Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bragging on My Better Half

Saturday evening we had a couple of families over for dinner, whom we were in a Bible study with when we lived in Florida. It was a great time to hang out, catch up with each other, and even pray for and inspire each other spiritually.

But one of the things that I enjoy the most about whenever we spend time with friends is, oddly enough, my wife Amanda. She really shines when in a group of people, especially ones that we are comfortable around and familiar with. And when she's able to just relax and cut loose, her wit spills out into the room like wine and spirits. It's a beautiful thing to watch.

I almost titled this blog "The Trophy Wife". But I think trophy wives are supposed to primarily be just eye candy. And while Amanda is definitely easy on the eyes, her personality really draws people's attention, as well as my admiration.

The real shame of this though is that since leaving Florida (where we had a solid circle of close friends) and having children (making social occasions much more difficult to arrange and/or execute), evenings like this happen only once or twice a year - at best.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Mind Isn't the Only Thing Either

Well, tomorrow we will take our annual family picture. To prepare for the event, I gave myself a much needed haircut. It came out OK, about as good as usual, which is pretty darned good for the price (free). However, in the process of doing so, I noticed something unusual in my profile - I AM LOSING MY CHIN and JAWLINE!

I knew that I am in the worst shape of my life, due to a combination of lack of exercise (no basketball even, due to rain), and an abundance of holiday treats. But now I am seeing the proof of it in places that I never have before. Drastic action must be taken!

I really should kick my own ass through a fast of some sort - perhaps 1 day of water only, or 3 days of juice only? But it's so damn hard to get motivated for the self-torture. I'm getting soft both physically and mentally - I know it and I hate it, but here I am. For the moment anyway.

I did just purchase the P-90X DVD set (through Craigslist for $50), but now I need to buy some additional equipment to use with it. But more difficult than acquiring the hardware is figuring out how to fit a regular (as close to daily as possible) exercise time into our schedule. Ugh.

Losing My Mind?

I meet with 3-4 other Christian men/co-workers on Thursday mornings before work to have breakfast, socialize, discuss a spiritual topic of some sort, and pray together.

Well, this week the four of us were praying for the person on our left, and when my turn came up I had the ultimate brain fart - I absolutely, for the life of me, could not remember the name of the guy on my left. Not only is he a co-worker who I meet with once a week for prayer/breakfast, but I've been working with him on my current project almost exclusively (besides my boss) for 8-9 months now. To make it even worse, I consider him to be one of my best friends at work. Heck, I even had him and his wife over to dinner recently!

Needless to say, it was awkward to say the least. The only good news is that I did finally recall it again before we finished going fully around the circle. So I was able to make my prayer request on his behalf before we were finished. It scared me a little though, I must admit.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Observations of Political Attitudes

One thing I've observed about liberals is that they are generally a bitter lot. In fact, I think the more liberal an individual is, the more bitter they are about life, politics, their circumstances, just about everything.

Liberals are also generally blame shifters - they are usually the last ones to blame when something goes wrong in their life. As for me, I am usually the most critical of myself, and when things go wrong I get frustrated with my own actions that were taken to encourage the situation, or not taken to prevent it. Only after scrutinizing my own decisions will I look elsewhere for blame.

Another thing I've observed about liberals is that they generally think they are owed something - from their company, their family, their friends, and (since we're talking about politics) especially from the government. Maybe this is the cause of the bitterness, or maybe they feel they are owed something as a result of the source of their bitterness (you owe me because you let me down, etc). Either way, they probably go hand in hand.

As for me, I have high expectations for no one but myself. I only expect my employer to fulfill their promises of what was in the paperwork that I signed for employment - namely a paycheck, whatever benefits they agreed to, and hopefully a fair review for my performance every year. Anything else they choose to provide (bonuses, Christmas parties, lunch, etc) is above and beyond that, and I am thankful for whatever that may be.

I also expect my government only to provide me with just a few basics necessities - freedom (to speak my mind, move about at will, pursue my dreams, etc) and an orderly society, such as protection from other individuals looking to take my life, liberty, or property. Anything above or beyond that I expect to have to provide for myself.

The big question for me is this: Is there a right and a wrong here, or is it just differences of opinions? I don't know for sure, but I can tell you this - having lower expectations of others and conversely higher levels of gratitude generally promotes a much better attitude.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Make Waste, Not Haste

Well, in addition to playing a crappy game of basketball today (what the $@*& happened to my confidence?), and having a frustrating day at work, I found out that we wasted $365 yesterday. That was the cost of an appraiser, in the interest of pursuing refinancing our house.

I knew our home has lost value (as everyone's has), but our circumstances (good credit rating, current mortgage is with a Freddie Mac affiliated bank) qualified us for a %125 loan-to-value refinance.

Since interest rates are low it would have not only saved us money on our monthly payments, but also in overall interest paid, and we would pay off our loan at around the same amount time as our current one, by paying just half of the $200 monthly savings back into the loan.

Zillow and another similar web site estimated us at only %107 loan-to-value, and the mortgage broker thought we could even skip the appraisal. He ended up being wrong though, and unfortunately the appraiser estimated the L-to-V at approximately 133% - screwed!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Essential Guidelines for Good Parenting

The more time I spend around people (friends, family, acquaintances, etc) with children, the more I have come to realize that there are very, very few good parents out there. I would even go so far as to say that maybe only 1 out of 7 familes are doing a good job of parenting.

I know, I know - everyone thinks that they are good parents (including myself, most of the time). And I also know that no one, including myself, is perfect (my patience is too short at times, and I don't spend as much time with them as I would like to due to being overly busy).

There are many aspects of what I would consider good parenting, including developing a relationship with your children (by spending time with them), listening to what they have to say (even if you don't want to hear it), providing for them (putting a roof over their head and food on the table), and protecting them (to the best of your ability anyway).

However, there are three simple absolutely essential guidelines that I have decided are the very bare necessities for good parenting.
They are as follows:
  1. Love your children. Give them hugs, kisses, and words to encourage them and let them know on a regular basis that they are loved, accepted, appreciated, adored, etc.

