Nicht rasieren November, Teil zwei

No Shave November has finally come to an end. Das Ende, el final, till slutet. A full month plus a week's worth of growth - it had to go. Stat.

My brother-in-law challenged me to a duel of sorts. In his words: "You have to shave it into a moustache first. I'll do it if you will."

Deal. Game on.

So I grabbed my weapon of choice.

A few minutes later I had a fierce mustache. And since Dan lives by the "pics or it didn't happen" rule, I present you with the photographic evidence.

Alas, the chimo-stache had to go. I'd rather avoid my wife's disproving glare. It's all gone now. I am no longer sasquatch. I am human.

Although, it should be noted that Bekah isn't a fan of this 100% clean shaven look either. She says it makes me look too much like my brother.

To see how my brother in law is doing ...
Part ONE.
Part TWO.
Part FOUR.
Part FIVE.
Part SIX.

(ps, if you're not following him on twitter, you should.)

Das Ende: Nicht rasieren November


Things my daughter is thankful for

Zu's class made a Thanksgiving art project writing the things they're thankful for on leafs.

In case you can't read the writing from the picture, below are the things she is glad to have in her life. This is the inner workings of my 4 & 1/2 year old little girl's mind.

"I love her snuggles. I'm Thankful for her hugs and kisses."

"I'm thankful for when my dad hugs me really tight and when he lets me draw a unicorn."*

"I'm thankful for when he jumps on the trampoline with me and for when he plays chase and tries to catch me."

"I'm thankful for when he likes to wrestle with me and when we eat apples together."

Grandma & Grandpa:
"I'm thankful for when Grandma gives me licorice and when she and I go on special dates. I'm thankful for when Grandpa hugs me and snuggles me and throws me up in the air.

* I do not recall ever letting her draw unicorns. I don't remember prohibiting it either.



Seeing this face brings me joy. I grew up watching the Muppets (and Fraggle Rock). There is a soft spot in my heart for those furry hippy monsters. But none of those puppets can coax a smile out of me like Animal. That unkempt, crazy-eyed, blundering, red-furred fool.

He's the only Muppet that could coast through an entire movie without uttering a single sentence until he shouts out one word, the best line in the whole movie: "QUIET!"

Audiences love Animal, but he exasperates the rest of the Muppet gang. He's not eloquent with his speech. He's loud and obnoxious. He's socially awkward. He always seems to cause trouble for himself and/or others. He breaks things. He walks into walls. It's difficult to be friends with a friend like Animal.

But if you dig deeper, there's a wholly different creature behind Animal's animal tenancies. He has a passion for music and is deeply spiritual. He had a kind soul; he wanted to help out and be of good use. He just wanted to belong.

Looking back at my younger years, it's easy to see that I was Animal. I have previously explained my outcast status - a geek in a crowd of cool kids. I was loud and obnoxious. I could never manage to find the right words to say. I was socially awkward and got into a lot of trouble. I got picked on and bullied - some of which I probably deserved. I instigated fights and got the crap beat out of me. Through it all, I just wanted to fit in.

Thankfully I found an outlet. An art teacher who believed in me. A theater director who was willing to give me a chance to be a part of something awesome. A few good friends who were outcasts in their own way. Creative and musical roommates that were willing to help me grow. And an amazing wife who refuses to give up on this animal.

These days, I look at my oldest son and see Animal's goofy grin superimposed over his face. Sometimes I see that my boy's blonde hair and blue eyes have been replaced with uncontrollable red fur and a wild stare.

He shares my genetic make up and is predisposed to many of the same temperaments that I've struggled with. And he has Aspergers. Whatever challenges I faced will be exponentially harder for him. He all ready displays inadequate social aptitude. He's clumsy, full of energy, loud, and constantly blurts out what ever thoughts cross his mind. He loves people and doesn't understand how others might not appreciate him and his quirks.

The most difficult aspect of life with Christian is that he does not recognize the impact his words and actions have on others. He can pull a bar stool out from under his sister because she's not supposed to be sitting on it, then wonder why she's crying. Not only is he skilled at annoying others, he lacks the ability to discern when he's causing others to be annoyed.

But there's more to him. Christian is smart. Not just the good at school kind of smart, but ridiculously intelligent. His grasp on science and math is scary yet amazing. His reading skills are the best in his class. He's artistic and imaginative. Give him a cache of art supplies and he will spend hours creating pictures and projects. He has moments of greatness that make me believe he is capable of conquering the world. I know he's smarter than I was at that age. I can see a future grown up version of Christian directing blockbusters and Oscar nominated film. Or rescuing endangered creatures from the most remote corners of Earth.

It's those other moments that discourage me. Those moments he inadvertently hurts his friend's feelings. Those moments that he is so lost in his own world that he can't get ready for school, or set the dining room table. Those moments where he falls apart because he can't remember where he left his shoes. Or those moments where he is pestering his younger siblings and won't stop.

That's my Animal.

Sometimes it's hard to look past the insanity. Sometimes I look at Christian and I see an obnoxious creature who breaks things and walks into walls.

He craves second chances. One of his favorite lines (usually uttered in those moments between a bad choice and the punishment): "Don't I get a second chance?"

No, he still needs to go to his room. Or he is still going to be grounded from his Wii. He still has to face the consequences of his actions.

"But," he'll protest, "God gives us second chances."

I am not naturally a gracious person but my son is teaching me more about grace than he may ever comprehend. I know that second chances made me the man I am today, and Christian is now altering my definition of second chances.

A second chance isn't permission to re-offend. It is unending forgiveness.
A second chance isn't a prevention of consequence. It's a strong hand to help you carry your burdens.
A second chance isn't always immediate. It has it's own timing.
A second chance doesn't say "Do whatever you want." It says, "I'll love you no matter what you do."

