Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009: Like I Need An Excuse To Get Introspective

Hey, it's that time again -- looking back on 2009, spitting on its grave, and moving on!

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?

Hugged my new nephew. Took sole responsibility for the life of an infant (neither my niece nor my nephew) for 6 to 8 hours at a time. Sang as a "hired gun" specifically recruited for singing. Made my American musical theatre debut in "Fiddler on the Roof." Auditioned for a reality TV show. Saw a Deer Woman. Discovered two podcasts which have since become my favorites: Comedy and Everything Else, and Jordan, Jesse, GO!

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?



No idea. Let's look back. Huh. Sort of! Haven't really been cooking at home as much, but I did find a physical activity I enjoyed; namely, yoga. So, that's something. I'm in the process of discerning my goals for 2010.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?



Yep. My sister-in-law had an Owen, aka Bubby! (The exclamation point is part of the pronunciation of "Bubby!")

4. Did anyone close to you die?



Yes.

5. What countries did you visit?



The USA, and I think that's it.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

A full-time permanent job, or the means not to need a full-time permanent job.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

I can't do dates, but January 31 is a good one. (See #3, above.)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?



I'll say the same thing as last year: accepting what is, and planning for what will be.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Giving in to the inertia of underemployment.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I had a cold a couple times, about 10 days each time. Thankfully, nothing major.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I know what I will probably say for 2010, but that's not for another week or two, and who knows, maybe something else will be even better. For 2009, I'm going to say nothing, really, because I didn't really buy anything all that memorable.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Mom and Dad, totally. Oh! And Madelynn and Owen, who consistently surprise me and astonish me with their new tricks and learnings.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?



Me. And a friend who decided to end our relationship after nearly 20 years. And a former employer. And politicians of all ideologies.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Jesus, if I knew that, I'd be in a much better situation than I currently am, wouldn't I?

15. What did you get really excited about?

Finding my voice -- learning to sing and perform. Yoga. [TOP SECRET THING I'M NOT ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT].

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?

"I Believe In You" by Il Divo and Celine Dion. (I know.)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:


– happier or sadder? Hmm, about even.
– thinner or fatter? About the same.
– richer or poorer? Just about the same.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?



Time with Madelynn and Owen. Time with JJ and Beth. Time with Mom and Dad. Time in prayer. Exercise.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?



Negative self-talk.

20. How did you spend Christmas?



Semester Family Christmas was 12/20, with gift exchange and a delicious meal. Semester-Ehlert Family Christmas was Actual Christmas, with a delicious meal and time with the kidlets. And then a nice two-hour nap.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?

Nope.

22. What was your favorite TV program?



Nip/Tuck, Glee, and Modern Family.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?



No.

24. What was the best book you read?

I just read "Chasing Vermeer" by Blue Balliet. It was really good -- reminded me of "The Westing Game," the book that set my heart and mind on fire for mysteries.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?


The Reigning Monarchs

26. What did you want and get?

Silence and health.

27. What did you want and not get?

Discipline and diligence.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

I don't really remember what I saw in the theater this year. So, meh. My favorite movie I saw this year, even though it was made a few years ago is Tarsem's "The Fall" -- aMAZing.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I think it was just another day, maybe a special dinner? I turned 36.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

A full-time permanent job.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

Casual preppy.

32. What kept you sane?



Lots and lots of alone time. (Also:"alone time.") Singing. Quiet. Driving.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Toni Braxton, on account of my long-standing fascination and her recent divorce proceedings? I think?

34. What political issue stirred you the most?



Healthcare, I guess; war, maybe? But I don't really get stirred all that much.

35. Who did you miss?



Hmm. I kind of keep in touch with the people that I would "miss."

36. Who was the best new person you met?



I think I met Sacha and Bill just this year, so I'm going with Sacha and Bill.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.



Do it, and do it now.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.



"[Despite all manner of horrifically bad important stuff or, you know, whatever], it is well with my soul."

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Little Night (Or Day, Depending On When You Read This) Music

So. This year, with my finances being what they are (or, perhaps more accurately, With my finances being what they are not), I had to get creative with my gift-giving. One of the gifts I gave my parents for Christmas was a CD with a few songs I sang myself. I had to rig up a recording studio in the basement and I don't have actual recording equipment for singing, so the audio quality is not so hot, but I thought I'd share a couple of the songs from the CD with you here.

This first one is my favorite hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness. I figured, instead of just singing the melody, I'd sing it as a three-part piece. So, here is Great Is Thy Faithfulness, sung by me, and me, and me:



This other one is also a churchy song, but a more contemporary one. I've been listening a lot to K-LOVE on the radio lately (101.9FM in Indianapolis, which used to be something else I was pre-set to, but then it changed and I have so many damn pre-set buttons that I never really got around to changing it and it turns out I don't need to change it because I like it.) Anyway, they play this song a lot. It's Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus), by Chris Rice, only this one is Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus) by me and a karaoke track:



In conclusion, if you think my performances suck, please to be keeping that to yourself. If you enjoy them, please feel free to smother me with compliments.

Oh, hey, if you're reading this on Facebook, the audio embeds might not make it through the auto-import process. Click here to hear what all the fuss is about.

¡Feliz Naviblah!

It's an oldie* but a goodie. (*In fact, it may be a duplicatie; have I posted this here before?)

But I'd like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! Or, en español, ¡Feliz Naviblah!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lookin' good, part 2 (Cutest niece & nephew EVER!)

Got some more pics of Madelynn and Owen from their dad today. Madelynn actually took the two of Owen on the right. Pretty cool, huh?!

Click to embiggen, etc.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lookin' good

Madelynn and Owen had some professional photos done recently. Here's a couple samples:

Monday, December 14, 2009

D'oh! A deer, a female...woman?

OK, this is weird. Please stick with me. 

You know those little ripped-from-my-headlines character-development stories I've been writing lately? I was writing one this evening, based on an experience in Chicago this morning after my [TOP SECRET THING I'M NOT ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT]. What's below is how far I got before doing some research. After you read the story, which maybe still needs an ending, check out what I just learned.

The woman in black stood out on the platform precisely because she stood perfectly still. As we all waited for the train, she was in her own quiet time zone, utterly, effortlessly.

She didn't fuss with her make-up, or a book, or a text message. She didn't pace back and forth like the rest of us, looking for the lights, listening for the brakes, straining not to taste the wind of the oncoming train. She wasn't waiting for the train at all; she seemed to have been assured the train was coming just for her.

We boarded the train -- we, on the train's schedule; the train, on her schedule -- and headed north toward Howard, although I doubt many of us actually went all the way to Howard. I certainly didn't, and just as certainly neither did she, for we both got off at Clark and Division, just two stops up from where we started. Hardly worth the $2.25, but better than an $8 cab ride, I guess.

