Sunday, March 31, 2013

Go Blue Easter

*  A camper I had over a decade ago, found me facebook a year ago.  Occasionally we dialogue on a private blog about matters of life and faith.  He wrote a post the other day and below is my response.

Go Blue and Happy Easter!
I think if God had to choose between attending the church service I attended this morning and the Michigan basketball game I watched this afternoon, I suspect God would have chosen the basketball game and skipped church.  The service I attended offered no life – which is ironic because that’s what Easter Sunday is supposed to be about – Jesus’ victory over death, and living life to the fullest – or as you wrote, “living in the moment.”  I saw one girl twirling in the aisle during one of the songs.  I think she and a few other kids in the church understood life and celebration, but as for the adults – probably not.  (I say this about the church in Michigan; I feel differently about my churches in LA and in NYC.)
To update you, I’ve been bouncing between LA, NYC and Michigan since last summer.  While in Michigan I stay with my parents’ on a lake located in the Irish Hills.  Down the shore from me is this guy named ______ who happens to be my same age, and also a graduate of the University of Michigan.  We didn’t start hanging out until this past summer, but we’ve become friends over the course of the year and his company has been good for me.  He hates Christianity, so spending time with him has been particularly enlightening.  I’ve been challenged by our conversations, and have come to the realization that Christians, in general, have done a really shitty job of presenting what it means to follow Jesus.
I’ve been working on a masters degree – somewhat in leadership, but also on the Christian faith.  I’ve been at it for 10 years and just finished up last week.  (I failed the course a while back and had to retake it, so no celebrating for me until it’s official with my grade.) Through my final course I learned about the various ways people have explained Jesus’ death on the cross throughout the ages – and, to my surprise, the early church fathers thought very differently on the matter than what has been presented in the last 1000 years.

With that having been said, I think there’s A LOT more mystery to God and the universe than what men have insisted upon and argued over the years.
This however, doesn’t answer your question – is there a God?  I can point people in the direction of intellectual arguments for a grand designer of the universe, but I don’t think that is necessarily helpful - because ultimately belief in God comes down to faith, which tends to be less of an intellectual matter and more of a heart or gut matter.  You know, kind of like when you fall for someone.  It kind of just happens.  And other times it doesn’t.  Even when you know on paper someone seems like they’d be a great fit – yet, if the chemistry isn’t there, there is nothing you can do to make yourself feel something you don’t.

But Enoch Olson felt faith and believed in his core that God is real, and so that’s why he founded Spring Hill.  A youtube video was recently posted of him sharing one of my favorite stories he use to tell at staff training.  Take a peak sometime when you have the chance.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sweet 16

Disclaimer: I am from the village of Onsted - population less than 1,000.  My county as a whole contains less than 100,000 people, 1 Starbucks, and no Target.  I'm from the middle of nowhere - as they claim on Cheers, "Where everybody knows your name.  And they're always glad you came."

As promised, I'm switching the subject matter to something more guy friendly - March Madness.  Tonight I ventured to the pub on a nearby lake to watch the games.  By games, I mean the Michigan vs Kansas game and the Michigan State vs Duke game.  Michigan was victorious in overtime; Michigan State was less successful in their bracket, losing to Duke.

Jerry's is the name of the pub and while I was there not only did I meet the basketball coach for our local high school team, I also met Jerry, the pub owner.  Jerry and I chatted for a bit on my way out, and I considered, wow, this is so not New York.  But for once I appreciated the small town feel and the evident community established between locals and seasonal lake folks.

And, I actually met another one of my neighbors while sitting at the bar cheering on the Wolverines.  As it turns out, she also lives on Sand Lake's South Shore - smack dab in between me and the guy from down the shore.  Funny, I didn't think there was anyone else living in between us.  She's a bit older (I think), but also a Michigan grad, so we have LOTS in common - such as, we both like to yell "go blue" at televisions. 

I inquired if she ever hangs out with the guy from down the shore, and she told me she called him up some time ago and suggested they go to dinner.  She explained, "You would think it would make sense - I'm alone. He's alone.  Why not go to dinner?"  But apparently the guy from down the shore acted weird after their outing.  I assured her it's just him, and he can be awkward around women.

I don't know this for a fact, but a few recent exchanges makes me suspect it may be true.  Then again, we're all a little awkward at times.  I know for a fact I am - and probably more often than your average person.

