Tuesday, February 28, 2012

First Time Pain

My youngest made my day Friday afternoon when she asked if I would take her hiking on Saturday morning.  OF COURSE I will!

On Saturday we loaded up a picnic and headed over to the South Carolina Botanical Gardens in Clemson.  We ate our lunch at a table located at the base of several pine trees.  
After I had eaten, I picked up a pine cone and showed it to Brenna.  It seems funny to me, but I don't think she had ever really handled a pine cone.  We don't have many pine trees around the neighborhood.  I held it toward her to show her and she reached out to take it from me.  As fast as she grabbed the cone from my hand, she dropped it.  The small spines on the outside caught her off guard.  The expression on her face was unforgettable as she learned something about pine cones.  I gently picked it off of the table and asked her to hold it.

Of course, she had no interest in touching it again.  I showed her how to gently hold it and convinced her to hold her hand out.  I set it in her hand so that she could take a closer look.  After a few seconds of examination she turned her hand over and sent the pine cone to the ground.  Teaching her something about nature was one of my favorite parts of the day.  Hopefully the next lesson won't bite her like that one did.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Get off my Back

One of my favorite sports seasons is starting up today.  Racing season.  Nascar starts their season at one of the biggest, craziest tracks today in Daytona.

To get things started off properly we decided to buy a new TV.  Some of you may run out and buy a new TV before the Superbowl, well this is my Superbowl.

Cari and I chose a TV online and headed over to Best Buy to pick it up.

When we arrived we walked through the television aisles to take a look at the displays before loading up the one we had chosen.  We were greeted by a salesman who offered his help.  When we told him we didn't have any questions he hovered for a moment and then moved along.  Two minutes later a different salesman came over to offer help.  When we tried to shoo him away, he persisted a little longer than the first.  With our cart, we headed toward the box we wanted and a third salesman approached us.  This guy had a DirecTV logo on his shirt.  When I told him we were about to load up the one we wanted he said he wanted to tell me about a "Super special offer".  I looked toward him and smiled.  "No thanks", I said.

He took a step toward me and started talking.  I waved him away with my hand and told him we weren't interested.  He looked shocked that someone didn't want to hear about the super special offer.

I couldn't wait to get out of the store before even more of the blue-shirt vultures descended on my family and I. Buying a new TV should be a fun experience but Best Buy insists on making it annoying and stressful.

When I am watching the Daytona 500 this afternoon on my new HD TV - I'm going to be cheering for someone to put that Best Buy car into the wall.  That would be annoying and stressful to them.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Nap on the Mountain

I went hiking with the Boy Scouts last weekend at Table Rock.  The plan, of course, was to get to the top and back without losing anyone.

Well, it didn't take long before plans were changing. It turns out that not all the boys were well prepared for a hike to the top of a mountain.  The result was that myself and a scout leader decided to hang back with a scout while the rest continued their journey to the top.
 The three of us made it a good way up before deciding to turn back and wait at the shelter for the rest of the group to come back down.  This provided me with an opportunity to stretch out on a large overlook at the shelter area.  It didn't take long before I was dozing off with the sun beating down on me.

I remember at one point, a group coming out on the rock where I was laying, with their dog panting near me.  My hat covered my face but my eyes were open.  I didn't move.  The thought of the dog coming over and  licking my face was suddenly my worst nightmare as I heard the panting grow nearer.

Thankfully, the group and their dog came and went without incident and I continued my nap.  When I woke up fifteen minutes later I was pretty hungry.  Specifically, I wanted that apple I had packed.  The one that Randy was carrying for me.  Hopefully he didn't eat it when he was at the top.

When Randy and his friends met back up with us he walked out onto the rock where I was and handed me my lunch bag consisting of a water bottle and an apple.  I unpacked it and thanked him for bringing it to me.  As I sipped my water I saw a motion out of the corner of my eye.  That was when I watched my apple start to roll down the side of Table Rock.  It slowed down about twenty feet away on another ledge and Randy offered to go get it.  I told him not to worry about it, that we'd get it in a few minutes.  I thought it had stopped, but it had only taken a break from its rolling.  We both watched as the only element of my lunch continued to roll off the cliff.  We heard it crash into some branches below and Randy informed me that his offer to get my apple was canceled.

With my apple gone, Randy offered me some other snacks that he was carrying.  I refused most of his offers as I mourned the loss of my apple, but when he presented some chocolate I finally gave in and accepted his offer.

With my nap over and my lunch gone, we headed back to the bottom.

