Saturday, December 27, 2008

Catching Up

Because life moves at a faster pace at this time of the year I found myself looking at the blog this morning and realizing that my last post was 9 days ago. I have fallen behind in my postings. But with Christmas behind us I now have some time to catch you up on what’s happened since my last post.

I’m going to do it through a series of “miniposts.” Hopefully this will catch you up on what I’ve done during this holiday season.

Working The Weekend At ShopNBC
I worked my first full shift in the call center at ShopNBC on Saturday December 20. The first night was easy as I observed for the first 4 hours and only took calls the last 3 hours. My 2nd shift on Sunday was a little more difficult because it was busy with a lot of people calling for Christmas orders. It will take some time to get used to it but I’m sure I’ll enjoy the job.

Christmas Performance Is A Blessing For Me
On Sunday December 21 I presented a Christmas ventriloquist performance at a Baptist church here in town. Most of the members who attend that church are African American and it’s an entirely different atmosphere and culture. While I went there to minister to the children; the entire church ministered to me. The sermon, the children’s program, the choir's song, and the play the ladies of the church performed blessed me more than I had expected. The ladies' play was about a group of woman going to heaven on The Glory Train. I can’t really explain how it was performed but I haven’t laughed in church so much in years. I was really blessed to be there.

Paula Gets Cookin’
During her time off of work Paula has had the time to do something she loves to do. She reestablished her prowess in the kitchen. It started with the Taco Puffs she made for a church Christmas party on December 13th and continued from there through Christmas Eve. Over that time she made peanut butter brownies, beef stew, potato soup, and sugar cookies. They were all delicious. The sugar cookies were very special to me because they were made with my mother’s recipe. She really out did herself in the kitchen this season. She’s a very good cook and her efforts this holiday season was a real blessing to me.

Two Days Of Christmas Shopping
On the Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon before Christmas we did our gift shopping. On Monday, we went to Wal-Mart, The Family Christian Book Store, Barnes & Nobles, Sam’s Club and other places. It was a long evening and were were extremely worn out. However we weren’t done. So Tuesday afternoon we finished up our shopping including buying the gift we gave to each other: a new HD TV for our bedroom. We also stopped by my friend, Brent’s house to give his family their Christmas presents. That was the best part of the entire Christmas shopping experience.

Gavin Has Been Adopted
Ever since I took him to the Humane Society on Friday December 12th, I’ve been watching their website to see if the puppy we used to have, Gavin, was still available. I even stopped by the facility to visit him on December 18th. As of this past Tuesday his picture and listing was gone. That means that Gavin has a new home. It is my prayer that he lives a long and happy life with his new family.

Christmas Eve @ Home
Christmas Eve this year was a little different because James was not home. Early in the afternoon our son, Michael, and daughter-in-law, Heather, came to our house and we spent the evening together. Paula made sugar cookies. We ate potato soup and beef stew for dinner. We played a game on the Play Station 3 called “Buzz.” Michael won all the games but 1. Heather won that one. We also played a round of Scrabble. It was a very different but very enjoyable evening.

Christmas Day 2008
We celebrated Christmas Day at my sister in law’s in town. There we opened gifts and met her usually shy cat named “Penny.” What made the day special was that we all got to talk to James on my cell phone for a total of about 15 minutes. While there were not as many gifts as other years everyone was pleased with what they received. The “hit” gift of the day was the Tom Tom navigation system Michael and Heather got from my sister in law.
We ate ham sandwiches for lunch and then went to see the movie “Four Christmases.” I didn’t like the movie. It was so boring I fell asleep. My wife had to wake me when I started to snore.
We went back to my sister in law’s apartment for dessert and then came home. Paula and I spent the evening together watching the DVD “Horton Hears A Who”. I enjoyed it but it was a very forgettable movie. Christmas 2008 was very different but very enjoyable.

There you have a series of short posts that catch you up on what’s happened since my last post. I hope to get back into a regular routine after the new year begins which means posting on a daily basis. I’d like to wish all my family, friends, and readers a Happy and Safe New Year. It is my prayer that God blesses you and your families in 2009.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Christmas Performance @ The Daycare

Just one day after it was scheduled I went to our local daycare center around 2:30 this afternoon to do a Christmas ventriloquist performance.

The children were all preschool age so the show was simple. I also shortened it because of their limited attention span. The picture you see of me to the right was taken as part of the show. I was wearing the nose and antlers as part of my Christmas gift to Calvin who is only partially in the picture. Snapping a photo of myself in that outfit gave him what he really wanted for Christmas: "a picture for the front of next year's Christmas card."

The most memorable thing about the experience was what made the children laugh during the show. Calvin was wearing a Santa hat that kept accidentally falling down over his face. When he "blew" the hat out of his face the children cracked up with laughter. I didn't plan on that happening it was just something spontaneous but it made them all laugh.

The show also included all the children standing up, laughing and acting like Santa Claus and singing "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas."

It was a quick but effective performance which only lasted about 10 minutes or so. Kids that age are some times a really tough audience. However most of my show was based on sight gags (both planned and unplanned) so they really enjoyed it and that's the most important thing.

Reconnecting To A Cousin

A couple of days ago my sister forwarded me an email. It was from one of my cousins who I hadn’t talked to in a long time. The email contained a link to a New York theatrical review of an off Broadway play. My cousin’s son (my 2nd cousin) is an actor in the play that was reviewed. His performance got some very positive words from the critic. Neil Genzlinger wrote that my 2nd cousin “gives an attention-grabbing performance”…”It’s too bad he has the smallest part in the play; you end up wanting to see more of him.”

All of this came as a surprise to me. I hadn’t even realized just how grown his son was let alone that he was old enough to have graduated from college and a working actor. But this is a member of my family getting a positive review in the New York Times theater section. That’s very impressive.

I soon realized that the time I’ve been out of touch with my cousin has really passed extremely quickly. The last time I can remember even seeing him was at my mother’s funeral over 5 years ago. I decided to email my cousin in effort to initiate a reconnection with him.

He wrote back to me and was glad to hear from me. As it turns out his entire family is involved in acting in the theater to one degree or another.

I believe his interest in acting and my interest in ventriloquism will give us a common ground on which to build a new connection. Not only are my cousin and I connected by family we have, to some degree, a common passion. I am very optimistic about this long over due reconnection with a member of my family.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Icy & Early

The 2nd day at my new job started off in a very interesting manner. The first winter storm of the season covered our area with freezing rain and ice over night. Our cars were covered with a thin coat of the frozen precipitation and the roads were a bit slick. Many of the areas schools were closed.

Since we both had to be at work by 8 Paula and I had decided last night that if the weather was bad in the morning we would ride in together. I’d drop her off at her office and continue on to the distribution center.

I warmed up my car and cleaned it off as best as I could. About 7:15AM we left our driveway. The ride down I-65 was rather rainy and wet with lots of blowing spray from passing trucks. Other than that we didn’t have any problems with icy roads.

I got to my job about 10 minutes before 8. I had some trouble getting from the parking lot to the front door of the distribution center because of the ice on the pavement where I had to park.

Once I got into the center I walked up a set of stairs to the training room where I had spent my first day of training yesterday. The room was dark and no one else from the training class was round. I soon found out the reason why. The training class didn’t start until 10 AM today. That’s not was I was told but apparently that was the way it was.

I was 2 hours early for work. I went back and sat in my car for about 2 hours listening to the radio and then went to my training class. It was probably a good thing that I drove to work with Paula because I wouldn’t have wanted her to have driven by herself.

Later in the day the temperature warmed up enough so that all the ice melted. After both of us got off of work Paula and I went to dinner and did some shopping. We bought gifts for the little girl we picked off the angel tree at church.

While it didn’t start out very well today turned out to be a pretty good day.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Back To Work

At 8AM today I started my new job at the local ShopNBC order capture call center. Like all new jobs I went there not knowing exactly what to expect. I’ll be doing some training for the first 3 days this week. I’ll be working until 3:30PM all those days but I don’t start until 10AM on Wednesday. I’m off Thursday and Friday and then I work the weekend.

The most interesting thing I learned about my job today is that employees are not allowed to wear anything metal into the distribution center. They are serious about this too because you have to go through a metal detector to get to where you work. However this is not like going through security at the airport. These security portals are set differently to detect metals different than what airport security would.

The reason for this is that the majority of product ShopNBC sells is jewelry. Jewelry can be stolen with relative ease. The Loss Prevention division is in charge of all aspects of security and safety in the distribution center. They have the final word on whether you pass through into the warehouse or not.

The rules on being “metal free” are very strict. You can’t take any cell phones, or wallets, or even loose change into the warehouse with you. I’m not even going to be able to wear my dress pants or anything with metal on it. This probably means I won’t be wearing my leg brace into work either. I can take it off and let it be inspected by the loss prevention employee without it going through the detector, just like I will have to do with my glasses but that will be such a hassle. I may not even wear it to work. I probably will also have to get a wooden cane.

In regard to clothing the HR manager suggested that we wear sweat pants and T-shirts to work. Many of the employees who already work there were dressed that way.

