Because life is a series of edits

Yep, We Were There

In Places & Spaces, Sports on August 29, 2006 at 8:07 am

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Megan and I got invited to our first Cubs/Cards game on Sunday night (thanks, Ted and Jill). In case you missed it, the Cards pulled a win out in the bottom of the ninth inning with Gary Bennett’s walk-off grand slam (his second in a week). The place went nuts. And so did we.

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What I Did Over Summer Vacation

In Vacation on August 6, 2006 at 9:09 pm

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I’ve never “vacationed” well. This has something to do with the fact that my father (and thus my family) rarely went anywhere when I was a kid (two words of legitimate excuse: farm animals).

Now that I’m an adult, I also have never seen the point of spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on oneself and family just because one can (not that we can, of course; I’m just speaking hypothetically).

Don’t get me wrong: in recent years, we’ve done a few things that some would consider “vacation,” but as they have almost always involved extended family, I’ve tended to think of them more as “trips” than “vacations.” However, my definition might be changing, at least after this past weekend.

On Friday, Megan and I loaded up the kids and drove across the Show-Me-State of Missouri to my aunt and uncle’s house, 45 minutes south of Kansas City, KS. In addition to our family, my two sisters and their husbands/kids made the trek from Illinois, as did my parents (that’s 18 souls if you’re keeping track).

We met that evening at Kaufmann Stadium, home of the cellar-dwelling Kansas City Royals. The Royals were playing the Minnesota Twins, and the kids did great during the ten-inning game, which ended with a special Friday-night fireworks presentation (when your team is as bad as the Royals, you gotta get/keep fans in the stadium somehow).

It was a late night driving afterward (we got everyone to bed about 1 a.m.), but Saturday was laid back. We had breakfast outside on the deck, played a little baseball of our own (kids against adults, though strangely, the adults never got to bat and the kids got more than their share of strikes and outs), and took plenty of golf cart rides all over the mowed paths in the pasture.

After a simple lunch of ham sammies and homemade ice cream, it was naptime for everyone (I also got a few innings of baseball watched). The kids loved my relatives’ pets (two very affectionate dogs and a “talking” cat), and Megan and I enjoyed the grandparents’ help in looking after the young ones. Dinner was burgers on the grill, followed by a movie before bedtime and some very restful sleep for all involved. The little ones were sound asleep by 8:30 p.m., and so was I.

This morning, we drove back listening to a sermon podcast, wishing we could somehow make the 5-hour drive back to St. Louis in time for church this morning. However, we stopped in Columbia for lunch, and I introduced the girls to Shakespeare’s Pizza and my alma mater, Ol’ Mizzou. Duly (or barely) impressed after our 100-degree mini-walking-tour, we got back in the van, cranked the AC, and rocked out the rest of the way home, with Megan as Podmaster.

It’s the end to a good day and a nice, simple, short vacation (yes, I can actually use the term when it applies). Thanks to my aunt and uncle for the invitation, my family for the time together, and Megan for packing and mothering the girls (and me) on the trip.

And special thanks to my girls, for being so excited by the smallest of things – swings and playhouses and slides and kiddie pools and baseball and dogs and cats and box turtles that we almost ran over on the golf cart and having to share beds with their sisters and watching stupid kid movies that so insult their intelligence and milkshakes and pizza and loud music and hugs and kisses and forgiveness and unconditional love when Daddy gets impatient with them and an appreciation of beauty and morning and blue skies and green grass and humor and God.

Now if they’ll just go to sleep, for crying out loud…

(Note: If you’d like to see the pics from the trip, click here. You’ll need to be a “family and friend” to see all the good ones, so email Megan and she’ll send you an invitation.)

The Joys of Book Writing

In Technology, Writing on July 11, 2006 at 11:46 am

Spent the morning at Kaldi’s Coffeehouse outlining/writing on a new book project, and I have to confess how good it all felt to be working on something longer than a one-page reflection for class or a blog entry for the Internet. The best news is that I think some of what I came up with is even worth keeping (there’s nothing worse than spending a morning working on something you know you’re going to trash later), so that’s nice.