Christian is in frequent need of grace. He is lost without second chances. Through this he is forcing me to be a better dad.

It's not easy raising an Animal, but I love him. I am thankful for the Animal in my life.

(The image at the top of this post is a part of People of the Second Chance's Never Beyond Series. Read more at POTSC)


Winter driving tips (bonus post)

If my last post didn't explain clearly enough, we in the Spokane/Coeur d'Alene area have our first significant snowfall of the year. And the city street crews have done little to nothing to make the road passable. To complicate matters, drivers around here have what I refer to as Collective Seasonal Amnesia (or CSA). CSA is what happens when large portions of the population completely forget how to drive in wintry conditions.

To help you avoid the symptoms of CSA, I present you with the following driving tips.

1. Slow Down.
When the roads are covered with mirror smooth ice, the posted speed limit is probably too fast for the conditions. Just because you can go a certain speed, doesn't mean you should. If you're travelling in a straight line and feel your traction slip, you're going too fast. Drive slower on snow than you would on dry roads.

2. Ease Up.
Use your gas pedal with a gentle touch. Pulling out of your driveway is not the start of a drag race. Leaving a stop sign should be done with care to the ice beneath you, not with the pedal pressed through the floorboards. Ease up off that gas pedal.

3. Ease In.
It takes longer to come to a complete stop on wet roads - even longer on compact snow and ice. Give yourself plenty of room to slow down. Ease into a complete stop. And for the love of all that's good and holy, do not slam on your brakes.

4. Back Off.
You shouldn't tailgate others on dry roads. That rule is truer on ice. If you can not see the treads of the car in front of you, you are following too close. If you can read the speedometer of the person you're following, you're tailgating. You are not a hemorrhoid, get off that person's back end. Back away; give yourself space to stop in case the driver in front of you has to stop.

5. Plan Out.
If you're driving slower, taking more time to start/stop, and giving more space between you and other drivers, your drive is going to take longer. Plan ahead, leaver earlier, and make sure you have enough time to safely reach your destination.

Recipe for a beautiful disaster

As I write this the Inland Northwest is blanketed under a lovely pile of frozen precipitation, Highway 95 is a mess, sections of I-90 are shut down due to spun out cars, and Spokane authorities are dealing with a 17 car pile-up on the South Hill. Ah, snow. The strange dichotomy of beautiful scenery and merciless carnage.

I'm not sure how much of the chaos could have been negated. It's not like we didn't know this was coming. It's not like every meteorologist from every major network predicted a hefty winter storm. Oh, wait. It was forecast. We had ample warning.

So, here's a five step recipe for disaster in the face of post-card worthy weather.

1. Wait until there is 4 to 8 inches of snow on the ground before reacting.
2. Keep plowing to a minimum. Allow local traffic to melt, compact, and/or slushify the snow covered roadways.
3. Do not sand. Avoid all de-icing measures.
4. Spend the day watching feather textured flakes fall from the sky while temperatures hover at 32°.
5. Continue to do nothing to improve road conditions as temperatures drop into the teens, turning every paved surface into a skating rink for 4,000 pound metallic beasts.

ps: if slushify isn't a real word, it should be.


Adoption stories

If you know our family you know why stories like the one below are important to us. Because of two special treasures in our lives, we will always be advocates for those willing to open their hearts for kids needing a home.

"One Less" by Matthew West - The Story Behind the Song from Digital Accounts on Vimeo.


The System is Broken

Today is election day. In the Cd'A area we're looking at municipal races. A year from now, we'll be heading to the polls for another presidential election. It seems like now is an appropriate time to analyze all that is wrong in the world of politics.

Those that are running for office (and to a lesser extent those that are dialed in to the political realms) are swinging from one of two irreconcilable extremes. Those differences can easily be broken down with the issues below. Prepare for some gross over-generalizations.

The Role of Government:
The liberal view: The public sector can do everything better than the private sector.
The conservative view: The private sector can do everything better than the public sector.

Public Education:
The liberal view: Our schools are broken, we should do the same thing we've always done - just with more money.
The conservative view: Our schools are broken, we should get rid of them and force everyone to pay for private education.

Government regulations:
The liberal view: The government should have no control of moral issues, but they should regulate everything else.
The conservative view: The government should have no control over any aspect of our lives, except for moral issues.

Class Warfare:
The liberal view: The rich have exploited every loophole at the expense of the poor.
The conservative view: The poor are lazy moochers at the expense of the rich.

Grassroots Organizations:
The liberal view: The Tea Party is composed of racists that are ignorant of history.
The conservative view: OWS protesters are a bunch of disorganized and violent anarchists.

The liberal view: It's a necessary evil. We need more.
The conservative view: It's an unnecessary evil. We need less.

Social Services:
The liberal view: The disadvantaged are incapable of success with out it.
The conservative view: The disadvantaged are incapable of success because of it.

Opposing Viewpoints:
The liberal view: Conservatives are brainless morons who must be stopped at all costs.
The conservative view: Liberals are vile and manipulative morons who must be stopped at all costs.

Problem number one: The majority of Americans do not exist at either end of the red and blue spectrum. The majority live in that vast purple area between the two extremes.

Problem number two: Politicians that enter the playing field from that purple area are unelectable. They are vilified as a DINO or a RINO and are ostracized by their own party. With out partisan support, they face an uphill battle running as an independent candidate.

Problem number three: Those that live purple don't vote purple. We continue to support the crazy ideologues pandering to the wackiest segment of their own party. This insanity exists because we continue to support it year after year with blind strait party voting habits.