It’s hard change my mindset in regard to such a different dress code after 8 years of being subject to the rules of “business casual”, “business dress” and “jeans only on Fridays” But believe it or not my new job encourages me to go to work dressed like I’m relaxing in my recliner on Saturdays.

Don’t get me wrong the dress code is the only thing about the job that’s going to be like being home on Saturday. Taking orders from customers, while an easy process, is going to require knowledge about a lot of different type of merchandise. Just check out the ShopNBC website ( and see all the different things you can purchase. I’m going to have to know details about all of them. I look forward to the challenge.

One final thing I’d like to tell you about my first day on the job. Back on December 4 when I posted about finding a new job I wrote that I wasn’t sure just why God had given me this job at this time. Well, I think today God played a little bit of a joke on me.

One of the first people I saw when I got there this morning was a guy I would rather not have seen. I know him because he’s the parent of a couple of my son’s football buddies from high school. For reasons I’d rather not go into this guy is probably in the top 10 of my least favorite people in the world. This morning I found out that I’ll be working at the same place with him. Not in the same department but for the same company. He works in the Loss Prevention division so I’m sure our paths will cross somewhere along the way. I guess being around him is going to be one of my first tests while I’m working there.

Anyway I’m back to work and I’m rather excited about getting the opportunity to do something new. If nothing else, much to my wife’s delight, I’m going to learn a lot about jewelry.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

An Ordinary Anniversary

Yesterday, December 12, was our 6th wedding anniversary. Paula took the day off from work. We didn't do anything "special" for our anniversary just spent the day together. With money as tight as it is this year we agreed not to buy each other gifts either.

In the morning Paula made some scrambled eggs with shredded ham and cheese in them for breakfast. In the afternoon we went into town and saw the movie "There's Nothing Like The Holidays." Although it was the first day of the film's release there were only 5 people in the theater. I wasn't a bad movie just an early show.

After the movie we ran some errands and then went to our favorite restaurant, Mariah's, for dinner What was nice about that was that it my sister-in-laws treat. What I like best about the place is the mural of the downtown area that's painted on the walls. It gives you the impression that you're looking down one of the streets on the town's square. There's a picture of it at the top of this post.

After dinner we did something not every couple does on their anniversary: we went to the grocery store. We bought about $150 worth of groceries but after using coupons and rebate checks we only paid about $110 for them.

After the groceries were away and the dogs were fed and put in their crates for the night my bride and I settled down in the living room with our special homemade dessert. We watched yet another movie on DVD before we called it a night.

Now some of you might think that this was a pretty dull anniversary for a couple who has only been married 6 years. But for us it was just getting to spend the day together that made all the difference.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Lesson Courtesy of The Mythbusters

Last night while watching TV I happened upon the Christmas episode of “The Mythbusters” program on Discovery Channel. Its one of my favorite shows on TV. I watch it whenever I remember that it’s on. The project the two main hosts (Adam and Jamie) decided to work on was not testing a myth like they usually do, but rather building a Rube Goldberg device. I had no idea what they were talking about until they started planning and building it.

According to Wikepedia a Rube Goldberg device is a complex machine that performs simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways. After a little research I found out that Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist famous for including drawings of complex machines that do simple tasks in one of his comic strips. The “inventor” of these contraptions was a character named Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts.

I have always been fascinated by Rube Goldberg devices whenever I’ve seen them. I can remember putting them together while playing the games “Crazy Clock” and “Mousetrap” as a kid. I spent almost an entire afternoon watching one that was on exhibit when I visited the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. I also remember seeing them in the movies “Back to the Future” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” A very simple version of one is setting up dominos to fall. However over the years people have even turned that into some rather detailed projects.

The Mythbusters had a bit of difficulty getting their rather complex device to work but during the closing credits of the show it finally completed its task through to completion. You can see it and a lot more Rube Goldberg devices if you log onto YouTube and do a search. If you’ve got the time I’d encourage it. There’s some very entertaining videos to be seen.

I’m really pleased about learning that one of my favorite types of inventions has an official name. Just goes to show you that you never know when or where you’re going to find an opportunity to learn. Surprisingly this time I learned from watching TV. In this day and age that’s something to post about.

Goodbye Gavin

Just wanted to briefly let everyone know that this morning just before noon I took Gavin to the local Humane Society. They told me that he would be available for adoption today.

I know this may sound silly to some of you but taking him there was one of the hardest things I have had to do in a long time and very emotional for me. If you hate to see a grown man cry be glad you weren't with me.

We sponsored his adoption which means we donated money to the Humane Society so that the fee for the family wanting to adopt him will be minimal.

Although he was only with us a month he will always have a place in my heart. I will never forget him. He was the beagle I had wanted for some time now. Sadly, the situation didn't work out so that he could stay with us. As I stated before the Humane Society will most assuredly find him a home where he fits in and is loved. Goodbye Gavin McCloud.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Problems With The Pack

Tomorrow will be exactly 1 month since Gavin, a 5 month old puppy, our third and only male dog, came to live with us. I haven’t written anything recently about our new “pack” but now I need to give an update.

The acceptance of Gavin by our other two dogs is not going well at all. Angel and Gavin can’t be in the same room without fighting constantly. They aren’t mean to each other at first. It’s very intense “play fighting” for a quite a while. But after that the intensity goes up and there’s growling and aggression; especially when there’s a toy or food involved. The picture to the right is of one of the very rare moments of tranquility between them.

Also Angle has become very stressed out and has developed a “hot spot” on her tail. She’s licked and bitten at it so badly it’s raw, sore, and bleeding. I had to take her to the vet today. The vet says it’s a bacterial infection brought on by stress. She got a shot of steroids and has to take antibiotics for the next 10 days. In addition she’s become more aggressive with the puppy and with me. Even Dory has become intolerant and aggressive with the puppy. Dory's not agressive with anything.

Everything is great with the dogs if I keep them separated (the female dogs in one place and the puppy in another) but things get out of hand when they are in the same place at the same time. I expected some problems with them getting used to each other but not to this degree. The stresses of having to micro manage them all the time is getting to both Paula and me.
The fact that I’m going to be starting a new job next week will make the difficult situation even more so. The puppy will be stuck in his crate for a lot more hours than he has been. From what I’ve seen that makes him even more aggressive.

I hate to have to do it but it looks like the puppy has to go away. On one hand it breaks my heart to have to say that but on the other hand I’m really ready for things to change. I was thinking about waiting until he was neutered in a couple of weeks to see if that would change things but the vet says it won’t make that much of a difference.

We’re trying to find him a good home on our own so if you know of anyone we could ask about taking him please send me an email to let me know. However, I believe our best means of finding him a good home is to take him to the local Humane Society. I stopped by our local shelter today and spoke with a friend of mine who volunteers there. She assured me that a puppy his age would have nearly a 100% chance of being adopted. The screening process for adoption eligibility is very thorough at our shelter. They’d do a better job of finding him a home than we would.

Still we’re going to try for the next couple of days. But come Saturday afternoon if we haven’t found Gavin a new home we’ll have to take him to the Humane Society. That really makes me sad but I know it’s for the best for everyone concerned…dogs and people.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Exit Stage Left

It’s been about 7 weeks since I’ve written anything on this blog about my Internet “friend”, Mr. Anonymous. During that time I have corresponded with him about 4 times. I have not mentioned it because I considered the communication between us just between the two of us.

His emails were very insulting and sarcastic in regard to me personally and my spiritual beliefs as a Christian. I did my best to explain what I believed and why I believed it. I also made sure I unveiled the message of the gospel to him so he could make his own choice about his eternal destiny.

Despite his harsh words and his denouncement of everything I am and believe he continued to write back to me. I wasn’t sure why he did it but as long as I had contact with him I felt it my responsibility to share the truth of God’s word with him.

Well today I received an email from him in which he stated that he has finally had enough. He wrote some very encouraging words to me. Even if he was being sarcastic about it I consider what he wrote the nicest things he’s ever written to me. He also decided that there’s no longer a need for us to correspond. To sum it up he stated that my “little world” in which my faith in God and Jesus Christ exists is impregnable as is his determination to never believe. Therefore he stated that there is no further reason to continue to write to each other; and with that he bid me "Adios.”

I wrote him one final reply stating that I will always be praying for him. I also assured him that if he doesn’t repent of his sins one day he will remember everything I shared with him about the gospel. That day will be when God say “sorry I never knew you” and sends him to eternal damnation. I also added that it’s my prayer that that never happens.

So “Mr. Anonymous” has made his exit. I have learned a lot about myself while writing to him. I’d like to believe that I have grown spiritually because of my resilience to his criticisms and my boldness in sharing the gospel with him. I also did my best to be as kind and gentle with him as I could. It wasn't easy. At times all I wanted to do was strike back at him with venomous words that hurt as much or more than his did; but I didn't. I would have never handled his “friendship” the way I did without the help of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and the teachings from God’s word.

