Friday, December 31, 2010

v2, d243: Tonight, I'm Roy Scheider...

...and 2010 is Jaws.  Smile, you son of a...

To say that I'll be happy to see 2010 go would be quite the understatement.  And if you know me or you've been following this blog (and if you've been following this blog and you don't know me...creepy!)  (No I'm kidding, it's not creepy), you can probably understand why.  Three emergency hospital trips with my son (two of which were fairly late at night, because emergencies just can't happen between 9 and 5), three emergency trips to the hospital with my wife (each for the same thing), an entire summer of zero excess "fun money" spending, a month of 14-hour workdays, computer repairs, creative frustrations, and several things I never even mentioned on this blog.  Also learned some things of myself that forced me to change and grow in ways that have been difficult and humbling. All of it capped off with this latest episode of Kim laid up at home in a time that's so stressful we're constantly teetering on the brink of...badness (for lack of a more accurate term).  I'm generally a fairly optimistic fellow, but the majority of this year has felt something like a kick to the gut. 

Now, I want to make something really clear: I don't feel like life's not being fair to me.  I don't feel like I've got it terrible.  I know that there are folks I know who've had it much rougher than I have this year.  This isn't a "woe is me" moment, and I hope it doesn't come across that way.  Like yesterday: I know most artists I'm friends with had a similarly frustrating year.  I know some had it worse than I did.  I'm not parading my struggles to solicit sympathy from anyone.  Nevertheless, I think it's important to dredge it all up one last time for two reasons:

1) This is a year-in-review post.  My thesis is that I'll be glad 2010 is gone, and this is why.

2) That, when I say this next part, you would know from whence it comes.

See, there have been points in 2010 where everything I've ever had to lean against has crumbled beneath me.  At times, theater failed to sustain me.  At times, friends failed.  So did writing.  There were times when not even my family was able to keep me on my feet.  And I knew that I was failing to provide each of these pillars with what they needed of me as well.  There were times I was going broke with bills to pay and no influx of cash anywhere in sight. And not one or two times, either.  As much as half of this past year was spent living in what felt like an impenetrable haze settling over unsteady ground, knowing there was a drop-off somewhere and fearing I was headed toward it.  This isn't me searching for flowery writer-language; this is the way it was.  Honestly, the way it is right now. 

I had to have everything kicked out from under me to realize that all I've ever had was God.  Each of these others--family, friends, art, money, sports, everything--it's good, and it's been good.  But it can't sustain me.  It can't take care of me.  And quite honestly, I can't take care of all of it, either.  Because sometimes, life sucks, and there's quite honestly nothing to be done about it.  The scripture says that even my life is but a breath, nothing more than a passing shadow.  When everything else was pounding me, He was all that was solid.  When I was on my face in the dirt, reaching for the strength to reach out and pull myself into the next day, He was always the handhold that never crumbled.

This is one of those, "Well, no duh" discoveries that all Christians say we believe.  I mean, hello, that's what all the praise songs say, right?  But A) it's hard to really know what it means until it happens to you, and B) it can be equally hard to learn and accept that knowing the impact of All other ground is sinking sand isn't necessarily going to make you situation any easier to go through.  Currently, it's a struggle to face each day. I'm exhausted before I wake up.  I don't get enough sleep and I have to wake up earlier than usual to take care of Robbie.  And that hasn't even begun in earnest yet.  (Next week will be a rough wake-up call in that regard)  The emotional and psychological toll of dealing with our current situation is at times overwhelming.  Having Kim on bed rest at home with Robbie is far more difficult than having her in bed at the hospital for six weeks was three years ago.  And we likely still have six weeks to go.  I don't believe that we'll have the money in our current circumstances to afford two children in day care for very long.  That won't be an issue for another several months, but it is on the horizon.  And I know and truly believe that by the grace of God, we will come through these ordeals.  In the meantime, however, they are still ordeals. 

So, what, exactly am I saying here?  This year has been bad more than it's been good, at least from my perspective.  God has proven Himself faithful and powerful and, at times, highly ironic.  And He'll continue to do so.  In the meantime, if all He gives is enough for me to scrape by one day after another, then I'll rejoice in that.  In fact, I've mentioned this in conversations once or twice, but I'm going to make it official:  The official FOMW Song for 2010 is Switchfoot's Sing it Out:

Sing it out, sing it out,
Take what is left of me, make it a melody.
Sing it out, sing out loud.
I can't find the words to sing, come be my remedy.
My song, my song, I'll sing with what's left of me.

I'm holding on, holding on to You,
My world it wrong, my world lies come true.
And I fall in love with the ones that run me through,
When all along, all I need is You.

My song, my song,
I'll sing with what's left of me..."

Hey look, that's the quote at the top of my blog!  (I picked that long before any of this other "stuff" happened) 

Dear 2010: You tried to break me many times over.  In one sense, you've pretty much succeeded.  Good for you. But now you're done, and I'm still standing.  On a Rock.  Turns out the Lord gave me just enough strength to see you put to rest.  It may be 2011 is meaner,  nastier, and rougher than you showed even on your worst day.  Well, whatever.  The Lord is my  Shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He's the strong tower in which I am saved.  If all He grants is barely enough, it is still enough. 

All glory to God in the highest.  All of it. 


With all of that said, it's important (to me) to recall the positives from this year.  I logged a bunch of them in yesterday's Top 7 post, but there have been some major high points surrounding the valleys.  And God has been just as good in the good times as He has in the bad ones ;-)

My second play has been accepted for publication.  I'll link to that when it happens.  Should be early spring.  I'll get almost a nickel for every copy of the script that is sold.  I will be rich in no time.

I did start a second job, working with the children's ministry at my church.  I'm still learning what that means in a lot of ways.  I'd appreciate prayers going into the new year as I have to get the ball rolling toward the summer.  Camp, VBS, all that good stuff.  The job's been a blessing for my family and, I hope, for the church as well.  And the Fall Carnival, while a bit stressful to set up, was an absolute blast.

Of course, the discovery that another little boy would soon be joining our family has to rank as the best news of the year.  Despite all the difficulties and struggles we're currently going through, this is the happiest thing I have to look forward to in 2011.  And was probably the best night in all of 2010. 

On a much more trivial note: The Winter Olympics were a blast.  They were in North America, so I actually got to watch things live.  The hockey tournament was outstanding.  And I still can't think back to the Gold Medal game without biting the inside of my mouth or pounding a tabletop in frustration.  For a team that wasn't supposed to finish any higher than sixth, a silver medal is an outstanding result.  But freaking close!!!

Also: my birthday party was awesome.  That sounds like a funny thing to be excited about, but you have to realize my attempts to get a group together for any sort of social event almost always end in frustration or disaster.  Or both.  So to get 20 of my friends together for any reason, let alone a late-spring afternoon ball game, was kinda like a dream come true.  I'm thinking about trying to make it an annual thing, but I'm afraid to press my luck for a second successful social event. 

Let's see, what else...Aeros games, midnight movies, Jason and Kat's wedding, summer vacation to KS/OK, any time spent with friends, touring bookings, Alice rehearsals, Pooh performances, great books, the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the World Cup, beach trip, playing with diggers with my son.  Truly, it hasn't been "all bad" this year.  There have always been cracks of sunlight in the wall of storm clouds.  And such is life.  There are rainy seasons, there are sunny seasons, and if you don't live in Houston, there are also snowy seasons.  Here's hoping for more sun than rain in 2011.  But if there's not...well, you know.  We can reconvene back here in one year and talk about what we've learned again ;-)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

v2, d242: Top 7 Theatre Moments of 2010

A friend today posted the following on Facebook: "Theater friends - what's your favorite role or accomplishment of the past year? Or favorite moment."

