Friday, May 30, 2008

"I'm Read" and TV Issues

Over the last week I've spoken to several family members and a few friends who have told me they have been reading this log. I just want to say "thanks." You are the people for whom this blog is written.

While the length and details of the posts mostly serve as an outlet for my amature writing efforts; the information contained in them are to keep you informed. It's a real joy to know my posts are being read. Now I have actual verbal confirmation from others that I can recall any time during my day that verifies the fact that "I'm read."

If there is someone you know who might be interested in reading this blog please feel free to send them the link. Electronic word of mouth is how Internet blogs became so popular in the first place. Who am I to buck the system?

I was saddened to learn that Harvey Korman died a couple of days ago. Korman was a wonderful and valuable cast member of the Carol Burnette show in the 1970's. The show was the cherry on the top of the entertainment sundae that was the CBS Saturday night prime time lineup for nearly a decade. At it's best that line up was: M*A*S*H, All In The Family, Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show (the one where Bob's a Chicago psychologist not a Vermont innkeeper) and Carol Burnette Show. The shows ran from 8 to 10 PM and nearly always won the nightly ratings war for their network.

That line up gave American television watchers reason to stay home on Saturday nights when I was a teenager; myself included. You can insert your own "That's because he couldn't get a date" joke here. However you would be wrong because I chose to spend that night of the week at home in front of the TV. Here's a brief explanation as to why.

With only one color TV in the house when I was a teenager I usually had to watch what my parents wanted to watch at night or else go watch the small (we're talking 10 inch screen) black & white TV I had in my room. On any other night of the week I would be content to do just that. But on Saturday nights my parents regularly went to visit friends to play cards or some kind of board game; my younger sister would usually be on a sleepover at a friends house. I would have the whole house to myself. This meant the fridge and, most importantly, the television. The only thing that made those nights better was when my best friend, my cousin, would come over and watch with me. We spent the whole night laughing until our sides hurt.

As I said the whole CBS lineup built up to the "Burnette Show" which was a variety show based on sketch comedy. The most popular sketches were those that featured just Tim Conway and Harvey Korman. The two were comic actors not joke tellers. Their funny actions made me laugh not their one liners.

Conway was the comic and Korman was the straight man. What was great about Korman though was that he couldn't keep a straight face. When Conway would go into his antics 90% of the time Korman would break up right on camera. As disclosed by Tim Conway after the show was off the air; for him getting Harvey to laugh was the unspoken challenge of every sketch the two of them did together.

Prior to the "Burnette Show" an unwritten rule in the world of television comedy was that laughing during a sketch took away from the comedic effect. Harvey Korman was a integral part of the duo that broke that rule. As I said it was sad to hear of his death. However thanks to the wonderful world of DVD entertainment his antics with Conway will be around for future generations to see.

Friday night my wife and I watched the 2 hour season finale of "Lost." We recorded on our DVR and zipped through the commercials. For me it only held a couple of surprises but nothing that was unexpected. I won't reveal them in case someone reading this is a fan and hasn't watched it yet. Despite the lack of any jaw dropping events or revelations about the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 I still absolutely LOVED the show.

I think "Lost" is the best show on TV. I really enjoy the way the past, present, and future story lines are intermingled; each reavealing bits of information and clues about the other. It really keeps you guessing in several different directions at the same time. The writers and producers are unraveling this wonderful story like someone slowly pulling a thread on a cheap sweater. You know how it's going to end but you enjoy watching the process just the same. The excitement and anticipation of each episode keeps me on the edge of my seat the way the "Myst" computer games did a few years ago. Only for me in Lost the puzzle that has to be solved to "Win the game" is learning the ultimate secret of the island. The plane crash survivors, Ben & "The Others" and other characters from both on and off the island are the series of minor puzzles that, once solved, will together finally reveal the end of "Lost"

Having said that now that I've watched the last episode of this season I'm going to have to wait until next January to see new episodes of my favorite show on TV. Thanks for making me wait ABC. I guess I could show my displeasure with their scheduling decision and not watch next season. Yeah! That's what I'll do. I won't watch next year. I don't care if I don't ever find out just exactly what the Darma project was all about; or just exactly what the smoke monster is or why.... NO I CAN'T DO IT! I've got to go back. I've got to! I'm afraid that after 4 seasons the network execs at ABC have me by the island. When "Lost" returns in January I'll be watching.

