Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thirsty ?!

Short blog here ... this is just a picture of my daughter Myra having her "First Birthday" bath ... No, we have not waited a year to give her a bath ... this is the after-eating-the-cake-and-getting-ridicolously-messy-all-over bath that all of my kids have enjoyed on their first birthday.

I liked the picture so much I just had to share it ... I just think kids are so cute when they are interacting with the objects around them, especially if you can capture the image at just the right moment ... like this one ...


What Toppings Go With Watermelon ?

On my impromptu date night with my wife Karen, we enjoyed a rare dessert-after-dinner experience.  And it was superb!

We went to the "new" Yo Yogurt at the intersection of Powers and Stetson Hills, here in Colorado Springs.

 If you've never been, here's a brief introduction:
 - You select your size (there are only two available - big or bigger)
 - You select your frozen yogurt (or a combination of flavors)
 - You select your toppings (everything you could imagine & then some)
 - You weigh your concoction and then you pay (0.37 cents per ounce on this day)

Karen had been before and said it was great, but I wasn't really convinced to try it.  You see, I don't like frozen yogurt.  I also don't like custard.  Everyone I knew told me I just had to try Culver's ... and I did ... and it was awful (IMHO).  So I was very leery of trying this, even though my wife is almost always a great judge of whether or not I will like something.

This is what the
row of flavors
looks like.
You can taste-test any of the flavors, which I reluctantly did with "Watermelon" ... and boy was I surprised!  It had a relatively creamy texture (rare for anything other than ice cream on my palette) and the flavor was so strong, but so good!  I didn't even taste anything else.

Ultimately we decided against getting just that one flavor (we were both so full from dinner we knew we had to share one cup bowl) mainly because of the title of this blog ... what kind of topping would make sense to put on Watermelon Frozen Yogurt?!  I couldn't think of any and it seemed like a waste to have my first (of many) trip(s) to Yo Yogurt not include any toppings.  We had the same mix that Karen had tried (and loved) before ... Banana, Chocolate, and Peanut Butter flavored yogurts with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Brownie Bites as toppings.

Sooooo yummy!  A great ending treat to a great date night!  :)


Stay Home or Ride Your Bike ?

I have two sons: Josh Jr is 11 (almost 12) and Ben is 9 (almost 10).  They are almost always really good friends and enjoy almost all the same activities.  Their personalities are very different, but they also share so many similarities that you just know they are brothers.

My boys are both excellent swimmers!  And LOVE the water!

The other day I was taking Karen on an impromptu date and my mom had graciously agreed to watch the kids so Karen and I could have some alone time.  Thanks again Grandma Julie!

Anyway, we needed to get all of the kids over to her house but there was one ... small ... problem.  The van (a.k.a. Karen's car) was in the shop ... soooooo ... it was going to either take two trips in my car ... or ... we could get creative.  Hence the title of this blog ... because that was the question given to my two sons!

After a brief "consultation" with each other, they joyously agreed to bike over to Grandma's house.  It is only 1.7 miles away, but to get there you have to take Dublin Blvd and Peterson Rd, both of which are semi-major streets.  I know Karen wasn't excited about this, but she kinda just had to go along once the boys were so excited to go.

They made it without any issue, and in pretty good time too.  You'll have to ask them for their report, but suffice it to say they were VERY grateful for the sprinklers that "cooled them down" from the heat.

I am proud of them for being so willing to ride there (and ride home later).  I know I can trust them both, especially when they are together!


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How long is she gonna pray for ?!

Cat loves to take pictures.
This is my favorite "serious"
self portrait so far.
 Catalina has been a frequent flyer in my blog posts, which is normal because she has been at my favorite age for kids (18 mos to ~ 4 yrs old) as long as I have been blogging.  I actually have several posts to complete tonight (most of them already written -- Thanks Jeremy for the great idea!) but I had to add this one in because this evening was the perfect example of a regular occurrence with my sweet Cat!

A brief background ... I was driving the kids home from Grandma Penny's house (Karen was at a Pool Board meeting and Josh Jr had a Court of Honor for Boy Scouts, which I also needed to be at).  Because it was later than I wanted to be driving home (the CoH went very long!) we decided to say night-time prayers in the car on the way home.  We do this periodically.  Even though it is not preferred, I would rather the kids say their prayers in the car than not say them at all (because they often fall asleep on the ride home).

Well Catalina (who is usually very loud) says very soft prayers.  She also sits in the very back of the van on the driver's side, so I can almost never hear her prayer.  She is still learning how to pray, so it often is much more like a conversation about whatever she is thinking about from the day or what she is seeing outside (she still hasn't quite mastered the whole "eyes closed, arms folded" concept either).  When you can hear her prayer it is inspirational and adorable!  What a relationship she must have with her Father in Heaven!  I imagine He enjoys the prayers even more than I can appreciate them ... but I bet He chuckles quite a bit while listening to them too!

The length of her prayers is equally impressive ... and (sometimes) very frustrating ... like when you can't hear if she is still praying, has fallen asleep, or is done and doing something else already.  Tonight, she prayed from the Meadowland Stake Center all the way until we passed the McDonald's on Stetson Hills, east of Powers Blvd.  And we got stopped at every light in between so this was a VERY long time!  At the end, she realized none of us knew she was done and said, very loudly, "I said AMEN !!!"

