Monday, March 30, 2009

Birthday Dinner for Patrick

The whole clan together in one place--minus Jax. It was really cool as we all got together and went to dinner to a place we had never been and for a style of dinner we had never done either--Japanese.

It was a blast and we all had fun. The food was good and the family was all having fun together.

Patrick decided to do something different and it was--like being on a cooking show with the chef right in front of us.

And catching a piece of chicken in my mouth was only one of the highlights. Ethan was was to catch one too.

And the after dinner photo is one to be remembered for a long time.

BTW--opening day is a week away.

A nice Sunday dinner followed by dessert at Patrick and Tina's--and a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Basketball, Beer, Burgers and Dogs

It has been over a week now since the first day of March Madness and the memory of watching the games over at Jeremy's with him and Mike and the dogs: Ben and Makayla is a good one.

A complete guy kinda day.

Made better because Maryland won--that day. And of course the company.

I love watching Makayla learn how to be a dog from Ben. And while this particular picture isn't from that day, it does show the kind of relationship the two of them have. I especially like the paw on the neck. Be still you Tasmanian Devil Dawg.
It seems that after every time they are together--Makayla comes home just that much more of a real dog and not a wild puppy. But she is growing up so quickly.
But back to the three B's.
A great day, good fun, hard played Tournament Basketball and a bit of comic relief playing Rock Band. Frankly, in the overall scheme of life--unless I'm diving a reef somewhere in the world in a blue ocean on a calm day, it don't get no better than this.
Thanks Jer and Mike. Opening Day is just over a week away--and when we add Patrick to the mix, it is going to be a great day!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is Anyone Else Concerned?

Every day it seems I read that the government is amassing more and more power.

The headline in the Business Section of The Washington Post for March 25th read: "The Pitch for Expanded Powers." And the tag line was: "Geithner, Bernake Seek the Authority to Seize Failing Firms Other Than Banks."

Frankly, I'm worried.

Our government should not be seizing firms. What is next?

I thought our whole business structure was built on the basis of the good succeed and the bad fail. If the government intervenes to save companies that should fail--what will that do to the entrepreneurs of the future? The great idea people like those behind Apple when it started and IBM and Xerox back when they began?

Will the bad business practices continue--with the safety net of a government bail out to save them from their own excesses and poor decision making?

How will the marketplace and industry evolve if the government is in control?

Isn't this all a violation of the Constitution somewhere?

AIG needed to fail.

GM needs to fail. So someone better and brighter can succeed it.

Big industries and corporations have been buying up and destroying competition for years to preserve their now obvious faults. And our government is condoning this behavior by buying them, seizing them and keeping them afloat. What's wrong with this picture? Since when did our government become the model way for running businesses?

I'm not sure I want to pay for all of this.

I'm not sure the world economy is in a position to finance the debt until our grandchildren can pay for it.

I'm worried that we have taken a leap into socialism--where the government controls everything and we are taxed at an unbelievably high rate to pay for it.

Nothing is free!

I'm worried about what's next?

Then when the Lamb opened the third seal I heard the third living creature saying, “Come!” So I looked, and here came a black horse! The one who rode it had a balance scale in his hand. Then I heard something like a voice from among the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat will cost a day’s pay and three quarts of barley will cost a day’s pay. But do not damage the olive oil and the wine!” Rev 6:5-7 NET Bible

Does this foretell of runaway inflation from a failed bailout plan? And of the incredible world-wide depression which results? I hope not.

So, is anyone else concerned? I think we need to pray harder.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Friday Night Lights and Glass Wall

I ran into my own kind of glass wall last Friday night.

I played in the league championship for racquetball at the club and learned a lot about desire and just plain getting beat.

It was tough. I was playing a friend for the championship of the division in the end of league tournament. He was the number 1 seed, and I was number 2 based upon our performance during league play against the others in the league.
During league play we met--with the match going into the tiebreaker, which he won 11-10. It was hard fought. But fun. We play each other about twice per week outside of the league.
So I thought I was ready. I had a plan. I felt I could win, and I thought I was ready. He was "readier" it was soon apparent.
So I was reminded why I really play racquetball. Because I love it--even in getting beat fairly handily, I love the sport. the quickness, the thinking, and the hard work. Some fitness guru estimates that a racquetball match is equivalent to running two miles. I hate running for the sake of running. But put me in a court with a racquetball and I'll chase it like a dog!
Well, it's O.K. The league begins again next week. And we can do it all over again.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bonuses and Bailouts: Perspective

Wow--my email box is full of get rich schemes and take advantage of the bail-out money schemes. Everyone seems to have an angle these days to get rich quick. Well, they definitely are behind the corporate executives who profited from the bail-out.

