Moving Day

Category: By Christian
Before the break I promised that I would be making changes to the site. That was only a half-truth.

In actuality, I spent the break preparing a whole new site, and today I am launching

To quote my wife, "Why are you switching blogs again?" It's a fair question. After starting off on Xanga four years ago I jumped ship and started blogging from my MySpace page. After a year there I realized there were much more user-friendly blog platforms out there and I settled on Blogger because it played nice with my google account. That proved to be a smart move as Myspace never figured out how to curtail skanky spam and I ended up deleting my account due to an overabundance of friend requests from strippers.

But now it's time to make one last jump. I'm fully recuperated from grad school and ready to write well. Ready to spend the time to write posts ahead of time, reread them and edit them. I'm ready to self host and have a platform that does more than Blogger will allow me to do. Plus, I have a vision of a site that is more conversation than blog, and I feel like making a clear break from this site will allow for a better transition in that regard.

If you subscribe through a reader, I hope you make the jump and subscribe to the new feed, because no more original content will come across the feed you are reading right now. Don't worry, I won't limit the feed to previews in order to inflate page load numbers. That's so annoying. But if you do subscribe through a reader, at least visit the new site once to check out the look and some of the other pages I have set up over there. Be there, or be a rhombus.

Renew and Restore


By Christian
Taking a brief hiatus for the Holidays. I plan on making some changes to the site and rocking a new post on Jan 5. Until then, enjoy this video that I saw a couple of months back on basketbrawful. It made me laugh out loud.

Renew and Restore

Good Call

Category: , By Christian
Last Christmas Stacy and I made a strategic family decision. We decided that 2007 would be the last year we would fly out to Portland to celebrate a December Christmas with my family. Flying halfway across the country in December with a toddler was a bit of a circus. We always envisioned a quiet and more nuclear celebration as our kid(s) get older, so something had to give.

Add in the fact that Kansas City, Denver and Chicago (our most likely connecting cities) have precarious weather conditions in December, and a change needed to be made. So last July we traveled out to Portland for our first Christmas in July. It was great. My mom busted out the Christmas decorations. We had our traditional celebrations. The week was very relaxing.

Little did we know the new tradition would pay fast dividends. This year we would have attempted to make it to Portland this past weekend. Funny thing, they were in the middle of cataclysmic winter weather during that very time. It has been 10 days of snow, cold and ice in PDX. Kinda like it's been in Kansas City. And Chicago. And New York. And Boston. Man, it's like everything north of Texas is experiencing weather conditions inverse to those in hell.

I'm convinced we never would have made it to Portland this year. It would be faster to walk across the Rockies. So good call us. It is a far merrier Christmas having not wasted a bunch of money and feeling sad that I was missing out on my annual pilgrimage. That would have been really sad.

Renew and Restore

When It Rains, It Pours

By Christian
Today I went from consumer to contributor.

Over on my sidebar, I have had The Burnside Writer's Collective listed for about a year. The site is "an online magazine presenting an alternative to franchise faith", so you can see why it would appeal to me. After reading for a while I got on my horse and made a couple of submissions. Both were put in the issue this week, which I'm pumped about.

So if you are interested, you can check out Part I of the College Bowl Preview, or a review of Weezer's Christmas album. If you haven't been over to Burnside before, you should bump around on the site and check out the article archives. There are a lot of good social justice articles over there from writers who are way more experienced than I. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Burnside Blog as well. It's a good read.

Renew and Restore

Theologically Astute

Category: , By Christian
Last night at dinner Elli was in a very talkative mood. She told us about her whole day. She reminded us that if the power goes out, the tv will be broken and we will have to light a candle. She provided a running commentary on the contents of her stew.

In between conversations with each other, Stacy and I would ask Elli questions to spur her thinking. At one point, the subject of Christmas came up and Elli mentioned baby Jesus. She has been really interested in our Nativity this year, probably because it is at her eye-level and very attractive. Whenever she is over at the window seat playing with it, we talk about who the different characters are just to increase her awareness of what is going on in the story.

As Elli starts talking about Christmas and Jesus last night, Stacy asked her who Jesus' mommy was. For the first time that evening, Elli is silent. Just blinking her eyes and racking her brain for the right answer. There comes a point where it's obvious she isn't going to get the answer to this one without phoning a friend, so Stacy bails her out and reminds her that Jesus' mommy is none other than Mary.

