Tuesday, December 31, 2013

13 things not in 2013

I, like many people here in 'Merica, have made a list of resolutions... or, if you will, things I want to accomplish in 2014.  But I hope to take a look back at 2013, to remember the year, and some of these things I managed...

Coming later this week, my list of 38 things I want to do in 2014... on Monday, Clouds presents its first Movie Monday, with a list of my Top Ten Films of 2013, plus a quick list of all the movies I saw this year for the first time (and the worst films too!)

Next week, a list of books read in 2013, as we close out the year...

however comma

I'd be remiss if  I didn't own up to the things that I didn't do this past year. 

And honestly, I am okay with... even proud of... this list of 13 things I did NOT do in 2013:

In 2013, the year of our Lord...

**I did NOT adopt the word "Cray" or "Cray Cray" into my daily vernacular.  And cheers to The Huffington Post for keeping it real about what people my age should be saying... I know, right?

**I did NOT read a single page, nor learn a single thing about the "50 Shades of Grey" series. 

**I did NOT see a single minute of any real housewife in any city on any reality show of any kind

I think how good Miley Cyrus can be is directly proportional
to the length of her hair.  Here?  Awesome. Short cut?  Not
so much.  Also, beware, unless you Google "Miley Party in
the USA" specifically, you'll get lots of her 2013 images.
**I did NOT see a single second of anything to do with Miley Cyrus when it comes to a wrecking ball

**I did NOT hear a single note of the aforementioned "Wrecking Ball" song, nor have I actually heard any Miley music since "Party in the USA".  In fact, to me, she doesn't exist after "Party in the USA".

**I did NOT grasp any understanding of the word "twerk", what it means to "twerk", how to "twerk", or anything else associated with "twerking" of any kind. 

**I did NOT hear any Nicki Minaj song.  As a matter of fact, this is a two year streak now.  I don't know anything she sings, and wouldn't recognize her voice at all.

**I did NOT hear anything by Justin Beiber.  Similarly to Miley's "Party in the USA" cutoff for me, the only Beiber song I know anything about is "Boyfriend", and that's only because its so utterly ridiculous.

**I did NOT learn what a Harlem Shake is, nor have I ever heard it sung. 

**I did NOT see a single frame of any show featuring the words "Duck" and "Dynasty".  No offense to any of those guys, I just haven't seen the show, ever, and have no desire to watch it.  Ever. 

**I did NOT find out what the fox says.  Apparently that was a song.  Thankfully, I never heard it. 
**I did NOT gain the ability to distinguish any of the Kardashians from one another.  I think there is a Khloe and a Kourtney and a Kim?  Maybe?  Who knows?  Better yet, who cares...
**I did NOT get a Pinterest, SnapChat, Kik or whatever else is out there.  Right now, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are enough.  Perhaps I'll pick up Pinterest in the future, as I am promoting a Disney site, but for now, I'm full up on Social Media. 
By the way, parents, make sure you check out this article about SnapChat, and how dangerous it is for teenagers--especially teen girls.  I'd eventually like to have a daughter, but I tell ya, this world is not kind to young women...
There are probably a few more things I didn't do this year, but that's my main list... of course, there are things I DID do in this vein, notably, fall in love with "Blurred Lines".  Can't say I'm proud of that, but there it is. 
Check out the site tomorrow, Friday morning at the latest, and you'll get my (already written) list of things I want to do in 2014, which I call my Great 38...

Monday, December 16, 2013

finding my pike place

So here's the post I've been gearing up to write for the last three months...

In September, I attended the STARTConference, starring Jon Acuff and a few hundred of my closest friends... and something Acuff said resonated with me--"Own your word".  He said simply, find a few words, and own them.  Make them your life.  Words like "Inspire".  "Ambition".  "Passionate".  "Goals"... you get the drift.  So, of course, what words would I own?  I wasn't sure.  Perhaps its something many people just passed over, but it stuck with me.

If I can back up a minute, at the beginning of the conference, we were all given an obligatory lanyard with a place for our name (d$), our twitter name (@davedollar) and a blank space that said "I Want To:_______"

What to write in here?  This is a big deal... I looked around at other lanyards worn and saw words like "Sing" and "Write my novel" and "Publish my book" and "Help people be debt free" and "Minister to children" and even "Be a hot model", which was awesome, because the girl wearing it had a goal of a healthier lifestyle.  My tag remained blank. 

What do I write? 

"Write"?  Yes.  I want to write. I love to write.  I'm a writer.  But what about...

"Plan Magical Vacations"?  Certainly.  I at a Disney Travel Planner, so that has to factor into it.  I want to help people have incredibly memorable vacations to Disney parks, to Universal and so on.  But, then there is...

"Blog"?  I do that too.  Its writing, but its a special sort of writing.  I want to continue blogging, perhaps monetize my site one day.  Soon?  Hopefully very soon. 

But what do I write?

Then Jon Acuff said, "Own your words".  And I began to think about those words that I wanted to define me, to define who I am as a man, who I am as a person, who I am as husband, a father, a Christ Follower, a friend, a servant, a leader.. even an adversary, if that's how someone sees me.

What do I want you to think about me?  Perhaps I haven't been doing a very good job of it, no matter what, but what words do I eventually want YOU to say, when asked about me, "Oh d$?  He's this  And this.  And certainly this.  And definitely this."

And after a morning of thought, after a day or reflection, tossing the idea around in my head, I figured out what I wanted to strive for.  What I hope to be.  Who I wanted to become. 

I took off my lanyard, laid the tag on a table and wrote four letters, in Sharpie, all capitalized.


I smiled, putting the cap back on the Sharpie (for capless Sharpies are reasons for broken hearts and dreams) and then putting the lanyard around my neck.  P I K E.  Spells "PIKE"... and in a way, it was ironic, because at the time, I was working at Starbucks. (besides, when I wrote down Super, Unique, Manly, Awesome, Terrific, Righteous and Awesomer, it just didnt work as well, even though it spelled "SUMATRA")

When I explained to a few people what P I K E meant, I told them I was "Finding my PIKE Place".  And its true.

Now, the question you'll have is simply, what does P I K E even mean?  That's why I'm writing to you today... to share with you what words I will now spend my life pursuing and owning, and in my writing, in my Disney planning, in relationships of all kinds, and most importantly, in my Walk with Christ and my pursuit of holiness, this is what I will wrap around.  I truly believe the words are God breathed to my own heart, and here they are...

I want to be PURPOSEFUL.  I want to have purpose in whatever I do.  Now, let's be real... we know God cares about all of our actions, but I'm not sure we have to have a laying on of hands prayer time to decide between the new Kings Hawaiian Sandwich and the Beef n Cheddar combo while you are standing at the counter at Arby's.  Some things I think He puts you in charge of.  But overall... the people I spend time with.  The contacts I make.  The tasks I allow myself to be engaged in.   With purpose.  Not to things half-heartedly... if that's my feeling, I just wont do them at all, because whoever is asking a task of me deserves my whole effort.  I want to be PURPOSEFUL in my life.

I want to be INVESTING.  I have a billion acquaintances from all parts of my life--my childhood hometown of Samson... my college alma mater of Troy State... various jobs I've worked... various seminars and conferences and retreats I've attended... the huge presence of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest (oh Pinterest... do I have to?  I don't wanna... do I gotta...?) have made it easy to keep in touch with people that you haven't spoken to, at least in real life, in 30 years.  I'm not bragging when I say I know thousands and thousands of people... but more than likely, so do you.

I can't get to know everyone... just not possible.  But I can learn about people.  I can ask questions.  I can find out how people are doing, what they are hoping for, what they are praying for.  I want to invest in people.

I want to be KIND.  What can I say?  We know what Kind means.  Don't we?  It means being a little nicer, being a little more free with a smile, being a little more willing to provide grace to people all throughout the day... I want to be kind.

I want to be ENCOURAGING.  Without patting myself on the back too much, I have always felt like "encouraging" is something that I'm pretty good at.  I think I've gotten even better at it in the last several months, at least to many.  And I'd like to continue to be encouraging to people, be it a kind word, a helping hand or just a surprising act of whatever. 