I am amazed that people have so much time to sit and figure out out to profit form other's agony. It is a crime. Almost like executives accepting huge bonuses while others in the company and near them are losing their jobs.

What has happened?

Where has the idea that hard work is reward enough? I cannot fathom a $1,000,000.00 (just so you could see it more clearly) BONUS! What did they accomplish? Drove the company into bankruptcy and requiring a federal bail out. Good job. What kind of bonus do they expect when they actually are successful?

I don't get bonuses!

But I get satisfaction from what I do. I'm still "jazzed" about going to work every day. I believe what I do is important.

My view:

The problem with corporate America today is mercenaries. The leaders of the companies don't care about the long-term health and competitive advantage of the company--just this year's bonus. They move from company to company with no intention of sticking around to see if their wild ideas actually work. Our companies are not reinvesting in infrastructure to keep them competitive. They are sucking off the reinvestment monies to pay bonuses to executives so they can live in a lifestyle that is reminiscent of feudal lords.

When did this problem really begin to materialize? When loyalty to the workers went away. That's when corporate leadership became totally mercenary because suddenly the companies were faceless.

People--we've lost it as a society. We are missing the point.

Now I'm not saying that we shouldn't live comfortable. I love living comfortable and I thank God for the blessings he has given me. But people there is a point where loving the money and material is going to cause the entire system to crumble. Maybe it has!

How do we turn it around? Curb our appetite for greediness and excess. Force corporate executives to realize they are a big part of the problem.

If the President of the United States can live on $400,000.00 per year--who needs more?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Monday Musings - March 23, 2009

OK-- I remembered this week and I'm not traveling, so here goes:

1. Sundays when the temperature is over 60 degrees means that the outdoors is alive again and a great place to be.

2. Who knew that you could get a tick on the first day after a freeze? I'm thinking about the Brad Paisley song Ticks when he sings: "And I'd like to check you for ticks?"

3. A chain saw in your hands while cleaning up the mess of fallen trees is therapeutic.

4. I feel much better when the sun is bright and the temperature is warm. I can see leaves beginning to grow on the trees. The crocus and daffodils are beginning to bloom. The grass really greened up this weekend. And, the garage is a mess! Must be Spring!

5. March Madness is. And sharing it with your sons is, too.

6. Losing the league racquetball championship Friday night still stings, but knowing that I was just outplayed makes me want to work that much harder and the new season begins next week.

7. Mortgage refinancing in the current climate makes my head spin.

8. Puppies can be a bit too enthusiastic at the wrong times, like thinking Jax was a new playmate when he was crawling towards her on the floor. The ensuing collision was not a pretty sight.

9. Opening Day is two weeks away, and hope springs eternal as the O's take the field. I finally received my free t-shirts from the O's for being a season ticket plan holder--so now I fee like a true fan!

10. When you turn the heat off because the doors and windows are open during the day, remember to turn it back on before going to bed or else it will be 59 degrees in the house when you get up. Frost on the coffee pot is a bad thing.

11. My list of "to-do's" exceeds my time available.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Weddings Can Be Fun

What a great weekend I had last weekend.

To begin with it turned into a four-day weekend and travel to Houston. Who is going to complain about a four-day weekend? The air travel--well it's air travel. I learned that Continental really likes to fly full airplanes!

But the most fun was getting together with my family--my brother, sisters, Mom and Dad and spouses and children (except for mine!) and celebrating the beginning of a new life together--a wedding.
What a great event.
It was good to get away and reconnect and hopefully stay in touch, thin time, with the family. It is so easy to become disconnected from.

We sometime become so entrenched on our own lives and our own "must-do's" that staying connected becomes difficult.

So from weddings we learn about connectedness and the value of family. That's why we all gather to celebrate together--because we are each important.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Monday Musings on Tuesday: Air Travel

OK--so in week 2, I missed Monday.

But, I was traveling and have an excuse.

So here are the Monday Musings, on Tuesday:

1. Air travel has become a real pain. I feel like the next thing they are going to want us to do is load the bags into the airplane ourselves.

2. What extra service do you get for the $15 per bag charge on airplanes? They take longer to collect when you get there. It took an hour after we landed in Houston to get our one piece of checked baggage. And why did we check it? Because of the liquids necessary to make women look pretty in the morning.

