Monday, December 29, 2008

Marley & Me: A Review

I had the pleasure of viewing Marley & Me today as part of our Christmas vacation relaxation.

Now you need to understand--I am a sucker for dog movies. And this one is no exception. I love dog movies and this one especially hit home as I have just received a puppy for Christmas.

The movie is a joy to watch and is creative and funny. The acting is excellent--Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston in the leads. The children are cute and age appropriately during the movie.

So what is the movie about? The people who surround a rambunctious dog and we follow them throughout the dog's life. The movie is based upon a book written by John Grogan titled Marley & Me. John Grogan is also the name of the lead character in the movie.

David Frankel directs this movie and does a great job with the subject. The movie is funny and tender. It appeals the animal love in all of us and anyone who has owned a dog will be able to relate to the movie. The movie is not so much about the dog as it is about the family that tries to co-exist with the dog. The movie is about life. The ups and downs. The joys and the pain. The end of the movie brough back memories of all of my old and long gone dog friends and made me realize how lucky I was to have been able to share my life with them and all that each of them taught me.

RECOMMENDATION: See this movie if you love animals. See this movie if you want to get in touch with your inner self. You will probably cry--tears of both sadness and joy.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Makayla Aroha -- Love on Four Feet

In one of the greatest and most secret operations ever conducted by the Doan family in advance of Christmas--an operation involving everyone, except for me, a four-footed fur ball of love was delivered as the "BIG" gift of Christmas yesterday morning.

Yes--it is time to go back to my puppy roots and start over again with one of the most beautiful dogs in the world.

Secret operations are a lot of fun. Especially when they are well planned and executed.

So now we are returning to our roots when we used to breed Keeshonden. (which is the plural for Keeshond) We had some great dogs in the past--with Nufi being the best Kees we had.

As puppies they are little puffs of fur that look a like little teddy bears--as adults they have a regal appearance.

But--enough of who she will be. A little about her name. Makayla means "who resembles God" and is a variant of an Australian female dog name. Aroha is Maori (New Zealand) and means love.

I want to thank each member of the family for this well executed operation. Chris explained how each of you participated in the selection and care of the young pup. And thanks--it was an unexpected gift.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Failure to Act--A Christmas Story with an Unhappy Ending

I had a significant opportunity to demonstrate everything I believe in last night--and I failed miserably.

After writing about the Christmas spirit and the time of year, when actually confronted with an opportunity to act--I was paralyzed by thinking about the consequences and let an opportunity to share God's love slip away.

The situation:

I'm standing in line at the local Safeway grocery store with two $25 gift cards to purchase for my office staff at work. I am not purchasing any food stuffs or other items. The lines are long and I'm in the 15 items or less line. The woman in front of me with 2 small children is buying $42.91 worth of groceries. The woman swipes her ATM card--it will not accept the transaction. Then after three different credit cards are swiped with the same result, I hear her tell the cashier--"I know I have a $100 on one of the cards." And seeing how the quick check-out line has grown while she was struggling with her cards, she runs off to the ATM machine.

I'm standing there, knowing I should do something but wondering how to do something and also being a little miffed about the delay in getting out of the store. I wondered if I would hurt her feelings. A random act of kindness was called for.

The reality of what happened:

So I did nothing--except feel sorry for the woman. I should have given her a Christmas present and paid for her groceries at the same time I was paying for my gift cards. I was buying presents after all and I was next in line. Then I could have whispered to her as she was fighting with the ATM as I walked by that her groceries were paid for, just go back and get them.

But I didn't. I could have been a point of light in the darkness--but I wasn't.

Next time---

God has impressed on me that I was given an opportunity and came up short. I've asked for forgiveness for my selfish reaction to a sister in need. I have resolved not to let it happen again. Since I believe that I am one of the points of lights, a true child of God living in this world and I need to start acting like it.

So here's my Christmas advice for you--don't be paralyzed by the "I wonder if I should. . ." phrase when confronted with the opportunity to act like you believe.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Reason for the Season?

