Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Curse of the Last Roll

We all have our lots in life. For some it is never winning a prize, for others it’s our ability to find a way to define clumsy. Sometimes we can feel like our lives are an analogy for Murphy’s Law.
My curse in life is always being the embarrassingly inept person who discovers the absence of toilet paper during large social gatherings and during a point in my business that requires outside assistance.
Most of us have experienced the horror of joyously completing our task only to discover the primary tool to complete our assignment is out of stock. I’m quite sure that our techy friends didn’t foresee this scenario in their determination to become a paperless society. We the paperless, are now only left with bad options. For the outgoing and socially unaware social pooper, the best option is the loud SOS “Hey we are of toilet paper!” announcement. This public service announcement is bold and courageous. The subtle yet wise pooper relies on technology. #out of paper need help smiley face. The downside to this option is that you now become known as the dreaded bathroom texter. The upside is that people will never want to borrow your phone. The slightly more daring yet foolish subtle pooper may opt for the SOS I’m out of toilet paper phone call. This often has the same outcome as the socially unaware social pooper as the phone calls recipient is rarely mature enough not to embarrass you by proclaiming your misfortune to the general public and to their Instagram posse. The huge drawback is that your social status is now reduced to one step above the criminally insane because from this point forward you will hence forth be known as a Going To the Bathroom Talker. The last bad option to become the stealthy pooper. This requires a high degree of physical uncomfortableness as you squeeze and walk in search for the illusive stash of paper. Even the Agnostic’s prays during this awkward dance. “Lord please may no one see me walking like a penguin who just drank a double shot of espresso.”
For those of us who have been afflicted by “The Curse of The Last Roll.” We unite together and demand to know “who is the heartless soul who takes the last sheet and walks away without a care for your fellow man?” Your paperless snare prays on the innocent and unexpected. The furry of your cruel carelessness has reaped a class of the socially shunned. Your selfishness turns the quite serene of peaceful bathroom time into the horror and stress of the paperless.
My wise words of advice for you is to remember ”if you take the last sheet, replace before someone uses the seat!”

Sunday, April 27, 2014


The very moment I laid eyes on my baby girl she captivated my heart. Her presence in this world changed me forever. She gave me the new title of Dad and the good Lord provided the job description. Michelle and I in turn gave our baby girl the title of Kaylee "Janae," which means "God has answered." The Lord indeed answered, and in gratitude to Him we dedicated Kaylee to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I gave Kaylee the nickname KJ, which overtime has shortened further to a combination of the K and the J to Kaje (pronounced cage). This isn't so much the story of my little girl, but of the God who forms us together in our mother's womb. All the real good stories point to Him and this is a good story.

After a couple years of marriage Michelle and I were ready to start a family. Month after month and year after year we were met with disappointment. Many of our friends and family were having children and although we were very excited for them, hope became the unintended victim of each celebration and a painful reminder that our celebration may never come. In the Christian and Jewish World View, God is the Creator of life. He ordains every living thing by the power of His love. When disappointment collided with my belief I questioned. "Is there something I have done to anger God?" "Perhaps If I was a better Christian then God would bless us with children." When prayers are answered with silence or with a "no", discouragement and doubt found fertile ground. 10 years into our marriage Michelle and I were quickly giving up hope for biological kids. We longed to have a family. We talked & prayed about God's plan for us including adoption or maybe the expensive medical solutions. Both were fiscally implausible. For two people who worked for ministry and lived paycheck to paycheck, extra money was difficult at best to come by.. We knew that if we were going to have children, whichever way He saw fit to bless us - if He chose to bless us with children - it would require something that I was running short of. "By faith Abraham, even though he was past age and Sarah herself was barren, was enabled to become a father because he considered Him faithful who made the promise." (Rom 11:11) Faith fiscally will cost you nothing however faith practically will cost you everything. Faith is the most powerful tool we possess. In it the hand of God is moved - or moreso it's us that moves closer to Him - and that our heart is more closely aligned with His. The disappointment, heartache and frustration grew, however it would soon meet it's demise as Michelle and I truly began to exercise our faith.

Michelle and I sat in a crowded Baptist Church attending a concert by Phil Keagy, Wes King, and Out of the Grey. About half-way through the concert Wes King stabbed us in the heart and exposed our open wounds for all in that Baptist Church to see. Wes had experienced the same storm of pain and frustration that we were weathering and the big jerk had to get up and sing a song about it. I rarely cry in public but when Wes King sang this song, all of the deep pain that Michelle and I privately bore burst forth from us like breaking dam. This was the first time we together publicly grieved over our circumstance. In the past I would hide behind a mask which hid my heart and denied me the chance to grieve. I pretended that I was strong, positive, and Christ-like. Inside I was broken and disappointed. Emotionally Michelle and I collapsed as the truth of the lyrics washed over our souls.