  2. Teach and guide them. Children come into this world knowing absolutely nothing about it, and there is a whole lot to learn. Any a-hole who relies solely on teachers in school to do the job is negligent in their duties, especially because books alone aren't going to get them through life smoothly and/or successfully.

  3. And finally .... DISCIPLINE THEM! This is the one that I see performed the least. Even many couples whom I greatly love and respect - as people, as intellectuals, and even as Christians - refuse to discipline their children adequately!

    But what do I mean by "adequately"? It's pretty damned simple - if they are doing something wrong, and you tell them as such, then they do it again - then they need to be punished! Ok, fine - maybe you can tell them again and they can be given a second chance. But after that it's not sufficient to redirect them, ignore them, or laugh about it like they are being cute somehow - DISCIPLINE THEM, DAMNIT!

    I'm not saying you should be a Nazi who doesn't let your children express themselves and make mistakes, but if you don't discipline your kids when they do things that are wrong then they are not going to learn that a) you are in control and they need to obey you, and b) that what they are doing is wrong and is not only a bad choice, but it's not an acceptable way to act - in society, in school, or especially in my house!

    There are many methods of discipline to choose from, and I know that most people disagree on which one(s) are the best to use. Options include putting them in time out, grounding them to their room, taking away toys or other items, or even spanking them. But in all honesty it doesn't really matter which one(s) you choose - just pick one and USE IT!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Are You Talking to Me?

After playing basketball today during lunch (see previous post), I was stretching in the gym and talking to a guy who only plays ball once in a great while. We were both talking about exercising only sporadically and the struggle against weight gain.

Then he mentioned something about how it's easier for me though since I'm a natural athlete. I think I just shrugged it off and continued with a different aspect of the conversation. But a short while later his comment struck me as really interesting.

Me?? A natural athlete? Of all the people who knew me back in grade and high school, who the heck would ever have thought that I would ever, ever, ever be called naturally athletic?

Back then I was always the last to be picked and the worst one on the team. And it's still not unusual for me to have a really crummy game and even downright suck. But I'm tall, fit, and can move fairly fast, especially for my age (38). And if my confidence is high and I'm feeling physically good (enough sleep, some recent exercise, etc), then I can sometimes bring a pretty darned good game.

And maybe, just maybe, with all of the basketball, ultimate frisbee, and a continuous effort to stay somewhat fit - maybe I've actually made myself into someone who really is athletic.

Basketball Bragging

I've been playing basketball now for a couple of years - sometimes at work during lunch, and more recently in an "E" league (the lowest ability) for two seasons. Generally, I am not very good. And often I really truly suck.

But then there are the occasional exceptions, the good days. Well, today was one of them. In fact it was maybe one of my best days of basketball yet. Today, there even were oohs, aahs, and "damn!s" directed toward me on the court. The other guys were even talking about it in the locker room afterward.

For starters, there is a guy named Jason who played ball in high school - he's a couple inches taller than me, he's fresh out of college (young), in great shape, and undoubtedly the best player on the court at work. Well, today he intercepted a pass in the back of the court and was heading toward the basket at full speed. But I poured on the gas to catch up and just as he was about to drop it in for the easy lay up - there I was. Bam! Denied it!

Then later he had the ball in the back court. I was going in the same direction as him and a little ahead of him, but then I changed directions and swiped it right out from under him, then sped behind him for a layup. I also intercepted several passes (including one intended for him), grabbed another steal or two, and made about 2-3 baskets in each of the first two games (we only play to 11).

Maybe playing with Bill (full court) on Monday helped. Or maybe getting more sleep than usual lately helped (it's honestly a weird feeling for me not to be tired). Or maybe it was the cooler fall weather, or a combination of all of the above. Whatever the reason though, I was on.

It wasn't a perfect game though- Jason did pay me back later by cold beating down one of my shots. And I did miss several other shots too, including an easy layup after one of my steals. But it was good enough to get numerous compliments, including from Jason. And I can't say that it didn't feel good. Now if only I could play like that consistently!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Pictures of Pomegranate Paradise




<-- The tree after already picking about half of the fruit.




It's Pomegranate season! And the tree in our backyard had fourteen fruits on it this year. It would probably have more, but at least 2/3 of the tree was getting choked out by a neighboring tree - I have since trimmed it up though so the P-tree will get more sun and hopefully produce even more fruit next year.
While it takes a little bit of work and a lot of mess to extract the seeds/fruit (that red juice squirts everywhere), they are really sweet and tasty and as you can see we all have fun opening and eating them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Money Matters, for Midgets

One of the things we took away from the Love and Logic class last year was that it's never too early to start teaching kids about money. I like this idea not only because it helps them to learn about saving money and buying things for themselves, but it also helps them to understand us when we say that things they are asking for are too expensive. And hopefully they will also understand more about the value of their toys, having seen how difficult it is to save up enough to buy them.

Amanda and I decided to give them an allowance amount equivalent to their age each month, but on a weekly basis. For example, since Lucas is 4, we give him $1 per week. In exchange for their allowance though, they have to perform one chore each. Lucas helps me dump all of the small garbages on Sunday night (the truck comes on Monday morning) and Emily helps to keep the crumbs off of the kitchen floor using our "Shark".

For slightly more expensive toys (>$5), I decided to match the kids money dollar for dollar if they are willing to save up for their half of the price. The first big item Lucas bought his with his own money was a set of small construction trucks (picture is below). I've been trying to encourage him to save for a decent Lego set, but he has a very difficult time denying himself the joy of Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars. But at $1 - $1.50 per car, who can really blame him.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mindful of the Mustache Memories

Before shaving off the fu-man-chu I had developed for my new work badge picture, I left a mustache on just to see how it would look.

And as you can see below (the picture is a little dark), I look pretty ridiculous with it.


It made me think of my dad though - he had a mustache for most of my memories. And it looked pretty good on him (as you can see below).