So there you go.  Put them altogether, and its a life worth living, a life that hopefully will have meaning and a life made for positively impacting those around me with the love of Christ.

Four words to live by.  Sure, you can also use "Holiness" and "Godliness" and "God-Chaser"... but I think He'd rather me be Purposeful, Investing, Kind and Encouraging with my whole heart and life than to hide behind some church words that I use as a crutch and excuse.

So now... your words?  Have you chosen yours? 

(by the way, dont think it has eclipsed me that this is all heartfelt and meaningful, instead of being full of jokes and clever pop culture references.  Don't worry.  I have a plan to get back to that.  I'll be purposeful while investing in my kind of encouraging humor.)

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

to campbell, on your 2nd birthday

(this is the second letter to Campbell Isaiah, with the first written last year, on his first birthday)

Dear Monkey Butt,

Yep.  I don't call you that all the time, but for now, its a funny name for a funny kid.  And you are definitely a funny kid.

A few days ago, you had your 2nd birthday.  We didn't have much fanfare, other than coming back from Walt Disney World--your second trip to Orlando, already added to your other trip to Disneyland.  Do you realize you've had more Disney before 2 years old than many kids have in their life?  You are a lucky kid.

And we are lucky parents, lucky to have you.  God chose your Mommy and me to raise you, and I'd like to think we are doing okay.

Let me tell you a little about this year, thusfar... This was the year that the new Superman movie came out, "Man of Steel".  I'm sure you've seen it by now--or maybe you haven't, because its kind of forgettable.  Probably my favorite movies of 2013 include "Monsters University", which in our household you've no doubt seen a dozen times by the time you read this... "Iron Man 3", which I thought was a great flick, even though its had its haters... "Gravity", this space epic with Sandra Bullock... and, of course, "Fast & Furious 6", which is one of my three favorite films so far this year.  You and I have already watched "Fast Five", though I'm pretty sure you don't remember a thing about it...

Music?  Justin Timberlake had a great year with a new CD, though he hasn't released anything mindblowing, just good.  Is he still awesome in 2022, when you are reading this?  Hope so.  "Royals" by Lorde was a big deal, as was Katy Perry's "Roar".  Also, probably my favorite song of the year?  "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke.  You know that show that Mommy sometimes watches, "Growing Pains"?  (no, The Lovely Steph Leann doesn't now, but I'm counting on it coming on at some point and her watching it).  Yeah, the dad is Alan Thicke.  Robin is his son. Maybe you should just steer clear of this song.  And anything to do with Miley Cyrus, or at least, anything after "Party in the USA".

One of my favorite books this year is "Dr.Sleep" by Stephen King.  Though you aren't allowed to read anything Stephen King until you are at least 16, so if this isnt' 2027 when you are reading this, skip this part.

Taken in October of this year, in your long hair days.
You love this park, as do I.
Another fella named Jon Acuff wrote this book called "START", and created this online community on Facebook which your dad became a part of... met lots of awesome people who are probably represented on our bookshelves right now.

Is your mom still crazy about putting oils on you?  Essential oils?  That started in 2013 as well. 

Okay, there is the yearly rundown... this was a big year for our family too, Campbell.  In August, you were diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum... or as we liked to say, "You gots the aw-tism"

Honestly, I had no idea what that meant either, until that week you were diagnosed.  We kind of knew it was coming, but your Pops and GG and Aunt Becky took it kinda hard.  Your Granny Jan really had no idea what to make of it, and in a few weeks from this posting, we'll go to see her for Christmas, and we can tell her all we know.

What does that mean?  Well, look at yourself now.  I don't know when you are reading this, but I have 100% confidence that you are strong.  You are handsome.  You are kind.  You are friendly.  You are talented.  You are funny.  You are smart, much smarter than me (maybe as smart as your mom, though that's tough, cause she's pretty smart...).  Your one of God's creations, crafted by His hands and given to us for your care.  And the night you were officially diagnosed, you let us know it would all be okay.

This year has been difficult at times... but you learned to walk, and it was precious.  Watching you surf the room from chair to chair, to the couch and then back to a chair, sometimes making it, sometimes splatting on your bum, was awesome.  But you figured it out.  I loved watching you pick up a puzzle, or a ring toy, or something that had to be learned, and watching you figure it out.  You would work on it 'til you got it right.  You haven't spoken a word yet (some in the family think you have said "eat", and you do make a "eat" sound when it comes to food, but given that you haven't said anything else, I think "eat" might be a stretch...)

You have, however, made lots of ma-ma-ma-ma-ma and ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba and "raspberry" sounds, and they are quite cute and hilarious.  You also have this habit of going really high pitched in a loud shout when we are eating dinner in a restaurant.  I think you know what you are doing, you evil genius, you.

I look forward to the day, soon, when we can laugh together.  When we can play games together, when we can go to the zoo and you will point out animals and say words that almost make sense... I know your Mommy wants you to call her "Mommy" so bad she can't stand it... but I know you'll get here.  Heck, you reading this now probably seems silly, because at this point, you've been talking for as long as anyone remembers.  If my predictions are right, you probably won't shut up.

Just tonight, a few hours before I wrote this, your Mom said to me, "This has been quite a year for our family, hasn't it?"  And I agree.  Its been a roller coaster of emotion, of love, of tears, of disagreements and growing closer as a family. 

I know this note has been all over the map, but there is so much to tell you... I just want you to know that we don't say "we have an autistic son"... we have "a son who deals with autism".  Because you are not defined by Autism, and you never will be.  You will be defined by your character, by how you treat people around you, how you respect the girls in your life, how you deal with conflict, how you love others, and how you follow Christ.  Autism just happens to be something you will continue to climb over.  Never forget that, Campbell, never forget that. 

Anyway, happy 2nd birthday, Monkey Butt.  Your mom and dad love you so, so much... but don't forget, as much as we all love you, God loves you more than all of us combined, times a bajillionty.  And if you aren't following Him yet, come talk to me and we can discuss it.

I end this letter now, will close my laptop and go crawl in bed, and if I'm lucky, you'll gravitate towards me, wrap your arms around my arm and continue sleeping.  Love you, kid.


Monday, December 02, 2013

when soon is not soon enough

Just like you, I have goals and dreams.

And just like you, I have excuses. 

Some are great excuses.  I have a 2 year old.  He keeps me busy.  I have a household to maintain, a The Lovely Steph Leann to take care of, a new job to continue training and learning in, and so much travel going on.

So I plan to start blogging regularly, soon. 

And I plan to start my book about autism and Campbell, soon.

And soon, I'm going to start outlining my "blog fiction" project that I want to maybe kick off mid-2014.

And when this Disney thing gets going, its going to be awesome, right?  Soon, I'm going to have my Disney Open House, where people can come, find out more information, and learn how I can help them with their own Magic...

Then, I'm going to watch this long list of movies I have to watch.  And spend more time with Campbell.  And breeze through the 2nd season of Once Upon a Time with The Lovely Steph Leann.

Soon, I mean.  I'll start that soon.

But I have to ask myself, when exactly is soon?  Its not now, apparently.  I haven't blogged since November 5th, even though I have five or six posts practically ready to post. 

It probably isn't soon now, because I've only mentally laid out my idea for my book, but nothing on paper.  And as far as "blog fiction" goes, I haven't written a single thing down... in fact, most people don't even know what that is.

And it must not be soon yet, as I don't have plans for a Disney Open House.  I mean, I plan to have one, but I don't have plans to have one.  Big difference.

So when does soon get here? 

The answer.  Never.

Excuses are like kudzu.  You let one take root, and they are everywhere.

"Let's get through October, because its a busy month..."  October comes and goes.  Yes, it was busy, but now we are past it... yet, "Got a Disney vacation coming up, let's get past that..."  Just got back from 8 days at Disney.  "Its almost Christmas time.  Its going to be busier than October.  Lets wait til January..."


Soon sucks.

How about now?   Now doesn't suck.  Now is frightening.  Now takes soon and throws Soon away.  Soon keeps telling you that when you have time for your dreams, your dreams will come true.  Now tells you the truth--You'll never have time for your dreams, unless you make it.  Soon won't make time for your dreams. Now will.