3. Direct flights are THE way to fly!

4. Continental Airlines still serves snacks on board. Who knew?

5. The weather in Houston was just like the weather in Baltimore--awful.

6. Houston Intercontinental Airport is TOO BIG!

7. The TSA likes to change things up just to keep everyone uneasy about air travel.

8. Leave on the noon-time flights, there will be fewer people in line ahead of you. This was borne out by the fact that we departed form Baltimore on a Friday at noon--and had a real short wait at the security check point, and even leaving Houston on a Monday about noon-time, there were almost "no lines, no waiting!"

9. Everything is bigger in Texas. Check it out for yourself.

10. I learned that Stephen F. Austin college is making their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance as a 14 seed.. Everyone in Houston is excited. Too bad they face Syracuse (A 3 seed)!

11. Low-level supersonic describes the trip to the airport in Houston after my sister realized we were leaving too late.

12. Fulshear, Texas IS the middle of no where! But they don't have many distractions around either.

Friday, March 13, 2009


So here I am, sitting in the airport waiting to depart on a flight. Flying has become way too much like taking a bus trip.

We arrived early, so as not to miss our flight and now we get to wait. Had we waited to arrive, we would likely have gotten caught in a long line and missed our flight causing stress and more waiting. The paradox of flying. The more I do to be efficient I always get to wait.

And here's the really cool part. We pay for this experience.

They've just announced the flight is full. Great. That means no room. All seats taken and I get to become real familiar with a seat mate.

Love it a lot.

But at the other end we'll see family and friends so it is worth it.
Bob Doan
Elkridge, MD
Sent from My Blackberry

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Possums Vinyard Shiraz 2004

Possums Vineyard McLaren Vale Shiraz 2004 is one of those awesome wines that is just a joy to enjoy. I found this wine at a tasting and fell in love with it immediately. Be sure to get the McLaren Vale Shiraz as Possums does have another Shiraz offering that I have not tasted.

It has a silky rich texture, a superior color and a nose that tingles the palette even before the first drop of wine enters the mouth. I spent a great deal of time just swirling and enjoying the wine even before I tasted it.

The winery describes it in the following manner: A full bodied wine with purple and violet hues with flavours of ripe berry fruits and smoky oak characters from ageing in a mixture of French and American oak barrels.

I believe they are being too modest. This wine is special--being one of those $20 per bottle wines that will garner respect and praise for having a well developed palette all evening. The berry flavors with chocolate and a hint of licorice bring it all together. Of course I have a special weakness for Shiraz anyway.

I am a wine drinker--but one glass of this wine was a complete experience. I guess I cannot recommend this wine highly enough. It was awesome served with steak. It held its own and complimented the meat very nicely.

RECOMMENDATION: Add this wine to your cellar and serve it to your best friends and those you are trying to impress. You and they will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Travel and Clothing

I came to realize yesterday, and it actually confirmed something I guess I've known for a while, men and women are REALLY different.

So Chris and I are conversing for a few precious minutes and planning for the evening over a late glass of wine. And the topic of discussion is: laying out clothing for the upcoming jaunt to Houston this weekend!


It is Tuesday night, we haven't seen each other for most of the week due to divergent schedules Monday night and the most scintillating thing we can talk about is the need to lay out outfits for the weekend?

Of course right up there in second place was making sure the house was clean for the cleaning lady! Something which never ceases to amaze me--if we start with a clean house, what are we paying for?

Wow--I would much rather have discussed the O's or hockey. Actually i was trying to watch a recorded O's spring training game against the Redsox at the time. Plans for tonight would be good, too. But clothing options for the weekend? I'll figure mine out as I throw them into the suitcase Friday before I leave for the airport.

So clothing vs sports!

The weekend is days away. Where are we going? I have all Friday morning to worry about it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Daylight Savings and Sunrises

I came out of the club this morning after an invigorating racquetball match to be greeted by darkness again. The darkness--the result of daylight savings time--reminded me how much I love the dawn and coming out of the club into the light of a new day. Just last week the sun was rising as did my spirits as I walked to my car after grueling racquetball matches.
I love starting my day with racquetball. It gets the body moving and in tune for the rest of the day. After a weekend, racquetball helps get those muscles moving again and back into tone.

In two weeks--dawn will be at 6:37 am--which is about when I walk out of the club. In a month--sunrise will be at 6:39 am--which means I will be treated to the rising sun on the horizon as I walk out the doors of the club. But, sadly, in 6 months dawn will again be back to about 6:42 am, meaning that the summer is about over and the dark season is beginning again. Wow--how quickly it all goes away.

