Friday, September 30, 2011

DT or not DT

This has been one of the busiest weeks I have experienced in a long time, but it has also been incredibly enjoyable. I have written many papers for college, attended a wedding, assisted in DJing another wedding with my buddy Adam (aka DJ TRAIN), cooked and fed breakfast to the Mt Vernon Rams football team, and spent some much needed and appreciated time with friends and family. It has been a great week, but yesterday was the high point of it all.

My next door neighbor is the program director for WVYN 90.9FM. This is a fairly young Christian radio station known as THE VINE. The station is named after the verses in John which state, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:1-5)

Despite how young this station is, it has grown very quickly and has been used by God in wonderful ways. The staff has prayerfully done their best to step back and let God take control and they have definitely seen the fruits of their obedience and reliance on Him. The station has gotten heavily involved in the surrounding communities and been successful in communicating with and promoting many contemporary christian artists.

Wednesday evening I was out in my front yard talking with Kevin (known as DT to his radio listeners), and he asked me if I was free the next day. Once I told him I had no plans, he invited me to come be on the morning show at the station. Anyone who knows me personally knows how much I love to hear myself talk, so the opportunity to bless hundreds of other people with the pleasure of my voice could not be refused.

Can you tell I was enjoying this?
As we were discussing details of the morning show, Adam Elliott drove up and Kevin (DT) invited him to come join us. So, Adam and I were on the road at 6 a.m. the next morning to join the show at 7 o'clock. We were thrown behind the microphones as soon as we walked in. We participated in the morning trivia games with the listeners, bantered back and forth with each other and took several calls. It was great, although a few times I had to be reminded by Kevin that his name is DT on the air. That was hard to remember since I have called him Kevin for several years. It took a little getting used to and I tried to do better, but I know I called him Kevin a few more times.


In the middle of the show it was time for me to do what I had been invited there for. Kevin had asked me to share a message on the show. I shared a topic that is often on my heart and I am always teaching to new Christians. It is a very simple concept. We need to be in the Word. 

READ YOUR BIBLE!!!

In Yellowstone National Park there are signs all over the place reminding tourists not to feed the bears. There are a variety of reasons for these signs. One of the hopefully obvious reasons is the fact that bears are very large animals and can be extremely dangerous when they want to be. Feeding bears is not a safe activity for tourists. This also causes bears to start associating people with food and may endanger future tourists to the area. However, there is another reason that many do not consider. Feeding food to bears that was intended for people is not good for the bears. Bears are designed to eat berries, fish and various other bear-type food. It is very important that they eat the right foods as they are building up fat for the winter months. As bears hibernate, their bodies burn off the excess fat that they have accumulated over the course of the year. However, a bear that has gorged itself on Twinkies, Big Macs and cupcakes has built up a layer of sugar-based fat that will burn off too quickly during the harsh winter months. Because they ate junk food and not the solid food they were designed to eat, there is a highly increased chance that the bear will not survive the winter.

Likewise, there are many of us out there who go to church, listen to christian music, hang out with other christians, wear christian t-shirts and read great christian books, but are still (often unknowingly) starving spiritually. We do not recognize that we are only consuming Christian "junk food." Unless we are regularly taking in the solid food of the Bible, then when the struggles of life inevitably come along we are "like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." (James 1:6) The best way to know Jesus and be grounded in what he teaches is to be familiar with the love letter God gave to us. 

"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope."
Romans 15:4

"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads." 
Deuteronomy 11:18

Listening to sermons is a good thing, but should not be our only tie to Scripture. In Acts 17:11 the Bereans were commended for checking the Scriptures to see if what they had been taught was true. Surrounding ourselves with praise music is a wonderful practice and often helps to keeps us focused, however, it should never take the place of the depth of maturity and learning gleaned from personal devotion time in the Word. It is these kinds of practices that caused Paul to chastise the church in Hebrews 5:12 about still feeding on milk like babies, rather than on solid food as they should be. God wants us to know him and that is one of the reasons he gave us the Bible. We need to spend time in it.

I have absolutely no idea how many people got to hear that message Thursday morning or if it really touched anyone, but I had a great time sharing it. Kevin (or DT) even invited us to come back despite the fact that I said that christian radio was 'junk food' on the air.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Sky Is Falling!!!