She then took the High Road and said that her favorite part was going through it all with her friends. I realized I couldn't answer after that, because anything I wrote would feel shallow and self-centered after such a fantastic response ;-)

It did get me to thinking, however, about my favorite moments from the 2010 year. (Started with Secret Garden rehearsals, wrapped up with Littlest Angel and early Hobbit rehearsals) And I came to a relatively disappointing conclusion:

2010 was a fairly unfulfilling year for me from an artistic standpoint.

Don't get me wrong, there were definitely high points (as are described below) and lots of good memories, but most of my assignments this year left me drained, frustrated, bored, or something similarly discouraging. The bad, I'd say, outweighed the good, theatrically speaking. In addition, two of my biggest Must-See shows came to town this year--In the Heights and Barrie's original script of Peter Pan--and had to ask friends who went how they were, because I missed both. The combination of family time and going nearly completely broke for half the year saw to that. And to cap it off, the only thing I wrote in the entire calendar year was a Christmas play that I threw together in eight hours and wasn't very good.

Not to bring the room down or anything, but on the whole, this wasn't exactly the creme de la creme of my artistic career.

I still loved it, though. Can't imagine anything I'd rather have done with the past year. I'm sure I have a "Theatre Burnout" level somewhere, but I haven't come close to it yet. This post, then, is to commemorate the high points within the general artistic doldrums that was 2010.

Here's to the good times!

TOP 7 THEATRE MOMENTS OF 2010 (in no particular order)

#1: The last Teammates booking (May)
I believe we were in Liberty.  This is generally one of my favorite bookings every year.  They've got a super-nice auditorium with actual theatrical lighting and a staff that's willing to help out when we arrive.  At least, that's usually the way it goes. Somehow, the wires got crossed this year, and nobody in the theatre department knew we were coming.  So the usually-spacious backstage area looked like a tornado had just gone through it, there was nobody to let us in, and the contact seemed pretty cross with us (for some reason) that she didn't know what we needed for setup.  (Also, there was some incident that happened at McDonalds on the way there that had one of our team members extremely cross, and I'm fairly surprised one of us didn't get kicked in the face at any point in the long van trip as a result of not letting a particular inside joke go)  So, in all honesty, this was not one of our "better" bookings overall.

The moment, however, comes within the show itself.  Now, this is a show I wrote, so I know I'll always have a fondness for it on some level, but I also got to originate the role of the hapless fourth-grade doughboy Bruce Dumpling.  It was a really fun role to play, and it was extremely satisfying (as the playwright) to see the way the show connected with our audiences in all the ways I'd hoped it would when I penned it.  The real kicker, however, came in the show's final moments, as (spoiler alert) Bruce makes the shot the wins the climactic basketball showdown against the two bullies.  Every performance we did of this show, the crowd went absolutely nuts when that happened.  It.  Was.  Awesome!  I've toured a lot of shows into a lot of elementary schools, and this was the only show that consistently received that strong of a spontaneous reaction from every audience.  It was always cool, too.  I mean, the first time we weren't expecting it, because it had  never happened before.  The next couple times, we thought maybe the first kids were an anomaly.  By the end of the year, though, you knew it was coming, and it sort of drove your energy toward the big moment.  Every other moment in educational children's theater where I've received that sort of reaction, it's always been directly solicited in the script.  "Okay, kids, say it with me!  Word power!"  "Do any of you know the secret word to break the Balloon Man's balloons?  What?  It's 'No'?  Quick, say it with me!"  "When I say 'You,' you say 'Tell!'  You!"  "Hello, everybody!  Oh, come on, you can do better than that!  I said hello!"  We never asked for a response in Teammates, though.  They just went on the ride with us and got psyched all on their own.  It served as a reminder of the power that live theatre can still have in today's kids.

Plus, it made me feel a little bit like a basketball star ;-)

#2: Sing Ho! (Winnie-the-Pooh, October)
I've posted on here how much I loved doing the show Winnie-The-Pooh.  So I don't need to go into all gushy philosophical warm fuzzies here.  It just felt good.  Doing the show always made me feel a little better about life.  I don't usually play larger roles; this was an exception.  And it was a character I actually came to love.  This is also unusual: I've usually got a pretty strong detachment from most characters I play after enough analysis and rehearsal time.

The particular moment I shall always remember about this show was the very last note of the very last song.  The four actors in the cast ended evenly dispersed around our in-the-round performance space.  Each of the members of this cast were people I love dearly, and I think we (far more often than not) enjoyed the cast dynamic.  We had just finished singing, "Sing Ho for the life that we live! Sing Ho! for the life that we live!  I don't much care if it rains or shines, 'cuz I've got a lot of honey in my house in the pines. Sing Ho! for my life!"  Such a simple, joyful celebration of the little things that made these character happy.  Friends, music, and life.  What more do you need?  One day, as we were singing our final Ho!, I looked around the stage as both Pooh and Will.  I saw three friends, having fun together, doing something we loved, being adults playing as children's playthings, singing together.  Huge smiles on our faces as well as the kids and adults surrounding our celebration.  And I was so utterly, completely happy.

And yes, I have been accused of being a sentimentalist.  Why do you ask?

#3: First week of Little Foxes rehearsals (March?)
I know, I know.  Little Foxes became an utter nightmare and was a key contributor in one of the darkest periods of my year.  But!  I loved the first couple weeks of rehearsals!  Almost everyone was really excited to be involved and the script is so well-crafted that it was an honest pleasure to watch such a talented cast sit down and work.  I learned a lot about directing from the process, some "What To Do" and some "What Not To Do," but there were points in that first week where there was some serious synergy happening.  Between actors.  Between actor and director.  People were even working out scenes and moments while on break and were doing extracurricular reading and discussing it before and after rehearsals.  Those early rehearsals never felt to me like they were three hours long; the time flew by.  And I wasn't really doing anything at all!  Just watching.  Watching committed actors throw themselves into a fantastic script.  I don't care how hokey it sounds, it was downright inspiring.

And, of course, pretty soon after that, the whole thing went to hell.  But we still put up a dang strong show and, as I've said, even the bad experiences are valuable learning experiences.

#4:Texas Christian Writers' Conference (August, I think)
I won a playwriting contest.  I didn't really expect to win it, because the script I sent in wasn't overtly "Christian," and these sort of competitions are usually looking for very direct Biblical application plays.  Which I don't usually do.  However, I had a sweet little fairy tale that encourages its audiences to keep faith in tough times.  Even though it uses Evil Things like magic and fairies and such.

Amazingly, it did win.  More amazingly, it won despite being judged on only the first 25 pages.  Which don't really connect to the story's faith element much at all.  Still, the judge enjoyed the story and the writing so much she went ahead and gave it the first prize.  It was a modest prize and a smaller contest, but it was exactly the boost I needed at that point in August.  Or July.  Whenever that thing was.

#5: That One Alice Rehearsal (April?  Also March?)
I'ma be honest with you people.  (I usually am, actually)  I was not certain I was going to be able to pull off Alice.  I know Hero Squad had gone over fairly well, but that show was easy for me.  The playwright and I were pretty well in sync the whole time.  Alice was a whole other animal. And while I was pretty sure I could make it work, it was probably the first project I've headed into here (as a director, at least) that I didn't go into certain I was going to pull out a good product.

I had a lot of fun with Alice.  On the whole, this process was probably the high point of my artistic year.  I loved my cast and crew, I'm proud of the work we put into it, and given that we were handed a really cumbersome adaptation of a book that's fairly inane and non-linear in the first place, I'm happy with what we ended up with.  My favorite "moment" in the process probably came during the rehearsal where we were "table working" the mad tea party scene.  My approach to this show was that every scene was a game with its own set of rules and its own objective.  Each character operated with its own unique sense of logic, and it was up to Alice to try to understand them on their terms.  In other words, she either caught on and started playing that character's game or she'd just get frustrated and leave.  It happens in almost every scene.  In the tea party, however, she's confronted with three different characters who seem to be living in different worlds while enjoying the same tea set.