Once again thanks for taking the time to read my blog and indulging my endless rantings about and remembrances of television. Maybe next time I'll give you a list of my top ten M*A*S*H episodes or explain exactly why I enjoy game shows so much. Be prepared both could take a while but then again when it comes to my posts things usually do.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Practice Is A Pain In The Neck

Well as the last post stated I have been practicing for my June 9 performance. I have been doing it in my newly created practice area. I practiced for an hour the first day (Tuesday) and for 30-45 minutes the second day (Wednesday).

On Wednesday night as I was getting ready to retire for the evening I noticed that the back right side of my neck was bothering me. It hurt like I had pulled a muscle or something. I asked my wife to look at it and maybe try and massage some of the discomfort from it. Upon examination she discovered that not just the neck but the muscle going across my right collar gone was swollen. It was also very painful.

She asked me if I had lifted anything heavy that would have pulled the muscle. I told her "no" that I hadn't done anything very physical during the day. I had spent the afternoon practicing my sketch. That's when I realized what had happened. I had ventriloquist shoulder.

Not being one who has practices too much (or should I say "ever") I didn't realize the effect sitting with your hand in the back of a character and arm at an angle for an hour at a time would have on me.

I'm very excited about the opportunity I have coming up at the library. I am also motivated by how much practice I am doing and how prepared I am going to be for this event. However, I am finding that one of the most vital elements that goes into making a ventriloquist better, practice, is, initially a literal pain in the neck.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Now In Rehearsal

After the 3 day weekend it was back to the daily routine around here today. For Paula that meant going back to work for a short but busy week. What makes it worse is it's the week the close out the last month's books. I didn't expect her home before 8 PM tonight. I was surprised when she got home a little earlier than that.

My day was spent working on things around the house, doing some grocery shopping, laundry, making dinner, and preparing to teach vacation bible school at our church next week.

I spent a part of my weekend finishing the script for my June 9 performance at the local library. The punchlines have been placed and the gags chosen so now it's time to start rehearsing.

I gathered my props, set up the practice area, and prepared my puppet. Then I spent an hour slowly going over the script for the first time. I plan on rehearsing the act 2 times a day for the next 2 weeks. That will give me time to memorize and revise until I'm well prepared. This is really the earliest I've ever started practicing for a performance. I know that's nothing to brag about. If I want to get better I have to do a lot more practicing.

The reason this rehearsal period is special is because it's the first time I am able to rehearse in my designated practice area. It took me a couple of months to clean up the room that we use mostly for storage and where we keep the dog's crates. I moved and rearranged things so that area in front of the wall mirror would be open enabling me to use it for practice.

I know it doesn't sound like a big deal when you read it. But it's a big step forward for me. Having a special area will help me get in the habit of practicing and I will gain confidence in my performance as a ventriloquist. Now I have that area and I'm using it.

My first rehearsal wasn't that great and the routine is going to need some fine tuning but I've taken that first step on the road toward being a better performer. According to all successful ventriloquists the key to a good performance is practice, practice, practice.

That's what I'll be doing from now until June 9.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Blessed Sunday

Today was a Good Sunday. While most usually are, today will be a memorable for me for a couple of reasons.

First of all I got to be a "Courier" for the day. You see a trio called "The Couriers" were my favorite gospel group when I was growing up. Today in church I sang a song they made popular over 30 years ago. I sang a song called "Statue of Liberty" (see yesterday's post for more info about the song) to begin the morning worship service at my church. It set the tone for the entire service. Being Memorial Day weekend the entire service has a patriotic theme to it as the congregation honored those who have and are currently serving in the armed forces.

