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...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Luke 7:36-50

Once a week I have decided to write a blog on things that Lord has been teaching me during the week. I’m reading through the book of Luke and I came a across a very cool story. Jesus is invited over to a religious leader's house for dinner. I can imagine that this Pharisee was very excited to have Jesus eat in his home. It seemed like all of Israel wanted a piece of Him. He was healing many and casting out demons. People were desperate for his time. Dinner is served and in comes a prostitute who wholeheartedly repents of all of her sins by weeping on Jesus feet and then covering them with perfume. The Pharisee is horrified at the scene that is unfolding before him at his dinner. Please read the beautiful story for yourself.

Luke 7:36-50 (New International Version)

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner."

Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."

"Tell me, teacher," he said.

"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"

Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."

"You have judged correctly," Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."

Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"

Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

The words Jesus spoke “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." Spoke to me in a new way this week. Jesus correlates our love for Him directly to the amount of gratitude we display to Him for the forgiveness of our sins. The more that you and I realize our sinfulness the greater our gratitude and our love. One of the greatest truths I have discovered in my walk with the Lord is that the closer I grow to Him the more I recognize my sinfulness. My intimacy with God deepens my dependency on Him and brings to light my sin. As a parent I desire for my children to be fully devoted to the Lord. I certainly don’t want my children to experience a life of rebellion for them to experience God’s forgiveness. I desire for me and my children to recognize that we aren’t better then the prostitute and that we need God’s forgiveness just as much as she does. My heart breaks for those who perhaps have grown up in church and have lived a good life.  It would be so easy to think that you aren’t as sinful as the prostitute. I’m a sinner who needs a Savior! We are ALL sinners who need a Savior!! We all need to realize our sinfulness and His forgiveness.  I can love God in deeper ways when I understand how much He has forgiven me and how much He has done for me. Gratitude is an expression of love.   Jesus said “he who has been forgiven little loves little.” My prayer for us is that we would love big!

Friday, September 10, 2010

With the Shape of an L on His Forehead

The sun was rising over the Willamette Valley when I had just finished a killer upper body workout. Two days prior, and $29.00 a month poorer, I joined a 24 hour gym. I visited several gyms around Salem and I decided on this one because it had a Rocky Five quality about it. No fancy stuff! Just the promise of hard work and pain. Old ugly people worked out here and I fit in fine. I love that I can pick any of the 24 hours in a day in which to work out. Today I had chosen 5:00AM. It was a comforting to know that I wasn’t the only old ugly person to choose this early hour. Misery loves company and apparently old ugly people do too. Another great thing about working out at the gym for the pathetic is that there are no beautiful twenty something hardbodies to help you feel bad about yourself. A six pack in my gym is what we drink after our 10 minute workout. There isn't any muscle clad stallions with inflated egos and testosterone driven grunts to laugh at. I’m feeling pretty good about myself as I’m certain that after two full days of working out my muscles have doubled in size and I have lost 6 inches off my waist. I was humbly looking at myself in the mirror while admiring my obvious progress when the thought hit me that perhaps I should have joined the good looking gym. I decided to join my two fellow old ugly people on the elliptical machines. As soon as I arrived one of them bailed on me. I’m sure it was because they were intimidated by my sure physical prowess. The man that remained was tough. When I said “hi” when I arrived he just grunted. He looked like he was a Marine from Vietnam . I found an elliptical machine directly in front of him and climbed on. This was my second time on these machines so I was still  learning all of the crazy high tech gadgets it possessed. It has been a long time since I belonged to a gym and the new machines offer many new options. This one had a built in TV with cable access, a stereo, heart monitor, built in fan and all of these crazy workout mode options. I started out on the elliptical machine at a fast pace. I wanted to impress the old Marine behind me. He was going at much slower pace and I knew my speed was impressive. As you know elliptical machines have long handle bars that you hold on to. These bars work in conjunction with the foot pedals. When the foot pedal spins down the handle goes down as well. I was about five minutes into my workout when I decided that I would like to watch the TV. I found the power button and turned it on. The channel it was on held no interest to me so I wanted to change it. I started to look all over the machine for a place to change the channel. The man behind me noticed my frantic search and said “you change the channel with the remote control which is on the machine next to you.” I said thanks. I reached over for the remote control and then BAM!!! The bar that was attached to the foot pedal slammed into my mouth with devastating force. I felt stars. Bam it hit me again. The remote control dropped to the floor as I felt the second blow. The taste of blood filled my mouth and my lip began to swell. My head hurt and I thought I was going to pass out. Behind me a heard an ill attempt to stifle laughter. I was so praying that the man behind me didn’t see that pathetic display of stupidity. I felt like such a looser! Completely embarrassed I stop my machine, pick up the remote control, got back on the elliptical, and did my best to pretend that nothing ever happened. The pain was tremendous! There was no way I was going to get off that machine while he was there. The man behind me finally picked up his things and left. I was so happy. I got off the machine, ran over to the drinking fountain, iced down my swollen face, and whined like a school girl. I’m pretty sure that I will be changing my workout times because I don’t want to face that Marine again. The good Lord always finds a way to keep me humble and at the same time give the gift of laughter to others. I have excepted the fact that at times I have the shape of an L on my forehead.  

