Friday, March 31, 2006

Counting Spots

Here’s one of those things they don’t tell you before you get married. Apparently one of the marital duties is for each of us to look at each-other’s skin and count how many spots we have. We also need to see if any of them have changed in size.

I say this because Erin just got back from the dermatologist and he gave Erin the edict that she and I have to count our spots. I didn’t even know I had spots. But apparently I do. I guess we are somehow related to leopards.

So, how do you go about counting spots? Do you break each section of back into a 4x4 area and count for each area? Should I get a tally sheet and mark each off with tick marks?

Heck, I even need to keep track of size. What is that measuring tool they give you in geometry (not a protractor) that slides open and closed to make precise measurements? Maybe I’ll just break our my measuring tape, I love the soft “thunk” noise it makes when retracting the tape.

I don’t know about all of this. What else am I going to enjoy doing throughout this marriage? Next thing I know someone will tell me that I have to give a foot massage or maybe even cook a meal (oh my)!


Monday, March 27, 2006

50 Dollars

One of the teenagers in youth group was recently given $50. They were given the money with the understanding that they would use it to help someone else. Ever since then he’s been banging his head against the wall trying to figure out what to do with the money that will have the greatest impact.

Should he give it to a homeless person (not necessarily a long-term solution)? Should he give it to Michael Brown? Should he invest it? Sponsoring a kid to go to Vacation Bible School?

So, I’m simply posting the question to you. What would you do with the money?



Yesterday my 20 month-old daughter Rachel and I went to the playground together. For some reason we got to grandma’s house and all she could say was “slide”, so we knew it was time to get out and walk on over to play on the slides. Oddly we didn’t spend a whole lot of time actually on the slides.

Initially she’d be tentative, asking for my hand to climb up the steps and look around to make sure I was near while she walked along the bouncy bridge. I even coaxed her into jumping a little to feel the bridge bounce, but she kept close to me.

When she got to a big step down she’d just call out “hand” and reach out so that I could hold her hand and steady her. Then she’d start climbing up the bars and need me to hold her hands as she negotiated balancing her feet on each rung. Of course, once she got to the top she was just fine running around on her own.

There was also a twisting slide which she was tentative about initially, so we slid down together. After the second time she was just fine going on her own and didn’t even want me to hold her as she went down. Then there was a smaller slide she decided to just get on her belly and slide down that way.

I really started thinking that this hand-holding is very similar to my relationship with God. When I’m starting something new I just rely on Him so much. I keep thinking to myself that if God weren’t helping make it happen I’d be a complete mess. Then as I do it more and more I tend to let go of the hand and really try to make him proud with my works.

After I’ve gotten somewhat good at something I still have a lot of times where I realize I just know nothing about the topic. I realize God is still right there beside me, watching and ready to catch me when I fall. He’s all set to pick me back up and make me smile about my hurts and failures. He knows that I’ll never be perfect at anything, and that hand is always outstretched and waiting for when I need it.

What better gift can I give Rachel than that outstretched arm? Even when she’s climbing the jungle gym without help, I can still help her do headstands (something she’s taken to doing lately). Once she’s off in the car on her own I can still help her feel better about the accident she’ll get or hold her hand through fighting a ticket. Once she’s off with her boyfriend, I can pray for her happiness, but I can also wrap her in two arms when it ends sadly.

I am just so glad that I can give my hand to Rachel any time she needs it. When she’s not holding on I’ll be honored to offer it to anyone else in need.


Friday, March 24, 2006


When I say viewings, I don’t mean viewings like when people get in a circle and contact ghosts. I’m talking those far more sad and moving times when you get to say one final goodbye to those you love.

Today was Marcus Gopal’s viewing. I can’t tell you how immensely sad and confusing this is. I’ve been to viewings and funerals in the past, all for direct family members. While they’ve all affected me, they were all for people who were much older than I was, people in their 90’s.

Attending a viewing for a 20 month-old is completely different. It’s also different because you have more tons and tons of pictures and even video of 2 year olds. There were two large boards of pictures as well as almost every surface had some picture of Marcus with a bright smile. Then there was a 12 minute video of Marcus during different times of his life. All of that came together to really remind me what we'd all be missing in the future.

I was especially moved when I saw four of the doctors from Rachel’s pediatrician’s (Marcus went to the same practice). I just appreciate them so much in what they’ve done for Rachel that I’m glad to know they really will be with us through whatever troubles we face.