Thinking back, I remember him carrying a black plastic comb around with him, and after his head hair he would also brush his mustache. I also recall as a kid getting scratchy goodnight kisses from him and his facial hair. He would sometimes shave it off, but all of us kids much preferred him with it.

What's funny is that after growing out my beard recently (before changing it to a fu-man-chu), my kids said that they preferred me with the facial hair too. The best I can figure why is maybe because facial hair makes men look tougher? That little bit of lip hair made a big difference on my dad, and I honestly think that the tougher a dad looks, the more secure and safe kids feel, even if it's subconscious.

Thinking about all of this made me miss him greatly. Then I started to imagine what life would be like if he were still around. He would be an awesome grandpa to my kids. How proud I always was for my friends to meet him - he was not only a bad-ass cop, but also a easy going and friendly guy. I'm sure I would feel even more proud for my kids to know him, and I bet Lucas would especially fawn over him. Then my son could have more mustache memories too.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Basketball Dreams Deflated, but Not Destroyed

Well, after my second season of playing in a basketball league, I think I'll take a break before playing in another one for a while.

Sure, there has been a day or two when I've scored a couple baskets, and it's not uncommon for me to supply some fairly tenacious D (rebounds, pressure, an occasional steal).

But I am not at the level that I would like to be. I just do not think that I am a significant enough contributor to the team.

However, I really do enjoy playing and am not going to give up on my hoop dreams altogether. Instead, I'm going to try to start playing one extra day per week at work (during lunch). That one extra day will probably only be played with my fellow carpooler and/or 1-2 more players.

Since I will be the only one (or two) on my team with the ball on that 2nd day, this should give me a lot more ball-handling, shooting time, and solicitation of feedback. I also hope to develop more strategy and being able to practice moves and sequences. Ideally I would have a plan every time I handle the ball, and even better would be if I had a backup plan too.

Another year or five, and I'll be ready for the big leagues. Or at least a league for starters.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Once in a Career Opportunity

Ok, so it's not as momentous as it sounds, but my company is now implementing new badges for all of its employees. Along with these badges are new pictures too. So, who cares?

Well, if you look at the badges of employees who have been there for 5, 10, 15, 20+ years, in every case you will see a picture of them that was taken on their first day of employment. Even through previous badge transitions, the same original picture was used. It's usually humorous to see them too, way back in the day of a full head of hair, a mustache, or with 75 lbs less weight on their frame.

Because of that, it seems likely that this opportunity will only present itself just one time in the entire time that I work there. So the question that I am trying to answer is this - what do I want that picture to look like? The one I currently have is mostly normal - I had a goatee, a standard short length haircut, and a smile. I'm mostly photogenic (except for last year's family pictures), so it looks decent.

Current picture.

But a couple of fellow co-workers gave me the idea of making this new one silly and memorable. I already did it with my drivers license picture (a crooked semi-smile and one eyebrow raised), so why not now?

One argument is that since others will have access to this picture on the work online directory then they could see the picture and get a crummy first impression of me before I even start on a new project. But that's pretty unlikely, and I would think meeting the real me would erase any damage a silly picture would do.

Any ideas for poses, hair dos, etc? One requirement is that we are not allowed to smile.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Gentlemen Bandits

I was working on my car late last Thursday night with the intention of driving it to work on Friday morning. I ended up staying up until 2:30am to get it road worthy. But road worthy it is once again.

At about midnight though, I heard some strange scraping noises coming from the open door to the side yard. I thought maybe it was my neighbors, but why would they be awake and outside that late though, especially since they're elderly? I stepped out to looked, but didn't see anything so I went back to work.

A few minutes later the scraping sounds were actually on the wall of our house -what the heck?! I stepped out of the door to see several shadowy shapes moving along our fence. It was dark and hard to see, but I could just barely tell that they were multiple raccoons.

They stayed there just long enough to pose for this picture, then scurried away.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Bowl of Rice is Twice as Nice

Last Saturday morning I was working in the side yard, when I realized the garbage can reeked pretty bad and there were a few flies buzzing around it too. I decided to move it to the curb, even though the garbage pick-up wasn't until Monday morning.

Finding a few flies making their way into the garage, I thought that maybe I should put the kitchen bag(s) into a big black yard bag to further seal up whatever was causing the stink. So I reached in and picked up the kitchen bag that was on top, but as I lifted it up the bottom dropped out of it, causing a cascade of maggots like a waterfall.

After reflexively and disgustedly dropping it back in and closing the lid, I noticed several of the despicable little critters making their way out of a hole at the bottom of the can, which you can see in the pictures below.

I thought about getting a picture of inside the can, but the thought of accidentally dropping the camera in there was nauseating enough that I'm pretty sure I would have just left it in there. Also, these pictures were taken after slaughtering as many escapees as I could by spraying them with bleach as they crawled away.


I walked into the kitchen to ask Amanda who she killed and why their cadaver is in our trash can. She explained that she had dumped three chicken carcasses into the kitchen can. While I was at first annoyed with her, after thinking about it I was pretty sure I had done the same thing numerous times myself. Like she said - we've never had a problem before.

I guess my mom had the right idea. She used to always wrap chicken carcasses in a separate plastic bag before putting it in the kitchen garbage, whereas Amanda and I have always just dumped it straight into the kitchen garbage.

Well, to avoid a plague of flies in our cul-de-sac, I then proceeded to wage war against the little rice worms. First I filled a spray bottle with bleach and emptied it into the can, along with dumping about a quart straight into it. The next morning I doused them with an entire can of Raid. I also sprayed them with bleach as they spread out in a semi-circle on the floor around the can.

I guess I eventually won the battle, since I staved off the swarm until the pick-up on Monday morning. But now my eye has a weird twitch.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A "Pet" Peeve

It annoys the crap out of me when people talk about their pets like they are human babies.

If you don't have kids then believe me when I tell you that taking care of your dumb dogs (yes, I like dogs, but let me rant would you) or cats are not even remotely like taking care of a child.

If you DO have kids though then you should know better.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

What the Devil?