Its Now.

Soon is no longer an excuse.  I actually think I'm out of excuses for what I want to do, what I feel led to do. 

What's your excuse?

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

dinnertime fussies

My kid loves to eat.  I mean, loooooves to eat.  Beets.  Apples.  Parsnips.  Carrots.  Peas.  Squash.  Plums.  Blue/Rasp/Black/Strawberries.  Peaches.  Mangoes.  Pears.  Zucchini.  Sweet Potatoes.  You name it, he'll eat it.

Except for broccoli, which is really funny to watch him not only bat it away as you approach his mouth with your fork, but also to watch him physically take it off the fork, look at it for a second, then just reach over the edge of the highchair tray and drop it on the floor. 

As if to say, "Get this junk out mah face."

Campbell Isaiah started out on baby formula, store bought, first with Emfamil, then with Gerber Baby, which the latter worked better for us.  The former gave him bad gas and bad, bad spit... the day that I literally went through 10, count them, 10 t-shirts for me and 6, count them, 6 onesies for him is burned into my mind as a day that will live in infamy.  Emfamy.  There was one point when he spit up all over me and my shirt, so I changed, then changed him, and I actually took two steps towards the door with him in my arms when he spit up again.  It was rough that day... I texted The Lovely Steph Leann out of sheer frustration and panic with "I can't do this!" and "Just one.  Never doing this again.  He's an only child."

Looking back, I probably didn't mean it.  But ten shirts with various amounts of baby vomit on it?  Come on now... 

We started making our own formula several months into this parenthood thing, this time using Goat's Milk... we made lots and lots AND LOTS of goats milk, each pitcher with scoops of baby supplements and vitamins and such. 

And eventually, we moved into real food.. we had already decided that we would go natural and organic.  We knew over time that there might be a slight delay with our kid--and we were right--so we wanted to make sure he was as healthy as possible...

So, several nights per week, I pull out my trusty peeler and work on the aforementioned fruits and vegetables... I'll actually be doing some apples tonight.

Campbell is a kid of routine.  He likes routine, he likes familiar.  For instance, he typically knows what to do when we lay him down to change his diaper.  He might cry some, maybe move a little, but mostly he lays there... and when you go to put his pants back on him, most of the time he will lift both legs to make it easy. 

At school, he knows its time for lunch after outside playtime, and he always follows the line perfectly to the class door... he knows its time to eat.

Similarly, here at The Cabana, when his meal is ready, be it a couple of eggs and a 1/2 avocado for breakfast, or an orange, some pineapple, some peas and beets (with almond butter) for lunch, when you say, "Ready to eat?" he heads for the kitchen. 

Not only does he head for the kitchen, he goes straight for the high chair, and starts pawing at the belt buckle.  He will look around, and if he can reach far enough on the kitchen table, he will snatch whatever he can get his hands on, be it a vitamin pill or a bowl full of kiwi, and try to eat it.  Because dinner.

T (we steam it, then freeze it, then thaw and warm upon serving), and take them to the table, along with a juice bottle--prune is his favorite, though he does like cherry juice, grape juice and pear juice too. 
part of what our freezer has looking like for 10d
hen a routine of things happens... we put him in the seat and buckle him in, putting the tray in front of him, snapped into the high chair itself.  We will get the bowls of the food we have just warmed up minutes before

There's a fork we grab, and then we wet a napkin to wipe his face every few bites.  He can be messy sometimes, and by sometimes, I mean all the time.

We aren't perfect, and we forget stuff.  And there's nothing more fearful than forgetting something big, like his prune juice.  Cause he ain't patient, and he ain't caring that you have had a long day... he wants to eat.

For the record, there is not a single time, not one single meal, not one single second that we have just forgotten something and then just not cared.  Not once have we just blown him off, despite his crying, to say, "Whatevs, kid.  You'll live." 

He knows we won't leave.  He knows we have food there, its in small bowls on the table, he knows that he will have that food in just a minute... but no, he wants to cry, and fuss, and smack the tray until he gets what he wants.

Its the same with God, ain't it?

Name a time He has forgotten you, or forsaken you, or just left you behind, saying "Whatevs, kid.  You'll live."


We get involved in our own little routines, our own way of doing things, and when it doesn't go according to plan, when it doesn't happen EXACTLY like we thing it should, be it we should keep getting bites of almond butter and butternut squash, we pitch our little fits... smack the tray, cry, fuss, tell God that "this isn't how it is supposed to be!" and "where are you, God!" and "why are you doing this to me!?!" with the mindset that His silence is obviously Him walking away, to possibly never return.

When in fact, maybe He did take a step away.  But He is always there.  He never goes far, if at all.  He might just be grabbing a Holy Napkin to wipe the junk off our face.  He might be grabbing some Communion Juice to allow us, after a brief time of nothing, to drink of His Spirit...

Either way, God loves you and I both.  And He would never leave us.  Just like I would never leave Campbell alone and hungry.... I love him too, too much.  And God loves us too, too much.

"Never confuse His silence for His inactivity" is a lesson I learned a long time ago... and some if it was the hard way... how about you?  Is He being quiet?  And how are you handling it?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

pimpslaps and popsicles... a study in fear

Does anyone else compare?  As in, do you compare your talents to someone else's?  Your Walk to someone else's?  Your abilities at work, your grades at school, your waistline to someone thinner, your muscles to someone's bigger, your tummy to someone's six pack?  I do.

I posted this on Facebook this morning, and its one of those things I'm glad I wrote because I feel like people understand it... they get it... they know what I mean.

I compare myself to everyone.  When I log onto the Facebook and get all Facebooky, I scroll and read the posts by other people involved in the Experiment Formerly Known as START (its my online community of choice) and I read all sorts of successes, milestones and even funny comments I wish I had made.

I don't know about you, but I don't like being used.  I would imagine you don't either... so you need to know that Fear uses you.  That's right, Fear takes your talents, abilities and awesomeness and tosses them in my face...

Fear begins to then tell me things like... 
  • "You'll never be as good as ______"
  • "You will never be as talented as ______" 
  • "Look how much they love _______, you'll never get that kind of adoration"
  •  "_______ is real with their life and fears and struggles. You come off as fake. Just don't say anything."
  •  "Its OKAY to compare yourself. You don't match up with ______. Just keep it realz, yo."
  • "You typed this into Facebook earlier.  You put this on your blog too, and people will think you are just full of yourself.  So play it SAFE, and let it go."
Fear likes to tell people that "You can't..."  Personally, Fear doesn't tell me that "I can't..."  Fear actually tells me the worst thing of all:
"Oh, sure, you could... but why would you.  No one cares, and you don't matter." 
Have you felt like this?  Especially recently?  Fear is a jerk.  Fear will tell you things, use other people's voices to lie to you and make you feel like anything you do won't be enough.  You aren't enough.  You'll never be enough.
And that's when you have to come to your senses.  You can.  And you should.  You are enough.  Your awesome.  I may not even know you, dear Coffee Drinker, but you are awesome... I mean, you are reading this, right?  Right! 
Here's the thing about Fear... Fear has never led me in the right direction.  
It's made me be safe when I needed to step. 
It's led me to be quiet when I needed to speak up. 

Keep talking, Fear.  I have a Buttermilk  Popsicle
waiting for me...
It's led me to try and rely on ME when I should be relying on HIM (HIM as in God, not Fear)....
Fear is that crazy old drunk Uncle at a party who says he is looking out for you, but every piece of advice that comes out its mouth will lead you to destruction (and possibly a court date)... Fear is the bad friend who was never a good friend but you still end up wanting to listen to, even though he's bad news.  Fear is only as strong as you make it...
(hmmm... that's pretty good... I need to write that down... give me a minute... *grabs pencil and post-it*... fear... only has the... cred... ibil... aty... *scratches out 'aty'*... ity... you give... it...)
Here's what I like to say... and when I say, "Here's what I like to say", I mean I'll start saying this now because I think its good...
I'll simply look at Fear, and say, "Fear, you can suck it. I'm going to say something encouraging and funny. If it works, great, if not, that's okay too. Then, I'm going to eat a popsicle. Cause I want to"
Then I pimp slaps Fear, walk away, leaving Fear holding its reddened cheek as I mutter "...Jack wagon..." under my breath, taking a nibble off of my Steel City Pop.
So thank you for allowing me to chime in, pimp slap Fear and eat a popsicle.
What about you?  Have you faced Fear, pimpslapped it and called it a less than civil name?  What is your treat of choice after a good Fear pimpslapping?