Wes King - Thought You'd Be Here

Michelle and I sobbed. To the point where those sitting around us we know were uncomfortable - it's like they had a front seat to us sitting at God's feet and losing it emotionally. We decided that night that we were going to lay aside all of our disappointment and anxiety and we would simply trust the Lord for whatever He desired to do in our lives. Once we surrendered to Him, all of the pressure and stress dissolved into a simple faith that God alone was enough and that His plan is best. In this quiet place, the Lord called us to lay aside plans of adoption and medical solutions. Michelle and I both wholeheartedly believe that both these options are often God's plan for creating families and they are an equally beautiful reflection of His love (after all the Bible declares that we have been adopted into His family) however we felt God saying to us to "lay aside all of your plans and trust Me." He would make it clear if we trusted, listened to and followed Him. I also felt the Lord calling us to a life of gratitude. Instead of complaining and being disappointed I felt the Lord telling us to be thankful and worshipful.

Several months after the concert I felt led to fast. At this time in my life I hated fasting. After going without food for one day I was done. I felt the Lord calling me to do something crazy. I believe He was asking me to go on a fast of gratitude and to do so for 40 days. Such a fast was absolutely unthinkable to me. 40 days was the stuff of Bible heroes and religious nut jobs. In the past I fasted for a day or so for specific answers to prayer, but this fast God was calling me to seemed counter intuitive. If I was going to fast why not fast for world piece or an end to world hunger. I felt God saying to me "I know your hearts' desires, trust me to take care of you." This would require full and complete dependence on Him, and this was the lesson that the Good Teacher desired me to learn.

I began my 40 day fast in early January of 2000. I was afraid that I would give into my hunger a few days in. However I noticed in my gratitude fast that the more I participated in gratitude and worship, the less I focused on my hunger. I found that the longing of my heart was an unquenchable fire for relationship with my Creator. The deeper I dug into relationship with God, the greater my hunger became for Him, which in turn decreased my physical hunger. Day after day I found God more than sufficient in meeting my physical needs. As I trusted in Him for the physical strength to endure, I found myself longing to give the Lord my heart in gratitude.
20 days into my fast I went for a run after work. When I arrived home I noticed a strange envelope in our mail on the kitchen counter. My wife was sitting on the floor coloring in a color book. I asked her if she knew what the envelope was. She said "open it up and find out." It was a card with a baby elephant and a Daddy elephant, and it read "Hey Daddy! Guess Who?

I was so confused. Huh? What is this. And then - I look at Michelle in absolute disbelief - the question didn't want to leave my tongue "Are you pregnant?" I finally ask. "YES!!!" she replies. I was so excited that I tackled Michelle! "You're pregnant?" I shouted in disbelief. "YES" Michelle said. Then I realized that I had just tackled a pregnant woman. "Are you ok? Did I hurt you? Is the baby ok?" My fatherly protective instinct was already in high gear. Several months earlier we sobbed tears of disappointment and now we sobbed tears of unspeakable joy. We pulled ourselves together and with tearful words of gratitude we gave thanks to the Lord. I imagine that the Lord was present in our joyous celebration, smiling, laughing, crying, rejoicing along with us. The years of disappointment and frustration dissolved into the love of my Father. The remaining 20 days of my gratitude fast was absolutely amazing. Gratitude oozed from my whole being and the days flew by like a whisper.

I promised the Lord that every year I would go on a gratitude fast. I have been true to that promise. Some fasts have lasted 20 days, while many have been 40. It was at the end of a 30 day fast in 2002 that we learned that God would bless us with another child. I believe that God was and is teaching Michelle and I dependence on Him.
If you read my blogs you know that I'm a sinner just like everyone. I never speak publicly about fasting because I'm fearful others might consider me something I'm not. I look forward to my yearly gratitude fast for in it I find what my heart longs for.

My hope is that perhaps, just as I have found, you'll realize the best stories point to God and that you too will be a part of His story. Michelle and I would honor the chance to pray for you as you discover that God alone is enough. Please post your prayer and we will join you in the journey.

Kaylee "Janae" means God has answered. Stevey Wonders at the God of Wonder.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cussing at Clergy

