Monday, July 30, 2007

Thoughts from a Yard Sale

We had a yard sale over the weekend. Just lots of "stuff" that we no longer needed, no longer wanted, no longer had a place for. I manned the sale in it's entirety while my two ladies came and went doing various other things.

It's interesting watching people at your own yard sale. Even though you're selling it, and you REALLY want this stuff to go there's still a personal connection. Reading body language it's obvious that the lady in the clam digger shorts and the over sized sun glasses doesn't think much of your offerings. (I'm sure she thought those glasses hid her emotions from the world. Silly lady!) And I find myself getting a little offended.

"Hey, I may not want it any more but there's nothing wrong with it. If you don't like then move along. Keep your snotty attitude toward yourself"

(I only think these things. She might want to buy something else)

All this over a vase or a wire basket in the shape of a chicken.

On the other hand I snort to myself as someone picks up that terrible frog pot, or that hideous butterfly napkin holder. Good God, I never thought THOSE would sell. But I take my dime for each, glad that someone liked them.

There are the people who cruise by the end of the driveway "just to check", trying to see if they really want to stop. I've foiled them but setting up at the far end of the driveway, so they can't really see.

Most people will say hello, whether they buy or not. I wonder about the people who choose to ignore me completely.

But my favorite are the hagglers. My theory is that I've priced everything at reasonable prices with an emphasis on making sure that price doesn't scare away the customers. As one guy said, "Nice to see an old fashioned yard sale with old fashioned yard sale prices". The most expensive item was a nice sized wall mirror for $10, we had a few things at $5, and everything else was $3 or less. Lots of 10, 25, 50 and 75 cent items. Could I have gotten more? Probably. But I might have sold less.

So my prices are very reasonable. Still some folks want a little more taken off. I had a brand new electric hand mixer with beaters priced at $3. In the store it would be what, $12-$15? The guy that bought it wanted it for $2. Then proceeded to peel of the two singles from a huge role of cash. Nicely dressed, driving a nice car. So that buck was probably very important to him.

The more I thought about it the more I came to realize, yes it probably was. A lot more important to him than it was to me.

And I think that's probably just fine by me.

Oh, and we did OK on the sale. Sold about half (we had a LOT of stuff), sold most of the "good" stuff and a fair bit of the "You really want to put that in the sale" stuff too.


The Parable of My Father's Guitar

(For some reason blogger put this post in out of order. This is the latest addition to the blog

I've been contemplating my father's guitar and thinking about church.

A moment of confession. I love guitar music and have always wanted to play. My fear of failure always holds me back. My dad's guitar isn't anything fancy or expensive. It's a simple instrument and he taught himself to play on it. I hope to do the same thing.

When I pulled it out of the guitar case I realized we had a few problems. The tuners were loose and one knob's shaft was bent. The bridge at the bottom (that's the wooden thing that holds the pegs that hold the strings) was cracked. As I looked at the bridge I saw that either originally or as a repair someone had drilled two holes in in it and put a pair of small bolts in to hold it. The crack ran right between the two bolts, from one end to the other. And the pegs couldn't hold the strings properly.

I'm not a luthier (that's an expert who builds and/or repairs guitars) and I don't have much money for this project. So I did a little research. The tuners were easy and not very expensive. When I was done the guitar looked 100x better. Now I'll be able to tune each string perfectly. The bridge wasn't expensive but it worries me more. The peg holes need to be drilled (they're started but not the whole way through) and I'll need to glue it in place. That means preparing the wood on the body of the guitar, sanding it carefully to remove the old adhesive. The carefully aligning it. Making sure that the saddle, the piece the strings actually rest on, is set just right.

And I keep thinking to myself "It would just be easier to pitch this in the trash and get a new guitar. One that doesn't come with these 'inherited' problems."

The problem for me is that it's important that this was my father's guitar. There's some tradition there, and it helps me feel a little closer to my dad, who died several years ago. With a little care I may be able to pass it along to another generation for them to learn to play as well. To do that means I have to make a few sacrifices, I have to learn some new skills, and I have to care for the things that have been passed along to me.

As I thought about that guitar it struck me that it's a lot like the church. We inherit it from our parents (and those before). It's not always in perfect shape. Some things wear out or aren't able to do their jobs the way we want them done. Some ideas (or repairs) just haven't held up very well. It would be easy for us to just say "The hell with it. We're going to pitch all this stuff over the side and do a new thing. One that works for us."