On Facebook recently, I posted a link to an article that will probably rock most people's psyche. Along with that post, I said the following:

"The purpose of this link (below) is not to ruin anybody's day, but to demonstrate one of the many reasons that I believe something that probably 75% or more of the world doesn't, even many (most) people who call themselves "Christians" - the belief in evil and actual beings (the devil, demons, etc) who advocate and instigate it."

Later that day, the question still lingered - why do so many people find it easy to accept God as a plausible reality, yet refuse to accept the possibility of the existence of his nemesis and/or his forces. So, in making conversation, I posed this question to my carpool associate, Bill. And I really liked his answer. It was this:

"If you believe in the devil, that means you also have to believe that there is a hell. And if you believe in hell, that means someone has to go there."

Simple. Elegant. Logical. I like it. Thanks Bill!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Unexpected Expressions of Affection...

... are the most beautiful kind, I think.

By that I mean when you see old people still holding hands and being affectionate with one another. Or a big, tough looking dude doting on his daughter, or carrying a doll as a present for her.

Come to think of it, it's not very often that couples who have been married for a while are still openly affectionate either. Maybe it's because of their arms being full of kids and/or kid accessories. I think that's usually the case for us anyway, at least when we're out and about.

Happy Freakin' Birthday

I celebrated my 38th birthday last week (whoop-de-do). I was out of town for work reasons, so not only did I not get a cake, candles, presents, or party on my birthday, but the only people who cared enough to give me any gift at all were my in-laws. A sincere thank you goes out to mom and dad Crocker.

Yeah, I guess I'll admit that I might be a little bitter maybe. But I honestly think after turning 25 (or maybe 30), the importance of celebrating your birthday every year transitions to being every 5 years instead. Years 1 through 30 were a big deal, but after that only 35 really is, then 40, etc.

What's funny though (or maybe not) is that my grandma sent my wife some money for her birthday last month, but all I got is a blank card - I mean, come on!

I did get a lot of well-wishes from Facebook friends though - so thanks to you all.

The People are Supposedly Pretty , but...

I'm not a very high-frequency flier, traveling by plane maybe once every year or two. But of all the cities that I've flown into, Los Angeles is by far the ugliest from the air. There was nothing but side-by-side buildings, concrete parking lots, and roads for as far as my eye could see - brown and gray covered by a slight layer of smog.

To top it all off, the airport was one of the busiest, yet also one of the poorest organized. I don't remember any other airport requiring you to completely leave the gate and check back in through security again when getting off one plane to immediately board another.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Black and White and Red All Over

Some things are clearly black and white to me. There is right and there is wrong - end of story. The addition of red is for the color I see after I feel convicted that it is clearly wrong. Because my tendency in those situations is to become angry and, unfortunately, potentially offensive.

In the last week or two, there have been at least three such incidents:
  1. In one case I think my points were valid, but I could have presented them more gently, especially because they were Christians. I already offered my apology to them though.

  2. In another case, maybe I could have handled it a little more gently. But I did the best that I could and to be honest I feel completely justified and don't regret it one bit.

  3. And the last one is the most important of the three. I care about this individual and while I don't regret bringing the topic up, I probably handled it quite poorly. I am mixed about what to do next, if anything, and I am really seeking God's wisdom.

Here's the issue: I believe there is such a thing as righteous anger, that when things are blatantly wrong that people should get angry about it. And when I look around and see everybody keeping their lips shut and their faces turned away, ignoring the elephant in the room, I simply can take it no more. Ideally though, what I really want is to be gentle and speak lovingly, while still being outwardly honest with what burns inside me as The Truth.

However, and this may sound surprising - I really don't want to be the one to say something - I know I'm horrible at it. I am much more proficient at angering people and turning them against the very cause that I am professing, than I am at convincing them. I would much rather the job be given to someone else who is more capable and able than I. But still, I strongly believe that something should be said, no it must be said. And if no one else is going to speak up than it's better to let the words out of my own mouth and risk alienating myself than to keep quiet and silent in fear of retribution. Maybe another way of putting it is that I would rather get my @$$ kicked than to back away in cowardice.

Are we really talking bravado and chivalry here though, or just foolishness and hastiness? That is the biggest question. How can I speak what I wholeheartedly think is the truth, while still adequately or perhaps even proficiently be representing Jesus? If I were truly speaking words of wisdom, wouldn't they be convincing and thought provoking, instead of abrasive and provoking others only to anger.

Even Jesus angered people though, particularly the pharisees and money changers. On the other hand, that form of righteous anger was expressed specifically against people who were misrepresenting God or disgracing His house (the church). So does that mean I should only get angry, or at least express my anger, if the subject in question is about God?

As you can see, this subject has been coming up a lot lately, and I hate the conflict resulting from it. Don't get me wrong, I can handle the alienation part, or even the un-friending (from Facebook especially), but I am earnestly praying about, and I think I will even fast some of next week for the following:
  1. That I would be absolutely certain about my position and the facts surrounding it before I make my opinion known.

  2. That I could speak (or type) in a way that communicates my position and/or inspires change, instead of just causing anger and rejection.

  3. Most importantly, that I can represent my God and my Savior. Am I talking or speaking in a way that pleases God? Will people grow closer to Jesus as a result, or reject everything that I say and stand for from now on?

  4. That I would have wisdom for knowing whether I should make amends for any hurt or offense that I have caused. And if so, then how do I go about it?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Post-game Thoughts - 3rd Game

Unfortunately I wasn't able to play last week (see my Father's Day Irony post), but I did go and watch. And our team looked much improved - confident, composed, patient, and fairly skilled. We still lost by a significant amount, but the opposing team was possibly our toughest opponent yet (they had beat two of our previous opponents). The important thing was that we were heading in the right direction, and although I didn't participate in it, I was greatly encouraged.

Fast forward to this week, in what was undoubtedly (in my opinion) our worst game to date. The opposing team should have been one of our weakest competitors, with a record that is only slightly better than ours. Even if we were to lose against them, it should have at least been a close game, especially judging by our previous game.