Yes, yes you did.  Amen !  :)

And here are some more recent self portraits ... in the second picture you can see how taxing it is to get the right look!  An artist who is unhappy with anything less than perfection!  :)


Monday, June 27, 2011

Why would you get anything else ?

Twice in the past month I have eaten at the A&W restaurant near Tutt Blvd and Constitution Ave here in Colorado Springs.
The first time was after I took my oldest son out for his first ever "bucket of balls" at the golf course.  He did good and this was his reward.
The second was this evening when I took my sweetheart Karen out for dinner after the "rough day" she had.

I love A&W rootbeer, but it is NEVER better than at the restaurant right from the "draft keg" dispenser!
Even when I am full as can be I will "fill up" my cup before leaving the restaurant with this tasty concoction.

While dining there tonight my wife asked me the very title of this blog ... "Why would you get anything else?!"
She was, of course, referring to the variety of other soft drinks available from the fountain right next to the root beer draft keg.
She was also, of course, totally right!

I do not go to A&W for the food.  It's not that it's bad or anything, but I can get a burger or chicken sandwich that is arguably just as good at dozens of other locations.  I go ... for ... the root beer!

Mmmmmm ... time to go finish off the rest of my root beer from tonight.

Ahhhhh ... :)


Does the NBA Draft really matter ?

I'm far from an expert on the NBA draft, but I am a casual observer of the spectacle it has become.  Like many other sports-related experiences (besides the official games themselves), the Draft has become a nationally televised event!

This boggles my mind!

Let me be clear ... I do understand how this has happened.  People have greater and greater expectations of being "entertained" and the tv moguls have to appeal to their audiences' demand and supply what is being asked for.  There IS a market for sharing hundreds of different versions, updated multiple times every day, of Mock Drafts, etc.  Just look at the explosion of Fantasy Football (and baseball and basketball, etc.) for an example of a "demand" that increased and a "supply" that was generated to fill that need.  Since the very first days of competitive sports, fans wanted to cheer on their teams or favorite athletes as a means to live vicariously through others.  It should come as no surprise that things have escalated to this extreme.

But the Draft Day "experience" still puzzles me because ...
Everything about it is speculation.

No one ever predicts accurately the order in which athletes will be selected, and even more relevant to my overall point ... it doesn't actually MATTER when someone is picked!

Professional sports teams are largely comprised of athletes who were never even selected in the "draft" (or at least not in the first 1-2 rounds when anyone cares where they got selected).  Do a little research and you'll find a ridiculous number of starting players on NBA rosters that were selected in the late 2nd round and/or beyond.  It's even more glaring when you look at the number of high draft picks that never panned out to more than anything other than a huge signing bonus and just enough money to buy some car dealerships.

Jimmer goes #10 in the 2011 draft.  And it means ... nothing really.  He's headed to the Sacramento Kings.  Okay.  And that means ... nothing really.  There might be a work stoppage.  He might be traded.  He might hold out to play European ball for better money (not really).  Nothing matters until the season starts and even then it will be 3-5 years from now before ANYONE picked in this draft is actually contributing at a major level on their respective teams.

So why all the hullabaloo?

I offer this for your consideration ...

The only thing better than talking about what did happen in sports is talking about what could happen!  That's why the Draft is more talked about that the Finals or even this years' playoff series.  We're always happier to predict our fantasy future than assess our partially satisfying past.

Especially as fans of the game!


What happened to "Medium" ?

"Sizes" are all kinds of messed up.

Look at the eggs you get at your supermarket.  Good luck finding "small" or even "medium" eggs.
Really?!  Can YOU tell a difference?!

Check out the tags on the shirts you like to wear.  I am nowhere near what should be considered "large" and yet almost all of the shirts (tees, collared, etc.) I own are XL = Extra Large.  Before you make a judgement of me, go check out your shirt sizes and see if they really match your size ... especially as compared with the general population of our country and planet!

It seems like restaurants are the only place where you can get "small" or "medium" sizes anymore, but even there they have changed their verbiage and they call everything "regular" or some variation that is less offensive.  Plus it is really only "kids" sizes that are "small."

And don't even get me started on the variations in "size" on labels for children's clothing!  It is a mockery of any standardized measurement system.  Size 10 shirts that are too small for my 9-year old!  A size 6 skirt that is still too big for my almost 8-year old daughter!  What is going on here?!

I remember the days when Large meant LARGE.

What happened?!


What is it with Climbing ?

This morning I was watching my youngest daughter Myra (who just turned a year old) while her siblings were all at swim lessons with Karen.  Myra was all over the place while I was busy doing the final loads of laundry and general straightening around the house.

At a certain point I realized that she was in her oldest brother's room.  He has Legos!  These made Myra very excited and she decided she HAD to get them!

So she assessed the situation ...
and decided one leg at a time was the way to go ...

Once she was up there she was so proud of herself.  These two pics give you a little idea, but the faces she made when I wasn't snapping pictures were much more proud and devilish all rolled into one look of extreme satisfaction!

I think ALL kids have desires to climb things.  Even when they fall and get hurt (sometimes repeatedly) the desire remains.  There is just some innate driving force to be "on" things or to be able to see from a higher vantage point.