The original plan had to be adjusted as the day went on which meant that I didn't make it to the top and I didn't get to eat my apple.  In exchange for those adjustments, I added in a nap on the side of a mountain and some chocolate. Ultimately, it was a relaxing day on the trail and the core of our plan stayed intact.  We made it back to the cars without losing anyone.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dancing with Frodo

Last week I showed you how much my daughter loves Frodo.  I guess by putting this together and printing it out for her, I only encourage the behavior.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What to Wear: Coaching Edition

Watching the the last few weeks of the NFL this year made me crazy.  Every time I saw a coach from one of the teams, he was dressed like he had just got off his couch.  Here is this guy, the head coach in one of the biggest sporting events in the USA and he is wearing sweats and cut offs.  Would the top coaches in other sports do this?  
The coaches in the NBA set a standard.  Look at Phil Jackson.  You think that guy would wear a t-shirt to a playoff game?  To any game? 
Basketball coaches show up wearing suits.  Every game.  Not just the playoffs.  That's how it should be.  They should look like the boss.  Coaches need to be professional and they need to look professional.   

Another example of professional looking coaches can be found in the NHL.  The players are on the ice getting bloodied up while the coach is dressed in his finest suit making the call on which warriors to send in next.  The way it should be.  
When I brought my argument to Cari, she very quickly explained away my problem.  The guys in suits are coaching indoor games.  The NFL is (mostly) outdoors.  Why would a coach want to be out in the sun for four hours dressed in a suit?  I didn't want to accept her simple explanation and continued my research.  I thought it was a poor excuse.

Next I examined Major League Baseball.  Baseball is an outdoor sport,  more outdoors than most football even.  It turns out coaches in the MLB wear a team uniform.  This is pretty unique in professional American sports.  Wearing the team uniform is part of the baseball tradition for managers and I like it.  Baseball is about tradition and I wouldn't ask them to wear a suit.  At least they aren't wearing their pajamas like the NFL coaches.
I wonder if this would be a solution to our poorly dressed NFL coaches.  There is usually a large crowd on the sidelines during a game and I worry that the coach might blend in too much if we made him wear a team uniform.  Before you know it, he'd be lost in the crowd and people would be grabbing his butt.  Besides, this is a baseball tradition.  Let's not ruin it by carrying it to the NFL.

After evaluating the options and weighing the concerns of being outdoors (sometimes) for NFL coaches, I'd like to propose a new standard in coaching wear.  NFL coaches should wear a suit. Be the boss and look the part.  Be respectable and don't look like your coaching this game from an Xbox.  

In fact, Mr. NFL coach, why don't you look back to how your hero's did it.  Lombardi and Landry wouldn't wear sweats to a playoff game.

And they coached when football was actually outside.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Slow Down

This is an interesting story that I found posted on Facebook recently.  It's a few years old, but I had never heard the story before.

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by, and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace, and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, and continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

Here is a video posted by the Washington Post with a link to their story (long read).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

New diet!

I have this new diet plan that I tried out last night. I swear if you stick with it, this one will work.

So all you have to do is work long hours at your job and instead of going home, follow up your work with a few meetings. An example of a good meeting would be joining a church committee.

After the meeting, you'll be getting home so late you'll be too tired to cook and your dinner will consist of a small bowl of cereal. For quicker results, use low fat milk.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Rules Not Included

Have you ever been to a hockey game?  Until this past weekend, I hadn't either.  This isn't the most popular sport in the South.  In some circles around here there are only two sports; NASCAR and football.  I've probably invested no more than an hour of my life to paying attention to hockey, so I wasn't sure how exciting this would be.  What follows are some quick observations and thoughts about a game I know nothing about.

As the crowd started coming in, I noticed people wearing hockey jerseys and realized that there are people that really like this game.  Then I saw this guy.

With his special cow bell and helmet / beard costume, I knew he had been to at least one game before.

What are the rules of hockey?  Well, here's what I figured out.
The object is to make as many goals as possible in three 20 minute periods.  How we ended up with an odd number like three is beyond me.  Ask a Canadian.  Off-sides and high sticking were two rules that I heard about but had a hard time observing on my own.

The action is quick and substitutions seem to happen on the fly. Seemingly at random guys would dive into the little door at their bench and a few other guys would jump over and start skating.  The refs seem to be trying to avoid getting beat  up as often as they are enforcing the rules.  The game feels a little chaotic at times.  Once in a while someone would break an unknown rule and get tossed into the penalty box for a specified amount of time.
When I started writing about hockey you expected me to mention violence, didn't you?  Uh, yeah.  There were plenty of guys getting slammed into the glass / plastic walls surrounding the ring.  A lot of times a player would get slammed into the wall and then pinned there for a moment, taking him out of the play, until the puck was slapped toward the other end.  Pretty much anytime two guys got near each other you could guarantee one was going to push or hit the other.
When I fight broke out, a rip-your-helmet-off throw down, the refs stood nearby and watched as the crowd cheered them on.  I was confused.  These guys were holding each others' jerseys in one hand and punching each other with the other.  Shouldn't the refs be stopping this?  Not until one guy was on the ground and the dominating player was beating him did the refs step in to pull them apart.  They were both immediately put into the penalty box for fighting.  Right.  Put them in the same box after they were trying to rip each other apart.
By the end of the night I was starting to understand some of the basic rules and I knew that hooking had nothing to do with prostitution.

