Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas gifts 2014

I made another great haul this Christmas. Below are the pics.

In pic #1 - Jane's gift to me was having one of my pencil sketches framed. I did this for my drawing class I had for my undergrad degree (my degree is in Religious Studies but the drawing class was one of my favorites). This was for my final in the class, and I did okay on the straight lines and shadows, but the curves are kinda funky. Oh well, not being an artist or anything, I was happy with it. Plus, I enjoyed my chats with the atheist art instructor as much as anything.

Pic #2 are the gifts I received from the Feipel's and Horwedel's. From the Feipels I got some beer mugs, and a 'Q & A 5-Year Journal' that has 365 questions for 5 years. The questions prod for answers like, "Who do you need to call today?," or, "Who is your closest companion right now?," or, "What makes you feel wonderful?" I just fill in the blanks each day. I think it's a fantabulous gift for someone like me, and someday for my kids and grandkids. Along the same lines is a book, "My Dad: His Stories. His Words." This is sort of a 'walk down memory lane' for me to write down thoughts and stories from my life and some day pass off to my children and grandchildren. Good stuff!

Isaac and Ricci made the popcorn in the mason jar, and then on the lid had some Redbox codes they purchased for us... so we can have 'movie-and-popcorn nights.' A very practical yet artsy sorta gift. Both sets of kids always come up with something so perfect!

The 3rd pic is what I got for Lady Jane - the usual Ansel Adams calendar, and Kathy Escobar's book 'Faith Shift.'

We got Anna a doll house and Bennett a barn set. Caleb got 2 boxes of diapers (he needs those more than he knows). The big kids all got the usual stuff. It was great having them all around. Probably the most time we've all spent together in a long time. All in all it was a great Christmas.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas week - pt. 1

Christmas was kind of a week long thing this year. Isaac and Ricci came home Monday, and we will still be celebrating this coming weekend too. So here's the rundown so far... on Christmas day.

Jane had Monday and Tuesday off, worked X-mas Eve til noon, and works again Friday and Saturday. I worked Monday, took Tuesday off (John wanted some hours), worked X-mas Eve from 9:30-1, and will work regular hours Friday (26th).

Isaac & Ricci arrived at our house Monday afternoon. They left Georgia Saturday and drove to Ricci's mom's, then spent some time in Anderson with friends. They will head back to Ricci's mom's this afternoon (25th), and go back to Atlanta this weekend or early next week.

Carrie and the kids have spent a lot of time at our house this week too. It's a little hectic at times having a house-full, instead of the usual two of us, but it's been very fun and I'm glad we all got to spend some time together. Plus Anna LOVES getting to spend time with Ricci and Grandma Jane. Bennett, however, keeps calling me dick/Dick for some reason (not sure which one). The wee ones have all been super fantastic the whole time.

Tuesday Jane kept saying she couldn't seem to get her breath very good. She said it started Monday. At one point Tuesday afternoon, while we were watching all the grandkids, she carried Caleb upstairs and hollered at me in the basement. I ran up the stairs and she shoved Caleb into my arms and gently sat herself down on the floor. She was audibly wheezing and had a pretty panicked look on her face. So I took Caleb downstairs and handed him off to Isaac and told them I was taking Jane to the ER. I managed to get us there in one piece in the Buick (Carrie had taken the Ford). She got a breathing treatment, they took chest x-rays, and did an EKG. She felt much better after the breathing treatment. So they said it must have just been an allergy thing. I was glad, because I was a little concerned when she said her back hurt between her shoulder blades, plus just the fact that when someone can't breathe it's pretty scary. She got a prescription for an inhaler and all seems to be okay now. I guess we got to the hospital around 4:30 pm Dec. 23rd, and returned home around 7:45 pm.

Monday night we all ate at our house. Jane made a couple kinds of soup, tiny meatballs, and various other things. We ate in the basement. Tuesday she made this fancy french toast and bacon for breakfast. We had sandwiches for lunch. Tuesday night, even though we had the little hospital episode, we went to Henry's for supper. Drew had to stay home with the kids, because after Jane's incident they cancelled their babysitter. Isaac and Ricci went to Caleb and Kelly's for breakfast, and we all had supper at our house X-mas Eve. Jane made lasagna. Christmas morning we went over to the Feipel's and Carrie made all kinds of incredible stuff to eat. We had leftovers at our house for lunch X-mas day.