But there sure is a lot of fun in between now and then.

And Patrick--if you click on the properties for this picture to see the title--you might get a bit of a surprise. Think about an early morning dive in this lake and tell me if you're game sometime.

So what is the advantage of daylight savings time? Most people like that it is lighter longer into the evening and we can get more chores done around the house and enjoy outdoor activities when the weather is mild. I like it because I get to enjoy more sunrises and I prefer sunrises to sunsets! I remember when Chris and I were younger and would do dumb things like driving through the night to get somewhere. Twenty-four or twenty-seven hours on the road switching off driving every couple hours. I always loved driving when the sun was coming up as the world awoke to the hope of a new day.

Mark 16:2 "And very early on the first day of the week, at sunrise, they went to the tomb." (NET Bible)

In reflecting on sunrises--I was reminded that our whole confidence in eternal life in Christ began on a Sunday morning at sunrise!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Monday's Musings -- An Attempt at at Weekly Thought Piece - March 9th

Well--I like what a lot of people do--with their weekly lists of things and happenings and decided that no good idea should go unplagurized.

So here goes--only in my list there isn't a requisite number of items:

1. Jax is a miracle baby and the parties this weekend celebrating his first year only served to demonstrate how much of a miracle he is. He is an awesome Child of God. I love his smile and bright eyes.

2. There is nothing better than sitting on the back deck, on March 8th, in the early evening with the temperature in the 70's enjoying wine, cheese, and crackers with Chris.

3. I wish the phone wouldn't ring 8 times while we are trying to enjoy wine and cheese on an awesome Sunday afternoon in March.

4. I can do brakes on a car--and my kids know this. At least it is a reason for them to come over and visit--both boys have visited in the past two weeks.

5. The more Chris gets frustrated with Makayla, the more I laugh--especially when she is eating the blooms off the newly planted pansies. There is just something funny about the two of them when they go at it. And Makayla usually comes away with the upper hand (paw?).

6. I wish Makayla would not try to "play" with Zachary. It just gets too loud in the room.

7. Why do the leaves return so quickly after we remove them from the yard? Is it a conspiracy by the gnomes? Do the trees have it in for us? What did I do to deserve so many leaves? And we still have three trees which have not shed all of their leaves, yet! Ugh!

8. Temperatures of 76 degrees in early March in Maryland make it more likely that the pool will be open sooner than later. At least I can dream about it. Of course if this were Florida--the pool would never have been closed in the first place.

9. I feel like a real "He-man" because I had to get another chain saw blade due to dulling of the one that came with my chain saw. Walnut really dulls a saw blade quickly. My neighbor and also another friend at work both told me they have 4 blades for their saws for this very reason. Who knew that chain saws could be that much fun?

10. It really is true that weddings and funerals bring families together. Good for the first and way too bad for the second. Ought there not be another reason to get together to celebrate? But next weekend we'll be in Houston for a wedding--and we are looking forward to it. Although the weather looks questionable right now--I'm not sure the weather forecasters really forecast anything--they make it up as they go. So I'm hoping for sunny and 80 degrees! For me--anything over 60 is a bonus.

11. We left our previous church a year ago--trusting God that we were following His leading. In reflecting yesterday, together, on the deck with wine, cheese, crackers, and the notes from the message given in our "new" church warlier in the day; we came to understand the degree to which this was really true. The past year has not been easy in this regard and the broken relationships still cause pain--but, we are growing again and healing. And we are becoming ready to begin serving again in some capacity.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Speed Puppy

This is fun. Racing across the pool cover with the pool so full the water laps at my feet.

I'm a speedy dog.

Faster than a a speeding bullet. .

More powerful than a Rottweiler.

Able to leap tall logs in a single bound.

Able to run across pool covers at speeds approaching the speed of sound!

I'm super Makayla!

I live the life of a quiet puppy and pet, but at night I become a super hero! Speedy Dawg.
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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Equipping the Team for Success

I was reminded about an important aspect of leadership while in church the other day.

Good leaders equip their team members to do the work. The real problem is when the leader abrogates this important task and forgets how to interact and equip the team members.

This is biblical! Read Ephesians 4:11-12. It speaks to the leaders and what they are supposed to do for the team members--equip them.

"It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ," (Eph 4:11-12, NET Bible)

These verses struck me as being applicable to many areas of life--and especially teams. Churches are, after all, teams of people working together for an important outcome. The world borrows lots of ideas from the Church and then changes them a bit and calls them the product of "Renaissance thinking" or some other moniker. But we know where they really come from.