But we lacked, well, everything. Dave (one of the players who has also assumed the non-official coaching position) noticed that we had caused about four turnovers for every one basket that was made. Our offense was completely non-existent. No one could shoot for crap, and our passing was purely pathetic. We seemed more stressed, less confident, not having as much fun.

While I made three of our baskets (not a large number, but that's almost 30% of our points), I was still seriously disappointed with my own performance. I had a couple of fast breaks (after stealing the ball and/or rebounding), but instead of driving all the way to the basket, for some reason I shot the ball from 6-8 feet away, even stopping completely on the very last shot of the game. What is my psychological problem with taking it all the way in? WTF me? Needless to say, the next time(s) I practice I'm going to do nothing but layups, from every angle. I will learn from my mistakes - oh yes, I will learn.

So it sucks to have lost again, but worse than losing is two things 1) the frustration of our team back-sliding in our performance, and 2) even worse, my own performance. While losing is a bummer, I can handle it ok. I have a really tough time though dealing with personally playing poorly.

As an afterthought, I can't help but think that the biggest difference between the last game and this one was - ME! I was playing in this one, but not in the last one. Maybe that's baloney (I hope and pray), but either way I wonder if there is anything that I can do to help everyone to feel more relaxed and confident out there - maybe I should dial down my own intensity and try to goof off and have more fun, in the hopes that it could calm everyone else down and help them relax more too. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

I Like It, I Love It

I've had this song in my head for about three days now -

I Like It, I Love It
by
Lyrics Born

The video isn't anything special (female objectification warning), but at least you can hear the song.

Every time that I get up on the microphone,
I gotta dedicate a rhyme to you girl C’mon...

Father's Day Irony

My Father's Day present this year was a Vasectomy.

What are you trying to say honey?

Oh yeah, and I'm a little sore about it (chuckle).

P.S. Boy am I glad that no one actually reads my blog anymore.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Post Game Reflections of My 2nd "Official" Basketball Game

Yes, we got stomped again.

Even still though, I felt like my defense was finally getting dialed in. My man got through a few times, but I felt like I was much more focused and aggressive. I had significantly more playing time (due to having less substitutes) and I think having to work harder physically helps me to push through a wall and into a second wind.

Offensively I was still horrific though. I felt pressured and panicked and I couldn't get focused and make any plays. I even lost control of the ball when driving in off of a screen (I thought I was over that stage of ball-handling clumsiness). Even my passing was off!

Regarding the other team - they were fully loaded again and their star player (a 6'2" fairly muscular black guy) was freakin' dunking the ball! He was good on defense too - so good in fact that he would just guard the lane and yell to his team to "let him through" when one of our guys would drive in. Then his team mates would just sit back and watch him swat it away each time!

I/we still have a long way to go, but it was only our 3rd game and there is more than half of the season left. We have lost - no, we have gotten slaughtered in each of our 3 games, but for some reason I have hope that by the end of the season our individual skills, our stamina, and our teamwork will be much more improved.

I just hope everyone else on the team feels that way, lest they get discouraged from the losses.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Blessings from the Bus

I had to ride the bus to work again yesterday.

Admittedly, I have been in a bit of a negative funk lately (these spells come and go periodically). I can analyze the causes as being overly busy, under funded, improper health maintenance (lack of sleep and exercise), and on this day it was also encouraged by having to deal with a lack of transportation.

I was reading stuff for work as the bus transported me to it, but subconsciously I was also noticing the other passengers. One man got on and headed straight for the back. He had a few tattoos, was wearing a black muscle shirt, and had a mostly gray mustache.

He immediately started talking to another guy in the back that he recognized - about how he was attending anger management classes. Then he talked about how happy he was to have found a job yesterday as a telemarketer, since not many people want to hire him with his background (prison?). He also mentioned that he has another job opportunity running a jack-hammer on a construction site, but he's done it before and it can wreak havoc on your body - he would wake up in the middle of the night with the shakes, still feeling like he was running it. He also mentioned going to church on Sunday and how happy he was also happy to have bought a bicycle yesterday.

Another couple of passengers arrived now - a man with his 4-6 year old daughter. The man was thin, dressed in skater garb and had more tattoos than the first guy. He was holding his daughter's hand with one hand, and using a metal cane with the other. When they sat behind me, I could hear that he was really sweet on his daughter, just totally into being her dad. When he asked the other guys for a cigarette he ended up explaining to them about his injury. I think I heard him say that he had a titanium rod in his leg now. When he and his daughter reached their stop and he limped past me to leave, I could see that despite his attire and ink, he looked pretty weathered, and may have even been older than me.

These people sounded like they were good hearted - they had rough lives and were just trying to get by. I'm sure some of their problems were due to bad decisions, bad circumstances and/or their own personal demons/struggles. But whatever the reason, it seemed to me that these were the type of people that Jesus had the most compassion for - the humble and the broken. And it made me, with my bad mood due to such minor problems and grievances, feel totally blessed for the circumstances of my own life. Thank you God.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Post-Game Thoughts of My First Official Basketball Game

Since tonight will be my second ever official basketball game (with a ref, etc), I am posting my thoughts on the previous game that I played, in which we lost by a score of 89-33. That and because I just don't have time to organize my thoughts enough to post anything new right now.


===============================================


I played ball twice at work this week (Monday and Wednesday), both times coming up with a decent amount of baskets, getting a decent amount of rebounds, playing some pretty decent defense, and not feeling too winded either. I was feeling pretty good going into this game.