The service is one of my favorites each and every year. I was nervous when I sang and didn't do as good a job as I would have liked to do. However everyone was very complimentary to me afterwards. I also got chills when the church choir sang anthems of each of all branches of the our military in tribute to our veterans. Of course front and center in the heart of both my wife and me, was my son, James, currently serving in Iraq. We miss and pray for him always but especially today.

My second memorable event of the day came when I looked at our local town paper. It included a special pullout section with details of all of the summer reading programs scheduled at our area libraries. My name was in the section about our town branch because I'm scheduled to do a ventriloquist performance there June 9.

Now there's really not anything notable about the fact the my name was in the paper. I've had that happen before; even in the national publication, Parade Magazine. But what was special this time was that my name was printed with the word "Ventriloquist" in front of it. Its the first time I've received public acknowledgement as a ventriloquist in such a large market. Even if no one else thinks its a big deal I am thrilled about it. I will cut out that part of the paper and keep it with my personal memorabilia for the rest of my life.

So there you have a couple of reasons for me to remember today for a long time. I got to fulfill a dream of singing a Couriers song in church and I was acknowledged as a ventriloquist in a widely distributed publication.

Okay so we won't mention that my wife had to go into her office late in the afternoon because things went wrong during a special project she had other people working on. That would spoil the celebratory spirit of this post. I'm sure it didn't thrill my wife very much either.

But Sunday May 25, 2008 will always be a memorable day for me. I am very grateful to God for blessing me in such special way.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Opportunity Comes Knocking

Throughout the New Testament from the gospels to the letters written by the Apostle Paul we are told that we as Christians should serve others. As a deacon of my church I am committed to serving the members by ministering to their needs whenever possible.

Serving others and not just serving myself is something that has really been on my mind a lot lately. I want to help as many people in my life as I can. This is why I felt very badly when I couldn't help paint my son's new house because I wasn't physically able to do the work. It was a great way to show him a spirit of service but I have to look for other ways show him in the future.

However the opportunities to be a servant in several different ways have presented themselves to me over the last few weeks. This week I started writing a ventriloquist sketch I will be presenting when I do a voluntary performance at the town library on June 9. It's the kick off of their summer reading program and I'm humbled to be their "premier performer" as their flier says.

Another opportunity to serve will happen tomorrow in church. I will be singing a solo to start the morning worship service. I am excited about this because I am singing one of my favorite gospel songs. It's called "The Statue of Liberty." The lyrics compare the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of our freedom for Americans and The Cross as a symbol of freedom for Christians. I'm not the world's best singer but I know I can sing it from my heart. I'm just glad to be singing a song that means something to me and hope it does to the congregation as well.

The 3rd opportunity is two fold and involves the privilege of obeying Jesus' command to spread the gospel and being of service to my family. I am currently reading a book titled "Personal Evangelism and You" by Mark Dever (my new favorite author). The book talks about a Christian's responsibility to share the Gospel of Christ with others. It explores when, where, why and how they can do it. Two chances to share the gospel have happened in my life recently. They both involve members of my family. Sharing your faith with a family member is probably one of the more difficult aspects of personal evangelism.

Right now I have an on going correspondence with my cousin's son who is also, ironically, my God son. He's currently in prison in Pennsylvania and has become a Muslim during his time there. I haven't had the chance to totally share the gospel with him but I am doing my best to rebuild our relationship into one of trust and understanding so I can share the real Good News of Jesus Christ soon.

The other chance I've had to share the gospel with someone in my family is with my cousin who lives in Pennsylvania and is 6 months older than me. He and I were best friends growing up and have been close throughout our adult lives.

This past week I received an email from my cousin in which he shared with me that he has almost "no faith" any more and that there's nobody "up there" watching out for us. He also sighted the recent tragedy in the life of gospel singer Steven Curtis Chapman as a reason for the his belief that God does not exist.

His words gave me concern me for his sake. We were both raised in church and continued to go through our teenage and young adult years. As a matter of fact we both asked Christ into our hearts at summer camp when we were 11 years old.