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Clap On Clap Off the Clapper

We all have heard of a Pied Piper and we may all know someone with an infectious personality, but how many of us know someone who is a contagious clapper? My wife Michelle is an exceptional clapper. She developed this talent as the Drum Major in High School. To be honest with you I’m not sure exactly what a Drum Major does besides move their hands a lot and wear a tall hat, but one thing I do know, they must be able to clap. There are several reasons why my wife Michelle is an exceptional clapper.

1) That woman can clap loud. I mean freakishly superhuman loud. When my wife begins to clap there are dramatic changes in the atmospheric pressure. The oxygen is sucked out of the room and then sucked back in causing the walls to expand and contract. God once asked Michelle if He could use her clap as "The Voice of the Lord". NASA has also asked Michelle if she would fill in for the sonic boom when it takes a holiday and the Clapper (clap on, clap off) was named after her. Do you know the fake handclap recording that they play at sporting events to get the crowd into the game? Not a recording, it’s Michelle. You would think that my wife had hands the size of watermelons, however her hands are small, delicate, and supple. Her small beautiful hands has just increased the enigma. Those of us who have witnessed this first hand can testify to the sure awe that her small clapping hands can generate. I would dare call it miraculous.

2) Michelle’s clap is contagious. This is no lie. I have been in stadiums with over 30,000 fans and my wife (with minimal effort) will have an entire stadium clapping along with her. When she starts clapping an innate involuntary motor structure fires off in the hands of the multitudes. They can’t help themselves. They are clapping putty in her clapping seductress hands. Dogs, cats, farm animals, and fish aren’t even safe. Mothers bring there new born babies to my wife Michelle so that she can teach them to clap.

3) Michelle’s clap is always the first one. If you’re like me you’re a clapping grump. We clapping grumps don’t enjoy clapping along. Have you ever been in church or at a concert and your chillin and grooving to the music when out of nowhere someone begins to clap? At first you grumble and complain that someone started clapping and then slowly the crowd joins with the clapper. Now you are in a real dilemma. Do I join the clapping crowd even though I don’t want to?, or do I not clap and risk looking like I’m not interested? This battle rages in my mind and like a clapping lemming I give into the clapping peep pressure and I become the reluctant clapper. Well to all of my fellow grumpy clappers I have to confess that it is my amazing awesome wife who clapped first. I love the fact that my wife is a clapper instigator. She is a clapper leader and she brings joy and excitement into the room. All of us grumpy clappers aren’t allowed to sit on our hands because my wife is asking for our participation.

4) Michelle’s clap is on rhythm. I think one of the huge reasons why I’m a clapping grump is because I have absolutely no rhythm. If I were a clapping Super Hero as Michelle is I would lead the crowds astray. I would break every worship service and concert I attended. The reason I clap softly is because I clap poorly. Michelle is a clapping genius! Not only can she clap on the beat but then she can throw down these funky clapping rifts. Her clap is a musical instrument that accompanies the band and allows others to enter into the music. It honestly is a gift.

