Friday, December 24, 2010

Running in the Snow

“Whoever thought of this tradition is uninvited next year,” declared my father-in-law as we all loaded up in the cars to head out for our three mile road race. I think that this is now the second holiday in a row that I’ve run a road race, a little disconcerting and it was colder this time! The kids stayed warm though, don't they look happy! After the race we shared “high-low,” my high was definitely McDonalds and a cup of coffee post race, the low was at my first mile when I looked at my watch and realized that I was pacing at 7 minutes; I was in shape for 8 minute miles. It was a rough last two miles, but not as bad as my brother-in-law’s low. Katherine asked Jerry to go in and look for Jon, when Jerry came back out the 200 people who were standing expectantly at the starting line in the 22 degree weather a moment ago were nowhere in sight. No worries Jerry, next year you will be in Greece on stint and I will be running around a parking lot in Shelbyville in sub-arctic temperatures! And please no comments about the lime green running shirt!!

That little stinker!

How do you keep a fifteen month old and her three year old brother quiet for a nine hour car ride? Two words, Diapers and dumdums! Our first pit stop was right outside Chattanooga at a “real” Wal-mart where an overly friendly attendant made an unfortunate comment about Katherine’s hair. A mile later, I realized that I had inadvertently left Ava Marie’s diaper on the top of the van, we were not going back! Breakfast and nap #1 kept the kids content from Chattanooga to Nashville where Katherine discovered that the diaper was still on the roof! A mile later, she realized that she had forgotten to throw it away! Nap #2 kept the kids quiet from Nashville to Louisville where we finally threw away the diaper which had collected no little amount smog along its five-hundred mile rout! From Louisville to Mooresville we sang Veggie Tale tunes and passed out dumdums. I know you probably wish you were there to partake, just don’t forget the diaper on the roof!

Running in the Rain

K said I whined the whole way there! Actually, I think I started whining the night before. The idea of getting up early on Thanksgiving Day and running four and a half miles in the pouring rain has never been my idea of fun. Yet, thankfully my alarm went off at 6:45am and thankfully it didn’t start to rain till after the first mile and thankfully K and I both finished under 45 minutes. I was not Thankful when the guy wearing the air-Jordan high tops and big baggy sweat pants passed us at two miles. I hate being passed by non-runners, but I love my wife.

Had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner cooked by my favorite m-i-l (the sweet-potatoes and the dressing were my favorite). Side note stuffing goes in the bird, dressing goes outside the bird. The blue-berry pie was the “bomb!” Rounded out the day by meeting my new niece who that morning had a parade thrown in her honor in morning.

Five Cremes and One Flying Kick: Thanksgiving 2010

We pulled away from Dunkin Donuts only to discover that the not quite awake drive through attendant had been confused by our order. “Five crème and sugars are better than two crème and sugars and the nine hour car ride from GA is better than the sixteen hour ride from TX,” I thought as I sipped my super sweet coffee and mentally prepared for our nine hour trip to “granddad’s house!” At the TN line the kids woke up and after munching on doughnuts, Luke enjoyed his toy circulars while Ava Marie tried not to become too embitter over being strapped into her forward facing “torture” seat.

McDonalds, while attempting to meet our dietary needs and failing miserably (“Mcgross”), provided me with the highlight of my day. Side note McDonald’s now charges for water! Does this bother anyone else? Is the economy really that bad or am I just “Mccheap?” After using the facilities, I told Luke that he could flush the toilet. Without batting an eye, he reached up with both hands and grabbed the bar next to the toilet to brace himself and sent a flying kick at the toilet lever. I’m not sure where he learned how to do this, must have been his mother.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The ABCs of Thanksgiving

A - Apartment Life and Alpharetta, GA
B - Bunkbeds, Bible Study, and Braves Games
C - Computers and Chick-fil-a
D - Dunkin Doughnuts: "smooth" coffee
E - Etowa: little "m" born
F - Fifteen - hundred square feet: Seven Pines Apartment Complex (no rent)
G - Grandparents
H - Health
I - Ipoletos
J - the John's Sunday school class
K - Kohl's cash: they keep sending us free money :)
L - Leadership Development: staff of six and senior leadership
M - Marta: runs all the way to the airport
N - No: to tv, it's a time chewer with nothing to show for it
O - Ocean: I love beach vacations - Thankful that the Paschal's have this in their blood
P - PCBC and the preschool ministry: the kids love church
Q - Quiet Life: a much simpler season of life
R - Reinsel: have learned a lot of leadership and people skills from MJR
T - Talladega & Twisted Taco: one was free and the other one comes with chips
U - Uncle David
V - Vance and Susan Garison: young married class
W - Wednesday night church: opportunity to teach after a six month hiatus - "God can use me, but He doesn't need me!"
X - Chi: Christ, where the source of all joy is found
Y - Yes: to extra time off the week of Thanksgiving and Christmas - Indy trips
Z - Zero: the amount that I miss dark, cold days!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Presidents: General Andrew Jackson - "Old Hickory"