Marcus’ mom made an observation that she can only pray that they will find some reason in what’s happened. I definitely understand where she’s coming from. It is so hard to find any reason in why this happened.

I consider myself a pretty spiritual person. I feel like I’ve really been listening to God, and He’s been making a lot of things pretty clear to me. But I just can’t find any reason in this.

I do know this wasn’t something God did. I even understand and believe that God is deeply hurt by this death as he is when everyone He loves passes away. God is also excited at welcoming Marcus up to be with Him.

For us left behind it’s hard to see any purpose. How can we grow from something so sad. What possible personal growth can we gain that is more important than having Marcus with us?

How does a priest explain this? Maybe being a priest doesn’t mean that you have all of the answers. I know as a programmer I don’t have all the answers about programming. Heck, I know as a youth minister I sure don’t know everything about youth ministry, or even teenagers. There are things in this life no one can ever explain. That can just be so upsetting at times like this.

If I’d ask you to do anything just do what I’ve been doing all week. Looking at those around you and really appreciate them. Every time I hold Rachel my heart melts at the things we’ll get to do as she grows up, and at the memories of fun times we’ve had. Let’s just appreciate one-another anew.


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Secrets? Tell Someone!

I’ve been reading Nate’s blog recently. I won’t go into details, but he’s kind of interesting if not exactly my type of guy. He just spent 3 weeks in an unheated cabin in the snowy mountains for some reflection… I think I’ll reflect in the Summer.

Long story not too short he posted a link to the PostSecret blog. Definitely check it out. It’s a blog where people mail in their secrets and some guy named Frank posts them up on the blog anonymously. You’ve got some sad secrets, some funny ones and some which can be a bit scary. Honestly I can only hope that some of these people have gotten counseling.

At the same time there are some good stories in here. Stories of problems people have had and how they finally got help. A few even make it pretty clear that without someone loving the person with a secret, things could have been far worse than they were.

I was reminded that all of the conversations and relationships I make with other people have the potential to change their lives. It also reminds me that there will always be something about everyone that I don’t know. Really it reminded me that the times when I just don’t want to listen to someone’s problems are probably the times I should be listening the closest.

When’s the last time you were listening to someone talk about their troubles but you mind just wasn’t all there?

I’m thinking it’s time for me to mail in a postcard to Frank… Now if I can only figure out something I’ve never said about myself to someone…


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Video Editing and the Little Things

Recently I hacked our DirecTV TiVo. What this means is that instead of my TiVo only recording and showing shows (a job it does wonderfully) I can now copy control my TiVo from the Internet and even copy shows off to TiVo onto my computer. This has the added benefit that I can put Sesame Street shows onto a DVD for Rachel to watch in the car… she’s addicted, addicted I tell you.

Of course, with every cool “new” thing comes a lot of new “opportunities”. I’ve taken a Dr. Who episode and need to simply cut it in half and remove the commercials. Sounds easy, right? Well, I’ve now run through 5 different programs for editing video and making DVD’s, with very little doing everything I’d like. Right now I’m in the process of downloading yet another program.

I’m actually convinced that what I want to do is so simple that either every product does it and I’m thinking it should be hard, or no product does it because they are too focused on editing videos you record form home on a video camera. I’m pretty sure that products have barely considered editing TV shows and such; it’s just something so basic it gets glossed over.

I think I was reading Seth Godwin’s blog where he mentioned that through the 90’s everything we needed to live well has already been invented and has since been integrated into our lives.

Look around, you can’t even buy a car without air bags, seat belts, antilock-breaks (well, most cars have ABS or traction control). Regulating temperature in your home is a no-brainer with central heat and A/C. Communicating across the world for the masses has been a reality for more years than I’ve been alive (it’s called a telephone). When’s the last time you knew someone with typhoid fever, or polio?

Over the past decade companies are now trying to find the things you “want”. Our needs are taken care of at this point. So, how do they get our money? By giving us things we want or think we “need”. Do you need an MP3 player? Probably not, but Apple and others have created an entire industry around solving the “problem” that we need to listen to digital music and watch TV while we walk. Using the Internet to make phone calls (I admit, I do this, Sunrocket is awesome, especially at $17 a month (including taxes – not plus them)) sure isn’t necessary but having unlimited calls sure is nice. Drugs are all over the place making our lives easier, Claritin and other allergy drugs are a great example.