On Christmas Eve we opened presents at our house in the afternoon, then we ate Jane's Christmas lasagna for supper. Then everyone except Carrie and Caleb went to Grace Gathering for the 7:30 Christmas Eve service. Carrie didn't feel good (cold/sinus thing). Church was packed but we all managed to sit together on the far side. Craig led the singing on guitar (with a guy on hand drums), and Andy gave the message. The lighting of the candles was pretty neat - especially watching Anna and Bennett light theirs. It was very nice.

It is just before noon on X-mas Day as I am writing this. We went to the Feipel's around 8:30 and had breakfast and played with the kids. Jane and I took a cheese tray to one of the Veterans Shelters for lunch around 11 (SafeHaven), and Jane is now getting lunch ready for everyone. The kids (Feipel's and Horwedel's) will all come over shortly to eat, then Isaac and Ricci will likely have to leave.

The weather has been weird. I don't really care if it snows or not, but it was almost 60 degrees on the 23rd, Christmas Eve it was about 50 and pouring down rain. It got colder overnight, but no snow ever appeared. I suppose snow may have made it seem a bit more Christmas-y, but it's a whole lot better than a foot of it and freezing cold temps (imho).

That's probably plenty for now. Tomorrow I will try to fill in the gaps and record the presents and such. So far it's been a very merry Christmas for us.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The annual christmas party

This past Saturday we once again attended Mike's annual Christmas extravaganza. As with last year, first we dropped our pan of lasagna off at church for their annual "Just Come" dinner. We did not stay and eat this year though because we then went to the Feipel's and had birthday cake for Drew (his bday is the 19th). We got to Mike's around 8 pm. Jane once again took her scrumptious meatballs, and this year added some bear-batter cheese dip with some little bread things to dip in it.

The crowd wasn't as large as some years, but it was still a swell time. Catchphrase was just as fun as ever too. I lost too many times, but lived to tell about it. I believe we got home a little after 2 am. Here are a couple pics. First the group shot (minus Kristen), and then a pic of my lovely lady and me sporting my new Christmas sweater. :) And... it probably goes without saying, but one of the neatest things about Mike's house is all the vintage decorations. Very nicely done.

Monday, December 22, 2014


I love Fernando Ortega's music. I heard his song, Shame, the other day and was reminded just how much I relate to the lyrics in it in particular.

I've never been one of those people who say, "I have no regrets." I actually regret many things about my life - things I've done, things I've not done; things I've said, and left unsaid. I have hurt many people, many times, and I feel terrible about it. However, I have also tried to live well ("not a coward, not in vain"). I hope I am more remembered for those things than the countless shameful things I've done.

Anyway, here are the lyrics. You can watch/listen to the Youtube version of the song by clicking the link above. Good stuff all the way around.

Though I am weak, Sometimes weary
In times of trial... I hide my face
In the balance, Judge me wholly
Please don't judge me, By my shame

In dark hours Of confrontation
When words may fall Too soon to unsay
Don't mistake them For my true meaning
They are measures, Of my shame

I have tried to Live life humbly
Not a coward, Not in vain
When my meekness Overcomes me
Remember me... Not my shame
Not my shame

I am small And self-conscious
Every mirror Reflects the grain
Judge my essence By my kinships
Remember me... Not my shame

I am weak, Sometimes weary
Sometimes small... I hide away
When my hours Are all accounted
Please don't bind me... To my shame

I have tried to Live life humbly
Not a coward, Not in vain
When my meekness Overcomes me
Remember me... Not my shame
Not my shame

Sunday, December 21, 2014


I got a haircut yesterday, and actually paid someone to do it again. It seemed like it had been awhile since my last haircut, and I haven't had someone else cut my hair since June of 2013. I just felt like - since it's the holidays and all - maybe I would get a nice haircut. It didn't exactly turn out how I wanted it, but it was better than when I do it myself.

I went to a Great Clips, as usual, but went to the one over by our house. I got right in, which kind of surprised me on a Saturday afternoon. They had plenty of people working though. Ellyn cut my hair. She was nice enough, but she kind of talked my ear off. Whatever. At least I didn't have to say much myself. The haircut was $12 and I gave her a $3 tip.

I've been lately thinking about maybe trying to find a regular barbershop. You know, a small, local spot. I don't really know of any though. So... we'll see.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Anna's first program

Our sweet little granddaughter, Anna, had her first ever Christmas program last night. It was so cute. She goes to Avalon Christian School for preschool. She goes 3 mornings a week and is in a 3-year-old class. I think she likes it. She is pretty shy, so I think it is good for her.

Anyway, the program was great. It started at 7 pm and we were told to be there at 6:30 when the doors opened. We drove across the street at 6:25 and couldn't believe the parking lot was already almost full and people were everywhere. We did manage to get a parking spot. Inside was a good mix between controlled chaos and holiday cheer. Drew Carrie had saved us a seat in the back left area with them, Drew's dad, Dick & Ester. Anna, Bennett, and Caleb were adorable and fantastic as usual.

