are just harder to find until you get to know them and then you find the chink in their armour. You'll find out that Jack always has to have the answer to problems. Why? Because he likes being the "MacGyver" of the group. Or there's Sara, the "friendliest"; she's always first to befriend you but the last to return your call. It's more about the contact list for her than it is about real relationship.

My point is this; we all like to feel like we're worth something; whether the looks, brains, personality, leadership, charisma, etc. We all want to stick out from the crowd somehow.

So I guess what I'm saying is that when we're hangin' out, don't act like you're completely secure in all it is you do and say you are. Just relax. Facades get old and moldy real quick. I want to know you. The dings. The dents. They're what make us unique. If we were all perfect and completely secure in ourselves, we wouldn't need friends or God for that matter-