If you are dealing with a difficult relationship in your life I would highly recommend that you rely on those three factors. What you learn from them and your obedience to them will help you through it. It worked for me.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Found A New Job

I’m a couple of days late in getting this news posted but I have gotten a new job. I got a call on Tuesday afternoon offering me a job in the customer service department of the local ShopNBC distribution center. It’s only a part time job but at least I won’t have to depend on money from the government anymore.

This job is an answer to prayer and I believe is where God wants me to be working. I’m grateful for the job. Having said that I’ll have to admit that I’m somewhat confused about why God had led me to this job at this time. Getting the job gets me back working again (which, of course, is a top priority), and I’m thankful that this door of opportunity has opened. However the commitment I must make to the job closes a lot of other doors to other things I’ve been doing in my life that have become important.

I won’t go into details about just what those things are but I guess I’m going to have to find a way to do them outside of my working hours. Perhaps I should look back at the “freedom” I’ve enjoyed over the last 8 months and appreciate what I’ve been able to do during that time and be grateful for that time.

Then again looking back at my time off I can also see the many things I should have and would liked to have done but didn’t. The goals I didn’t achieve; the things I aspired to but fell way short of getting done. Of course that’s a very negative way of looking at things and dwelling on that will only bind me to what is past and keep me from focusing on the future. So I guess I’ll do what I can to learn from my mistakes and move on.

But looking forward I will state once more that come the 15th of this month I will again be employed. I must be honest with you and admit that it’s not exactly the job I would have chosen for myself. But I will have the opportunity to meet new people and discover the reason why God has introduced me into their lives. I must also with an open heart look toward the specific purpose He has for me in this job. After all the Bible says over and over again that God loves me, takes care of me, and works all things for my good. I'm just going to have to trust He's taking me to where I need to be. I believe that’s what God wants my attitude to be going into it.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Opportunity Comes Knocking Again

Two weeks ago I wrote a post about putting up posters advertising my ventriloquism for children’s parties. In that post, I wrote that I’m trusting God to be my booking agent. Well on Friday He came through for the first time since I wrote that post.

Early in the afternoon a knock came on my front door. When I answered it standing there was a man from a Baptist church here in town. I knew him because he was the man who helped us out when my wife and I performed at the church street fair back on September 20.

I was surprised to see him but soon realized that his visit would be a blessing to me. He identified himself and told me how everyone really enjoyed my ventriloquism performance at the street fair. Then he asked me if I had any type of show for the Christmas season. His church was having a special Christmas program for the kids on the Sunday before Christmas and they wanted me to ask me back to perform again. I told him I would be more than happy to do something for the children at his church with Christmas as the theme.

I gave him my cell phone number and told him to call me with the specific details about what type of show they wanted me to do. He asked me how much I charged. I told him that presenting the gospel message in church is not my job, it’s my ministry. At this point I’m not asking for any type of compensation for the opportunity to share the gospel.

I am thrilled for the chance to go back and minister to this church. Although it’s not a direct response from the publicity posters it is a direct response to my prayer for more work as a ventriloquist. This opportunity to minister with ventriloquism came right to my door. I didn’t even have to go looking for it. Praise God for his faithfulness. I’m sure this is only the beginning.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Thankfulness Requires A Pair Of Prepositions

Yesterday was designated as a special day for the people of the United States to give thanks for all the blessings they have received in their lives. Over the years the holiday has also developed into a time when thousands gather around Thanksgiving dinner tables for a feast with family and friends. As they did so a lot of them took the time, just before partaking of their meal, to express their thankfulness specifically. The typical statement would probably have been “I’m thankful for…” The gratefulness expressed as praise for the person or things in their lives.

While I found myself thankful for many things in my life (my wife, my family, my church, my dogs, ventriloquism, financial stability, ect) this year I realized that I needed to express my thankfulness in a different way. While I still used the word “for” I found it quite necessary to use the word “to” preceding it. What I mean is that my expressions of thankfulness this year took the form of this phrase: “I am thankful to God for…”

As God works in my life and displays His Love and faithfulness more and more I find that my heart looks not to the specific blessings but to the Giver. The blessings themselves are wonderful but God is not Santa Claus. There are many places in the Bible that declare God as The Creator of everything in heaven and earth. Everything that is is because of Him. He is the One responsible for bestowing blessings upon me and thankfulness should be given directly to Him.

There is nothing in my life I could have received without God’s blessing and grace. Salvation from sin and the gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, are the prime examples.

It is my prayer that as I live for God and grow in my relationship with Christ that I will learn to appreciate the things He leads me through, the people He allows me to love and have relationships with, the things He gives me, and the changes He creates within my heart. But of the utmost importance is that I develop a strong spirit of gratefulness for the Creator of the Universe as He shows His never ending love and faithfulness toward me.

The first step toward doing that is making my traditional statement of Thanksgiving one that includes two prepositions.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Thanksgiving Football Tradition

I’m writing this post just after midnight. That means it’s officially Thanksgiving Day. Every year since I’ve moved to Kentucky from my home town Thanksgiving morning has been a time of longing for me. While I do miss my Pennsylvania family very much the one thing I really miss on Thanksgiving morning is the local high school football game.

The traditional rivalry game between The Stateliners of Phillipsburg High School in Phillipsburg, New Jersey and the Red Rovers of Easton, Pennsylvania has been going on for over 100 years. My entire life the game has been as much a part of Thanksgiving Day as turkey and candied yams.

There’s a big build up about the game from the end of October until Turkey day. The schools have bonfires (one the night before the game and one the night after, if they win.) There are public pep rallies and lots of press coverage. Because the demand for tickets to see the game it is played at the field of a local college, Lafayette College

I went to every game during my high school years and even some after I graduated. My senior year my friend, Phil, and I set up a video camera and microphones and did a very amateur version of the play by play. This was years before the game was on local television. I still have a copy of audio highlights from that game.

A couple of years ago my brother-in-law video taped the game for me and I got to see it a few days later. It was cool but it wasn’t the same. Thanks to the internet I have found a way to keep track of the game on a blog page from the Lehigh Valley area. I’m hoping to find a web page that will let me at least listen to the radio broadcast on streaming audio.

So while every Thanksgiving I’m very happy to be spending the day with my family in Kentucky there will always be a part of me that longs to be at the Easton P’burg game. As far as I’m concerned there’s really only one place to be Thanksgiving morning and that’s Fisher Field.

Perhaps one day I’ll make plans to go back to my home town in order to spend the holiday with my PA family and I can go to the game. Until then I have to do what I can to follow the game from here as I console my heart with the promise that I will do my best to one day once again be part of what I consider a very special Thanksgiving Day tradition.

POST SCRIPT: The 2008 Easton/Phillipsburg football game is history. Phillipsburg was the favorite going in with a 9-1 record to Easton's 5-5 record. Easton won 35-14. :(

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Job Interview

I took a step in the right direction yesterday. At 9AM I went for a job interview for a customer service job for the ShopNBC cable channel.

The interview was a unique experience because it was done in a conference room with 9 other applicants. The interview process and questions wasn’t anything different than l've experienced in the past. What was different was that all 10 of us took turns answering each question. That was good for me because I was 7th to answer and it gave me time to get my thoughts together in order to answer the best way I could.

The job is a part time position (25 hours a week) and is going to be 2nd shift; which includes most weekends. The hours aren’t exactly the ones I’d choose for myself but it is in a call center and pays close to the wage I need to make.

I won’t know until next week whether I will be offered 1 of the 7 open positions. I’m not going to worry about it. I know that God will work things out for in a way that’s best for me. I’d appreciate it if you’d pray for me. Please pray that God’s will be done in this situation. Thanks

Monday, November 24, 2008

My Tribute…My Blessing

Yesterday morning during our Sunday worship service at church I sang a solo. It was my second time this year. I sang the song “My Tribute” a song written by Andre Crouch. It was very popular when I as a teenager and has always been one of my favorite gospel songs. When I chose the song I thought it would be appropriate for the worship service the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

Many of you may know the song but only by the first few words of the chorus.

“To God be the glory, to God be the glory
To God be the glory for the things He has done”

I sang the song right before the sermon as the church offering was being collected. As I stood on the platform in front of more than 300 people who were there I began to look around. As I sang the words “To God Be The Glory” my mind started seeing thing in slow motion. I started noticing all individuals in the congregation who have been blessed with answered prayers over the past few years.

I saw a teenage boy who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year but is now fully healed. I saw a woman sitting in the balcony who, a couple of years ago was stricken with a rare disease that caused her to lose all use of her muscles. God healed her and now she is an active member of our congregation.

As I continued to look around I saw so many people whom God has blessed that I couldn't’t begin to name them all here. The song I was singing quickly turned into an open praise complete with illustrations. All those people’s lives were glowing testimonies to the God’s glory. I was being blessed while singing my song.

Then finally the Holy Spirit showed me something that turned my song of praise into something very personal. I looked in the back of the church and saw my wife listening to me sing. She was standing in the vestibule very close to the same spot where I saw her walk down the aisle at the start of our wedding ceremony. My mind quickly became flooded with thoughts that filtered down though my heart and became memories of blessings; the uncountable blessings that God has given me since I took the Love of My Live as my wife and began following Him as Lord.