Again the harshness of his words sparked a feeling of urgency for him. I knew I had to write something positive back in response to his negative remarks about God. However I knew the subtle approach I am using with his son would not work.

On Friday I wrote him a long and detailed email. It's probably the most difficult thing I've ever written in that I wanted to make sure I said the right thing. I prayed the night before that God would help me share the words my cousin needed to read so that he may be persuaded to consider looking for God again.

I spent the day yesterday researching and writing. I sent my message to him in an email late Friday night. I haven't gotten anything back from him yet. I'm not sure what he's going to write but I hope it's a positive response. If not I hope what I've shared with him will find root in his heart and or at least find a place in his memory. So that one day when he really needs to look for God again the Holy Spirit can lead him to remember my words. Perhaps then they will help lead him back to God. My prayer for my cousin is that God continues to work in his life and lead him back to the point of salvation.

So there you have the opportunities God has allowed to come my way recently. I am so happy that I have had my eyes open enough to recognize the chances to serve that God has set before me. My continued prayer is that they will keep coming and I will keep serving. If opportunity to be a servant for Christ knocks on my door I want to be there to answer.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bath Day For My Dogs

Today was bath day for my dogs. Angel and Dory (left to right respectively) are nice and dry in the picture on the right. However tonight before I put them in their crates for the night I gave them each a bath. I do this to allow them time to dry off completely over night. As any dog owner who bathes their pet themselves it can be quite an ordeal; at least it is in our house.

I bathe them individually. Because they're rather smart they became aware of the impending cleansing the minute I take their special towels from off the top of their crates to the bathroom.

The majority of their resistance comes in getting them to the tub. Once I take off their collars they each try to get me to let them out the back door. They resist going down the hall until I "guide" them in that direction. Instead of taking the first right into the bathroom they both go left and try hiding in our bedroom. I believe they are hoping I will change my mind and just decide to go to bed. You know forget the whole thing. They each give me a look as if to say "Gee Ron it's so nice and cool in this room and look at that bed. Why don't you just call it a night?" Despite their attempt to put it off; again I coax them across the hall to their cleansing experience.

Angel's bath includes: lifting her into the tub twice because she jumps out during the rinsing processing; and using twice as much shampoo as I will on Dory due to her thick coat. She's relatively quite during the bath but resists every time I have to turn her one way or the other to rinse her off. After she shakes twice while the shower curtain is closed I dry her off with two towels. I open the door and give her the verbal command to go to her crate.

My knees are hurting from kneeling at the tub and are imprinted with the small squares of our tile floor. I am just about as wet as the dogs but I am only halfway done.

Once Angel is securely in her crate I put on my Indiana Jones hat and begin searching for Dory. By now she has found some place to hide where she thinks I won't find her. Her usual place is under my wife's feet. Paula is usually sitting at the computer room which is about as far away from the bathroom as you can get and still be in our house.

I find Dory sitting in front of my wife laying on her feet trying hard as she can not to be seen. I go through the same resistance routine as I did with Angel but finally get Dory into the tub.

With Dory most of the battle is getting her to understand that her bath is inevitable. Once she's in the tub and the water is turned on she becomes very quite and passive. I guess she just wants to get it over with. She's very cooperative and the bath takes half the time and trouble as Angel's.

Again the same shaking and drying routine follows the rinsing. Once the bathroom door is opened Dory hurries toward her crate but not before a quick detour. She runs into the computer room and rubs her ears on the carpet trying to dry them herself.

As a reward I give them a little larger serving of green beans in their dinner than usual. I mix their food with their favorite low cal vegetable, and fill their water bottles. I pet them both as I put their dishes into their crates. I make sure I pat them on the head and tell them what good dogs they are. I turn out the light and say "good night." Tomorrow their coats be dry, will feel soft and they will smell good once again.