How many times do we look at the world and ignore the little things? We spend all of our time trying to solve the complex problems without looking at some of the basic little things which need to be taken care of.

How often do you try to figure out what’s not quite right in your marriage instead of making a little time to share dinner with just your spouse? You’re not solving the big problem directly, but looking at those little things helps make it manageable. I definitely complain about how much money we spend each month while also picking up just a few “extra” things at the grocery store.

Heck, with our church Web site I worry about redesigning the entire thing, keeping it updated regularly, getting pretty graphics for sermon series’ and all-around trying to find ways to make it the best. At the same time I let the little pieces fall away, and I forget that we do have one of the best Episcopal Web sites out there.

It’s time to look at the little things in life. Rob has been walking every day and taking in such little things as a beaver slapping it’s tail and heading into the water (he’s also thinking of getting an MP3 player, I sure hope it doesn’t come along for the walks).

During our Lenten bible study we’re reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis and someone in our group picked up that a ghost was no longer referred to
“he” but as “it”. It’s such a small thing, but makes such a big difference. What if someone started referring to me as “it”? You can bet it’d make a big difference to me.


Monday, March 20, 2006

Marcus Gopal

Today Erin and I learned that one of Rachel’s classmates, Marcus Gopal, passed away last Friday. He had Leukemia which they discovered a few weeks ago. We hadn’t learned about it until today, and it’s really hit me hard.

Putting Rachel to bed we always say prayers and bless people around us. So tonight we did Marcus, which Rachel hung on to and continued saying God Bless Marcus, or baby Marcus. It’s enough to make me cry. Sometimes this world is so hard on us all we can do is move on and be with God. But I sure don’t understand it all the time.

All I could think about is what the family is going through, and what would happen if it were Rachel. All I wanted to do was hold her in the rocking chair and stare at her face. Right now I miss Rachel and she’s only a few hundred feet away. To never tough her face, hear her voice or watch her grow would devastate me. I don’t even know how I would go on.

So, it’s been a hard day for me, and a much harder day for Marcus’ family. I can only cling to my own blessings that Rachel is still here and that Marcus has moved on to an eternity of happiness, waiting to be joined by his parents. Though I sure wouldn’t see it that way if the roles were reversed.

What can I ever do with my life that will be more important than helping Rachel grow into what god wants her to be? I can’t think of anything.

For all of us, especially the Gopel’s, I pray for peace,


Where Are Your Parts?

Today I was sitting in church and looking over, one of the teenagers from youth group. I got to thinking that he and I get along well but there are just some things which seem to “dramatic” for me. I won’t explain anymore, since I’m not dying for the world to know who I’m referring to.

I was watching him and a thought plashed through my head, “that seems kind of dramatic, I wonder if it’s authentic or contrived”. Right after this thought went out of my head another one came in, “you know, I remember doing that in high school”. Yeah, apparently I’m a bit of a hypocrite and didn’t realize the extent of it.

After this realization I got to thinking about a lot of the youth, and even the other adults around me. I was thinking about how pretty much all of them share some trait with me. Now, in church, there’s at least that many (trust me, definitely not all) people share with me a belief in God and Christ. So I started thinking about other people I know or have met.

Last Monday two friends of mine from high school were in the area and we all hang out in D.C. with our respective families. I kept realizing just how incredibly different we are. While I’m still a bit liberal, listening to them talk also made me realize how much my views have changed over the past few years. I’m sure not conservative, but I’m also not as relaxed and liberal as they are. Call me an old fuddy duddy, but sometimes there seemed to be too much hand-holding and kissing going on.

We also have some strong loves which always bring us together. We are relaxed and view the world in about the same way. We just click when we’re talking. It just makes for a good time.

If I keep looking around I can see in everyone a little bit of me. I’d like to think that means I’m rubbing off on others, but I do see it for the reality that it is. I have taken a little bit of all those people and made those bits into the unique whole that I am right now.

So, if I’m taking a little bit from everyone around me, it goes to reason I’m contributing a little to who those people are as well. So, what one trait do I want to give to those around me?