I'd been watching her quite guilelessly for about five minutes. Either she didn't notice, or she didn't care. I guess, looking back now, 12 hours later, I remember that she had long blonde hair, but can you believe that's all I remember? Well, that and her shoeprint.

This beautiful young woman with long blonde hair exited the train in front of me, and I followed her up the escalator, around the corner, and up the grimy, snow-dirtied steps to the sidewalk on Division Street. I trailed, curious and entranced, a few steps behind. As she glided up the steps two at a time, her shoes left the most remarkable pattern in the wet urban muck. I swear to you, it looked like
deer tracks. The footprints she left in the mud and the dirt and the grit on the subway stairs looked exactly like the tracks of a doe.

I don't remember which way the blonde woman walked, because I was trying to figure out what kind of shoes could have made those prints as she bounded up the steps.

But she sure was memorable.
OK, so, like, nice story, right? Even though it needs an ending, maybe.

BUT! This is where it gets superweird. I thought to myself, "I need to know more about deer -- and more about women, for that matter -- to finish this story." And then: "I wonder if there's some sort of mythical 'deer woman' creature in, like, Greek mythology or Native American tradition." So I Google "deer woman" and holy ess, you guys, it's a real thing! (Or, at least, a real legend.)

I really did see a beautiful woman whose shoes left honest-to-God deer-track prints in the dirt today. And she was kind of hypnotic and seductive without really seeming to try

What do you make of this? Not enough sleep? Too much emotional roller coaster, thanks to [TOP SECRET THING I'M NOT ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT]? Just a coincidence?

All I'm saying is, I know what I saw...or at least I think I remember what I think I saw...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Holiday Magic, indeed.

My friend Lori Ecker was the headliner in "Lori Ecker's Holiday Magic" last night, and she did a wonderful job presenting a variety of holiday/inspirational music that delighted the ear and touched the heart.

The show took place at the Indianapolis Liederkranz, where I'd never been before. It is a kind of social club/arts organization founded in the 1800s by Germans who started a men's choir. (A ladies' choir was added in the late 1900s.) In keeping with the heritage of the place, there was lots of German food on hand, as well as many Teutonic peoples in the audience.

One such Teutonic person was one of Lori's special guests, a striking woman of a certain age named Anne LaPorte. She took the stage in a black dress with bright red sash and introduced the song she was about to sing, Ihr Kinderlein Kommet. The way she sang, slowly and sweetly and duskily and, at first, in German, communicated the Christmas carol in a different, somehow more meaningful way:
Ihr Kinderlein, kommet,
O kommet doch all!
Zur Krippe her kommet
In Bethlehems Stall.
Und seht was in dieser
Hochheiligen Nacht
Der Vater in Himmel
Für Freude uns macht.
And then she sang the first verse in English:
O come, little children,
O come, one and all,
O come to the manger
In Bethlehem's stall.
And see what our Father
On this holy night,
Has sent us from Heaven
For our pure delight.
And then, something happened. Something which, before I witnessed it, I would have said was the worst thing that could possibly happen to a performer: she forgot the words.

She had continued into the third verse in English. But after a few words, Anne LaPorte was silent. A couple beats later, she said, "What." Not a question, really, but rather a command, as if to say, "What. Words, come back to me." Only they didn't come back. 

The pianist trailed off elegantly, and Anne LaPorte admitted she'd forgotten the words. A few seconds of silence seemed like a lifetime.

But what happened next truly astonished me. 

I don't know if it was the fact that she was on her home stage among friends, or if German camaraderie has magical powers, or if it was a Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus miracle, or what. People started clapping, and someone in the back shouted "Sing it in German!" and then people clapped even more, and she did. And then she went right back into the verse she'd started in English, and all the words were there.

It was a wonderful rendition of the song, heartfelt and lovely, full of meaning and grace.

The weird thing is, I'm not sure it would have been as great if she hadn't forgotten the words. If she'd been perfect all the way through, it would have been a nice song. Perfectly...nice. But our shared experience of imperfection, support, grace, and celebration made it something even bigger.

Not to turn this into a sermon or anything, but I really think (and desperately hope) that our failings -- or, rather, the ways we support each other through them -- are our best opportunities to show the best of who we really are. 

May we not simply forgive each other's failings but, indeed, celebrate each other through them, in spite of them -- because of them! -- this holiday season and throughout the year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

It's been too long since I've been regularly posting, so I'm going to try to get back into the swing of things, even if it means relying on the Imagination Prompt Generator for blogging topics.

I hit the button just now, and here's what came up:

Make a list of five ways you've changed in the last five years. 
What changes do you wish to make in the next five years?

I believe, of course, that if you asked my family or friends that question about me, they might come up with a different response to Part A, but here are my answers:
  1. I think probably the clearest change in me over the last five years would be a stronger connection to church. I am more churchy now than I've ever been, and also more connected to God. (I know for a fact that those two things aren't necessarily the same.) I spend a lot of time volunteering at St. Luke's (check the new website!), and I spend more time in prayer and meditation than I ever did. This has led me to build many strong relationships with new friends; unfortunately, it seems also to have cost me a friendship or two.
  2. I've discovered the joy of singing. It was 6 years ago that I was sitting at a church event in St. Catharines, Ontario, when a woman I'd never met before tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me, do you sing in the choir at Mountainview [the church I was attending at the time]?" When I said, "Um, no," she said, "Well, you should be." So I joined the choir -- which I had been thinking about doing -- and singing has been a fun and fulfilling activity I've enjoyed ever since. In fact, I may even get back into voice lessons at some point and maybe even have a recital.
  3. I've become less and less uptight about time & deadlines. Considering I'm kind of in a job search right now, it may be unwise to share this, but it's a noticeable change. After my first trip to West Africa, deadlines and timelines and the associated stress pretty much slipped off my radar. This is more vexing for others than for me, but I'm trying to be sensitive and not be too, too, too laidback, time-wise.
  4. I'm not sure whether this one's associated with #1, but I think I've become more judgmental -- or, perhaps worded better, I'm the same level of judgmental, but I've become less apologetic for it. I'm more willing to call idiotic behavior "idiotic" -- whether in others or myself. 
  5. I've become WAY more kid-friendly. If you had told me 5 years ago that I would be mannying for an 18-month-old boy (including diaper changes!), I would have told you that you were clinically insane. But now, with Madelynn and Owen and Auggie (and Harmony, who is a four-year-old story for perhaps another time), I've become a ton more comfortable around kids. 
The second part of the question is trickier. Here are some of the changes I'd like to make over the next five years:
  • Develop a healthier lifestyle, fitness- and nutrition-wise. (There may be some developments in the coming weeks that could address that.)
  • Get a handle on my relationship with money, and figure that out so I'm a better steward of everything I've got.
  • Grow into a habit of writing every day.
  • Mature into my relationship with God in a way that includes daily prayer and devotional time.
Huh.