The 7th President of the United States, General Andrew Jackson was to say the least colorful. Jackson was first and foremost a soldier who whether on the battle field or the political stage led boldly with his emotions. A passionate man, Jackson was tempered by his loyalty to family, friends, and faith (Presbyterian by birth - became more centric later in life). To most Jackson alluded a charming and charismatic personality, but those who stood in his way knew Jackson's unrelenting fury and were viewed by Jackson as enemies who must be crushed or vanquished!

Jackson believed that he represented "the people," and for better or worse Jackson saw himself as the supreme representative of the people - a paradigm shift in political thinking. This coupled with the spoils system was the single greatest impact Jackson's Presidency brought to the American political life!

Jackson's life reflected a life of extremes. "The good" of Jackson's Presidency, which were aided by his unbending will, was his thwarting of the Nullification Process (Jackson's foes: Calhoun and Clay) - South Carolina's power struggle with Jackson over the issue of state vs. federal power - the rumbling before the outbreak of the civil war. Abraham Lincoln would ultimately quote Jackson to validate his pro-union position. Jackson was a staunch believer in the United State's policy of Manifest Destiny. While most of his contribution to this end was accomplished as a military man - Jackson fought in the Revolutionary War, the Seminole War, and the Battle of 1812 where he was the triumphant victor at battle field of New Orleans - his Presidency reinforced the prevailing attitude of the day.

While not apparent during his lifetime, history would look back on the removal of the Native American as "the bad" of Jackson's presidency. Jackson has the distinction of being the first President to face an assassination attempt (there have been 10 attempts to kill Presidents; 4 have been fatal; there have been 44 Presidents; I don't think I want to be President!).

"The ugly" of the Jacksonian life can all be tied to Jackson's female relationships. His mom died do to a cholera epidemic during the Revolutionary War; Jackson blamed the British. His wife Rachel, is suspected to have died from the rigors of campaign trail rife with personal attack and animosity; Jackson never forgave those that defamed him (Jackson fought 13 duels primarily over honor in which he took several bullets and killed one man). His need for family drove Jackson to surround himself by his protegees and their wives which would eventually lead to the "petticoat affair;" in response Jackson disbanded his first cabinet.

Loathed by his enemies and loved by his friends. Jackson's Presidency and era were an age defined by American military accomplishments and expansion. Driven by Jackson's will and reflecting his personality, America embodied the persona of its self viewed father figure. It was truly, the age of Jackson!

American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
- Jon Meacham

Talladega, AL

What do Indiana, Florida, and Alabama all have in common? Give up?
Super Speedways - enormous races tracks to be exact!

My memories of automotive racing are fond ones. My grandparents lived in Speedway, Indiana, home to the worlds "greatest spectacle in racing!" As a kid I had been to several Indy qualification days, the race itself, and even had the privilege to sell candy bars for little league baseball to drunk fans after the race (would have made a lot more if I was selling beer). During high school I attended the first inaugural Brickyard 500 but with all of this past racing history somehow I have never become a avid racing fan.

This is not the case for my dad! Who would want you to know that NASCAR stands for "National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing" not "Non Athletic Sport Centered Around Rednecks." From the pictures showing my dad kissing the start finish line, it would appear that at some point during my college years, my dad become NASCAR fanatic!! For this reason and this reason only I had him fly in this last weekend to head to Talladega. Apparently the only place on earth where it is kosher to invoke the name of Jesus at the end of a prayer after having belted out a
Sweet Home Alabama - what's Lynyrd Skynyrd got against vowels anyway!? Since Lynyrd decided to be short on vowel's I will attempt to be short on words.

Our day in phrases:

"You can't buy these tickets!"
- in answer to what tickets would normally cost
"Your parking space is right under your seats below the track inside the gates."
"The pits and garages open at 8."
- we had passes to both
"Remember this when you finalize your will." - me to dad as he inspected Jeff Gordon's car
"This isn't racing; it's Talladega!
"I got a great deal on these 2 seats, $375!" - the guy sitting next to us
"Gentleman, start your engines!"
"If you got it this far, I'm not going to stop you!" - the security guard in reference to our 2 over-sized cooler housing our lunch and tasty snacks, a polish sausage was $8!!

