Friday, November 29, 2013

Keep Shopping!

I considered not posting a blog today because you would all be out shopping and wouldn't read it.   But as I thought about Black Friday and what it is becoming I realized that more of you are probably shopping online in your pajamas.

Over the past two years online shopping has been cutting into what was once a mad dash into Wal-Mart.  This year I noticed  more and more stores putting out pre-black Friday ads to draw the customer in a week early.  Still, the push to be the first destination continues by retailers and we have seen more stores deciding to open Thursday night this year. I suppose that is what the consumer has demanded.  It's proven with full parking lots at Wal-Mart and the malls Thursday evening.  

I would have thought that online shopping would have taken some of the pressure off of Black Friday but it doesn't seem to have.   The shoppers just keep on shopping.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

No Shave November?

Maybe you have heard someone mention something about "no shave November" over the past month.   Maybe you have seen some guys that looks like they have been staying in a cabin in the woods for a few weeks.
This is supposed to be about raising awareness for cancer research or cancer in general.  I'm not really sure.  I feel uninformed mostly because there doesn't seem to be a lot of talk about that part of it.   Most of the talk is about "look at this cool beard I have".

During the first few weeks of the month I also let my beard grow out.  It was fuller than I had ever let it get before.   Did I do this for "no shave November"?   No, I wouldn't say that I did it for that reason but I was certainly influenced to try and stop shaving for a few weeks because of it.  The great thing about this activisim is that it takes laziness to participate.  All you have to do is stop doing something.   Sounds like a good way to get participation from men.

Then last week I realized I wasn't a big fan of having a beard (Cari wasn't a fan of my beard either) and I started to think, "what's the point?"   So I went into the bathroom and shaved.

Some of these campaigns probably have good intentions and there are probably people out there promoting the cause in a worthwhile way but most of the guys on Facebook aren't doing much for cancer by happily not shaving and neither was I.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Schedule Status - Full

We are overbooked.

During marching band it was go go go.  But then high school football season came to an end and the football team took the marching band off the field with them.  We got a break.   The past few weeks without running to practices, games, and competitions have been sweet.  It has been like stopping to catch your breath after chasing the garbage truck on those days you forgot to take the trash to the curb.

That deep breath came to a sudden halt last week because basketball has started up.  We'll have practices four nights a week until games start up.  Oh, and that's in addition to going to work and trying to eat dinner every day.

Am I whining?  Yeah, I guess I kinda am.  It's just that maybe we can consolidate some of this stuff.  Maybe I need a nanny.  Maybe I just need to get to bed earlier.

As I was adding the practice schedules and other appointments into my Google calendar the other night it gave me an error.  

Schedule status - Full. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Proper Hike

Doing some shorter hikes with family and friends has put me in the mood to really get out and do a proper day hike.  So my friend Jamie and I took a day off of work last Friday and headed up to Table Rock State Park.

It was cloudy and cooler with the threat of rain expected to last all day.  A little rain couldn't stop us!  We were on a mission.  To the top! (and back).

There were no other hikers as we headed up.   Somewhere near halfway we did encounter a few other hikers that had caught up to us.  Near the top the temperature was noticeably lower and it did start to drizzle rain.  We continued!

At the summit we took pictures as light rain started.  My hands were cold but we continued!

The end of the Table Rock trail takes you to a point where you can look across the valley and see Caesar's Head State Park.  Below the cliff is the Table Rock Reservoir.

Although tempting to stand on the edge of the world. . .Oh!  Jamie!  Get away from the edge!!!
Those wet pine needles you are standing on are slippery.

On our way back down the clouds began to clear and we started to encounter more hikers.  We were getting tired but when we saw a group of older hikers moving faster than us we decided to pick up the pace.

Back at the car we looked up at Table Rock to admire our achievement of getting to the top (and back).  It was a great way to spend a day off from work.  It was a great day for a proper hike.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

My Hamster Ball

There are tons of books and websites talking about introverts vs extroverts but this little cartoon that I found HERE sums up things pretty nicely.   There is truth in this so pay attention.