All day Friday the TV screen was plastered with news about the NASA satellite that had fallen out of orbit and was going to re-enter the earth's atmosphere, plunging to earth, sometime in the next 12 hours. This satellite (Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite) known as UARS fell out of orbit in 2005 and has been wandering aimlessly around the cosmos for the last six years. Scientific speculation proposed that most of the 6.5 ton piece of metal the size of your average bus would disintegrate in the atmosphere before reaching the earth. It would be possible that 26 pieces may be large or dense enough to survive the journey. With newfound respect for the story of Chicken Little, many earthlings are wanting to tell NASA, "UP UARS!!!"

NASA officials estimated that the debris could fall anywhere between the latitudes of northern Canada and southern South America. Since basically no one lives north of Canada (who would want to) and there are only a handful of populated places south of South America, this prediction was of little comfort to 85% of the world's population. When asked why they could not narrow the path down more specifically so that portion of the globe could better prepare, the NASA spokesperson shrugged his shoulders and said, "What more do you expect? We're not rocket scientists!"

Then to add insult to possible, catastrophic injury, NASA puts out a press release reminding the planet's citizens that if you happen to find a piece of the satellite in your backyard or even lodged in your skull, you may not keep it. It is the property of NASA. Despite this warning, I have already decided what I would do with a piece of UARS if I do happen to find one. Depending in the size I find, I will either make it into a keychain, hang it off a necklace, or mount it in the front of my minivan. I overheard one person excited about how much technology could be pulled out of one of the downed chunks. I reminded him not to get too worked up about it for two reasons:
  1. Any circuitry would be burned to a crisp upon re-entry
  2. Your average run-of-the-mill smartphone has more processing power than even top-of-the-line government computers of 1991 when this space junk was launched.
Today, we are told that the satellite has fallen to earth, but the location of the debris field is unknown. These scientists either do not know as much as they would like us to think or the government has already set up classified forced quarantine areas and is currently in the process of sterilizing the scene and neutralizing any witnesses. Either way, we will probably never know the fate of this hunk of melted metal.

Those masks won't save you from falling space junk
I, for one, am proud to have survived another week of impending doom. Despite the odds, I am still alive and kicking after having lived on the New Madrid fault line most of my life, despite the earthquake that we keep hearing is one day going to kill us all. I live in Tornado Alley, which has the highest concentration of tornadoes on the entire planet. I have survived the SARS epidemic, the AIDS Armageddon, the asian bird flu, the West Nile virus, monkey pox and countless other diseases that were supposed to wipe our species off the earth. I am still here despite Y2K, the end of the world prediction last April, the Snowpocolypse of last February, the aligning of the planets in the 80's and the unexplained fame of Paris Hilton.

For years we cowered in fear, waiting for the terrorists to poison our water supply, blow up school buses, infiltrate our nuclear power plants, or blow up the Super Bowl. Now after successfully fighting for survival all these years, the government warned we could get hit by metal falling out of the sky. Our world has reached the point that no perceived terror is ridiculous. Putting all fear of what freaky sci-fi event will cause our eventual doom aside, there is something we all need to come to terms with. Anything can kill us and, in fact, one day will. Chuck Palahniuk wrote in his book Fight Club, "On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero."

Since we are all going to die anyway, how about we start to live?

Monday, September 19, 2011

2,087 Weeks Ago...

I turned 40 years old today.

40       Forty

Does it look more ominous as the number or spelled out? I haven't decided yet. What does this number mean? Does it mean anything? Forty is one of those ages that just seems old. At least, it used to. I don't feel forty, but then I guess I really don't know what forty is supposed to feel like. Logically, the way I feel right now is what forty feels like. It feels pretty much the same as it did yesterday. So, if you want to know, forty feels the same as thirty-nine.

To be honest, it really doesn't bother me that I am now forty. It is just a number. Technically, I am one day older today than I was yesterday. Yesterday, I was one day older than the day before. Every day, I get one day older. It is a much easier frame of time to consider. It is rather difficult to make plans for a year at a time, but I can usually tell you what I will be doing tomorrow. So, using this frame of reference, I am 14,610 days old. Plus, since I actually quit counting after about 7,500, I just don't get that excited about it anymore. Once I hit 30,000 days, I will probably be excited to see a new day start. I may even be surprised, but for now, it is just another day.

Friday, September 16, 2011

To Tea or Not To Tea

My blog is a little later this morning than usual. I like to have it up early by either having it written at least the day before and scheduled to post at seven the following morning or write it immediately after dropping Kirsten off at school. Today's delay was caused by a temporary beverage crisis in my house and it had to be remedied before I sat down to write.