We've probably heard it said many many times: "Jesus is the reason for the season!"

And on the surface we think we a being pretty smug and smart about all of it as we respond to the nay-sayers who grind their own particular axes at this time of year. After all, this is our axe to grind. It is a national holiday after all. We even have a National Christmas Tree.
So to respond to people and remind them that "Jesus is the reason for the season" seems to be our own little effort at reminding people about this holiday and its reason for existence.

But you know what? I found out something recently. The statement is wrong!

Believe it or not, even though the season is named for Jesus--He is not the reason for the season. I was in shock because after all my smugness at thinking I knew all about it, there was more to understand.

So if Jesus is not the reason for the season--then who is? Or what is? Why am I so confused all of a sudden over something so seemingly obvious?

Turns out the answer is in Galatians 4:5, follow-on to my blog entry about the Christmas Story in one line from last week.

Galatians 4:5: to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights. - NET Bible

The reason for the season is, US!

Christmas exists because God sent His Son to the world to redeem US and make us His sons and daughters.

That is why it is so important for us to share our joy with everyone at this time of year. We are the purpose that Christ came into our world--to redeem and save us from ourselves and the darkness. And as sons and daughters of God, our task is to share the love that came down at Christmas with everyone who does not share the joy nor see the light.

Merry Christmas--you are special!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

My Favorite Christmas Flower

I love the Bird of Paradise. It is a flower which just screams--Bob, you are living too far north.

But it is a flower which hangs itself all out there for everyone to see. Proud and content.

This Bird of Paradise was blooming in downtown Sydney when I was there in September.

So, Christmas flower? Isn't it a bit tropical for Christmas?

Well yeah--but Christmas comes to the tropics as well as the rest of the world. And don't forget, when it is Christmas winter in the U.S. -- it is Christmas summer in Australia.

Let's go to the beach.
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Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Before Christmas

There is an excitement as the last week before Christmas dawns. And there is panic too.

Are the presents bought?
Are they wrapped?
Are they in the mail?
Have the internet purchases been delivered?

Ugh!! there is too much to do!

And we have three parties tomorrow night that we need to attend.

And more shopping to get out of the way.

And the dog. Did you remember to feed the dog?  Do we even have a dog anymore, I haven't seen him in weeks?  Where is the dog?  What did the dog look like when we last saw him?  Was the dog a  him or a her? When did the dog become a cat?

Peace on Earth is all wrapped up in how much we are doing to please others and make them happy. It is the gift of ourselves to others and it is most noticable at this time of year as we prepare to recieve the gift that God sent to us--His Son.

I go back to Galatians 4:4--sent at the perfect time all part of God's plan.

May you find some peace in your life as you celebrate Christmas.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reconnecting at Christmas

Christmas, with its hope and promise provides an opportunity when people can begin the process of reconnecting. As we live each day of the year, things happen in real time that in retrospect needed more perspective. Relationships get torn apart or maybe just grow cold from lack of contact. Christmas is one of those seasons when we can and should pause, and reflect on where we've been and why.

I've written before that I believe relationships are the most important aspect of living. First and foremost--our relationship with God is critical. As is our relationship with our self. Are we happy with who we are. But, when you get right down to it, it is in the relationships with others around us that we can find joy and happiness.

Sometimes it is joy and happiness reflected back at us as others interact with us. Sometimes it is joy directed at us in our times of greatest need.

Yeah--I know it is not all roses and mush. There are some really hard times and we, each of us, deal with some really difficult issues and situations. And as we are walking along the path of our life--sometimes we feel alone, or in the dark. Yet, most times as we look back once the dark period is over, we see how others picked us up and helped us through--and in that is the joy.

Find a broken or cold relationship and reconnect. It may be your relationship with God that needs to be kick-started, or with someone in your family, or a former friend. Share the spirit of the season with them.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Cards and Reconnecting

One of the greatest traditions of Christmas is the Christmas card. It provides a means whereby people can reconnect. It kinda flies against the trend of the fast paced, all in it for yourself lifestyles that many of us are living.