One of their least favorite rituals is over again for another 6 weeks or so. What they don't know is that tomorrow night before bedtime they will get their monthly heartworm medicine and their flea and tick treatments. But that's not anywhere near as much trouble. In fact none of this is any trouble for me. I love my dogs and wouldn't know what do to without them. They are truly one of the best blessings in my life.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sharing What I've Learned About God

Over the last year or so I have learned a lot about God through studying the Bible and allowing him to work in my life. I have learned from the scriptures that He is always true to his promises but may use different means or ways to fulfill them for different people. More about that in a moment but first let me tell you why I bring this subject up.

Tonight after my small group bible study at church I went into the youth room for the first time in a long time just to hang out with a couple of the kids who were there. One of them was asking the youth pastor, Jason, about God's nature and how he worked.

Realizing that this boy was asking the same questions I had been looking into myself I joined in the conversation. Jason explained that God must always be true to His nature and will always do what He promises to do including meeting the needs of those who have faith in and follow Him. He gave the example of God supplying Abraham with a ram just as he was about to sacrifice his son, Issac.

I added that God sometimes comes through with His promises in different ways. He met Abraham's need for a substitute sacrifice at the exact moment he needed it. In contrast, I explained, God began meeting Joseph's brothers need for food during the famine 7 years before it even started. He caused Joseph to be elevated to governor of Egypt which put him in charge of storing up grain and other food for the future famine that God allowed him (Joseph) to forsee.

I challenged the boy to look in the Bible and find other ways God keeps His promises in different ways. Being able to help him with the explaination of something God had already taught me was very encouraging. As I said it out loud I realized that not only was it something that I had learned it was something that I believed.

So while I initially went into the youth room to socialize and joke around with them it turned out that God gave me a gift that confirms my faith and growth in him. I am so happy to have been a help to someone else while at the same time encouraged through the Holy Spirit that I am on the path where God wants me to be.

Thank You Jesus for your faithfulness and love for me.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Free Cell: The Impossible Quest

Larry The Cable Guy tells a joke that's a great way to start out this post. He says, "I got me a new computer last month. The only thing I can do on it is play solitaire. I might as well have gone out and bought a $1500 deck of cards."
I'm not much for playing games on the computer but my wife is. She will spend time just relaxing playing all kinds of games. Of course most nights after dinner I want to spend time with my wife. So I find myself in the computer room checking my email, reading blogs, searching the Internet for something to interest me so I don't get bored while she plays games.
One of the few computer games I like to play is Free Cell solitaire. I find it very challenging and like the fact that every game is winnable if you (pardon the pun) play your cards right. So last week I started a quest that I will probably never finish. I decided to start at game 1 and see how many Free Cell games I can win.
Of course I will never win them all because there's 1 million of them. But just out of curiosity I figured out that I would have to play nearly 100 games a day for 30 years to play them all. That's assuming that I win them on the first try and that's never going to happen.
Anyway after 4 days of playing the games in order I'm up to game 24. I have won 10 games on the first try. It took me 21 tries to win game 10. So from now on most nights you'll find me at my computer playing Free Cell and spending time with my wife.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Please Pray For James

I know that I've mentioned in previous posts that our son, James, was going to the Middle East for close to a year of service. Paula recieved a phone call from him today. He's now gone from Kuwait to Baghdad. He says he's really happy to finally put his training into action.

Now that he's geographically at the center of the Iraqi war he needs your prayers more than ever. Please pray that God will make His presence known to him and will protect James from harm while he performs his duty.

Iraq is 8 hours ahead of us here in Kentucky so every night before I go to sleep I pray for James knowing that he's already started a new day. Paula and I really appreciate anyone who joins us in praying for our son. Our only hope is that the time he is there will go quickly and he will return safely home to us.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

End of Nothing...Beginning of Everything

Ten years ago today people were talking about nothing...or at least a show about nothing. Friday May 15, 1998 was the day after the final first run episode of the sit-com "Seinfeld." There hadn't been as much public conversation about the ending of TV show since Carson left the Tonight Show 7 years earlier.

I listened to the talk radio station as I drove to Philadelphia that afternoon. Callers & Hosts were discussing the last Seinfeld show. Ironically I was on my way to do something that, as any Seinfeld fan could tell you, had served as a plot line for a few several episodes. I was picking someone up at the airport.