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

the final walk

I am not really sure about other guys, but I have an abundance of shoes.  I know I have at least a dozen pair, some sneakers, some sandals, some more dressy, and some just old that I couldn't bear to part with.

Take for instance, my American Eagle... well, I call them clods.  Closed toed and heel, they are slip-ons with a buckle on them to tighten them.  They are heavy.  They "clomp" "clomp" as you walk across the hardwood floors here at The Cabana... and I love them.

Originally, I purchased them around 1999, for a grand total of $60.  I can't remember the last time I was actually in American Eagle in our Galleria Mall, and especially the last time I actually bought anything from there--it might have been these shoes, so that tells you that AE isn't my first choice...

I always thought that American Eagle was kind of the hipster older brother of Abercromie & Fitch... maybe the cool kid until a younger, more sultry, his-friends-thinks-he-is-awesome-the-adults-thinks-hes-an-idiot Abercromie came on the scene.  Now Aber and his friends look at AE and say, "Whatevs. You were cool.. now you're just a loser... obvi."  Where was I even going with this?  I dunno.

So, I wore these AE shoes with khakis, to work, probably to church a million times, and they were one of the only pairs of shoes I'd ever actually paid a shoeshine boy to polish.  They were my "Dress" shoes, for all purposes, and even just "Date" shoes on those rare instances when  I had a date, and so on. 

Even when the sole of one of the shoes split, putting a big cracked divide between the front of my foot and my heel,  I wore them anyway, going out and purchasing some Gorilla Glue to mend them.  Ended up doing this for the right and the left shoe...  I loved these shoes.

The shoes in question.  Worse for the wear.  Heavy, formerly comfy, living
out its last few days here.
And over the years, no matter how many pairs of shoes I obtained or discarded, the AE Clods were always in the mix.  Eventually, about a year after we moved from the apartment (Case de Pesos) to the home we are in now, "The Cabana", those AE shoes made the move, missing the cut of things--shoes, clothes and otherwise--that were discarded for non use and age. 

A few years later, The Lovely Steph Leann insisted that we do something with the shoes all over the place, to which I went out and bought one of those shoe rack things that go over the back of the closet door.  And there the AE Clods went...

...and stayed.

You know how you own things, especially shoes and clothes, that you wouldn't dream of getting ride of, and you think "I'll wear them soon" and "Oh, haven't worn that in a while, I'll do that this week"... and it never happens?  That was this pair of shoes.  I loved them, they were my favorites back in the day, and they sat on the bottom rack of this shoe rack, me intending to wear them, never doing it.  I am sure in the last four or five years I've worn them... but I can't remember when.

So, Sunday morning, I decided I would, in fact, wear them.  I pulled the off the rack, dusted them off, and took them downstairs.  I slipped them on at the bottom of the steps, waiting for that familiar feel of those Clods, waiting for those ol' reliable AE shoes to grip my foot, to wrap my heels, and if I'm quiet enough, if I listen hard enough, I might... just maybe... be able to hear my feet say to the shoes, "Well... hello, old friend..."


They felt funny.  They felt... foreign.  It would be easy to say "They felt like I hadn't worn them in 4 or 5 years" and that's probably the truth of it, but... still... these were my old school American Eagle shoes, my favorite pair from back in the day.

The traction, gone.  The split, which is similar to the one on the other
shoe, is deep.
I took a few steps and slid on the hardwood.  Not much, I didn't fall, but my foot slid a little. I looked at the bottom of the left shoe, and saw the traction was almost completely gone.  And there was that familiar split across the middle of the sole.   Walking into the kitchen, I realized these shoes had gone from "favorite pair" to "they'll do the job for now", and had a half-mind to run upstairs and put my Merrill slip-on shoes that I love so much now. 

I wore them all morning without a problem, no pain, they walked just fine.  But they weren't my favorite shoes I remembered.  They were an old pair of shoes, a pair that... well, it was probably time to get rid of, because I knew I wouldn't wear them again.  Not when I have so many other pairs of shoes that are far more comfortable and actually look a lot better. 

I even wrote about shoes in 2009, in "kicks just keep getting harder to find", and mentioned these AE Clods in particular, saying "my friend called them "clods", but they were like loafers, and are approaching their 12th year in my care and unfortunately are drawing near to the end of their life..."   And that was in 2009!  The math doesn't quite add up from what I said earlier, but no matter.

Sometimes we have things that used to be awesome that just aren't awesome anymore.  And those things need to be discarded, to make room to allow the other awesome things to be more awesome.  For me, it was a pair of shoes.  I can free up that space on the shoe rack, and I've even thought of getting rid of two more pair that were never favorites and I also never wear (The Lovely Steph Leann is reading this, nodding in agreement)

Sometimes things need to be edited out.  Sometimes its things... tangible possession.  Sometimes its activities.  Sometimes its people.  Sometimes its a number of other things... but sometimes there are things that just don't belong anymore.  And you know it.  You feel it.  Perhaps they are awesome still, but to move forward with your hopes, dreams, plans, you realize that space and time become invaluable resources, with finite limits, and in those limits, you have to prioritize what the most important things are.  Figure out how much space and time in your life those use up, then see whats left.  Keep going until you are out of time and space in your life... and then figure out what to do with what you don't have time and space for.

I mourn my shoes.  Its a silly thing, and I tend to be nostalgic and have personal attachments to things that have no emotional relation to me--like shoes or a favorite "lucky" pencil (I still have the automatic pencil that I took every important high school test, all 4 ACTs, wrote a 144 page story called "Dayton's Quest" and wrote my college graduation paper with, protected in a velvet box... oh, I wish I were kidding)... and I mourn other things edited out. 

That's a good thought... what needs editing... what needs discarding... what might have been awesome, but now is just not important enough to devote time to, or takes away too much time from the things that are really important...

Do you need to edit?

Thursday, October 03, 2013

great or greatly known

First and foremost, you should watch this...

This is a poem written by author Jon Acuff, who read it aloud to close the STARTConference in September.  It was then taken by a young lady named Libby Norcross who has turned "doodling" into a fine art, and then edited by a dude named Todd.  I know it took over a week to put together, and its quite a work of art. 

So, second, my favorite line?  "Will you be great, or greatly known?", circled with a big, fat fancy circle for emphasis.  Its like, if you write the words "Go by the market and pick up my prescription at 715p", then you circled 715p to make sure that that one part stood out... same thing.  Its important.

Will I Be Great?  Or Just Greatly Known?

Now, it isn't a bad thing to be neither.  Just because you aren't great doesn't make you an average person.  But I think just being okay makes you miss on the impact you could have at being Great... or Awesome... or Audacious... or whatever nomenclature you want to put on it.

That's not the question though... the question isn't "If you are going to be Great...", the question is, in fact, "Will you be great?  Or just Greatly Known?"  Its automatically assuming you'll be one or the other, so see, the confidence in you is already there.

I have thought that I wanted to be greatly known.  People would know my name, know my work, know my face, and maybe not be necessarily "famous", but known. 

Never mind that I wasn't necessarily Great at anything.  When I am Known, I'll have the resources to be
great, when I am Known, then I'll become Great.  As a matter of fact, the options of being great now are finite.  But when I become Greatly Known, the options of being great?  Limitless!


Is it right to depend on my fame and notoriety to become Great?  Maybe I should become Great first.  Think about it.. how many people do you know that are Greatly Known?  The Kardashians.  Paris Hilton.  Ke$ha.  Whether they are Great is a matter of opinion, but for me, I'd say no.  But they are undeniably Known.