Better than cocaine
About three months ago, I swore that I would not drink another soda until my birthday. My birthday had no special significance, it just gave me a tangible goal to shoot for. Due to a few health concerns, specifically, the pain in my throat and chest every time I had another Mt. Dew, I decided to give up soda for a while and see what happened. Starting the next day, I did not buy a soda on my way to work. Giving it up wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I drank a lot of water and bought the flavor packets sometimes to drink other things. Technically, it was still water, but I felt adventurous.

My birthday is Monday, and I look forward to meeting up with my old friend once again, but do not think I will go back to my previous amounts of soda consumption. I have less frequent chest pain and I have lost some weight, which was unintended, but much appreciated. Besides, I have found a new liquid love.

To brew properly is an artful science
My iced tea consumption has increased dramatically. I have always liked iced tea. SWEET iced tea. I don't care for the unsweetened. I am one of those people that cannot drink sweet tea in a restaurant if I have to sweeten it myself. It must be sweetened right after brewing while it is still hot. Then, it may be cooled. In my house it is made the correct way. I know exactly how long I like it to be boiled, the incredibly long time required to slowly get to the boiling point, what brand I like, the amount of sugar to add, the proper time to add the sugar in the preparation process and how long it must be cooled before ready for consumption.

I do not bottle my tea to take with me out of the house. It does something to the taste. I also do not put ice in my tea since the melting ice waters it down. I keep it refrigerated and pour into small glasses that will be consumed before the temperature rises to unacceptable levels. As you can tell, I only drink my wonderful creation at home, and when I am home, it is really the only thing I want to drink, especially now that I am not drinking soda. As I stated earlier, I have always enjoyed tea, but now it is a major staple in my diet.

I don't touch the Wilma ones. She never stopped nagging!
Besides, there are many health benefits to drinking tea. Tea is high in antioxidants which can play a role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by decreasing lipid oxidation, reducing the instances of heart attack and stroke and beneficially impacts blood vessel function. Tea flavonoids lower the risk of certain cancers by inhibiting the oxidative changes in DNA from free radicals and some carcinogens. Tea also inhibits the rate of cell division thereby decreasing the growth of abnormal cells. Tea drinking has been associated with good oral and bone health and other compounds in teas have been shown to support the human immune system. I didn't just know all this stuff. I had to look it up. I found the information from this paragraph at the Tea Association of the United States of America website. Whether I knew it or not, it cannot be denied that tea can be very healthy. However, I believe that the amount of sugar I put in my tea absolutely eliminates any possible health benefits that could be gained from the original substance. That's why I take vitamins for my health; tea is for pleasure.

Since I am not drinking soda, and I save my water consumption for when I am out of the house, I went to  get myself a glass of tea before I sat down to write this morning. The pitcher only contained enough for one glass. While that would be enough for getting me through my blog, I would be out after that and did not even have any tea bags in the house to make more. The idea of not having properly chilled tea in my fridge this afternoon was too much of a distraction to allow me to write, so I had no choice but to run to Wal-Mart and purchase my favorite brand.

I had no crazy adventures while I was there, but I didn't have time for any. I was on a mission. I got my tea, got home, started it brewing, and sat down to write. I am now enjoying my last glass from the pitcher and reveling in the knowledge that there will be more this afternoon. Finally, I can concentrate on my blog. That brings us back to where we started. I like to post my blogs earlier in the day.

Now, what was I going to write about today? I think I forgot to take my meds.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Remembrance of 9/11

On Friday, I had the privilege of substitute teaching at the Mt. Vernon High School. After working with preschoolers all week, I couldn't wait to get in a classroom with older kids. However, I had not considered that the day would have special significance. Since the 10 year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks falls over the weekend, many of the classes were showing a video and discussing this event and what it means.

I only showed the video during the 7th and 8th hour classes and several of the students exclaimed they had already seen it many times over the course of the day. It was a well made video produced either by the school or one of the students. It mixed various 9/11 footage with different students and teachers telling the story of where they were when they heard the news of the planes hitting the towers.

Afterwards, we discussed our memories and the importance of the event. Since the students were between the ages of five and seven when this history was made, they really did not understand the significance of the event at the time. It is just old history to many of them. The best I can compare to is my memory of Ronald Reagan getting shot. I remember it, but it wasn't that big of a deal to me since I was only nine years old. I did not understand the significance. Despite the fact that I was alive when it happened, it is just another part of history to me. However, I was an adult in 2001 and was quickly aware of what was happening as I watched the second plane hit the tower.