I find it interesting that, at a certain age, this trend begins to reverse.  I am convinced that everyone I know over the age of 60 is less and less inclined to go up anything or even be higher than their natural height allows them to see from.

I wonder why ...


Thursday, June 23, 2011

What do you do after you "vent" ?

I need something positive and uplifting after that last BLAH / Grumpy post ... so I thought I'd share a few links to some videos/songs on YouTube that I "stumbled" across which were like finding an extra prize in your cereal box on a Saturday morning when you were a little child and prizes in a box of cereal made your whole year.

This first link is the a video for the song "Doubting Thomas" by Nickel Creek.  They are a bluegrass band that had some hits on the country charts several years back.  You may have heard some of their music, but even if you haven't I think you might still really enjoy this song.  It is a little sad and depressing, especially considering the way this "fan" chose to depict the song in the video.  It follows the story of a woman who was abused by her father at a young and impressionable age.  She is now engaged (or married ... this is not entirely clear) but is doubting whether or not she is capable of having faith in her fiance / husband because of the abusive past experience.
I know you probably think that I'm crazy for following up my "venting" blog with this sad little story/video, but it is actually inspirational for me because the woman in the video says (in the letter she leaves for her husband) that she will be back!  Like many of us, she simply needs some time to reconcile her prior issues so she can move forward and enjoy the happiness she (and her beau) so richly deserve.

This next link is not so much a "video" as just a song that I absolutely fell in love with the very first time I heard it.  The song is "I See The Light" from the movie Tangled.  It is sung by Mandy Moore (who is, of course more than capable with a beautiful voice) and ... Chuck!  Okay, he just plays the character Chuck on the aptly named sitcom, but his real name is Zachary Levi ... and the man can sing!
I love this song partially because it fit so perfectly in the movie (which I went to go see with my oldest daughter when it was in theaters), but also because the melody, harmony, and vocal range (at least for the male part) are beautiful and I am able to sing along comfortably!  Plus, it is so cool to hear a person I've watched for years on a tv show demonstrate their ability to do more than just act.  It is as impressive as when I heard Ewan MacGregor bust out amazing harmonies in "Come What May" in the soundtrack to the movie "Moulin Rouge."

This next link is to a fun, upbeat song about how ticked off this man is about not being able to attract a woman because she has unrealistic expectations.  The artist is Cee Lo Green and the song is "F* You" (but the version linked above is the "clean" one titled "Forget You").  I personally prefer the F* You version, but the clean one still conveys the message intended.  I think we all dream of being able to say this to someone.  It may be a former dating partner or a tempermental boss or a family member ... but you just want to say ... FORGET YOU!  :)

This final link is to another upbeat song that begins with some serious hatred and negativity from the lead singer but even before he gets to the first chorus his mood is excited and looking forward to the future.  The artist/group is Hot Chelle Rae and the song is "Tonight, Tonight."
My favorite part of this song is almost near the end when he is singing the chorus and hook (oh, ohh, oh!) repeatedly.  You have to listen carefully but he begins to invite people to join him (all you party people, all you singletons) ... and then he busts out "even the white kids!"  That one just makes me laugh!
I have no idea if this guy is a "white kid" but I actually think we're closer to breaking down barriers of racism when we are willing to mock ourselves (and in the right spirit one another) for those stereotypical idiosyncracies we have within different cultures, races, nationalities, and so forth.  As long as people understand those stereotypes are often but not always accurate, then we can just laugh about it instead of getting all offended.

I hope you like these songs and/or videos.  Thanks for letting me follow my grumpy blog with something much more upbeat and enjoyable (except for the Doubting Thomas song anyway!)  :)


How will it end up being MY fault ?

I always have to be cautious in this blog when I choose to write about things related to my current occupation and workplace.  This is for two reasons:
#1. Several people I work with occasionally read this blog.
#2. Once posted, my words are available to come back and bite me in the butt if at any future point someone decides to use them against me.

Based on some recent events I've been forced to deal with, I am going to risk both of those reasons because I need to simply blow off the frustration I am feeling so I can move on and LET IT GO!

If you don't want to read a negative, venting blog ...
this is your warning to just leave now.

A little background is necessary to understand the reason for my extreme frustration.  My current work group is filled with *Blended reps (*this means they are equipped to handle sales and service calls), while the majority of our call center reps are **single-skilled (**sales only or services only).  This means that when our various support groups (think customer service for "internal" customers) are in need of additional or replacement staff, they prefer to take people from MY group because less overall training time is involved and those reps can make a much quicker, smoother transition to the different role.

Logic would suggest that keeping the "Blended" group fairly large would be a wise decision considering succession planning, etc. In this area I believe people in authority to make this happen have routinely dropped the ball.

Four years ago, I lost several members of my team to one of these support groups, which was sad for me but exciting in several ways for the reps involved because it was something they wanted to do.  After a period of time with a much smaller team, those "people" finally came to their senses and back filled our work group.  This is a necessary change and is actually exciting for lots of single-skilled reps because they get to expand their skill set.

Three years ago, the same work group came calling for more people.  Based on the newer Blended rep additions, there were a few more people that were interested in moving to that group, but not quite as many as the leader of that group would have liked.  That individual borderline pressured a few individuals to come and join the group (so he could fill his own hiring goals) and made some promises that he did not (and could not) keep.  Time passed and more time passed and still more time passed and about 18 months ago those "people" got their act together and finally blended some more people.