We talked about this scene.  We asked a lot of questions.  We kept getting conflicting opinions.  We went around and around and around in circles trying to pinpoint what was the actual happening of this freaking tea party.  After about half an hour of discussion that was getting us nowhere but frustrated, I called for a short break and made a quick stop in the men's room.  As I was washing my hands I was trying to analyze why the scene wasn't working.  Why the conversation was going nowhere. And then it hit me: This is exactly what's happening in the scene!  All four characters have a different idea of what's important, conversations are constantly interrupted and reconvened with no notice, and Alice is trying to make sense of them all at once!

I strode back into the rehearsal space and grabbed a few basketballs, a bag, some cones, and a few pillows from our touring props.  "I want each of you three to take some props and engage in some activity," I said.  "Alice, when you're talking to someone, I want you to try to join in with what they're doing.  When you start talking to someone else, you have to drop what you're doing and join them in their activity.  You guys have about twenty seconds to figure out what you want to do."  Half a minute later, the Dormouse was asleep on the pillows, the March Hare sat cross-legged bouncing a basketball, and the Mad Hatter was dribbling another ball between his feet, soccer-style, through the cones.  Poor Alice was jumping up from lying down on a spare pillow to playing soccer with the Hatter to sitting with the Hare and back the entire scene.  It was chaotic.  Each of the Wonderland characters existed completely independent of the others.  It created clearer conflicts.  And it left Alice decently out of breath.

It was perfect.

And we didn't have any major trouble with the scene again after that.  It was a great day, because it felt like we'd hit our first major roadblock and obliterated it as a team.

Good lord, I really do sound like a motivational cassette tape from the 1990's, don't I?

#6: Hero Squad gets published (December)
I posted in depth about this recently, too.  Wow.  I put five years of work into that script.  I felt I'd been helped by SO MANY PEOPLE along the way.  You really have no idea what all goes into every single script you hold in your hands until you've been through the process yourself.  Looking back, getting this play published was so hard.  But one of the most fun and ultimately rewarding artistic challenges I've ever faced.

#7: Look ma, I'm the Cheshire Cat! (April, I think, but maybe May)
I'm really dropping the ball on remembering when things happened, aren't I?

I love the team/ensemble atmosphere of the rehearsal process.  My college professor used to always say she was sad and even a bit jealous when a show opened, because she wanted to be in the actors' place, up there on the stage instead of just watching.  I share her jealousy, but not her reasoning.  I don't really want to be in the performers' place once a show opens.  I want them to be performing.  That's why I cast them in the first place.  However, I've usually had such a blast working with them, trying crazy things, finding things that worked, overcoming blocks and obstacles, that I'm really very disappointed to see them go on to the run of the show and know I'm not an active part of the team any more.  I feel a little left out.  Not in a "Poor me!" sort of way, but you know.  I enjoyed my part in the process.  I enjoyed working with those actors.  And now that thing we worked so hard to put together is going on, and I'm not going on with it.

Obviously, this wasn't the case with Hero Squad, because we needed an extra body to be a ninja and a Bottlenose Boy (plus some Man-Strength to heft the cage that lowered from the ceiling) so I was actually a part of that show from first readthrough till closing.  Alice was the first time I'd really be shut out of a show once it opened.

....or so we thought!

I was not glad that one of my actors was in such serious pain that he could not go on.  I never, ever, ever with that on anybody.  Given my preference, I'd still wish he'd have been able to play the full run and not miss the one performance that one morning.  However, since he did have to miss a show, I can't tell you how much fun it was to go on in his place.  To be a part of Team Alice again.  To be invited back into the sandbox one last time.  To share a curtain call with the cast I'd put together and led through this creative process.  One last unexpected trip down the Rabbit Hole.

I honestly don't remember much about the show other than the fact that I totally blew the cat dance.  I just remember getting a little bit psyched from the point when the stage manager called the night before and said "We may have a problem," lying in bed and running over the entire show in my mind that night to make sure I could do it, and trying to contain my giddiness during vocal warmups with the cast the next day.  (It's not manly to be "giddy."  "Psyched," yes, but not "giddy.")  Oh, and I remember that the show was a total blast.  A whirlwind fourteen hours that served as one of the highlights of my year.

And I was very glad that my actor felt well enough to play the show that evening.  Because he is incredibly talented, he's far better than me, and he's the one who did all the work to earn the stage time.

But there's still a small part of me that wishes I'd had a second crack at that darn Cheshire Cat dance.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

v2, d241: ...and back again

Sorry, folks. I intended to update yesterday, but Kim's sister is staying with us, and she's sleeping in the Room of Living, so my regularly-scheduled late-night blogging didn't happen. After being banished to my bedroom quite a few hours earlier than usual, I got a fantastic amount of reading done! I am so totally going to finish by book by New Year's now! ;-)

If you read much of this blog, you know I'm a fan of Puck Daddy over at Yahoo! sports. This "Top 20 Moments of 2010" post is highly recommended reading. I mean come on, it includes this:
I submit that the "History Will Be Made" commercials were awesome. Awesome. Awe-some.

And some of the parodies were pretty dang amazing, too.

Also, the "Oh, so you're an expert?" interview will always be funny to me.

In other news: It's raining a lot today. (I know my California readers right now are thinking, "Oh re-he-he-heealy?") I wanted to go for a run today, but obviously I won't. Then again, I didn't want to go for a run yesterday, and I did anyway. There are two ways of looking at this: 1) Life will never let me be happy. 2) It all evens out.

Anyway, on to actual news. In rehearsals for The Hobbit now. Reminds me why I enjoy directing so much more than performing. And I'm not actually doing much in this show (except taking notes and filling out primitive performance reports until we have an actual stage manager).

I just attempted to explain why this is three times, and each time I deleted everything I wrote. I think directing may be my favorite thing in all of the arts. Possibly even more than writing. And it's difficult to put something you're passionate about into words. Well, into a blog post, at least. Clearly, this is a matter that I must journal some more on. And, because ruminating on our passions often leaves us remarkably vulnerable, a blog is probably not the right place to make these ruminations ;-)

Where was I? Ah, yes. Working on The Hobbit and loving it. Even though I'm really only there in a support capacity. Also, determined to read Tolkien next. I think I can officially dub my recent run of casual reading as my "Holly's Favorites Books phase."

Next thing you know, Holly will start thumbing through the history of the NHL from the Edmonton Oilers dynasty onward ;-)

Monday, December 27, 2010

v2, d240: "Once again the world might fall prey to an ancient evil..."

This song was echoing about through the space between my ears today as I peered down the empty hallway in my office building.

I saw three people there all day, and one was only there for about five minutes while I was. Admittedly, I was with Kim at the doctor's office (regularly scheduled checkup, nothing serious) for most of the morning, but I highly doubt anybody came in from nine till eleven the Monday after Christmas and left before I got there.

It's a lonely day to be at work. Probably because most of the world took Monday as a holiday since Christmas fell on a Saturday.

The other building didn't fare much better. There were two other people when I went over there for what I like to call my Ricshift. We looked up famous stones and origins to well-known phrases. It was work-related, I promise. Even if it wasn't terribly productively work-related.

Now trust me, I'm not complaining. After the stress of the past week and the Christmas weekend, it was nice to have a day where extraordinarily little happened. My days are also starting earlier than usual since I have to be up as soon as Robbie wakes up when we don't have company helping take care of the little rascal. So a slower day was right at my fairly lethargic speed.

We'll see how this week goes. Going into Hobbit rehearsals (assistant director) tomorrow afternoon and preparing for the annual New Year's Eve Gala/Celebration/Event/Shebang. I don't know that we have an official name for it, but it sounds like we've got a decent crowd coming. I don't know that we'll have anybody for Bible study tomorrow morning, since so many folks are still on vacation, but we'll see.