Do I want to share my anger (actually not necessarily a bad thing, check out Rob’s talk on anger), my love, my kindness, my sincerity, my honesty, my irritation, my negativity, my hopelessness? What little bit of me do I want to give to the people I talk to today? It’d be so easy to pass out the irritation I see in others, but I think I’d rather give something to build up individuals. So today I may stick with honesty or positive well-being, since it will be a very long day of meetings at church.

What little bit of you will I be getting today?


Friday, March 17, 2006

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

Anyone remember that phrase from the A-Team in the 80’s? Murdoch was the BEST; I wish I could be crazy like he was. For some reason “I love it when a plan comes together” teases the back of my brain a lot. That was especially true last night.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I decided to buy a used minivan and get rid of my Nissan Quest. The Saturday before last I picked up a Chrysler Town & Country with 109K miles on it. I know it’s a lot. But it is a great car, and already I love it as much as I loved my Nissan Quest. That’s especially true since I paid for it with my own money and just don’t care if I get a ding here or a stain there.

Well, I went to CarMax to sell my Quest and found I’d have to pay $3,500 to give the car to them. So, facing this, I did what any level-headed person would do... I freaked out internally. I thanked the CarMax guy and headed out, wondering where I’d get 3K.

In the end I decided to try selling the car online at Erin and I talked about it and we figured (see the special use of “we” since I can’t remember whose idea it was initially? That’s called marital bliss) that I could at least put it online for a few weeks and see what happens. So I put it up not feeling very optimistic.

Sure enough, the next day I get a call from someone in Tennessee. Two days later I get a call from someone else in my area, and yesterday I got yet a third call. I was kind of surprised.

Last night I met with a couple and their middle school aged daughter. They showed up almost exactly at 7, ringing the doorbell seconds after I finally got Rachel to sleep. I was so glad Rachel went to sleep and stayed asleep after the doorbell rang, since I hadn’t expected it.

The whole family was really nice, easy to talk to, and I just felt good about them (heck, they loved our Golden Retriever, Winnie, and doted on her, which is always a plus in my book). So good I had to let them drive around in the car without me in it (long story boiling down to Rachel being asleep and Erin was at her mom’s house). Maybe I am a bit too trusting sometimes.

So, they came back, offered a bit below what I was asking, but wanted the car that night. They were amenable to the junk I had to do to get the title from the bank and pretty much everything was done.

I walked them out to the car and made sure I had everything out of it. I felt really, really good. I had no regrets selling the car, and I was glad it was going to a family that would appreciate it. This weekend they are off to Richmond for a travel soccer team. Yeah, my Nissan is now a soccer mom’s car :).

God was just putting all the pieces together. From Rachel sleeping through it all, the timing for their arrival working so well, them having the money immediately and being ready to buy, my finding just the right van at the right price. Everything just felt right. Not to mention the relief I’m still feeling that I don’t have to worry about paying for the Nissan or any of its minor annoyances anymore.

I just love it when God’s plan comes together. I especially love it when I’m affected so directly (yeah, I’m selfish, I admit it). Now, how can I give away any of this extra money I have?


Friday, March 10, 2006

Anything is Possible

When I was a teenager I had the firm belief that anything is possible. I can be and do anything in the world. If I decided to do it, I could be the best magician ever, or I could be an astronaut, or fly a plane, or be a priest. All ideas I had, so far I’m batting a big 0 average on each, oh well, at least I’m young and have time.

As I’ve gotten older I still think this is true. But I also understand why it is that most adults don’t think that it is possible to be or do anything. We all have gifts given to us by God, and there is the idea that since I’m crummy at detail planning I will never be the key planner of all activities for an organization. I definitely disagree with this. If I had the drive and interest to be a great planner, I could do it… Given enough time.

This knowledge of everything being possible s always flowing deep down inside, but doesn’t surface as often as it should.

Then I go and read Jessica’s blog about her piano skills. I was struck by how hard she works to play piano. After so many people say that their profession just “comes naturally” to them, Jessica kind of got me back to thinking about the possibility of doing anything.

Piano obviously didn’t come easily to her. She has all kinds of tricks including ones with big words like stalactite, stromboli, streptococcus (strep throat… and you thought I was uneducated) or something with an st in the beginning. Heck, in college she even lost the love of playing the piano.

Again though, she has the drive to be great with music. After giving up piano for a bit, she kept getting pulled back. She’s also never lost her interest and commitment to music. Now she’s going back to college to do stuff which I do understand, like “Knowledge Management” and “Information Access”.