Now, what you need to understand about the brain of a three year old is that everything is connected. You say one word and it triggers this mechanism where they search for any possible bit of knowledge that relates to what they have just heard. So after Stacy sheds that bit of enlightenment on Elli, she young lady breaks out in song.

"Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb..."

My first instinct was to jump in and straighten the kid's theology out right away. You gotta nip these things in the bud before the kid starts thinking that Jesus drives a sleigh, you know? But just as I was about to say something, I was the beneficiary of a moment of enlightenment.

The lamb and perfection images are actually in the Bible in reference to Jesus.

So maybe the kid was brushing up on her theology when daddy wasn't looking.

Renew and Restore

Straight Posing

Not the best of weather this week. Always cold. Lots of precipitation that makes it difficult to drive. I kinda feel like I'm back in Wisconsin. It's pretty brutal.

My one consolation is that I have not flown off the road yet. Not once. And that's saying a lot, because we only have one Jeep in our family and the lady of the house has dibs. As always, I've been rocking the 1999 Ford Taurus. Don't get me wrong. I love the Taurus. And so do Middle School boys, now that I think of it. Right after I was on Wheel of Fortune, I was driving around with some boys and one of them was really impressed with my ride. "This is a pretty nice car. Did you buy this with your Wheel of Fortune money?"

The Taurus is nice. It's not 30 G's nice, however. Even in light of the fact that it has given us 145k strong miles and counting. But I appreciated the sentiment, considering how much grief I get for driving a family sedan.

But who cares what people think? I'm almost 29, here. Gettin' pretty old. I don't exactly have time to drive some tricked-out ride up and down the plaza. I got stuff to do. So the family sedan will suffice.

What I've learned the past few days is that substance beats style any day. I have seen soooooo many people with their 2wd suv's and trucks sitting in ditches. People who got those cars for no practical reason whatsoever. If you are dropping the extra change on the gas guzzler, you had better at least get the tow package, a trailer hitch and the 4wd. And you better use that mug. Otherwise? You're just faking it. And then the dude in his Taurus chuckles as he passes you on the road when it's snowy. Because he might have 3 hubcaps and a cassette player, but at least he's practical and functional.

Now if you have been shamed into getting an actual SUV that you can use, check this bad boy out. My very Chuck Norris looking friend emailed that ad to me the other day. It's so poetic it almost brought a tear to my eye.

On the other hand, you could always get a Civic. Or a bike.

Renew and Restore

Boy, oh Boy

Category: By Christian
We found out a couple of weeks ago that we are having a little boy.

I know you aren't supposed to say stuff like this out loud, but we were both hoping for a boy.

Before everyone goes nuts, hear me out. There are a lot of guys out there who want a boy because they feel like they "need" that little boy experience. Not so much with me. Quite frankly, the numerous hours I put in with the 13 middle school boys at work each week enough boy time for an army of men.

Elli has actually been a nice juxtaposition to my work day. I have loved having a little girl. It's been fun to do her hair and pick out her outfits and generally spend time with the little lady. I wouldn't have traded it for the world.

But in the end, I think she will be better off with a brother. I'm sure there will be days during her high school years where she will beg to differ. But as annoying as younger brothers can be, in this case it will provide a lot less anxiety for her.

One of the trying aspects of adoption is that people tend to say really stupid stuff. We've been spared a lot of that, because as a mixed ethnicity family there is enough racial ambiguity going on when people see us that it's not completely obvious that Elli is adopted.

What is not ambiguous is the fact that Elli is small for her age. She always has been. When we got to Vietnam to pick her up, she was a 10-pound 9 month old. Part of this was due to her prematurity and 1kg birth weight, but ethnicity played a large role as well. We didn't see too many women in Vietnam who were over 100 lbs. So Elli isn't going to be a large person, and that's fine.

The problem is that people are always pointing it out. It's like a big race to win the award of "Capitan Obvious". The practice was fine when she was little, but she's 3 now. And even though she isn't all that outgoing in public, she has well developed language skills. She is also very self-aware. And my fear is that she's going to develop a complex someday because everyone is always telling her how little she is.