I'm going to try to work up a nice 2010 in review type post soon. I'm not sure what format it'll take, but looking back on the past year I can see it's highly likely that it's not going to be all kicks and giggles. I'll try to intersperse happy music videos or something between catastrophes ;-)

"Can't we do a happy musical next time?"

"If there is a next time, I'm sure we can."

Also, currently reading through three books. Going to do an end-of-the-year reading list like real litgeeks do, and so I need to finish one of the three soon so I can tack it on to my page count before the end of the year. I'm sure this will be the first year I've read more than twenty books since high school, so when my list falls woefully short of the lists all the cool kids post this January, keep in mind that just getting myself back into the habit of reading with everything else I've had going on has been a colossal achievement in my little world.

In closing: I intend to get my computer fixed this week. I miss working on my own story, and for some reason I don't want to use the lappy. Possibly because it's not mine. Nevertheless, the combination of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series and this fantastic "With Lyrics" video from Brentalfloss have really got the creative juices going. Just gotta get the compy fixed. And manage to stay awake when the opportunity present itself. And take care of family while preparing for the show I'm supposedly directing in the spring.

It'll happen, kids. Oh, it will happen.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

v2, d239: The Day After

Happy Boxing Day. Or, as it's rapidly becoming known in the states, MMA Day.

For those who (like me) feel this day ought to contain a bit more violence, here's tonight's Phaneuf/Kovalchuk fight thanks to the fine folks at

In other terribly important news: I now own both a Texans shirt and an Astros shirt. I figure I can wear the 'Stros shirt when I occasionally make it out to the ballpark (hopefully) this spring and the Texans shirt on days when I'm feeling exceptionally mediocre.

While we're on football: Major props to the Chiefs for turning that horrid franchise around in a matter of a few seasons. Congrats on the division title. My middle- and high-school self is rejoicing.

Amazing. The Texans were at their worst about two years before KC's inevitable collapse, and now the Chiefs are division champs and Houston is...Houston.

Clearly, I should have jumped on the Dynamo bandwagon back when I had the chance.

Friday, December 24, 2010

v2, d238: Eve

Tomorrow is Christmas.

Well, heck, technically today is Christmas, because I only blog late at night. And if we were Jewish traditionalists, it would have started being Christmas at about six this past evening.

Though if we were Jewish traditionalists, I suppose we wouldn't have cared.

All the presents arrived on time this year. The family made it in safely, though inclement weather is going to postpone my sister's departure by about a day. (Sorry Brad) This means we'll get a full day of family Christmas tomorrow, which is good. We did the ole' "open one present on Christmas Eve" thing tonight, and Kim opened the waffle iron Robbie has been telling her about since Thanksgiving so we could have waffles tomorrow for a meal at some point.

Oh hey, side note. Don't go to the grocery store on Christmas Eve. It was a necessary outing and not a haphazard dash resulting from slacking or poor planning, but still. Try to avoid at all costs.

I hope everybody is enjoying their time with whoever-they're-with at wherever-they-are!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

v2, d237: "Together forever, I solemnly voooooooow...."

I reckon I ought to offer a comment or two on the closing of our children's show this morning.

The Littlest Angel. I was never too crazy about the script; in fact, I'm still not. And I really like all the songs, but I never felt they meshed with one another or the script. And you could certainly raise some concerns on theological ground. (We addressed some of this through script edits, fortunately) However, I've often said I'd rather be involved with a script I dislike than not be involved at all, and that was truly the case in this instance.

I'm very glad I was a part of this show. We had fun. And I think we did good work. We put together a charming little show that left our audiences with warm happy Christmas feelings, and that's great. For me, however, the show had the added benefit of putting me with a group of people I enjoy in the situation I feel most comfortable in (working on a show) during what has turned out to be one of the most difficult seasons of my life.

So, while I wasn't initially thrilled at the prospect of performing this show almost thirty times in twenty days, it's been a blessing to me. And I know we've been a blessing to many others over the past month. And I want to thank any of you who are reading who were part of the project in one way or another. Also, thanks to those who came, saw it, and said hi afterward. This may not end up being the show I write extensively about in my memoirs. But it's the one I needed this Christmas.

Christmas eve is tomorrow. My folks should be in sometime mid-afternoon, and then the whole family will be in the same place for almost a full twenty-four hours. I'm going to go get ready for bed so I can make the most of it.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

v2, d236: "But they're dancing! Dancing in my head!"

Dude. Three days till Christmas. Two by the time most of you read this.

You got twenty minutes to kill? Because it's time for a holiday classic. If you haven't seen the episode of The Tick simply titled The Tick Loves Santa, then I apologize. I have been a bad friend. And I am rectifying that situation right now.

No, I'm serious. Watch this. (It'll probably take less time than reading all of yesterday's post ;-)

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

v2, d235: Tuesday Morning Bible Study

Every Tuesday, we have company Bible study time. For the longest time, the boss was the one leading the study, but after awhile she decided to step away and (I swear I'm not sure how this happened) I was assigned to take the reins. And it's kind of gone back and forth from there. I also open it up for other leaders, and sometimes someone else will step in for a week, which is always awesome. I never really know whether I'll be "teaching" or not until about 10 a.m. each Tuesday. Now, it's been awhile since I've led consistently due to Kim's hospital visits and the boss occasionally stepping in, so I've been a little lax at getting things together ahead of time. (And I'm sure it's shown when I have taught)

This week, I spent some extra time putting this morning's lesson together. It's the last Tuesday before Christmas, our last chance to gather as a unit during Advent season, and so I wanted it to be something that was not only good but simple and communal as well.

I didn't end up doing the study today, but I still wanted to share. So, for my 600th post on this blog, I'm going to go ahead and type out pretty much verbatim what would have happened had I had the opportunity to share this morning :-)


(This is where it starts)

I know I said this last year, but who cares. It's still true, so I'll just say it again. Christmas is so busy here. And it's busier this year, because there are fewer of us with the same workload. And most of us are doing things with our churches, too. And most of us have been planning family things, too. Blah blah blah, busy busy busy. And it's all good, all the stuff we're doing, but I know that there are probably a lot of us here who either haven't had time or likely won't take time to just sit down and think about the Christmas story. So that's kinda what I want us to do today.

I like Bible study, and I like in-depth teachings, and I know you guys all know I love finding out what this Hebrew word means, and how that Greek word rhymes with this other Greek word, or whatever. But I also like sometimes to just read scripture and let it speak for itself.

(Here is where I'd explain the "format" for the day's actual study: I've picked out some specific scriptures--a LOT of them, actually--and I'd like for us to take turns reading them aloud. Sharing in the sharing of the Christmas story. So when you read the rest of this, keep in mind it was originally supposed to come from many different voices, lending some variation to the texts)

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." John 1:1-5

"Then to Adam He said, 'Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, "You shall not eat from it"; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.'
Now the man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. The Lord God made garments for skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and life forever'--therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life." Genesis 3:17-24

"Now therefore, thus shall you say to My servant David, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts, "I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over My people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make you a great name, like the names of the great men who are on the earth. I will also appoint a place for My people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly, even from the day that I commanded judges to be over My people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever." 2 Samuel 7:8-13

"How lonely sits the city that was full of people! She has become like a widow who was once great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a forced laborer! She weeps bitterly in the night and her tears are on her cheeks; she has none to comfort her among all her lovers. All her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies. Judah has gone into exile under affliction and under harsh servitude; she dwells among the nations, but she has found no rest; all her pursuers have overtaken her in the midst of distress. The roads of Zion are in mourning because no one comes to the appointed feasts. All her gates are desolate; her priests are groaning, her virgins are afflicted, and she herself is bitter. Her adversaries have become her masters, her enemies prosper; for the Lord has caused her grief because of the multitude of her transgressions; her little ones have gone away as captives before the adversary. All her majesty has departed from the daughter of Zion; her princes have become like deer that have found no pasture; and they have fled without strength before the pursuer. In the days of her affliction and homelessness Jerusalem remembers all her precious things that were from the days of old, when her people fell into the hand of the adversary and no one helped her. The adversaries saw her, they mocked at her ruin. Jerusalem sinned greatly, therefore she has become an unclean thing. All who honored her before despise her because they have seen her nakedness; even she herself groans and turns away. Her uncleanness was in her skirts; she did not consider her future. Therefore she has fallen astonishingly; she has no comforter. 'See, O Lord, my affliction, for the enemy has magnified himself!'" Lamentations 1:1-9