For the program, they had all the students come in singing and then they sang another song together, then recited the 23rd Psalm (which Anna has memorized), then the 2-year-old class sang 2 songs, the 3-year-olds sang 2, and the Pre-K classes sang 2. That was it. It took about 30 minutes or so and was just the right amount of time. Little kids are so hilarious, and I was glad that no parents got stupid either.

It was a fun time, and we were very proud of Anna. I had no idea how she would do, but she marched up there like everyone else, stood in her spot, and she sang every now and then too. She looked kind of sad/scared at first, but eventually she loosened up and was doing the hand motions, and even managed to smile a time or two. She did so good. We were all grinning from ear to ear. :)

Many thanks to Lady Jane for the pics. And so it begins...

She was very happy when it was over.

Bennett was happy for her too.
Bennett and dad during the program.
Caleb and mom. He seems happy most of the time.

Friday, December 19, 2014

I bought a ukulele

I've been wanting to get a ukulele for awhile now. The grandkids love playing with my guitars - and I don't mind at all - but they're just not quite big enough to handle them yet. So I thought a uke would be the perfect size for their small hands. Plus it would be fun to have one for myself. I didn't want to get a "toy," because it wouldn't stay in tune and would probably just get broken. But a REAL uke (on the lower end of the $ scale) would be better, in my opinion.

So, after church last Sunday I stopped at Guitar Center and bought this Cordoba Concert Ukulele. I played around with a couple and this one just seemed right. The Protege is a beginner uke, but it's still a real uke. I've been messing around with it at work and it's kinda neat. They're easy enough to play, but the tuning is completely different from a guitar, so it's taking me some time to get used to it. Fortunately there are a ton of free resources on the interwebs.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dr. visit

I had a regularly scheduled follow-up Dr's appointment yesterday at 9:15 am. The last time I was there I was trying to stop smoking and I went back on my blood pressure medicine.

I felt good when I went. I gained a little weight - I was up to 172 (which is actually less than I was last week). My blood pressure, however, was fantastic. 118/76. I was happy about that; as was the doctor. I forgot that I'd pretty much given up caffeine a week ago.

He was also very happy that I had quit smoking completely. He said in a couple years my body would be like I'd never smoked at all again.

I asked about getting off the Zoloft. He was like, "Oh yeah, whenever you want." He said I'm on a starter dose now anyway, so I could just start skipping a day and then after a week or two quit altogether; or if I wanted he could write me a prescription for a lower dose and quit that way. He said that was fine with him whenever I wanted to. 

We had a good visit. Kinda just chit-chatting. He had planned to have me do some blood work (cholesterol, etc) after this visit, but he said, "Ah, heck, let's just wait until summer to do that." That was okay with me.

Afterward I stopped at the Southtown Walmart to pick up the prescription I forgot had been waiting since Monday. I then celebrated the good dr. visit with a coffee and burrito from McD's. I got to work at 11 am.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What I was thinking this past sunday morning

This past Sunday I had a number of thoughts running through my head. Jane was in Chicago, so I went to the worship gathering by myself, and sat in the back with Drew.

I was in a pretty good mood as I got ready and drove to church. I had a good night's sleep and listened to some Christmas music on the way. I felt good both physically and emotionally. I was also glad that I don't have to be there until 11 am now, rather than the 6 am I did for years. When I arrived I grabbed a seat in the back chairs. I didn't want to take a table seat since I was alone. I wasn't sure who else would be there. It ended up just me and Drew, so it was a wise choice.

The music annoyed me just a little. This particular worship leader tends to like to play things loud - which doesn't bother me at all - but today seemed to be much more performance-oriented than participation-oriented (which seems to be happening more and more). Plus, I do not like it when they start singing a standard tune, and then all of a sudden change it to some newfangled way - and of course the words on the screen never seem to match. Ugh. So I was disappointed (in myself) during the music time. I hate when I get critical like that. Especially when so many people are getting so into it. Why am I like this? But why can't people just let us sing along?

Anyway, during the announcements they had about 90 envelopes with various amounts of cash in them. Someone had made a large donation to the church and they wanted it to go to people who need help at this time of year, so we were supposed to take an envelope and give it to someone in need. This really sparked a fire in me, because I had recently been thinking that I need to start buying pizza's for the homeless folks downtown. Just start by buying a pizza and see if I can find someone to share it with, and see where it goes. That's kinda what son Isaac did in downtown Indy years ago. Well, it turned out that all the envelopes of money were gone by the time I could get up there. That doesn't matter though, because I don't really need the money to do it. I still want to do that, but now... not quite as much. Life goes on, ya know.

