Tuesday, June 23, 2015

You're Going Camping ?

Yes, yes I am ... and I'm actually really looking forward to it.

But for some of you the thought of camping seems ridiculous.  For you I share the following quote from one of my favorite stand-up comedians, Jim Gaffigan.

Song Of The Day:
Contrary to the popular line from the film 'Dumb and Dumber', that John Denver is NOT full of $#!+ ... in fact, his song "Rocky Mountain High" is a great tribute to some of the most enjoyable parts of the camping experience.  That John Denver was brilliant!


Saturday, June 20, 2015

What Kind Of Contraption Is This ?

As part of my 'flight to Cleveland' experience this past week, I enjoyed the obligatory wait around the baggage carousel time period.  The time was lengthened as a result of rain and lightning, which I was informed by a neighboring fan of the rotating luggage, is due to regulations that say baggage handlers are not allowed to continue moving luggage if there is a risk of lightning.  The more you know, right?!

While awaiting my green, hard-cover, old school, actually-was-my-wife's-in-college, suitcase to come crashing onto the mechanical snake, I spied a curious contraption that I could not easily identify.  The individual parts of it were common items: a rubber garden hose, a plastic tarp, some wire hooks, string, and a multi-gallon bucket perched on a stand or platform.  But it's purpose was debatable.  Is it some form of modern art?  Or a specially designed delivery system with connections to the business of baggage delivery?

After closer inspection, I found its true purpose, which led to a whole host of other questions.  As you can see on the right, this is apparently a leaking water collection apparatus, specifically engineered to keep clearly dirty water from dripping or otherwise spilling onto passengers or their luggage.  Rather than being a long-term solution, this marvel of man-genuity (SIDEBAR:  I'm trying to add a new word to our vocabulary - ingenuity is well known, but man-genuity is more like a Macgyver solution ... duct tape and spare parts that temporarily, or arguably poorly, correct a problem) is clearly not intended for permanent use.  And yet, judging by the stains in the ceiling tiles, there is little urgency to finalize the remedy to this drainage problem.

I found myself marveling at the presence of this make-shift mechanism in such a high profile, public locale.  In my own garage and throughout my home are likely dozens of examples of my own man-genuity ... but those are privately held and certainly not something I would ever accept in a professional place.

Song Of The Day:
I've chosen the song "Four Five Seconds" by Rihanna, Paul McCartney and an artist I won't feature anymore in this blog for this post, in typical fashion for TWO reasons: First, that is approximately the length of time that any man-genuity project should survive - anything longer and you should use ingenuity; Second, the song itself is an example of another aspect of man-genuity: incompleteness.  Instead of the polished version of a radio song, this back-of-a-crowded-car feeling tune seems thrown together, comprised of parts that normally don't interact (what is SIR Paul McCartney doing among this group?) but the result is oddly somewhat satisfying, at least initially.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Are Your Choices Really Yours ?

This evening, after being away from my loved ones all week for a business trip, I watched a movie titled "The Adjustment Bureau" with my wife and two oldest sons.  It has two prominent stars in the roles of main characters but I could not recall hearing anything about it when it came out 5 years ago.

I really enjoyed this movie!

The basic premise, without really spoiling anything, is that there exists a group of people (not human, not angels) who influence our lives and fate by adjusting our rationality as related to decision-making.  This helps keep us on track to play our part in the master plan.
The main male character in the film finds out about this group and is then faced with a dilemma: trust in the path that leads him to some impressive personal glory OR go against that plan and follow his heart - or in other words, make his own choices without being influenced by these adjusters.

For me, this movie allowed for reflection on how I am making the choices in my life.  What thoughts or perceptions or beliefs influence my decisions?  What are my motives?  What truly is my end goal? What am I willing to sacrifice to achieve what I want?  And, what are truly the most important aspects of my existence?

If you're in the mood for an action-packed (with a cute love story for the ladies) but thought-provoking film, I would recommend The Adjustment Bureau.  We found it in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart but it might even be on Netflix or available elsewhere.