Everything changed once both teams hit the court though. The best I can figure is this:

  • I’m usually one of the taller guys on the court. Not so tonight.
  • I got tired much quicker, despite the advantage of air conditioning and a nice court (I usually play on blacktop outside in the afternoon sun). I think it’s because a real game against unfamiliar opponents causes more stress and therefore much quicker energy drain.
  • I have told myself in the past that the main goal of playing basketball is to build relationships (with the guys on both teams), get some exercise, and have fun in the process. Getting better at playing the game and sometimes winning it are the two bonuses to the equation. I didn’t feel that way tonight though – I wanted to win, and once I realized that wasn’t going to happen then I wanted to at least figure them out and start playing a little catch up. Heck, they must be getting tired at least – right? I mean COME ON!!
  • I want to find the balance between wanting to compete and trying to have fun. I know both are possible together, but I think it ended up feeling more like a battle to me, instead of just a game. And losing a battle sucks a lot more than losing a game.
  • Part of me wants revenge. I want to watch tape of them, figure out their weaknesses, practice until our legs collapse and we’re throwing up, and then KICK THEIR ASSES next time. Or at the very least surprise them with a good run for their money. And the other part is saying “Damnit Mike, just relax, take a deep breath, and let it go…”
  • Those guys had height, they had strength, they had skills, they had endurance. And you can be damned well sure that they have played together before, perhaps for numerous seasons. They didn’t let up, didn’t slow down. They shot well, drove hard, and hit the boards hard. They were good, maybe even too good for this division.
  • We on the other hand, have just played our first game together as a team. I don’t know about anyone else, but that was the first time that I have played a real game (with a ref, a hardwood court, etc) at all. I think we have decent skills and aggression, and we should certainly be competitive. But we don’t have unity and team coordination yet, and all of our endurance can use some work. It will come though - I am all but certain of it.
  • Oh, and one more thing – COME ON REF! CAN MR. MAGOO GIVE US A FOUL ONCE IN A WHILE? Geesh.

It was a pleasure and honor to play with you guys today. Now I’m going to go drink some wine, eat some dark chocolate and be ready for practice on Saturday – starting between 8:30 and 9am at Diamond Oaks Park. look forward to seeing you all then. And please feel free to invite your wives and kids to play at the park there too. That way everyone in the family is happy with the idea.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Newborn Nuisance

This transition from 2 to 3 children has definitely been rough. Before Clara was born, I had just recently reestablished my priorities and had begun making more time for God and exercise. I was even going to bed at a more reasonable hour. Over the last month and a half though (since Clara joined us), it has all gone to pot.

In my head, I knew that this was coming. It was expected, yet it still sucks. We've had to deal with sleepless nights, thrush, acid reflux, bacterial infections, divided attentions, and the utter elimination of free time.

I haven't even had time to blog in a while, and now when I do it's nothing but whining. Things are beginning to improve a little bit though, so hopefully the next post will be better.

As you can see in the picture below, Clara really is a cute little baby- even with her crazy purple slimy alien mouth (due to the thrush medicine). And despite what this blog title may indicate, she really isn't a nuisance.


(Previously mentioned on Facebook): I think I have a great idea for a new weapon for the military is to develop - a super effective psychological one that they could air drop behind enemy lines. Ready for it?... Solar powered speaker boxes with super amplified, constantly looping playbacks of newborn babies crying. I almost guarantee that after about 1-2 hours of their mission it would demoralize the enemy to the point of their surrender.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's Too Precious of a Commodity

I think I am almost done with what very well may be the last game of Scrabble that I ever play on Facebook. I was undefeated going into it, and I was somewhat determined to stay that way. I spent entirely too much time trying to come up with the best possible move, all to no avail.

It's now just time down the drain that I could have spend doing oh so many other things, such as blogging, exercising, working on our family web page, spending some personal time with God, etc.

My free time is just too valuable for wasting it like that, especially now with a newborn baby.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

ER, Table for Two Please

During labor and her stay in the hospital, Amanda's blood pressure was measuring a little on the higher side. So the hospital staff suggested that she keep an eye on it and if it remains high to come back to the labor unit for them to evaluate her for pre-eclampsia.

Since leaving the hospital, Amanda has kept an eye on her blood pressure by checking it periodically at grocery stores. Then on Tuesday, after seeing it measure high once again, she called the doctor and he suggested that she come to the hospital (pictured below) for evaluation.
Thankfully, we were able to leave our two oldest children at home (our friends and neighbors, the Walkers, deserve immense praise once again) and bring only our newborn to the hospital. We sat there for about three hours with Amanda getting her blood pressure measured every 15 minutes. Clara was asleep for almost the entire time, and all we could do was just sit there together.

Honestly (and oddly), it was great! With our busy lives and now a newborn too, we have way too little quality time together. Even when we make the effort to take an official "date", we're usually still doing things instead of just talking, joking, and reconnecting like we were able to on Tuesday.

Obviously, the solution isn't to hope for more trips to the hospital, but maybe on future dates, we should make a point sometimes of just finding a place to sit together and do nothing. Or heck, maybe we need to find a few places in and around our home that we can do the same thing, for nights that we can't find a sitter and get out, especially now that we have a newborn.

One thing is for sure though, it's moments like Tuesday's where I'm reminded of how much I enjoy my wife's company. And I realize again how much fun we're still going to have when we get older and the kids move out. Of course I love my kids and they inspire plenty of conversation (and sometimes conflict) in our marriage, but I'm confident that without them we'll still have lots of fun and plenty to talk about together.

Also, as an afterthought, while Amanda definitely looks better in the slinky black dress and shoes that I bought her for her birthday last year, she looks pretty sexy in a hospital gown too!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Athlete's Toothpaste

I am usually running late to my car pool. So a little while ago I decided to set priorities in the morning. Then if (really when) I am running late, I can cut out steps to my routine at the last minute to avoid keeping my car pool waiting longer than absolutely necessary.

Well today, after 2 weeks off of work and not enough sleep due to our newborn, I was of course running late. So I grabbed my toothbrush and a small travel-sized tube of toothpaste, and I planned to brush my teeth in the bathroom at work (after my coffee and oatmeal breakfast) like I've done numerous times before.

After talking to numerous people who were welcoming me back and congratulating me on the new baby, with my stinky morning breath, I finally headed to the bathroom to purify my pie hole. I loaded up the brush, lifted it to my mouth, then had a sudden, almost fleeting thought "Was the toothpaste tube larger than I remember?" I looked down at the blank white tube as I was moving the brush toward my face, then turned it over - athlete's foot creme.