I fought back the tears from my eyes and did my best not to let my voice quiver as I finished the song. I had my own personal worship service that I will not soon forget. Within the 3 minutes and 30 seconds it took me to sing the song God revealed something to me that wiped away weeks of depression that stemmed from my feelings of irrelevance.

God is not in some far off corner watching me as I struggle on my own in life. He’s actively working in my life and blessing me. He’s giving me His strength to life my life every day. That strength has been provided though the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. As another popular song says “Because He lives I can face tomorrow.” Not only can I face tomorrow; I am blessed as well. Every Christian who loves and obeys God and His word is blessed. To God Be The Glory For The Things He Has Done!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

It’s Been A Quiet Month

As I looked at the number of posts so far this month and then looked at the calendar I realized that this month is probably going to have the fewest number of posts than any month since April.

There are two main reasons for this: lack of computer time and lack of material. Training and wrangling our new puppy takes up the majority of my day. I get up between 6:30 and 7 AM every morning. The rest of the day is spent divided between letting him in and out of the backyard to make sure he has no “accidents”, keeping him from chewing or eating things he’s not supposed to, and training him to get along with our other two dogs.

I do put him in his crate for an hour or two at a time a couple of times a day to give me a break. But that time is spent doing things around the house or doing other things besides sitting at the computer and writing blog posts.

In the past most of my posts have been written later at night during the time I used to spend on the computer just after putting the dogs in their crates and before going to bed. I don’t get that time any more. After dealing with the puppy all day by that time of the night, about 10PM, I am tired and ready to go to bed.

The other reason for the lack of posts this month is the interesting material. I don’t really have much to write about these days. It’s a uneventful time. I do have some things going on this next week with Thanksgiving and some other events coming up. I anticipate having some interesting things happening. I’ll do my best to find the time write about them.

I only read two other blogs but they are very different when it comes to posting. One of them has at least one post (sometimes two) every day. The other only has a new post every week or so. I find myself a lot more loyal and interested in reading the one with the daily post. I appreciate you taking the time to come and read my posts. I will do my best to get back to giving you something to read on a regular basis. Keep reading.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finally A Haircut

Hey Everybody I know that this month's posts have been scarce but I haven't had much time to do anything except pay attention to our new puppy these last 2 weeks.

Anyway I managed to get away yesterday and go to town to get some things done. I distributed quite a few of the ventriloquist advertising posters to party supply houses and other locations where potential clients will see them.

I also went to the mall and for the first time in 16 weeks I got my hair cut. For those of you not familiar with the story of my last hair cut look back at my July 29 post.

I went to the same place in the mall and planned on giving the woman who made me just this side of bald a chance to redeem herself. Unfortunately, she wasn't there. I got my hair cut without any problems or mistakes this time which ordinarily would bring the whole experience to a conclusion. However the real lesson of the bad hair cut will stay with me for the rest of my life. What I've learned from the bad haircut of 2008 is how God can change my heart.

I went into that shop yesterday anxious to give the woman a second chance to cut my hair again. I was kind of disappointed when I didn't get the opportunity. Not so I could write about it in this post and pat myself on the back. "Oh what a good person I am because I gave someone a second chance." Given my own mind I wouldn't have ever gone back to that shop again and painted an insulting picture of the woman's incompetence when telling the story to others in the future. But from my study of the scriptures and the way the Holy Spirit has been speaking to me I realized that God is a God of forgiveness and second chances. If we are to be like Him we need to be kind, loving, forgiving, and look for the opportunity to offer redemption to others whenever possible. That has become a strong belief in my heart. I did not come up with that belief on my own. It is a characteristic of God that has grown up in my heart and my spirit through the work of His spirit.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Party Publicity

After months of procrastination I have finally designed and distributed a poster advertising my availability to do ventriloquism at birthday parties.

The poster has pictures of me and my characters: Calvin, Cecil the turtle, Irving the fish, Eugene the owl, Grandpa Sherman, and Schnozz. I would have put the poster at the top of this post but there is information on it that I don’t want on the internet.

I’ve already put posters up at my church and outside our grocery store. I am going to put them in more places where I believe it will be seen by potential clients.

Last week I distributed some black & white copies of the poster to members of a young mothers group that meets at our church. They were all enthusiastic about the fact that I’m starting to do parties. A lot of them have children who really like my characters.

I do believe that this is an avenue of ventriloquism that I need to be involved in. It’s not just for the money. I don’t think I’ll make anything close to what I would at a full time job but it will be a good supplement to our income as a part time job. I really need to do this to get more of a reputation in the community. I believe that God has led me to finally take this step of faith and get my name and my talent out in the public so I can become a more effective minister. I’ve finally gotten the posters up now I’m trusting God to act as my booking agent. I can’t wait to see what great things he does.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Canine Management

Well here it is Saturday and I’m just now getting the time to sit and write about what my week has been like. Since getting Gavin, our new puppy, on Monday night, life for me and the rest of my household has really changed. I’ve had to devote the majority of my day to puppy and pack management.

What this basically means is that I’ve had to keep Gavin on a leash when he’s in the house to keep him from having “accidents”. I’ve let him run free outside most of the time because he likes to walk around our yard sniffing and finding things to chew on in addition to answering nature’s call. That freedom came to an end this morning when he found a hole in the back right hand corner of our fence and “escaped” for the first time. Luckily I was able to catch him before he got any further than our next door neighbor’s back yard. So until I get the hole closed off or get him a collar to keep him inside the invisible fence, his outside freedom will be limited as well.

The process of getting Gavin included in our little pack with my other two dogs has also required diligence. The first couple of days I allowed the pup and my 2nd youngest but biggest dog, Angel, to play fight whenever they wanted to. They did it in the house and in the yard. I figured they were getting to know each other and were just playing. But I quickly discovered that the constant combat made the puppy very aggressive toward me when I tried to discipline him.

After Tuesday I realized that I needed to keep Angel and Gavin separate as much as possible to limit the fighting. And the times they were together I needed to verbally and physically send the message that fighting will not be tolerated. That message gets through to Angel a lot easier than Gavin. Most of the time I have to tell Angel to get up on the love seat and restrain Gavin by shortening his leash keeping him away from Angel. I also got him a new chew toy and strongly promoted the fact that when he wanted to chew or bite; the toy was the only acceptable vehicle.

Two other key elements that have helped the process of establishing order around here are a daily routine and daily walks.

Since Wednesday I’ve taken Gavin for at least one walk each day. The walks are short because I’m not able to walk long distances right now. So far I’ve only walked him up and down our block. I’m working on being able to go further but it will be a while. He’s perfectly happy with that distance so far and seems to enjoy it. Also we have started taking our other two dogs for walks again. On Wednesday night my wife walked them up and down our block one at a time and on Friday I walked Dory as well. The rainy weather kept us from walking them any more.

The daily routine starts each day between 7 & 8 AM just about the time my wife leaves for work. I let the dogs out of their crates, out into the yard for their morning bathroom break then bring them inside for about an hour. I take Gavin out again before putting him in his crate for about an hour. That routine continues through the day and includes the walks.

So that’s the way things are going with the canine management so far. The house training is going very well. Gavin hasn’t had any “accidents” since Tuesday. I’ve kept a pretty tight schedule in regard to taking him outside. I’ve also been putting him in his crate to give him rest during the day and give me a break.

Things are not anywhere near where they need to be but it’s been less than a week since he’s been here. I’d say so far things are looking pretty promising. I’m sure it’s going to be another month or two before the puppy’s bathroom habits, pecking order of our little pack, and Gavin’s adjustment to living in our home come together and life becomes once again somewhat calm at our house. It’s going to take continued patience and commitment on my part but I’m the one who wanted the puppy so I can’t complain.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gavin's First Day

Here are some pictures of Gavin that I took during a "quite time" in the afternoon.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Three Dog Night

This post is not about a cold winter evening in Norway or a Rock & Roll group from the 70's. It's about the animal population of my house. As of 8PM tonight we now own 3 dogs. Let's go back to the beginning.

Ten weeks ago I posted an article about my son and his fiance getting a new puppy named "Gavin." To make a long story short tonight Gavin came to our house to live. The puppy needs a place to run around and we have a good size back yard where he can do that. He also has a couple of new companions in Dory and Angel, the dogs we already have. He's not quite house broken so I knew if he came to live with us it was going to be a task to get him trained.

Also, I was really concerned about the introduction of the puppy to the established territory of the other two. My anxiety wasn't eased at all when I found an online article that advised that if you had 3 dogs it qualified as a "pack." Different rules of behavior would have to be established from the beginning for us as owners to stay in control. There was also a concern about introducing a male into a house with 2 female dogs.

When I brought Gavin to the house we allowed the dogs to get acquainted by putting him in his crate and letting the other two sniff around and "check him out." Then we put Dory & Angel in their crates and let Gavin do the same.

