Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Rev in Action

Just got back from New Ulm and wanted to post a quick update: The wedding was absolutely beautiful. They used a vineyard in southern MN, with an absurdly picturesque oak tree in the middle of the grounds. Tables were arrayed under the tree, and over 50 candle lanterns were hung from the branches above. The only issue was the occasional falling acorn, but no one was injured.

As for the service: I had been quite nervous up to the day before the ceremony: While I had several drafts of my service written, it had not quite gelled to the point I needed it to. And all of my attempts at a tranquil "space" to write in had been foiled by life circumstances (a terrible cold, travel, Pamela's back, exhaustion), so it wasn't until Friday morning that I finally felt I had the peace to just finish it all up: And it all came together just right. I reviewed the ceremony with the couple and they were very happy.

The unhappy party here would be the bride's family who are very conservatively religious, and I don't think they knew that they weren't getting a "REAL" minister. At the groom's dinner, the father in law cornered me to ask when I decided to give up my career and pursue the ministry - and what was my experience that brought me closer to the bible and Jesus. Oh man that was fun. I danced around it, saying that this is just one of the things I love in life and that I try to make time for everything... He walked away confused. We really didn't speak much after the service, that's for sure.

But the important thing is that the COUPLE were happy with the service - it had everything in it that they wanted, and nothing that they didn't. There was humor of course, and we actually had a good time up there. Oh, and of course I put my service on the Kindle: I might be the first minister out there to have done that... I should write to Amazon!

So my first experience as a Reverend was very very positive. We also did a lot of helping out with the preparations... and I also filled a semi-best man role too, so Paul and I had a lot of time together which was very nice. But in the end, I'm completely exhausted, and need to lie down!

Monday, August 25, 2008

All's Well

Pamela returned after midnight, and the house is whole again. Both kids have been buzzing with excited energy all day, happy to have her back. A few quotes for you:

1) Bella was crying on Saturday night, missing mommy. I asked her to think about how I go on trips too, but I always come back, so Mommy will be back too! She said: "Yes, but YOUR trips are for WORK, and SHE'S taking a trip for FUN! Why did she have to take a trip for FUN?"

2) The next night, as she was settling down she asked: "When we get a dog, will we send it to school?"
I clarified - you mean obedience school? Yes, because we'd definitely want the dog to learn life skills.
"Like Swimming? Do they teach dogs to swim in obedience school?"
No, I think dogs just know how to swim.
"Yeah, they just jump in and go. But I wouldn't want my dog to practice swimming in the ocean. Number one, if it gets tired, no dock! Number two, it could get eaten by sharks, or some other kind of fish. Nope, the ocean is no place for a dog to learn how to swim".

3) Isaac is back to calling me Daddy. I think the fact that Papa and Lilli call me Jimmy got him all wrapped up in the name, but now that we're back home, it's business as usual.

His language continues to develop: The other morning he was reaching for my alarm clock (every night is an adventure to find my clock, then make sure it's set to the right time, then make sure the alarm is set to the right time - the kid is a whiz at changing things!). Anyway, he was pointing at the clock and said "Daddy - I want to do Tick Tock": Excusing the use to To Do instead of To Have, that's a good sentence.

Up at the lake, I was walking to the cabin and Papa asked "Isaac, who is that?" He pointed and said "Oh, I know! It's a Daddy!" I love my clever children, yes I do.

Well, it's an early night for me, so signing off.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fear Not

Pamela's back was better by Saturday, and by all accounts she has had a very nice weekend in Vegas! No bigger update than that for now... but I wanted to set the world's mind at ease.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Oh my...

A quick update: Day 1.5 of Mom-Free Weekend went well: Isaac and I went to my workplace and charmed the coworkers. We followed that with a terrible lunch at Leeann Chin, but he liked the eggroll and rice. Sidebar: What happened to Leeann Chin? It was always bad, but in a sort of crave-able way. But at some point, they decided to pre-sauce the sesame chicken, and it became a goopy mess. Nuts to them.

Bella and Jenny played here for part of the AM, then went off to the pool with Grandma and Grandpa, then back here to play and chomp down on pizza for the afternoon. They've integrated Isaac into their playing, too, so I actually got a fair amount of work done today too!

But the Oh My is that Pamela woke up today in Vegas to find her back had popped out again: She got a massage, she laid around in the cabana all day, and she has taken pain killers, but this evening she was flat on her back, missing out on a steak dinner and a round of mayhem. POOR DEAR!!!! This is just too sad!

More updates as they happen....

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Whooooooo Phillies

Ok. It's been a busy week since we got back from the Lake on Sunday. First off, I caught a cold on Friday, was a wreck on Saturday, had the cold move into my chest on Sunday, hacking up phlegm as we drove home.... Good times, good times. I suffered through work Monday (had to get caught up on some things) and hopped a plane to BILLINGS again that night.