I just realized that all of those things have to do with developing better discipline. Maybe I ought to declare 2010 The Year of Discipline. (Sounds like a lot of fun, right?) But seriously -- I'm DONE with 2009; this has been pretty much the suckiest 12-month period of my life. If I can enter into 2010 with an appreciation of discipline -- what I will be able to do by specifically NOT doing other things -- I think I'll be able to make some good progress toward those positive changes.

How are YOU preparing to say goodbye (or see ya, or good riddance, or get the hell out) to 2009, and what are YOU looking forward to in 2010 and beyond?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

How time flies

It's been a while since I've shown you the awesome and adorable Madelynn and Owen. Therefore, here they are:

Madelynn

Owen

NOW what are you tweeting about?

I just happened across this old blog entry, which showcased a word cloud based on my tweets (from Twitter) about eight months ago. The things I tweeted about more are bigger:


So I decided to do another analysis, and here's what I found:


I'm unclear on the different time frames -- like, how far back the tweets go -- but what do you think about the comparison? What differences do YOU see?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Recital Dreams

My friend Maria is awesome. Here's proof:



If you're playing along at home (what game that would be, I don't know -- "Name! That! Opera!" maybe?), that's "Laughing Song" from "Die Fledermaus" -- the backstory is that Adele (whom Maria is portraying) is a chambermaid crashing a ball unauthorizedly, and in the course of the evening she is introduced to her employer and must explain away her striking resemblance to his maid. (Which she is.)

Maria's recital yesterday was great, and it showcased her talents in a range of genres. She sang ten songs total (I was able to stay for 6 before heading to be a part of the concert at St. Luke's), with some upbeat and some more ballad-y, some Broadway, some opera (English, French and Italian), and some folky, jazzy stuff. You can see more of Maria on her YouTube channel. (Maria and I met when I was in "Fiddler on the Roof" at St. Luke's.)

As these things are wont to do, Maria's recital got me thinking it would be fun to have a recital of my own. Here are ten songs I would sing at my recital, with my selection criteria being:
  • They sound good in my vocal range;
  • They match my worldview;
  • I know all the words; and
  • I tried to pick a variety so they're not all the same style.
Here goes:
  1. Ave Maria (Bach, not Schubert)
  2. Let It Be
  3. Love Letters
  4. His Eye Is On The Sparrow
  5. Grow Old Along With Me
  6. Contigo En La Distancia
  7. Time Heals Everything from Mack & Mabel (probably in a lower key and with less cleavage than Bernadette Peters)
  8. A New Life from Jekyll & Hyde
  9. I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket
  10. Major-General's Song from Pirates of Penzance
So if I ever pull a recital together, you're invited. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

One Step at a Time

"Attention, ladies and gentlemen. It is now 9:00. The library is closed."

I grab my computer and stuff it in my bag, toss my jacket over my shoulder, and head down to the car.

At the top of the steep stairs, I glance down and see a man -- about my age, about my height, about my weight -- already halfway down to the first floor. He's taking the stairs one at a time, with both feet on this stair before moving on to that next one. He doesn't seem to be favoring one leg or the other, just taking his time down the stairs.

Two steps per stair: right foot, left foot. Right foot, left foot. Right foot ... wait for it ... left foot.

I don't know if he has a long-term injury, or a chronic medical condition, or a physical disability, or a mental impairment of some sort. But his approach to the stairs is just different enough to knock me out of my head and -- I don't know why -- it rocks my world.

I'm curious why somebody so like me would do something so unlike me. In light of recent events, I decide not to strike up a conversation with him, but since I'm following him out to the parking lot, I watch and try to figure out more of his story.

He takes short and quick, but careful, steps in the long lobby hallway, and when he gets to the exit, he uses one of the manual doors, not the Automatic, push-button-operated one. After pausing on the sidewalk to let a couple cars drive past, he ultimately short-quick-careful-steps his way to a sensible, nondescript sedan parked in a non-Handicapped spot.

His passenger seems to have been waiting for him for some time; she can barely contain her excited yips and enthusiastic barks when -- at last! -- he opens the car door.

I'm watching from across the parking lot, so I can't see his face, but when he greets the dog, his whole body is smiling; if he had a tail, it would surely be wagging as much as hers.

He pats her head and runs his hand down her golden fur, from her collar to her wiggling butt. Pulling something from his pocket, he invites her into the front seat, where she sits patiently, until the deal is sealed with a treat.

As they drive past me, I can tell that he's talking to her, though I've no idea what he's telling her.

Probably a story about the weird guy who just followed him out of the library and into the parking lot.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Ankfulness of Thankfulness

I'm over "an attitude of gratitude" as the Thanksgiving catchphrase. Help me spread "an ankfulness of thankfulness" as the new cliche, won't you?

It’s 4:30 on a busy afternoon, but I’m between meetings, so I duck into the church to steal reallocate some wi-fi and get some work done. The wi-fi I steal reallocate is down the hall from the Children’s Wing, so I grab a seat in the big, comfy chair (which, for me, is the slightly-smaller-than-comfortable, comfy chair). I glance across the way and see a large cartoon turkey in front of the words “WE ARE THANKFUL!” On the turkey’s many-colored feathers, kids have written the things they’re thankful for. It looks like this:


“I’m thankful for my brother and sisters,” says one feather. “I’m thankful for candy,” another honestly asserts. “Blue,” says another – creatively, yet somewhat cryptically. “I’m thankful for my bike,” “I’m thankful for my family,” and, hilariously, “Ester, Dad, Tron and Mom.” (I can only guess who Tron is, but bravo for naming your child/pet/whatever “Tron.”)


One of the cool things about kids is that gratitude comes so easily to them. If you ask a kid what he’s thankful for, he’s got a list as long as his arm, because everything is special. Dinner at McDonald’s is the Coolest. Thing. Ever! A trip to the park is an adventure in the making. A hug can mean the world.

But too often, we adults let things get in the way of that enjoyment. I, specifically, allow all kinds of distractions to get in the way. Lately, one major distraction has been regret about things that I’ve done and haven’t done that have led me to hurt others.

So, even though I’m not adding my own feather to the turkey on the wall at church, I am, right here and now, sharing that what I’m most thankful for this year is the forgiveness that is so freely given by family and friends, who love me in spite of the things I’ve done or not done. I hope that I am as forgiving and loving as the parents and brother God gave me and the tons of awesome family and friends that I’ve met along the way.

I’m still working on the whole “forgiving myself” thing; that’ll take some time. But I guess I’ll need something to be thankful for next year, right?



This post is part of the "Indy Tweetsgiving 2009: Change the World with Gratitude" collection of blog posts aimed at two things: (1) celebrating what we're thankful for and (2) raising money for worthy causes.

You want to learn more, and therefore you will click here.