"Once You spoke in vision to Your godly ones, and said, 'I have given help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people. I have found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him, with whom My hand will be established; My arm also will strengthen him. The enemy will not deceive him, nor the son of wickedness afflict him. But I shall crush his adversaries before him, and strike those who hate him. And in My name his horn will be exalted. I shall also set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers. He will cry to Me, "You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation." I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. My lovingkindness I will keep for him forever, and My covenant shall be confirmed to him. So I will establish his descendants forever and his throne as the days of heaven. If his sons forsake My law and do not walk in My judgments, if they violate My statutes and do not keep My commandments, then I will punish their transgressions with the rod and their iniquity with stripes. But I will not break off My lovingkindness from him, nor deal falsely in My faithfulness. My covenant I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of my lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David. His descendants shall endure forever and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established forever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is beautiful.'

But You have cast off and rejected, You have been full of wrath against Your annointed. You have spurned the covenant of Your servant; You have profaned his crown to the dust. You have broken down his walls; You have brought his strongholds to ruin. All who pass along the way plunder him; he has become a reproach to his neighbors. You have exalted the right hand of his adversaries; You have made all his enemies rejoice. You also turn back the edge of his sword and have not made him stand in battle. You have made his splendor to cease and cast his throne to the ground. You have shortened the days of his youth; You have covered him with shame.

"How long, O Lord? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire? Remember what my span of life is; for what vanity You have created all the songs of men! What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Where are Your former lovingkindnesses, O Lord, which You swore to David in Your faithfulness? Remember, O Lord, the reproach of Your servants; how I bear in my bosom the reproach of all the many peoples, with which Your enemies have reproached, O Lord, with which they have reproached the footsteps of Your anointed." Psalm 89: 19-51

"How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to you, 'Violence!' Yet You do not save. Why do You make me see iniquity and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted." Habakkuk 1:2-4

"How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, 'I have overcome him,' and my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation." Psalm 13:1-5

"The godly person has vanished from the land, and there is no upright person among men. All of them lie in wait for bloodshed; each of them hunts the other with a net. Concerning evil, both hands do it well. The prince asks, also the judge, for a bribe, and a great man speaks the desire of his soul; so they weave it together. The best of them is like a briar, the most upright like a thorn hedge. The day when you post your watchmen, your punishment will come. Then their confusion will occur. Do not trust in a neighbor; do not have confidence in a friend. From her who lies in your bosom guard your lips. For son treats father contemptuously, daughter rises up against her mother, daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the men of his own household.

"But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me. Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me." Micah 7:2-8

"Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us; look, and see our reproach! Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our houses to aliens. We have become orphans without a father, our mothers are like widows. We have to pay for our drinking water, our wood comes to us at a price. Our pursuers are at our necks; we are worn out, there is no rest for us. We have submitted to Egypt and Assyria to get enough bread. Our fathers sinned, and are no more; it is we who have borne their iniquities. Slaves rule over us; there is no one to deliver us from their hand. We get our bread at the risk of our lives because of the sword in the wilderness. Our skin has become as hot as an oven, because of the burning heat of famine. They ravished the women of Zion, the virgins in the cities of Juday. Princes were hung by their hands; elders were not respected. Young men worked at the grinding mill, and youths stumbled under loads of wood. Elders are gone from the gate, young men from their music. The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned into mourning. The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned! Because of this our heart if faint, because of these things our eyes are dim; because of Mount Zion which lies desolate, foxes prowl in it.

You, O Lord, rule forever; Your throne is from generation to generation. Why do You forget us forever? Why do you forsake us so long? Restore us to You, O Lord, that we may be restored; renew our days as of old, unless You have utterly rejected us and are exceedingly angry with us." Lamentations 5

"'Behold, days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,' declares the Lord. 'But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord, 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, "Know the lord," for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,' declares the Lord, 'for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.'" Jeremiah 31:31-34

"Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. You will give truth to Jacob and unchanging love to Abraham, which You swore to our forefathers from the days of old." Micah 7:18-20

"Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is b owed down within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassiions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'Therefore I have hope in Him.' The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord." Lamentations 3:19-26

"'But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrath, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.' Therefore He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has born a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel. And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. The One will be our peace." Micah 5:2-5a

"There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens ever man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God." John 1:9-13

"The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; they will be glad in Your presence as with the gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this." Isaiah 9:2-7

"Then the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.' Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I am a virgin?' The angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.'" Luke 1:30-35

"And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.' Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which translated means, 'God with us.'" Matthew 1:19-23

"Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:1-7

"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about him and cried out, saying, 'This was He of whom I said, "He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me."' For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him." John 1:14-18

"In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.' When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, 'Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.' So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them." Luke 2:8-20

"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God." John 3:14-21

Sunday, December 19, 2010

v2, d234: Christmas Week

Greetings, all! Welcome to Christmas Week!

My sister just flew in from Chicago. (And boy, are her arms tired!) She said it didn't get above 30 while she was there. It's not going to get below 40 while she's here. Hello, Houston!

I can't guarantee regular blogging during Christmas week due to family. I know you'll all get on fine without me. But I sincerely hope each of you finds joy in each day as the Christmas season approaches its climax.

Christ came. Alleluia, He came. And nothing going on in my life right now can even slightly taint that glorious truth. Christ. Came. Glory to God!

I'll try to check in. Did you know my next post will be my 600th? Crazy. I probably won't get to write anything tomorrow because I'll be putting together Tuesday's Bible study. So if I don't see ya, have a Merry Monday of Christmas Week!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

v2, d233: It's like in that one book.

This disturbing bit of news says the book stores are doomed.

Let's face it, this has been in the works for awhile. And there's nothing saying it's definitely going to happen anytime soon. But dang, the combination of and the kindle have pretty much put the kibosh on the traditional book store. I honestly wonder if one day we won't even have a use for paper anymore. (Which will be good news for trees, I suspect)

Fun fact: A former coworker was driving through the flat flat flatness of west Texas and asked if there were any trees. When she was assured that there were, in fact, very few trees in the area, she commented, "Wow. I wonder where they get their paper."

Or something to that effect. It was a long time ago.

Anyway, as a guy who wants to be a writer when he grows up (or when his home PC turns on again someday), this obviously makes me really very sad. And I suppose, practically speaking, that it shouldn't. If we get rid of physical books, authors will still get paid to write stories. They just won't be printed and bound anymore. They'll exist as coded information projected onto screens. Or directly into the brain. Who knows? Those who read will read. And there's always the chance that books will never completely phase out. I'm hoping there are enough curmudgeons like myself in this generation who won't be satisfied reading the unabridged Les Miserables with anything less than sixteen-hundred sheets of paper between our hands. (Cause really, where's the sense of accomplishment if you can't shut the book, look at where your bookmark is, and gauge how close/far to/from the middle/end of the book you are?) I know there's no functional difference between sitting on a picnic blanket and reading your kindle with your college sweetheart on a sunny spring afternoon and doing the same with a couple of books. I get that a generation that grows up with Smart Phones and Wii-motes could easily develop as strong and as genuine an affinity curling up with an e-book as I have for laying in bed with a paperback. I hope it isn't just me standing in the way of progress, but...I really feel that if we lose books, we lose something. I'm not sure what, exactly, but as a people, we lose.