All I’m getting at is, no matter how bad we think we are at something, perseverance can make it work. It may take years and years to get good at it. Heck, there will also always be someone who’s better at it than you are (a hard lesson I’m still learning). It also may not be easy. But with real dedication and love of what you’re doing, you can make it happen. You really can be anything you want to be.

So, I’d just ask that you evaluate you life for a second (hah, is a second enough time) and think about what it is you’ve always wanted to do. We don’t have all the time in the world, but why not try to make it a reality? At the very worst you’ll have tried and figured out what you do and don’t like about it.

I’m thinking I always wished I could be a serial killer… Maybe I’ll give that a try. I’d better get good quickly though, since I think if you do a bad job the first time you don’t get a whole lot more chances… Plus I’d need a victim… any nominations?

Thinking about it, maybe there’s just too much risk in serial killing. I guess I’ll just stick with pursuing my dreams of priesthood. It’s been 15 years so far, but now it’s time to commit.


Devotion Day

For Lent (the 40 days, plus Sunday) leading up to Easter, we’ve had parishioners in the church write devotion based on a couple verses from the bible each day. Today happens to be the day of my devotion. If you’re curious you can read it at the Devotions site. Thinking back I may have blogged this one already, but my memory is all Swiss cheese, so who knows. In any case it’ll force you to re-read it, which can never be bad, right? Plus you'll be on the site and can read some really good ones too!

While you’re there why not subscribe to the feed or get them delivered to your e-mail box every day? It’s something new Erin and Greg put together for Lent this year, and it’s kind of cool to get the devotions automatically. I promise that after Lent is over the e-mail list will go away and you won’t get bugged by St. Matthew’s afterward us by signing up now.

I really like reading through the devotions. I never give it as much time as I should. Seeing how other people interpret the bible and how they see it applies to their life is kind of neat. You get an idea for their spiritual walk, where they are and what they can teach you about the God and His place in the world.

That’s my entry for the day. Lots of stuff is happening, but right now it’ll just stay in the real world until I can carve out a little more blogging time.

Until tomorrow (or later today, who knows), remember those dreams… Listen to them… Follow them…


Tuesday, March 07, 2006


2006-03-07 – Separations

This entry is going to be a bit different from my normal ones. I’m going to talk a little bit about the Episcopal Church and the problems we’ve been having regarding the ordination of a gay bishop. I’ll try to explain some terms, but mostly this is going to focus a lot on the state of the church and maybe a little on marriage. So, it probably won’t appeal to most people. It’ll also be somewhat long. You’ve been warned, so quit reading.

Also, as with everything I write, these are entirely my opinions. No one else has told me that they feel this way, and really it’s all just stuff made up from the mind and experiences of Tom. So, if you have issue please let me know, but don’t go yelling at anyone else for my idiocy.

The Episcopal Church is in a bit of turmoil right now. With the ordination of a gay bishop the Anglican Church (Episcopalians are actually American Anglicans, but since us Americans are too lazy to say Anglican American we made up our own name. The head of our church is the Anglican church of England though) told the Episcopal Church that we need to apologize, repent and say we’ll never do it again. Okay, there’s a ton more to it, but that’s the gist, and I’m SO not a detail kind of guy. Flame me later if you wish.

Being the healthy Americans that we are, we take after our president very well and don’t seem to want to apologize or admit we made a mistake. Of course, we are never wrong, right?

For every person involved in the issue there is another opinion on how to approach it. Some churches (two within 20 miles of us) have split from the Episcopal Church (and lost their building, grounds and priest because of it). Others are firmly behind this, but hate that the Anglican Church is going to say that the Episcopal Church is no longer part of the Anglican Communion.

Recently I received the article “What we should do” by John Stott. I’m not going to go much into the details here, but I strongly recommend you read it. I’ll even give you a minute now…


Done yet? Probably not, I’ll give you another few minutes.


Ok, I’ll assume you’re done. Did anything strike you while reading this article? Early on I kept being reminded of my marriage with Erin. As I read further it kept hitting me just how much what John was saying related to all marriages.

When two people are married they are brought together by God. We may not know everything about each-other. Heck, we may have a ton of differences. Regardless of those differences, we have committed to spend our lives together. During our marriage counseling one of the best pieces of advice we received was to never use the “D” word (Divorce). By not using the word it helps us remember that separation isn’t an option.