But I'll bet you know lots of people who aren't Known, but are exceedingly Great.

For example... my buddy Justin Fisher is in a wheelchair due to lifelong cerebral palsy.  Rather than being whiny about it, he became more than a speaker--he is a public storyteller.  So much so that he even wrote a book... He's not Greatly Known outside a southern circle of churches and people... but he's Great. 

I know a chick who writes chick blogs with Jesus and stuff.  Her name is Jamie Harper, and even though I'm not, nor have ever been, a chick, she writes oh so well, and I love reading her posts.  They inspire, they make me think and her personal rawness is so genuine.  Outside of our church and other blogs she writes on, maybe she isn't Greatly Known, but I know she's Great.

My friend Meredith also wrote a book... my friend Kim writes an amazing blog... my friend Wade Morris is crossing that rare line where he is Great AND Greatly Known... Jon Acuff, who this whole START mess stemmed from, is also Great AND Greatly Known...

I am by no means a mature Christian, in many ways, I'm kind of a dork... but one thing I think--I hope--I am learning is that being Great is much better than being Greatly Known.  And I don't mean "look at me, I'm so great!", I mean being someone who lives a life chasing Greatness, chasing what God meant for me to be, not to be mired in a ho-hum existence that I will look back upon with great regret at 74 years of age.

And if I can be Great, if I truly have a heart that desires Greatness first with The Great One, then in the purposes of my own life and those around me... it won't matter if I am ever Greatly Known. 

I cannot speak for Justin, Jamie, Kim, Meredith, Wade, Libby (the doodler in the video) or even Jon... but I suspect if you asked them "Would you rather be Great and inspire 50 people to achieve their goals, to strengthen their walk, to be Great themselves, or would you rather just be someone who lots of people know, and just be Greatly Known...", my guess they would all pick the first option. 

So... do you want to be Great?  Or just Greatly Known?  Me?  Spent 30 years wanting to be Greatly Known... spent the last 30 minutes just wanting to be Great, and even moreso, wanting YOU to be Great.  Maybe I'll get Greatly Known.

For now, I'm content. 

Thursday, September 05, 2013

when I get where I'm going

In February of 2012, The Lovely Steph Leann and I traveled with her family to Tullahoma, Tennessee, to celebrate in a 40th wedding anniversary reception for her Uncle Larry and Aunt Jo... they have been together since 1972--that's a long time by any measure.  I thought about this blog during the 3+ hours up there, and the 3+ hours back, and couldn't wait to get home and write my thoughts. 

I wrote it out, and originally, this was going to be centered around what would have been my parents 37th wedding anniversary, which was January 25th... but it wasn't ready.  It just wasn't.  Or maybe it was, and I just wasn't ready to post it, who knows, but 18 months have passed, much has transpired, and this post lingered in the draft section of my blog feed... until now, when I think its time to let the interwebs have it for all eternity.

On Friday, September 6th, 2013 (tomorrow for me right now, today for many of you reading this), it will be two years since my Mom passed away.  Oh, don't worry, I'm not a shamble of tears, or all upset and stuff... I mean, yes, its a little sentimental, but I didn't want you guys to worry about making sure I'm not a quivering heap... but with Mom's 2 year anniversary looming, I thought it was time to send this one into the interwebs for all of time.

And as of August 31st, last Saturday, I lost my dad what this year will make 13 years... so that, then my Mom's passing makes for a couple of sentimental days over the course of a week.

Mom would have been 80 years old on her birthday this past year, February 6th, and 3 days after that, February 9th, Dad would have been 93 years old.  Mom never had much success in relationships prior to Dad, for a variety of reasons, and the same with Dad.  But they fell in love in an instant... its a love story that was hard to get going, and wasn't easy to keep going, but it worked somehow, and oh man did she love him.

We Christ Followers know that as nice as this headstone is, its just that.
The real "final resting place" is with Him... and I'll see them again, when
I get where I'm going.
Before her death, she would tell me that she would dream of Dad visiting her in the night.  He would come and sit on the end of her bed, pat her on the legs or the feet and tell her that he missed her, that he loved her, that things were going to be wonderful soon enough.

I won't turn this into a "I miss Mom" nor a "I miss Dad" post, and I'm not sitting here weepy and emotional... in fact, I'm hanging out with The Lovely Steph Leann and Campbell, watching "Pitch Perfect" (again, because she's obsessed with that movie)

Anyway, there is a song that is always on my mind, and no, its not Willie Nelson's "You Were Always On My Mind."  Its actually called "When I Get Where I'm Going".

To be honest, I wouldn't mind having this played at my own funeral... along with "The Story" by Brandi Carlile and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.  I used the title, "When I Get Where I'm Going" as a title for a post once, one where I discuss moving to Birmingham back in the day, but never about the song itself... as a matter of fact, I just changed the title of that post, because this one is much more important.

Written by George Teren and Rivers Rutherford, the song was recorded by Brad Paisley, with background vocals from Dolly Parton.  It was released in October 2005, as the second single off of his album "Time Well Wasted", and became his 14th Top Ten hit, and his 5th #1... and was Dolly's 25th #1 single.

The video is was gets me, though.  As Brad simply strums his guitar and sings, various people hold up photos of those loved ones they have lost... some are unknown, others are a little more famous... Michael Reagan holds up a picture of his dad Ronald... Teresa Earnhardt is seen with a pic of her husband Dale... Pixar's John Lassiter is showing a picture of fellow artist Joe Ranft, who had died earlier that year in a car accident... and the last scene of the video is an old film clip of Brad Paisley's grandfather, sitting on the porch, laughing and welcoming us in.

The lyrics go something like this...

When I get where I'm going, on the far side of the sky
The first thing that I'm gonna do is spread my wings and fly
I'm gonna land beside a lion and run my fingers through his mane
Or I might find out what it's like to ride a drop of rain

Yeah, when I get where I'm going, there'll be only happy tears
I will shed the sins and struggles I have carried all these years
And I'll leave my heart wide open, I will love and have no fear
Yeah, when I get where I'm going, don't cry for me down here.

I'm gonna walk with my own Daddy and he'll match me step for step
And I'll tell him how I missed him, every minute since he left
Then I'll hug his neck

When I get where I'm going, there'll be only happy tears
I will shed the sins and struggles I have carried all these years
And I'll leave my heart wide open, I will love and have no fear
Yeah, when I get where I'm going, don't cry for me down here...

So much pain and so much darkness in this world we stumble through
All these questions I can't answer, so much work to do.

But when I get where I'm going, and I see my Maker's face
I'll stand forever in the light of His amazing Grace

Yeah, when I get where I'm going
Oh, when I get where I'm going
There'll be only happy tears


I will love and have no fear
When I get where I'm going
Yeah, when I get where I'm going

And the beautiful thing is, I know exactly where I'm going.

Isaiah 53 tells us "He took the punishment, and that made us whole.  Through His bruises we get healed.  We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.  We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.  And God piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong... on Him." (MSG) and Romans 8:1 says, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."

When I get where I'm going... there'll be only happy tears.  Dad's known it for a dozen years, Mom cried those happy tears for just few years now.  Indeed.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

we'll make room

I was a band geek... in a way, I might still be, just without the saxophone.  I joined the band in 9th grade, wanting to play the saxophone.  I played auxiliary percussion my first year--triangle, viberslap, gong, maracas, so on--and then saxophone from my soph to senior year. 

See, I was someone in school, or at least junior high (I don't know why they call it "middle school" instead of "junior high"... when and why did that change occur?  It's like "junior college" became "community college".  What's wrong with "junior"?  They don't call the lower grade football team "community varsity" or "middle varsity", its "junior varsity"... am I rambling again?)

Anyway, I was someone in junior high who had friends.  Lots of friends. People generally like me as a 14 year old.  But, I had few close friends... I didn't have a "circle to run with" or a group I always hung out with.

Maybe that's why I joined the band... it was an already established group of people of all sorts, all with one common goal--making music and moving around a football field in a rhythm. 