I think having a little brother softens the issue. American babies are big. Really big. I was a fat baby with a huge noggin'. Triple thigh rolls fat. My guess is that it will be way more socially acceptable to have a little brother who is bigger than you are. It would have been really tough for Elli to have a younger sister way bigger than her, and everyone making comparisons all the time. But it would have also been difficult for the younger sister, as everyone would be labelling her de facto fat. In a teenager's mind there isn't a huge difference between "You're so much bigger than your older sister", and "You're such a fat cow".

As parents we will undoubtedly have to deal with a myriad of body image issues throughout the years. When all the cool kids show up airbrushed on the cover of Seventeen and Jennifer Anniston proves her youthful vitality by posing nude on the cover of GQ to celebrate her 40th birthday, we are setting ourselves up for a lot of conversations about what it means to look like an actual real person. Welcome to America, kids. But God did make our job a little bit easier by diversifying our gender portfolio and sparing both kids from damaging comparisons flying unfiltered from the mouths of fools.

So even though I'm not supposed to say it, I will. I'm glad we are having a boy.

Renew and Restore

Proof I'm not Very Cool

Category: By Christian
It's a well-known fact that I love Star Wars. When I was young, it was cute. As a nearly 30-year-old adult, it's probably a little bit dorky. But sometimes you have a hard time letting go of things that were tremendously important to you in your childhood.

Most days I forget that being a Star Wars junkie makes one very un-cool. Then people end up highlighting some of the nerdiest parts of the Star Wars universe (ie Star Wars basketball jerseys), and I remember that not everyone wishes they had a lightsaber.

I'm sure you are saying to yourself, "Star Wars basketball jerseys! Man. How bad can it get? That's really dorky."

Well, within the realm of Star Wars fandom there is one consensus "as bad as it can get" moment. It's a moment that most of us wish never occurred. It just about faded into oblivion, but then youtube came along to chronicle it forever.

The Star Wars Holiday Special is really bad. It tells the story of the mythical "Life Day" and involves cartoons, singing and live action shots. Somehow, they even talked Bea Arthur and Jefferson Starship into hanging out on the show.

I do not advocate that you watch the whole special. It's 2 hours long for crying out loud. TWO HOURS!!!! But you should watch the first two minutes. You get to meet Chewbacca's family. And yes, his wife is actually named "Paula". Don't get me wrong, it's a nice name. But how in the heck do you let Chewy's wife have a nice regular name like "Paula"? At least it's better than his dad's name. Itchy. That's right. Itchy.

So here you go. The Star Wars Holiday special. It keeps me grounded. It keeps me humble.

Renew and Restore

Legendary Dinner

Category: , By Christian
I love memorable meals. Some are planned to be memorable, but then others include surprise experiences that breakthrough and demand a space in the archives of my memory. Last week we had a memorable family dinner at Stix. (It's an Asian eatery out at The Legends, which is a large shopping and entertainment district on the outskirts of Kansas City, KS. We try to do a lot of our shopping out there because it supports our county and state economies, and because for some reason it just feels comfortable when we are out there.)

My expectations for the meal were low. We have enjoyed the sushi and entrees at Stix, but this time we were trying out the Hibachi. We have been to other Hibachi's before, and they are always a good time. 8-10 people sit around a huge grill and a chef comes out and does comedic performance cooking. Tricks with the food. Light ribbing of the customers. Convincing eaters to catch shrimp in their mouths. Lots of funny hahas.

But we have found that most of the Hibachi's in KC are adequate. Not nasty, but not great either. And we had never seen anyone in the Hibachi at Stix, as we usually eat there during off-peak hours. Thus, the low expectations.

Well, the first thing I need to proclaim about the dinner was that it included the tenderest meat I've ever had the pleasure of eating. I went with the filet instead of the KC Strip, and I'm never going back to the strip at a Hibachi. Halfway through the meal I leaned over and told Stacy it was the tenderest steak I'd ever had. She assumed the statement to be either a joke or hyperbole. And then she tried it. It melted in her mouth. She was sold. I don't know what they do to the meat at Stix. They could very well use some kind of illegal meat tenderizing techniques. Perhaps it's some of that meat sacrificed to idols that they are always talking about in the New Testament. Whatever it is, it's the bomb.