Taking some time to think about friends and family and remember the good times.

Christmas cards have been around for about 150 years according to the website devoted to Christmas cards. Although they were created as a means to expedite greetings to friends at Christmas-time, we must be careful not to reduce them to another piece of spam email. There needs to be something personal about the greeting, or the value and meaning is reduced.

We continue to write out each address by hand and sign each card by hand--to reinforce the personal nature of the greeting. It is way to easy for the gesture to be reduced to a mass production effort

I received my usual Holiday greeting from The White House this year as well as my favorite baseball team the Orioles. I love opening the greeting from The White House (which was postmarked Crawford, Texas) every year. It makes me feel like I have contact with the leadership of the country.

I wonder if I'll be on President-elect Obama's list next year.

I'm just happy to be on your Christmas card list--because, it is really all about the relationships and the friends. The best cards are from the people we know and love, because we know what is in their hearts.

Merry Christmas (OK, not politically correct, but I wrote it anyway)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Christmas Story in One Line

The service in church this past Sunday was special. It was a Christmas season service and it was fabulous in terms of both music and message.

As an aside--it is refreshing not to attend a liturgical church anymore. We attend one which is trying to be relevant to the people without holding onto traditions which have outlived their purpose. I mean, the whole concept of Advent is an artificial creation, it is not a biblical season specified by God. So adapting the church season to the world to remain relevant is important. Radio stations are playing Christmas music, there is no reason to exclude Christmas music from church just because it has been decreed that the season is Advent and Christmas doesn't begin until Dec 25th. By then, for most people Christmas is over. The church needs to work to remain relevant in peoples lives. Maybe the calendar needs adjusting a bit.

But that is not the topic of this writing.

The Christmas story in one verse--that was the topic of the message this past week. The verse is Galatians 4:4.

"But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law," --NET Bible

And that friends is the Christmas story.

And it turns out that the whole story is contained right there. Christmas was the action of an active and caring God. It happened at the perfect time when God had decided it was time. God sent his Son--who was with God before he was sent to earth and he was born fully man and under the law he came to fulfill.

And that is the essence of Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Fireworks at Disney

I love fireworks displays. And Disney has fireworks to enjoy. I finally am getting closer at capturing these transient events digitally to enjoy again. I wanted to share a couple of my favorite Fireworks shots from the recent trip.
These are from the display on Tuesday night, when it was cold. But as I was able to get the camera working to capture the moments.
The magic of Disney is in the little things and the attention to detail.
The park is clean and they continue to focus on delivering an experience.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More Disney Pictures

Who knew that Ethan is in love with Wendy?

Actually, none of us until we did the Peter Pan's Flight ride at least seven times. And then he got to meet her in person.

He is really smitten. We went back to visit with her one last time before leaving, but alas, only Peter showed. Although E learned a really neat way to do his shoes to ward off pirates. So now he has no fear of Capt Hook!

And then there was Jax. On Tuesday night it was cold. Really cold. We were in the Magic Kingdom until very late enjoying Mickey's Special Christmas Party. It was fun--but cold. Jax was bundled up like a bunny and I know he was warm.

I thought it was warm in Florida!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Signs in the Sky

Mankind, it seems is always looking to the heavens for some kind of sign. In olden times, man looked heavenward and thought that comets, or meteors, or conjunctions of the planets foretold important events. Many rulers and military leaders relied on the heavens to help them plan battles and invasions.

I guess that is a bit biblical. Thinking of the season and the Christmas Story when the star led the wise men to where baby Jesus lay.

So the other night when the Moon, Venus and Jupiter were dancing in the sky together, I was able to get a really good shot of them on the camera.

I wonder what great event they are foretelling?

Hopefully it is the end of the recession and the beginning of world peace free from the threat of chaos and terrorism.

May you have peace in your spirit, soul, and in your life as you prepare to celebrate the gift that God gave us on Christmas.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sea World, Orlando - A Review

I really don't know how to say it any clearer. A visit to Orlando, Florida which does not included a side trip to Sea World is a definite missed opportunity.