In less than 6 months after blending those additional reps, the same leader came calling, yet again, for more people to come join his ***unhappy campers group (***I call them this because many, not all, in that work group wish they didn't have to be there any longer.  I know this because they are not shy about saying so.  I also know this because 5 of my current 19 reps used to work in that group and LEFT the group because it was "not a good work environment" for them).  NO ONE and I do mean no one was interested in moving.  The newly blended folks didn't feel confident enough to take on more skills and the tenured folks in the work group had already passed up two opportunities to move ... soooo ... the leader went through some questionable practices to coerce several more people to move to his work group.  I wish I was being unfair in my assessment here, but I have spoken with three different individuals from that last group to transfer over and they all, independently, told the same story ... "I was promised this or that but once I got here I was told I must have misunderstood."  Bottom line: The "leader" got his people ... and there has been no "back fill" of Blended since that time.

 Last month, I was informed that this group had a "business need" for MORE people ... again!  The leader and those "people" had gone through the lists to identify individuals capable of and interested in moving to that group and ... surprise, surprise ... NO ONE was interested !!!

It is at this point that I no longer have concrete facts about what actually happened, but the historical behavior of this leader and this "people" suggest a fair amount of very poor decisions and planning related to this current situation (but you be the judge and tell me if what I've said so far is too jaded or one-sided).

Here is what has happened now:
 - Blended reps from my work group have been "tapped" to go and join this group.  Not asked.  Not encouraged or given false promises or unnecessary coercion ... forced.  You WILL be moving to that work group, thank you.
 - Single-skilled reps who ARE interested in going to that group have been turned down (on the basis that there is not sufficient time to train them on the new skill set and also on the sales or service skill set).
 - Those "people" have begun the selection process and scheduling for ... more people to become Blended.
 - I was put in the difficult position of being the messenger of the news of their forced move to these unfortunate 7 reps.

It is that last bullet that has me the most upset, at least on the selfish side of things ... because I am also livid at this leader and those people on behalf of these reps.  *These reps that are being forced to move are NOT happy.  They have threatened quitting and many of them have already turned down this group 3 times!  But somehow, in the eyes of the leader and those people, *THIS is going to end up being MY fault!  They will inevitably find a way to blame ME for not being capable of communicating this change and/or getting people excited about making a move they didn't want to make anyway!

I could go on and on (readers of my blog already know this ... and so does everyone I work with for that matter) ... but that about sums it up.  But here are a few questions I don't have answers to.  I think if they were answered sufficiently, then the true person responsible for this difficult situation would come to light ... and it would be either the leader or those people, but likely some combination of both!
 - What is the actual "business need" causing the continued expansion of this group?  Is it increased call volume?  Or could it be poor efficiency and accountability by this very leader with his current inflated staffing group?
 - Why is there such hesitation by this leader and these people to explain everything that has occurred in the process leading to this decision?  Do they simply not have answers?  Or are they afraid that the answers will clearly demonstrate their flawed logic and/or lack of planning or consideration of multiple solutions?
 - How are we able to find time to schedule training for new Blended reps, and yet at the same time NOT have sufficient time to train those single-skilled reps who WANT to move to this group into Blended?
 - Why would a work group have such a difficult time getting people to come and join them?  Is it because other people are bad-mouthing them?  Or is it possible that the work group actually has a terrible morale problem, likely not being sufficiently addressed by the leader of that group?
 - How can a supposedly effective leader NOT recognize the continuing need to expand his work group and therefore push those people to Blend more single-skilled reps in advance of the time they are needed so he has a sufficient pool of qualified candidates from which to select people?
 - And finally, why would a leader actively accept, seek after, push for, and choose to bring people into his work group that do NOT want to be there as opposed to bringing in people who DO want to be there and are eager to be taught?!

This blog post has allowed me to vent my frustration so I can begin the moving on process.  At the very least, it may be a cautionary tale for myself to consider if and when I am in a position of authority similar to that of this leader or those people.

A final thought for those of you that persevered through this post (or just skipped to the end to see if there was a punch line) ...
Everyone is an example.  It is up to YOU to determine if they are a good example or a bad one.  May you be blessed with the wisdom to discern the difference for yourself.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why are your lights still on ?!

I hate it when I pull up to a drive thru late at night, with the store lights and drive thru menu lights bright as all get out ... only to be told "We're Closed!" or worse yet ... to never get a response at all from the owners/employees.

It's one thing to leave the store name lights on and/or those in the parking lot, but it is entirely different and entirely RUDE to leave the drive thru lights on and the rest of the interior lights aglow!

Just me venting ... tonight when it happened at Wendy's I booked it over to McDonald's (Josh Jr had earned a chocate shake by playing an hour and a half of basketball ... in his sandals no less!) ... the drive thru line took forever but the silver lining was that the manager just handed me the shake and said "It's on me."  I offered again to pay but she said "No thanks.  Have a great night."

And that's just one more reason why McDonald's is better than Wendy's!  :)

No contest!  McDonald's fries win in a landslide!  :)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

How do you eat your pizza ?