This reminds me of the awkward turtle - and the time I taught the awkward turtle to my German relatives who were in the states visiting me in NYC.  After teaching Matthias the awkward turtle, he insisted on teaching the awkward turtle to our cab driver.  It already didn't translate well into German.  The German to cab driver translation was even worse.

For awkward turtle instructions please click the following link:

Awkward Turtle

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Number 35

35 years ago my mom was 35, and I was chubby - a 10 pound, 4 ounce baby.  Yes, I was a C-section, and a bit of an inconvenience.  My dad was a pastor at the time and my arrival coincided with one of the biggest church celebrations of the year - Easter Sunday.  He had to scramble to find a last minute sub to do all the important stuff up front at church.  Thankfully he found one, and I was cute enough that my dad didn't seem to mind me crashing on his Easter parade.

Sometime shortly after 2 PM today, I officially turned 35.  My birthday wish this year is for a long and healthy lifespan for my ovaries.  I don't mind getting older; I'll just mind losing out on having children of my own if I don't meet someone in the next few years.  The good news is, good ovaries run in my family; my mom reminded me recently my Oma (German grandma) didn't have my Uncle Jerry until she was 40.

I'm told guys don't want to hear about that crap.  It scares them away.  I think it would scare me away too if I was a guy.  But I scare guys away even without talking about that crap, so I'm not sure this blog post is going to really make much of a difference. 

But just in case, I'll change the subject matter to something more guy friendly.... soon...

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Edge

Yesterday I pre-celebrated my 35th birthday with my friend Lisa by going snowboarding in Northern Michigan. We ventured to Crystal Mountain, which probably is no mountain at all, but rather a really, really big hill. Regardless, the conditions were great - the temperature, the powder, and the company. Lisa is great, and one of 3 friends left in the entire state of Michigan who isn't already married having babies.  She gently broke the news to me on the ski lift that she anticipates her status will change in the next few years.  Ha!  There goes another one - seems to happen to most people I know.  It's inevitable for most, but less likely for my friends in LA and New York.

I told Lisa a few stories on the lift about my dating life that currently only exists in the form of friendship.  In sharing one story she inquired, "Wait. What state is he from?"  I named the state and she continued on, "I knew it had to be California, New York, or Michigan, I just wasn't sure which one."  My friend Amy from Hawaii said something similar to me on the phone last weekend, clarifying which state I was in before carrying on with our conversation.  As much as I've been bouncing between LA, NYC, and Michigan, I'm not surprised I have everyone confused on my whereabouts. 

I considered this as I snowboarded down the mountain that wasn't really a mountain.  Years ago when I was learning how to snowboard, I remember being instructed, "Pick and edge and commit.  If you don't, you're likely to catch an edge and fall."  Translation = Either place more weight on your toes, or on your heels.  If you do neither, you'll faceplate or fall on your *ss.  You can't ride the middle of the board for too long.  If you do, you'll find yourself stuck on the ground, moving nowhere.

And that's where I stand.  I've been riding out life the past few months in the Midwest, but it's now time to pick and edge and commit - either the East Coast or the West Coast - either LA or New York.  I can't stay in the middle for much longer.  I know I can't.  And although I feel more drawn to NYC at this point, I also looooooove Southern California.  So we shall see where God takes me from here.  But I'm hoping to return to one of these edge coast cities soon.  

Friday, March 22, 2013

World Water Day

In honor of World Water Day...

Uganda * May 2012
On my trip to Uganda last spring, I learned one of the greatest obstacles for a girl to get an education in Africa is lack of clean, drinking water.  The task of procuring water is typically assigned to the girls.  If the nearest well is far away, they spend a good portion of their days making the round trip.  The time it takes to retrieve clean drinking water for their families can prevent girls from having the time to go to school. 

More wells in the world means more girls get to go to school.  To get involved in digging a well, check out THIS website: Charity: Water



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chicanery in the City

Coming Soon:

How I got roped into Mexican Wrestling on my recent visit to Los Angeles

It was midweek, and I was thinking we were going to do something simple, like meet up for drinks at the Yardhouse.  I mentally prepared for Newcastle and Hawaiian pizza, but just before 8, my friend Colin calls.  He starts telling me about this show he has wanted to go to for years, and how it's happening that very night at the Mayan Theater, where I use to go to church.  He explains, it's this thing called Mexican Wrestling.  As he attempts to make his sale (he does marketing for a living), I think back to my childhood when my Saturday morning cartoons were ruined by WWF wrestling.  My big brother, who was bigger than me, maintained control on the remote.  There was no way to escape Jake the Snake, Hulk Hogan, and the many others who would make their appearance in our living room while we sat and watched the television from the couch.

