Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

I was disappointed to see one of my favorite musical artists post on Facebook to his almost a quarter of a million "friends" the question of "what is the difference between Memorial and Veterans Days?".

I decided his asking that dumb a question does not negate how great is his music, but I resisted posting that the answer is "GOOGLE DOT COM".

The short answer is that Veterans Day honors our living veterans while Memorial Day recognizes those Americans who died while in military service.

Our Veterans Day, on November 11th, is also still recognized as Armistice Day across the world, as it lands on the day that the Allies signed an armistice with Germany after World War I in 1918. After a public campaign in the fifties to expand the day to celebrate all veterans, including the living, Congress passed a law to that effect in 1954.

Our Memorial Day, on the last Monday of May, was first known as Decoration Day and observed immediately after the Civil War in 1865 by freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina at a mass grave of Union soldiers.

On our Memorial Days, we tend to think first of those soldiers who died during World War II, as it is often called the "good war" and claimed so many lives. Many do not know or forget that more Americans died during our Civil War than both world wars combined.

Back when Presidents were smart enough to write their own speeches, Abraham Lincoln said it possibly as succinctly and well as it ever could be with his Gettysburg Address:


"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863


The contrast between the freed slaves spontaneously honoring those who died in the Civil War with present day popular artists who are unsure what today even means is striking and not just a little shameful.

Whether it is the more than one million Americans who died in all our past wars or the thousands who gave and are still giving "the last full measure of devotion" in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is only fitting for us, at the very least, to honor them this day.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

NCCS Class of 2011

Once in a while, I like to attempt writing an earnest blog post, just to prove to myself that I can still do it. And within just minutes of clacking away at the keys, I am comforted by the fact that when the time truly calls for it, my being serious is still next to impossible.

Last night, Amy and I joined Austin at his Senior dinner celebration with the rest of his class, their parents and several of their teachers. It was catered wonderfully by the Principal's husband, Mr. Phipps.

(You'll quickly notice that everybody is either a "Mr." or "Mrs." and yes, you may revert to feeling like you too are back in high school. Hang in there.)

Mr. Flaherty (see?), did an amazing musical video compilation with all our many submitted pictures from their baby ones to senior photos. I was surprised at how different they all now look. When they were younger, some of them even were almost as cute as my redheaded progeny.

Then Mr. Flaherty (sorry... "Jacob's dad") asked if anyone would like to say a few words and if so, he would bring the microphone to their tables.

Mr. Hayes and the Principal, Mrs. Phipps were among the first to say a few words, all of which were very positive and sometimes humorous.

Then one of the moms got the microphone.

OK, I am pretty sure that I looked over to see Amy reading a schedule that only the moms were secretly handed and that said, "We will begin crying at 7:45".

And look, I am not against moms crying, especially after their being plied relentlessly with their own favorite baby pictures and the impending prospect of those very babies soon moving away to college.

Crying is something the moms are very good at and if only the dads cried, it would just look weird. So, go for it ladies.

But even through the squeaking, snuffling and stuttering, a couple themes became very clear.

You honestly would be hard pressed to find a room of parents more proud of their sons and daughters as that one last night.

Many of the seniors took the time to articulate well just how much their fellow students, teachers and parents had meant to them over the years.

They even took the time to honor their class sponsor, Mr. Mark, with several presents they obviously had put a lot of time and thought into preparing.

And they expressed how thankful they were for the chance to attend a school as fine as North Clackamas Christian and the financial sacrifices that they knew many of the parents had made to send them there.

(I once asked Amy if I could calculate and show Austin how much money we could have saved by sending him to public school and the sweet, sweet Corvette I could have had instead and she said, "NO".)

But it occurred to me during some of these comments that the amount of money invested in their going to NCCS was only symbolic of so many, larger and eternal sacrifices.

The volume of support, prayer and love put in by the parents and teachers, day after day, year after year, was incredibly evident. What was encouraging was to hear these young men and women say for themselves that they were fully aware and appreciative of it.

As many of the students spoke up, one by one, the level of genuine character, maturity and friendship was amazing to witness. I enjoyed seeing some of that firsthand, over and again this year while attending so many Saints varsity basketball games, both for the girls and the guys.

With the guidance of coaches Nelson and Lay, both the girls and guys teams this year absolutely played their hearts out for every game.

Those seniors who played this year, Austin, Aubrie, Caleb, Colton, Jameson, Kayti, Keith, Nicole, and Wyatt, all poured more heart and sportsmanship into this season than you could ever have asked for and they along with the rest of their junior teammates were nothing short of inspiring.