Reading this article that thought continues to come back to me. How often have we had a fight with our spouse? Do you decide to break off the marriage because of it?

Even when you figure out that your spouse doesn’t have quite the same life goals that you do. Even when they are goals which really will make you re-think what you’ve gotten into, and change the way you live. Many people might split up instead of working through it. Others may agree and let it happen, seething inside. But if we’re really committed to one-another, we’ll work together with the differences, realizing we aren’t perfect and learning to accept the differences we’ll be spending the rest of our life with.

So, here we are, a marriage between two people that lasts at MOST 100 years, and even then you’d have to live a super long time. Now I plan to live to be 300, but who knows about Erin. On the other side we have a marriage between 70 million Anglicans/Episcopalians (according to Wikipedia) that has already lasted for centuries. And here we are, ready to give it up over an “issue”. Yes, it’s a huge issue, but it’s still an issue.

My aunt recently accepted her husband back after he left to meet another woman. That he left was easily the most heartbreaking story I know of in the family, and we’ve had our share of heartbreaking stories. That he came back has been hard for a lot of us, but I do love my aunt and I’ve always known her with my uncle, so I will accept her decision, and love them both.

Could you do that? Could I? I really don’t know what I would do or how I would handle it if Erin left me for someone else then came back. But here are two people who haven’t been married very long (when compared to centuries) and they are both making the hard decision every day to stay together and work it out. Why can’t we?

I’ve always been taught that what makes the Episcopal and Anglican church different is our commitment to community. We are one body in Christ. When we have communion we all go up to the alter and kneel together to receive Christ’s body and blood (we even use real wine). We don’t have a “first communion” like Catholics for a couple of reasons, but I believe one main reason for this is that we are together as one body. From the infant to infirm, we will share in the gift Christ gave us on that final supper and with his final breath.

That any issue can come between that marriage and break apart a community so thoroughly just makes me want to cry. Why can’t we work together in this, suffer our hurts every day, and work through the pain hand in hand with our neighbors?

My aunt’s marriage will never be the same. I expect that it will take years until they are completely happy and have worked through all of the hurt that has built up over the years. Though they are trying and have re-committed to one-another. I think every one of us 70 million could look at their marriage and learn something from it. I know I have.

Divorce is so common in the world today. What, 50% of marriages end in divorce? Has divorce become so common place that we have decided that when the going gets tough the tough quit, instead of facing their problems? Have we as a society decided it’s better to separate over our differences instead of joining back together and fighting to keep our marriage? I can’t believe God’s hope for us is that we would let any problem break us away from one-another.

I’ve learned from this article and I’ve learned from my aunt. I only hope the other 69,999,999 people can as well.


My Wife’s Attentiveness

Well, apparently my wife reads my blog entries even when I don’t tell her something interesting is up here. Yeah, who knew, right?

So, she seemed to disagree slightly with my blog entry about painting the house. Now, I would hope everyone reading my entries knows that I tend to take certain “liberties” when it comes to reciting the facts. This helps in two ways, one, I don’t have the best memory, so I tend to get facts mixed up, but the point of the story is accurate. Secondly, it’s funny. Yeah, bad reason I guess, but it makes me smile sometimes.

Erin did, if course, hear what I said. Unfortunately I hadn’t considered just how similar we are.

Once given an opportunity to do something I pretty much need to do it right away. Erin is about the same, she doesn’t have to do something right away, but if she has the time is right she’d rather take care of it immediately instead of letting it slip where she may forget it.

And so we come back to painting. I do appreciate the suggestions on painters. We actually did get two quotes for our family room, foyer and kitchen.

There were quotes ManorWorks (a local company which Erin knew one of the original founders) who gave us a quote of about $2,500 and Jose who quoted $800, but we had to pay for paint. Don’t get me wrong, ManorWorks was great, they would fix all nail pops and come and give us a color consultation in our house. Unfortunately I’m cheap and didn’t want to spend an extra $1,000 for nail pops, since Erin and (more importantly) her mom had already decided on colors.

So, a thousand dollars and 3 days later our main floor is almost completely painted. All that’s left is a small mud room and my office. Truly, the mud room will get painted before I clean up the office enough to get to the walls… I don’t even know if it still has walls or if the junk and book shelves are separating me from the elements.