I'm weird in many ways, but one of them is the way that I eat pizza.  It may be a little OCD but ultimately it is a tried and true method and I'll eat my pizza that way regardless of where we are (in a restaurant, at home. etc.) or who is with us (family, work function, etc.)

I like there to be an appropriate ratio of pizza-with-toppings to crust.  So I eat my pizza from both ends at the same time.  My first bite of pizza always includes the normal starting point (the tip) that others enjoy, but I also bite off a huge chunk of crust with that first bite.  The second bite includes a devouring of the other end of the crust, so my pizza slice looks like more of a circle at that point.  Once I'm in the middle of the slice I take smaller "crust" bites until the last bite is a rectangular piece of pizza with equal amount crust and "topping covered" portion.

Some of my kids hate eating crust so I have taught them this method, which alleviates the need to eat a breadstick after enjoying all that topping-laden goodness.  Dominoes had to go and make their crust all tasty though, so I just eat their pizza like "normal" people because that breadstick is tasty!

Pizza Hut modified my idea with their Stuffed Crust advertising around "eating the pizza backwards" but I don't mind.  I think everyone would enjoy their whole pizza experience more if they would just embrace the eat from all sides mentality.

My favorite pizza though is still my wife's homemade pizza.  Mmmmm.  If you haven't tried it then you need to invite yourselves over for games and pizza!  She makes it with chicken and bacon and either ranch or barbeque sauce.  Sooooo good!  She made it for me last night as a pre-Father's Day meal.  Thankfully I got pulled away from eating it, otherwise I'd have overeaten and been sick all day today.  :)

I.  Just.  Can't.  Stop.  Eating.  It.  Mmmmmm!


Is your computer loading slow?

Ben (my almost 10-year old son) told me this afternoon (when his game wouldn't load on my computer) that "the computer was making all these excuses."

I know he was actually talking about the game filling the load time with amusing statements but it made me think that he was calling those screen pops we sometimes get with system errors on them "excuses" from a lazy computer.

Come on son ... I'll catch ya!
I promise!  :)
 This made me laugh because his viewpoint on things is weird just like mine!  :)

Love ya Benny boy!


Have you seen Psych ?

I am certain I have blogged about this show before, but it deserves another blog post because the show is quite possibly my favorite show ever.  I know that is saying alot, but there is really nothing about the show that I would change ... except for there to be more episodes.

Shawn having a "psychic vision"

 The premise of the show is that Shawn Spencer is a "Psychic Detective" who receives premonitions about information that helps him solve real police cases.  Of course he doesn't actually receive any psychic help, he is just extremely meticulous in his observations.  He has a good buddy "Gus" (his full name is Burton Guster) who has been his friend since they were little kids.
(L-R) Juliet, Shawn's dad, Shawn,
The Chief, "Gus", and Lassiter

The cast of other characters all have their own idiosyncracies that make them all endearing.  Shawn's dad, the Chief of Police, his love interest Juliet, and even the too-by-the-book "Lassie" are all played to a perfect T in every episode and unique situation.

The 80's (and some early 90's) references are hilarious and spot on.  The chemistry between all the characters is electric.  And the writing is superb!  The dialogue moves so fast that you can easily miss several hilarious and perfectly timed comments.  The characters themselves play their parts as though they were on a TV show, which makes it all the more fun because they are!  The storylines are occassionally far fetched, but for the most part they are believable.  I literally cannot get enough of this show and I am so glad that my own good buddy from my childhood (high school still counts as childhood!) got me turned on to the show.  Thanks Craig!

Pineapples are a HUGE part of the show !
(Shawn has an almost unhealthy obsession with them)

Tonight we will be watching the last 2 episodes of Season 5, which is all there is for right now.  I am not even sure when the next season will start up but I am geeking out about it like I have with no other shows ever (even Lost, which I was very addicted to at one time).  So check it out if you're looking for a comedic yet dramatic police / detective type of show ... or if you just want to be impressed with some great acting, even better writing, and references to pop culture from 2 decades ago.  You can catch every episode of the first 4 seasons on


Is it wrong to RACE to Church ?

Today on the way to church we got caught in a race with our "sister-van-family."

The Moore's, a family we have know for years, have basically the exact same mini-van we have.  Same year.  Same color.  Almost exactly the same features.  And while driving to church this morning I noticed them coming up behind us in the rear view mirror.  Jonathan, the dad, was driving (this is actually somewhat rare ... and now I think I know why) and he switched lanes as we turned from Dublin onto Peterson, apparently so he could try to pass us.

I wasn't really in a mood to "race" but it just struck me as funny ... so I gunned it.  I kept him at bay for a little bit, but he seemed less nervous about the copious amount of water in the road that we were fast approaching.  I slowed down before hitting the water but he floored it even more.  He later told me that they hydroplaned across the small river of water and he thought he was going to lose control of the car.

I stayed close, but a little ways off and then I noticed that the light at Stetson Hills and Peterson was red, meaning he would have to stop.  I slowed just enough and hit the light almost exactly as it went green.  If he had not peeled out his tires and opened up his extra turbo boosters I'd have flown past him, but he got up just enough speed to retain the inside lane.  He did go up on three wheels when he turned in the church parking lot (I was done racing long before then, but he clearly wanted to finish the victory).