So, at the risk of running this blog too long and rambling, I'll get to my little story... one night, the football team headed to play GW Long, in Georgiana, Alabama, about an hour away.  I enjoyed band bus rides, especially long ones, as it gave me a chance to hang in the back of the bus with some of the, at least who I considered, cooler kids. 

I can't remember who won that night, and really, it doesn't matter.  What matters is that the band bus stopped at Hardees after the game for everyone to eat dinner.  Forty kids, myself including, from 7th grade to Seniors, piled off the bus and headed towards the counter of Hardees... I was in the midst of the crowd, and I peered around as the majorettes got their table, and the senior guard got their table, drum major included, and so on. 

I paid for my food, turned around, tray in hand, and looked for somewhere to sit.  There were empty tables left, but all the tables that had people in them were full.  Glancing around, I spotted a larger table with eight chairs around it.  Seven were filled, one was empty.  As I took a step toward that table, with color guard and saxes and trumpets and more all sitting, eating, laughing, having the grandest time... as I took that step, ready to look at some of those kids and say "Can I sit here?", someone--don't know who--filled that spot. 

Me on the far left, with the glasses... maybe we weren't the coolest, but
it was just fun.
Dejected, I stopped, looked around once more, and then walked over to an empty table and sat down.  The larger table was next to me, with the group still laughing, joking, being loud and being all the things I wanted at that very second.  With a frown and a sigh, I started to eat my food.  It was fine.  I was eating alone.  I mean, we all eat alone sometimes, right? 

To my surprise, Shanna Nowling appeared out of nowhere.  Younger than me, she was more popular as a 7th grader than I was a freshman, so it caught me completely off guard. 

She smiled and said, "Wanna... wanna come join us?"

I looked at her, bewildered, and said, "I thought it was full...?"

She said again, "Nah... we'll make room. Come on."

We'll make room.  Three words that said "Sure, we are packed, but there is room for one more.  And that's you."

I got up, picked up my tray and followed Shanna Nowling to the table.  And sure enough, two people automatically moved aside so I could pull up a chair.  And yes, we were packed around that table, but I remember it being a hilarious time...

And now, 25 years later, I remember it. That one act of kindness that I'm sure Shanna, nor anyone else at that table, wouldn't remember (most people probably wouldn't remember who's table they were sitting at) has stayed with me all these years.

We'll make room.  We'll include you in our fun, so you aren't all by yourself, so you can be with us and join us and feel a part of us.  Isn't that what the Christian community is supposed to be about?

Its that kindness, the little things... and maybe if that has been with me all this time, its not such a little thing.  So just remember, the small things you do could be forgotten... or remembered. 

Be nice.  Be kind.  Be loving.  And be inclusive.

Make room for someone else.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

my kid has the autism

First thing to note... this is not an autism blog.  This will never be an autism blog.  This blog is about life.  My life, the life of those around me, the things that are enjoyed the most, like movies and music and fellowship and so on... just wanted to make that point, lest you think that from here forward, all I'm going to do is write about autism.  I'm not.  I'll refer to it, but it won't be the dominating factor in this blogsite... nor in our lives.  Cause its not an end. Its a different path.  That's all.

My son, Campbell Isaiah, is autistic. 

And he's still pretty freakin' awesome.

You see, I only knew two things about autism.  That autism existed, and that if you were high-functioning, that means you had Asperger's, a form of autism.  That's it.

I know lots of kids with autism.  I know lots of parents who have autism.  And I knew that Campbell had something going on with him.

Rather than re-hash how we got to this point, you can just read this...

Bottom line, could Campbell have autism?  No.  No way.  I mean, we did everything right, right? 

We have regulated his diet from pretty much the beginning... he didn't breastfeed, so we did formula... his system didn't like the formula we gave him (Enfamil and then Gerber Baby--nothing wrong with those products, he just didn't agree with them).  So we started making our own, using goat's milk and some nutrients we had researched and liked.  As he got older, we began to regulate his diet.... when he started eating solid foods, it was nothing but straight up fruits and veggies.

Rutabaga... carrots... peas... squash... beets... blueberries... bananas... apples... nectarines... pears... mangos... peaches... you name it, he'll eat it.  Just peel, steam, blend and feed.  We dropped the blending part, and just cut up into small chunks after a few months.  The only thing we have found that he just will.not.eat. is broccoli... he took it off the fork, and without even trying it, dropped it onto the floor.  That's his way of saying, "Nope."

On the bulletin board at the clinic
But we everything right!  We took caution and care to make sure he wasn't getting anything he wasn't supposed to... and yet, here we are.  So... you're telling me that any kid can get autism, really... hmm.

We began getting both speech and occupational therapy with him at our home.  A couple of chicks would come here, work with him in playing and speaking, and again, they recommended an autism screening.  The Mitchell's Place was the first one that everyone referred us to, but after calling, the couldn't get us in until October.

We certainly couldn't wait that long... so after doing a ton of research, The Lovely Steph Leann then got us an appointment with the University of Alabama Autism Spectrum Disorder Clinic... and we braced ourselves for what we knew would probably happen.

For about three hours, we were interviewed by one of the psychologists.  They asked all kinds of questions like, "Does he do this..." and "How does he react when..." and "Have you noticed him doing..." and stuff like that.  I wanted to answer positively on everything, but just couldn't.  We had to be honest.  And the longer it went on, we knew.

Another lady played with him the entire time, doing specific activities and games with him to gauge his motor and play skills.  She pulled out certain toys to see how he problem solved, and blew bubbles all over the room to see his reaction.  And both she and the psychologist made lots and lots of notes.

They left us, and came back a 1/2 hour later, and simply said:

Campbell has Autism.


We knew it, but there's something about having someone official say something so official.

He has autism.

Boom again.

Turns out, there is something called an autism spectrum... its like a line, and the higher you go, the better you are.  He ranked somewhere in the middle, at a 56.  His motor skills ranked high--in the 16 month old range.  His expressive and reactive?  He's at a 5mo level.  He has the same kind of expressive reactions to us that he had in April of 2012. 

He has autism.

We talked for a while about the things we have done, and what the future holds.  The next few days came, and went... nothing really changed for Campbell or us.  We kept on doing what we were doing... same food, same play activities and so on.

She told us, "I've seen children that were higher on the spectrum plateau in a few years and never get better.  I've seen children much lower on the spectrum grow up and have productive, wonderful lives.  Take it year by year."

Saturday night, we did our little share of grieving... I watched him.  I watched him move around the room and all the things the psychologist had said rushed back to me... the signs.  The symptoms.  What he would do, what he wouldn't do.  And it was true.  If these were the signs, then yes

He has autism.

A day or two more, thoughts filled my mind... this wasn't supposed to happen... remember, we did all the preventative measures.  We didn't even vaccinate (that's another story for another day)!  I mean, Campbell was supposed to grow up... play with Buzz Lightyear and Lightnin McQueen... take tennis lessons... become a teenager... drive... graduate high school, work at Starbucks, go to college (go Trojans!), find a nice girl, date... grow old!

And now? (in my most panicked voice) He's got The Autisma!  He's broked!  Now he'll be a drooling goob living with us when he's 45 years old, sucking all of our resources and finances because we continually have to get him care, because he can't even bathe himself!!!!!


We know this isn't all true.  But it all ran through my mind.  That's what Fear does.  Fear takes the worst case scenarios, usually far fetched, and turns them into the most likely scenarios. 

So we had to Punch Fear in the Face.  Pray about it, push back those anxieties, and start to look ahead.

But a few days ago, something huge occurred to me... back 10, 15, 20 years ago, The Autism was a fun-life death sentence.  Meaning, if your child was autistic, you had limited resources, limited options, and I'm guessing a vast majority of diagnosed kids didn't get the help, training, therapy and opportunities they deserved and needed, leaving only a small number that went on to have those awesome lives.

This was taken about 4 minutes ago.  He spends so much
time trying to get my attention, its hard to get things...
but just now, trying to get a good picture, I couldn't keep
him around me... little turd.
Nowadays, I think that's completely reversed.  I would think a huge majority of autistic children now have those resources in abundance, therapy available, and many, many more options than ever.  I'm not saying all children have this chance, but I think those who don't are not in the majority, but in a much smaller minority. 