In July of 2001 I accepted a job with a private school in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Therefore, my family had only been on the island for a few months when September came around. I was working in my office when my secretary burst in very excited. She did not speak English and I really did not have a grasp on my Spanish yet.  She was jumping up and down yelling, "Pastor, Pastor, Pastor....Ah....plane, plane grande....Nuevo York....plane...BOOM!" She was saying a bunch of other things, but she was very aware of the fact that I was not understanding her. I knew something was wrong, so I followed her to the radio in her office. I knew enough Spanish at that point that I could gather the general idea of what someone was saying. Since the first plane had just hit a few minutes before, the newscasters were talking very quickly and did not really seem to know anything yet.

I caught that a commercial plane had hit the World Trade Center, so I ran home to turn on CNN. At that point, this was just an interesting news story. Planes crash sometimes, but for a commercial jet to hit the World Trade Center was awful. Once I thought I understood what had happened I stood up to go back to work. As I took a step forward to turn off the television, the second plane came onto the screen and crashed into the second tower. I felt my heart sink. As the announcers were still in stunned silence trying to figure out what to say, I realized that this was intentional. I didn't know what that meant, but someone had planned this. The news anchor then started to say the same thing I was thinking. This was a planned catastrophe.

I then started to record 'CNN en Español' for the teachers to watch in the break room so they could know what was going on. I kept watching CNN and saw the live footage of the first tower coming down. I had taken the tape back to the school before the second one came down, but got to see the footage hundreds of times over the next couple of weeks. The rest of the day I spent in my office glued to the Internet news feeds to hear the latest information, but don't really remember the events for the rest of the day.

Not knowing what this meant for the country was the worst part. Would there be more attacks? Once we realized this had been done to us by a foreign enemy I wondered if we may even see enemy soldiers on our soil. How bad is this going to get? I never wanted to be back home in the States as much as I did during this time. If the fight actually makes it to our soil and we are fighting for our lives, I would much rather be in familiar territory than in this new land we were in. Since Puerto Rico is part of the U.S. and we lived within a few miles of a large naval base, there was concern of an attack on the island, especially since it is a strategic defense position for the East Coast. There was no feeling of safety just because we were so far away.

Over the next few weeks we were pulled over several times and had our car searched at various road blocks. The heightened security was very visible. I don't think we would have experienced that in the Midwest. As much as I was mesmerized by knowing and talking about the latest developments, soon the news services were issuing warnings about the possible damage we could be doing to our children by the constant bombardment of fear, death, images of crashing planes, people leaping out of burning buildings and other bad news. I realized I did need to protect my children's' minds, but I probably needed to do the same for mine as well. That constant state of stress is not good for anyone.

As time rolled on, different people began to have different reactions. Some expressed anger, others felt a deep pride, many signed up to fight in the military and a renewed patriot spirit grew strong. Since then, many things have happened and many things have been said. Some good, some bad.

Now, 10 years later, I don't know how to finish this blog. I want to wrap it up with some deep, insightful statement to leave the reader thinking or give a renewed sense of pride, but I have nothing. I wrote this to project my memory of that day and I know it is something I will never forget, but it is something that no one who lived through it will forget, regardless of what personal conclusions they came to over the course of the next 10 years. Some people applaud the president's handling of the situation, while others condemn him. Some people believe we have captured the people responsible, while others believe we have been chasing the wrong people. I have read about hundreds of theories people have for why we were attacked to begin with.

What have I learned? I am left with the impression of the high school English classroom I was teaching on Friday. These teenagers do not have the same level of interest in this anniversary as their parents. Despite the fact that they were alive when this happened, they were so young, it did not leave the impression on them that it left on me, much like my limited recollection of the Reagan shooting. Listening to the generation before me talk about the Kennedy shooting is entirely different than me reading about it in a history book. Listening to war veteran's recall the adventures and horrors of Vietnam or World War II reminds me that real people lived through these things. These are events that actually happened. Families were deeply affected and lives were changed by these events. Whether we are discussing the events of the Revolutionary War, the attack on the World Trade Center or anything history in between, these are not just facts, names and places to learn for school. They are a part of who we are and shape our identity as Americans.

We must never forget.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Living by Grace - Guest Post

 ATTENTION LADIES!!!