I should have learned my lesson. A wise man once said " Out of the abundance of a man's heart, he speaks." It was a warm spring day in 1988 in the city of Detroit. I was finishing up chef school at Oakland Community College and I was working full time at a restaurant. Chef School was tough. We arrived daily at 7:00 AM and went until 3:00 PM, plus we were expected to take two academic courses on top of being in culinary art school and we were required to work in a restaurant 30-40 hours per week. After two years at this pace I was becoming burnt out, stressed out, and exhausted. The pace and the stress were making me into someone I wasn't. Between school and work I went shopping at a busy K-mart near my home. As I was leaving the parking lot the person behind me was angrily honking their horn at me. As the honking continued the level of frustration and anger began to rise within. "What is this guys problem." My inner demons waged war with my moral compass and after one more honks the demons prevailed. I stuck my middle finger out my window and I saluted the driver behind me with evil satisfaction. The light finally turns green and the honking man continues his assault. With defiant rage I salute my assailant with unbridled intensity. The man pulls his car next to mine at the next stoplight. Finally I will be able to give this man a piece of my mind! I roll down my window ready for a verbal assault on this obnoxious honking man. To my surprise it is a man, his wife, and two children waving hi. I look with a horrified expression at the man waving and I instantly recognize him as my boss. My heart and my defiant rage sink into my chest. "Oh what have I done." My boss told me afterwards that he was telling his wife and children about what a good Christian young man I was and how much he appreciated my Christ-like behavior. I vowed that day to put a guard over my lips and my finger and to always wave hi to people honking at me.
I have a new sport in my life. Disc Golf. When I first moved to Oregon my two best friends "the Reverend Brian Condello and the Reverend Erik Williams" played horse shoes together. These epic trash talking, sarcastic filled, horse shoe battles have been replaced by epic trash talking, sarcastic filled, disc golf battles. We traded horseshoes (a sport enjoyed by elderly gentleman) with disc golf (a sport enjoyed by nature loving hippies) In my long 20 year history with Brian and Erik I have never witnessed a tirade from Brian. Emotionally speaking he is the one constant in the universe. Erik has small moments of emotional instability but I have only seen him completely unhinged once. Disc golf can be a frustrating game. Who would think throwing a disc into a chain basket could bring out the worst in a person? Many of my best unhinged moments in the past year have materialized on a disc golf course. Sometimes when I miss a super simple shot an overwhelming level frustration and deep disappointment erupts into a childish display of immaturity. My Happy Gilmore tantrums are comical to watch as I throw several discs as hard as I can into the hole and then throw my disc bag into the hole. All dignity and decorum are swallowed up by immature rage. I'm not proud of this behavior. I wish I possessed Brian's unshakable demeanor or Erik's laid back Hakuna Matata approach to the game, however I possess a wild, unpredictable, passion charged, competitive nature, which emotionally vomits (for all to see) when I make a bad shot. I'm happy to say that the demons of my competitive nature seldom if ever show up in my day to day life but in the crucible of epic trash talking, sarcastic filled, disc golf battles my nature is revealed. Disc golf is all about consistency. You develop a throwing technique and you practice it until your throw becomes predictable. My technique is to throw low, fast, and to the left of my target. All disc and throwing techniques have a natural fade to one side or the other and my discs and technique always fade right. We have a saying "it is all about the second throw" If you have a good second throw you will par the hole. About a month ago we were on our second hole. My first throw was average. I was left of the hole, but I had a simple second throw for an easy par. I aimed left of the hole and let it fly. As soon as the disc left my fingers I knew it was catastrophic. The disc flew sharply left instead of right. Prior to this throw I was 75 feet from the hole. After my throw I was 90 feet from the hole and in the woods. The anger and frustration at my pathetic ability grew within. This throw was so bad that my typical childish tantrum just simply wouldn't suffice. Like a can of Coke that has been well shaken before it is open a choice word forms on my lips. This word would explode forth with volume and passion and it would flow from the abundance of my heart. An atomic S bomb exploded over Woodmansee Park that day. The good Reverend Brian Condello and the good Reverend Erik Williams turn their hallo ornamented heads towards me. The word felt so good, so right, so appropriate, as I shouted it at the top of my lungs, but now as the two reverend's condemning eyes pierce into my soul I feel like a naughty puppy dog who just made a S bomb on their new carpet.
I should have learned my lesson. A wise man once said " Out of the abundance of a man's heart, he speaks." I believe these words to be true. My mouth once again betrayed my heart. I have proven once again that I'm a flawed individual who desperately needs the grace abundantly given to me by my God, family and friends... and one day if you are out on a disc golf course and an absentee rises above the trees take a good look around and wonder if it is Stevey?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Karma of Parenting.