Would I go again?  For sure.  In one night I more than doubled the amount of time I've ever spent thinking about hockey and had a lot of fun.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Two Photo Sunday

Just want to take a moment this afternoon and share two pictures of my baby with you.

First, here she is when I asked her to please go get in the car so we leave for the store.
This other picture was how I found her after going to bed recently.  Now that we have watched all of the Lord of the Ring movies she has decided she loves Frodo.  Her sister helped her print some pictures from the internet.  This picture is with her at all times.
 I'll have to get a video of her saying "My precious!".  It's pretty creepy.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. Enjoy your day.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Meredith didn't join us on our hike that I wrote about earlier this week.  I don't know why.  Instead, she sent a substitute in her place.  Don't believe me?  Go back and look at the photos.  Try and find her!

A few days later, she brought home some graded school work.  Here's a sample of her work.
At least she got an A.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Hike

A few weeks ago we had some amazing January weather and a free afternoon so we loaded up the car and found a trail.  

We ended up at the Asbury Hills Methodist camp in South Carolina.  Well, we actually ended up at the gate to the camp.  To open the gate you just needed to key in the magic password on the keypad.  It was that or bust through the gate with your car.  They prefer that you call ahead so that they can provide you with the code.  I didn't do that.  Instead I risked the hike, or their gate, and called once I got there.  The man on the other end of the line (does that saying even make sense any more?) gladly gave me the code and we were in!

Inside we found a triple trail with frog eggs, a creek, and a cable bridge.   Here's some photos of our adventure.

Everyone is happy at the beginning.  
 Triple trails!  Pick your favorite color.
 Still plenty of energy.  RUN!
 A mountain of frog eggs in a puddle.  I've never seen them before and they were awesome.  Some of our group even braved touching them.  I skipped out on that part.

 An old info box with piles of rock in and on it.  Cari joined in the fun and this gave me an idea.

A creek!  Beautiful.
 A cable bridge.  One for your feet and one for your hands.

Remember that info box?  I decided to build a cairn in the creek.  Want a history on stone cairns?  Something about them fascinates me.  This one is for decoration, but I have encountered them on trails before where they helped mark the way forward.   Such a simple concept that has been used for centuries. 
 Triple trail blazes leading the way out.  Moving a little slower.
Remember that girl running down the trail at the beginning?  Out of gas.

Monday, February 06, 2012


This blog about a fantastic hike that includes stories of rope bridges, frog eggs, and cairns has been delayed.
I normally would have written this on Sunday, but time slipped by faster than I expected and then I had to watch the Superbowl.  I'm American.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Prayer Request

Every Sunday during church, the pastor asks if there are any prayer requests.  Last Sunday, I sat in the third pew from the front as I listened to members of the congregation ask for prayers.  Pray for safe travel.  Pray for a neighbor that lost a job.  Pray for successful medical treatment.  Then from the front row, a loud voice emerged,  "EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME! It's me, Brenna!"

My eyes had been focused on the pastor and on the cross behind him.  Now I turn my attention to a small girl sitting in the front pew.  My small girl.  Panic flowed into my body.  Before the pastor could reply, Brenna continued, "Nisha (our dog) pooped on the rug yesterday."   This announcement prompted the church to break into laughter.  Brenna twisted around to look back and smile at me.  She waved.  I was in the middle of the pew, with people on both sides of me and feeling a little helpless.  I didn't see a way to get up and retrieve her without causing a bigger scene.  I put a finger to my lips in a plea for her to be quiet and then I sat back to pray that she would behave.  The pastor laughed and made a comment about the unpredictable things children will say.  Everyone bowed their heads as the pastor said a prayer.  I peeked up at Brenna and she was also sitting with her head bowed.

Randy was sitting next to me and whispered, "How did she get in here?"  That was a great question.  She should be in the nursery.  As the pastor's prayer ended, my phone vibrated in my pocket.  A text from Cari.  She was in the fellowship hall preparing a meal for everyone.  Her text said,  "Bren snuck away from me.  You got her?"

I looked up at my four year old, still sitting in the front pew.  Alone.  Do I got her?  Um. . . no.  She was quiet for the prayer, but she wouldn't sit still for long.  I texted Cari, "She is in front row. On her own. Bad idea. Talking!!!"  My text was panic.  At some point the girl will waltz right up to the front and start talking.  After the laughter she gained from her first outburst she will feel emboldened to continue.  

At this time a guest speaker got up and stood near the front pew where Brenna was sitting.  Brenna looked up at the speaker, got up, and bolted to the back door.  She was gone.  It was over.  I took a breath.

After church it was hard to find anyone that had seen Brenna enter the sanctuary.  It's like she was invisible until she spoke.  Many didn't notice her leave either, but everyone had heard her prayer request.

I know what my prayer request will be tomorrow, and it's not about the dog.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Solve for X

Happy Birthday my love!

You'll have to figure out how old she is for yourself.  I'm not allowed to do your homework for you.