I love my wife Michelle! Her clap is loud, contagious, leading, and talented. Much like her. She still lights up a room and my heart! Michelle brings life, love, and joy to our world. It is who she is. She is an amazing gift and I’m so blessed to call her my wife. The next time you are at church, or a concert or at a sporting event and you hear a loud clapper, look behind you and perhaps you will see my bride leading the crowd in celebration. Clap on Lobster!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Keeping it White and Tight

We are by nature creatures of habit. Most of us enjoy the daily rituals that bring order and sanity to a chaotic world. I love that I sit in the same pew every Sunday. I love drinking out of the same coffee mug and I love that for 43 years I have kept it white and tight. In my opinion male underwear has completely gone metro. Let’s take a brief moment (ok that one was both easy and bad) and look at the evolution of the male undergarment. Back in the days, before undies, man was left to roam. Enough said. Chaffing and splinters were a big pain in the butt so some French guy invented the male under garment. Men everywhere enjoyed the loving security and subtle sense of freedom in what we now refer to as the boxer shorts. The gourd and loincloth became the garment of the past and only primitive cultures and frat houses utilized these garments. Just as the iPhone has transformed current communication, the advent of the elastic waistband revolutionized the under garment universe. With the elastic waist band came everything that man desired in his underwear. Security! Finally a plan with no roaming charges. For sixties years the elastic waist band (whitey tighties) has dominated the underwear Universe. Everything was right and white with the world until on one dark day some money hungry underwear apparel designer in 1979 decided to market colorful underwear to impressionable young boys. These under garments were cleverly called Underroos. They sold like hotcakes. Super hero underwear became a must have for every boy. Which boy doesn’t want to be a super hero?

These children are now grown up. They're now buying their own underwear and have boldly expanded the under garment market. Their underwear no longer has to be white and they distain any underpants that you can see a stain. The free market continues to lead these Underrooers astray. Now we have highbred underwear that crosses boxers with whitey tighties. Our boxers now are available in every imaginable color print and pattern. Worse of all (Do I dare speak this out loud) Men are flocking to bikini briefs! The greatest underwear rebellion has been a move to g-string briefs. (Lord please help me to erase that mental image.) The current state of the men undergarment market is in complete chaos. Fashion has blinded the male gender and now we are drunk on pretty panties. What fashion demon has bewitched us that we desire to be fashionable down under?

I would like to challenge men everywhere to abandon their ill-advised pursuit of fancy underpants. I understand the freedom and security issues that we men require. A man should be able decide between boxers and briefs, but it is time for an undie intervention. We as a gender have fallen down the dark stairwell of underwear vanity and have condemned future generations to undergarment narcissism. I personally vow to keep it white and tight. Please join me and, (for our children) put dignity back in our underwear. Listed below are telltale signs that you have become an underwearaholic and that you need professional help.
1) Brother if perhaps the underpants that you are currently wearing looks more like your wife’s it is time for you come back to the white side.

2) If your underpants cost more then $20 you are a sick man.

3 )If your underpants didn’t come in a six pack your vanity is leading you astray.

4) If the word bikini is found anywhere in the description of your underwear you have betrayed your manhood.

5) If you aren’t a plumber and your crack is showing, you should be ashamed.

6) If you have to use more then one color of the rainbow to describe your briefs you need help now!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Sounds of Nature

One of the great appeals of camping is getting away from crazy pace of society to a beautiful secluded oasis of solitude. The entrapments of our everyday lives are left behind and we are gloriously left to spend time together in this tranquil environment. If you believe this to be true you haven’t been camping in a State Park.