I did not write the following post. It was written by my friend, Jessica (Osborn) Patch. Jessica is a successful blogger and author. She and and five other female bloggers are starting a daily devotional page on Facebook, which will be launching on Monday, September 12th. Jessica asked if I would post her invitation on my blog. Here it is. I will let her explain the rest.

=========================================

What does living by grace mean to you? For me, it means walking each day knowing I am weak, but He is strong. I get tired, He never does. I stumble, He holds me up. I make mistakes, He’s perfect.

So many things pour into me every day. Responsibilities of being a wife, mother, employee, a writer, a woman (if you’re a woman you know what I’m saying). I wear many hats. I love each one. I love each responsibility, but they can all wear me out.

I need my thirsty soul, quenched. I need saturated with His love, with the washing of the water of His Word. I can’t be good at any of the things above, if I don’t first fill myself up with Him.

Can anyone relate?

And because I’m a woman, I like to share. Women love to share, don’t they? My husband is amazed at some of the things I’m willing to divulge to my girlfriends. I love it when a bunch of us get together and talk about life and most importantly the foundation of life. Jesus Christ.

It renews me, encourages me, revs me up, and gives me hope. We bond through friendship and faith. We care for each other, pray for each other, laugh together. It’s a wonderful experience, especially when coffee and chocolate are involved!

“…A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

Doesn’t this sense of belonging, renewal, and friendship sound wonderful? Wish you could have it on a daily basis?

You can.

Living by Grace
I’m honored to be partnering with some incredible women of faith who want to live by grace, together. We want a sense of community and camaraderie with other women. On September 12th, we’ll be launching a devotional Facebook community.
Living By Grace. We want to invite you to come by and let your souls be quenched, your minds and hearts challenged. Each day an amazing woman will bring the word through a devotional and feel free to mingle, chat, ask questions, and just have a good time.

We’re building bonds of sisterhood through faith and Facebook! Come and join us.

Contributing Writers
Jennifer Slattery, Joanne Sher, Patty Wysong, Lynda Schultz, Maria Morgan, and yours truly, Jessica.

=========================================

This is Brett again. If you are interested in being part of the Daily Devotional group, follow this Facebook link and 'like' the page. The first devo goes up Monday. There are already many women on the page getting to know each other before it starts.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Teacher Troubles

A couple of weeks ago I wrote (read here) about my apprehension of returning to my high school alma mater as a substitute. The day really went very well. I only oversaw study halls, had really good kids and there is not a single teacher still teaching there from my days in those halls. However, being the beginning of the school year, not many teachers are calling in sick yet. That assignment, on August 26th, was my first and I did not get another one until September 7th.

I am going to school to be a high school math teacher and really only want to work with junior and senior high school kids, but until I get my name out there and the work starts coming in, I cannot be too picky about what assignments I will accept. I need the money and will take a job to get paid rather than sit at home waiting for the job I want. When I signed up with one of the school districts, they asked me if there was any age I did not want to work with. I told her that as long as I could change it later if needed, then I would take any assignment. She inquired, "Does that include preschoolers?"

Why? Why? WHY?!?
I had not considered that. Preschoolers? Do I want to work with little rugrats that aren't aware there is green slime creeping out of their nose and encrusting itself on their upper lip? Noisy anklebiters who are perfectly happy until, suddenly, they realize they have to pee and then all civility stops until their pea-sized bladder is emptied? Greedy little slobs who still haven't figured out how to get food to their mouths without covering the rest of the room as well? Tiny cretins who expect you to applaud wildly simply because they spun around without toppling over despite the fact that they knocked over two other children in the process? I will have to think about that.

As I filled out the paperwork, I considered the question she had posed to me. Actually, I don't want to lie. I pretended that I was considering the question. I did not want to give the slightest impression that I wanted nothing to do with those little..........I should probably stop right there. After acting like I had mulled over the question, I informed her that I was probably better suited for older kids. I declined to be on any lists for pre-school classrooms. If I were being perfectly honest, I really didn't want to be on any lists for any grade below 7th, but money is money, and what she didn't know wouldn't hurt her.

I was given a user name and password to a website where I could browse available jobs to sign up for. I fired up my laptop as soon as I got home and immediately snatched up a job at a small school on the other side of town. The site was very user-friendly and easy to navigate around, but it was very uninformative. Even after accepting an assignment, the only info I had about it was the time to arrive, where to report to and the name of the teacher I was replacing. A few hours later, I grabbed another job at the local junior high school. Finally, I was going to get to start working. Unfortunately, my first job was almost two weeks away.