And if you want to make a donation to support a dormitory/orphanage, library, school, cafeteria and additional classrooms for a school in Tanzania and future change makers and social entrepreneurs in less fortunate conditions, you can DONATE NOW BY CLICKING HERE.

Bottom line:
  • Be thankful for something.
  • Donate at any time here or by using the fancy widget below.
  • There will be a tweetup (that is, a meet-up of Twitter folks) on Tuesday, November 24, at Scotty's Brewhouse downtown from 5:00 to 9:00pm. You can make a cash donation in person AND Scotty's Brewhouse will be donating 10% of sales that evening to the cause.










Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Running on Empty

Is an individual's leadership a renewable resource?

This has been a crazy few weeks, with events at church, and stuff going on with Freewheelin' Bikes and stuff going on with Motus Dance Theatre, and just life in general. I feel like I've been on a treadmill, playing catch-up while also balancing work and all the other things going on.

I recently made the decision to end my term on both Freewheelin's and Motus's boards of directors at the end of December. This will be the first time in almost five years that I won't be on the board of directors of a community not-for-profit. And while it was a difficult decision, it was clearly the right one. 

Lately, I've felt like my ability to contribute to the two organizations has been compromised -- time-wise, certainly money-wise, and enthusiasm-wise. I've found it harder and harder to sit through board meetings as I've lost touch with the original reason I decided to support the orgs, and I've felt increasingly out of phase with the rest of the board members, like they knew something I didn't, or their vision for the future was different from my own.

But all this has really led me to wonder: Is leadership like a fossil fuel? Do we, as individuals, ever run out of leadership? Or is it always in us, just differently focused at different times in our lives and in different circumstances? 

Am I all out of leadership? Am I all out of leadership for now? Or is it just time to focus on other things for a while? I mean, I'll still be showing leadership at church (as the chair of Member Care, leading us through this whole discussion), so I hope I'm not completely leadership-dry. 

But what do you think? Do you think leadership comes and goes? Is it "once a leader, always a leader" or do we have a finite quantity within us? Or is that even the right vocabulary to use in talking about leadership?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Publically Conversing: Spirit & Place and Me

This afternoon, St. Luke's hosted the closing event for the Spirit & Place Festival, a ten-day series of events designed to encourage collaborations and other programmatic intersections of the arts, humanities, and religion. The 2009 theme for Spirit & Place was "Inspiring Places."

Today's public conversation, heralded as the climax of this year's festival, sounded great in concept: bring together two nationally known public leaders -- former four-term mayor of Indianapolis Bill Hudnut and current mayor of Braddock, PA, John Fetterman -- and have noted Indiana author Scott Russell Sanders lead them in a discussion about "place." Then, engage in a "sonic exploration of space" with a half dozen local choirs performing sacred music in a variety of settings.

Unfortunately, the pay-off was only about 50% -- from my perspective, the conversation part was "meh," but the musical part was really very good. (Full disclosure: I was an active participant in the musical part.)

Mayor Hudnut is smart and articulate, and he did a lot of good for the City of Indianapolis, but I found him to be arrogant and dismissive, prone to oneupsmanship and name-dropping. Mayor Fetterman is innovative and committed, and the people of Braddock are lucky to have him, but I found him to be surly and inaccessible (although, to be fair, if I had to share the stage with Mayor Hudnut, I might shut down noticeably, too).

But I did learn a lot today. Want to hear it? Here it goes:
  • Events with three VIPs never run on time, especially when two of the three VIPs like to hear themselves talk.
  • I would not be interested in dinner or drinks or coffee or whatever with any of the three men engaged in this afternoon's public conversation.
  • As I get older I have a much lower tolerance for pomposity than I used to.
  • As I get older I have a much lower tolerance for surliness than I used to.
  • As I get older I have a much lower tolerance for arrogance than I used to.
  • If you've told a joke more than 1,000 times over the last 40 years, you still have to tell it right if you want people to laugh.
  • If you're trying to be folksy, you are not actually folksy.
  • Neither Mayor Fetterman nor Mayor Hudnut thinks highly of Facebook or Twitter, and they shared their opinions freely and derisively, despite the repeated mentions of a "Twitter section" at the event.
  • I am either far less smart than I think I am or far more smart than I think I am, and I will probably never, ever stopping asking, "How did I get myself into this?"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Squeeee! a little bit -- a celebratory update in two acts

ACT I

Yeah, so. Remember this? Well, excitement is brewing. More later, as I'm able, which may or may not be ever. But still.

Therefore, Squeeeee! the first.

ACT II

Also, remember this? I came in 41st out of the Top 50 Blogs in Indiana! Here's the proof:

Top50Badge

I actually came in tied for 40th with the awesome, strategic, entrepreneurial Lorraine Ball, but because of the scoring, she got 40th, and I got 41st. Regardless, I'm very much like Mike Wazowski in Monsters, Inc: "I'm on a MAGAZINE COVER!"

Therefore, Squeeeee! the second.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Couple of pics: Owen & Madelynn

I visited with my awesome nephew, Owen, and my awesome niece, Madelynn, on Halloween.

Owen was a dinosaur:


Madelynn was a jack-o-lantern:


And here's a freebie of Owen playing ball, if by "playing ball," you mean "mercilessly, yet adorably, gnawing on the ball."


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

"I like Pablo Neruda."

8:36 on a Tuesday night. I've been moving stuff into my self-storage unit, and I feel like I've earned a treat. Fortunately, my go-to treat, Mr. Gyros, is right around the corner.

The place is deserted when I walk in, just me, the Greek-American lady behind the counter whom I've nicknamed The Daughter-In-Law, and the two Hispanic kitchen workers whom, it strikes me with some shame, I have never even given nicknames. 

I get my regular order (a #1 and a #96 -- gyros platter with fries and drink, side of feta cheese) and, ignoring NCIS on the mounted TV, sit down with my book to decompress and focus on me for a bit.

I'm about a third of the way through my gyros -- which, in accordance with the directions on the door, I pronounce "yee-ros" -- when he walks in. Except he doesn't really walk in; rather, he does what I've recently learned is called "the pimp limp." A young African-American man, early 20s, I guess, wearing what I estimate to be $300 jeans, an elaborately embroidered black and gold oversized jacket, and what I can only assume are shoes that cost as much as my car payment.

After some discussion with The Daughter-In-Law, he orders: a #1 like me, but instead of feta, he opts for a #78 -- chili-cheese fries. (Did you know "chili-cheese fries" in Spanish is pronounced "chili-cheese fries"? At least, that's how The Daughter-In-Law rattled it off to the kitchen staff, mixed in with other actual Spanish.)

He waits patiently for his order, gets his drink, and takes his tray to sit down. Right across from me at my table. At. My. Table.

And if that's not weird enough, he says -- honest to God, he says this -- "I like Pablo Neruda."

What the whatnow?

"I'm sorry?" I say, through a mouthful of fries, Diet Pepsi, and astonishment.