There is a big difference between a group of athletes playing their hardest and a group of athletes playing their hardest as a team. We were fortunate to witness the latter of those, time after time this season.

One of the final themes hit upon was the importance of them staying in touch and talking to each other after graduation and not letting these relationships drift apart, as is often so easy to do.

And sure, to some degree that sad scenario becomes inevitable, as people move away and interests grow and change. But nevertheless, you were left with a sense that down these past years, many strong bonds had been forged and were ones that would last.

Amy and I could not be more proud of our own two kids, the young man and woman that they are today.

But we are not proud in the sense of taking credit. We are proud to have known the friends and teachers who poured a huge part of their own lives into them to help shape the adults that they have become.

But most of all, we are proud in the sense of simply being there to witness the countless difficult but rewarding choices they have made and continue to make and the positive differences people like them will make in this world.

There was hardly a mom there with a dry eye and I think I have at least a little idea of why that was the case last night.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The World Did Not End Today

The quickest way to check the weather used to be looking out the window, but if it is sunny in Oregon (sometimes well over 14 days a year), it is now faster to look at your Facebook News Feed.

When I woke up this morning, I was fairly certain that Jesus did not take me or any other Christians in this year's Regularly Scheduled Rapture™, but I immediately checked my friend's status updates to make sure.

The glut of Regularly Scheduled Pictures Of Their 4-Year Olds™ were a good sign we were all still here.

The only upside to the rapture not happening yet is that Reverend Camping has now apologized and even promised to return the millions of dollars that all those dumm... I mean, people donated to his ministry to publicize this debacle, even if he has to go broke doing it.

Hahahaha! No. Seriously, though. No.

But it will work out that we are still here on this earth for now, because I started to help brew my very first batch of beer last night at the home of Hillsboro's premier master brewer.

He carefully guided me through the most complex parts of the brewing process, such as giving my credit card to the guy at the beer supply store and stirring the pot several times.

(I almost have the stirring skill down well enough to not break his new thermometers.)

Step 1: Pour fresh batch of Beer Juice into boiling cauldron.
(Notice the left, muscular triceps. This is critical!)

If you have ever brewed beer yourself, then one of the first things you probably noticed from the above picture is that I am really ^&*%$# balding.

In a couple weeks, we will do some more stirring or something and maybe even passing of the credit card again. I don't know. I am still new to this.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: "Pat, I thought you were Gluten Free, you stinking liar slash hypocrite?"

First of all, that's just rude. And secondly, we bought something called "Clarex", invented at a secret lab in Switzerland, using both science and probably magic. It literally KILLS GLUTEN. I am pretty sure that's what the article said.

Anyway, it will be my first real beer in a while, we are naming it "Glutenus Minimus" and it better darn well work.

And if so, Reverend Camping can NOT have any.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I love Jesus more! (No, *I* do!)

That's NOT funny!

The three quickest ways to make someone angry on the Internet is to reveal that you do not love Obama, Jesus or cats (not necessarily in that order).

Now, I totally love Jesus...

Pause... wait for it...

OK, I admit I did not vote for Obama and since the exact day that he was declared President (my birthday) is also the day I lost my job and I was out of work for a long time, for a while I felt comfortable blaming all of America's unemployment woes upon him.

Looking back, I can see this was very unfair and now I realize that only 90% of the unemployment problem is directly his fault.

And I also admit that I do not think that 20 whole cats could even approach the awesomeness of just one Corgi.

But I am sensitive enough when company comes over to clear the coffee table of the "101 Ways To Skin A Cat" book I got for Christmas. From Santa himself.

(Seriously, if you love cats, you can rest assured that if you come over, I do not have any such book and even have three cats of my own that I love so much, I will offer them to you on the way out.)

Ironically, despite my regular and public affirmation of loving the Lord, it is almost always other fellow Lord lovers that I offend the most.

I have been a Christian for almost a hundred years now (OK, only 27) and one of the things I learned about being accepted by other believers is that believing in the Lord and loving Him is not enough. It is important that I believe in the Lord and love Him the same way as them.

Now, since most people are not identical (except for twins, which is kinda creepy), this causes a problem. Nobody is exactly the same, so the best we can do is to clump together with those that are somewhat similar.

And we do. We clump like crazy. And even then, we don't always get along.

  • Some churches revel in their banning of long hair for guys and short hair for girls.
  • Some churches revel in their banning of the banning of hair lengths itself.