We chatted and laughed about it in the parking lot and then tried to get our "spirituality" on before heading into church.  I have to say it was a pretty fun experience on Father's Day.  I am certain the "moms" didn't like it as much, but the kids all seemed very happy ... including the little kids inside of Jonathan and myself!  :)


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Are these the LAST Camping Photos ?

In the immortal words of Eric Forman (from That 70's Show) ... Yes, yes.

Yes, here are the last of the pictures from the 11-year old Scout Campout.

And yes, they are seemingly random ... but they are also too good NOT to share!

The view from just outside the "leader's tent"
We adults were VERY happy that the scouts
wanted to be so far away from us!  :)

Looking back toward the leader's tent
You can see our cars and the fire pit

As part of the Scout Rank Advancement ...
the boys had to build a "latrine" area.
Jeff and Aaron worked on this for a while.
Jeff really, REALLY needed to "go" ... badly!

Part One of "The Sunset Pictures"
(It does NOT do the beauty of this any justice!)

Part Two of "The Sunset Pictures"
No that is not a fire in the background
just an amazingly beautiful sunset!

The boys eating their "breakfast burritos" ... yum!

This was a tunnel (buried up) Bro. Dave Tusler and I found.
It was for the "Broadmoor Water / Power Co."
It has not been used in decades ... the water outside is GROSS!

Monday, June 13, 2011

What are you Collecting ?

Campout Experiences Part Four

Apparently the area where we camped with the boys is also a popular area for shooting.  I already shared pictures of the tree that was felled by the yahoos that couldn't hit whatever else they were trying to shoot at.  We noticed all sorts of bright orange colored pieces of some easily breakable material strewn about the campsite and surrounding area.  Just across the small creek on the south side of our camp, some of the boys found unbroken versions of these supposedly mysterious and intriguing objects.

The stack on the left belongs to Jeffrey Moore.
The double-stack on the right belongs to my son.

The boys showing off their "treasures"
(L-R) Jeffrey Moore, Nathan Peterson, Josh Case Jr.
Afterward Nathan asked to take the picture again ...
now I know why ... lookit the face he was making!  :)

They are clay pigeons and to be brutally honest, I'd actually never seen these kinds of things before in my life.  Neither had most of the boys.  So they collected them from all over the area and ended up tracking down over 50 that were basically brand newMy son was the most interested in collecting them and brought home over 30.  What he plans to do with them is a mystery to me, but I made him promise to clean it up and NOT to bring them into the house!  :)

Jon collected just a few of
the bullet casings around
the fire pit.  There were
thousands MORE!  Yikes!


Who's Cooking ?

Campout Experiences Part Three

For their Tenderfoot, 2nd Class, and 1st Class rank advancements,
Boy Scouts have several responsibilities related to meal preparation, cooking with a campfire and/or a camp stove, and clean up procedures that support Leave No Trace principles.

Here are some pics of our boys working on food for various meals.
Austin M trying to start the fire with his flint.
His cheering section is Josh Jr, Aaron, and Jon.

Our "dinner" fire (it went out multiple times!)  :(

Cutting carrots for our "salad"
Nathan (watching) with Aaron, Jeff, Austin hard @ work
(They did wash their hands before starting!)

Cooking our hot dogs over an open firepit.
(R-L) Nathan, Jon, Austin, Dave Tusler, Jeff
Bro. Jason Bullock was our parent tag along ...
he looked happy about his hot dog!  :)

The boys burning "Bacon Balls" for breakfast.
We had breakfast burritos, but the bacon was bad!
Lots of Bs in this explanation ... boy oh boy!  :)

Dave Tusler and Josh Jr setting up the campstove.
The boys cooked eggs and hash browns.
Don't be fooled by the sunlight ... It was EARLY !!!

Brother Dave overseeing Clean Up duties after breakfast
(L-R) Nathan, Austin, Jeff, Aaron, Jon, and Josh Jr.

What Happened Here ?!

Campout experiences Part Two

Bro. Dave Tusler and I decided to take a short hike Saturday morning, while the scouts were busy collecting something I'll blog about in Part Four.  We saw a few interesting things, but the MOST interesting (and disturbing to be perfectly honest) was what is pictured below.  I've included an explanation at the end of this blog post in case you don't figure it out yourself from the pictures.

This tree once stood over 60 feet tall.
Can you guess how it was felled?

Here's a hint: Look in the bottom left corner for a clue.
Also, note the striated patterns through the tree.
This was NOT chopped down, nor hit by lightning.

What do these bullets have to do with the tree?

If you haven't already guessed it, this tree was felled by bullets.

Who was / were the shooter(s)?

As Dave so appropriately put it "Crazy hillbillies!"

It was disappointing to see such a huge (not to mention beautiful) tree "cut" down in the prime of its life because some punks wanted a bigger target than their beer bottles or chewing tobacco tins (both of which we found littered among the whole campsite and hiking trail areas).

I am very grateful that the Boy Scouts of America program teaches and stresses the principles of Leave No Trace camping.  The boys picked up tons of trash (it may have been enough to count as a service project) from the campsite, left from prior campers whose only purpose appeared to be drinking and shooting things.  To our credit, the campsite looked better after we left than when we got there.  Good job young men!


How was the Campout ?

