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.