  • Some churches will kick you off the board, the choir, the stage and maybe even your high horse for catching you listening to secular music.
  • Some churches are comfortable enough with secular music that they will openly embrace popular music and do a surprisingly good job of ruining them to spiritual lyrics.

And while most churches have a good number of people who did not and will never vote for Obama, I still am looking for the one that strictly prohibits ownership of cats.

I prophesied yesterday that I would get deleted as a Facebook friend by one or more people for making fun of the rapture and apocalypse predictions for starting on Saturday. This prophesy came true.

(Not the apocalypse, but my getting deleted. And yes, as prophesies go, it was no more impressive than a fortune cookie, but it still counts.)

Since I know we Christians are renowned for our sense of humor, it was good to see some new, online tools to help keep this gift from ever being exposed to others.

Facebook recently added their "Groups" feature, to give us the power to sort our friends into groups (clumps) and thus what they can and can't see.

At the time, I joked that I was going to create two groups, "Those with a sense of humor" and "Those who get offended easily".

I ended up not actually doing it and I still resist the nagging urges to do so. I am a blabbermouth and my trying to not offend people with what I say would be a constant and largely unrewarding battle.

And I honestly do not deliberately try to offend people (except for fans of Jersey Shore, Lady Gaga and maybe cats), but it is ironic that the Bible speaks at length about our need to not be easily offended and yet there is our great proclivity for just that very thing.

Jesus' very mission and purpose was one of grace and forgiveness, the veritable opposite of taking offense. And I have long believed that God is not only less easily offended as many of us, but also that He has a great sense of humor, even better than any of our own (especially mine).

And along those lines of not easily taking offense, I want to say that if you are an ex-Facebook friend who deleted me, I forgive you. I'm not sure how you saw this blog link with me no longer in your News Feed, but it seems like providence.

And along the lines of my trying harder to not offend you as much and show my heart is in the right place, I hope that if you do happen to not get raptured with me on Saturday, that the zombies take you out quickly, with little suffering.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Yoga is for girls (Olympic gymnasts)

My P90X threw in a 90 minute Yoga session with the other 11 DVDs. This was partly so they could also get the money of the dirty hippies and NPR listeners, which I wholly endorse.

The other reason is if they did not make you stretch the heck out of your muscles after the other weights and resistance workouts, you would die.

Your muscles would keep contracting and cramping, until they found you in the fetal position, tighter than an armadillo.

If you're worried that yoga (pronounced "yoga") is a religion or cult, let me put that to rest. Yoga is simply the holistic promotion of your well-being through the ancient arts of stretching and falling over.

If you have never done yoga before, I can easily tell you how, even without the help of pictures.

For starters, stand up straight and spread your legs apart (any direction will work) and then balance on one foot, holding that pose for just a brief 4 to 6 minutes.

Did you fall over? No? Really?

OK, spread your legs further apart and turn one foot inward as much as you can and the other one out sideways, toes pointed slightly toward your belly button. Now gradually and carefully (still on one foot) try to touch your nose to your knee.

Aha! Yoga!

We will call that one the "platypus", because they are also hilarious to look... um, I mean... it's been called that for thousands of years.

Last night I think I did the "crane", the "whooping crane", the "whooping cough" and the "smokers cough". Then I put the DVD in.

I also did the "dog", the "tree" and my own modified versions of the "falling tree" and possibly even the "dog peeing on the tree".

They even have one called the "baby" where you (I am not making this up) lie on your back, grab the soles of your feet, spread your legs wide and rock back and forth. Because this makes you "look like a baby".

Ha! Right. I'm sure it has nothing to do with you looking like you're HAVING a baby. Or the fact that it is similarly painful and just as embarrassing if family members are in the room watching.

But I will admit that I did NOT say the "OOOOOMMMMMM" thing at the end. And not because I think it is a cult.

I simply did not want to give more fuel to the wife already laughing at me from the next room and threatening to take pictures.

Day 4.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Moms are pretty cool

We've probably all heard the old Jewish proverb that, "God couldn't be everywhere, so he created mothers".

This is meant to evoke a sense of God's love for us, but the flip side of course is that it also has to do with the belief that God is watching everything we do.

Mothers are so much like God, they even got their own semi-omniscient quote, "Mothers have eyes in the back of their heads".

Just as true as the fact that they will likely always find out what you've been up to, it is also true that their prayers are always following you and just as needed are our prayers for them.

My mom spent the last two days in the hospital from a bad fall she took, but thankfully she is now back home and doing better.