After they were a bit familiar with each other we put them together for the first time in our living room. Gavin and Angel immediately began to play with each other. They romped around and wrestled each other with their tails wagging the whole time. Dory took some time to sniff out this new comer but she didn't seem all that interested in getting in on the playtime.

Just as I was getting to feel rather confident and thought "hey this is going to be pretty easy" Gavin brought me back to reality with 2 "accidents." One on the living room rug and the other on the carpet in the computer room. Each of these happened after trips outside to walk around the backyard with no "restroom" activity achieved. Oh well, it's going to take some time and patience.

I have already decided on a middle name for our new puppy. You see each of my other two dogs have middle names. There's "Dory Elizabeth" and "Angel May". Having middle names makes for serious verbal emphasis when correcting them just like my mother used to do to me.

Although I was never a big fan of the show The Love Boat that's where I found our puppy's new middle name. The actor who played the captain was also named "Gavin." That's why our new guy's middle name is "Macloud" Can't you just hear me saying it? "Gavin Macloud, don't chew on that slipper!"

I have yet to take any new pictures of our pup. He's grown quite a bit since the picture on the August 25 post. He's now about 16 pounds. I will put up some pics when I've got some.

Now some of you might be asking why would we ever decide to take on a 3rd dog in our home. There are several reasons and here are a few. Because he's already part of the family I couldn't see Gavin going anywhere else to live except within our family. In addition, he's a beagle and I've always wanted one. We thought Dory was a beagle when we got her but she's more of a hound dog than anything.

Finally I realized very quickly tonight that in addition to a crate, some chew toys, and a bag of puppy chow something else came with Gavin that I didn't expect: exercise. I'd forgotten just how much you have to walk a puppy when training them. By the time it was time to put the dogs in their crates for the night I was pretty tired from walking Gavin in the backyard twice. So it looks like that exercise program my doctor has been encouraging me to begin will begin out of necessity. Be careful what you wish for.

Anyway that's the story of Gavin coming to live with us and our first "3 dog night." I know there's a lot more adventure to come because of the training Gavin requires. Oh by the way we haven't even told our cat yet.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

An Evening That Was In The Cards

Last night my wife and I spent the evening visiting with 3 other couples from church at the home of one of the best cooks I know. The woman who was our hostess is notorious for her delicious dishes and desserts. As I've told people before she can make a silk pie out of a sow's ear.

The evening began with a dinner of white chili with corn chips and salsa followed by one of my favorite desserts in the world, peanut butter pie. It was all wonderfully delicious.

Following the meal the 4 couples divided up into teams to play cards. There were 4 teams of 2 players but no one was paired up with their spouse. We spent the next 3 hours playing a card game called "Hand & Foot." It's based on the game of Canasta but has some different and unique rules that make it a lot more fun. Two games were played at the same time at two different tables. After the games were finished the winners switched tables and played the winning team from the other table. We did that 3 times. When the night was over every team had won at least one game. My team won 2 games and lost 1. We won our last game by making a coming back on the very last hand.

The evening was a lot of fun and very relaxing. My wife has been working long hours and has to work today, Saturday, as well. The night was a lot of fun for her and I'm glad we went. It was the kind of evening we'd been talking about for a long time.

Sometimes God gives us an opportunity to rest when we need it the most. Thanks to the hospitality and kindness of our hosts last night we got a much needed night of Christian fellowship and fun.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Night Gives Glimpse Of Future World Leader

The election is over and there is a new President-Elect of the United States. The people of this great country have spoken and it can't be changed now.

I watched the election returns from the moment they started here in Kentucky. The network I watched for 95% of the evening was ABC. There is a lot of things I could comment about in regard to the way the event was covered and presented but that's not what this post is about.

I would like to write about something I don't think I've ever seen happen during a Presidential Election in this country before. I've seen it happening in other countries through news reports but not here in the USA.

What I mean is the response of the people. Last night there were thousands of people who came out to various locations to "celebrate" the election of their candidate. I'm not talking the ballroom of the hotel where the candidate was watching the results or the victorious party's campaign headquarters. People gathered to watch and celebrate these election results in places like Times Square in New York City, Grant Park in Chicago, African American churches throughout the south, African American colleges around the country, and even Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House. When I say "people" I'm not just talking a few thousand. I'm talking hundreds of thousands of people around the country.

Diane Sawyer of ABC news kept saying that the streets of Times Square were "carpeted with people." Charles Gibson kept commenting that it was like New Year's Eve and that there would have been even more people if the city had shut down the streets.

While the celebration in Grant Park in Chicago was an organized event the amount of people there was unbelievable for just a celebration of an election. There were helicopter shots of streams of people who had parked at least a mile away walking to the park into a crowd that was already 50 yards deep in front of the podium.

From what I know the crowd in front of the White House was just a spontaneous gathering. Nevertheless they were there to celebrate the fact that someone they believe in and voted for had won the right to take over residency.

The reason for all these gatherings was the unprecedented emotional connection of the people with their hope in their candidate. The voter's belief in Barrack Obama was not just in him as a presidential candidate promising change. Quite a few elections have been won by men on that platform before. There was a palpable spiritual and emotional commitment to and belief in him.

In an interview with ABC news Oprah Winfrey said that she would have lost part of her soul if she had not given everything she could to back Obama to become president. She even quoted a verse from the Bible to back up her reasoning. (Matthew 16:26 which was taken totally out of context by the way)

I believe it is safe for me to say that as a leader Barrak Obama is different than any other president we've ever elected. I believe people will follow and support him blindly no matter what he does. I say this because of the passion and commitment I saw and heard voiced from his supporters last night. He in so many ways validates a lot of people in this country.
Now I've written all of that to write this. I recently was asked by someone if I thought Barrak Obama was the Anti-Christ written about in the Bible. My answer was that while the Bible does give details of the Anti-Christ in the books of Daniel and Revelation but he will not come into power until after the Church of Jesus Christ has been removed from the earth. This "removal" is otherwise known as “The Rapture”. It is explained by the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:16 & 17. Since I am a born again Christian and I am still here writing this blog obviously the rapture has not taken place; even though "the stage" has been set for it for some time now.
Truth is there is no way anyone knows who the Anti-Christ is or may be. But the one thing that the reaction to the election of Barrack Obama does show us is how a multitude of people can commit themselves to a leader in whom they passionately believe.
The Bible says that the entire world will fall in love with the Anti-Christ. They will believe anything he says and do anything he tells them to do. He will be a beloved leader of the entire world.
Up until last night I was not sure that something like that could ever happen in this country. In addition the ABC news coverage didn't just show the celebrations of people in the United States. They covered similar reactions of the people in Kenya (Obama's father's country of origin), and the rest of the globe. The world's reaction to Obama is, to a lesser degree, the same as it is here. They love him.
Now I'm not in the least bit insinuating that our 44th President is the Anti-Christ. I have already written the reasons that cannot be determined. But if there was ever a doubt in a Christian's or non-Christian's mind that there couldn't ever be any one leader in this world that would stir the hearts and gain the loyalties of people throughout the world they'd better take a closer look at what happened on Election Night 2008 in the United States of America.

Monday, November 3, 2008

November…So Far

It’s the 3rd day of November and this is my first post for the month. You may have been wondering where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing.

On Saturday, the 1st, I attended a luncheon meeting at my church. The purpose of this meeting was to get to meet and ask questions of the candidate for associate pastor. Our church has been without an associate since the end of last year when my friend, Brent, left that position.

On Saturday evening my wife and I went out to her step brother’s house for a birthday party and cook out. There were 8 adults and several teenagers there. The fire was nice and warm. There was chili, hot dogs, roasted marshmallows, Smores, and birthday cake on the menu. Most of the night was spent sitting around talking, telling stories, discussing life and enjoying the fire. It was the most relaxing and enjoyable evening away from our house that we’ve had in a while. It was also special because up until 2 years ago Paula never had the chance to spend time with her family. The joy of having her family back in her life is one of the best gifts God has given my wife since we’ve been married.

On Sunday, the 2nd, the associate pastor candidate read some scripture and talked a bit during the morning worship service. Afterwards our church had a special business meeting and voted to offer him the position. I believe he’s going to start the job in January. I helped hand out and collect the ballots during the meeting. Afterwards I helped tally the votes.

Today, the 3rd, I did two things. I spent some time at church talking with some woman in a group called “Mom Time.” They are a group of “stay at home mothers” who get together each Monday for about 3 hours to have lunch, socialize and study God’s word.

I had to stop by and give some children’s church material to one of the mom’s who attends. After I got there the women asked me if I could stick around and answer some questions and help them with their meeting. I’d tell you more details but I’ve been sworn to secrecy.

The rest of my day was spent in town running errands: shopping for groceries, making bank deposits, getting food for James’ pet lizard. Those things don’t sound very exciting but they needed to be done.