For the past several months, I’ve been following Susan Wise Bauer‘s progress on the four-volume historical she’s writing for W.W. Norton called Story of the Ancient World. Susan’s last blog post made mention that the delivery date for the final volume of the project is September of 2012. Oh, and in between volumes, she’s working on her dissertation.

Man. And I’m just happy to get a rough draft of a possible table of contents on paper…

I posted another review at Writers Read this morning: To Own a Dragon by Donald Miller. Don’t be too impressed by my prolific posting: the same review appeared a few months ago at Common Grounds Online. Yes, I’m recycling a few reviews, but it’s okay by all parties involved (it’s amazing how nobody cares when there’s no money involved). Click over and check it out.

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One last “joy” to share today: Ed just introduced me to Scrivener for the Mac, a very cool (and free) writing software program that lines up well with how I tend to think about project organization, research, and writing. Best of all, says Ed, it comes with a thorough and useable tutorial that walks you through its feature-set as you learn to use it. After playing with it a little this afternoon, he’s right: it’s cake to learn. This could be the end-of-the-world-as-I-know-it of perpetually opening/closing documents in Microsoft Word when writing. Glory, hallelujah.

What Freedom Protects

In Humanity, Thought on July 4, 2006 at 7:14 am

Today is the Fourth of July. Megan, the girls, and I are leaving for my family’s farm two hours away in Illinois. We have no huge plans – see the cousins, take a walk, grill some butterfly porkchops, set off some fireworks, listen to the corn grow. Reading online the weekly county paper, The Pike Press, we missed the big stuff of last week’s fair anyway:

“Western Illinois Fair board president Rod Webel says he is pleased with the way the 2006 event went off. ‘It was tremendous,’ Webel said. ‘I think we set a record for one day attendance on Saturday. We had a good turnout at the mud bog and then most of them stayed over for the school bus derby. I’ve been associated with the fair the last 10-12 years and I think it was a record breaker.’

Mud bogs and school bus demolition derbies? A record breaker?

“Webel said final numbers won’t be known until later this week. ‘We’re going to put some numbers to the events and see what worked for us and what didn’t. We’re always looking for new events,’ he said. ‘Something the crowd will like and we can afford to put on.'”

Today we celebrate the freedom that protects our mud bogging and school bus demolishing (though somehow, I’m not sure this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they pledged to each other “our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor“). Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful for the freedom we as Americans have in this country, but I’m also frightened by it at times. The above illustration is a silly but harmless one of what freedom protects, but what does freedom protect that isn’t quite as harmless?

A few things come to mind: the right to free enterprise with no requirement (just an unfeeling tax incentive) to share with others; the right to procreate at will and then decide whether that procreation should live or die (based largely on the procreator’s convenience quotient at the time); the right to free speech and being able to say whatever one wants about anyone and everything (regardless of the credibility of who might be speaking and whether his or her points are even legitimate).

I think of the right we have to elect our government officials (even though most we have to pick from seem to enjoy more rights than they should); the right to pursue just about any and every scientific break-through we can acquire funding for (never mind whether we’ve considered the virtues and ethics as to if we should or not); the right to run after the religion of whatever god we desire (even the cold and supposed “non-religion” of humanism trying to outlaw religion altogether).

But never mind what freedom protects. What’s important, after all, is that we have it, right?

Eugene Peterson, in his wonderful little book on Galatians called Traveling Light: Modern Meditations on St. Paul’s Letter of Freedom, writes:

“The word ‘freedom’ is used with deliberate cynicism by many to disguise operations that are enslaving. It is also used carelessly and thoughtlessly by others so that it has long since lost connection with truths that root experience in reality. Shouting the word ‘freedom’ does nothing to bring about its reality. Labeling thoughts or actions as ‘free’ does not alter their actual nature. Freedom is not an abstraction, and it is not a thing. It is a gift and a skill. It is a gift that another provides; it is a skill that must be exercised by each person within the learned limits of reality. If we would understand freedom, we must be taught; if we would acquire freedom, we must be trained.”

Freedom is a great thing, no question, and here in America, we experience more of it than any other country in the world. For this we should be grateful, as it is the gift of God and a credit to our Founding Fathers (though don’t make the mistake of unequivocally aligning the two – most of the signers of the Declaration were deists).

America’s problem is not freedom; our problem is what freedom protects. With a government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” “we the people” tend to get what we deserve.