Friday, January 7, 2011

God Loves Donuts Too

There has to be a reason why I'm back at church.

Growing up attending Sunday services not equipped with air conditioning or padded seats was an uncomfortable experience, but the genesis of my religious discontent was the disconnect our leader had with his parish. For 10 years, I listened to a lifeless, mono-toned preacher hammer us with how we're all going to hell unless we followed a formula of prayer, confession, repentance, and attendance. Where was the hope? Couldn't anyone for a change have something positive to share during these services? Do I stand ANY chance of meeting my creator or should I just start applying heavy duty sunscreen for my eventual destination? As a kid who didn't have a choice but to follow his parents to church, I climbed the Catholic ladder to Christ but did so with resentment and a growing need to challenge what I heard.

As a young adult and eventually 30 something, the church became more an admiration of architecture rather than journey in spirituality. There was a ton to marvel at from the facade of the buildings to the decor of the inside, but that was the only way you could get me in a church. How I was viewing the physical structure spoke more to how I viewed myself and nothing to the need for me to be filled with the Holy Spirit, which is the moving force I clearly lacked. I could go to church and not be in church at the same time, and I lived that way until a few years ago.

That's when I started to feel the spirit call within me. It could have also been hunger, but I'm choosing to believe it was something holier than that. Something was telling me that I needed to listen to the messages subtly, and at times forcibly, being spoken and I should use all of my senses to figure out where I needed to go. Unlike Moses, who had a burning bush clearly spell things out for him, the almighty used something that would get my attention just the same:

God provided barbecue! Oh, how He knows me.

A church I attended to "kick the tires of Christianity", had a men's ministry and the recruitment event they were holding included dinner, guns and explosives (not kidding), fantasy football, and the chance to join with a band of christian brothers in the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment and growth. My good friend told me we should go to it and we did. To be honest, the men of the church didn't need much to get me hooked on their ministry; they had me at pulled pork.

I don't know the bible very well so I can't cite passages at will to back up my point, but I think God used my love of food as the way for me to listen to Him more carefully. There had been a tragedy in my life which brought me to that particular church and what I had yet to experience was that there would very soon be an even more devastating medical series of events for my 3 year old daughter. The men of that ministry gave me barbecue that night and they would emotionally and spiritually help me through some of the darkest times in my life that were about to come. Food for my body came first. The Holy Spirit they got me to believe in once again, took care of the rest.

It's been 4 years since I joined my band of brothers and my life has gone in more directions than I ever imagined it would. I go to church now and hear the message more clearly than I ever did before but also with the support of a community that is willing to listen to my questions without making me feel like an outsider. The walk we each take with spirituality is as unique as finger prints so I don't think it's likely that I'll someday meet another guy who had, lost, and found faith the same way I did. But if I do, there's a place I'd like to take him and a group of men I think he will benefit from meeting, for I was once in those shoes myself.

And it doesn't hurt that the ministry provides donuts on Friday mornings either! They had me at brisket and kept me with bear claws, and that's enough of a reason to go to church for me. Well, a small part of the reason at least.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Evolution of Pick-up Lines

"If I could rearrange the alphabet, I'd put U and I next to each other."

"Would you please grab my arm so I can tell my friends I've been touched by an angel?"

"There is something wrong with my cell phone. It doesn't have your number in it."

"Do you mind turning your engine off so I don't suck in fumes for the next 30 minutes?"

Uh.....OK. I think my use of a pick up line went awry somewhere. The first 3 don't even sound familiar anymore but #4 sure does. In fact, there's a few that I could use as I wait in line to get my girls each day from school:

"Excuse me, Mr. I've Never Been Here Before, you need to pull your car ahead when the guy in front of you moves forward. They don't deliver kids to you way back here."

"Hello Ms. Nationality I Can't Easily Determine Based on Your Dialect, you are supposed to stay in your vehicle until the teachers bring your child to you. That's been the policy since day 1 and you need to adhere to it even if you aren't American."

"Pardon me, didn't you read the policy that says that you CAN NOT park on the side of the building to go get your kids? Yes, it is a very dangerous spot to move away from and you've almost hit me three times this year because you can't see the car coming from around the corner. That's why this is clearly marked a NO PARKING ZONE!"

"Hey Mr. I'm the Baby Daddy, I'm talking to you but you can't hear me because the music coming from your car is obnoxiously loud. Are you trying to distract the Kindergarten Class that's 25 feet from you on the other side of that window? I doubt all 5 year olds listen to gangsta rap so maybe you could just get an i-pod and keep the crap you're currently blaring in a school zone to yourself."

"Hi. I don't think we've met before but let me just tell you that it's OK to open your windows when it's 74 degrees outside and let some fresh air in. I think you might want to save the freon in your vehicle for when it's over 90 degrees, which as we all know in Dallas, will be here soon enough. Idling your car for the past 45 minutes wasn't good for the environment, fuel conservation, or quality of the air I just had to breathe. Now just turn off your engine and keep open your damn windows!"

You know that time has passed you by when recognition of a phrase has completely changed in your mind. I'm not saying that I'm old, but at 41, the term "pick-up line" involves now a lot less entertainment and much more responsibility. If I ever get to the point where I witness a pick up line being used in a pick up line, I'll let you know. My guess is that it'll happen with the variety of people I get to wait with each afternoon. They're lawless but interesting at least.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Space: The Frustrating Frontier

Frustration (Merriam Webster on-line definition): a deep chronic sense or state of insecurity and dissatisfaction arising from unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs.

Frustration (Jim Jones life-at-home definition): acquired stuff > allotted space = crazed housekeeper/ stay at home dad.

If I had a dumpster out front and a blood alcohol level over the legal limit, I think that there would only be a few things in my house that wouldn't find their way out the door. Let's visualize this cleaning action in terms of reality-tv elimination nights.