When I arrived for my first assignment, I found the office and got signed in. The office told me the room number and suggested I familiarize myself with the room before the kids came in. When I walked in the room, I immediately noticed the tiny chairs around a table that was about 2 feet tall. OH NO!!! I quickly looked around the room. There were cardboard posters displaying things such as an apple with the word 'RED' and murals of the alphabet along the border at the ceiling. A little girl came in behind me and pushed her way past my legs to go to a desk covered with plastic frog cutouts with names written on them. She picked one up and stuck it on the bulletin board. Assuming the purpose of the frogs, I read it and asked, "Is that your name? Sakia?" She said it was. Reluctantly I asked, "And how old are you, Sakia?" She proudly held up three fingers.

I had a mini-panic attack right then, but believe I was able to hide it. Not that it would matter. What does a three year old know? Within a few minutes, the room began to fill with children. Some were crying, a few were asking to go to the bathroom and over half were overwhelmed with curiosity about who I was. Once they stopped coming in, I counted 24 little people. 24! What was I to do with these kids all day?

Y!   Y!   Y!
I soon learned that today we were to work on the letter Y. The outline of a capital 'Y' had been printed onto 24 sheets of paper. I instructed the kids to all rip up a sheet of yellow construction paper (yellow because it starts with 'Y') and glue the pieces into the 'Y' outline. This would make a large yellow 'Y'. Unfortunately, most preschoolers do not take instructions well. I believe this is why the unemployment rate is so high in this demographic.

While assisting one of the tables with the complex task of ripping paper, one of the boys looks at me and yells, "Did you forget to brush your teeth?" I know why he asked this. Due to a prenatal medication my mother took while carrying me, my bones and teeth are not white, they are gray. I have never had white teeth and never will. I told the sweet child that I brushed my teeth twice every day. He asked (even louder this time), "Did you forget today?" I said no and then told him that I have gray teeth. Mine aren't white like his. He grabbed my lips and said, "That's because you don't brush them."  The honesty of children does not make them more endearing.

I did make it through the day. We read books, played outside and absolutely destroyed that classroom. However, I was pleasantly surprised that when I said it was time to clean up, the kids started grabbing toys, putting them in their containers and replacing everything on the shelves. The room was back to normal within a few minutes. Maybe they could get jobs in the cleaning service industry.

When the end of the day finally arrived, I went to the office to check out and inquire if there was anything else they needed from me before leaving. I was told they had been watching me on the camera system all day (creepy) and would like me to come back the next day if I was free. I choked out the words, but agreed.

I returned the next day and had a much better experience. Especially, since I now knew their names and knew which ones to keep a closer eye on because they were more prone to trouble (i.e. hitting, biting, wandering off, etc). I am absolutely certain I do not want to work with this age group for a living, but have learned that I can survive a day and am willing to be there when needed.

As long as they don't touch me when they're sticky.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pratfalls, Planking and Pain: An Afternoon with the Minors

Last week I asked my readers to give me topics (click here or here) to write about. I received several submissions, but my first response was in my comment section within a few minutes of posting the blog. Kalen Soger asked for my opinion on planking. Actually, she called it the incredibly stupid trend called 'planking'.

According to Wikipedia, 'Planking' or the 'lying down game' is an activity consisting of lying face down in an unusual or incongruous location. The hands must touch the sides of the body and having a photograph of the participant taken and posted on the internet is an integral part of the game. Players compete to find the most unusual and original location in which to play. The term planking refers to mimicking a wooden plank. Rigidity of the body must be maintained to constitute good planking.

Here is a video of planking pictures to give you a better idea.


As you can see, the concept of this fad is very simple. Lay stiff as a board in an unusual place and take a picture to post on the Internet. Despite the simplicity of the idea, I felt that I should go out and experience this new phenomenon before trying to tackle the topic. On Tuesday afternoon, Christian (my son) and I picked Kirsten (my daughter) up from school to go planking. Kirsten's friend, Taylor, called her mother to come along with us. The four of us then headed out onto the town to locate interesting places to get our pictures.