My illusion of peace, tranquility and serenity while camping met a nightmare of a defeat in the early years of my marriage. Michelle and I decided to join our friends the Petermans for a weekend camping trip in the North Carolina Mountains. When we arrived at our campground we were excited to realize that we were one of the only campers there. We set up our tents and went into town to get some supplies. When we returned some others campers set up camp next to ours. We thought this was strange being that the whole campground was full of empty lots. We enjoyed great conversation and a campfire. Our neighbors got a late start but soon they had a campfire roaring as well. We had an early morning of hiking so we decided to go to bed around 11:00. Our neighbors seemed to be having a great time but we assumed that out of common courtesy they would quite down around 12:00. They recognized that we had gone to sleep and we assumed they would show some respect. As the night pushed into early morning so did our neighbors. The music was turned up to an absurd level and the beer was flowing almost as fast as my anger. My friend Mark asked our neighbors two or three times to keep it down, but after a few minutes of effort to silence their drunken enthusiasm the partying raged on. It was 4:00 AM when they finally stopped. I was angry and revenge would belong to me. Jesus himself would have silenced these neighbors. At 6:00 AM I woke up to a mission. It was time for me and my friends to party. I started by singing very badly (which takes no effort on my part) at the top of my lungs and then I began to honk the horn. I shouted everything and anything I could to my embarrassed friends. I then cranked the stereo and had an early morning dance party. We continued on for 45 minutes of obnoxious revenge.

Like a medieval plague, obnoxious neighbors seem to be the Unwin family curse. I’m guessing after many years of camping I’m sure we tipped the annoying meter several times and now camping karma is camping next door. The three camping trips this summer have all had at least one night of neighbors gone wild. These days I resist the temptation for revenge and let sleep claim it’s inevitable prey. I used to lie and tell people that sleep is over rated. I’m a light sleeper and on nights such as this I wish I could sleep through the party.

One of the things that I value about camping is that you have a chance to rub up against humanity. You hear the heartbeat of life. Dads singing with their kids. Moms loosening their parental grip and letting their kids embrace the full extent of their child potential. You hear babies crying in rages of protest and you hear tired parents doing their best to reclaim the silence. You hear laughter, lots and lots of laughter. Camping may not offer the most quiet night’s sleep, however it helps you hear the joy of life. Who knows if perhaps you are camping next to me and decide to share your joy for life into the early morning maybe I will decide to return the favor.

Monday, September 6, 2010

My dad… Crazy or Genius??

I love camping. I grew up in a camping family, and I’m proud to say that the tradition of camping my children enjoy as well. We are tent campers, because right now we can’t afford anything other than tent camping. This past week my family enjoyed a great camping trip to Honeyman State Park on the central coast of Oregon. We had a great time of crabbing, fishing and playing on the dunes.

There are a lot of things about camping I find humorous and these next blogs will be dedicated to the amazing experience of camping.

Bathing while camping can be a great adventure. My dad made it a point to never shower while camping. No matter what the temperature or weather conditions, my father would grab a bar of soap, shampoo and a washcloth and gingerly make his way into a frigid Lake Michigan. Our whole family watched in amazement as my dad would work up a good lather, and then disappear under the icy water. He would emerge from the surf fully bathed.

I myself am a shower guy. I need a shower once or twice a day to function. This of course leaves you at the mercy of the government. At Honeyman State Park you have 3 options: awful, bad and embarrassing.

The first shower I tried was undoubtedly designed by the Obama administration. When you entered this shower facility it appeared to well designed and very nice. It offered a shower stall and a nice changing room. I was very impressed until I stripped down naked and climbed inside. My shower illusion was soon to become a nightmare. It was freezing cold outside and I was anticipating the hot water thawing out my campfire smoked odder. To my great alarm there was no shower faucet knob. The only thing on the shower wall was a button. I pushed the button once and the shower sprang to life for 30 seconds. The water was freezing. I was willing to give it another try. I pushed the button desperately hoping the water would warm up. 30 seconds of ice cold water awakened me into reality. Like a dog wearing a shock collar my stubborn ignorance attempted a third round. As I dried off I began cursing under my breath. On my way to shower number two I thought “Well isn’t this just like our government, they offer an illusion of excellence while in reality they take away our control and our choices.”