"I like Pablo Neruda. You look like a guy who would know who that is."

Come on.

"Oh, right. One Hundred Years of Solitude." 

"Naw, man. That's Gabriel García Márquez." His eyes narrow and then widen with his growing, knowing smile. "But you know that, don't you?"

Of course, I do know that. But I'll be damned if I can remember anything Neruda produced. For some reason, I do not want to disappoint this young man who believes that I know about the Chilean author whose work he professes to like.

"Whatchu readin'?" he asks, mercifully changing the subject.

When I show him Answering Your Call, he asks if I'm a preacher. 

"Uh, no," I reply with a smile. I get that a lot.

"A, um, whatchacallit, a rabbi?"

"Nope."

"I know you're not a priest, though."

"How do you know that?"

"I can just tell. So why are you reading that book about call for?"

"Because I believe that everybody has a spark of God in them, and we're here to fulfill a special purpose that God wants us to discover. Our job is to line up all the gifts God gave us, figure out what we're supposed to do with them, and then do it. I'm learning about how people do that."

"What's your call, then?" 

"I dunno. That's why I'm reading the book."

He laughs, sticks out his enormous right hand for me to shake, and introduces himself: Jamarcus Shawn Headley IV. When he says "the Fourth" it appears to be with great pride in his heritage. I'm reminded of "The Lion King" for some reason.

I tell him my name, and he says I'm the first Scott whose hand he ever shook. 

"Scott," he says. "What do you think my call might be?"

"Hard for me to say, having just met you. But I bet part of you already knows," I reply. "There are probably some areas of your life or activities that really flow for you. Those might be clues to your call. But really, it's different for everybody. And you might have different calls throughout your life. At least, that's what I think."

"Huh. Never thought of myself like that before, like God has something special in mind, just for me. Glad I sat down here."

We talk a little more about call and God and life, and we finish our meal. As he's preparing his tray for the trashcan, he looks at me -- with what, in any other person, I would call a twinkle in his eye, but Jamarcus Shawn Headley the Fourth clearly does not twinkle -- and he revisits the beginning of our conversation.

"Scott," he says, "do you know one damn thing about Pablo Neruda?"

"I do not," I confess. "Other than the fact that he was a writer. From Chile, I think, but I could be wrong."

"No, you got that, you got that. He wrote this one book called Twenty Poems of Love and a Song of Despair. It's good. Wanna hear one?"

I nod, and he recites, from memory:
The truth is in the prologue. Death to the romantic fool,
to the expert in solitary confinement,
I'm the same as the teacher from Colombia,
the rotarian from Philadelphia, the merchant
from Paysandu who save his silver
to come here. We all arrive by different streets,
by unequal languages, at Silence.
"Pretty good, huh?" he asks, meaning the poem.

"Yeah," I say, meaning his reciting of it.

"Well," he says. "I think in this poem, Silence is a symbol for Death. But on this evening, Silence is what I need to think about my call and go through in my head what we just talked about. Good night, First Scott I Ever Shook Hands With."

"Good night, Jamarcus Shawn Headley the Fourth," I say. "Be well, keep reading, and listen hard."

His hand dwarfs mine again in a parting handshake, and he heads off into the Indianapolis evening.

Monday, November 09, 2009

She really was quite beautiful.

He was driving downtown for, of all things, a co-worker's organ recital. Like, a recital on a church organ. He supposed it was an important church organ, or his co-worker was an important organist, or maybe it was the anniversary of some important composer's birth and/or death or whatever.

He fed the first available parking meter and started walking the three blocks to the cathedral. It was exactly 12:06; four minutes until the recital was to start.

Half dreading the concert, half welcoming the retreat from the everyday, completely lost in his thoughts and walking on autopilot, he actually didn't hear her the first time she spoke to him.

"I'd like your wallet, please," is what she said the second time, the time he heard her. He had no idea what she said the first time.

"Mmmmmm, not today, thank you," was his reply. A couple years living in Chicago had taught him the most effective brush-off for the homeless ("Mmmmmm, not today...") and his parents had raised him right ("...thank you").

He kept walking.

"I said, I'd like your wallet, please," she repeated, making him think that's probably what she had said the first time, the time he hadn't heard her. And to further emphasize her point, she raised her right hand, the one with the gun.

He'd never seen a gun being held threateningly like that. Hilariously, so mindful was he of the recital's 12:10 starting time, that it was only then -- when she made with the gun-pointing -- that he stopped walking. The downtown traffic stopped and started with the changing reds and greens, and a couple other pedestrians walked past them on the sidewalk, but it was as though they were the only two people in the world. 

Just them. Them, and the gun.

He looked at her, really looked. She was quite beautiful.

He guessed she had not stayed anywhere with a shower for at least the last couple days, but she was quite beautiful. Her curly auburn hair was unruly, and her clothes were wrinkled and torn, but she was quite beautiful. Tears and snot and smeared make-up streaked her face, and her knuckles were scabbed and bruised, but she was quite beautiful.

"But I need my wallet. And there's not very much in it, anyway," he said as he pulled it from his pocket and showed her its contents.

Her mouth fell open. He wondered if she was surprised that her approach might be working, or surprised that he had objected at all in the first place, or surprised at how little really was in the wallet: a few bills (all ones), a couple credit cards, a library card, and a driver's license.

He took out all the cash -- seven one-dollar bills -- and handed it to her. "I'm sorry it's not more," he said. "But it's the best I can do right now. Maybe it'll help? But I really do need the rest of this."

"Yeah," she said.

"Yeah," he replied, echoing her tone almost exactly. "I need to go now."

He turned and walked toward the cathedral; she turned and walked the other way.

She really was quite beautiful, he thought.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

You Should Totally Come: FREE BREAKFAST ON THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19

Hey, readers! As you may know, I'm one of the founding board members of Freewheelin' Community Bikes, an Indianapolis bike shop where kids learn about bicycle repair and maintenance and, in the process, earn a bike of their own. I'd like to invite you to join me at my table at our breakfast event for Freewheelin’, scheduled for Thursday, November 19, 2009, from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. at Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, 418 E. 34th Street (34th and Central).

This is a free breakfast for you to learn more about Freewheelin'...and, yes, it is a fundraiser! The Freewheelin’ leadership will make a request from the podium. But you have no obligation to donate. No one will personally ask you. We simply wish to make you aware of the inspiring work being done at Freewheelin’ as we use bicycles to bring out the best in people and our community.

The program will start promptly at 7:30 and you have my guarantee that we will finish by 8:30.

I very much hope that you will join me. If you're interested in learning more about Freewheelin' firsthand after watching the video below, please let me know that you will attend the free breakfast. And if you can't attend the breakfast but would like to make a donation to support the organization's great work with great kids, shoot me an email at SSSemester@yahoo.com, and I'll tell you how to do that, too!