Doing this Survivor style:
Clyde, most beloved stuffed animal of all-time, you are safe. (I'd like to keep living and Emy is tall enough to reach the knives.)
Underwear and Socks, you are safe. (Do I need to say why?)
Any appliance that is still working over 80%, you are safe. (There are so few of them left anyway.)
The rest of you I will see at Tribal Council!

Doing this Apprentice Style:
Clothes that no longer fit, assorted "I can't believe we kept this" hidden in closets, under beds, in plastic bags, and in the garage: You're Fired!
And since this is a double elimination night: unused toys, overstocked scrapbooking and art supplies, and anything I just don't like anymore, You're Fired too!

The kids and I recently talked about what it means when someone is remodeling their home and that got me thinking about all the junk we've accumulated over time. I don't remember who said that if you haven't used something in over a year then go ahead and get rid of it, but that person sounds like a genius to me. We have more useless treasures than anyone I know who doesn't also have a basement, and the temptation to get rid of dust covered items, of all sizes, is overwhelming. We're basically having to look where we step in fear of tripping over something; that's not good no matter where you are.

To show you what how frustrated this mess is to me, let me say it this way: if taking unhindered spring cleaning to a whole new level meant that I could see my den floor again, I'd be doing the happy dance until I got blisters.

The more-than-obvious elephant in the room that is still waiting for me to address is this: why don't I just shut up and clean? Three answers:
My wife.
My kids.
My fear of certain short females (aka: my wife and kids).

These ladies are the love and light of my life but are also as hard headed as it gets. They each possess an incredibly stubborn "I'm gonna keep this" streak and an immediate line of sight to my crotch; where instinctively as females, they know how to cripple men. I'd have a fighter's chance to achieve a partial victory if one of them chose to part with some stuff, but hoarding is genetically encoded in their DNA and past attempts, by me, to get them to cooperate never ended well. There might not be bloodshed but an ocean of tears is guaranteed, and I'm squeezably soft when that happens. My desire for their happiness always trumps my own. It's my Achilles in case you didn't know.

My sad truth is this: It's almost better to personally live in frustration of the mess than it is to deal with an out-pour of emotion, none of which would benefit my health or safety. Perhaps I could shift the paradigm and all I would need to do is put in ear plugs and deal with the inevitable fall out. Once I figure out which one of these scenarios is going to happen, I'll just pray for enlightenment from the almighty that I've made the correct decision. I'll also book a hotel room for one just to be on the safe side.

If frustration is synonymous with aggravation, exasperation, annoyance, botheration, and vexation, consider me
aggravated, exasperated, annoyed, bothered, and vexed (though I doubt I'd really use the word "vexed" in a real conversation) with the state of my home and the tons of stuff therein. The carrying capacity of our house is decreasing with the physical mass of the numerous "future donations and garbage contributions" that are currently here despite my desire to see them go. Maybe a garage sale is what my family needs to do to lighten the frustration I'm having.

Anyone need car seats, jackets, comforters, blankets, furniture, beds, cups, knives, books, shoes, lamps, baby toys, toddler toys, after toddler toys, stuffed animals, trains, baby clothes, strollers, tables, videos, games, video games, televisions, coloring books, a thousand markers and crayons, etc., etc., etc,?

I'm going insane.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I Lost My Mojo

It was early this morning that I got fired up to write something, anything, just to get back in the groove. When I looked at what I had on my home project to-do list, I just thought that I'd add commentary about those to the "something/ anything" and I'd have a fluid blog entry worthy of posting. I remember having the feeling that I was going to put all of this together successfully and give you all an entry I was even going to like.

Unfortunately, I made a mistake. If I had just thought to write down all of my thoughts before I got the day started, I'd have enjoyable text for you now. Instead, I have diddly squat.

Nada. Zip. A mental black hole.

Why the hell didn't I write when I had the inspiration and opportunity? In a complex way, I could intricately describe my day of chores to you from the moment the kids left the house until right now. Hell, I could even give you a time-line showing when I was busy getting stuff done.

I'll opt for a simpler answer, and a bit on insight about me instead: I'm easily distracted. Here's what went wrong: I got hungry, toasted an English muffin, and turned on ESPN. This is exactly the moment that my day died.

Inspiration was replaced with satiation. Opportunity morphed into procrastination. Content and context were removed for fillers and byproducts. My filet mignon of a blog turned into a frozen corndog right before my eyes except I didn't see it because ESPN2 had a lively debate about a wide receiver getting out of prison and I just had to watch. Plaxico Burress will be playing football this July when he's a free man and I'll probably still be staring at the HDTV well after he's resumed an NFL career.

Yes, I managed to handle the tasks of every day life first and as such, the back of the chair that Sami broke off is fixed and the bathtub seal has had it's initial re-caulking. Those projects had to get done today and it's all "mission accomplished" on that front. It's the sitting down after I finished the home repairs that is killing me now. Any creative momentum I had built came to a screeching halt when I powered on the TV set.

The sad part about this is that I can tell you when Plax is getting out of jail (June 24th) but I can't even remember how I was going to start the blog this morning. Stupid ESPN2 program. Stupid Me2.

Tomorrow is another opportunity to share my thoughts so I'll end the self deprecation now in favor of taking a shower and getting ready to volunteer in Sami's kindergarten class. Hopefully the kids and teachers will give me material to use for another blog entry and I'll be smart enough to write it down before the TV gets turned on again. Otherwise, the next entry will be another something/ anything that isn't worth reading any more than this one was.

Tomorrow: from liquid nails to nail polish; a day in the life of a stay at home father of girls. I think this one has potential; I just need to keep snacking so I don't sit down in the living room again.