Had a big presentation at 9am Tuesday in Billings, and caught the 1pm flight home. Wednesday AM I flew to Philly. Ah Philadelphia.

I was with Mike (my boss) and Katie (our marketing sassafrass), and the goal was a "VIP Event". But first lunch at Reading Station (again - I can't stay away from that place, and I haven't eaten the same place twice). This time, my meal was a pastrami sandwich with huge chunks of meat which they trimmed lean while I watched, with some slaw and russian dressing on rye bread that somehow kept it all together by being denser than shale. It was amazing to eat. I had a bowl of chicken matzo ball soup too, which was the best I'd had since Zaroff's passed away.

On to the VIP... but first a detour to the Philly Airport Marriott - Expensive, surprisingly inconvenient given its location, and not all that nice, with some VERY surly or inept help. Good times. We had dropped in prior to the Reading Feast and checked our bags since the rooms weren't ready.... and to get them back took over 15 minutes of them LOOKING for them in various rooms. Wow.

Ok, the VIP event was the Phillies versus the Washington Generals^h^h^h^h^h^h^h Senators (sorry - double old school joke: The generals are the patsy team that loses against the Harlem Globetrotters in every game, which was a comment on how badly they were pasted last night... and the ^h is very old - if you didn't have your keyboard configured correctly and tried to use the backspace key on an old UnIX system, it would display ^h instead of removing your typing. So double the geekiness for all of you).

We had people from three prospective clients there, and we provided food and drink and some great seats in a skybox in the new Citizens Bank Park - a really wonderful stadium actually. I was introduced to philly's own "Water Ice" frozen treat: Basically a hard mister misty in a minicup. Water Ice. Wow. Anyway, the schmooze is the word at these events, but I took the low key approach, which I think is the better option anyway. Of course the team won, which always helps things.

Came home this morning on the early flight, spent the late morning with the family, then took Pamela to the airport: Yes, she's doing a ladies' weekend out: VEGAS BABY with 5 Moms from Bella's pre-kindergarten class. I already to a report - they were seated on a party plane in the midst of 16 young men on their way for a bachelor party. There were a lot of "whoooops" and high fives. (This doesn't happen in first class on the way to Billings, by the way)

Isaac caught my cold, and has been walking around with a stuffy nose, adorably "daying dings wid a duffy doze" - now that he's talking a lot, it's maybe the cutest thing I've ever heard, even though I feel very sad for him. He's getting his energy back, however: As I sat on the floor watching Mister Rogers with him tonight, he climbed up onto the couch and stage dove right onto my belly.

He continues his "eating more" path which is heartening: Tonight he attacked a bag of "Cheetos Natural", and when I tried to grab a few he actually swatted my hand away yelling "NO DADDY! MY CHIPS!!!!" If only I could get that with broccoli. For my dinner I had a BLT made with fresh tomatoes from our victory garden: Huge, fresh, delicious. I will never even LOOK at a hothouse "Tomato". Forget it. NO WAY.

So that's the quick update. Life continues to speed by at an unreasonable pace, but it's all wonderful.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Update From the Lake

Oh my this has been a relaxing week. Many naps have been taken, many long hours sitting staring at the water while the kids either nap or run around like maniacs. A few minor things to report:

1) Today Bella asked “Why is it called November? Why not YES-vember?”

2) Isaac has taken to calling me “Jimmy”. Not Daddy any more. I hear “JIIIIMMMY!” from the bedroom when he’s up from his nap. “JIMMY!” with upstretched arms wanting a ride. It’s hard to accept this complete lack of respect, but coming from the little guy, it seems ok.

3) Bella has been pretending to be a Dog a fair amount up here – she calls herself “Sparky” and Isaac has been walking her around the yard. When she’s being Sparky, he calls her Sparky. When she’s Bella, he calls her Bella. He’s very up on the Role Playing.

4) Lilli had researched the horse riding ranches up here and decided on one… that turned out to be a 75 minute drive each way. I decided to be the hero and drove her up there, where she had a great 90 minute ride: She had a 14 year old girl trail guide who took her on a ride through forest, field, and river with lots of galloping: It was a dream come true for her.

As I waited for her on the farm, I got to know the Emu, Donkey, pet Horse, Calves, Goats, Chickens, Kittens, Llama, Peacocks, Ducks, and Geese that roamed the area. The Gander decided that I was perhaps something of a threat, and spent a bit of time chasing me around.

On the rides, Lilli and I had long random conversations in which I learned a great deal about Vampires (a pet topic of hers), she learned a little Japanese, and we both laughed at roadside signs for the “Bump and Putt”, “Whimsical Unicorn”, and “ANNU BOGO” (Still don’t REALLY know what that meant – perhaps “Annual Buy One Get One Free Sale”, only in Klingon.)