But unlike Jerry & friends I wasn't just picking up someone returning from a trip. This was a very historic rendezvous in my life. I was meeting for the first time face to face someone who had and would continue to change my life, Paula, who is now my wife.

We had met online in an AOL chat room 6 months earlier. After 1/2 a year of emails, instant messages, hours on the phone (you wouldn't believe the long distance bills) and post office box correspondence Paula took a step of faith and bought a plane ticket to come to visit me. This would be our first date.

Inside the airport I anxously waited as they announced the arrival of her flight. She was the last one to come through the gate. For a few moments I thought she'd changed her mind. But when I saw her walk through that door it was a dream come true for me. I can't say it was love at first sight because I loved her before I had ever actually saw her.

As we hugged at the gate she gave me a copy of the May issue of Rolling Stone magazine. On the cover was the Seinfeld cast dressed as characters from the movie The Wizard of Oz. That movie was a very key element in the start of our online relationship. There's a picture of that magazine cover at the beginning of this post.

We were both very excited and nervous. Standing at the baggage claim carousel watching her as we waited for her luggage was an extremely surreal moment. With suitcases in hand we made our way to the parking garage. I loaded her bags in the back of my minivan. Before I opened the passenger door, our eyes met and we both smiled. At that point in my mind the music cue began, I put my arms around her and right there in the airport parking garage we shared our first kiss.

The rest of the weekend was wonderful. I won't go into any great detail. However I will go as far as to tell you, despite the need to call a tow truck and over half a dozens meals eaten at Denny's, it left us with memories that will always be special.

So on that May Friday in Philadelphia, 10 years ago today, I wasn't thinking of a show about "nothing." My eyes and heart were fixed on Paula from Kentucky. From the first time I saw her I knew she was the beginning of everything in my life from that day on. Happy Anniversary Sweetheart. You are the Love of My Life.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Remembering Mom

Today is Mother’s Day the biggest day of the year for long distance phone calls as children from all over the country call their moms. My mother “went to be with The Lord” a little over 4 years ago. I think about her a lot but especially today.

When I remember Mom I think about how hard she laughed when ever she saw the “Vita-meata-vegamin” episode of “I Love Lucy” or the one where Lucy dresses like an Indian woman with a Papoose and manipulates her way into Ricky’s show.

I think about the movies “Singing In the Rain” and “For Me & My Gal” starring Gene Kelly or Danny Kaye in “The Court Jester.” She always laughed at the part where he's trying to remember the silly rhyme that tells him which glass has the poison. Ever since she was a young girl in Trenton New Jersey my mom loved movies. As a wife and mother she usually only got the chance to see them on TV but that didn’t mean she didn’t look for her favorites. She loved the old MGM musicals.

Mom taught me to appreciate the pop culture of the past including the movies, TV Shows, and Big Band music.

However one of the most amazing things I remember about her is how she kept a family of 4 with a single income. My dad was the only one who brought home a paycheck while I was growing up. Mom sometimes made some extra money by babysitting in our home. Mostly she stayed home with my sisters and me. She specialized in making ends meet. Sometimes I think Dad got the better end of the deal.

I remember her recipe box filled with ingredient lists and instructions on cooking a wide variety of casseroles. She made them with anything from corned beef hash and Bisquick to macaroni, corn and Spam. She was the casserole queen. To a lot of people her concoctions may not have seemed very appealing but she managed to feed our family with them. We never went hungry. We enjoyed just about anything she put on the table. However she did miss the target occasionally. I especially remember a less than enthusiastic reception for the hard boiled eggs wrapped in ground sausage and deep fried. (ugh!)

To this day I occasionally prepare a batch of her “Souper Burgers.” It’s a sloppy Joe type mixture made with crumbled hamburger, condensed alphabet vegetable soup, catsup and mustard served on a hamburger bun. It may not sound very good to you. But to me it’s the ultimate in comfort food. Every time I make it I can’t help but think that Mom’s on a cloud somewhere smiling.