As we were driving around, we began talking about why people started planking to begin with. It is so pointless. A person lays down on something and then someone takes a picture of it. Why? I had to ask them why we do anything. Why did every kid in the world have to own tons of Silly Bands? Why did hula hoops ever become popular? Millions of people all over the country bought a large plastic ring so they could swivel it around on their hips? REALLY? The same goes for tossing a plastic disc around. If you think about it, the only reason frisbees still exist today was because of the frisbee fad they created years ago. Let's be honest, unless you have a frisbee-catching dog, they get boring real fast.

Does this look like fun?
People from older generations who say planking is stupid may have participated in their own fads during their youth. In the 1950's, youth flocked to the local town square to see how many people they could cram into a phone booth. Why did they do this? I don't know, but I do want to ask this question. Why not? It was just something to do. It was harmless and young people tend to come up with crazy ideas. In the 20's, flag-pole sitting became popular. Then, dance marathons became the activity of the 30's, and in the 40's goldfish swallowing became the new fad of the youth. During the disco years of the 1970's, when everyone's wardrobe drastically changed, streaking became a common occurrence. The 50's saw the birth of panty raids, which were born out of protests against curfew rules at co-ed colleges. Just a few years ago people started extreme ironing, which is simply ironing your clothes in the most incredible places you can manage.

I don't like to iron in my play time.

Regardless of someone's opinion of planking or any of these other activities, they are just something goofy to do. Is it stupid? Maybe, but it is not pointless. I spent an afternoon having fun with my kids and did not spend a penny other than the gas involved driving around. It's a harmless activity. Actually, I can't really say that, but I will explain that in a moment.

The rail hurt my chest
Once again, in the chest

Captain D's drive thru
The most challenging part of planking is finding the proper location for your picture. The actual act of planking is fairly simple. Sometimes it was difficult to get into position properly, but it didn't take long. If you look at the pictures, you can see that many of the times when I took the position, my legs and chest were hanging off the end of the platform I was resting on. Keeping my chest and head up were not that difficult, despite the fact that at my age, I could feel all the blood rushing to my face. The harder part was holding my legs up long enough to get the picture taken and I always tried to hold my stance until we had taken three pictures to make sure we had a good one.

Over water at Mitchell Museum
After getting several pictures at various places around town, we went to the Mitchell Museum to walk the grounds behind the building. We thought the museum would have many great picture opportunities we could try to plank on. In this picture, I used an old diving board platform that went over the water. It was one of the few things we found back there. There were plenty of things to look at, but not much built for laying on. We were determined to find something for a great picture. After walking around and being disappointed at the lack of planking opportunities, we came across a park bench. After some of the pictures we had already taken, I figured laying on a park bench would be rather uneventful, but I had an idea. If it worked that way it looked in my head, it would be a great picture.

Taylor on a children's swing
The back of the bench only came up to about halfway between my knee and my waist. So I was going to rest the front of my thighs across the back of the bench and then fall forward in position. If Christian could snap the picture at the right moment, it would look like I was balancing on that bench in an impossible way. However, as I got into position to try this and was telling Christian where I wanted him to stand and what I wanted him to do, the bench shifted. I realized that it was just sitting on the ground and was not secured. I quickly reconsidered my idea. I approached Christian to further explain what I had in mind and we were discussing where we may be able to pull off this shot. However, I had not really explained to everyone why I had walked away from that bench.

The results of non-professional planking
While I was talking to Christian, Taylor approached the bench, not knowing why I had decided not to try it. She put her waist across the back of the bench to do what she had done successfully several times already at other locations. As soon as her feet came off the ground, the bench tipped backward, causing her to fall forward. The quick motion prevented her from being able to catch herself and as her face quickly met with the wood of the bench, her legs were going over her head. She flipped over the bench and landed in a heap on the lawn. At this point I turned around to see what my kids were gawking at. Taylor was fine, but her face did not look like it. Once we got her cleaned up, I reluctantly drove her home to explain to her parents how I had broken their daughter's face.

Despite the blood, we did have a good time that afternoon and I now have a valid opinion about planking. I say that my opinion is now valid because I have participated. Is planking stupid? Yes, it is. However, one of my favorite movies is Airplane and it is pretty stupid as well. There is nothing wrong about planking. It can be fun, it is cheap, and despite our little mishap, it is (usually) safe.