Wrestling?  Really Colin?

To be finished...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Bad American

Some days I feel like such a bad American.  I hardly ever watch television.  Only on rare occasions do I flip on the tube - mainly to watch Michigan football, the Super Bowl, or well, that's pretty much it.  

I'm such a bad American that when my friend Jessica in LA invited me to join her and some others for a Bachelorette Party, I responded by asking, "Wait. Who is getting married?" 

The living room at our lake house doesn't even have a television in it.  The couch is set up to view this instead:

lake view after today's run

I think TV is far too demanding of one's attention.  It requires you to stay focused, so I can hardly think through all the other cool stuff going on in my head.  Thanks to the guy from down the shore, I've gotten better at movie watching, but TV... I can only hope that someday I too can sit down and watch it for hours on end.

An acquaintance of mine recently posted about changing your habits.  He mentioned wanting to give up cookie eating and replacing it with running.  Well, I got thinking on my run today, I've been running for 18 years straight.  Maybe it's time I change my habits.  After all, my doctor expressed concern that my resting heart rate is so low.  Apparently only Olympic athletes have it as bad as me. 

So maybe it is time I change my ways - I'll replace running with watching television and eating cookies.  Then, perhaps, I'll feel like a good American.

March 15th Update - Day 1
I'm halfway to reaching my habit change goal.  Although, I was unsuccessful in watching television, I did bake cookies and I ate 4 of them in total, plus some cookie dough.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

3 AM Part II

(Continued from 3 AM Deliberations Part I)

We don't know how the kid ended up out back.  We were the last home at the end of a private drive, where no one else lives in the dead of winter.  And there was snow, and there was ice.  With the conditions as such, it wasn't safe for even sober people to drive.  The 20 year old kid, who claimed to be from Jackson, would put his life in danger if he tried to leave in his state of intoxication.

So we deliberated around the dining room table.
Can't we just take away his keys until he sobers up?
But then, what if he freezes or goes into hypothermic shock? 
Or what if he's so messed up he dies from an overdose?
(The guys had assessed it was probably more than alcohol.)
Or what if he takes off and wraps his car around a tree?
(One of the neighbor boys did this recently without drinking.)
Or worse, what if he hits another car, kills himself and somebody else out on the road?

There were A LOT of what ifs.

"Hey guys, he moved his car."  One of the guys had taken a peak outside the kitchen window, updating us on kid's status.  "Ah! He's stuck in the snow.  And the front of the car is wrapped up the bushes."

"Guys, I really think we should call the cops."  The voice of wisdom persisted.

I've worked with youth for over a dozen years.  I understood the reasoning in wanting to call the cops, but this could be any one of my youth kids doing something stupid.  I was tempted to pull for this kid I didn't know - to save him from a DUI.  But I also considered a consequence as such could be the very wake up call this kid needed to help him start making smarter decisions with his life.

"You know, it could be pretty darn entertaining to have the cops show up."  One of the guys pointed out.  Suddenly the group was swayed and a call to the local authorities was made.

The others headed out back, but I lingered inside - still thinking about the dead body outside the window. 

News write ups say the girl had blogged openly about her partying.  Sometimes she'd throw some pills into the mix; sometimes she wouldn't.  The drugs were legal - her antidepressant medication.  According to her blog, partying is what brought her life, but, sadly, in the end, it brought her death.

Before moving to the city, she referenced a Kurt Vonnegut quote on her blog. "I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over," she wrote. "Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center." 

A Starbucks barista once told me, "Something about your presence tells me you kick *ss.  I can tell by your aura you have a strong center."  And a guy I danced with at a wedding once told me, "You have good balance."  I'm all for living an adventuresome life, but without a strong center, and without good balance, life on the "edge" can be toxic.  I suppose that's why I've stuck with Jesus all these years; I'm convinced there is something to him and the way he loved people that is life-giving.  

A cop eventually showed up to take the kid away.  And a tow truck showed up to take away his car.  I don't know what happened to the 20 year old drunk kid after that evening, but I'm rather confident he is still alive and looking out windows rather than lying dead outside of one.  And with that, although not an easy call to make, I'm convinced we made the right call for him and his life on that February night.  Thank you wisdom for your insistence.