Of course the most significant financial maneuver I remember mom managing every year was the ability to provide us with Christmas presents. Without much money she used to populate the area under the tree each year with plenty of wonderful things for all of us.

She did this by saving what she could from my dad’s pay and selling toys from catalogs. Every year she’d host several “toy parties” and turn her commission into toys and gifts for her children. It was an annual act of selflessness that started in September and didn't end until Chirstmas Eve. Mom was our Santa Claus.

Lastly and perhaps most significantly I remember mom's faithfulness when it came to God and her church. For most of her adult life she did everything she could to get people to church. She would call them on the phone and invite them; she would drive out of their way to pick them up and take them home. When she couldn’t get people in a local nursing home to church she took church to them. She faithfully held a Friday morning church service at a nursing home for over 20 years.

As I pointed out at her funeral some people wouldn’t have been there that day if it wasn’t to honor her memory. It proved just how far my mom would go to get people to come to church.

Although I miss her very much today I know that she’s in heaven with my dad and with her savior, Jesus Christ. Despite feeling sad I hold out the hope that I will get to see her again someday. What a reunion that will be! Happy Mother’s Day, Mom

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Painting the Scenery

My son and his fiancĂ© purchased a house yesterday. It’s a small 2 story dwelling with a living room, kitchen, 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. It’s a great first home for them. Before they move in they intend to paint all the rooms. They divided the choice of colors as a compromise. Each got to chose colors for specific rooms. This is a good first step in building a foundation for their marriage.

Today Paula and I went to help them paint. Heather’s mom was there too already elbow deep in paint. Paula did the edging on the ceilings in the living room and two 2nd floor rooms. This took about 2 hours and involved climbing up and down a small 3-step ladder quite a few times.

I didn’t help anywhere near as much but I did manage to paint a couple of the walls in the living room. As I applied the paint to the walls I couldn’t help but think about the promise that accompanied each stroke.

The paint will add ambience to a home where their marriage will live and grow. This young couple stands at the starting line of the next phase of life. A course the will run together.

I felt like a member of a theater stage crew preparing the scenery for their new life. Tomorrow we’ll go back and continue coating the walls with the colors they’ve chosen. When the painting is finished it will be time to move in their furniture and set up a household. My prayer is that God will bless them and their marriage.

I’d better stop now or else I won’t have anything left to write about when they get married in October. But I do have one last thought about that new house. Right now it may look like it’s empty but after being with Michael & Heather today I can tell you it’s already filled with excitement, anticipation, and hope.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Busy Week

It’s been a busy week for me so far. On Monday morning I took both of my dogs to the vet for a check up. That’s no easy task because it’s very stressful for both of them.

On Tuesday my sister, Peggy, who lives in Pennsylvania, had knee replacement surgery. I talked to her yesterday and she’s doing well. She’s supposed to come home from the hospital on Friday.

In February my sister, Shari, had gastric by pass surgery. She’s doing well also and has lost over 50 pounds this year. For both my sisters the surgeries were the next step in their long journey to become healthier and happier. I am very proud of both of them. They inspire me to have the courage to take the steps I need to take in both my physical life and spiritual relationship with God no matter how difficult they may be.

I stopped by our town library this week and picked up some books that I’m going to use as resource material for a ventriloquist show I’m doing there in June. Janet, the children’s librarian selected the books for me. What’s great about that is that one of the books is based on the song “The Marvelous Toy”. The song is really special to me because of what it meant to my dad and me.

It may not seem like a big deal to anyone else but one of my major accomplishments this week was finally mowing our back yard. I started to mow it using our riding mower but about 10 minutes into the job a belt broke and it wouldn’t move. So over the next 2 days I had to use our push mower to cut about an acre of grass. Not an easy task for me but I did it.

Without a doubt the highlight of the week came in a phone call about 7AM this morning. Our son, James, called us from Kuwait. It was really great to hear from him. He told us about the time table for going to Iraq and what’s he’s been doing until now. He said that it’s really hot over there. At night his tent is “cooled” to 85 degrees and that seems cold to him now.