If you're reading this on Facebook, click here to watch the awesome video!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

You Should Totally Come: THIS THURSDAY AT ST. LUKE'S

If you are going to be in Indianapolis this Thursday night, you should totally come to a free dinner at St. Luke's United Methodist Church. Butler Men's Basketball Coach Brad Stevens will talk about his journey from the world of business to the world of collegiate coaching and why he and his family are part of the St. Luke's community.

Anyone who is not a registered member of St. Luke's is invited to come to this complimentary dinner and be inspired by Brad Stevens and our entertainment, which will include special music from Ken Knowles and -- for better or for worse -- me!

I'd love for you to come as my guest. If you're not already a member and want to come, just let me know and I can RSVP for you, or you can RSVP directly to Sylvia (info below). If you are a St. Luke's member, then join us as our guest by bringing a friend, neighbor, relative or colleague who doesn't currently have a church home -- just RSVP to Sylvia with your name and your guests' names, and we'll make sure we've got a seat saved for you!

Non-Members: This is one way we'd like to invite you into our faith family and see what makes St. Luke's the community it is. There will be information available about St. Luke's and how to become a member, but you can expect NOT to be subjected to a hard sell. We'll do way more showing than telling, and we're just eager to share a meal with you and invite you into our spiritual home.

Members: If you invite a friend who can't come to the dinner, you should come anyway, and tell us about your friend so we might reach out to them with information about St. Luke's and invite them to consider uniting with our faith family.

Call Sylvia at 846-3404 or e-mail her at ForbesS@StLukesUMC.com to RSVP and arrange for childcare during the dinner, if needed.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Decades in, we haven't mastered "netiquette"

The ways we treat each other online are still catching up with the ways we treat each other in real life.

Over on the IndyStar.com, anonymous commenters consistently appall me with their insensitivity, racism, and other forms of general jerkiness.* From deriding a car thief who died in progress to reviling each other as conservatives and/or liberals, haters and fools and boors of all stripes pollute the Indy Star and the rest of the Interwebotron with negativity and vitriol in a way that, one would hope, they would never do in real life.

I guess a comment system that links the user to a profile with some sort of verification (and a picture) would mitigate this to some degree. But that would also drastically reduce comment traffic. (See Also: The Great Indiana Blog Contest Debate, in which the merits of voting anonymously are pitted against the merits of a voter registration system.**)

But I shake my fist at "Kids today!" not just for spewing forth things that we'd never say to each other in person or for running two simultaneously irrelevant blog voting contests.*** For me, it's also about how we make and accept apologies. A couple times in the last week, I've apologized (via Twitter) to people whom I have offended (via Twitter) -- once for holding steadfastly to an opinion, once for stupidly wording something and not realizing what an insensitive jag it made me look like. The details of my offenses (one, not really an offense and the other, an unintentional but real faux pas) are inconsequential, but I'll share them with you if you're curious.

What I'm interested in here and now is that I apologized, using the words, "I seem to have offended you and I apologize" in one case and "You're right; I'm sorry" in the other. But in neither case did the person or persons acknowledge the apology. Which, by the way, is not cool. How hard would it have been for the person to tweet, "Thanks" or "I appreciate it" or whatever?

It just goes to illustrate (for the 4,512,209,115th time in my life) that I am different from other people. I guess people use the Interwebotron for different reasons than I do. In the cases of the Indy Star commenters and the Twitter people I apologized to, I really got the sense that the others were looking to pick a fight, and I'm not really into that.

OK, I'm done for now. This is the part where you rail me with hilariously ironic fight-picking comments in three, two, one...GO!


* "General Jerkiness" was one of the rejected character names for Star Wars Episode -3: No, Really, This All Happened Before All That, a claymation homage to George Lucas now in production at Mom's Basement Studios. Barry Dunman, Blockbuster Clerk and Level 18 Elf Wizard, is directing.

** Also: Vote for my blog -- anonymously! -- here. Click the little teeny word "VOTE" under the number of votes I currently have.

*** But, seriously, vote for my blog.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

AutobioGraphic Content

Over on the Imagination Prompt Generator (I'm dry on blog ideas, can you tell?), one of the recommendations was: Brainstorm 10 titles to your autobiography. By which I think they mean "Brainstorm 10 titles for your autobiography" but, you know, po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

Here goes:
  1. To Err Is Humor: Getting to funny, in spite of myself
  2. Club 84, "Fat Man, Big Belly" & Other Adventures Along the Way: Tales of travel and merriment
  3. Apologize Early and Often: Learning and learning and learning
  4. A Perfectly Lovely Runner-Up: Second place, but not in an angry, second-place-is-first-loser sort of way
  5. Faithfully Humorous, Humorously Faithful
  6. Hopefully Naïve: The Inexplicable Achievements of the Inexhaustibly Enthusiastic
  7. Robert E. Lee ≠ Ron Ely and Other Things I Learned, Hilariously, In Fifth Grade
  8. A Cautionary Tale: The Life and Times of Scott S. Semester
  9. A Semester with Scott (submitted by the tweanut gallery, aka my Twitter friends)
  10. I Am Mostly Kidding

To smile or not to smile

I don't think I've posted this, have I?



Anyway, this is the picture I referenced here. My friend Julie posted this to her Facebook albums a while back, but I can't remember if I ever shared it here.

For a while in 2000 or 2001, this was the most recent picture of me, the one that I was terrified would be the photo that would be used on the evening news over the words "Missing Person" or "Northside Homicide," or, you know, "Donut Hut Tragedy" or whatever. My deep, abiding fear was that if I were ever abducted or otherwise the victim of foul play and/or lethal circumstance, the newsfile picture of me would be the above.

The problem, of course, is that almost every picture of me has me looking similarly cheesy. Therefore, I'm pretty much convinced that if I am ever abducted/murdered/maimed in a hilarious donut bakery accident, the file picture of me is just going to make people laugh out loud, rather than feeling urgency to find me/sadness that my life was cut too short/curiosity as to whether part of me was in the donut they ate that morning.

My friend Sonja took a bunch of pictures of me a couple months ago, and I wasn't really allowed to smile in them. I used one of them as my Twitter profile picture for a while but ultimately switched back to the more washed-out but also more smiley pic I had been using, because I like my face a lot better when it's smiling.

I guess when I get my Driver's License renewed in a few years, I'm not allowed to smile in the picture. This will be decidedly vexing for me, as (a) my natural impulse in front of a camera is to show off the teeth that Mom and Dad Semester spent lots of money to keep clean and cavity-free, and (b) I will very much miss the woman at the Virginia Avenue license branch who, a second before snapping my pic for my last license said, "Show me that Tom Cruise smile. Flash me them pearly whites, baby!"

Which was awesome.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

It's a popularity contest! And I want to be popular!