* A note on this post... the guy from down the shore recently informed he had started reading my blog.  He wanted to know why my initial write up of this February weekend included nothing about the drunk kid and the cop.  Here's the link to that weekend in case you missed it: Fire On Ice

I explained to him I had intended to connect the drunk kid story to the beginning of the post - where the cops take away the guy on the airplane.  But my entry got too long and I had to cut it off.  I told the guy from down the shore I had another idea for the drunk kid segment, and perhaps I'd still write on it.  But the more I tried to frame it funny, the more I realized I couldn't.  Drunk kids are too personal of a subject matter for me - they've been my life and line of work for years.  I even orchestrated an intervention once, and I'm not even "qualified" to do that - but in doing so, I helped save a girl from her own self-destruction.  So, to guy from down the shore, and to the others, I'm sorry I couldn't complete my assignment as hoped, but do know, I too couldn't help but smirk by cop's instructions during the breathalyzer test.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

3 AM Deliberations Part I

Two weeks ago...

Around 3 AM the deliberations began.

A poker game had been started sometime after 2, but after one of the guys went out on the back porch for a smoke, the game halted.

Upon his return to the table he shared with the group what he had witnessed.  At first none of us believed him, but then one of the others went outside and returned with a photo on his phone.  His evidence confirmed the truthfulness of the story. 

One of the gals, a mother of 3, had greater concern than the others for how the remainder of the night might play out if we didn't do something.  As the discussion continued all I could think about is a dead body outside the window.

"I think we should call the cops." The mom insisted.  But some of the others were hesitant.  One of the guys suggested we put it to a vote. I didn't want to vote, nor did the others.  They felt a consesus decision would be better. 

While they deliberated, I kept thinking about that dead body outside the window - a young kid, once filled with dreams and aspirations, never to see the sun rise again.  The primary cause of death: a love for getting f***ed up.  The kid out back was still alive, but Nicole plummeted to her death 3 years ago.

It happened in New York - a 17 year old incoming freshman, daughter to the ambassador to Thailand.  She wasn't one of my students, but after clubbing in the meat packing district she returned to the apartment complex where the university I worked for leases a good number of apartments.

Nicole continued drinking and then, wanting to get a better view of the city lights, she climbed out on the window sill.  The story is she lost her balance while taking a photo.  She fell 23 stories, landing right outside the window of one our student apartments.

The kid out back was still alive.  But if he attempted to drive away...

* I initally wrote about the NYC incident here . (Click on "here" to link to story.)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Chapter 11

I was "reprimanded" twice this week - once for not yet having finished my book, and the other for not yet having returned to New York City.  I'll do both soon - or so I hope.   Although I've finished the beginning and the ending of my book, there are lingering chapters in between that still need to be worked on significantly.  Here's the unedited and uncensored opening to Chapter 11 that I worked on recently.

I Hate Book on Christian Dating
I promise, this isn't one...

After meeting up with my second hottest guy friend, I headed over to my friend Carmen’s for at-home karaoke.  Carmen and I have been friends since middle school, when we’d have slumber parties, and sneak out of her house and toilet paper our friend Johnny’s.  One time, mid-TPing, Johnny’s dad came out on the porch with a rifle and yelled something scary.  While the other girls got away safely into the cornfields, I got stuck in the driveway.  I crouched in the shadow of a truck tire for nearly a half hour, getting bit up by mosquitoes, afraid to kill any of them for fear if I swatted, Johnny’s dad would know I was there and take a shot at me.
To make matters worse, I had to pee really, really bad.  I still had a roll of toilet paper in hand, good for wiping, but there was no way I could go until I was far from the lit up yard.  Johnny’s dad had turned on every single light.  I knew I’d have to wait it out, hold it in, and hope I wouldn’t piss my pants in the process.  Meanwhile, this cat kept strutting back and forth, near me, meowing loudly and drawing attention to my hide out area.  I tried to tell it to shush, but it ignored me.  That damn cat; I hate cats.  I’ve always been more of a dog person.  Finally, when the scene felt safe, I made a mad dash off the property, and into the cornfields, where I help fertilize the neighbor’s crop.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Last night I snuck out of the house around 1 AM, this time leaving a door unlocked and with not just one, but two house keys in hand.

I braved the lake, walking on the ice despite the growing patch of open water along the east shore.  The snow beneath my feet crunched loudly with each step.  So much for sneaking - the night was still and the open lake amplified every sound. 

The stars overhead romanced me along the way.  "For me, this is heaven" I thought, and then credited Jimmy Eat World for their brilliant song as it played in my head.

The first star I see
May not be, a star
You can't do a thing but wait
So let's wait for one more...