Anyway, that should get you caught up on what’s been going on with me so far this month. Sorry I haven’t posted anything for a few days. I’ve not really had anything that exciting to write about. Hopefully with tomorrow being Election Day I’ll see something really good while I’m at the polls so I can write about it. Catch Ya Later.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Baseball's Off Season Begins Today

Last night when Philadelphia Phillies closer, Brad Lidge, struck out Tampa Bay's Erick Hinske on a swinging 3rd strike the 2008 Major League Baseball season was over. Congratulations to the Phillies and all their fans on their second World Championship.

My mom and dad were Phillies fans and if they were still part of this world they would have been thrilled. As a matter of fact the ending of the series was a little sad for me because I would have loved to have gotten a phone call from either of my parents so they could gloat about their team winning and not the Yankees. But wishing they were still here was is a little selfish of me. As I have stated in previous posts my parents right now are in the presence of God and the trivial cares of this world no longer have any merit to them at all. While that's a fact it's not the point of this post.

Today is one of the most depressing days of the year for me as a baseball fan. For the next 5 months there will be no games to watch, no highlights to catch on Baseball Tonight or Sportscenter, no standings or boxscores to review. Baseball's off season has begun. Oh there are still remnants of the 2008 season still to be revealed like the MVP and Cy Young award winners. There is a crop of over 65 free agent players who are going to test the open market to see what kind of salaries they can get. There's the winter meetings in Las Vegas in December and the off season trades that will happen during that time. But those events for me are like giving a thirsty man water with an eye dropper. It's just not enough. I already miss baseball.

During this past season I became a different kind of baseball fan. Instead of just rooting for and following the Yankees I became a fan of other teams as well. I followed the Cincinnati Reds as they ushered in their new youth movement. I pulled for the Cubs as they won more games during the regular season than any other team in the National League. I even had the opportunity to visit Wrigley Field and US Cellular Field in Chicago. I started to watch any and all baseball games that I could find on my TV; not just Yankees or Reds, or Cubs games. I watched the Red Sox whenever I could just hoping they would lose. I pulled for my favorite non-Yankee players like Ken Griffy Jr. and Alfonzo Soriano. To sum it up this season I became what I would categorize as an overall baseball fan with strong Yankees loyalties. That only makes facing this year's off season more difficult.

NFL football will serve as a substitute for me until the Superbowl but only because it's the only other sport I'm interested in. During the winter 3 of the major sports (The NFL, NBA and NHL) play the majority or most important portion of their seasons. But as I said the only one I've got an interest in is the NFL. The main reason for that is because it's so popular with so many other people I know and the Superbowl is like a national holiday every year.

On April 6, 2009 all 28 major league baseball teams will play the opening game of their 2009 campaign. Between now and then I'm certain that God has a lot of things He wants to do in my life and a lot of things He wants me to do. Probably all of them will have a much greater value in the spectrum of eternity than watching a baseball game. But one thing I'm sure of is that 5 months and 7 days from today, God willing, I'll be reclining in my living room watching the greatest game in the world again and being thankful for yet another season of major league baseball.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Seven For Safety

This morning at 10:30 I went once again to our local library to perform a ventriloquist program. I was asked to do something for preschoolers about Halloween. Of course not being a fan of the occasion I decided take the avenue of providing "trick or treat" safety tips.

As it turns out my program wasn't exactly age appropriate for the group that was there. The children were between 2 and 4 years old. My program would have been better suited for an older age group. I need to pay closer attention to the specific age range of my audience in the future. I'm still learning about my craft.

The program itself was pretty good. I taught the children 5 rules to follow when they go out to trick or treat. I also used 7 puppets to illustrate those rules. That's a new record for me. As a matter of fact it was the first time I'd ever used more than one puppet at a time. Although I practiced it was still difficult to keep the voices straight during the show. I used the wrong voice a couple of times.

Out of those seven, two of the puppets made their public debut. I used Rodney, my clown fish, (see September 16 post) and Skyler, my sugar glider puppet for the first time. The most unique thing about the presentation, other than that I wore a multi-colored neon wig, was the costume I put on the sugar glider. It was a ghost costume. The picture above is what it looked like.

The children seemed to enjoy the show but because of the length of the program and their ages they got a bit restless toward the end. After the show I stayed at the library and spent some time getting to know the children and their moms.

In the past after my time was over I just packed up and left. This time I decided that I wanted to stick around the library for a while and spend some time with my audience. Janet, the librarian, as usual, was grateful for my talents and interest.

I really like doing shows at the library. The audiences are always so much fun. I look forward to doing something for Christmas in a couple of months

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Trip To Toastmasters

Tonight I did something I've wanted to try for a couple of months. I went to local meeting of an organization called "Toastmaster." It's a national organization with local chapters designed to help an individual improve their public speaking confidence and skills.

Our local chapters is called the "Thoroughbred Toastmasters" and it meets in the community education wing of a local hospital. I went there not knowing exactly what to expect. I knew one person there. He's someone I'm familiar with because I worked at the same company as he did about 6 years ago and he currently works in the same division of the company where my wife works. He's the president of the Thoroughbred chapter. Although I hadn't seen him in a while he did remember me. Everyone else was friendly too as they said "hello" and welcomed me.

The meeting had a set agenda and several people had the opportunity to speak in one form or another. Although it was my first time there I was asked to be the timer. It was my job to time the speakers and let them know when their designated time limits were up. I was somewhat impressed with the structure of the meeting and the supportive atmosphere given to everyone who participated or got up in front of the podium to speak. There was polite applause for everyone and a politeness when one speaker turned the meeting over to another.

During the "table talk" portion of the meeting I was asked to speak from my place about what sport I considered to be "America's pass time." I talked about how I thought football was the most popular sport. As evidence I pointed out my frustration with how the coverage of NFL training camps overshadows baseball's pennant races as early as the 2nd week of August each year.

To me the most interesting thing about the meeting was the critique of the speakers by other members of the group. It was done in a very constructive manner. It helped me realize that I could possibly learn to be a better public speaker with their help and the Toastmasters "training program."

What bothered me about the meeting was the difficulty with which they dealt with humor. There didn't seem to be much familiarity with how do deliver a joke. Perhaps the reason their coarse delivery stuck out for me is I do so much of it I take it for granted.

In addition most of the people who got up and spoke were not used to doing it and were obviously nervous with speaking in public. Most did a good job of working through their nervousness to get their points across. I guess that's why they are there. It made me realize I should consider myself blessed for the many opportunities I get to speak in front of a group. However I don't make speeches in front of groups very often and that's what I need to learn from Toastmasters. And perhaps I can teach them a thing or two about the presentation of humor.

I enjoyed my first experience with Toastmasters. I am not totally convinced yet that it is for me but I'm going to give it another try or two. I feel I just might be able to learn from being a member. Only time will tell.

A Peck of A Performance

This past Saturday night I got the best opportunity of my ventriloquist career. As part of the week of revival services our church held a concert at 7PM this past Saturday. The group singing was the 2008 Grammy nominated group: Karen Peck & New River. I had the opportunity to do a ventriloquist sketch as an introduction.

I used the increasingly popular puppet, Cecil the turtle, and an script with several original jokes. I used an Abbott & Costello like exchange between Cecil and me. Here's a sample of the script:

Cecil: What's a Karen Peck

Me: No, It's "Who's Karen Peck?"

Cecil: You mean you don't know either?

Me: I know who Karen Peck is. I met her before we came up here.

Cecil: How many?

Me: How many what?

Cecil: How many Karens does it take to make a Peck?

The 5 minute routine got several laughs including a joke I added right before I went on stage. It was about the pastor and his wife. In the middle of the performance Karen Peck thanked me for my performance and got everyone to give me a round of applause. She also mentioned that it was the first time she'd ever been introduced by a turtle.

Cecil has become the most popular character I use these days. He's also the easiest to write jokes for. As I look toward working other venues over the next couple of months I think he'll probably turn into my "headliner."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

CEO Greed: The Height of Moral Decay

Our nation is in a financial crisis. That’s not news to anyone. Financial failure, potential collapse, and government bailouts of multi billion dollar companies has become SOP in the USA. The congress is busy using our tax money to save poorly managed businesses in the name of keeping “Joe the plumber” and all of the rest of America from financial ruin and loss of hope for the future.

Then of course there are the reports of lavish salaries, severance packages given to, and excessive spending by, the top executives of those failing companies. You may be asking along with me: “How did things get this way?” Are those CEO’s people absolutely corrupted because of their absolute power? How could they take such exorbitant amounts of money that they haven’t earned and have no second thoughts? One possible answer to the question of why corporate CEO’s do such things could be because they can get away with it. They are selfish and greedy and are in a position to manipulate and take the excess to which they have access. They go after something they don’t deserve but can acquire through deceptive means because they know no one will call them on it. Everyone does it.

My question is, while they are proportionately above you and I in regard to the degree of money and power available to them are they that different from us? Is their moral ethic different from ours? Are their actions just our multiplied exponentially to the ultimate level?

What I mean is I believe there is a thread of immorality that runs through every aspect of American life especially when it comes to money. How a person handles money, and decisions on how to acquire and spend it, effects the way they deal with everything else in their lives.