My Mothers voice echo's through my mind "When you have children of your own, then you will be sorry!" As an annoying child these wise words of karma went in one ear and out the other, but now they have become the words I pray will echo through the mind of my son Noah. My Mom is a praying woman and I imagine she prayed earnestly that one day I would reap what I have sewn. With a regretful heart I humbly wish to declare both My mother's wisdom and God's faithfulness in answering prayers to be true and sound. I love my son Noah. He is highly intelligent, extremely creative, fiercely tenacious and full of endless energy. These amazing qualities combined with boredom make the perfect storm in creating Annoying Boy (the answer to my dear mothers prayers.) Please know that if my son Noah was annoying because of no fault of his own such such as a two year old asking endless questions, or a Middle School student well being a Middle School student, I wouldn't be writing this blog. My son Noah is maniacally annoying for the pure purpose of driving me insane and in this dubious mission he derives a type of warped entertainment. Noah's answer to his boredom is annoying me. My evil plan as a parent to protect myself from my children's abuse is for them to keep one simple rule in mind. If you mess with your Dad I will get you back ten fold.Over the years I have been true to my promise. This strategy has worked beautifully with my daughter Kaylee. She has a healthy fear of playing practical jokes on her Dad. In Noah's case, my not so brilliant strategy has back fired. In the heart of every boy is the desire to roughhouse with their Dad. I personally believe that because boys have little desire for hugs and kisses, wrestling with Dad is way of bonding with him.Noah loves to roughhouse. He will pick on me until I get up from my chair, chase him around the house, and wrestle him into submission. Dad's use a large repertoire of submission maneuvers to keep the upper hand. These maneuvers have been handed down from generation to generation. They involve tickling, arm holds, various pressure points, Chinese chopsticks, and in extreme cases the atomic wedgie. The flaw in my plan was that after years of the forementioned maneuvers of submission my son has gone to school and can now utilize them in his pursuit of annoying his Dad.Noah enjoys my ten fold retribution and he now employing it against me. Being a highly creative child has greatly expanded his arsenal of annoying to include imaginative forms of driving me insane. Noah's barrage typically happens when I get home from work. I often unwind from my day by sitting in my chair and watching TV or reading a book. First comes a poke or two, followed by annoying noises, and usually culminates into a crescendo of some type of physical torture. This occurs several times per day. I have begun categorizing Noah's attacks into different classifications. Class Annoying Sounds consists of such things as the dreaded moist sipping and sucking sounds aimed directly at close range to the victims ears, the high range note sung at a loud and consistent level and the ever dreaded chorus of flatulence. Class Annoying Practical Joke involve things such as plastic wrap on toilet seats, ketchup packets strategically put under the toilet seat, pop-its under the toilet seat, and putting rubber bands on the kitchen sinks utility hose thus soaking the first person who turns on the facet.It has made bathroom time in our home a terrifying adventure. Class OMG that was Disgusting consists of the wet willie, ( the act of putting your spit covered finger in someones ear), the snot rocket, and my personal favorite the dreaded ice cube down my pants. Finally there is annoying class Stench. These cruel techniques involve the bad breath bomb, the belch and blow,the stinky shoe, and the fart and flee. Welcome to my world people. I would like to dedicate this blog to my amazing Mom who with smug satisfaction knows of the karma of parenting and who I now believe is offering prayers of gratitude to the God who answers prayers. To tell you the truth I don't mind all that much when Noah annoys me. My son loves to spend time with his Dad and I know as Noah stands on the doorstep of becoming a man his affection will quickly turn away from Dad and turn towards friends and females. I will long with my whole heart to wrestle my little boy once again. To quote Harry Chapin "The cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy blue and the man on the moon." I love my son with a fierceness that words can never express and I desire for him to know that I cherish spending time with him. I will gladly spend time with Noah even if it is annoying time. Stevey Wonders if one day my amazing son will know of the karma of parenting.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Breezy Bottom

Brene Brown said "Courage is defined by the act of allowing others to see who you for who you really are. It is the act of allowing yourself to be seen by others." It was a warm summer Saturday in July. I woke up early to put down a 12 mile run through the beautiful vineyards, and farmland that dominate the landscape of the Willamette Vally. My route included fields of flowers, a glorious vista of the coastal range and the sun rising over the cascades. The glory of such a sunrise can make an Atheist stop and reconsider the existence and majesty of God. One of the things I love most about running is that it allows you to enjoy such beauty at a pace that speed often diminishes. After my run, I jumped in the shower and I wash off the paste that one's sweat and road dust create. Afterwards I walked into my closet to pick out my wardrobe for the day. Typically picking out my wardrobe is a simple affair. My usual Saturday attire consists of an old running race shirt,and a pair of khaki shorts.After several months of working out my waist line was getting smaller and my shorts were getting far to big. I have a very unhealthy habit of yearly taking on the nature of a bear getting ready for hibernation and I put on several extra pounds during the winter months.When Spring comes I issue an all out assault on my flabber hammock. Such a lifestyle requires two sets of clothing. With joy I pulled out a pair of my skinny khaki shorts and slipped them on with smug satisfaction. I thought to myself "skinny khaki short guy, yeah me." Today I needed to do some shopping at Target and then Erik Williams and I were going to play disc golf. Feeling superior about my amazing run and my new skinny khaki short guy status I jumped into my 1997 Saturn sedan and headed to Target. I had time to spare before I needed to pick up Erik so I spent about a half hour shopping at a very busy Target shopping center.Next I drove to my friend Erik's house to pick him up. Erik and I have been doing life together for many years. He is as the Bible says "a friend that is closer then a brother." His oldest daughter Kynzi is now a beautiful young teenager. I have known Kyzni her whole life. We often do holidays together and she and my daughter are fast friends. I knock on the door and Kynzi's warm sunny personality welcomes me to their home. I give Kynzi a hug and then Kynzi's warm sunny personality and my feeling superiority about my amazing run and my new skinny khaki short guy status come to their evil demise. In a horrified tone Kynzi says"Ah Stevie, did you know you have a rip in your shorts?" I know Kynzi as a truthful child however she does like playing a practical joke now and then. In my mind I'm thinking that this is either a small rip or a joke. I tactfully reach my hand to what I believed would be a small tear or a joke and I pulled back with the horror of knowing Kenzi is more truthful then she is a practical joker. The rip in my skinny khakis was far more then a rip. It was more like an obscene abyss of embarrassment. This tare was something that a grown man could be arrested for. I'm quite certain that this hole was larger than an emergency exit on a school bus. My feeling of skinny khaki accomplishment was mistaken for my feeling of refreshing booty air conditioning. Besides the fact that poor Kynzi is now going to need years of therapy and that the customers at Target were exposed to my risque fashion statement,is that this rude discovery was realized in front of Erik! Plus I was wearing old tighty- whities. Fifty percent of Erik and I's relationship is based on shameless mocking. This may sound strange and cruel to most females, however to men this is part of the male love language. This rip would serve as a mocker's dream come true and it will provide mocking footer for many a moon (pun intended). With the the little dignity that remained I asked for a pair of shorts from Erik, however my question was drowned out by Erik's laughter and Kynzi shouting " Oh my eyes oh my eyes" On my way to change out of my skinny air conditioned khakis Erik snapped a horrifying picture with his not so smart phone,(Lord please smite Erik's phone)
Stevey wonders if this is what Brene Brown meant when she said "Courage is defined by the act of allowing others to see who you for who you really are. It is the act of allowing yourself to be seen by others." or if I unintentionally created a new rage in air conditioned fashion, "Butt Flaps"