So, I do apologize for what I said. It was darned funny though, so, am I really sorry? Probably not, I don’t even know if I apologized when she brought it up verbally. But, I love her and she loves me. Thankfully she knew (mostly) what she was getting when she married me, a guy who likes to joke a lot even if he’s not very funny.

So remember, if you’re going to blog about your wife or husband, just be sure it’s really, really funny so that you don’t have to be sorry later!


Monday, March 06, 2006

Crazy Drivers

I generally write my morning blog entries on the way into work when Erin drives in (since we work together we commute in together). As I was writing my last entry we just watched a Jeep Wrangler drive illegally in the HOV lanes (everyone seems to). But then he decided that wasn’t good enough, he’d pop on the 4WD last minute and drive over the grass between the fence and guardrail to pop into the airport access lanes. The airport rod tends to have less traffic congestion and you don’t have to pay the toll to leave.

We were shocked. He did it so quickly that he must do this sort of thing all the time.

Now we’re conflicted. We got his Virginia license plate; it’s either JSP-1313 or JSP-3313. We know it’s a green Jeep Wrangler. And we know he’s going to kill someone some day (ok, we don’t KNOW that last one I guess).

Any ideas on what we should do with this information? I’d like to call the police, but from my experience in the past, if they don’t see the activity they can’t do much. Maybe I’ll just leave this entry as my message, please be a decent driver. Tailgating and stuff is one thing, but please don’t go trying to fit your 60 inch wide car between 150 inch wide openings along grass at 40 miles an hour. I can only imagine what will happen one day.


The Foolishness of Husbands

Ok, I’m an idiot. I’ve said it many times before, and I’m sure I’ll say it many more in the future.

Now, if you recall, the last time I was an idiot I tried to freeze off my daughter’s fingers while we walked the dog. This time the repercussions are far more long-term.

We’ve been looking around our 3 year old house and really getting bored by the vast amount of white on the walls. Everything was a boring builder white. Thousands of square feet of builder white.

Erin had been talking about wanting to paint for as long as I can remember, but we just had other things come up. Plus we weren’t picking colors or anything.

This January I decided to give my wife a gift… I told her that if she tells me the color for each room I will make sure the house is painted by the end of the year.

Yes, every husband out there is shaking their heads in pity. It’s a rookie mistake, I may well make again. I understand the folly of my ways, and must live with it.

Here’s how I remember the conversation going:

Tom: “You keep talking about painting the house, this year if you pick the colors I’ll get the house painted.”

Erin: “You’ll have someone come in and paint the house?”

T: “Maybe, for the family room and foyer definitely since they go up two floors. The rest I’ll take care of somehow.”

You see, my wife is a doer. Based on her actions over the past month I am convinced here is how she heard the conversation:

T: “I know how much you want the house painted, and I’m even more eager to do it as well. I promise to have that room painted within the week you choose a color.”

E: “Great. For each room we finish I’ll have the color selected for the next room. I know the color for the upstairs hallway already, let’s paint that tomorrow.”

T: “I can’t tell you how excited that makes me, but I’d rather start today. If you tape I’ll get up on a rickety ladder and begin painting tonight!”

And so it is that a month and a half after I made the mistake of offering to paint nearly 3/4 of our house has been painted. We even put glossy stripes in the dining room, which I’ll have to put up a picture to really make it obvious how it looks (and that it isn’t awful looking). I was up until 2am taping for those stripes to help family harmony… Yes, it was worth it.

What have I learned from this? I must remember to do things in secret. Ask little questions, like, “what color would you like in this room? I was thinking of paying someone to come paint it.” Then I can paint it over night and surprise her in the morning.

Of course, being the woman that she is, she’ll catch on and soon I’ll be finishing the basement over a long weekend… anyone know where I can get cheap drywall?



As I’ve mentioned before, I volunteer at church as a youth minister, leading a bunch of high school students.

I have to say that there are times that I’m really glad to be around these guys and girls. Heck, I look at many of them and begin thinking that there really may be hope for us human beings.

Yesterday about 15 teenagers got together (far less than normal, but some have been sick or had other commitments) and went over to the park to cut down dead trees and drag them to the lake. We only got to spend a bit over an hour there, but everyone got into it and helped out.

The last time we went to help cleanup the park was similar. We cut down branches, pruned bushes and just had a great time together. Everyone helped out and no one stayed off to the side chatting, I even worked a bit!