There is a cultural pressure in this country, now more than ever, to “keep up with the Jones.” In today’s culture there are so many more costly possessions a person needs to be considered culturally relevant than ever. To even be considered average in today’s culture a person is expected to own two or more late model cars, a wide screen TV and surround sound system, the latest edition high tech cell phone or Blackberry, a state of the art desk top computer with a broadband ISP connections as well as a laptop with WIFI connection, a house with nearly twice the square footage than the average home just a generation ago and more. Then there’s the social involvement of the children. If you have kid’s they’re expected to be involved in at least one if not several extra curricular activities (athletics or some type of arts programs). Involvement in those programs also cost money. Even school base programs make a considerable financial demand on parents.

Just think about it. What if you met someone who told you they didn’t have at least some of those possessions or their kids weren’t involved in any “outside” programs. How relevant would you consider them? You probably would think of them as “poor” or socially incompetent or some kind of “religious fanatic.”

Truth is all the cultural pressures feed into the pressure to produce financially. If a person does not have some source of absolute morality in their lives to which they are faithful and committed the temptation to gain financially by immoral means is not only attractive it appears to be the only avenue of action.

Specifically a person looking to gain financially no matter the means finds ways to gain through dishonesty. It starts on a personal financial level and spirals upward until it reaches the level of the top CEOs and business executives. As it grows and becomes standard practice for everyone at every level no one “blows the whistle” on anyone for fear of being caught themselves.

Here are a few examples of financial immorality at the personal level. Making an expense seem like it was done for business purposes so it can be used as a tax deduction. “Sweetening” your resume by just slightly exaggerating your degree of experience so the possibility of getting that job might be better. Taking credit for other people’s actions at work or fabricating accomplishments at your job in order to gain a promotion. Manipulating the numbers to make your financial status look better on a loan or mortgage application to increase your chances of having it approved. Not disclosing a problem or potential difficulty with the car you’re trying to sell so you can get a few extra hundred dollars from the potential buyer.

There are many more examples I can come up with but won’t take the time to include them. In today’s society those practices are not really something people would ever question or give a second thought about but they are still dishonest. They are all lies in practice and by God’s standards they are sinful.

As a Christian it is my obligation to be truthful, honest and fair in everything I do. This includes they way I handle money. All those things I just mentioned are done to gain in some small but significant way.

If as a Christian, I believe that God is in control of my life and works all things toward the “good” that he has planned for me (Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11) I should have faith and be patient enough not to try out maneuver God’s sovereignty by attempting to acquire through dishonest means something I want or believe I need. If God has not seen that I have the financial means to get that loan, or car, or house or whatever honestly and according to his standard of truth then as Christians to seek it for myself is a direct sin against God.

So while the dollar amounts and degree of greed that are being associated with the CEO’s of failing companies and institutions in this country is the apex of immorality; the decision to live life immorally is totally a personal matter of the heart. Our country's economic crisis the resulting consequence of a countless number of personal immoral decisions and behaviors that have snowballed into a problem of colossal size. The financial crisis while manifested in financial ways is the result of a catastrophic degree of sin.

There may not be much any individual can do about what the CEO’s get away with. However a Christian can keep his mind and heart on God and His absolute truth and live his or her life in obedience and according to those truths. Do what you know is right and let God take care of the results. Teach behaviors based on God's truth to your children and fellow Christians and it will have a profound effect on society.

Of course that’s just my opinion.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Time With The Senior Adults

Just about every Friday during the year a group of older members of our church gather in our fellowship hall for lunch and a “program”. The program part is presented by a member of the group or a special guest. The program can be a bible study, a testimony, singing or playing an instrument.

Last Thursday afternoon I got a call from my pastor asking me to be the guest speaker at the Sr. Adults meeting the next day. The scheduled guest had to cancel at the last minute. I’d been thinking about asking to go do something for the group for a while but hadn’t taken the initiative to set it up. The pastor suggested that I sing or give my testimony, or a short Bible devotional. I decided to do a combination of them all and more.

The next morning I took my old man puppet, Sherman, my harmonica and my Bible to the church. First thing I did was a ventriloquist sketch with Sherman. Because I was asked to speak with such a short notice I asked the group’s indulgence as I used a printed script for the performance. It’s the first time I’ve ever done that. The sketch had jokes about being old and the stock market. I used the old “look at that bunch of cows/not bunch, herd” joke. If you’re not familiar with that one ask me and I’ll let you in on it. I got quite a few laughs and everyone seemed to enjoy having Sherman there.

I played 2 of my favorite hymns, “Sweet Hour of Prayer” and “Fairest Lord Jesus” on my harmonica. Finally I gave a testimony in which I about talked about 5 things I have learned over the last year that have helped me be a better Christian. They included: the fact that Jesus still has a physical body today, the importance of living with a Godly perspective, the evidence and components of true salvation, looking for God’s creation of the fruits of the spirit in your life, and God’s sovereignty. I ended by thanking the group for their help and encouragement in my walk with The Lord. I stayed and ate a delicious lunch of roast beef and vegetables with some black forest type pudding for dessert.

I enjoyed my time with the Senior Adults and look forward to going back and speaking to them again. The experience of being up in front an audience of older people exclusively for the first time helped me realize that I am now ready to go to a nursing home to do a show. I’ve wanted to do that for a long time but didn’t think I was ready. Now I know I am. God used my fellow church members to help me take one of the next steps in my ventriloquism ministry.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

James Goes Back To Iraq

This morning the last of our family's big events this month came to an end. I'm talking about my son James' leave from the military. His time away from his duty in Iraq was over about 8AM this morning when his fiance and I said "goodbye" to him at the Nashville airport.

James squeezed a lot of things into the 10 days he was home. He spent a lot of time with his fiance and his friends. He got together with his high school buddies a couple of times. When one of his friends was involved in a extremely serious motorcycle accident; James gave support to his friend's family by going to spend time with them at the hospital an hour away.

He went to church each Sunday morning he was home and attended the Hallelujah Hoedown; a special event and chili supper held at our church each October. He even roasted a hot dog over the campfire for me that night.

He spend a couple of evenings with his mom and I; watching movies and playing the game "Scatagories" and carving jack-o-lanterns . He and his fiance went to look at a house they were interested in buying and they announced their wedding date: May 16, 2009

In my opinion the 3 most important things James did while he was home are these. He attended his brother's wedding; he went to see the movie "Fireproof"; and he gave us an opportunity to spend time with his fiance, Brandi.

Michael and Heather's wedding was the main reason James came home on leave when he did. He requested the time off even before he left for Iraq back in April. It was really important for him to be here for the biggest day in his brother's life and he was. The picture at the top of this post was taken at the wedding.

The movie, "Fireproof", currently in theaters is the 3rd film produced by the Sherwood Baptist Church in Georgia (see September 27 post for more about this wonderful film). Because of their plans to get married before the middle of next year we highly recommended that while he was home, James and his fiance go to see it. Although it took them several attempts they did see "Fireproof". Without going into detail let me just say that God's timing in regard to when they did go to see it made it a very effective tool in growing their relationship.

I'm ashamed to admit but until this visit home for James I really didn't know much about his fiance. I hadn't been very nice to her until now and I am very sorry for that. However, the amount of time she spent here at our house with James and visiting with my wife, my family and me gave me an opportunity to see her for the person she really is. I made an effort to develop the kind of friendship and rapport with her that I should have had all the time.

As I said she rode with me to take James back to the airport and on the way home it was just the two of us. I don't think I've ever had a more pleasant conversation while driving on I-65 than I did with Brandi. I don't know how she feels but over the last 2 weeks I've come to feel that she is already part of my family. I won't go on much more than that because I don't want to get over emotional or corny about it. I am just happy that we are now friends. I'm thankful to God that he has changed my heart and allowed me to show kindness and a caring spirit to Brandi.

So James' visit is over and by the time I post this on my blog he will be well on his way back to Baghdad. He will only be gone a little over 3 months this time. Still I would like to ask that you continue to pray for his safety and emotional state. This will be the first time he will be away from his family during the holidays. He'll probably be very lonely come December. Paula and I both appreciate your prayers as does James.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Free Cell Update

163 days ago, on May 11, I started playing the Free Cell solitaire game on my computer. There are 1 million different games to be played. I started at game 1 and have played them in order until I have won them. As of the writing of this post I have completed 463 games. Do I know how to have fun or what?

I have averaged 3.5 tries to win those games. 212 of them I have won on the first try and 89 of them on my second try. The game I had the toughest time winning was game #169. I had to play 84 times before I won. So of all the games I’ve played so far 65% of them I’ve won in 2 tries or less. I have averaged playing 2.8 games a day. At that rate it will only take me 912 more years to play all 1 million games. I guess I’d better get busy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mr. Anonymous Update

Several of my blog readers have asked me about what has happened between me and “Mr. Anonymous” after the post I wrote a couple of weeks ago.