I voiced this theory with Melissa, our occupational therapist, and she wholeheartedly agreed.  She said simply, "All the guarantees that he had for opportunities to be successful... he still has them.  Its just a different path he'll be on."  We were very encouraged that we not only caught it early, but we also started doing some of the things needed months ago. 

So here we are... we take it week by week, month by month, year by year... actually, like most parents will, with their own children. 

We are indeed taking year by year.  But we are optimistic that Campbell Isaiah has a great future ahead of him. 

He has autism.

And he's pretty fantastic.

Boom goes the autistic dynamite.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

the journey begins with a grin

We have an autistic child.  The psychologist said so.  And I'll share that, much more of that, in a day or so.  Tonight, however, I just wanted to share this...

We grieved this evening. Not for long.  Not much.  A little. We grieve over all the things our son likely won't be, while we learn to accept who he is now. 

I met up with some new friends this afternoon... and then The Lovely Steph Leann and I met some old friends for dinner... and all the while, I thought of our Campbell...

And tonight, when we got home, I sat down and reality began to finally set in.  He's autistic.  We now have a diagnosed special needs child. 

I saw on the couch, and a tear came down one cheek.  Then a tear came down the other.  The Lovely Steph Leann came and sat beside me, putting her head on my shoulder, while Campbell went around the room, playing with this toy and that, not letting himself spend too much time on any one thing.

I wiped a few tears, I heard The Lovely Steph Leann sniffle and wipe her eyes. 

And then, as if on cue, Campbell came up to me.  He put his hands on my knees, his signal for "I want up".  I pulled the lever for the recliner, and the pedestal rose, bring him up as well.  He crawled into my lap, and as he did, he grinned.  This wonderful, beautiful, gap toothed, innocent grin.

He grinned at us.  At me.

The Lovely Steph Leann said, "Ha... he's saying 'No Mommy, I want to love on Daddy, not you!'"

I paused, and smiled, wiping another tear, saying, "No, I don't think so.  I think he is saying 'Don't cry Mommy and Daddy.  I'm cool.  I'm going to be fine.  Just you wait and see.'" 

And with that grin, this is where our journey, the part that now has a label on it, officially begins.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

learning the a-word

Tomorrow, I will get up at 430 in the morning.  I will take care of breakfast for The Lovely Steph Leann and the likely sleeping Campbell Isaiah.  I will cook his breakfast, probably of two eggs, and maybe a banana, maybe some avocado or blueberries.  He also has some baby vitamins he takes, so there's that.

He'll wake up, and I'll take him and feed him while The Lovely Steph Leann gets ready.  Then, around 645 in the morning, we'll pile in the car and head out... headed to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, about 45 minutes from The Cabana, our home here in Birmingham.

Our son, Campbell Isaiah, probably about 16 months
when this was taken...
Tuscaloosa... the home of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.. according to many people, also the home of 7, maybe 8 national titles.  According to most, its the home of 14 national football titles.  According to the diehard Roll Tiders, the home of 277 national football titles--some of them have been awarded strictly because Bear Bryant lived.  Such is.

We won't be headed to a football game though... I will say, I've seen two football games at Alabama from the student section, and its unbelievably cool...

The Lovely Steph Leann, a graduate of the UofA will surely have lots of tales to tell as we drive through, including that of wrecking her bicycle--The Purple Passion--in front of an incredibly hunky Jay Barker.

But no, again, we aren't looking for memories and stories.

No, tomorrow morning we are taking Campbell to a clinic on campus to be screened.  An evaluation.  For autism.  The A-word has made its way to our immediately family.

The kid is over 20 months old... he'll be 21mo in about a week or more, on September 1st, but he's currently tracking at a communication level of a 9 or 10 month old, if that.  What does that mean?  That means, take an infant 1/2 of Campbell's age, put them side by side, and they will communication the same way.

Campbell doesn't talk.  Not a peep.  He may or may not have said the word "Eat!" a few weeks back, though I am thinking that was a reoccurring sounds of "eet!  eet!  eet!" and so on. He squeals a lot, makes motorboating sounds, drools like a fountain, and sometimes will toss up a "ka" or a "ba" sound... nothing that resembles "dada" or "mama", though.

Many parents, well intentioned, have told us, "Oh my kid didn't talk until (fill in age here), so you probably don't have anything to worry about!"... but its beyond talking.  He doesn't communicate.  He doesn't point to things he knows or recognizes.  He doesn't tell us what he wants, other than the seemingly obvious "hungry" and "tired" signs... even then, it can be a bit confusing. 

We noticed early on, maybe around 8 or 9 months, that he wouldn't look at you when you held him and talked to him. He would look everywhere but at your face.  He didn't start walking until well after a year old, and then wouldn't come to you when called. 

We decided to get his hearing checked... it turned out fine, but kinda of the cusp of fine and not so fine... they recommended he see a specialist for his developmental issues.  We did that, and learned about his delays.  And more than one specialist and/or doctor has recommended he been screened for autism.

So... tomorrow we go.  I don't imagine we'll know anything in a day, we might have to go back.  But they will do a psychological evaluation on him--don't ask me how they do this for toddlers-- and that will go a long way to determined our next steps.

The Lovely Steph Leann isn't really scared, as she has long thought that there are issues.  Me? I'm a little scared of the whole thing.  So, we shall see...

I'll be doing an update to this post soon, perhaps over the weekend, perhaps next week... whatever journey we are on, we are just beginning with Campbell...

Thanks for reading my rambleness...

Monday, August 19, 2013

i am the stupid park guest

I'm not one to play a whole lot of video games.  In fact, we've had a Wii for about four or five years, and the number of times I have played it in the last two years is, maybe once. Maybe twice.  My history with video games actually goes all the way back to 1989, when my mom and dad bought me a real, genuine Nintendo 8 bit system, with the Duck Hunt gun and game, AND... check this out, AND the Power Pad.  Like, the mat that you plug in, and run on for the game World Class Track Meet.  It had four games--the 100 yard dash, the hurdles, the relay, and the Olympics, where you can combine all three games for a big score.  Was there something else?  I don't remember.

Don't know what the Power Pad is?  It looks like this picture... it was awesome. Anyway, there was a way to position your heels right behind the circles, and then quickly tap your feet on the circles... if you did it just right, there was no stopping you.  Don't believe me?  My 100 yard record is 5.61 seconds.  I remember that number, even though I haven't actually played on a Nintendo Power Pad in at least 12 years, and haven't set that record in about 20.  The other side of it had some sort of set up for a Dance Aerobics game, but that was lame-oh.

Aside from that game, I played a heavy rotation of Super Mario Brothers (1 & 3, because 2 was dumb), Tecmo Bowl (Bo Jackson was unstoppable), CastleVania (I never got past level 4), Contra (Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right A B Start), Rygar (I never understood the game, and never got anywhere), Paperboy (I liked breaking virtual windows), Mike Tyson's Punchout (I beat him once.  One.Single.Time), Tetris (I played so much, I saw it in my sleep), Top Gun (the first level ruled), Marble Madness (that game was so hardcore) and of course, the original The Legend of Zelda.

But as the game systems and technology grew, my interest in them waned.  Well, let me rephrase that.. they got smarter, I didn't.  I skipped the Super Nintendo, and by the time the Game Cube rolled around, the controllers were all fancy with 287 buttons each, and it was just too complicated. 

We bought a Nintendo Wii some years ago, and I spent 100s of hours on Star Wars Legos, and a bit of time on Toy Story Mania... but that's about it.  Just no time for such things. 

A screen shot of Forest Frontiers, after some heavy work
The game that I really like, though, when I have time to waste, is Roller Coaster Tycoon.  There might be a video game system for it, but I have the PC version... I borrowed--and forgot to give back--the original game disc from my brother in law, Tyler... I had no instructions, no clue how to do anything, and when the first game, "Forest Frontiers" popped up, I had to wing it. 