Ok, so maybe this hiatus to "Dega" wasn't just for my dad! After all our seats were the Presidential seats from which we had a bird's eye view of the entire track and the opportunity to watch 44 very loud stock-cars riding each others bumpers for 500 miles only comes around (the track) 188 times once a year! Dad, I guess this means your buying Daytona?!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Etowah, TN - Native American for . . .

Her screams pierced the air! I started at of my REM sleep and glanced at my iPhone. My brain struggled to register that it was 12:30am. I was sure that the entire campground was now awake as Ava Marie continued to holler inconsolably. As Katherine tried to calm her, I scrambled out of my warm bag to the rude greeting of the brisk 38 degree temperature of the night air. Throwing on my jeans, I grabbed Ava Marie and hustled for the van. Secure in the inter-sanctum of the van, I breathed a momentary sigh of relief. Ava Marie continued to wail, but the tranquility of the campground had been restored!

As Ava Marie laid on my chest, I took stock of my circumstances. My torso was warm thanks to the sobbing heater on my chest, but my t-shirts and jeans were not going to keep me warm for the long night that lay ahead. I strapped Ava Marie, who was now calm into her seat, sprinted back to the tent, grabbed my bag and several blankets, and began to clear the back of the van for the first of two restless nights. As my mind focused, I began to brow beat myself for taking a 1 year old and her 3 year old brother camping, what was I thinking? Restful weekend?! It was now 1:00 am and the cold coupled with the prospect of lack of sleep had me wondering if this memory was worth the making.

Etowah (Native American for "camping with young children not wise!") is a sleepy little town in Tennessee nestled next to the Great Smokey Mountains whose main attraction is the Hiwassee River Rail. Boasting a 3.5 hour train ride running along the Ocoee River venturing into the Cherokee National Forest. The train can be picked up at the Gee campground, very convenient for a tired camper who spent the night in the back of a van. It was a tranquil ride replete with beautiful scenery.

For sustanance and because not all are expert roasting weenies over a camp fire, I'd recommend either Michael's or Memories for dining (Michael's . . . Memories, I crack myself up). Two warnings: there is no place in town to get fresh doughnuts (the "Pig" sells doughnuts in a bag) and the McDonald's makes their coffee thick.

The second night of our stay there was a forest fire at the top of the mountain next to us. As darkness set in the orange glow from the flames could be seen pulsating above us. Fortunately, wild fires always travel up-hill so my second night in the van was just as cold as the first!

Our weekend trip was rounded out by a quick stop in Chattanooga where we dined on a lunch river cruise (thanks mom and dad!!). All said and done a nice memory was made, but camping with young kids remains to be defined by one word, "work!"

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Presidents: Mr. Jefferson I presume

Next on my quest for the Presidents was Mr. Jefferson, the 3rd President and possibly better known as the pen behind the Declaration of Independence. The book, Thomas Jefferson: American Sphinx, an interesting and very apt title!

The highlights of the Jeffersonian presidency in Jefferson's eyes were two fold. First the Louisiana purchase which doubled the size of the US overnight for a mere $15,000,000. Possibly the beginnings of America's love hate relationship with dictators, thanks Napoleon! The second was the retiring of the national debt while implementing the reduction of "big" government (the embryonic seeds of the Republican party).


Jefferson was a model figure of the Enlightenment which helped to define Jefferson's aspired values but often did not seem to inform his realized practice. Jefferson championed the ideals of liberty and justice, but had a row of slave quarters outside his estate at Monticello and was the driving catalyst of the removal of the native Indians from their lands. Jefferson hated debt, but died penniless because of his lavish lifestyle. Jefferson a great friend and admirer of the French upper class, condoned the butchery of the French mob as he thought it similar to the revolutionary spirit of "1776." Jefferson believed that working the land was the highest call and was suspicious of industrialization, yet Jefferson ran a nail making factory on his farm to subsidize his income. Jefferson cherished above all the ideal of family, but he isolated himself for a better part of his life from his children and ordered his life in such a fashion that he was rumored to have had sexual relations with a slave, Sally Hemings, whose children lived in slavery on Jefferson's plantation. Jefferson idealized Cicero's withdraw from politics into private life, but in the later years of his life Jefferson was consumed with writing his own biography to better reflect (and nuance his position in light of historical development) his personal political position to the eye of history.

JFK once quipped at a reception of 47 Nobel prize winners, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House - with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." In light of Jefferson's political and intellectual brilliance, his life (and possibly character) are marked by inconsistency; for all of Jefferson's historical fame and glory, his personal life seems to have been marred by a lack of joy or happiness!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Presidents: Mr. Adams

Having left the fertile fields of seminary, I have made it my ambition to read a book on every President in order to keep "the little gray cells" from falling dormant. My first subject to this end was David McCullough's John Adams. McCullough paints Adams in a very positive light and I found it easy to come to like the hearty New Englander.