A guy, who is referred to as Ayden in my book, put that song on a mix CD he made for me years ago.  Nothing ever panned out between us, but Jimmy Eat World and I still have a great "relationship."

Sand Lake Winter Sunset * On the left is the South Shore

When I arrived, the guy from down the shore was finishing some work for a company in New Delhi.  Typically our movie nights don't start this late, but around midnight he made mention of one over facebook chat.  After he said, "For people like us time is only relative," I thought, why not hang out and watch a movie at 1 AM?

But the movie we watched was somewhat creepy and so on my walk back home I was a mental mess.  I kept thinking something was going to get me.  My heavenly walk down the shore had turned into a real life horror movie.

To make matters worse, deep in the woods, between his place and mine, I could see flames of orange.  It was after 3 AM, and no one else lives between us on our shore in the winter months.  I considered returning to his place to tell him about the fire.  But I was already more than halfway back, and just wanted to get all the way back, to the safey of my home.  After all, what if these are witchcraft people or satan worshipers in our woods?  And what if they hear my loud snow crunching, come after me and tie me up, and then sacrifice me into this fire?  My imagination  ran wild as I picked up my pace and gazed at the flames of orange in the distance.

As I climbed the staircase up to my house, the moon exposed my ridiculous thinking.  At the top of the stairs I could see the half moon in full view.  Funny, the moon was the orange "fire" I had seen burning in the woods.

Today the guy from down the shore told me he had also noticed the moon.  And not only that, but he had conjured up a "horror story" too.  He thought someone had left on a light and was running up their electric bill unnecessarily.  Ha!  Now, that is scary.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Key

I headed down the snow covered steps to the shore. 

It was dark, nearing midnight, and snow was falling once more.  My hands were full - a beverage to share in my left, my house key and AM/FM running radio in my right.  I considered I should be holding onto the rail, but instead, I was flipping through radio stations, hoping to find a good sound track to accompany me on my way to meet up with the guy from down the shore.  Being in the middle of nowhere I only get 7 or 8 stations.  I try to avoid country, but sometimes it's my only option.

By the time I hit step 4 I had found a station, but lost my footing.  I slipped and fell on the steps, and as I did my house key flew out of my hand somewhere into the white abyss surrounding me.  "Oh shit." I cussed aloud.  This isn't good.  How in the world am I going to find my key?

Typically I leave a door unlocked when I head down the shore, but since I had posted something on facebook about being home alone for the week, I thought it would be smart to lock up all the doors.  And, rather than grabbing my own set of keys, on my way out I locked the side door with a spare house key - THE spare house key. 

I searched the steps, hoping the key was within reach, but no such luck.  I peered over the railing hoping to see a dent or an impression where the key had landed.  But again, it was dark.  I couldn't see much of anything. 

I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and used its light to survey the area.  It wasn't much help and decided I better call the guy from down the shore to explain my predicament.  He hasn't acquired a cell phone since returning from his 10 year stint as a professor in Europe.  (I loooove it that we never, ever text; I hate texting as much as I hate Ohio State's football team.)  Thankfully, his land line was stored in my phone and he picked up immediately.

"Um... I had a bit of an incident."  I explained.  "I fell on the stairs, and I'm okay, but my house key flew out of my hand."

"Do you want me to come down with a flashlight and help you look for it?  You're more than welcome to stay the night here."

"Um, I'm not sure a flashlight is going to help."

"Ah, so you probably won't find that key until spring - after the snow melts away."

"Perhaps.  I'm going to look a bit more and call my parents, but I'll keep you posted."

I called my parents.  No answer.  They only turn their cell phone on when they want to make a call out - useless for kid emergencies.  And for some reason both my brother and sister's cell phones were down and out.  I opt to explore the hill, but in doing so I keep slipping and sliding, messing up the snow and any snow impressions the key might have made.  Finally, I give up my search on the hill, and scour the outside of my parents home for an additional spare key.  Under doormats, above ledges, and under pots - there should have been a key SOMEWHERE, but there wasn't.  And so I ventured back down the steps to the shore, this time holding the rail.  I had no other option, but to stay the night down the shore.

The lost key incident happened the middle of last week.  Since then I've been able to get back in the house AND complete the storyline for my third book.  I shared the plot with my friend Amy on Sunday morning.  She asked, "What would you call it - the key?"  I said I wasn't sure, but after going for an afternoon run and passing this sign along the way, I'm thinking, "The Key" sounds perfect