To the people who look at pictures of planking on the Internet and decide it is stupid and pointless, I understand. However, you need to understand this. Planking is not really for the people who are looking at the pictures. It is for the participants. We had a blast. It was so much fun. What is the difference between spending an afternoon playing catch, talking a walk through the park, or going planking? It was fun. Who cares that it is just a passing fad? If you have ever bought a pet rock, expected to be entertained by a Slinky, owned an insanely overpriced Cabbage Patch Doll, collected Beanie Babies or worn a Swatch, then you really can't say anything against planking.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Broken Promises

I like to have my blogs posted in the morning, but this one is going up very late. It is also not the post I intended to make. In my post on Monday, I requested suggestions from my readers on topics to write about in future posts. You can look at the original post and comments left here. This idea was born as I was writing the post and was not what I had in mind when I started typing that morning. That is what I get for sitting down to write without knowing where I was going with my words. As a result of that post and the suggestions I was given, I had intended to address the first topic I was given. However, life does not always play out the way we intend it to.

I took my daughter to school this morning and was coming home to take a quick shower so I could then concentrate on writing about 'planking', as suggested by Kalen Soger in Mondays post. As I was dropping my daughter off, Kyle (my brother) called me to ask why I wasn't home. Since he is self-employed and his children are home schooled, he forgets about how the rest of us are still slaves to that infernal clock. I told him I would be back home in a few minutes if he wanted to wait for me. He did wait and was sitting in a lawn chair in my front yard when I pulled in the driveway. I sat in another chair and we just talked and enjoyed each others' company. We talked about ministry, our jobs, my new neighbors, our kids, travel and a variety of other topics. After a while, Kyle mentioned that he needed to head home, so I get up and check the time on my phone. It was 3:15. We had sat outside for seven hours. I even still had my keys, I had never gone in the house. I then realized that it was supposed to be 102 degrees today. If it did get that hot, we never noticed.

Because of this, I did not get the blog written that I had intended to write. I do not regret this. I enjoy my time with my brother and will not let this blog get in the way of my life, but I did set a personal goal to blog every Monday and Friday. To write the blog I meant to write today will take a little bit of time, so it is not getting written today. It will be posted on Monday. The only reason I am making this entry is to keep the promise I made to myself and my readers.

Here are the topic suggestions I will be tackling in the next few weeks.
  • Kalen Soger wanted to hear my take on the recent fad of PLANKING. I will cover this on Monday and explain the adventure we had while attempting this new phenomenon. DONE (9-3-11)
  • Shane Morgan asked what I would choose to be my last meal on earth and how would I make my decision. I haven't figured out yet, why I am in a situation that I have to make this choice, but the question definitely promotes some thought. DONE (5-23-2012)
  • Adam Elliott challenged me to write about the difference in the TV ratings system over the decades and the evolution of what is considered acceptable for television. There has definitely been a change over the years.
  • Jessica Patch had more of an adventure based week in mind. She suggested doing something I had never done before every day for a week and blogging about each experience. It will make for an interesting week.
  • Ian Cates gave me one word, but it was a wonderful word: BACON. DONE (12-16-2011)
  • Tammy Soule wants a study on how Facebook has changed the way we relate to each other. Is it good or bad to be so 'in touch'? Good question, Tammy. DONE (5-31-2012)
  • My new friend from Colorado, Brandi Boddie, wants to hear more about what lead me to pursue a career in teaching. It is self-reflection time. DONE (11-29-2012)
  • Kyle Minor, my brother, wants to know who would win in a fight between Mr. Rogers and Pee Wee Herman. I have been thinking this one over and it is going to require some research. DONE (12-1-11)
  • Mary Stark challenged me to write a story. I have not done this on this blog yet, so it will be a change in genre for that post. She asked me to go to a cemetery, pick the plot of someone I do not know and 'weave a tale' about that person.
  • Stephanie Maines wants to hear about the places I want to travel to and why. I think I could write on that topic forever.
  • Jayson Ferguson is not included on the comment section because Blogger was giving him some trouble, but he sent his suggestion in via Facebook. Jayson and I went to Lincoln Christian University together about 10 years ago, and we got into more than our share of trouble while we were there. He would like me to write about some of those adventures. Jayson, it looks like some of our hijinks are about about to come to light. Now that I have my degree, what can they do? DONE (4-1-12)
You can see all the original comments (with the exception of Jayson's) by clicking here and scrolling down to the comment section directly under the blog entry. I will address each one of these over the course of the next few weeks. I may write about other things in the mean time. For instance, I intend to give my recollection of 9/11 next week and I am turning 40 on September 19. I have to write about that. Thank you to all of you who participated and be watching for me to cover your topic.