I just barely managed to avoid a close call, and that was good. But now I was unable to brush my teeth! So I continued on with my day, and the greetings, welcoming back, congratulations, meetings, work discussions, etc knowing that I was probably torturing the olfactory senses of every poor soul I encountered. And humiliating myself too.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Another Book Bites the Dust

Another book review, of one called Icy Sparks. Online here.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Reasons for Reminising

Participating in public speaking last Friday brought back memories of my dad, who was excellent at it - much more comfortable and competent than me. As an officer at the Orlando Police Department and a lead hostage negotiator, he was interviewed on TV numerous times and he also taught classes, workshops, seminars, etc. about various topics.

I don't think my kids have ever seen a video of him before (only pictures), so I pulled out some old VHS tapes that my dad had saved of various public speaking events that he performed.

I was always proud of him, and this time was no exception as I pointed him out to my kids "That was my dad - your Grandpa Lomonaco."

======================================

An old friend and co-worker of my dad's, Steve Harrelson, recently passed away. You can read about it here, here (with video), or other places (just search for it). My dad and him both loved to fish and enjoy the outdoors, and I remember my siblings and me accompanying them both on numerous fishing trips.

I don't know what heaven looks like, but I know Steve was a Christian and I'm pretty sure my dad was when he passed away too, and I can't help but picture them both fishing and hanging out together again, with perfect weather and heavenly conversation.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pictures of Clara and New Book Review

Pictures of Clara's birth day are now online, on our web page here.

Also, I finished another book a couple of weeks ago called Combat Corpsman. The review for it is now online, on our web page here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Afterthought About the Workshop

As an afterthought to Public Speaking Performed:

After the workshop, I took the time to walk around the Sacramento State campus for a few minutes after the workshop. And I really liked the campus, which has an abundance of foliage and greenery. It also borders the American River and is adjacent to the American River Parkway trail.

But while I did like the campus, "Sacramento State" seems like a bit of a dumb name to me. Since Sacramento is actually a city, is it really supposed to be California State at Sacramento? If so, then you would think that the school's official web site would say that, but even their web site calls it Sacramento State. Hopefully there is a story or reason behind it.

Public Speaking Performed

I had the opportunity today to be a presenter for a workshop at Sacramento State, on behalf of my company (Northrop Grumman).

The workshop was titled "Workplace Communication - Effectively Navigating the Waters", and there were 55 people registered (a full room).

It was primarily presented by an HR representative from our company, but myself and three other engineers volunteered to be presenters of sub-topics, and leaders of some interactive exercises. My particular sub-topic was "How to Get Along with Your Boss".

I think it generally went well, although I noticed several flaws in my delivery. I usually tend to speak too fast, and today was no exception. And I don't think I gave enough variation in my pauses and inflections.

On the positive side, I was less nervous than usual. I'm pretty sure that I spoke more clearly than other times at least. And I think the content was pretty decent.

It seems to me though that the only way to really improve at public speaking is to simply do more of it. And while I do take advantage of any opportunity that I come across to speak publicly, those opportunities only arise once every 2-3 years at best.

So I'm seriously considering joining or at least looking into Toastmasters. Besides getting the opportunity to practice and perform more often, getting additional feedback could be invaluable.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The First Lomonaco Production

On Friday 4/9, I watched the kids while my wife worked at our church.

After breakfast, I had the idea to make a short movie with them. So I started by making a list of all of the resources that we had available.

When listing the items that we had available, a plot came to mind. So I hatched out a quick scene synopses (as seen on the paper below) underneath the list of resources.


I had to prepare the set by removing all of the clutter in our bonus room. Then I ran through the scene with the kids, explaining what we were going to do and each of our roles in it.

After several takes, a costume change by Emily, a little editing using Windows Movie Maker, and the addition of dramatic music during the perfectly choreographed action sequence - viola!



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Details and A Few Pictures

Pictures of Amanda and Clara (ultrasound) while Amanda was pregnant are now online here.

More details of her birth are here, and I'll be adding pictures and video to that page soon enough.

In the mean time though, there are pictures of her birth day on my Facebook page, located here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Welcome to the World, Clara Lomonaco!

We had our 3rd child today - Clara Joy Lomonaco!

We are truly thankful for this tremendous blessing!

Her basic stats are as follows:
  • Time of birth - 11:16am
  • Weight - 6 lb, 8 oz
  • Length - 19 inches
Mom and baby are doing well.

Pictures are sure to follow soon.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Jeanette Has Left the Building

Jeanette (pictured below on the day before she moved out) has vacated the premises.


A friend of ours was surprised by Amanda's resulting joy, saying "What, with that big house?".

Yes, the house is big enough for one more person, or 20 more people (depending on the culture - those Chinese can pack 'em tight). But, it's not the lack of space that makes it so nice to be without a roommate again, it's the lack of privacy, and the lack of control over your own space.

We've had a non-family member living with us since September of 2007 (first Matt, then Jeanette). Think about having a guest stay with you for that long! No matter how much space you have in your house, you'd be relieved to see them go.

We are really thankful for the extra income that the rent provided. And it was a blessing to get to know new people, especially since both of them were considerate, kind, and Christians. I'm really hoping that we can make it work financially without one though, at least for a while.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ooma Me!

I was talking with a co-worker when he gave me a ride home recently, when he mentioned this little gadget to me.

The idea is this: You pay for the hardware, which is $250 or less (we found it for $200 at Fry's). After that, you pay nothing more for your VOIP (voice over internet protocol) - ever!

Depending on how much you pay for your phone service, it could pay for itself in a few months.

We took the leap and hooked it up about a month ago. Since we're happy with its performance (it's not perfect, but usually close enough) we promptly canceled our phone and cable service. Since we only need to pay for a high speed internet connection now, we cut our monthly multimedia bill in half!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Facebook vs Blogging

Is it just me, or does Facebook cause a serious distraction to people who would otherwise be blogging?