My second shower experience was equally bizarre. I hiked to the other end of the campground. By this time I was shivering and angry. This particular facility was designed by the Nixon administration in the mid sixties. I opened the shower facility door to a small square room with no bench or hangers on the wall. Once again I stripped down and turned the shower on. To my delight there was a temperature knob which I turned to the hottest setting and stepped inside. To call this shower an actual shower would be an insult to faucets everywhere. The water came out in a lukewarm mist. It was warm by the shower head but by the time any water actually fell below my waist it had turned into frozen precipitation. I manned up, lathered up and embraced the cold. The shower mist was so pathetic that I was unable to wash away any lather from my chest down. I wanted to attempt a handstand trying to outsmart this frozen mist, but I know that a handstand at my age would mean certain peril. After several minutes of agony I gave up. I did my best to dry out when I realized that this shower was designed in the sixties for a nudist camp. My change of clothes was now completely soaked. The mist wasn’t able to wash my lower body but it was able to leave an inch puddle on the shower floor. When one is faced with putting clothes on in a puddle of water it tends to be disastrous. In an attempt to keep from further water logging my clothes I tried to put one pant leg on at a time while keeping my pant legs dry. This maneuver requires coordination and skill. Unfortunately I posses neither. While standing on one leg I bunched one pant leg up and attempted to stick my leg through. My leg was half way through when cruel fate and brute strength joined together in a wrestling tag team match. I fell off balance. I had two options. I could fall down or sacrifice my dry pants. My pants fell victim to the tag team. I left this shower in cold cruel defeat.

The next day I vowed to myself that today’s shower experience would be joy filled and marvelous. I woke up at 6 AM and hiked to the far end of the campground to a new shower facility. Once again the temperature was in the low 40’s, and I was eager to get a nice warm shower. This shower facility was designed by the Reagan administration. To my utter delight the showers offered temperature knobs and a nice area in which to hang your clothes. I turned the shower on and hot streams of water flooded forth from the shower head. I squealed in delight! I was once again in charge of temperature and water pressure. I jumped into the shower with unbridled enthusiasms. Three realities slapped me in the face like betrayed lover. One. The water was scalding hot! I desperately turned the knob right in search of the perfect temperature. To my horror there was only one choice. My shower felt like I was being licked by the flames of hell. I developed a strategy of moving in and out of the shower spray to avoid second degree burns. Second. The shower head was designed for Oompa Loompas. It raised a whole 4 feet from the shower floor. It was much like showering in a hot drinking faucet. I imagine that some Government agency whose mission is to give equal access to short people designed this facility. Third. The showers were designed with very little privacy. There are men’s shower facilities and apparently men shower together. I felt very self conscious as other men showered side by side. Fourth. The inevitable. The dropped bar of soap. No way was I going to…, you know. I just balled up as I reached for the soap on the ground. I’m happy to report that I have no idea what everyone else was doing. They all were welcomed with their scalding hot short shower heads and we endured the heat together. It is also never a good idea to look a man in the eyes while taking a shower in the same room. My gaze remained straight ahead as I ran in and out of my scalding hot short shower.

The showers at Honeyman State Park are yet another great example of why the Government shouldn’t ever have control of our lives. In the end I’m thinking my old man had it right. Perhaps a quick dip in an ice cold lake is one’s best option. I once thought my dad was crazy but now I realize he was a genius.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Keeping It Real

If perhaps you don’t know me or this is your first visit to my blog I would recommend you start with another one. I seldom right about personal struggles and this blog was written while processing through some hard times.

I’m positively a positive person. I do my best to face life with a great attitude and an encouraging outlook. I think we all know of people who tend to complain, and whine through all of life. They can be the black holes of our relational Universe as their gravity sucks the life from our souls. Negativity is a contagious mistress who loves company. We often walk hand in hand down her easy path. I find in my own life that I reflect the image of those I spend time with. This past year as I have walked with others through anger, hopelessness, and depression, negativity is what I find in the mirror. At first I fought her, eventually I tolerated her, and now I find myself in her embrace. The past couple of months have been hard. The loss of my job, the loss of three job opportunities, the loss of being able to run, the loss of running in the Hood to Coast, my bike breaking, my ipod breaking, my car window breaking , my car breaking down, are just the highlights of this vortex of negativity. I do my best to keep this vortex inside and yet at times it spills out. I loathe that this demon has taken root. It isn’t who I am. The past three years have held many challenges. I have changed. Three years of hard physical labor and a work environment which is calloused and unfeeling have left me the same. I sometimes look back in the rearview mirror of my life with great disappointment knowing that these past three years I have neglected the very foundation of my life. I believe that joy translates any circumstance. Joy is the fruit of intimacy with my Father. The poison within is the fruit of neglect.