I'm going back to my ball now.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

LickLog & Pigpen Falls

Another Sunday hike for our family and some friends.  Taking six children hiking may not sound like a good idea in theory but it actually has gone very well.  Fighting and whining has been an absolute minimum and everyone seems to be having a great time.

This past weekend it was a trip to a waterfall that I had seen once several years ago while hiking the Chattooga Trail.  Pigpen falls is on the side of the trail and is a great spot to sit and enjoy the water.  My first visit during that hike was in the summer and I remember people swimming and standing in the falls.  It was much too cold for anything like that this past weekend.  

We continued farther down the trail to view the Licklog falls.  Licklog is a set of falls I had not seen before.  There is an upper section that is a little shorter in height and requires some scampering down the banks to get to.  We made it down the bank with even the youngest children.  

The lower falls is not much farther down stream and is where the falls dump into the Chattooga river.  

We stopped for lunch at the river and I spotted some tracks that did not look like they came from a dog.

The trail didn't wipe us out of energy so we drove down the road to Stumphouse tunnel.  I would have expected some of the kids to be nervous heading in but with such a large group they rushed in without a second thought.  

I was able to capture this picture inside the tunnel showing the rough rock walls.  The tunnel was dug out of the granite mountain with hand tools in the 1800's.  At peak production they were able to move 200' a month.   

I probably wouldn't have made it very smooth either.

The next hike:  Pushing the limits - the top of Table Rock.   This one isn't for the kids.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Measuring Retirement

It might seem that I am a bit young to be thinking about retirement but I think about it often.  I'm not to the point of setting up a countdown timer yet, but I have been thinking about that too.

The reason that I bring this up is because Cari and I had a discussion about this recently.  She will be finishing school shortly and has been thinking about the job that she will have after that.  When I made a comment that she would be getting a job just in time for me to retire she stopped and gave me the look.  The one that told me I had said something wrong.  

My wife informed me that we would retire together.  She said that I should continue with my job until she is ready to retire.  That sounds great doesn't it?  My argument is that I have already put in nearly 20 years of going to work while she was at home.  Twenty years is a pretty good headstart toward retirement in my book.   

Now she'll say that during those years at home she was caring for our children and running the house.   All of that is true and she has done marvelous things in the years she spent taking care of us all.  Her argument is that those years count in her time worked toward retirement.  That puts us on equal ground on the road to retirement.  With that argument I have to agree.  Her time at home does count in equal amounts.  But does that mean I'm not qualified to have some years taking care of the house too?  Just because there won't be young children in the house (there won't be) while I'm doing it doesn't mean it doesn't count.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Now You Hike

We had to test our ability.  All of us.  Would we pass?  Were we ready to hike into the wilderness with SIX children and survive?  Would the youngest kids be able to keep up and complete the hike?

These questions were put to the test on a recent Sunday as we took on the Yellow Branch Trail.

We put together a picnic lunch and then loaded it into a backpack for the trail.  This is the pack we would let the youngest kid wear.

It feels like it has been too long since we've been on the trail and we had perfect weather.   Once we got started there was almost no whining from any of the children.  Well, except for the times that the kids turned back and looked at the adults.  "What is taking you guys so long?"

After a few breaks to climb on some downed trees we arrived at the waterfall.

I did a headcount during lunch.   So far, everyone was still with us!   We stuck around for about an hour before heading uphill on the trail out.

All of the children continued to keep a blazing fast pace on the trail and forced the adults to keep up.   It was great not having kids telling me how tired they were and how they couldn't continue but now they were pushing each other so fast that I was wishing one would get a little tired.

Back at the cars with a full headcount we sat down with some pride that we survived.  We've answered the questions and the answers were all YES.

Now that we know we can hike we'll start planning the next one.