5) Bella has been collecting small glass/ceramic animals – one a day. We gave her an allowance, and PapaBam have been further funding the endeavor. She started with the rodents (mouse, ferret, squirrel), which made me very happy. The dogs have been added as the week has progressed. She looks very “important” with her small purse with her money and her judicious selection of JUST the right small animal for today.

6) And clarification on why there aren’t any Russian Speakers: It IS the economy, but it has more to do with the fact that the US dollar is in the toilet: Students from overseas can make a lot more money staying overseas – It simply isn’t very lucrative for them to come here! Yay US Economy! USA USA NUMBER ONE!

7) Finally, it’s fun to see family resemblance at play in the larger groups at the resort: There is one “Grandpa” I see who bears a striking resemblance to Mark Lenard’s “Sarek” from Star Trek – very Mediterranean looking with dark eyes and magnificently arched eyebrows. And looking at the table of 16 people, you see those eyes and eyebrows spread amongst the next two generations – a couple of daughters, and a smattering of grandkids.

Just one more day up here - Hard to believe it’ll be a week. For the record, yes I did check the blackberry a few times a day, but for very good business reasons. And yes there were a couple of calls I had to make. But 99% of the time has been pure vacationland, and it has been wonderful. It’ll be nice to be back in my home zone again, however!

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Up North Update

We’re in full relax mode up here: The weather has been very nice, the facilities are as usual excellent, and everyone’s in a great mood. This is shaping up to be a very good vacation indeed.

Naturally since I had stated my desire to leave work behind, my blackberry blinked this morning with news that a new client who I had been trying to get into since the beginning of the year was actively seeking me out… of course! Fortunately my boss will start the overtures.

Isaac is a wild man: He’s been running around the lawn tossing a mini football and flinging frisbees and running in circles. He’s loving the outdoor life, hollering “OUTDOOR!!!” whenever he finds himself inside for more than a minute or two. He’s eating pretty well too, with a newfound love of Ice Cream: He has had a few bowls of it now (starting with one at our house offered by cousin Lilli), and while eating, he pauses frequently to lift his spoon to the sky and proclaim “AYE SREEM!!!!”

Bella and Lilli are a wonderful pair: They are both popping TicTacs at an alarming rate, and Lilli showed Bella how to play Chess tonight: They actually played a full game, and Lilli guided her to a win (with generosity beyond her 12 years). Lilli has decided that Uncle Jimmy is a plaything, teasing me non-stop, tackling, tickling, and sassifrassing: But I’m also the one who at least tries to understand the fevered ramblings of her tweener manga-influenced mind, and I think she appreciates having someone who is willing to operate at her level.

The lake beach has been well visited, and there may remain a few rocks of distinction there, but the grand majority of them have been secreted into boxes and bags by the industrious Bella, and are on our porch. I suspect our car will be riding pretty low on the shocks. Bella and Isaac also swam in the pool for quite a while today… this will be how our days go.

To my great dismay, there don’t appear to be any Russian-speaking exchange students here this year. I asked someone, and they said most of the foreign kids are in the housekeeping area this year… I suspect that perhaps the economy is a factor, and the resort had no trouble filling their waitstaff positions with locals. It’s just a theory. But I’m glad I had boned up on Russian anyway… It’s a fun language.

Oh, and right above our deck is a robin’s nest: Three teenage babies are hanging out, and the mom comes back to feed them very regularly, all around 6 feet from our chairs. We wonder if those big birds will be ready to fly this week: If so it’ll be a wonderful treat.

So that’s the update from Up North. More as it happens. And yes, I am checking messages. Occasionally.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hit the road Jack

It's time for our annual pilgrimage to "The Lake" - Papa and Bama have arrived with the improbably 12-year old Lilli in tow (complete with goth vampire novel and assorted Manga comics to entertain her). We're piling into the rented minivan for a week, and hope that the world can survive in our absence.

There may be a few updates from up there: It is the 21st century, and Wifi exists just about everywhere, doesn't it?

In the meantime, I've made it clear that this week is not about work: Even though I actually have 4 hot sales prospects cooking, I've sloughed them off to my boss and while I'll bring the Berry along for quick replies, the work laptop (on which "real work" would be done) is safely on my desk in Golden Valley, likely to have a nice vacation from being turned on. No, I'll be reading a good Sci Fi book (finally tackling Matter by Iain M Banks), reviewing fitness materials, and continuing to refine my sermon for the wedding I'll be performing in 3 weeks... 3 WEEKS!!!!???!!!!