Sea World is fantastic. The exhibits are accessible and there is a variety of things to do. The pace was much more relaxed than Disney and the close tie to nature and our impact on the planet must not be missed.

Feeding the dolphins was fabulous. The feeding area is well run and the dolphins are in view from both above and below the water. The underwater viewing area was very nice and provided a great view of the activity. I never knew that dolphins play with air bubbles (kind of like smoke rings) until I saw a dolphin blow a bubble and play with it. Wow.

The Shark Aquarium is awesome and designed to allow viewing sharks and the other residents of the aquarium from all angles. Unfortunately they use a moving walkway to ensure a flow of people through the shard part of the exhibit so my pictures did not turn out too great--but it was inspiring to see a shark swim over top of me with a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. I also spies a nurse shark dozing on a rock.

The Shamu show was awesome and inspiring. I figured out how to get the camera to take fast action shots when I actually press the button, so I am especially proud of the Orca's jumping out of the water pictures I took during the show.

One place to definitely stop is the Budweiser Hospitality House for two free cold beers. Hey, they are free. And the Clydesdales are worth a gander, too. As we visited the beer wagon and Clydesdale team were on display in the park complete with dalmatian!

There is so much to do in a more relaxing environment. The Penguin house is very special and also a must see during the day.

We visited the Polar Exhibit where there are Beluga Whales and Polar Bears. It is a first class exhibit made to imitate top of the world to include the Aurora Borealis.

And I do not want to forget the rides. We rode the Kranken--a really fast coaster complete with loops and twists. Early in 2009, they will open the Manta--which is a suspended coaster which looks to be really a good ride too. The Atlantis ride was open intermittently the day we were they so we wound up not riding it--but having ridden a similar (if not the same) ride elsewhere it looks to be a lot of fun too.

Recommendation: Definitely visit Sea World during a stay in Orlando. It is a top notch attraction and well worth a day. There are both educational and thrill adventures available.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Are Americans Getting Fat? A Bit of a Rant!

OK--here we go on a real sensitive subject.

Are Americans getting lazy and fat?

My recent experience at Disney for six days seems to indicate that we are and, worse, there are companies making a lot of money on the overweight disability by renting scooters to further assist in enabling our over-eating and under-exercising.
Disney is overrun with obese people on scooters. They are everywhere. And here is the problem. While wheelchairs have right of way over pedestrians, motorized scooters do not--but yet the pilots of these dangerous (more on that later) vehicles do not recognize the rights of way that pedestrians have. I was cut off numerous times while pushing a stroller with two children in it by these denizens of the walkways.
And here is the real rub. It appeared to us that many able, but heavy people rent these scooters at the park to receive preferential treatment. They don't have to walk and they get special treatment on the rides and attractions--like going to the front of the line.

Obviously, this is just an observation with no scientific basis to support it, but really, the number of people riding these dangerous vehicles is astounding. AND--it really rubs me raw when in one instance we have been waiting through three monorails to get aboard to get back to the hotel and one of these scooters was escorted to the front of the line and our party of four adults and two small children with a large stroller were unceremoniously told to step aside--again. Why can't they wait like everyone else?

As for dangerous. Don't get me wrong--there are people who really need these marvels of technology to assist with their living and enjoyment of life. But they need to be careful.

While at the Animal Kingdom we were part of a real world emergency associated with a scooter accident. An 80-year old gentleman weighing about 350 lbs toppled his scooter when it ran up the side of a walkway. The scooter was so top heavy that it went right over sideways with a crash and thud. The man was attached to an oxygen tank and unable to move once on the ground. Mike and I rendered assistance which included determining that he was not seriously injured and notifying the park staff of the emergency (Nicole did this). We placed a blanket under his head for both support and comfort (contribution of Jax) and helped untangle him from the scooter so he could be comfortable while waiting for the emergency response team. The man's family was concerned about trying to sit him up so we waited for the health professionals to arrive to perform this task so that we would not dislocate anything (either on us or him).