In addition to the culinary memory that was forged that night, I also found the sociology of the Hibachi that night to be fascinating. It was very well the most racially diverse place I have ever been since moving to Kansas City. I would venture to say it was close to a 40-40-20 breakdown of white, black and Hispanic customers. (There were also a lot of Asian employees, but no Asian customers. As if. I've been to restraints that have high Asian populations, and they are not this gimmicky/touristy. Just like you aren't going to find any Hispanic folks looking forward to dinner at Carlos O'Kellys).

So one of the cool and sometimes comedic aspects of a Hibachi is that there is a lot of mixing of customers. They try to fill all of the seats around each grill, so unless you are rolling deep there is a good chance you are going to be sitting with strangers. We had 6 in our group and got to eat with a lady and her middle school son.

In a hilarious display of forced segregation, the table across from us had quite the mix of people. There were three Hispanic couples who looked to be pretty urban. Lots of tats. Gold chains. Baggy clothing. Drinking bottles of Bud Light. The works.

After they had been seated for a few minutes, the greeter brings another couple back. They are White. They are clearly suburban. As they grab their seats, one of the Hispanic dudes gives a head nod to the White guy. He uncomfortably nods back.

So it's clearly an unnerving situation for these two. They go out for a date, and the next thing they know they are, perhaps for the first time in their lives, put in a situation where they are the minority. And they are struggling. I'm pretty sure the lady looked down at her food the entire time. All the while, the Hispanic group is just enjoying each other's company. They are telling stories. Laughing.

Finally, the entire table has their food. But the Hispanic group is requesting hot sauce before they will eat. Lots of it. Like a whole bottle. Finally it comes. They pass it around the table and everyone is using generous amounts. When the sixth person gets done with it, he looks at the White guy and holds the bottle up. Dude looks for a second. Takes the bottle. Proceeds to follow the example of his eating neighbors and applies a generous amount to his food.

Now I'm cracking up. No way this guy is going to be able to handle that plate of food now. But he handles it like a pro.

I'm always going to remember that whole exchange. I'll remember it because the white couple didn't get up and leave. I'll remember it because the guys in the group were making efforts to be kind and neighborly to each other, even though it didn't seem like they had much in common. And I'll remember it because I saw a person who before that night didn't know what it felt like to be a minority, handle his first experience of minority with as much grace and dignity as he could muster even though he didn't have any time to prepare himself for the experience.

Renew and Restore

Countdown to U2...Fallibility

Category: By Christian
As I have been counting down to U2's approaching album release (currently rumored to be a Feb drop...we'll see) by highlighting some of the lesser known songs in the collection, I have come to a realization. Observers might think I have deified Bono. For the record...Bono is not Jesus. And sometimes U2 release bad songs. Really bad songs, even. So to prove my objectivity, may I present for your listening torture...Paint it Black.

Man, the Stones have to be pissed. This is horrible. The original is so great. The pounding downbeat. The constant feeling that the song is getting as close as possible to completely spinning out of control without actually doing so. Nice clean guitar parts. Strong vocals.

Yeah, so U2 decided to do an inverse Black and put it on the B-side of one of their singles. What an unmitigated disaster. I'm trying to decide which is worse. The U2 version, or Bruce Willis absolutely butchering the vocals in a live performance and thinking he's the shizz. It's close, but the U2 version probably takes the cake.

To exacerbate matters, this failed experiment opened U2 up to the curse of "What Goes Around, Comes Around". You butcher a great song? Bam. Right back at ya' with a horrible cover of one of your own songs.

Except this ain't no simple measure for measure. This is your own sin being revisited on your head exponentially. I'll warn you. The following link isn't for the faint of heart. It's pretty ugly almost vulgar.

It looks as though The Wiggles did a cover of Angel of Harlem.

The Wiggles have been good to our family. We Tivo them every day on the Disney Channel so that Elli has fresh episodes to watch. But dang. This is almost enough for me to start an all out boycott. Angel of Harlem is a wonderful song when done by U2. But Captain Feathersword rocking the falsetto part? Nothing good can come of this.

I hope you've learned your lesson, U2. You are not infallible.

Renew and Restore