Take care, see you in a week!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

New Yawk

Monday afternoon, we got a call from a potential client in NYC wanting to know if we wanted to meet this week to talk about a big project. Naturally we said yes indeed, so my boss and I are in the middle of a 13 hour visit to "The City"

A 9am flight, 1pm landing, a town car into the city. We walked into the neighborhood a bit (33rd and 2nd ave) and found an italian place: Split two entrees - Penne alla Vodka and neopolitan pizza with sausage and pepperoni - both were flat out amazing.

We walked back to the meeting, and had a great 90 minute conversation with the client: They're just starting and are looking for advice as well as resources, so we were able to really share some of our experience, and position ourselves to help with the project directly.

Now we're in the Worldclub killing 45 minutes before the flight home - we'll be home in the home airport by 10 and home by 11. Not too bad, and it feels like a good trip.

I must say that even though it was a short visit, I still wound up loving every minute of it - this is such a cool city, and I NEED to get a big project here so that I have more excuses to visit.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Instructor

So this morning, I "co-led" the Bodypump class: One of the club owners David was there, and we alternated tracks: I did Squats, Back, Biceps, Shoulders, and the cool-down. While I didn't do a whole lot of "extra" stuff (I stayed on the stage, I didn't go "correct" anyone's form, my banter was minimal), I was spot on with the cueing and I think there was only one little mistake (I called a 2upanddown, when it was really a 3up1down) which I corrected immediately.

It was really really fun to be doing it, but I also had to go down on my weights so that I could focus on the class, so my workout wasn't QUITE the same as usual. I got feedback from David - a bunch of relatively minor corrections, and the praise that he'd never seen a beginning instructor do so well on his first class.

And I haven't actually had the formal training, nor have I had access to the actual instructor materials for the class - I just picked it all up by being a class participant. So it's just crazy around here.

What else to report... My electromagnetic brain has killed yet another set of phones in our house. I don't know why, but phones only last 2 years in this house before the simply die in mysterious ways. I blame the Jimmyfield effect - I always get two fewer bars of cell reception than anyone else, and my phones die much faster than other people's. So I got some new phones today for almost-free:

Back in November I bought both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players, thinking that the "format war" might stretch on a while. Turns out Toshiba gave up in February and Blu-Ray is the winning format. In an effort to soothe the rage of those who picked the "wrong" format, Bestbuy (along with Amazon and others) gave out $50 gift cards to those of us who had bought HD-DVD players. So I used that "pity money" to get some new cool looking phones for the house. In the meantime, the old phones have decided to turn off their mics and refuse to work more than 6 feet from their base stations. They're just making things worse for themselves, I hope they know that.

Pamela came back from a "Mom's night out" a few minutes ago. No, it wasn't a bunch of ladies and mojitos. It was Pamela shopping all by herself - some well deserved alone time. I put the screaming herd to bed (whoo - they were in a STATE tonight), and she brought me a slice of cherry pie for my troubles. So now I'm going to tuck into that pie.

Then off to bed: 6am class starts early (6am actually). I'm not teaching tomorrow as far as I know: It's step, and I could probably do it (and offered to help if needed), but I think Allen (the usual instructor) will be back on the scene.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Some quick updates

1) Our regular instructor hurt his back this weekend, so I'm filling in Monday at class - my first "real" fitness teaching! This is just crazy.

2) Had a great afternoon: Mom was performing an amazing biographical drama for the MN Fringe Festival: It's a drama that is set in 1942-45 following a strong lady who loved and lost and went to the ETO to help the troops and loved again - and it's all true. It's based on letters and diary entries between the woman and her mom, and the story was written by the daughter/granddaughter. It's a very moving portrait of both what it was like for Red Cross service workers AND for those back at home in places like Bismarck ND.

She's done this a few times in the past, with two other tellers, and this time it's in a premier slot at this festival. Even better, two of the subjects (the woman and her daughter - the mom passed away in the 1960s) were in the audience, which was frankly electrifying - to have these stories told back to the people who wrote them originally....

So it was a great afternoon, and I'm so happy for the success that the story and that mom and her cohorts in the Klatch (her storytelling collective) are having.

3) A quick Isaac moment: In the Foss Swim School, when a kid has done a good job, the teacher asks them for a "high five" - and when the kid delivers the slap, the teacher yells "whoaaaaaah" and falls over backwards into the water. Every kid loves this, and Isaac is no exception.

Last night at bedtime, he was having a hard time winding down, and asked for High Five around 20 times, before I set him down to settle. 10 minutes later, he was hollering again, needing that last 4 ounces of bottle to set his hungry indicator to "full" and really pass out. But before he did, he murmured...

"Daddy.... Hand".
- I put my hand up.
"High. UP HIGH".
- I raised my hand.
- I opened the palm.
"High Five!"
- And he slapped my hand.

And I gave him one last WHOOOOAAAHH! And popped him to bed.