The message was a little different today. Not bad, but the pastor just read from his ipad. It didn't bother me at all. I think it's good to mix things up a bit now and then. I could tell some people didn't like it, but I bet there were a lot of people who did. I'm glad he did it. I can remember doing similar things myself.

Listening to Chris this day kind of got me thinking, "I could probably do this again." But then I brought myself back to reality. I honestly don't think I can ever preach again. I think I was just too humiliated. But I did think about the prospect of being a 'pastor of spiritual formation' someday. I think I'm much more suited to that. The coaching would be helpful with that as well. But then I wondered if I really needed the title or not. What would it look like if I were that, but didn't have the title??? Or... not.

Towards the end I was praying that something would happen after the service ended. I decided I was going to hang around and just see what happened. I told God I was open to whatever he wanted. Well... you know... not one person spoke to me. I said goodbye to Drew, Bennett and Caleb, and wondered if maybe they were what was supposed to happen. I dunno. I just kinda felt like I was standing there all alone by myself in the middle of this room full of people.

I ended up leaving, going to the mall and getting some Christmas presents, stopped at Guitar Center and bought a Ukelele, and went to Drew's and had Tombstone pizza for lunch. Then I went home and dinked around the house. All in all it was an okay day.

That's about it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I doubt it

I remember when I was a pastor it would often make church people uneasy when I expressed my doubts about issues of faith. Like, you know, what if I'm wrong?? It even started to make ME feel a bit uneasy at times over the last year and a half. Not that I ever gave up on God, but sometimes I did wonder just how much doubt a person could have and still be considered a Christian. I haven't figured it out yet, but I'm not too worried about it right now.

Ironically, it has always amazed me just how assured some of my atheist friends are that there is no God. I mean, I tend to think I am fairly committed in my devotion to God and the life and teachings of Jesus (even in seasons of doubt), but it seems the atheists I've known have no room at all for doubt or questions in their beliefs. That seems odd to me. I probably don't understand.

Anyway, I ran across this article on '7 Prominent Christian Thinkers Who Wrestled With Doubt.' It's not too long, and lists some serious "doubters"... C.S. Lewis, Mother Teresa, Luther, Calvin, etc. I felt it a comforting article.

I certainly don't want to make someone doubt their faith, but I do want to encourage those who may have some doubts now and then... I think God is plenty capable of handling it. Doubt is not the same as unbelief. In fact, sometimes I think it's healthy to say, "You know, I would be open to the Spirit teaching me something new." You'd be in good company.

So... that's all.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The girls are back in town, and mowing (maybe)

The three lovelies ladies in my life took a weekend trip to Chicago. They left Saturday around noon, got a hotel right downtown, did a little shopping, a little sight-seeing, went to the Shedd Aquarium, and got home last night. It sounds like they had a swell time, and that Anna was a near-perfect little princess. I'm glad they got to spend some time together, and it allowed me a chance to indulge my introverted side with some quiet time at home. :)

While they were gone I ran the gas line and hooked up the gas stove/fireplace, then yesterday after church and lunch with Drew and the boys, I MOWED THE LAWN!  Not that I really mowed much grass, but there were a bunch of leaves left over that I didn't rake to the curb for the city to pick up. So I just mowed everything over. It does actually look a lot better. I'm not sure I can really count it as a mowing though. At any rate, I ran the mower over the lawn, and then ran it out of gas. I may actually take it up to the storage facility and put it in my climate controlled unit for the winter now.

Some of the Chicago pics...


Sunday, December 14, 2014

The gas stove

I hooked up this nice little gas stove/fireplace thing in the basement yesterday. I've wanted something that would provide heat in the event of a power outage, and this will do the trick. It's heats up the basement in no time - even without the optional blower. Plus it looks kinda nice.

All I had to do was run a natural gas line straight along the wall about 22' into the laundry room, make a turn, and hook it into the existing line where the previous owners had a gas dryer. I had asked a friend to help out, because I wasn't all that comfortable working with gas, but I finally just watched some youtube videos and figured it out myself. It wasn't too bad. Fortunately I didn't need to cut any pipe. I bought 2 10' sections, 1 18", 24", and 36", 2 couplers, an elbow and a T. I also opted for the pipe joint compound instead of the yellow tape.

I did check for gas leaks (with dishsoap) but I woke up with a smile knowing that I didn't kill myself during the night. Awesome, if I do say so myself. :)