The scooter issue aside though. There are a lot of morbidly obese people. And children. Maybe they just tend to vacation at Disney, but we saw them in numbers that exceed what we normally see in our places of work. And we feel much sympathy for them on two points. First, they are products of our "more is better" society. Second, they are discriminated against and I feel guilty for how I feel about the scooter issue, but since they are products of our society I wonder what our medical and scientific communities are doing to help alleviate the hugely obese issue that we are creating. The strain on health care is going to be enormous (pun intended)--probably greater than any other disability at some point. We need to begin addressing this issue soon.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Disney Pictures of Note

Well, here are some of the best. I like this one--it is Ethan watching the fireworks our last night at Disney. We were at Epcot just chillin' and watching the fireworks.

The picture was taken on Friday night, our last night in Disney and we were all feeling the effects of  a hard week of vacationing in the land of Mickey.

This one kinda sums up the whole Disney experience--a lot of flash and fun and crashing and things to do and places to go.

The next two are from Day 1- Monday as we were getting started. I look at them as the beginning of the experience.
They give a great perspective on the adventure which is just beginning and also the great weather we had all week--except for the frigid tempratures on Tuesday night.

There are more pictures and I will get them in in a few more days.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Flying Home

It's over. Six days in Disney and we successfully navigated the process to checkout and made it to the airport.

We are on board AirTran flight 467 to Baltimore cruising somewhere over the Carolinas. Jax is asleep in Chis' arms and E is chillin' with his Dad in the row in front of me.

I got tired of playing poker on my blackberry so I thought I'd jot a couple more notes.

The time flew by. Incredibly it went by fast.

We hear the temp at home is 19 degrees. And to think yesterday I was laying in the sun soaking up rays by the pool for an afternoon nap. And it was awesome. Why can't I move to Key West?

I noticed something at the airport today. Mass confusion. Traveling with small children and gwtting through security and onto an airplane is no trivial event.

Think about people who do not fly all the time trying to navigate security. Yeah, I saw some today who didn't even know they needed to have their ID out to begin the process. Talk about overload. And there aren't a lot of signs to help.

And it seems people need to attend a class and get certifien in getting on board an airplane. They stand in the aisle for minutes trying to get their bags up or figure out who is sitting where. Plan a bit. Get out of the way. Same on the way out.

But we are beginning our descent back to the real world.

I guess the magic is gone or maybe itis still there and we just can't see it around us.

But the magic is still there. We carry it in our hearts to pick us up one those dark, cold winter days and remind us of places we've been and fun we've had.

Bob Doan
Elkridge, MD
Sent from My Blackberry

Disney - The Saga Continues

Well I left our intrepid travelers feasting on a luau on Wednesday night.

Thursday and Friday turned into classic Disney adventures. We covered parts of three parks during these days and there was always another ride to ride or another attraction to do.

The highlights? Expedition Everest a way cool roller coaster in the Animal Kingdom. It is the first coaster I have ridden which changed direction from forward to backward and then back to forward.

Another highlight? The excitement in Ethan's voice as he was explaining the ride Soarin to chris before she was about to get on. He had just ridden it and was stoked about doing it again. The ride is at Epcot. And it is truly an inspiring experience.

A low light? How fat Americans are becoming. But I'm planning a special rant blog about that soon. But I will tell you it really hits home that we are becoming a culture of incredibly obese people.

Rating the Polynesian Resort. Great location adjacent to the ticket and transportation center. We generally waked there than picking up the monorail at the resort.

A must do? The meal plan. Definitely worth it. But people who like to plan their lives out in advance will do better than we did. Reservations are almost impossible to get same day or even same week.

Most magical moment. Watching Chris on Main Street USA at night with snow falling as part of Mickey's Magical Christmas Party. Oh yes. And Silver Bells playing on the speakers.