On Twitter recently, I've seen a bunch of folks soliciting votes for themselves and their blogs in the Top50IndianaBlogs.com contest. This struck me as odd, as I had seen another Indiana blog competition (Linking Indiana? Or something?) recently, too. Do we need multiple Indiana blog competitions running simultaneously? (Correct answer: We do not.)

But, being the sporting chap that I am, I clicked over and started exploring. Since I hadn't updated my blog in three weeks and had kind of gotten out of the rhythm of posting, you can imagine my surprise when I found out that I was a nominee. You can vote for me in one of the contests!

When I first looked at the Top50IndianaBlogs page, I was ranked 52nd out of the couple hundred Indiana blogs in the Top50 contest. Now, if I had been 98th or 72nd or even 55th, I would have hmphed it off and forgotten about it. But being so close to the Top50 ignited the dormant, yet ever-present competitive spirit within me. 

So, if you've gotten something out of my blog and would like to vote for me, click here, make sure it's my blog "Scott Semester - All I'm Saying" and then just click VOTE under the number of votes to add your support. And maybe leave a comment on this post or on that site, and let me know what you get out of this blog.

I know I won't win 1st place, but it's fun to be in contention for the Top50. Let's see how far up the rankings I might get!

The hot beverage that changed my life (and I am mostly not kidding)

The other night, I got to enjoy something I've waited my whole life to discover: Café Orzo.

This is not a paid endorsement, although I did get the sample for free from my my awesome friend Naomi, aka Fontina, aka my Briscoe Quad partner in Lawrence Welk crime. (Don't ask.)

Café Orzo brews like coffee, but it's made from roasted barley, so it's caffeine-free. I actually had an Orzo-latte, with lots of milk and sugar, and it was delicious. Not sticky sweet like hot cocoa, not heavy bitter like coffee, just mellow and sweet and yummy.

Caffe d'orzo is apparently a mainstay of Italian warmbeveragery. Why it's taken so long for it to get to the States, I have no idea. Because OMGoodness, it is delizioso: warm, strong, and soothing.

Naomi had told me that she thought Café Orzo with milk and sugar tasted kind of like Frosted Mini Wheats, and I'd have to agree. It took my taste buds a second to process it all, but the Orzo-latte was awesome! I literally drank, like, ten cups of Orzo-latte on Tuesday night.

I'll DEFINITELY be ordering some more and sharing with friends...reluctantly, though, because I want to save it all for me! But, in the immortal words of Levar Burton, you don't have to take my word for it. Watch Omar drink some caffe d'orzo in Italia.

Whoops!

Oh, my gosh, y'all! Remember the promise I made here? Yeah, it hasn't been two weeks since my last blog post -- it's been THREE weeks since my last blog post! 

The prevailing theories are that Twitter and Facebook have diverted my blogging attention of late, and I must admit that that's probably the case, but also, you know, a lot going on, feeling kind of blue, etc. So, three things:
  1. You should get a Twitter account and follow me.
  2. Assuming you're not reading this on Facebook, we should be Facebook friends. So get a Facebook account and friend me.
  3. I promise to try to do better about updating ye olde blogge. In the meantime, here is a video of a 4-year-old kid reciting the Herb Brooks pre-game speech from Miracle:

Thursday, October 01, 2009

THE CUBE OMGOMGOMGOMG!

The nice man over at BuzzerBlog has indicated that FOX has picked up the hit UK gameshow "The Cube" for a run in 2010.

I am literally begging you to tell me if you have ANY indication about casting for this program. I would do pretty much anything to be on it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Best. Google search string. Ever!

The little gadget at the bottom of the lefthand column of this blog (not if you're reading it on Facebook) indicates where people are coming from when they visit the blog and, often, how they got here.

This evening, someone Googled the following phrase and ended up here:
"could be a crackhead that got hold to the wrong stuff and it told him to get up in a tree and play a leprechaun"
Of course, they were referring to this famous news story from, of all places, Alabama, which I posted to my blog back in January of 2007:



Super Mario theme, with lyrics? I think?



Courtesy of the Back of the Cereal Box blog, this video reveals the long lost lyrics to the Super Mario Brothers theme song, performed by a Japanese Mariska Hargitay. (I know, I know, she looks nothing like Mariska Hargitay, just like you say Adam Lambert doesn't look like Mindy Cohn.)

All I'm saying is domo arigato, Japanese Mariska Hargitay.

Domo. (Domo.) Domo. (Domo.)

The State of the Scott, September 2009

Inspired by -- but by no means comparing myself to -- Nicholas Felton's 2008 Annual Report, I thought I'd maybe do a progress report of my own. It's not as graphically compelling, but it'll give me a chance to reflect and maybe share something interesting about me that you didn't already know.

PHYSICAL

Age: 36 years, two months, 8 days
Height: 5'9" (but my driver's license says 5'10" for some reason)
Weight: 238 pounds
Body Mass Index: 35.1

Blood Pressure: 124/78
Cholesterol: 190
Resting Heart Rate: 58 bpm, 10 minutes after waking

Most Frequent Exercise Activity: Yoga
Most Recent Exercise Activity: Cycled 12 miles in crazy wind in just under an hour

Ongoing Physical Symptoms: Tight left hamstring (remaining from herniated disc episode in 2002)


MENTAL/EMOTIONAL/RELATIONAL

IQ (as measured by this test): 142

Last Class Attended: Planned Giving at The Fund Raising School, IUPUI
Last Book Read: "Hellblazer/Dangerous Habits" by Garth Ennis
Favorite Book: "The Book of Qualities" by J. Ruth Gendler

Intellectual Pursuits: Poetry, trivia games, witty banter

Podcasts Subscribed To: 5
Podcast Most Frequently Listened To: "Comedy and Everything Else" with Todd Glass, Jimmy Dore, and Stefané Zamarano
Total Time Spent Listening To "Comedy and Everything Else" Podcast: 22 hours, 6 minutes

Song Most Frequently Played In My iTunes: "Ca, C'est l'Amour" by John Barrowman

Total Number of Tweets Since Joining Twitter On 4/27/08: 10,458
Twitter Rank (according to TwitterGrader): 55,507th out of 4,819,710 users
Number of Twitter Followers: 902
Number of People I'm Following On Twitter: 396

Number Of Facebook Friends: 498

Number Of Blog Posts Since 1/1/09: 148 (including this one)

Number Of Dates I Have Been On Since 1/1/09: 3, including 3 wedding dates
Target Number Of Dates For 2009: 0

Number Of Times Since 1/1/09 A Ridiculous Amount Of Money Has Been Proposed As A Gift To The Charity Of My Choosing In Exchange For A Date With Me: 1

Apparent Approximate Market Value Of A Date With Me: $10,000.00

Number Of Times I Actually Went On A Date In Exchange For $10,000.00 To The Charity Of My Choosing: 0