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Last Day Of Summer

Summers in Oregon are absolutely beautiful. When you think of Oregon you think, hippies, tree huggers, and rain. Most people don't realize that Oregon rain is a very rare occurrence in July, August, and September. Summers are filled with a plethora of warm sunny days, but when Fall arrives it comes on us like black ants on a piece of discarded candy. The Almighty closes the curtain on sun and warm and opens the curtain to cold and rain. Last weekend the Weather Man decreed the last day of summer. Those of us who live in this beautiful State take advantage of any sunny day we are blessed with and especially the one day that we dreadfully call the last day of summer. Granted my plans were big and my expectations high. Today I was determined that I would carpe diem and suck the marrow out of every ounce of the last day of summer. 80 and sunny was promised by the one who proclaimed the end of summer and I planned on a amazing day with my family on the Coast. Major beach time, fishing, crabbing, and eating our body weight in taffy filled my mind with anticipation. We awoke on the last day of summer to fog, rain, and clouds. Stinking weather man! Despite the gloom I forged on hoping that the afternoon would birth forth with warmth, sunshine and Moe's clam chowder. My Unwin entourage didn't share my sunny optimism and my daughter Kaylee dropped out and traded an amazing day on the Coast for a lazy day of watching reruns in my green armchair. Michelle opted out earlier in the week because of work, so the collision of the willing was down to Noah and I. We packed my 1997 red Saturn (which we now call the Squatchmobile) for a day of sunny adventure. The coast is about an hour drive from our house, and the unforeseen rain plagued us all the way over the Coastal mountains and onto the coast. Noah and I decided to go surf fishing for ocean perch which requires sand shrimp for bait. Michelle texted the location of the only bait shop in Lincoln City. When we arrived at Eleanor's Undertow we discovered it was now a closed ice-cream parlor. Although Eleanor's looked delicious it wasn't sand shrimp. After we did much asking around we found our sand shrimp and headed for the water. With anticipation we threw our lines into the surf and with disappointment our lines answered. Nothing in the sea was interested in sand shrimp although the red dye that they are packed in seemed interested in ruining my shirt. We declared fishing a disaster and we decided to try our hand at crabbing. September is the advent of Salmon fishing in the Pacific NW and every fisherman in Oregon decided to launch their boats where we wanted to crab. It took a half four to find a parking spot, and then Noah and I walked a half mile in the rain with our crab nets and fishing gear. We were rewarded with a great place to crab from on the dock. In all of my years of crabbing I have always caught crab. Throwing a crab net off a dock in Oregon and catching crab is as a sure thing as being able to find a Waffle House in Georgia. The crab and the ocean perch decided that going to the Oregon Coast on the last day of summer was a bad of an idea as this trip was turning out to be. After an hour of crabless nets we hiked back to the squatchmobile. Oregon is experiencing a record Salmon run this year. Millions of salmon are heading east on the Columbia and fishing for them has been epic. With this in mind Noah and I decided to give it a try. We were fishing from shore and the boats that fished in front of us were killing it. 40 LBS Salmon filled the Boats of exuberant fishermen 20 yards away from us. Noah and I threw our lines into the battle with eager anticipation. On my first cast my line broke and all of my salmon gear rushed downstream and into the Pacific. Noah casts his line out with the same result. We were done. We thought about hitting the beach so that we might enjoy some sun, sand, and surf however the Oregon Coast has made a contract with the clouds so that the clouds will never leave. Noah and I left the Coast in defeat. The score Oregon Coast four, my last day of summer zero. To add insult to injury as we drove 5 miles away from the coast the sun appears and the temperature rises as the sun sets on the last day of summer. On Sunday morning we awoke to cold and rain. The weather man finally got it right. The last day of summer wasn't a total loss. I got to spend the day with my Son, we eat the family size bowl of Moe's Clam Chowder and we had an excellent sugar rush from $8.00 worth of salt water taffy and now we have a story to tell about the worst last day of summer ever.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Super Pooper