Song Of The Day:
The other great thing about this film is that it gives a perfect blog topic for me to feature a song I've enjoyed since I first heard it: "Budapest" by George Ezra.  The title is misleading unless you know the lyrics of the song, where the singer indicates he would give up his house in Budapest for the love of his life.  Most people who've heard the song focus on the chorus lyrics For you-oo I'd leave it all.  The tie in to today's post is fairly obvious - and once you watch the movie you'll appreciate the tune even more.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Bananas Over Mommy ?

As you can see in the picture to the right (from a few months ago), Spencer's onesie (pronounced won-zee for those readers who don't have kids and thus have no idea what that is) makes quite a statement ...
but it can be interpreted at least TWO different ways.

Option #1:
- The phrase could mean that Spencer is 'bananas' over his mother - in the context that 'bananas' means: crazy about, loves, enamored with, excited to see, etc.

Option #2:
- The phrase could be a comparison of two distinctly different things: Bananas and Mommy.  In this scenario, the wearer of the clothing depicting the phrase is indicating the order of their preference - I choose 'bananas' OVER choosing 'Mommy' ... 'cause that's how I roll!

My opinion is that the latter explanation IS more accurate if there are both bananas and Mommy present.  In the absence of bananas, the first explanation is also accurate for Spencer.

Song Of the Day:
Say what you will about some of her choices and brand image, I am still a fan of MANY songs by Madonna, including "Crazy For You" which is today's song choice.  Set aside any personal negative feelings you may have for the singer and you might find yourself enjoying this simple, yet meaningful tune.  It just so happens this might be how Spencer would articulate his love of bananas and Mommy.  Okay, probably not ...


Saturday, June 13, 2015

How Can You Be So Calm ?

Just after Noon today, I had a harrowing, yet exhilarating experience:
I was flown in a small airplane ... by my son.

A few important factoids:

Josh Jr at the helm
- Josh Jr has never flown before today (never actually been in an airplane either!)
- The actual pilot never left his seat ... but his hands were off the steering column for MOST of the flight (except the takeoff, final approach, and landing).
- No one in the plane vomited.
- Everyone in the plane was treated to several moments of unplanned weightlessness.
- I cannot say I was never worried about my safety, but I was more impressed by my son and his courage, ability to learn, and composure during what he later dubbed 'way longer than I thought I'd be responsible for flying!'

Carlos, hands OFF the controls,
calmly instructing Josh Jr ... as he flies
Now as to the title of today's post, the actual pilot, Carlos, was unbelievably CALM throughout the whole experience - including some arguably scary situations.  In fairness, he has logged over 500 flight hours and clearly has enough experience to know when there is real danger versus perceived danger.  But it was HIS plane we were in (not a cheap plane either!) and he barely knew our group and certainly had almost no understanding of whether or not Josh Jr was capable of being the 'pilot' for any duration of time.

I suppose it is true that the more experience you have, the easier it is to remain calm and in control of your emotions in the face of challenges.  There's a life lesson to be learned here ... but it may take a few more days of reflection for me to find it.  At least my stomach isn't bouncing around now.

Song Of The Day:
The view from our plane, shortly
after takeoff - right as Josh Jr took
control of the aircraft
If you listen to ANY pop radio, I am certain you've heard the song "Geronimo" by Sheppard, but I've linked the acoustic version in this post for two reasons: first, I thought the words 'geronimo' and 'bombs away' during the flight today; and second, being in the airplane without the support of the actual pilot shares some similarities to a version of a song that is stripped of the support of heavy instruments and electronics.  In fact, Josh Jr did much better after the pilot instructed him to focus on the horizon ahead instead of the many instruments on the dashboard.  Sometimes it is better/easier to go with the basic senses.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Why Do You Wear Sports Team Apparel ?

I've been accused of it too - 'You're just jumping on the bandwagon huh?!'  And while that might be accurate in some situations, I can make an equally compelling argument in favor of the accessibility of team merchandise.