Understanding how I arrived here gives me great hope of how I can return to who I desire to become. Reflecting the image of those I spend time with will be the main focus of my unemployment. My early hours will once again belong to the Lord. The greatest desire of man is intimacy with God. I believe that is the very reason that I was created. My greatest goal during these days of uncertainty is hanging out with God. I also plan to spend much time with my wife, kids’, family, and friends. Spending time with them fuels my soul and brings love to my life. Jesus once said that out of the mouth flow the abundance of the heart. He also asked us to speak little, listen much, and be slow to anger. I’m looking forward to the upcoming weeks as I’m trusting it will become a transformation of heart, word, and attitude. I’m thirsty for Living Water and I plan to drink deep and long. As I said before I’m positively a positive person and Stevey Wonders how you rise above negativity? Please let me know your thoughts.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sleeping In?

I need your help! I’m sleeping in challenged. As I begin my unemployment journey I have the opportunity to become a normal person. For many years I have lived in What Kind of Freak of Nature Gets Up this Early time zone. My shift at Nike began at 5:00 AM. My alarm was set for 3:30 AM. I was out the door at 4:10 AM and I was at work at 4:45 AM. To exist in this time zone you must stoop to socially unacceptable survival methods. Bed time in my world was between 8:00 and 8:30 PM. People who live outside of this time zone have no comprehension of this early morning reality. For example when it is 7:00 PM in my world it would be similar to 11:00 PM in yours. My first work break was scheduled for 7:00 AM and lunch was scheduled for 10:00 AM. I worked 10 hour shifts so quitting time was 3:30 PM which is 12 hours after I would get up. I was home from work at 4:10 PM. Many social activities in your world are scheduled between 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM. Imagine for a minute if I were to move all of your social activities to 11:00 PM until 1:00 AM and your dinner time from 6:00 PM until 10:00 PM. People would think you are crazy for keeping these hours but for those of us in my time zone this is what is asked from us daily. Imagine going to Youth group events, boy scouts or social gatherings an hour before you needed to be in bed. I would drag myself to these events completely exhausted and ready to leave before I hit the door. I’m in my 17th hour of the day and people wonder why I have so little to give. It is very hard to commit to anything when your fuel tank is empty. Over the past several years I have been ostracized for my bed time and made fun of for my lack of prime time TV knowledge. My evil desire was for those who mocked my bed time to spend one week in my shoes. I imagine by day three or four going to bed at 8:30 PM would seem like a smart idea.
So here I am on the other side of early morning insanity and I’m hopelessly broken. When 5:00 AM comes around I’m up and ready to go. My wife and kids are fast asleep and I’m well into my second cup of coffee. Sleeping in is 5:00 AM. I have courageously pushed my bed time back until 10:00 PM in hope of living in your time zone. I don’t think I have slept in past 7:00 AM in years. Stevey wonders how in the world `I can sleep in. Please let me know your thoughts.

Friday, September 3, 2010

My Alarming Alarm

This blog isn’t for the faint of heart. I would give it a PG13 rating so reader beware. I have thrown wisdom out the door and I’m writing about something personal so that God’s great sense of humor will be displayed in me.

“Hemorrhoids!” The doctor declared. This poor doctor just returned from where no man has gone before. I was feeling quite violated, embarrassed, and in painful awe of how far the human hand could extend when I began to wonder if perhaps he left his watch where the sun doesn’t shine. “Hemorrhoids!” I cried. Hemorrhoids is an evil punishment reserved for truck drivers and old under used gluteus maximums! “My caboose is neither old nor underused.” I quietly protested. “You have two options. “ he explained. “One, you can have them removed surgically, or two, you can manage them by losing 15 LBS and using a lot of Preparation H”. I was quite certain on that horrific summer day in my doctor’s office in Atlanta GA six years ago that I had no desire for anyone to probe my never land ranch any time soon. I opted for option two. I followed the good doctor’s advice and after much hard work and a couple of tubes of PH my back forty was once again feeling terrific.