"Stevey wonders, what the poop? In my 22 years of marriage I have had the honor of owning three dogs, of which two have performed amazing acts of pooping. First there was my dog Kirby. Kirby was a legendary pooper. Kirby would start his pooping ritual in our kitchen, start running as fast as he could and poop. We would sit on our couch and Kirby would fly by followed by tumbling projectiles of stinky-ness. As much as I hated him pooping the house, I have to admit that I always got a good laugh from Kirby's display of pooping prowess. Kirby was also able to perform gravity defying poop tricks. He would often leave disgusting poop sculptures that would break all natural laws of physics. Kirby was able to stand a single poop longways straight up into the air. One was so amazing that I put a glass over it and saved it until Michelle returned from work. It was so straight and high that one could fly a flag from it. I was tempted to call friends over and show them this pooping miracle but my poor wife was disgusted by a poop preserved under glass. Our new dog Moe I'm embarrassed to say enjoys poop. You have heard it said " One man's garbage is another man's treasure." well in in our house we have a new saying "one dog's poop is another dog's dinner." Yes it is true! My dog enjoys eating a nice meal of manure. I find this both repulsive and puzzling. For one, my dog refuses to eat his own dog food, and two, eww he eats poop! Can you imagine how the dog food competitors of Moe's dog food could use this for their financial benefit? "Moe's dog food is so bad that dogs prefer their own poop. Try our dog food at least it isn't poop, or "our dog food is so tasty that dogs love it (even after it has been digested.) I wish my dogs enjoyment of poop stopped there, however Moe's fascination with poop goes from gross and disgusting to repulsive and horrifying. My dog unfortunately loves to bathe, roll, and condition his hair in poop. I typically take Moe for 3-4 walks every day. If I'm not careful Moe will find a pile, taste, then if he like the flavor Moe will jump in and roll around. The first time this happened I was unaware of this distasteful ritual. I thought to myself "isn't Moe cute. He is rolling around in the grass trying to scratch an itch." to my horror my nose was assaulted by the fruit of his enjoyment. In our household we have borrowed a slogan Mountain Dew and we call this behavior "doing the dew" or "just dew it". I also find this ritual puzzling because Moe hates to bathe in soap and water. What in the world is my dog thinking? "Wow this poop is both tasty and aromatic, perhaps I should roll around in it so that I can share its awesome properties with my owners." For those of you who visit our home please know, you may receive a friendly kiss from one loving and excited dog. Please be aware that to Moe's amusement you might be saying along with me, "what the poop."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My life as a 400 lb. ballerina princess...

An urgent call went out. Our community was being called upon to come together to do something absolutely amazing.  Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was visiting Salem, Oregon to build a new dorm for students at the Oregon School for the Deaf, along with completely remodeling their haunted house, which is their biggest fundraiser of the year and was in desperate need of a renovation.  It's a completely different kind of project than they have ever done before - to honor a school that really needed the help... and completely different for us, because it's literally just a few miles from our house.

The cool thing is that they had the site open for spectators from 8 am - 8 pm.  Michelle had been wanting to check it out all week, so we decided to make the inevitable visit after the kids got out of school.  Salem's paper, Statesman Journal, sent out a tweet asking for help.  The people of Extreme Makeover wanted spectators to visit the site dressed in Halloween costumes (the episode is going to air on October 31st).  We received a couple of other tweets saying that not many people were participating with the costume thing but they wanted people to come to the worksite dressed up.  My wife Michelle thought it'd be a great idea to get the entire family dressed up and the Condello's heard about it and decided to join us as well.  We had access to some great outfits, and had an incredible time looking through all these costumes and picking out ones we thought would be a lot of fun to wear. (Brian wasn't too excited.)  Michelle wore her 50's poodle skirt.  Kaylee dressed as a clown, and Noah dressed as Indiana Jones.  Grace was a geisha princess.  Hannah was a hobo. Chele was pathetic, whatever she dressed up as (sorry Chele).  OK, she had on her regular clothes and she wore a flower lei - trying to look tropical.  Brian really didn't want anything to do with it all.  But he reluctantly picked up a costume to carry along and put on at the last possible moment (pathetic as well).  Answering the call of our community we loaded up our cars and headed to the spectator transport area.  Brian joked along the way that the tweets for costumes were just a cruel hoax.  Michelle fervently showed him tweet after tweet and articles on Statesman showing it was "legit."