In the 2007 season the Colorado Rockies went on an unbelievable win streak that carried them into an improbable World Series appearance.  I've been a 'home team' fan for pretty much all of my married life (I hated the Denver Broncos when my family of origin first moved to CO, but that's another post for another time), but it's been mostly a passive support.  As the Rockies made this run for the ages, I noticed that team gear began popping up in stores EVERYWHERE.  And the prices for everything were much more reasonable than normal.  As a result, I purchased a replica jersey and wore it a few times through their playoff run.

But does that automatically make me a 'bandwagon jumper' or was I just an economically conscious fan?   I didn't root against the team before, nor was I any more impassioned as a fan after purchasing and wearing the jersey.  It was truly just more convenient and an easy conversation piece.

After all, 'fan' is an abbreviation of 'fanatic' and I certainly am not that about really ANY team any longer.  I root, I cheer, I read box scores and articles, I talk about the games, win or loss.  But I almost exclusively wear the 'gear' because it is convenient.  People assume I LOVE the Broncos be use I have gloves, a jacket, a few jerseys, a few hats, etc. - but these were almost all gifts or very inexpensive and of a good quality for the cost.  I like rooting for the home team, but if I was in another state I'd probably root for those teams and wear their apparel, so long as it was reasonably priced and readily available.

Song Of The Day:
When a 'bandwagon' forms, those on it are a judgmental bunch.  They clamor at you to "Come With Me Now" (a great tune by the Kongos) but then if you follow them and join on, they deride you as a fair weather fan.

What the what people?!


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Can Song Lyrics Be 100% Accurate ?

Today's post is centered on the lyrics of the song of the day.  One benefit of not having blogged in a while is that I have a fresh list of (used to be) NEW songs to highlight in my posts of reflection, questioning, and sometimes silliness.

Song Of The Day:
I absolutely love and can agree virtually 100% with the lyrics to the song "Believer" by American Authors.  If you've never reflected on the lyrics of a song before, might I suggest this one?  Especially if you fancy yourself an optimist or a hopeful person - despite countless experiences or people discounting your desires to be a believer.

If you don't like the tune or can't connect to YouTube wherever you are reading this post, here are the lyrics for your review.  See if, like me, you can actually envision yourself experiencing the various emotions and reactions described in the song.  Which one(s) are most applicable to you?  Which do you think are most common among the people in your life?  Which would you be most surprised to find out I agree with?

I'm just a believer
That things will get better
Some can take it or leave it
But I don't wanna let it go

I'm a little bit sheltered
I'm a little bit scared
I'm a little bit nervous
I'm goin' no where

I'm a little bit jealous
I'm a little bit slow
I'm a little bit hurtful 
And I don't wanna let it go

And I don't wanna let it go

I'm a little bit angry 
When every one's around
But I get a little lonely
When no one's out

I feel my demons
Misleadin' me

I'm just a believer
That things will get better
Some can take it or leave it 
But I don't wanna let it go

Maybe when I get older
And I'm in the ground
The weight's off my shoulders 
It was bringin' me down

I've never been that lucky 
I've never tasted fame
I'm always lookin' for something
But I hate changin'

Time fades
There's no space
As life breaks new ground

I'm just a believer
That things will get better
Some can take it or leave it 
But I don't wanna let it go

It doesn't matter what is out there
My head is spinning and it won't bail out
It doesn't matter what is out there

Cause time fades
There's no space
As life breaks new ground

I'm just a believer
That things will get better
Some can take it or leave it 
But I don't wanna let it go

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Does Prioritizing Ever Get Any Easier ?

I constantly struggle to feel good about the order of my priorities.  After spending time in any number of activities, I often found myself reflecting on other things I had NOT done instead during that time.  Depending on the situation, this caused a variety of feelings (see: guilt, inadequacy, heavily burdened, wanting to quit, etc.) and those feelings led me to finding fault or flaws in myself.  I began to believe I was lazy, or maybe another time it found out I dislike spending time with my family, or perhaps the 'real issue' is that I am afraid of trying new things or afraid of change.  But it turns out, it isn't any of those things - which are only true in fleeting moments.  The real challenge is this: After at least 30 years of trying to improve in my ability to effectively prioritize my 'life' it feels like I am no better at it than when I started!