He told us of encounters with 5 ft long lizards with a tail like a rattlesnake, scorpions, and camel spiders. He’s also told us of visits to places like Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. He said that one of the best things about the place is the great gym. He said the equipment is the best and he spends a lot of time there.

His mom and I talked to him for about 30 minutes and he seems very well adjusted and happy to be where he is. He talked about his plans for when he comes home and about getting to come home for his brother’s wedding in October. I have a feeling he’s excited about where he is but he’s also a little homesick. He’s having a unique experience that not many get to have. He’s getting to do something he loves and is getting paid to do it. That’s rare in life especially at such a young age He won’t be 20 until October.

So those are the highlights of my week so far and there’s still 3 days left. Saturday my son, Michael, celebrates his 27th birthday. He’s doing it in a very unique way because tomorrow he and his fiancĂ© have their closing on their house. Sunday is Mother’s Day. As I said it’s been, and will continue to be, a busy week.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Finishing 2nd On Derby Day

About 5 PM central time yesterday, May 3rd, twenty competitors came together in Kentucky to determine who would be crowned this year’s champion. Numbers were chosen. Starting positions assigned and then the cards were dealt. But first everyone gathered around the flat screen TV to watch the Kentucky Derby.

I was at a Canasta tournament. For the 2nd year in a row Paula and I played in the friendly Derby Day competition held at the home of one of our friends who lives near by.

Since everyone there was a Southern Baptists, naturally, food was part of the program. As a matter of fact there was so much to eat I’m not sure if it was a card game with a pot luck dinner or a pot luck dinner that happened to end in a card game.

Anyway after watching the Derby 18 people (2 of those invited had to cancel due to illness) chose numbers from a “hat” and found their way to tables set up for each of the four games to be played simultaneously.

Now I’m not going to go into an explanation of the game or rules of Canasta. I’ll just say that each person played with a partner and then was credited individually with the team’s total score.

Everyone played a total of 8 games. Paula and I only played at the same table once but we weren't on the same team. At the end of play each individual’s scores were added up and the top score was declared the winner.

Ed, our music pastor and co-host, came in first. Last year the brother of the hostess, Diane, came in first. Perhaps there should be an investigation. What’s the number for the Kentucky gaming commission?

I was runner up for the 2nd year in a row. Prizes were handed out for 1st and 2nd place. Ed got a gift card to a local restaurant. I got a $10 gift card to McDonald’s.

That’s not bad work for an evening filled with great food and hanging out with some of my favorite people. Given the fate of the 2nd place finisher in the Derby I guess I should consider myself lucky that I got out of there with a gift card and not even a mention of my being euthanized. I’m just grateful for the good time and the opportunity to have some fun while Finishing 2nd on Derby Day.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Glimpse into My Future?

Last night I went to Zanies comedy club in Navshville for their 7:30 show. The performers for the evening were amateur comics who had completed the comedy classes offered by comedian Rik Roberts. Fifteen people took the stage for the first time ever. Some of them were very original and funny; others not so much.

I didn’t really go to the show to be entertained. It was a personal fact finding mission. Since I discovered that they were offered I have wanted to take the comedy classes. However the cost ($200 for 4 or 5 sessions), the scheduled times, and the travel involved held me back.

When I found out that one of the perks of the classes was that upon completion you are given the opportunity to perform on the stage at Zanies once again my interest was peaked. Doing that has been one of my dreams for quite a while.

I went to see if there was anything special about these graduates or if they were just ordinary people like me. As I watched I realized that the only difference was that they had organized material and were somewhat rehearsed.

I’ve never been very comfortable in the “night club” atmosphere of places like Zanies. I could never see myself pursuing work in such places on a regular basis. However in the context of it being a one time thing with some friends and family present (I have a mental list of people who have laughed at my jokes in the past that I would personally want to invite) I think it would be a good experience.

Perhaps as I learn and grow in my experience as a ventriloquist, comedy classes may prove valuable to me. So my trip to Zanies just might turn out to be a glimpse into my own future. Maybe one day I’ll invite you to come see me on stage.