When we arrived to the worksite Brian's theory was vindicated. We were the only ones there that actually wearing costumes.  So have you ever been invited to a party where you were the only one who dressed up?  When I was in college, I was invited to a Halloween party and I assumed it was a costume party.  I dressed up as a hobo, but when I got there, I was the only person wearing a costume.  I felt like a complete idiot.  This same feeling was shared by our children when they realized that we were the only ones in all of Oregon to get the "costume memo."  The kids were really embarrassed, but as parents we did the best that we could to encourage them to enter the worksite any way.  My reluctant children walked in but instantly felt humiliated and out of place.  My daughter Kaylee really began to shut down and wanted to leave immediately.  My lovely bride, Michelle, in an attempt to make my sweet girl feel comfortable asked me if I would put on my costume.

You may have noticed I haven't mentioned what my costume is yet.  In the box that Michelle brought home there was this great mullet wig and a hysterical oversized blow-up ballerina outfit, complete with an air blower inside.  This beautiful ballerina sported a skimpy tutu, not quite enough to cover this inflatable dancing queen.   I looked at my wife with fear and trepidation in my eyes, thinking to myself, "are you absolutely out of your mind? There's no way I'm wearing this costume when no one else here is wearing costumes at all!"  But then I looked at my girl who was melting in her mama's arms, and my Daddy heart broke for her, and I knew what I had to do.

When trying to pull something off as bold and hysterical as a 400 lb. ballerina princess, you can't go half-way.  To all the children's delight (and Brian's too) I put on my wig and my tiara and then my inflatable fan blowing air balloon ballerina outfit.  And when fully blown up I began dancing around the spectator area, making a complete fool of myself.  All of the focus that my kids were putting upon themselves was now fully put on me.  My children started laughing and playing and enjoying being dressed up.  They made fun of me, kicked me in the backside (an easy target) and ran away every time I tried to dance with them.  The visitors around us looked at me as though I was insane and had absolutely NO idea why I was dressed this way.  Brian, who is too cool for school, refused to dress up in his groovy disco guy costume.  But I didn't care.  I was having a great time making my children laugh and acting like a clown.

There was a crew inside the dorm area filming Paige working inside the door, and I did all I could to draw their attention to the air balloon ballerina just 30 yards away from them.  I'm sorry to say, or maybe I'm happy to say, I wasn't captured by the tv cameras, but if I had been I am sure that the ratings of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition would have gone through the roof.  Happily, my family and I answered the call of our community to try to do something special for some amazing students at OSD.   But it landed up instead I was able to something amazing for my wife and my kids.  I know that my kids will look back at this experience as humiliating, but also remember their crazy dad exuberantly dancing around in front of the frightened multitudes and having the time of our lives.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Oregon and Coffee

For one to be socially acceptable in the great state of Oregon you must hug trees, recycle everything, embrace your inner hippie, choose to be either a Duck or a Beaver and drink coffee. Coffee in the Pacific Northwest is an obsession. In my small town of Keizer we have 5 Starbucks and several other coffee establishments. Keizer has little to offer in the way of restaurants but we have an abundance of places to purchase coffee.

I have to confess that when I first moved here I just didn’t get it. High priced coffee and the hippie free spirit of Oregon seem like vinegar on a pancake. Why are Oregonian’s so passionate about their liquid bean?

One of the first clues I received that I was a coffee simpleton was making the mistake of asking someone who was drinking Starbucks if they have ever had Dutch Brothers. You would think that I just stabbed a baby seal. “You drink Dutch Brothers?”

When I was young I hated coffee. I would drink it with six teaspoons of sugar and a half cup of creamer. I now enjoy coffee but my philosophy on a great cup of coffee is the same as it was when I was kid. I like my coffee like Hannah Montana, weak, blond, and sweet. I found that the good people of Oregon don’t even consider this to be coffee. “That’s not coffee, it’s sweetened milk.” I feel like a coffee Nancy every time I buy some. My wife makes fun of me because I put sugar, hot chocolate mix and caramel vanilla creamer in my coffee. Don’t knock it until you try it.

People are so serious about their coffee that it becomes a part of their personalities. In Georgia when you order a cup of coffee they write your name on the cup and call you when it is done. In Oregon the type of coffee you order is now your name. When you drink sissy lala coffee like myself this can be very embarrassing. “ One Caramel Machiato with double caramel and a side of extra caramel with sweetened condensed milk.” People look up from their Mac Books and gawk at the freak of nature who just ordered that sugar bomb. At first I was embarrassed by my public coffee flogging but now I try to make the poor barista call out the most obnoxiously long coffee concoction my evil mind can create. “One cinnamon dolce crème frappuccino with double caramel, low fat milk and a spicy chai chaser.”