Aren't we supposed to improve as we do things?
What about the following quote?

How are we supposed to feel good about ourselves if we cannot seem to make meaningful, noteworthy progress in all aspects of our humanity?

Why do I constantly find myself wondering if I am spending my time in the BEST activities?  Or creating an endless list of 'Things To Do' which can never fully be finished, only to question items on that list when reviewing it later?  (Ehh, it's not that important to get the oil changed today.  I'll get around to reading that book eventually.  We had a date night last week ... that's good enough, right?!)

Perhaps the answer is echoed in the adage: Those who can't, teach.

Maybe I'm not meant to ever feel good about prioritizing things, but through my example (good or bad) others can learn how to better prioritize for themselves.

Song Of The Day:
With a chorus that include the phrase "Even as we stumble through the darkness and the light - you know these were the best years of our lives." OMD's melancholy love song "Best Years Of Our Lives" feels somehow appropriate for this post.  When I stress about priorities, I always end up calming down by reminding myself that these are some of the BEST years of my life.  It is natural to wonder whether we're doing the best we can and this song helps me reflect on the choices I am making now, hopefully helping me make even better choices going forward.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Where Are My Sisters ?

My youngest son, Spencer, just turned two around Thanksgiving.  He IS the last child for my wife and I - this is a certainty!

Spencer hates to be alone or without his siblings (or his mommy).  At church, he is now old enough to attend Nursery, where he can play and eat snacks with other toddlers his age.  Today I am especially thankful for sweet Sisters in the Church who are trying to help him learn how to cope with these short separations from family (it will be hard for him to learn anything at school if he cannot be separated from siblings or family members for more than a few minutes).  His separation anxiety screaming today caused me to reflect on some pictures I took of him over the last few months.  I hope you find them as heartwarming as I do.

The Case girls were sleeping in the Movie Room ...
and Spencer didn't want to miss out.
So he was very sneaky and made his way into the room,
falling asleep next to his 'favorite' sister (Myra, age 4 here).

Myra helped make Spencer a mini-bed (in his bedroom)
out of the chair cushion and his handmade-by-mommy blanket.
His smile HAS TO make you smile!
One evening, while Karen and I were chatting,
we noticed that Spencer had wandered off.
A quick search revealed that he had gone to the basement
and had fallen asleep outside his sister's bedroom
(he obviously couldn't get the door open or he'd be inside).
The hallway was completely dark when I found him -
and he hates the dark - but not as much as he missed his sisters!

Song Of The Day:
Sundays are great for a capella music and probably my favorite a capella group is the one my cousin sings Bass for: Eclipse 6.  One of their Christmas CDs includes the song "Lullaby" and it is a beautiful tune any time of year - but I can also imagine Mary singing this to the baby Jesus and it warms my heart in a different way.  I hope you like it.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Should The Name Have Been A Giveaway ?

All my children have been and will continue to grow up in a virtual world.  Connection to the internet is a constant, with all its trappings and immediate expectations.  This is a blessing and a curse.  I've learned a significant number of things from my children related to the world of electronics and virtual connectivity.
- My 15 year old son is NEVER without his iPhone, but he has shown me (and my wife) some great tips and tricks on our own phones.  He is also the protagonist of the subject for this blog post.
- My 13 year old son saved up money to buy his own iPod (which already seems outdated) and is in the iPad group at his middle school.  He finds the most funny things on YouTube!
- My 11 year old daughter is also on the iPad team at the middle school (she was also in that 'pilot' class at the elementary school last year).  She already has cooler and more productive apps on her iPad than I think I'll ever have.

Back to the oldest child - his head was buried so deep in his phone and he kept spouting out these random questions ... so I asked him (when he came up for air) what all the fuss was about ... 

And that's when the addiction began.