The success to my hinny recovery is contributed to running. Three months ago I got a stress fracture in my foot from over running usage. I have been unable to run for almost three months. During the past couple of weeks the pain in my trunk has increased with every pound that I have put on. I have gained 10 LBS in recent weeks. A hemorrhoid in my opinion feels much like a hamster nesting up in your business. It itches, tickles, and hurts all at the same time. You must resist the temptation to itch otherwise your condition will worsen.
This morning I was vulnerably confiding with my bride about was dancing between my cheek to cheek when an amazing revelation crossed my mind. “God has blessed me with an ass alarm!” Think about it. Whenever I start getting out of shape my cooly complains. It lets me know I’m packing on the pounds and I need to get off my lazy butt and work out. Some people have Julian Michael's to scream at them in their laziness, I have my ass-istant.
I’m happy to say that I have joined a gym in hopes of nipping this in the butt. My goal is lose my 10 unwanted friends in four weeks. My dream is that this plan will lead me once again into posterior paradise.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Scent of a Man

So have you sniffed me lately? I have to confess that it has been over 20 years since I attempted to smell attractive. I’m a middle aged happily married family guy who hasn’t thought much about his odder for many a year. About 25 years ago I purchased a bottle of Obsession for Men. My odder objective was that some beautiful young lady would sniff me and find my scent delightful. My sexy stench would overcome my less appealing qualities and I would meet the woman of my dreams. Back in the day I had a smelling philosophy. The degree of cologne used is directly related to how pathetic one is. The greater patheticity rating equals the amount of cologne applied. In my mind I had patheticity rating of 6. This required six strategically applied Obsession for Men applications. In retrospect and in light of my flawed philosophy perhaps my rating was more like a 7 or an 8. The few young ladies who had the misfortune of experiencing this banquet of aroma undoubtedly received medical care after suffering excessive aroma exposure.

Thankfully my smelling philosophy mellowed after marriage. For the past 19 years my smelling strategy has simply been not to smell offensive. I would consider myself a neutral scented man. Much like Switzerland my goal was to be an odder appeaser. Gone from my toiletries was aftershave and cologne. My deodorant offers the greatest odder protection while not smelling of cheap cologne and my soap has always come in the form of a bar. I shower two times a day because a shower is the only way to start my day and a shower after work is simply necessary.

This past year my lovely bride Michelle threw a wrench into my neutral Switzerland smelling philosophy. We moved into a new home a couple years ago and our new home has glass shower doors. For the first year in our new home I showered happily with my bar of soap. One fateful day my wife informs me that she finds fault with my solid soapy friend. Apparently soap bars leave an undesirable residue on our glass shower doors. At first I pretended to care and I agreed to use this girly moisturizing liquid soap. I found this experience entirely unsatisfactory and completely unacceptable. First this girly soap did what it advertised. It moisturized my skin. I felt pretty. Second instead of leaving an undesirable residue on the shower door it left an undesirable residue on me. I demanded my bar of soap and my masculinity back. For two weeks all was right with the world. My solid soapy friend was once again in charge of keeping me clean and my shower door undesirable. Little did I know that my wife wasn’t going to give up the battle. I love my wife. I know she is smarter then I but that little conniving trickstress pulls over what I would describe as the Great Manly Liquid Soap Scam of 2010. Michelle returns from shopping with a grin on her face and with excited enthusiasm pulls forth a bottle of Man Soap. “Look honey I bought you Man Soap.” I had never heard of such a thing. “Hum a liquid soap dedicated to making men more manly.” This had to be some crazy trick. I apotheosized that woman dedicated to the eradication of soap scum invented this product for their own evil crusade. I hate to admit this but I really enjoy man liquid soap. It smells manly and instead of moisturizing my skin it leaves a very cool waxy film that acts much like mosquito repellent.
Needless to say I have just started my third stage in my smelling philosophy. I have recently embraced my slightly more daring The Scent Of a Man phase. I actually went out a couple of months ago and purchased Axe Body spray and Axe body wash. In the Axe commercials the ladies go crazy when they are exposed to this magical scent. I purchased this because I wanted to see if my wife would enjoy sniffing me. After two months of usage I have to confess that I have had very disappointing results. Michelle hasn’t commented or responded at all to my applications. My Son Noah told me last week that I smell like stinky cheese. I like cheese, but that isn’t the stench I’m going for. My epic aroma fail has made Stevey wonder “What do woman enjoy smelling?” I have some great ideas but I would really love to hear from you. Perhaps I can make some new colognes and make the world a better smelling place.