Essentially, it opens up with a big patch of a land and a park gate.  You are then to build an amusement park.  You have an opening set of rides and attractions, a handful of coasters, a few drink and snack bars and so on.  And, you are given a budget.  I tried to do the Dave Ramsey thing and build it debt free, but that's pretty fruitless.  You also have to build walkways or renovate existing walkways, and with each ride you build, it costs you money, but you have to build an entrance and an exit.  On some levels you can buy more land, some you have to clear trees and landscaping to build more, and if you want more than the initial rides and attractions, then you have to allocate money to "marketing and research";  meaning every little while, another coaster, ride or stand will be available to you to use. 

Each level gets a wee bit harder, and each one will have different objectives... some will say "Have 900 guests in your park by the end of Year 3" (each "year" lasts like, 15 minutes or something) or "Maintain a Park Rating of 850 by Year 2", and sometimes you have a brand new patch of land to work with, build your park and open with, and other times you have to start right in on an existing park, already filled with guests. 

Its a fun game, and an addicting one too.  Every time I go to Walt Disney World, I find myself thinking about Roller Coaster Tycoon, and what I can do different.  You can even hire "security guards", "mechanics" to fix rides (which I always name Larry, Gary, Barry, Terry and so on) and "janitors" to clean up (which I always name Jill, Bill, Gil, Will and so on).  Because to make an amusement park, you also have to have guests... and the guests in Roller Coaster Tycoon are... well... stupid.

In the game, or at least in the initial version of the game (there are now multiple sequels, as well as expansion packs for each, etc), the only differentiating characteristic of each guest is the color of their shirt.  Their faces, skin, size are exactly alike.  Each guest is given a number, and they all had different amounts of money in their pocket to spend, as well as various levels of stamina when it comes to hard rides and such.

But they are all stupid.  Case in point... build a coaster.  A nice roller coaster, and let it build in popularity and make you lots of money.  Eventually, that coaster will break down more and more often, making it more trouble than its worth... so you can do one of two things:  You can "close" the ride, which means all your guests in line and on the ride will exit, make their way onto your pathway and go to other rides, then you can delete your coaster. 


You can just delete it.  When you do that, everyone in the ride queue turns around and walks out.  However, the people on the ride suddenly drop to the grass below.  Some will find the path, disappear amongst the hundreds, and keep going.  Others?  Well, this is the stupid part. The others will start wandering aimlessly.  And when I say, aimlessly, I mean AIM-LESS-LEE... they scatter like a flock of startled birds... you have little "tweezers" that you can pick each guest up and place them on the path, but if there are dozens of them, its hard to pick them all up... invariably, you lose some.

You'll think you have all of them, and then suddenly you hear a beep-beep-beep notification, telling you that "Guest 194 is lost".  You do a click, and the screen will pan all the way across your park to find one or more poor souls just wandering back and forth, through the grass.  Click on them, usually they'll have a mad look on their face.  Lost.

And occasionally, you'll have everything laid out, pathways correct, connected to other pathways, and you'll still get a beep-beep-beep notification that tells you something like "Guest 491 is lost".  How are you lost, chief? I mean, seriously... you are wandering around the Carousel!  The path to the exit is two squares in front of you, genius!  Even when the path is clearly marked, Guest 491 is furious its not laid out for him completely.

Sounds like someone I know.  Namely, me. 

I am the stupid park guest. 

When everything is going swimmingly, then suddenly, something is deleted, I fall to the grass.  Most of the time, I just start wandering off in my own world.  No sense of where I'm going, but hoping I'll know where "there" is when I get there. 

I am the stupid park guest.  The path many times (re: most of the time) is very clearly marked.  And I ignore it.  I pout until I get my way, until its made even more clear... only then will I move. 

I am the stupid park guest.  Usually with less money.  And while I scoff at Guest 93 for paying my price of $9 for a drink, I then leave and spend my last bit of cash on something dumb when I should be saving up.

I am the stupid park guest.  Like the guests you can pick up and drop into the water just to watch them drown, I drown in my own fears, insecurities and general dorkfacedness. 

I am the stupid park guest.  Even when things are set forth, right in front of me, sometimes I just stop and puke on the sidewalk.  Or turn in the wrong direction anyway.  I get mad.  I get confused.  And I realize I am must be like everyone else.  No uniqueness.  No individuality.  Nothing that sets me apart. 

I am the stupid park guest.

Thankfully... I've got someone else holding the Holy Tweezers that picks me out of the mess, out of the wilderness and from the lost grass and places me back on the pathway.  Be real... you've never heard the term "Holy Tweezers" until now, right?  See, this is why I'm here.

We don't have to be stupid park guests.  We don't have to wander aimlessly.  And we don't have to wait for the Holy Tweezers to get us... we can make that move on our own. 

(thanks to Katie Porath, a friend in the START Experiment, for the inspiration for this post...)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

average to audacious (with a layover at awesome)

I want the next year of my life to matter.  To be... well, not just Awesome.  But Audacious.

I mentioned this earlier, but I am involved in a project called The Start Experiment".  This dude named Jon Acuff, who wrote the book "Quitter" (an excellent book about finding your passions while still dealing with your own life) also wrote a book called "START"... and this book is about achieving those passions, ie, STARTing those passions in your life. 

My goals for that day.  I accomplished all of them, thank you.
Got an email that asked me if I wanted to go on a 24 day adventure.  Of course I said "YES!", so a week or so later, I began getting daily emails with small challenges... challenges like "What are your fears?" and "What are your goals?" and "What can you do to get to those goals" and so on... the beauty of it, though, were there about 1500 people nationwide that did the same thing.  We are all in a closed group on Facebook called "The START Experiment."

I've met a dozen of like-minded people like me, people who had dreams and visions and passions and ambitions and really were unsure how to START... but through the 24 days, we all kinda got a clue.   In fact, the redesign of this website was an absolute, direct result of the START Experiment.

So then, the 24 days are over... and we were given a chance to go to "Round 2", being called "AUDACIOUS"

"Audacious" is a word that sometimes has a negative connotation... in fact, the dictionary gives the definition as:

  1. Showing a willingness to take bold risks: "an audacious takeover".
  2. Showing an impudent lack of respect: "an audacious remark".
bold - daring - hardy - impudent - brave - venturesome

The problem is, we look at that 2nd definition, especially when saying, "Can you believe the audacity of that person?!"  But the first?  All about risk.  All about stepping out.  All about saying "Hey Dreams, hey Passions, hey Visions... what up, holmes?  What you got for me?"

It's also challenged me to take a good, long look at my fears.  One of the daily tasks was to simply write down my fears.  Not type them, but write them down.  I would much rather type... in high school, I got up to 70 words per minute, and probably average out now around 55 or 60 comfortably.  Its easy to type.  But writing?  It just takes longer, and I have to go slow, because otherwise you can't read what I write... somewhat messy writing because of my speed, but also because I use an Ultra Fine Sharpie as a writing tool. I'm a Sharpie fiend, so get used to it.
Challenged to write down my fears on paper, I did

So I wrote my fears down.   It wasn't easy.  But it was cool.  It was self-reflective, and cool... something that I don't think I would have ever done without START. 

And if the Facebook groups during the first 24 days were great... that's nothing to the sense of community being set forth now. There are at least a dozen subgroups, most centered on a common them--"authors" or "bloggers" or "internet entrepreneurs" or "business owners" or "SouthEast", which I am all a part of... I've also joined a small group called "START Corner", where myself about and 10 other people are just kinda... well, hanging out and sharing. 

In the weeks since this has started, I've been blown away by the lives that are changing... testimonies to the power of Christ working in addictions... working in overcoming fears from overbearing parents to stepping out on faith in ministries... new projects that are being started from the ground up or re-started in a long dormant project that final gets some attention.

My Facebook feed is filled with men and women discussing new projects, discussing how they are being transformed and encouraged... and yes, I'm in the midst.  I'm being encouraged daily, though my slight OCD tendencies pop up when I see that red and white number on my phone alerting me of notifications... I want to check it immediately.

Anyway, this has also given me the jumpstart for many upcoming posts, including my next one on Friday, which I'll simply title "The Great Thirty Eight".  Hope you join me!

Lets not be average.

Lets be more than awesome

Lets be Audacious.