Look, I know I'm old school in just about everything. As Kim put it, we (as a couple) are so far from the status quo, we're not even on the bell curve. (Have I mentioned she's a research scientist?) But I hope books never go away. I'm not against kindles. I actually think they're pretty cool. I think it'd be a pretty handy thing to have if e'er I were to go on a long trip (providing the books I want to read were actually available on a kindle). But I'd use it more like an iPod than a library. If I want to own a book, I'll probably always want to physically own the book. I want to hand it to a friend sometime and say, "Here, I think you'll like this." I want my son to find it lying on the coffee table sometime when he's in high school and decide on a whim to try it out. I want to not lose my entire library because I've lost or dropped another gadget. Or one of my kids gave it a bath in Mountain Dew. Or some foul-mouthed middle schooler at the movie theater stole it. A kindle can make for a great toy. But it'd be a horrible bookshelf.

Now, it may be the case that this article really only means the bookstores themselves are on the way out, but books will live on through online retailing. And maybe Wal-Mart. And Oprah. Which would also be kind of sad, but not quite as tragic. I know I speak for at least half of my meager reading audience when I say it can be nice to wander into a Borders and spend an hour thumbing through things until you find something worth giving $14.99 worth of a chance to.

Anyway, now we're just waiting for the rash of futuristic sci-fi stories in which books have all been replaced by digital images and stories beamed directly into our heads and the total breakdown of human freewill that somehow results. And then a good-looking man leads a rag-tag bunch of rebels into the Head of the Evil Government, ironically located in the Library of Congress, with a flamethrower in one hand and a leather-bound copy of Paradise Lost in the other.

Hey, extra credit assignment: If you haven't bought anybody a book for a Christmas present yet this month, go buy one this week. Figure out someone who'd like a book and buy it from them. At a bookstore. Maybe a copy of Paradise Lost that you can pass down for generations to come.

Just in case.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

v2, d232: Ketchup

Had a chance to chat with a former coworker friend who is off doing the New York actor thing. A couple days ago, spoke with a newlywed college friend I haven't talked to in over a year. Last week, I talked briefly with another college friend I hadn't seen or spoken to in even longer. You know what the common thread running through all three conversations was?

They all seemed genuinely excited to talk to me.

Now, I'm not saying this to say, "Gee, I'm surprised. I thought they'd alllll forgotten about me. Oh my, it looks like rain." I know these people as friends so the fact that the conversations were pleasant isn't the surprise. The revelation came in the fact that I think I really made these peoples' day just by checking in to say, "Hi, how are you doing? I've been thinking about you." One even told me how encouraging it was to be reminded that people "back home" are interested in her career and cheering/praying for her. And here I'm thinking, "Wow! I really cheered her up! And it was SO SIMPLE!"

The Internet has revolutionized long-distance friendships. We know everything everybody is doing these days. We read their blogs, we check out their flickr pics, we see the statuses and the hilarious new profile pictures, etc. And with as busy as we are from day to day, it kinda saves us the trouble of actual correspondence. We poke, we like, we comment, we're done. Best Friends Forever.

Now obviously, I'm not opposed to social media sites. We all know I Facebook and Twitter (though I'm contemplating shutting that one down), and I blog every freaking day for crying out loud. I want to see who has new pictures and who's working on what project. I think that's all great. However, in spite of (and perhaps because of) all of that, nothing compares to taking the time to talk to one another. Or even "chat." (When I was a kid, "chat" was actually just another word for "talk." Unbelievable!)

So: FOMW homework. Catch up with an old friend today. Or tomorrow, if you don't have ten minutes to spare today. Let 'em know you're thinking about 'em. Tell 'em what you're up to. It's fun, it's easy, and it just may be the encouragement they (or you) have been needing.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

v2, d231: Another quickie

The Zantac appears to be working.  I want some ice cream.  And I'm a mere 120 pages away from the end of The Great  Hunt.

Go play Bubble Spinner or something.  ;-)

Okay, okay, I won't leave you with nothing. 

Who loves you? Yeah. It'sa me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

v2, d230: Couple o' things

First off, Holly's blog today was fantastic.  It nearly inspired me to write something similar this evening before I realized that I spent something like 10 blog entries last time around coming to a very similar conclusion.  This is how we generally roll: I say something brilliant over the span of three weeks, and Holly nails it in three or four minutes.

I do have to comment, however, even as my theatre-snobbishness began to wane my senior year and is basically gone to this day, I don't think I could have sat through that production of A Bad Year For Tomatoes if I hadn't been required to do so.

Second off: He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special.  Those cartoons were really bizarre individually, but put both shows' casts of characters into one hour-long special, and it's quite possibly the weirdest Christmas ever.

Third: Got Kim some Zantac from the store today.  For those who don't know/remember, she's been having some really rough coughing fits ever since she came home, effectively preventing her from laying down for long periods of time or falling asleep comfortably.  This morning, the doctor recommended we try Zantac or something similar to fix the problem.  She's taken one pill, and so far, so good!  Come on, Zantac, you can do it!!!

Finally: Man.  He-Man's and She-Ra's friends are pretty much worthless.  That said, kudos to the He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special for mentioning the nativity story.  (Of course, as soon as it's finished, the kids say "And now for the fun part!  Let's tell him about Santa Claus!")

(Postscript: This was not, by definition, a "couple o' things" at all)

Monday, December 13, 2010

v2, d229: From the "go back to bed" files

Not a good morning.  The heat never kicked on last night, the hot water in the apartment wasn't working, and the home computer no longer turns on.  There's a little green light on the back that is blinking.  Dunno what that means.  Anybody?

I posted this on my Facebook a couple days back.  It's a project a visual artist came up with where he plans to create a design for each book of the Bible.  That last link shows most of them; this link takes you to the project's site.  Check it out.  Some of them are really pretty cool and creative.

Studies suggest more people will read your blog if the posts are short.  That's unfortunate, because I tend to use a lot of words, but hey, that's the market. I blame text messaging. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

v2, d228: Shhhh!!!

We have to blog quietly tonight.  Kim is asleep on the couch.  She's been having major trouble falling asleep tonight.  Every time she would doze off on the bed, she'd start coughing so hard she'd wake up again.  I hate that there's nothing I can do to make her feel more comfortable.  I wish this coughing thing would hurry up and move on.

Anyway, just thought I'd pop on here to say the church musical seemed to go well.  There were sixty-two people in the musical.  We usually run a little less than two hundred on a Sunday morning, so a sixty-two member cast is pretty ambitious.  I think we used just about every costume we had in stock: Biblical, Victorian, Renaissance, you name it.  It was pretty epic, by our standards.  As usual, I had to work during all of the rehearsals, so I just got a quick crash course from the other scroll-reading guys and, when it was my turn, hit my mark and read from the scroll.  Boom.  Merry Christmas. 

Okay, I'm out.  Gonna let Kim sleep in a nice quiet living room. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

v2, d227: "An attendant has been notified to assist you!"

My wife likes to buy enough groceries for two or three weeks at a time.  As there are three of us, this generally means buying a lot of food.  Lately, it's also meant "Family Outing" as Kim isn't supposed to be doing too much stooping or lifting.  So somewhere in the last four months, I've started equating Kroger with Family Time. 