Second most magical. The look in Ethan's eyes when Wendy kissed him.
There is a lot more and I have some cool pictures to add when we get home.

See ya soon

Bob Doan
Elkridge, MD
Sent from My Blackberry

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Luau Disney Style

Nicole and Mike treated us to a luau on Wednesday night. It was a lot of fun and the weather was perfect.

The food was endless and tasty and believe it or not beer and wine was included

The service was prompt and the entertainment was enjoyable and good.

Having been to luaus in Hawaii I actually had something to compare it to. This one is enjoyable if a bit Disney-fied. The entertainment had a story to go with it which the kids could relate to. But the dancing was first rate. And seemed authentic.

It was great fun.

Thanks Nicole and Mike
Bob Doan
Elkridge, MD
Sent from My Blackberry

Disney Day 3 - Sea World

What a great day with the exception of the transportation from and to Sea World.

It was a cold morning with frost on the grass. But once it warmed it was fabulous. Sea World is a must visit. The pace is slower than Disney and the exhibits are devoted to the planet and our relationship with the sea.

The Shark aquarium is a definite place to visit. I wish I could dive it someday.

One of the highlights was feeding the dolphins and the underwater viewing. I had never seen dolphins playing with bubble rings before. Much like smoke rings they blow them and play with them. I have pictures.

Chris, Nicole, Ethan, and Mike actually fed and got to touch dolphins. It was way cool.

The shows were awesome too. Shamu did not disappoint. A seal show was really fun to watch.

The arctic display was one of the best. In a recreation of the top of the earth the aurora borealis was used to highlight the beluga whales.

This place is a must visit.

More on the end of day luau later.
Bob Doan
Elkridge, MD
Sent from My Blackberry

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Disney on Wednesday

Ok. It is cold. They had snow on main street USA last night for the special Mickey Christmas. Of course they were making it.

But it was cold enough for frost here last night. And I'm standing in front of Sea World waiting for it to open. At least the sun on my back is warm. My fingers are numb though.

Sea World opens in 25 minutes. We got here a bit early.

Disney is still Disney.

Kids are still kids.

The lines are long. But there sure are a lot of smiles

Peter Pan's Flight is E's favorite. We have done it four times.

The Christmas lights on the castle are fabulous. I'll add pictures when I can. Internet is $10 per day and who is spending time in the room surfing.

Another day of fun is about to begin.
Bob Doan
Elkridge, MD
Sent from My Blackberry

Monday, December 1, 2008

Disney - The Flight

So there we were, trapped in a 737 at 35,000 feet with two energetic children. The three grandparents strategically seated behind the family. Well except for Jax who was in our lap.

Who knew a two hour flight could be like Gilligan's three-hour tour.

Jax managed to exhaust everyone before slipping into semi-slumber. Ethan sacked out for a bit. I tried to listen to my Ipod, but the interruptions were continuous.

A cell phone was lost and after an exhaustive search, which included the restrooms, was found under the seat where the owner was sitting.

The sun was shining at altitude. And it promises to be a great day.


Bob Doan
Elkridge, MD
Sent from My Blackberry

Disney - The Flight

So there we were, trapped in a 737 at 35,000 feet with two energetic children. The three grandparents strategically seated behind the family. Well except for Jax who was in our lap.

Who knew a two hour flight could be like Gilligan's three-hour tour.

Jax managed to exhaust everyone before slipping into semi-slumber. Ethan sacked out for a bit. I tried to listen to my Ipod, but the interruptions were continuous.

A cell phone was lost and after an exhaustive search, which included the restrooms, was found under the seat where the owner was sitting.

The sun was shining at altitude. And it promises to be a great day.


Bob Doan
Elkridge, MD
Sent from My Blackberry

Disney Adventure

Ok. And so it begins. We have successfully met up at the airport. A huge party of 5 adults and a 3 year old and a 9 month old.

Coming from three different starting points that was no small task.

But we have cleared security and are on the plane preparing for takeoff to Orlando.
Bob Doan
Elkridge, MD
Sent from My Blackberry

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