We got back to church for some pizza, during which I got to talk to Bethany, who is an absolutely amazing person, for a while. At 6:30 the majority of the group blew off homework and headed off to Christine’s house for some time to just hang out together.

How kind they all were to each-other, and the fact that they were just so considerate to invite those around them struck me. These are some amazing people who care more about each-other than about the fact that they are in different social cliques.

When is the last time you broke free of your own social group and invited people who were on the fringes? When did you get together with people and just get a bit dirty helping Mother Nature in all her clean-up work?

Looking at these teenagers I know that there is hope for us after all.


Friday, March 03, 2006

"New" Cars

Those people who have talked to me know that I have been considering purchasing a new car since early December. I’ve looked at darned near everything. This all stemmed from my serious dislike of my Nissan Quest. Oddly I have very little to complain about the car. In fact, I loved it for over a year and a half. Lately though a few things have been getting to me. The “cheapness” of the materials, the fact that a 30,000 mile service cost $500 (my Buick and Erin’s Yukon cost about $250, I love American) and since December the doors (all of them) stick so badly that most teenagers need to shove their shoulder into the door to push it open. To top it all off there has already been 3 recalls, just makes me nervous.

So I was in the market for a new car. I went all over the spectrum. I test drove a Buick Rendezvous. I loved my last Buick like no other car I’ve owned. But when sales people didn’t call back I decided to wait. I then looked at the Subaru Tribeca, their new SUV since it has AWD and they are incredibly well rated. From there I looked at a hybrid car, so I can take the HOV lanes (lanes that can only be used if you have 2 or more people in the car) when Erin stays home. The Toyota Prius and Honda Civic (both were nixed since they are small, super expensive – in the Prius’ case and I will not pay MSRP for any car). I had finally settled on a Ford Escape Hybrid. I’ve never liked Fords since I know a bunch of people who had many problems with their Fords, but I was definitely set to test drive it, since I could get it close to invoice, just had to wait for incentives which would let me get it for under invoice.

What is it that I am about to purchase then, you ask? A 1999 Chrysler Town & Country Limited AWD with almost 110,000 miles on it.

This car search has been incredibly enlightening to me. Every new car I looked at and research just didn’t “jump” at me. It just seemed like I didn’t love any of the cars. It also seemed like God was conspiring against me, since I found little problems in everything I looked at.

Then Rob (yeah, I talk about him a lot lately, I’ll stop sometime, I promise) shot me this article called “The Voodoo We all Do” by Sarah Unger. It opened up describing my life. Erin and I do pretty well and still feel like we don’t have enough money.

I decided to look at some used vehicles instead of buying new, with the goal of finding something for under $10,000. I searched almost constantly for the past two weeks, looking at Acura RL and TL’s (all were still to expensive and I wanted AWD, though the TL DOES have my initials), Toyota Sienna’s, Prius’, GMC Envoys, Lexus (no on the rear wheel drive, thank you), Honda’s, anything and everything really. I finally started looking at Consumer Reports’ 3rd highest ranked minivan, below the Toyota and Honda, which are still crazy expensive. I found the Chrysler and just started looking around. Tonight I gave one a test drive and really liked it.

Don’t get me wrong, my Nissan has a lot more features. I’ll sure miss the power doors and lift gate. But instead of continuing to pay $700 a month for he next 3 years, this car I can borrow my own money (so the interest goes back to me) to pay for it and have it paid off within 6 months. So, it’s essentially a car I can buy and have a lot of money to give away. I just can’t wait.

This is still a little hard for me. I’ll be buying a top of the line navigation system to replace the one I have in my Nissan, and I’ll be getting a nice DVD system, again in my Nissan. But with all of that it’s still over 15 thousand dollars less than I still owe on the Nissan. Is it worth it?

Well, since I found this Chrysler everything has fallen into place. I’ve felt really, really good about my decision, the seller has been really easy to work with, and the price is right. But the deepest feeling really is a peace that I can’t explain. I really feel like this is the path God is leading me toward in the car arena. I can only hope everyone out there can feel this sense of peace by jumping out of your comfort zone.

I can only imagine the looks I’m going to get in the neighborhood. I’ll go from having one of the nicest minivans in the neighborhood to having one of the worst… I can’t wait!


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