Obviously, with Robbie in Oklahoma and Kim on bed rest, Kroger is not Family Time right now, so going shopping for two weeks worth of food by myself was kinda lonely.  I decided to go after Kim went to bed (I ended up leaving home about 10:30 p.m.) so that it would be pretty empty and I wouldn't be maneuvering through crowded aisles.  On the whole, I think this was a good idea.  There were, as I count them, two drawbacks to this strategy: First, the generously-priced apple juice had all been bought by the earlier-than-11 p.m. Saturday shoppers.  Not a huge deal; the apple juice we usually get isn't really that much more expensive.  I mean, fifty cents is fifty cents.  It's not gonna break us (this month).  The more significant drawback is the fact that, in what I will assume is a cost-cutting measure, Kroger has decided to have zero human checkers after a certain hour (I'll assume it's 10?), meaning everybody has to use self-checkout.  Which is not, in and of itself, a bad thing.  HOWEVER, when you've got two weeks' worth of food for three people, self checkout will probably not get you out of the store very quickly.  Equally disheartening: there are only two self checkout lanes that can accommodate a grocery cart that is packed full of food, and one of them was broken.  This meant that I had to wait on the lady in front of me to scan her massive load before I could get to mine.  And she wasn't exactly Speedy Gonzales

Now, the self checkout is not flawless.  But it thinks it is.  It knows how much every item you scan weighs, and if the weight on the scale doesn't match what it thinks you've scanned, it decides the error is on your part.  Well, when you're looking at something like seventy items that barely fit on two scales, there may be some slight variation between net weight and what self checkout thinks your food should weigh.  So she'll ask you to put back whatever the heck it is she thinks you took off.  And when you can't (because you didn't take anything off the scale; the machine is just lacking in proper judgment because it's 11:30 p.m. on what has probably already been a long workday and the other checkout scanner isn't working so she's just a little on the tired side) she calls one of the attendants over.  (I keep referring to self checkout as a "she" because, well, she sure sounds like a she when she's busy making her demands)  She also shows you a picture of a friendly, smiling attendant so that you'll know what to look for.  And she also makes it sound like you're being given a great privilege, meeting with this friendly, smiling Kroger attendant. 

The attendant that comes to help you never looks like the attendant on the screen. 

Tonight's attendant was pretty helpful, though.  She started scanning so I could concentrate all my effort on bagging to try to speed things along.  Unfortunately, there were other customers at the non-huge-load self checkouts who were...struggling.  And one lady actually kept wandering around the self checkout area asking "Does anybody know what happened to the attendant?"  Even after the attendant said, "I'm right here, ma'am.  I'll be right with you."  I knew the attendant was just trying to get me out of there faster, but I knew I could also handle it on my own, albeit a bit slowly, while she could help the lost and the wandering.  However, she'd keyed in a special Attendant Code and couldn't turn it off until everything was scanned, so she was stuck helping me until we were done. 

We did finally finish, and she was finally free to go and attend the folks who really needed her attendance more than I did.  Self checkout asked if I had any coupons.  I had one, so I pushed the Coupon button, figuring it would ask me to scan the coupon and be done.  Instead?  "An attendant has been notified to assist you!" 


By the way, I don't know what that girl makes, but I hope she gets a raise soon.

Friday, December 10, 2010

v2, d226: Hijacked

I guess this blog has kind of been hijacked by news on Kim and the new baby, hasn't it?  You used to be able to come here and get any nature of goodies, from pointless anecdotes to hockey insight to fun features to rare profundities.  These days, there just doesn't seem to be a whole lot to talk about other than actual news.  So sorry if I'm less entertaining lately, but this is a dang handy way to keep family and friends up to date. 

Today was Kim's second full day at home, and she found it highly difficult to stay laying down (which is what you're supposed to do during Bed Rest) because she has this really bad cough that flares up almost any time she reclines.  This is bad because, as we all know, coughing fits tend to cause the stomach muscles to spazz, which is the one exact thing we are trying to prevent in order to keep from having more early contraction problems.  So, fail on that account, I guess.  The good news is, the new medication seems to be working well, and so far the coughing fits have not triggered more contraction fits.  She's pretty uncomfortable basically all the time, and she's coughing so much it's hard for her to fall asleep.  Neither of those things are good.  So we'll appreciate all prayers in the general direction of "Stop the coughing!" 

Also, I'm really tired.  But that seems like a petty complaint compared to what Kim's dealing with. 

All right.  Goodnight.  Two shows and a major grocery shopping trip tomorrow.  And maybe we'll watch the last half of Iron Man 2 and/or Scott Pilgrim.  (We started both movies today, but after enough violent coughs Kim wasn't able to stay "into" either one)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

v2, d225: Finally Catching a Break

If you follow me on Facebook (and I think all my readers do) you already know this, but this morning I got confirmation that Eldridge Plays and Musicals will be publishing my oft-blogged-about children's play, The Hero Squad vs. The Princess SnatchersTHSvTPS represents the longest artistic endeavor of my short career.  It was the first play I wrote (unless you want to count Angel H's career-defining Big Liar, Little Liar), and I started it back in 2005.  I've detailed the process on this blog before, so to sum up, it's been a long process of workshop readings with friends, rewrites, productions at schools, more revisions, mounting my own production, a few last tweaks, and lots of frustration in the "shopping" process.  It all officially "payed off" yesterday when I received an email from Eldridge's editor asking if the play was still available.  So I had to "sit" on it all night, because I didn't want to spread the cheer until I'd officially been given an offer.  (By "sit on it" I mean I only tipped off about six people, most of whom were not from here so it couldn't accidentally slip out)  Fortunately, the confirmation came before I got to work this morning.  I say 'Fortunately' because I hate keeping secrets (as evidenced by the fact that keeping a lid on it meant not telling very many people).

The play will be available from Eldridge's web site this spring and offered in their annual catalog next fall.  I can't tell you what a weight off my shoulders this is.  I've felt all along this was a good play, and one that has the potential to absolutely delight (and possibly even inspire) thousands of kids, but the theatre world at large has been less than encouraging lately.  Eldridge does a very good job of getting their shows into the hands of schools and community theaters as well as the occasional professional company, and while it's less likely that the "big" children's theaters in the country are going to give my script serious consideration, that's really okay.  I'm more concerned with getting my stories out there in front of kids to be enjoyed than I am with getting prestige.  And I think school kids will have a blast performing this particular show.  And let's face it: the bottom line, for me, is that it's all about the kids.

So, praise the Lord for the opportunity to touch far more kids than I ever could on my own.

I've had a pretty good couple of days, aye? ;-)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

v2, d224: Feels Good To Be Home

Kim is home.  Which is wonderful.  We're both really excited about it, but also uber-nervous.  We're both afraid that something could go wrong and she'll have to go back at just about any moment.  This makes relaxation a little difficult, but hey, we're both doing the best we can. 

Thanks for all the prayers and support.  Please keep 'em coming.  Also, pray that Kim doesn't go insane living on the couch for (hopefully) two to three months.  I know I have trouble sitting still for two hours at a time.  I can't fathom two months.  But man, she is a trooper.  A trooper with a brand new prescription medicine, so pray that she responds well to that.  Also, that I'm able to get home often enough to give her whatever she needs so she doesn't have to do much.  Also also, that we're able to keep hot meals on the table, especially on nights when I'm not here to microwave the Stouffer's ;-) 

Really, though, for tonight, just offer up a nice big prayer of thanksgiving on our behalf.  Because for right now, we are just very, very thankful. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

v2, d223: Fingers Crossed

Sorry for no update last night.  We decided yesterday to send Robbie away to stay with great-grandparents and grandparents for the next 10-12 days, and it took a while for me to come to "peace" with the decision.

Don't get me wrong, it's totally the right decision.  There's no way Kim will be able to settle in on bed-rest when she comes home if he's here.  These next few weeks are BIG weeks for Baby Boy #2, and Kim needs to be able to rest as undisturbed as possible.  Plus, it'll be far more fun for Robbie to be with folks who have the time and energy to pay attention to him more than I would with Kim here.  Still.  It's Christmas season.  My favorite time of the year.  And it's really been the first year that the boy has started to share my general hokey sense of awe at all things Christmas.  And I don't get to share that with him anymore.  And that seriously bums me out. 

Of course, with all the goings on of the last week, I'm pretty much a wreck anyway :-)

On to the good news: Kim may be coming home Wednesday afternoon.  Tonight they shut off the magnesium.  They've been trying her on the new medication since either last night or this morning.  If it can keep the contractions at bay, she can come home to lie on her back on our couch instead of lying on her back in a hospital bed, and she'll stay on home bed rest until the baby is born.   So, we're keeping our fingers crossed (and, more importantly, our heads bowed).  (Only not literally, because it would be dangerous to drive that way) 

So you can bet I'll keep you updated tomorrow!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

v2, d222: Hospital Haiku

And now, for a bit of a change in pace:

The parking garage
Elevator makes you feel
As though you are doomed.