Ongoing Mental/Emotional Symptoms: Occasional loss of focus due to information overload, persistent self-doubt


VOCATIONAL

Number of Jobs Currently Working: 3
Number of Hours Working Each Week: about 28

Favorite Job: Center for Child & Family Therapy, babysitting this guy (tie)

Looking For: A permanent, full-time job that pays $50K+ per year and engages my skills in visionary leadership, persuasive communication, creative problem-solving, teambuilding, and fundraising

Ongoing Vocational Symptoms: Desire to be retired at age 36, financial inability to be retired at age 36


SPIRITUAL

Time in Prayer, Daily Average: 34 minutes
Time in Prayer, Aggregate Since 1/1/09: 154 hours, 21 minutes

Worship Services Attended Since 1/1/09: 57, most of them here

Commandments Observed Since 1/1/09: 8
Commandments Broken Since 1/1/09: 2
Commandment Broken Most Frequently: #3

Ongoing Spiritual Symptoms: Frustration when church gets in the way of my relationship with God


LEADERSHIP

Most Observable Leadership Strength: Enthusiasm, Vision (tie)
Most Observable Leadership Weakness: Naïveté

Nonprofit Boards Currently Serving: 2
Nonprofit Boards To Be Serving By 1/1/10: 1, at most

Leadership Roles At St. Luke's United Methodist Church: 3
Leadership Roles At St. Luke's United Methodist Church By 3/1/10: 1

Ongoing Leadership Symptoms: Overestimation of influence, underestimation of influence


OVERALL RANDOMNESS

Total Miles Driven In My 2007 Nissan Versa: 32,738
Miles Driven Since 1/1/09: 11,382
Gallons Of Gas Used Since 1/1/09: About 397

Number Of Times My "Hoedown Throwdown" Video Has Been Viewed: 255
Number Of Times My "Neti Pot" Video Has Been Viewed: 51
Number Of Times My "Dancing in Qatar" Video Has Been Viewed: 313

Words/Phrases That Have Been Used To Describe Me Lately:
  • Profoundly amazing
  • Nurturing
  • Ingenious
  • Verbose
  • Giving
  • Eater
  • Lion
  • Loyal
  • Laughter
  • Witty
  • Saucy! (exclamation theirs, not mine)
  • Wordsmithy
  • Thoughtful
  • Genuine
  • Sincere
  • Enthusiastic

Ongoing Overall Randomness Symptoms: Ongoing overall randomness

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bubby!

This is my nephew Owen, aka Bubby, as he approaches the ripe old age of 8 months:



I'm not sure there's any family resemblance:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What I'm Working On Right Now

I'm sharing this because you're interested in what I'm doing, and not at all because I'd like to mark for posterity the fact that this is the work of me and a few others, in case someone else at some point decides to write a book about it two years from now. [/sarcasm] 

Anyway.

We're working on a new model for membership at St. Luke's and the image below is from the conversation guide we'll be using over the next few months to facilitate discussion and develop a plan.




If you have any opinions, ideas, or insights about church membership, especially megachurch membership trends or insights for attracting younger individuals and families to very large churches, I'm all ears. Comment away!

Monday, September 14, 2009

So conflicted.

This Cheetos commercial is hilarious to me. ("Hola, Vanessa." "Hey, Rach." "It's Rachel.")


( If you're reading this on Facebook and want to watch the video, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgoDcCQZzIg )

Yet I also find it deeply disturbing. The entire offputting notion of "Papa Chester" in the role of Satan (complete with twitchy tail and pointy, horn-like ears), tempting us to do cheez-dusty Very Bad Things, is just too much for me. Not to mention the whole our-product-leaves-schmutz-on-your-fingers marketing choice. (Reclaim it, I guess...)

And I don't even know what to make of the man sunning himself in front of Papa Chester at the 0:14 mark...although he makes an appearance in another commercial in the Tempted By Chester series, this one starring young ingénue/object of nerd lust (ingénerd?) Felicia Day. I guess the suntanning man is some sort of cheez-puff minion or henchman, perhaps? 

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Things change, I guess.

When I was little -- like, four years old or so -- my family moved from Ohio to Florida. We lived in a suburb of Tampa called Brandon, before moving to Indiana in 1980. Here are the things I remember from my two years in Florida:
  • It was hot and humid. All the time.
  • My brother had a lava lamp in his room. One night when we were having a sleep over, I think with our cousin Karen who was down from Ohio to visit, we were laying in the dark, watching the lava-lampy pattern on the wall when it suddenly started to move more skitterishly and freaktastically. We chose to turn on the overhead light to discover a couple roaches -- like, huge roaches; Jurassic roaches -- had found their way into the house to terrorize us.
  • Our next-door neighbors had one or more English bulldogs who ended up dead in their swimming pool, because apparently English bulldogs can't swim and neighbors who are hicks can't figure out how to barricade off their swimming pool from their non-swimming dogs. (Literally, one of my more vivid memories of my time in Florida is of the little girl next door running from their house to ours, screaming -- and this is a direct, screamy quote -- "My English bulldog's dead! My English bulldog's dead! My English bulldog's dead!")
  • The other-side neighbors lived in a very cool, modern-architecture-looking house. I think they had a Doberman.
  • The across-the-street neighbors were awesome older folks who served almost as in loco grandparentis. I got birthday cards from Mrs. Harding for almost 30 years.
  • One time when playing tag at dusk, I was looking behind me at It and I looked ahead of me just in time to run forehead-first into a tree in our yard. I still remember how it jarred my head -- a genuine "thunk."
  • I went to preschool at Bell Shoals Baptist Church, which is now Bell Shoals Baptist megachurch. At Bell Shoals Preschool, I learned the song that you may have heard me perform previously at Carnegie Hall or elsewhere: 


Sadly, it turns out that the Bell Shoals community doesn't believe that God made everyone special. Only I and people like me are special, apparently. Those who are different from us can go jump in a lake.

The church that taught me that God loves me and that God created me to be a unique and worthy person -- the church that taught me a song about God's love for me, which I have remembered for more than 30 years -- has now decided to change its 10 vending machines from Pepsi products to Coke products, on account of Pepsi's support of marriage equality for same-sex couples

Which, come on:
  1. Even if they're going to be big enough hypocrites to judge whose relationship God will or will not bless (which, churchily, is a BIG "if"), is soda really the battleground you want to take on?
  2. Ten vending machines is not going to make a difference to Pepsi's bottom line, and I do not believe the Community Issues Council, whatever that is, has enough pull to influence others to follow suit.
  3. As rated by the Human Rights Campaign, Coke is as much a supporter of same-sex relationships as Pepsi. Both scored 100 on the HRC's Corporate Equality Index.
In conclusion, I, who am in the privileged majority in every sense, am disappointed in the people who taught me an enduring song about God's love for me, as they now turn their back on "the least of these" who need as much love and support as any other of God's beloved children.