Granted it's been less than 48 hours that I've been 'hooked' but I downloaded the free app for Trivia Crack and began competing against my oldest sons, my wife, my buddy Tony, some young men (scouts) I know from church, my brother, a few work friends, my niece, and even a random game (but that was the first game it made me play - I didn't challenge that opponent again).  I have no idea if it is impressive at all, but I'm already at level 34 or something, which is almost at the top of the list of all my friends who are playing.

I'd feel guilty about it, but it's really an educational game (insert whatever sarcastic remark you have here).  I actually study a little about the concept of gamification in my newer line of work, so I can actually chalk up some of this as research (although not as much as my brother-in-law Dennis, whose job often truly is to play and test games).

Bottom line: it can be a blessing and a curse to ask questions of your children!

Song Of The Day:
Addictions to games are probably not a good thing.  I thought of the lyrics to the song "Need You Tonight" by INXS and with only a few minor word changes, the song is a perfect fit for a trivia game blog post.
Your moves are so raw ... you're one of my kind ... I need you tonight 'cause I'm not sleeping ... there's something about you (game) that makes me sweat ... what do you think? - I can't think at all ... and finally ... I'm lonely!  :)


Friday, January 2, 2015

When Is It Okay To Shoot Your Kids ?

It's not often you can find a board or card game that can easily accommodate an odd number of players.  It is also not easy to find a game that can accommodate 6 or 7 players - at least not one that I have the patience for.

I forget exactly who we learned about the game "Bang" from, but as soon as they remind me I will thank them.  It's been a great game to play with our family of 9 - yes, those keeping track will realize that the youngest two (ages 2 and 4 at the moment) can't really comprehend the game ... but I also mentioned in the first paragraph that I was referring to game for 6 to 7 players so do the math.

The concept of the game is fairly straightforward: try to be the last person alive.
The Sheriff may have a deputy (in games with 6 or more players).
The Outlaws (at least 2 are in play with games of 4 or more) just want the Sheriff dead.
The Renegade can only win if the Outlaws are dead before the Sheriff.

The twist is that no one knows for sure who anyone is - except everyone knows who the Sheriff is ... but he gets an extra life (bullet) as compensation.

Best of all, there's no rhyme or reason to winning every time.  It is equally difficult to win regardless of which role you draw.  There are certainly strategies that are more effective, but there's a decent amount of luck involved ... and the games play pretty quickly (30-45 minutes at most).

Song Of The Day:
You might be thinking I'd use the song "I Shot The Sheriff" by Eric Clapton, but I'm actually featuring the recent pop hit "Bang Bang" by Nicki Minaj, Jessie J, and Ariana Grande - for two reasons: the song is quite catchy and the title just works with this post.  Please refrain from pointing out the obvious non-family nature of the lyrics in that song.  I never said I listened to it while playing games with my kids!


Thursday, January 1, 2015

What Will You Do THIS Year ?

I recently read a blog post from my favorite Leadership blogger (linked HERE) wherein he wrote briefly about how we approach each new year.  Of course I love that he suggests using questions to improve ourselves (you know how I love questions!), but it also reminded me that it only takes the proper mental attitude to begin anew.
I've gone back and forth many times on my commitment to blogging (among many other arguably more worthwhile activities).  But reviewing this post (and reflecting on the questions Dan suggests) reminds me that our efforts do not always have to produce excellent or even noticeable results.
The key is to keep trying - keep pushing ourselves to improve - keep the strategies that work and replace those that don't.

In the end we'll have plenty to feel good about and we'll likely remember very few of the stumbles or low points.

Cheers to your new year's goals, whatever they may be!

Song Of The Day:
As you make your plans and goals for 2015, I would like to help you project ahead to the end of the year and visualize yourself singing along to the words in OneRepublic's song "I Lived"  The tune is certainly catchy, the message is meaningful (if not overstated), but it seems a fitting anthem for setting goals to challenge yourself in the coming year.  Filled with repeated statements of hope as a theme, I LOVE this song!