Friday, November 08, 2013


Mega church pastors have an easy trap to fall into.  I suppose small church pastors could fall into the same trap but they won't be able to fall as far because $30,000 just doesn't get you to the places that $1,000,000 does.

That trap is falling in love with themselves.   Creating a cult like atmosphere.  Perhaps losing focus of why they are on the stage to begin with.

Here's two examples:

Charlotte, NC - Steven Furtick

Greenville, SC  - Perry Noble

Now certainly not all large church pastors will have these problems / accusations against them but I just see an opportunity where there is so many people looking to you every week and so much money swirling around that it could be easy to lose focus.

I listen to Pastor Bruce Frank on a podcast every week from Biltmore Baptist church in NC.  They have multiple campuses and are expanding.  This certainly falls into the category of mega church but when I did a Google search for Pastor Bruce the ugly results seen above didn't show up.  Here's hoping to God that they don't.

There are good and bad things to say about super mega churches.  I suppose they have their place in the world - clearly enough people attend that says they do have a place.   It must be exciting and terrifying as a preacher to see growth like this while keeping focused.   They need to remember that the people should be
in the building to worship God and not the guy with the microphone.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Renaissance Festival!

Last weekend we traveled up the road to Charlotte to visit the North Carolina Renaissance Festival.

Cari and I visited a few years ago alone, so we knew what we wanted to show the rest of the family. Thankfully we had beautiful weather to be outside all day and that meant that everyone else wanted to come out as well.  The park was PACKED!

Some of our favorite things:

Jumping high!

Watching Vegetable Justice (the guy behind the wall insults people all day while tomatoes get thrown at him)

The Ded Bob Show (crazy puppet -- Our youngest daughter got called on stage!)

Jousting (you can't go to the Renaissance Festival without seeing some Jousting)

Sword Swallowing (ewww...)

Acrobatics (wow)
There was much more to see and do but with 6 of us we weren't going to see it all.   We made it to every performance that Cari and I picked out as some of our favorites from a few years ago.   Although, I didn't take a picture of it, Randy said his favorite part of the day was eating the roasted turkey leg.  A giant hunk of meat on a stick!

It was a great day.


Monday, November 04, 2013

Distracted Reading

We have fewer and fewer devices doing more and more things these days.   In the past you may have carried a cell phone, a camera, a calculator, a calendar, a GameBoy, and even a book.   Now you can buy yourself a smart phone or tablet and keep all of those old devices and more in your hand.  This is great advancement in technology but sometimes we have to adjust to these new abilities.

Last year I did a great job of reading books.  I do not have a great history of reading books over the years and I wanted to do some catching up.  Unfortunately I have not done as well this year and need to start up again.  One of the problems that I have encountered this year is distracted reading.  I usually will read a book on my phone or on my tablet.   It's convenient because I always have my book with me but the problem is that the phone is also all of the other things I talked about a minute ago.  I'll be in the middle of reading and getting into a story when suddenly my phone chimes and I have a new Twitter message or an email.  As I try to ignore the notification and keep reading my curiosity gets to me until I exit out of the book app and check my messages.  Once I'm there I might as well check news headlines or Google+ updates.   The next thing you know my reading time is gone and I only read a page.

To avoid this problem I think I'm going to try turning off the notifications during my reading time.  Other than the distractions I actually like reading on the screen.  It's not uncomfortable to hold and the screens have progressed where it is easy on my eyes.

The second distraction that I have encountered while reading books is my brain.  Sometimes I wonder if we have trained ourselves into having shorter attention spans.  Twitter, short media sound bites, and short form stories is what I encounter throughout the day.  When I encounter a story or news article that is more than two pages long I save it for a later time while I keep reading the short form news.  It's probably time that we slow down and read the details to let a story develop.   You know, like a book.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Smallest Candy Haul EVER

Last night resulted in the smallest candy results in years!  I blame the fact that only one of my three kids hit the road this year.

We're going to have to come up with a new strategy next year if we plan on the candy lasting more than two days.

And no... the plan does not involve having more kids.  I'm certain of that.