Fortunately, she ended up not staying there today... Mother's day... as the doctors originally were convinced she would have to. Many friends and family sent their good thoughts and prayers, which were greatly appreciated.

You do not need to convince me of the importance of a mother's love and discipline. If I were the only influence in my own kids' lives, I am half convinced both my kids would now be Hell's Angels or something more dangerous, like politicians or on the cast of Jersey Shore.

Yes, their mom (whom I call "wife" or "Amy" for short) is a saint for how both of mine turned out, as well as enduring the manifold affliction that is me, lo these many years.

So, yeah... moms are pretty cool.

One of my earliest memories of my mom is also one of her favorites. I would usually get moving about 4 or 5 in the morning, as this was what I considered, "mom's eyes (including the ones in the back of her head) are closed, so I can get into mischief" time.

She came in a little while after I had been already moving about one morning, to find a red line on the white wall that went from the floor, straight up to the exact height of a 4 year old's highest reach on his tiptoes.

Her eyes got huge, but before she could explode, I blurted out, "Mom! You know how Soda (our cat) doesn't like me! Well, he grabbed a red crayon in his mouth, jumped as high as he could and used his claws to slide down the wall!"

The key to any good lie of course, is believing it yourself. I was so unabashed in my tale, that she spun around and bolted away before I could hear her laughing. She also was probably overcome with pride at my promising future as a government lawyer or worse, a blogger.

That same year, right after I complained about the terrible condition of my eggs one morning, she promptly snatched away the plate and said, "then make them yourself!".

I barely mustered the strength to screech and scrape my chair across the floor, then climbed up and demanded that she explain all the knobs and whistles on "this huge stove thingy".

She apparently wasn't terribly big on squelching individual expression and immediately slapped the spatula into my hand and started the tutorial.

From that day on, this 4 year old always made his own eggs, even though they were probably considerably worse than mom's would have turned out.

But I think we were both still pretty damn proud of the final product.

Love you, mom.

Friday, May 6, 2011

I Think I Can, I Think I Can

I figure I should chronicle my adventures with P90X for a couple reasons. One is that I like to hear myself talk. I am an excellent talker.

But it also will be good to look back at the end of 90 days and see if I am still alive and have not broken anything on me that is important or irreplaceable.

Suffering a tiny bit of a delay, we just started the fit test to prep for the P90X last night. There’s been a little delay since Austin wants to do it with me and he has been super sick for the last week.

Along those lines, here are some cool things you can try if you want to have fun on a Thursday night and feel refreshed the next day at the office. These are the 8 things you do for the fit test to prep for doing P90X:

1) rest quietly for 2 minutes and take your BPM

2) reach as high up the wall as you can flat footed, then vertical jump as high as you can reaching up the wall, then subtract the difference (jeesh, how hard could this P90X really be?)

3) do as many pull-ups as you can until muscle failure (uh-oh)

4) do as many push-ups as you can until muscle failure

5) do as many 20 lb dumbbell curls as you can until muscle failure (do you see a trend here?)

6) sit with your back against the wall, feet directly below your knees, so your knees are at a 90 degree angle and stay in that position until muscle failure

(The main thing is they want your muscles to fail. That is the goal here. 'Cause, if your muscles are not failing, then... well, we obviously need to do something to change that.)

7) sit on the floor, hands at sides, pull your knees to your chest, then stick your legs straight out, without letting your feet touch the floor and repeat this as many times as you feel like until you would like to stop.

Hahaha! Just kidding. UNTIL MUSCLE FAILURE.

... and finally:

8) do jumping jacks at a semi-rapid pace for a minute and a half. At the minute and a half mark, start doing the jumping jacks as fast as you can for the remaining 30 seconds until you vomit and collapse on the floor crying and asking where is your mommy.

Kidding. The manual says (I am not making this up) that at the end of 2 minutes you should still be able to “stand and breathe”.

Sooooo, breathing is good. If you have stopped breathing before the 2 minute mark, I guess you probably should stop the jumping jacks and hurl your body toward the nearest phone before you finish blacking out and press 911.

But if you are still conscious (optimal) at the end of the two minutes, as soon as you finish the jumping jacks, you're supposed to immediately record your heart-rate again. WHOAH, it's way higher than the resting one, huh?!?! You betcha!

The good news is that this only took about 30 minutes, but the workouts themselves are equally or more intense and last ONE HOUR. Luckily though, they are only SIX DAYS A WEEK. And only for NINETY DAYS.

So. Wheeeee.