On a different, but still blogging-related note - I wonder what the ratio of female bloggers are to male? It seems like men are outnumbered in blog-land by something like 100-to-1.

On a completely different note, I absolutely appreciate afternoon naps on the weekends, but I'm guessing that today's nap is the main reason that I can't sleep now!

Going Green (and sometimes brown)

Reusable, paper-free toilet paper! What a great idea!
I will be tossing my rolls out the door immediately!

And pretty colors too!
Now who wants to come over for dinner?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hairily, Hairily, I Say Unto You

Last month, one of my co-workers on our basketball email list relayed to us that when he was in college he and his roommates would avoid shaving their faces for The Manly Month of March. He then asked if any of us wanted to join him on this endeavor, in place of his roommates.

I'm always up to try something different, especially if it's silly. So about a half-dozen guys, including myself, are saving our razors for the month of March.

I must say though, that I am seriously glad that it will be over in a couple of days. Although I don't think you can really tell by the pictures (taken about a week ago), there is too much gray in the mix and it's just too scraggly for my liking.


Also, below is a picture of my still-present, but thankfully (and hopefully) fading bald spot that is a result of the cyst I had removed back in December.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Request for Recreational Ideas

My boss (actually my boss' boss) recently asked me if I'd be interested in coming up with some social ideas for our group at work. That was probably about a month ago, and I haven't done anything with it yet.

The catch is that there is no budget for this, and any activities will have to be off of the clock.

Here is what I have come up with so far:
  • Retro Movie and Pizza Lunch, starting with the movie Tron (we'd all have to contribute $ for the pizza).

  • Fica Fridays, at 3pm. Fica is a Swedish form of coffee break.

  • Donut Day. This would consist of me bringing in donuts one day a week.

  • BBQ at the park. There is a pretty nice park less than a mile from here that we could meet at for lunch, or perhaps after work for dinner - the families of the employees could meet there.

  • Dart Tournament. This would require me obtaining a dart board (from Craigslist?) and getting it approved and installed somewhere at work. Tough perhaps, but still possible?

  • Wednesday burger lunch. When we had a company that actually cooked in our cafeteria, our group would regularly meet for lunch on Wednesdays when they cooked burgers. They have been gone for a while now though, so this could resurrect the tradition by perhaps all going to Burger King, which is within walking distance.
I think I'm going to start with Fica Friday this week.

Any additional ideas or experiences that anyone out there in blogland is willing to share would certainly be appreciated.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Whose G-Spot is Bigger?

I read an interesting article the other day about scientists discovering specific regions of the brain that become active when people think God-oriented thoughts. The article called them "God spots" (got you with the title, didn't I?).

This led me to thinking that I would like to see a more extensive study performed, with scans of a variety of individuals, from a variety of religions, and with various levels of dedication to their religion. If you scanned the brains of a dedicated Buddist, a Muslim cleric, a Catholic priest, and a Christian pastor, would the size of their "God spots" vary? Or if you compared a Christian pastor to a normal Sunday Christian (someone whose faith is limited to church on Sundays), would their be a significant difference in activity for that portion of the brain?

I would think that the people who are professionals and/or are extremely proficient at certain tasks would have higher development in the areas of their brain that use that function. Examples would be artists, scientists, accountants, or even athletes.

If this is also true for spirituality, then perhaps having larger developed "God spots" would offer a scientific explanation to how some people could have greater capacity or ability for spirituality. They would have a greater ability to "hear" God (know His will), understand Biblical concepts, and exhibit more fruits (Galatians 5:22) and gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14) of the spirit.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The World Revolves Around...?

I was talking to a co-worker in the gym yesterday, and he was relaying his metaphor about the solar system and how life changes through various stages. I kinda liked it, so here it is:

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When you're single, you are the Sun, and everything revolves around you.

Then when you get married, you then become the Earth and your wife becomes the sun, because your world now revolves around her. In some ways good and others bad.

After you have kids though, you then become the moon - revolving around the Earth that now represents your wife. And you are both rotating around the kids (as the sun), which have become the center of your Universe.

And the glue that holds it all together is money.
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I like it all, that is, except the ending. In fact, I gotta say that the last part really sucks.

What if the money disappears? What if you lose your job, like so many people in America (or around the world) are experiencing right now? Then what happens - the family dissolves and the "planets" drift apart?

The glue that keeps it all together - the gravity of the whole system should be the one thing in life that is stable and unchanging - God.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fatherhood Follies, pt 1

Last weekend, I was happy to have spent a pretty good amount of time with my kids. Sometimes though, I don't think through far enough to the consequences of my actions/decisions around them.

One example happened when Lucas was pretending to be a policeman and was taking me to jail downstairs. Somehow I ended up laying down on my belly at the top of the stairs, then pulling myself down the top step until my body weight carried me forward, like over a roller coaster peak. Then I body surfed down the stairs by putting my hands out like Superman and making my body stiff like a board. It was pretty fun and the kids really got a kick out of it, asking me to "do it again" numerous times.

I didn't really think much of it, until I told Amanda about it at the dinner table, after which she heartily chastised me. Her fear is that next thing you know the kids will be hurtling themselves down the stairs to their demise. She has a valid point, too. Thankfully though, they have yet to try it themselves.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Almost (but not quite) Smooth Operator

In a previous post, I mentioned getting a cyst that was on the back of my head removed. Well, almost 2 months later there is still about a quarter sized bald spot there!

I have had several of these cysts removed before (they're just randomly occurring lumps), but I have never had a scar like this after getting them removed. This (and other factors about the procedure) leads me to believe that the doctor may have botched the job.

Anyway, I was in need of a hair cut again, but annoyed by what looks like a hole in my hair. So on Sunday evening I decided to just make the whole thing even. As you can see in the picture below, I set the clipper to its lowest possible setting and then went to town on my dome.


Needless to say that it has definitely been getting noticed. In fact, I don't think I've gotten this much attention since like, never! It's kind of fun. And seeing the kids get freaked out the next morning was pretty comical too.
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