It's a long walk from
The parking garage to the
New entrance, homeboy.

Christmas trees are up.
Everywhere, candy canes.
No Menorahs, though.

Hand sanitizers
Ev'rywhere. Like Pokemon:
Gotta squirt 'em all!

No water fountains
In the halls.  It's because you
Might get sick, homeboy.

Dry erase board says
The nurse on duty's name. Not
Last name, only first.

Big white plastic cup.
Huge bendy straw.  It makes the
Water taste funny.

Is this the TV
Button?  Click.  Click.  Whoops.  It was
The "Call Nurse" button.

White bag for linens.
Red bag for all hazardous
Materials.  True.

Hospital food is
Actually not that bad.
Mmm, big cheeseburger.

Waiting room has got
Free coffee for ev'ryone!
Waiting room of love...

You get a sticker
When you visit L&D.
Not at APU.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

v2, d221: Kudos

No new news on the hospital front today.  Show seems to be going well at work.  I'm still exhausted, but I'm totally in awe of all the extra effort friends and loved ones are making to help us in this trying time.  I really don't deserve you folks.  And while I'd like to formally and publicly thank each of you who've stepped in to shoulder some of my load, I'm not sure if any of you will just find that embarrassing, so I'll thank each of you without getting too specific.

--Thank you for giving up your Saturday morning after an evening show to play with my son so I could get to work.

--Thank you for driving nearly an hour in just to do my dishes, freeing me up to take care of at least four other things and buying me an hour of rest at a time when rest has been utterly insufficient. 

--Thank you for driving all night just to be here in time to relieve our morning babysitter while I was in performance all day.

--Thank you for giving up your Thursday night and Friday all day to take care of our son at literally a moment's notice.

--Thank you for letting me out of my Monday evening obligation at work so I can tend to my family.  I know it was a pain in the rear to put the whole thing together, and I know I'm leaving you a bit in the lurch, but I hope you know how much I appreciate it.

--Thank you for stepping a few hundred miles outside of your comfort zone to cover for me at Sunday's Littlest Angel cutting booking.  Your own personal, unassuming style of graciousness continues to amaze. 

All of this in forty-eight hours.  I truly don't deserve friends and family like all of you.  We are so very blessed to know all of you who are giving your time, your resources, your notes of encouragement, and your prayers to our situation. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

v2, d220: Eyes Ahead

So, two or three days no longer appears to be a possibility.  However, according to what one doctor (and a specialist!  A British specialist, to boot!) told Kim today, it seems "reasonable" to believe that she won't be stuck in the hospital until the baby is born.  In fact, we were told that "home by Christmas" appears to be an attainable goal. 

Robbie is taking this amazingly well.  He seems to have accepted that Mommy staying at the hospital is the best thing for her and the baby to feel better, and so far he's been happy with having other folks watch him so Daddy can work while Mommy is in the hospital.  It helps, I'm sure, that there's a large wooden floor in Mommy's current hospital room that is perfect for rolling trucks around on.  Furthermore, they have two stools on wheels that he can push around a huge area.  Once they move her from Labor and Delivery to the Antepartum Unit (Fun Fact: Not Anti-Partum!), her room will probably be smaller and may not have as much room to play.  Plus, as the days drag on and we keep having to say goodnight to Kim at the hospital, there's a good chance the adventure of the situation will wear off and he won't cope with the situation nearly as well.  For now, though, it's a blessing, and it gives us one less thing to worry about. 

Speaking of which, my mother-in-law just happens to have an entire week off, and so she'll be down here soon to help us (us in this case = me) on top of the housework, keep Kim company, and stock our freezer with nutritious reheatable meals for the next few days.  Several friends have already stepped up to help take care of things, cover extra shifts, make sure we have someone to take care of Robbie, etc.  And etc.  And etc.  I'm thankful for all the prayers, support, and helping hands I've received over the last 24 hours. 

As for me: I'm weary.  I'm exhausted.  But I'm okay.  And we're going to be okay.  And, God willing, we'll still have Christmas with the family at our place this year. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

v2, d219: ...but it is not this day...

That boring day I said I was ready for is going to have to wait, I'm afraid.

I won't go into a ton of details right now (because it's late, I'm tired, and I still have a lot to do before I get to bed) but Kim is in the hospital for "at least the next 2-3 days" after three terbutaline shots didn't curb the latest round of early contractions.  Important to note: she is NOT in pre-term labor, but the contractions aren't stopping.  So they've got her on a magnesium IV and are giving her some steroid shots (for the baby's lungs, just in case she does go into early labor at some point in the near future).  It'll take two days of shots and another day of observation, and if all goes well she should be able to come home Monday morning. 

Meanwhile, I've got two shows tomorrow and two Saturday plus a bizarre "cutting" performance on Sunday.  So I'm going to take this one day at a time.  I think we've got tomorrow all figured out.  I'll worry about Saturday when it gets a little bit closer.

Please pray that Kim can come home on Monday. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

v2, d218: Whew.

What a horrible day! 

Opened the show today.  Which was good.  It went well.  There was a certain someone in the audience who, unfortunately, almost always puts me on edge when they're in the audience, and I let that get to me, but otherwise it was fun.  Hey look, a picture (taken by the multi-talented Sarah and property of the A. D. Players, with more pictures to be found at this link)
After the show, things got unusual. 

First, I was bored.  There wasn't much to do in my office today.  And a group of folks got to dress up in old timey Christmas caroler clothes and go shoot some promotional stuff for a church (which looked fun).  When they all left, I was the only person left in the entire upper floor of our building.  Lame.  I kinda wished I'd been scheduled to go along, because the caroling thing looked like fun, and the people going were all fun.

Turns out, God had reasons I wasn't supposed to go fake caroling.

Now, I'm not going into details here, because this is a public site, but I overheard that someone had fallen out next to our building and needed help.  So I tried to wait around with that person and get bandages, ice, and whatnot while waiting for the paramedics to arrive.  It was a jarringly disturbing sight, because the person was hurt pretty bad.  (After they left in the ambulance, I later heard that they are going to be fine and actually got to go home from the ER tonight, so there's a Praise God right there) 

After all of that settled (and I was still a little shaken by it all), Kim called and said the she was going to Robbie's day care to pick him up because he'd been throwing up "all over the place."  So she got him and then got me, and the poor guy just looked totally sapped.  All night long, he was groggy and spent.  He was also royally thirsty, but as soon as he'd try to drink something he'd throw it back up.  Again, there are more details I'm not going to go into here, but it was a rough night at home. 

Only, I couldn't actually be at home for all of it, because I had a meeting with the pastor at church.  So I went to meet with him and left poor Kim and Robbie equally exhausted at home.  When I got back, Robbie was already (willingly) in bed, despite the fact that it was nearly an hour before he usually settled down for the night.  He was already on his second set of pajamas.  He was tired enough to be asleep, but Kim said she thought he was waiting for me to get home to tell another Hairy and Scary story before he'd let the lights go out. 

Follow all this up with a phone call I had while running a few quick errands, in which I learned some troubling health news from an old college buddy, and...yeah. All the crazy just ran up and punched life in the gut today. 

I'm still fairly upbeat, though.  Got an uber-encouraging email between the major daybreakers this afternoon.  Praying and hoping Kim and I don't catch what Robbie has.  Looking forward to going into work a tiny bit later tomorrow morning.  Also, "Christmas Versions of Famous Plays" on my Facebook has provided me with lots of amusement today.  A coworker took my evening shift tomorrow so I could help out at home.  So we've got some good stuff going on.

Still...I'm ready for tomorrow to be boring!