[A painting of President John Adams (1735-1826), 2nd president of the United States, by Asher B. Durand (1767-1845)]

Five things you should know about John Adams:
1. While Jefferson was the pen behind the Declaration of Independence, Adams was the voice and juggernaut in the Continental Congress which drove the Declaration to be crafted
2. George Washington was nominated as the commander in chief of the colonial armies by Adams - a stroke of political genius as Washington was from the prominent state of Virginia
3. Adams was largely responsible for the bi-cameral government - Congress & House of Representatives
4. Adams was a great proponent of the Supreme Court - nominated John Marshal for Chief Justice
5. Politically Adams should probably be considered the father of the American Navy

Four Good Quotes:
Concerning study Adams cautioning J. Quincy Adams,
"The small of the midnight lamp is very unwholesome. Never defraud yourself of sleep, nor your walk. You need not now be in a hurry."
Concerning mystery,
"Admire and adore the Author of the telescopic universe, love and esteem the work, do all in your power to lesson ill, and increase good," he wrote in the margin of one of his books, "but never assume to comprehend."
Ever an optimist Adams (who was not popular in politics and buried several full grown children) wrote,
"Griefs upon griefs! Disappointments upon disappointments. what then? This is a gay, merry world notwithstanding."
Adam's fundamental creed,
"He who love the Workman and his work, and does what he can to preserve and improve it, shall be accepted of Him."
Three things worth emulating:
  • Adams was a prolific reader and writer - his correspondence with T. Jefferson was published as a book
  • Adams loved to walk and work outside on his farm - rose early to walk easily 3 miles a day
  • Adams did not cow to popular opinion -
    "Popularity was never my mistress, nor was I ever, or shall I ever be a popular man."
Note: Adams religious background was congregationalist turned Unitarian, see - religious views.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I'd Retire Here, if I ever Planned on Retiring

The second most preserved city in the world (Rome is the 1st), Charleston, South Carolina is an amazing visit! An ideal travel destination for honeymooners, lovers of architecture, and history buffs (it is one of the few cities to boast both revolutionary and civil war history), Charleston is a delightful city!

When you visit Charleston you can't go wrong lodging in the historical district of the town which is more conducive to walking or biking than to driving, as parking is a bear unless you are independently wealthy and like traversing narrow streets with lots of pedestrian. For maximal enjoyment you will want to find a bed and breakfast or hotel that is south of Calhoun Street. We stayed in the Francis Marion hotel, a quaint hotel built in 1924 (Charleston Place and the Vendue Inn are others I'd recommend looking into, may be pricey). The downside of this hotel is its lack of pool and the ease with which sound transmits in the halls. The upside is the character, the rooms that end with 08 & 28 are furnished with two bathrooms! Other positives are the hotel's location by Marion Park, Starbucks, and the cigar shop next door!

When in Rome do as the Romans and when in Charleston you should take in:
1. Fort Sumter - the 1st 'shots' of the civil war
2. White Point Gardens - "battery park"
3. The Market - an open air market with crafts and local wares
4. Rainbow Lane -
5. The churches of Charleston - can be toured during hours open to the public
6. The grave yards of Charleston - from which comes the terms dead ringer, saved by the bell, and grave yard shift
7. Tour by horse drawn carriage (The Old South Carriage Co) - day
8. Tour of the city jail (Bull Dog Tours) - night
9. Farmers market - Saturday mornings
10. Tour a plantation or a historic home
11. Visit 1 of 6 Charleston museums
12. Bicycle - tour the city on rented bikes
13. Stroll the historic district admiring the wrought iron fences and picturesque homes.

Recommended restaurants:
1. Virginia's - southern cooking ($20)
2. Sticky Fingers - bar-be-cue ($12)
3. Hyman's - seafood ($15)
4. Fleet Landing ($22)
5. Sweet Water Cafe - burgers and sandwiches ($10)

Note: the weather is hot, but the morning and evenings are not. If you decide to run, bike, or tour, run early and stroll late.

Final Thought: if I were to retire in Charleston, I would become a tour guide because they can make things up and no one know the differences. I would also take up photography while being an interim pastor at one of the local churches. Ever the capitalist I could sell my photography at the Farmers Market the proceeds of which would allow me to by a multimillion dollar historic home located on the peninsula where I would run a bed and breakfast (for missionaries on furlough and over-worked pastors of course, how else could I justify the purchase?!)