I rarely, if ever, have done "picture" blogs.  Usually I just write what I'm thinking about and add a few pictures in here or there.  But the campout I went on with my son, 5 of his scout friends, one other leader and one other parent, is just best told with pictures.  So without further ado here comes the first of FOUR (maybe five) blog posts about the campout.

Camping Experiences Part One

Of course the first thing you do when you "set up camp" is to find a suitable location for your tent(s) and get them set up.  The boys were all sleeping in our Case Family Mega-Tent (we just bought it and this was our first test of it).  Us leaders and fathers were sleeping in Bro. Dave Tusler's 6-man tent.  We adults did help set them up, but mostly the boys did it, because it is one of their requirements for rank advancement.

3 boys (Jeffrey Moore, Josh Case Jr, and Aaron Bullock)
were responsible to set up the MEGA TENT.
Jeffrey is the boy holding the ax ...
the wrong way for hammering in tent stakes.

Josh Jr, Jeffrey, and Aaron celebrate their "victory!"
They won the "battle" by finishing their tent first.

Dave Tusler (adult) and the 3 boys assigned to this tent.
(L-R) Austin McKamey, Nathan Peterson, and Jon Morrow
I think Austin was the only one that really helped.

Nathan, Jon, and Austin "finishing up" the tent.


Who the Heck just hit my head ?

Myra can't really talk yet.  She does say lots of gibberish and a few words that sound like "dada" and "stuck" and "up."  But the faces she makes when something happens to her are priceless!  They can never be captured by the camera because they are split second situations, but I often find myself filling in the words for her in those situations.
What are you lookin' at?!  :)
She is walking all over the place now, but with a hefty dose of stumbling and falling mixed in for good measure.  She reminds me of the character "Edgar" from the first Men in Black movie after his body is possessed by the alien and he can't really walk very well.  Maybe I'll figure out how to get it on video at some point and attach it to this blog.

In her walking around the house she is beginning to get too tall to walk under things any longer.  One case in point is the card table that the kids' computer is sitting on.  She used to fit under it with ease, but now when she stands up her head is literally right on the bottom of the table.  This is not a big deal except when she tries to walk out from under the table ... because the metal bars that hold the tabletop up come down about an inch below the bottom of the table.  So she walks along and it SMACKS her in the forehead (or top of the head if she is looking down while walking out).

Today she did this about three times and each time she looked around all over after hitting her head, as if to find the culprit.  Hence the title of this blog post ... because that is what I think Myra would say if she was able to.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

If you could, would you ?

I've been thinking a lot lately (odd because I talk so much you'd think I never have time to think) and one of the recurring thoughts is the title of this blog:

If you could, would you ?

This applies to millions of things and countless situations.  I think that question is a great tool for self-assessment in any scenario.  If you could do something and theoretically "get away with it" would you do it?  So many in society today must be answering that question with a resounding "YES" or maybe more appropriately a "HE** YEAH!"  But I'm not necessarily blogging about them tonight.  I'm blogging about me.  And you.  And every person who is alive or has ever lived or is yet to come.

I think this single, simple question can help a person decide what their true desires, wants, passions, "needs" and goals are.  Let me explain just a little more in case you're not already lost in your own train of thought on this one ...

A simple situation ... you're all by yourself and it is lunchtime.  Do you eat the burger, fries, and shake?  Or do you choose to eat the salad and drink plain ol' water.  Afterward, do you indulge in "dessert" (because the shake didn't really count)?  Or do you take a refill of your water and enjoy a 5-minute walk as your "treat" after a hearty meal?

I'm not saying one is right and one is wrong ... they both ... just ... are.  But which would you choose if no one would EVER know and it really didn't matter to anyone else?

A tougher situation ... it is Sunday morning and Church begins in a few hours.  Do you get up with a spring in your step and excitement to revel with fellow believers?  Do you show up at church early to greet people with smiles and handshakes?  Or ... do you roll over and think of reasons not to goGiven the choice with NO repercussions which would you actually choose to do?

I think it is an extreme test of your real, honest, deepest, and most true beliefs when you seriously answer that question.
If I could, would I (fill in the blank) ?

I'd like to say that I would choose all the righteous paths, but I know I wouldn't if the alternative was "acceptable" to choose.  And for me, that is a show of how far removed from where I eternally want to be and it helps me "course correct" with different smaller actions.

The "overall" situation ... If you could be guaranteed to return "home" to live with your Heavenly Father, your older brother and Savior, and all your family, friends, and loved ones ... would you do whatever it takes to get there?!

I for one WANT to be able to answer that with a resounding "YES!" but I know (right now at least) that I am FAR from being able to say that.  Given the option of doing certain things that are contrary to "goodness" I am very inclined to think "Well, no one is looking and if no one ever really found out then of course I would rather ..." and I don't like that part of myself very much.

I am happy that in many things related to that question I am very solidly on the "goodness" side of things, and I hope many of you are too.  We'll get there together, helping each other along with our struggles and personal challenges.  None of us really faces the exact same struggles, but we all have them and we ALL need help to overcome them.  If there is ever anything any of you readers need from me to help you overcome a struggle, please don't hesitate to ask!

Thanks for reading, commenting, and most of all ...
for asking the right questions!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What Would Happen ?