I’m a blue collar coffee guy. I can find a great cup of coffee at any coffee house in town. Make it sweet and bad for you and I will love it. The coffee snobs of my great state find this unfathomable. I’m doing my best to be a good Oregonian. I hug a tree every day, I recycle hippies and I have decided to be a Duck fan. Stevey wonders how do I become a coffee snob?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Horseshoe Wars: The Unwin Strikes Back

It is said that September is the best kept secret in Oregon. Summer begins to shake off its intensity and mellow into warm sunny days. The sun sets before 8:00 PM as if to remind children that tomorrow is a school day. Like a squirrel preparing for the winter Oregonians take advantage of these sunny days and store them up for the long 5 month day of rain ahead. The Williams , Condellos and Unwins planned an impromptu picnic at Keizer’s secret park. We enjoyed each other company and rejoiced in the news that Erik’s sister from Kentucky just received word of their referral to adopt twins, a brother and sister who are 2 and a half months old, from Ethiopia. These babes cannot be in the arms of their parents fast enough (nor can the calls for other expectant parents come fast enough either).
After our picnic was finished Brian, Erik and I had some business to settle. The Secret Park is the home court of our epic Horseshoe Wars. It had been a very busy summer and unfortunately our weekly horseshoe game had been the casualty. Our arena was dry, hard, and grown over. We made a feeble attempt to work the ground before the ensuing battle. Just like Erik’s taste in footwear this game was going to be ugly. Our practice throws bounced off the hard surface like a super ball in a racquetball court. Erik gave me a new set of horseshoes for my retirement with a touching note declaring his horseshoe superiority. Erik proved true to his word as he put a steady shellacking on Brian and I. The ground was so hard that even the shoes that hit the post would fly several inches away from being point worthy. Erik was within 5 points of victory. Brian and I were 10 points behind. Erik was once again getting up on his familiar high horse. He smelled the taste of victory. Humility and grace sat beside me because Erik didn’t want them on his team. “I will win the game on the next turn.” Erik declared. Brian and I had all but conceded to his shoe throwing prowess when the memory of last years humiliating defeat was alluded to by his enormous ego. The competitive fires burned with in me. I thought to myself “I may not win but I’m going to go down with a fight.”
One thing that you must understand about our Horseshoe Wars is that horseshoes is just one of the games that is actually played. There is also a mental and trash talking game that goes on as well. Brian and Erik are Youth Pastors. Youth Pastors are the most pathetically low dirty rotten trash talkers on the face of the planet. They are so desperate for victory that all morale character and judgment are easily disposed of in lieu of victory. Knowing this I knew that I had to beat Erik in his own evil vices. My strategy was simple. Get in Erik’s head and make camp there until Brian or I won. This is Erik’s game. He is amazing at it, now I had to make it my own. On my next turn I employed my strategy. I started throwing rocks on the ground next to his feet as he threw, I would make strange noises or tell jokes. It was working - I was in Erik’s head. Brian for 15 minutes slowly and methodically was catching up. Erik had only scored 2 points in the last several turns. He was completely off his game. He was throwing rocks at me and doing everything he could to make me lose concentration. His game became all about distracting me. Several turns later Brian took the lead. Erik had not scored a point in ten minutes. Slowly and methodically I fought my way back into the game. I scored a ringer and low and behold I was tied with Erik. The score was Erik 18, Steve 18, and Brian 20. Our next turns were filled with tense anticipation. One horseshoe could win the game for any one of us. Brian and Erik faced off and Erik’s shoe hit the top of the stake and bounced off. Brian threw an ugly shoe and fate rolled it in for a point. Erik was still full of confidence as felt he could drop one closer and spoil Brian’s victory. Brian stood as close as he could to Erik in hopes of getting in his head. Erik was determined to keep him out and he took an eternity to make his last throw. Finally the moment came and the shoe was released from his hand. Hope feels Erik’s eyes as the shoe is judged to be on target. "POP" is the sound of Erik’s ego deflating into defeat. The shoe misses right and bounces into Horseshoe War legend. I’m happy to say that wasn’t the end of the story. When someone falls down the best thing for them to do is get back up. It didn’t take Erik long to get back on that high horse. “Brian is always on my team so I still beat you” He gloated. But even that wasn’t good enough for him. “We can play for second place.” The sun was setting as we squared off. It was an 18 all tie. The next throws would define our moods for the next couple of days. Perhaps it was just a match to determine second place but Erik and I knew that it was oh so much more. As the shoe left my hand I thought September is the best kept secret in Oregon. Well maybe, that is until today!

P.S.  If you want to read more about Nina & Wes' adoption, and have a good cry, take a peek at their story here... http://bit.ly/cFanMx.