I have exchanged a few emails with “Mr. Anonymous,” Even after challenging him to come out from “behind the curtain” of anonymity he sent me emails as “Mr. Anonymous" with an email address created on Yahoo that doesn't have a profile; so I still don’t really know who he is.

His emails were just as vicious and insulting toward me and Christianity as his comments on my blog. I wrote back to him each time and explained some of the things he didn’t understand about God’s truth. I shared with him as best as I knew how the gospel and God’s plan for salvation. I challenged him to evaluate his own life and decide what god he was serving and what the purpose of his own life might be.

I also told him that I would continue to use our correspondence as an opportunity to share and explain God’s word to him. I also told him I would never stop telling him emphasizing the urgency with which he needed to consider the fate of his own sinful state in regard to the brevity of his life and his relationship with God.

The last email I got from him, after my 2nd lengthy email back to him, was just one word: “Hallelujah” underlined.

I replied to that email letting him know that during this week of revival services at our church my prayers for him would take top priority in my heart and mind. So that’s where things stand with “Mr. Anonymous.”

Finally I just want to say “thank you” to those of you who have expressed concern and supported me during the time I’ve been corresponding with him. At first his insults and expletive littered opinions about me bothered me a lot. Then I read a booklet by John MacArthur called “Found: God’s Will.” In one chapter he wrote about the boldness with which the disciples, Peter and James, initially preached the gospel despite being persecuted and threatened by the Jewish leaders.

Realizing that God wants me to continue to preach the gospel every opportunity I get no matter what the circumstances I did my best to continue my consistent message to my email “buddy.” I stopped taking the insults and angry statements personally and saw them as the opportunity to share Jesus with someone who so badly needs it.

That’s the update for now. I’ll let you know if anything else happens. Thanks for your support.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday Morning Departure

All too quickly the time for my family from Pennsylvania's departure arrived on Monday morning, October 13. In the past they have stayed a total of 5 full days during the summer. They made this trip in the fall in order to attend my son's wedding. Because of school and job responsibilities they were only able to stay through the weekend.

At 10AM a group of 9 drove from the small hotel in our town to a Cracker Barrel restaurant about 30 miles north. We chose to eat our breakfast there because it was the direction the family had to travel anyway.

For about an hour we sat and ate and talked. We laughed and remembered the last 4 days together. When our meal was over we gathered in the parking lot and said our "good byes." Hugs and phrases like "I'm gonna miss you" and "wish it could have been a longer stay" were exchanged. I was so caught up in the moment I forgot that I wanted to say a prayer of blessing over my family before they left.

As everyone got into their vehicles and were about to leave I turned on the radio in my car. The song "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye" was on the radio. I thought it was rather ironic so I drove up to each of the vehicles my sisters were in and made sure they heard the song playing.
With that we got back onto the interstate heading south and the six from Pennsylvania headed north.

Our family visit was over and there was a bit of sadness in the air. But there was also a spirit of joy in my heart. That joy stemmed from both the chance to once again spend time with some of the people I love the most and the hope that I would see them again, God willing, next spring. That's when they plan on coming back again to help us celebrate yet another family wedding.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Super Sunday

For the second time since they have been coming down to visit on their vacation my Pennsylvania family went to church with my Kentucky family today. It was really cool that there was so many of us we filled one pew and part of another.

What was really special for me was that I got the opportunity to perform a ventriloquist sketch for my family for the first time. I did a sketch I had written a while ago using Cecil the Turtle as my puppet. The biggest laugh I got was a joke I wrote myself about “Reynolds’ Wrap.” My brother in law, Bob, was very complimentary to me telling me that after just a few minutes he really felt like he was watching two different characters having a conversation.

After church we went back to our house and had lunch from the Subway restaurant in our town. Since this was the Pennsylvania family’s last full day with us Paula and I decided to make them a special dinner. As I wrote in my post a couple of days ago my wife did most of the work for this meal.

About mid afternoon my niece, nephew and my two brothers in law and I went into town to do some food shopping for dinner. We went to Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart. Also on our trip was a stop at a couple of local book stores to get my niece and nephew belated birthday gifts. They each found books they were interested in reading. After about 3 hours or so shopping we went home so we could begin preparing dinner.

On the menu for the last dinner of the family visit were: grilled chicken breast and pork tenderloin (James did another wonderful job with the grill), southern style green beans, deviled eggs, Mexican style and regular corn bread with Chess cake for desert.

After dinner we relaxed for a while to let our food settle. Some of us sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee and relaxing. Soon we divided up into teams (women vs. men) and played a game called “Cranium.” It was a game that was a combination of charades, Pictionary, Name That Tune, and more.

The game was fun but everyone grew tired as it got later. I believe everyone was a little relieved when the woman finally won the game.

Soon it was time for everyone to start thinking about the PA family’s pending departure the next morning. As we gathered the things they had here at the house, including their dog’s crates and some things I had given them, we made plans for breakfast the next morning.

We would leave our little small town and go to a Cracker Barrel in a town just north on I-65 for our final moments together as a united family.

As the evening came to an end and I was very grateful to have had such a Super Sunday. As I went to be that night I realized that within 12 hours our much too short visit with my sisters would be over.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Going To The Chapel

The most significant event in my family in nearly 6 years happened at 2 PM on Saturday October 11 at a small chapel in Nashville, Tennessee. My son, Michael and his fiancé, Heather, became husband and wife.

The chapel was the Bridal Path Chapel just off Briley Parkway in Nashville. If you have ever driven to the Nashville airport you have seen the sign for the chapel on the left a few miles after you passed the Opryland hotel and Opry Mills Mall complex. It was a simple but lovely ceremony. About 30 guests attended and the bride’s grandfather walked her down the aisle.

After the ceremony the chapel photographer took a series of posed pictures. Then all the guests showered the newlyweds with bubbles as they exited the chapel.

Although there was no formal reception planned a group of about 20 or so guests, mostly family members from both sides went to an Olive Garden restaurant, just outside the city for a very nice late afternoon meal together.

The waitress’ service and the food were terrific and made for a memorable ending to the day's events. It was great to be a part of this wonderful day in my son’s life. Having, James home from Iraq, and my family from Pennsylvania here made it very special for me.

The newly married couple will spend their honeymoon at “The Happiest Place On Earth”, Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida. I pray God’s blessing on their lives and on their marriage.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Full House Is Best

This is not a post about a playing poker. It’s about last Friday October 10. That’s when my family from Pennsylvania arrived for their weekend visit. They stayed in a hotel about a mile from our house.

Having spent the morning finishing our preparation for their visit (you never really feel that you’re ready) we awaited their arrival for dinner. They had to unpack their vehicles and get settled in before they could come to the house.

I couldn’t wait until they got there so I drove down to the hotel to see them. The reunion was terrific. It was wonderful to see them all. My sister, Shari, looked great having lost over 90 pounds since her gastric by pass surgery last February. My sister, Peggy, was walking much better than she had since the last time I saw her. She had knee replacement surgery back in May. It was great to see both my brothers-in-law again too. My nephew was taller than when I last saw him last June and my niece had grown from being a little girl to being a tall preteen.

The family’s arrival at our house created an atmosphere of excitement busyness that hadn’t been there for a while. There was yet another reunion as my wife greeted everyone.

The reunion of our 4 dogs (2 of mine and 2 of theirs) didn’t go so well. I hadn’t thought ahead about the dogs getting caught up in the excitement of everyone arriving at the same time and it making them "edgy". There was some growling between my dogs, and my sister’s dog, Blossom. I quickly realized that I had mishandled the pet reunion. I put my dogs on their leashes and created a slow and calm greeting time in our back yard. This put an end to the growling for the most part. The dogs got along fine over the course of the visit but they never “played” with each other like they had the last time they were here.

There were two more “reunion” sessions as my two sons and their fiancĂ©s arrived at our house for our evening meal. We had a wonderful dinner of hamburgers and hot dogs cooked on the grill by my son, James.

After dinner we sat around and talked. James made some special Turkish coffee for my family to try. Some of them liked it and some of them didn’t. I don’t drink coffee so I didn’t even try it.

Pretty soon it was time to sing “Happy Birthday” to James and cut his birthday cake. As I stood there with everyone gathered in the kitchen I looked around and realized I was in a rare moment. Nearly everyone I love most in the world was gathered in my kitchen. I had a full house. It was a moment to treasure. I knew that there are very few times in my life that things got any better than they were at the moment.

The rest of the evening spent catching up and spending time with the family. We watched “Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader” and “Don’t Forget The Lyrics” on TV.

My nephew, Bobby, showed me how he could play the guitar and I brought out all my ventriloquist puppets to show everyone. Paula introduced our niece to the world of Webkins by giving her her own stuffed animal and letting her get online to register it.

There were a lot of other things that went on during our first day together but I can’t take the time to write all the details here. By the time it grew to be 10 o’clock or so the weary travelers from the Keystone State were ready to head to their hotel, get a good night's sleep, and get ready for the big event the next day.

We said “goodnight” and made the arrangements to meet at the hotel at noon the next day to drive to Nashville for Michael & Heather’s wedding.