I've collected so much stuff over the years on my desk at Progressive.

I have knick-knacks, and swag, and gifts, and pictures, and Dilbert cartoons, and books, and business cards, and drawings from my kids, and speakers for my MP3 player, and a radio/CD player, and an assortment of pens, and thank you notes, and "awards" from my site manager, and buttons / pins, and calendars, and plants ... and so on.

Lately I have been wondering what would happen if I just boxed up all this stuff that I almost never use and hid it under my desk.  Would I be more or less productive?  Would my peers and cubicle neighbors wonder if I was leaving?  Would I realize that I do need many of these items?  Would I be happier with less clutter?  Or would I be visually bored and begin to resent my "home away from home?"  Would people that stop by linger less because there is nothing to look at besides me?

I'm not quite ready to test this out yet, but I think I will do this in the next month or two and see what really does happen.  I think I will up the ante as well by clearing everything on a Saturday, when very few people are here.  Then to go one step further I will add several of my "items" to other people's desks over the following few weeks ... and see if they notice them!

Doesn't that sound like a fun social experiment?


How does a 4-year old want to celebrate her birthday?

If her name is Catalina Jacquelle Case ...
she cannot answer that question!
The "smudge" on her nose
was from when she bit it
on our back porch steps.
The "pose" was HER IDEA!
She's only 4 !

Karen and I spent no less than an hour each yesterday trying to figure out what that little girl wanted to do.  Eventually we realized that the better course would have been to generate our own list of acceptable options and allow her to pick from that list (which is basically what we ended up doing without realizing it).

So her birthday included the following
"we did do it" list:
 - go swimming
 - watch a curious george movie
 - have chicken spaghetti for lunch
 - play dollys
 - pick on her 11-month old sister and not be yelled at
 - go swimming again
 - eat hot dogs and pasta salad for dinner
 - watch a train movie
 - sleep in the movie room
 - eat watermelon ... and marshmallows (lots!)

And the following "I don't think so" list:
 - go to Casa Bonita
 - *go shopping ... apparently this was THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE
 - go to the zoo ("after it is dark ... like around midnight")
 - take a bath (this one would have happened but we were at the pool too long)
 - eat Chick-Fil-A for lunch
 - eat ice cream
 - fly in a helicopter

*Karen and I made it up to her this evening by taking Catalina out shopping for a few things we needed.  Afterward when we got in the car, she complained that we lied (we did NOT!) when we told her we were going to "six stores!"  Then she went on to say that "yesserday I haffa watch two moovies but I din-n't get to go to any stowers and dat not fay-er cuz I said I wanna go shopping ... humph!"

Anyone wanna bet that she will NOT want to "just go shopping" next year?!  :)


Can I Change a 20-year Long Habit ?

I've been experimenting over the past few weeks to see if you can teach an "old dog" a "new trick."  The results, thus far, are inconclusive.  The "change" being made is arguably the dumbest anyone has ever come up with, but for me there is a more personal reason than I will share in this blog.

The details will follow, but here are a few questions so you can possibly guess the "change" I am trying to retrain myself to make:
 - What do you put in your pants pockets?
 - Do you have a specific location you keep your cell phone on your person?
 - Which hand do you use to start the ignition in your car?
 - Do you keep money in your wallet, pants pocket, neither, or a little of both?

If you've not guessed it already, my "experiment" is to see if I can successfully retrain my brain and my hands to keep my car keys, cell phone, money, and wallet in different pockets than they have been kept for 20+ years.

Historically, I have always kept my car keys in my left, front pants pocket.  This makes no sense when you really think about it because I never start the car (or unlock the door for that matter) with my left hand.  And that simple thought got me thinking about other pants pocket inefficiencies.  I also thought about how certain things kept in the same place in pants pockets over and over again can begin to leave noticeable wear patterns in your pants.  Maybe it's only happening to me, but when I stopped and looked, I realized that a keen eye could pick out exactly where all my pocket stuff was being kept in my pants.

I have to digress here for a minute and explain why I never keep money in my wallet.  That comes from when I was on my mission in Los Angeles and had a companion (that is what your fellow missionary was and is called in the mission field ... I don't mean "companion" like "life partner" or anything like that) who advised me against keeping money in my wallet.  I asked why and his answer was simple and scary ... but it also made a lot of sense: that way when you get mugged you can give them your wallet and only after they've run off will they realize you have no money.  So ever since my first month on my mission I have kept my "money" separate from my wallet.  This comes into play as I considered where to move everything now that my keys have to go somewhere else.

So my keys have been moved to my right front pants pocket ... and that set off a chain reaction.  My cell phone, usually kept in that pocket, needed to be moved to my left front pocket, so that it would not get scratched up by the keys jangling around in there with them.  I'll not say exactly where, but my wallet and separate money stash have made moves as well (it is crazy to feel your wallet in a different pocket if you are used to having it in one of the pockets on the back side of your pants!)

I may blog later once the "change" becomes natural, but for now it is still a reminder for me every time I put my pants on in the morning and every time I reach for my cell phone and every time I try to put the car keys in my pocket after a drive and ... you get the picture.

So try it out yourself and see how "stuck in a rut" you are.  I bet you'll be surprised and maybe not think this is such a stupid blog post anymore!  :)