To do that means we need to pitch our parents and all those others who came before over the side as well. It means we've decided that this is really only about us. And those who come after us? Well they get whatever they get.

Instead we should take a look at what we've inherited. The body is strong and the neck is straight. The tuners don't work properly any more but we just need a newer version of the same thing. The bridge is broken and needs replaced. The strings are stretched and no longer hold a note. New strings will make the guitar sound a little different but soon that voice will become familiar as it sounds the notes.

In the end it will look a little different. And it will sound a little different. The essence of the instrument will remain the same. It will be ready for me to pass along to the next player. Because in the end it isn't my guitar, I'm only caring for it for a while.



Thursday, July 19, 2007

An interface problem

Had an interesting challenge pop up the other day. Some background:

I've been appointed (strictly by default mind you) as the audio/visual "expert" at my home parish. So I help out with decisions on sound systems and video equipment. We video tape the 10 AM service and then have it broadcast on the local cable access channel. We're hoping that it works for our shut-ins or folks who can't get to church, and as a form of new age evangelism. It's become a big part of my ministry within the congregation over the last five years or so. Recently we decided to go a step farther and download the sermons as podcasts. (Interested? Check them out HERE plus check out our TV ad, with yours truly doing the voice over). To do this we called on the skills of a friend, the Rev. Merrill Woolnough. Merrill is a Lutheran pastor currently between gigs who is rather technologically savvy. She's serving now as our "volunteer Associate for Internet Ministries". I enjoy working with Merrill she's intelligent, gentle and I feel the Spirit working within her. And I like Elwood too.

Elwood is her service dog. Merrill is blind. And that's where the interface problem arose.

To record the sermons digitally we use a small recording device called an "iriver". It's not terribly complicated and has recorded some classes we've presented quite nicely. But the sermon project was just crashing and burning. Between the two of us we couldn't figure out why. Last Sunday I began fiddling with the dingus out of frustration and figured it out.

Imagine Merrill and me at that first meeting with the dingus. She's used it before and is explaining the functions to me. I'm looking at a screen that is literally an inch by a half inch. I get to the right screen and scroll down looking for "Line In Record". I find it, we discuss the two controls. Merrill is a little hazy on what the other one does so we ignore it and move on.

Scan ahead to Sunday. This time I keep scrolling down. Wait, what's happening here? The screen in fact doesn't scroll, it pages. That means I don't see the "Line In Record" feature scroll up on the screen, I see an entirely new page of options. And an entirely new "Line In Record" option. The one we'd been using was the record "mode" (don't ask), the second one was record "volume". That's what we'd been trying to adjust all along and failing. When I told Merrill we both instantly saw where we'd goofed and had a good laugh.

Merrill was relying on words to communicate with a sighted person. The sighted person (yours truly) was relying on what he saw. We were both sure that we'd bridged the gap between us. And we'd been wrong.

How often does that happen? We come into a relationship with our own blinders, physical, mental or spiritual. We think that everyone understands what we're saying, what we believe, how we think. And we get frustrated when others don't see it that way. Too often these days people seem to be content to get frustrated and walk away without making the effort to see beyond what they "see". It strikes me that we're perhaps too desperate to hold on to our particular world view at all costs rather than risk discovering something by trying to look beyond it.

My world view and Merrill's haven't changed. But I've come away with a deeper understanding of having to stretch myself a little further to insure that she and I truly communicate. There's a lesson there for all of us.

Meanwhile it's back to square one with the podcasts. Hope to have that fixed finally.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Silly place holders

Yes I have more serious things to post but I'm just not there right now. So silly stuff:

You Are a Centaur

In general, you are a very cautious and reserved person.
However, you are also warm hearted, and you enjoy helping others in practical ways.
You are a great teacher, and you are really good at helping people get their lives in order.
You are very intuitive, and you go with your gut. You make good decisions easily.

I've always liked centaurs. Never really liked the way they are portrayed in Harry Potter.

And the following is probably a good thing:

Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating


What I did this summer

Well among other things I went here - The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in (deep breath) Cleveland Ohio.