Stevey Wonders Amazing List of What Women Love to Smell
1) Bread.
2) Chocolate
3) Chocolate Chip Cookies
4) Coffee
5) Sauted onions
6) Freshly cut grass
7) Dew in the Morning
8) Christmas tree pines
9) Commitment (it smells minty fresh)
10) Leather

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

To Blog Or Not To Blog That is the Question

It was a warm summer evening in late July. Invited for dinner was steak, crab, corn on the cob, hamburgers, Becca Mann and Erik Williams. Becca’s and Erik’s families were MIA as the result of family vacations and service to God. Three of the attendees had given their lives for our enjoyment while the other two had given their time. The heat of summer dissipates rapidly in the wake of an Oregon sunset. The lot of us welcomed the cool refreshing change as we sat around our small beat up kitchen table that had seen way to many sloppy children’s art projects and desperately begged for its sixth coat of paint. The table was half cleared our first three guests. We then enjoyed desert and great conversation. The Mann’s and the William’s are adopting children from Ethiopia and we spent much of the evening dreaming, planning and anticipating what the next several months will hold for these expectant parents. Michelle and I felt as though we had won front row seats to God’s will for our friend’s lives as they shared amazing stories of His provision and leading. God’s story unfolding before our eyes is far more exciting then anything Hollywood can offer. All great conversation has a rhythm and flow and this one had now taken an unexpected twist. The rhythm had now taken us from the miracles to the absurd. We now found ourselves talking about blogging. Perhaps it was the fact that all of us were high on protein or that we were just talking about how God can perform the impossible but one of our female guests had the audacity to throw down a blogging challenge. 40 days, 40 blogs.

The Titans of the blogosphere embraced this challenge like a Pollock to a pierogi. Becca Mann a seasoned veteran of blogging, who is both elegant in word and deed, Erik with a K Williams, a relational genius who’s creativity is only restrained by the limits of the law,
and Michelle Unwin, the most beautiful woman I have ever met and who’s talent in all things makes the rest of the human race bow in awe to her shear amazingness, and me, the Bart Simpson of literary world.
The gauntlet had been laid down. This foolish challenge enticed our competitive demons. One by one the Titans signed on. Becca’s brain child quickly found fertile soil in the blogging trinity. “We should start today, Who is in? ” This question found the rocky ground of my blogability. The three committed quickly and with enthusiasm. 40 blogs in 40 days found 40 reasons for me to say “no way!”. Don’t get me wrong. I love to blog. First, I’m a rather eclectic bohemian hippie blogger who writes when I’m inspired. (That is why I haven't written a blog in a year.) The constraints and pressure of such an endeavor would crush my creative free spirit. Second, the thought of such an academic pursuit seems like an Everest of effort. Let me keep it real with you and confess to you that I may have been one of the worse students in the history of the Farmington School District. The subject of English was as appealing to me as warm orange juice. My ability to spell and type makes fourth graders feel really good about themselves. In my mind grammar is a sweet cracker in which you place a roasted marshmallow and chocolate and enjoy around a camp fire. One blog in my universe equals 6 in yours. One blog can take me hours. Really, I’m that pathetic. Committing to 40 blogs will require time that I don’t have. I have mentioned in previous blogs how Erik with a K can talk me into just about anything. The committed Titans began to work on my stony resistance. My heart strings were now being played. Someone suggested that we could pull all of our blogs together and make a book to raise money for their adoptions. I played my last card of resistance by protesting the time commitment required. “We will start today but you can start in September.” Erik suggested. On August 31st I became unemployed, so September 1 seemed more than fair. Time kicked me in the butt once again as now I will have an abundance of it. Today I join the Titans. 40 blogs in 40 days. Their journey is ¾ of the way finished. My Everest will begin today as I climb this mountain with only one finger and no regard for the laws of grammar. Spell check will break new records for usage and I will attempt to stay in touch with my inner eclectic bohemian hippie. I hope you will enjoy the ride as once again Stevey Wonders.