(Explanatory note: I am from Pittsburgh. Cleveland is our hereditary enemy in the NFL. It's worth remembering that when the former owner of the Browns skulked out of town with the franchise Steelers fans supported Browns fans. I'm glad there's a Browns team back in Cleveland. SO WE CAN KICK THEIR A$$ SOME MORE!)

It was a great trip. The kid got to see a large display of bands from the Warped Tour plus see lots of stuff from all kinds of HOF acts. Plus they have special displays for the Clash and the Doors this summer. It was great.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A great start to the day

He was just sitting at the stop, minding his own business, on his way to work when...

That's a wrecking ball boys and girls. Wrecking ball, as in the big ole heavy thing swung on a cable to knock down buildings. Seems it came loose from it's cable and ended up in this guys trunk.

But this may be the most frightening/comic/heroic part of the whole story (yes, all three at once)

"...Police said crane operator Robby L. Boring, 28, of Meadville, was injured when he tried to stop the wrecking ball by throwing bricks in front of it..."

That wrecking ball weighs 1,500 pounds. You've got to have guts to even TRY and stop it.

Full Story

Monday, July 09, 2007

Some silliness first:

I am nerdier than 61% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

I'm a little amazed that I was so low but this is slanted towards really science nerd types which I've never been.

Saw a really fine movie yesterday, 1408. This is a great horror flick. Not a slash and gore movie but an honest to God, old fashioned horror film. Cusack and Jackson are incredible and since I'm a big Mary McCormack that was a bonus. The film has a plot, a real story, real characters and is seriously creepy scary! Check out the trailer here It was a great time spent in a theater.

I realize I'm behind on my movies and I'll catch up soon.


Sunday, July 08, 2007


I'm not sure I'm ready to write this post.

But then I'm not sure I'll ever be ready to write it.

The pretty lady on the right is Jamie, one of our two cats. Late last week we made the decision to have her put to sleep. Jamie had suddenly gotten ill, went downhill very quickly and nothing seemed to stop the progress. Our vet knew that her liver was being attacked but couldn't tell by what. It may have been a virus, it may have been cancer. What ever it was it took a healthy beautiful cat and left her shattered in less than two weeks.

As you may suspect I and the two ladies in my life are devastated. It has always been my practice to focus on the life of the ones I lose at a time like this. Let me share a few thoughts on Jamie.

By my count Jamie is the eighth cat to be a part of my life. Of all of them she had by the far the softest fur and was the sweetest tempered.

Over the first several years we noticed several unusual things about her. Unlike most cats in my experience Jame really didn't like snuggling, lap sitting or being held in any fashion. If she sat with you it was usually 6-8 inches away. Later she discovered the joy of curling up close. If I stretched out on the sofa to watch TV she'd stretch out full length next to me and purr as I stroked her fur. Her trust in me grew to where if I needed to move her I could slide my hands under her body, scoop her up, and settle her in a more convenient spot. When she lay on the floor she would do it the way a dog does, chest throat and chin all on the floor with her front paws on either side. I've never seen a cat do that and she ALWAYS did it. We always had doubts about her eyesight. She would take forever before jumping up or down, seeming terribly unsure about what was right in front of her.

Truth be told I also harbored questions about just how bright she was. Let's be generous and just say she was a simple soul. In many ways the stereotypical "blond", lovely to look at but not a deep thinker. When you added in her sweet temperment and loving spirit it didn't matter. She was a beautiful lady and a joy to have around.

That of course is why it has been so hard on us. Making the decision to have a pet put down is one of the hardest decisions there is. Knowing that you are doing them a mitzvah by ending their suffering is still hard. We all cried as we said good bye to our pretty girl. It's been days and I still cry especially when I look at her picture.

I don't KNOW that animals go to heaven, but I want to believe that God brings all of his creation home to him. So I'll believe that she's curled on someone's lap, looking up them with that beautiful face, waiting for her silly humans to come and join her.

I love you pretty girl, and I shall miss you.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Back from Senior High

Wow, what an amazing experience! It was a great time and exhausting as always. I'll share some more details after the holiday. Great kids, great chaplain, great staff. Merely adequate conference director but the kids seem to love him, lol!

With any luck at all I'll have my office back under control soon and then can get on to the new projects that are waiting. I'm excited about them too.

In the meantime here's something fun I ran across:

I got my name in lights with

Have a wonderful Independence Day holiday!