This concept works for teams. The leaders need to equip the team members to do their jobs. The leaders must not do the jobs--but be about getting the resources, and training, and developing the enthusiasm in the team to successfully accomplish the mission or task.

I've been part of teams where the leader has great ideas, and great vision; but doesn't provide the team members the skills or the desire to achieve the end state. It is sad. Because the ideas are great. But the execution fails because the leader isn't doing the job and therefore, the team can't do its job.

Churches can be like this too. With paid staffs and professional pastors, the membership may develop the idea that if they throw enough money at the problem--they will succeed. That is a sure sign that the pastors and teachers aren't doing their jobs--equipping the members to do the work. Somewhere the idea gets turned that the pastors and teachers are doing the work. And some pastors may thrive on this--being the key cog in the wheel. These pastors may even be afraid that if the team gets too good, they won't be needed. But it's not true.

Sometimes team leaders are their own worst enemies, too. They say they want the team members to move out and do the work--but when it comes right down to it they are afraid to let the team do its mission. They throw up roadblocks to success--their own success as it would be. The create a dysfunctional dependency-based relationship where the team cannot--no is not allowed, to do its work without the direct and intimate involvement of the leader. How are they going to learn?

I have seen this over and over again. Leaders cripple rather than equip their team because they are afraid the team won't need them.

I think what this verse and what I take away from all of this is--charge them up and send them out.

Equip the team for success. Give the team members the tools and enthusiasm to do their tasks and then LET THEM DO IT! Yeah, there will be mistakes, but consider these as teaching points.

The team will be stronger and will begin to meet is tasks and perform its mission and purpose.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Saturday Night Out--at Church?

You know we keep churches in a real box. Plan the week to go to church for an hour or so on Sunday. Multiple services sandwiched back-to-back don't leave much time for doing something radically different.

Saturday night--Feb 28th was different. One service--lasting 2 and a half hours complete with two 40 minute messages and some really awesome music to kick off a new series of study.

Sometimes you have to do something different to have really awesome God experience. And worshiping with 1300 other people is not something that happens to me every day. The band rocked and God was glorified.

In the same way we keep churches in boxes, we often keep God in a small manageable box as well.

But for us we need to remember Romans 6:23. And a God that can save us from our sin and death should not be kept in a box.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Miracle Baby Jax turns One!!

It is true--the miracle baby turns one today!!!

Jackson Gray, the child that was the object of so many prayers and who demonstrated God's love in a most personal way turns one and is the light of many lives.

This shot is from Disney--but he is climbing stairs and really coming into himself.  And he is the cutest thing going.

It has been a great year of watching Jax grow and develop. He is funny and has a genuinely good sense of humor. And I love the way he smiles--not just with his mouth--but his whole face and even his eyes light up.  A smile designed to melt the coldest heart.

Happy Birthday Jax-- you are a great kid.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What a Great Gift

Thanks Mommy! I love to dig and I love dirt. Who knew that you thought of everything and I have my own personal sand (dirt) box?

Wow this is great. I bet there are lots of treasures here. I know there are a lot of peanuts. Squirrels. I love those tree rodents.

The dead plant needs to go though. No problem--I'll dig it out and then play with it all around the deck.

Boy what a great view I have from up here.

Mommy--why aren't you amused that there is dirt all over the deck and me? I thought that was what the play box was for--digging and spreading out?

I love Saturdays they are such fun.
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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Helping Daddy with the Pool

The amount of help I get while doing normal maintenance tasks can be really amazing. Makayla just wants to be part of everything I do.

That can be good or bad. In this case there was some risk that she would fall into the pool as I was lowering the water level in advance of the expected storms.

But Makayla was just enjoying racing around the pool cover. Boy will she be in for a surprise when we are ready to actually open the pool.

I wound up closing the cover over the opening to ensure she wouldn't accidentally become a statistic. The water looked pretty cold--and it was cold. But still clear. So I'm excited about pool opening day!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day - This is March?

I am continually amazed about how the entire region I live in gets excited about the prospect of a snow day!

It began yesterday and by evening everyone was convinced that we would get an unscheduled holiday--and it happened just that way.

The schools are closed and I even got a day off to deal with the white stuff falling from the sky.

And of course you know how I feel about snow--white, fluffy, cold and a real pain. Send me to a sandy beach with palm trees and a place to lie and soak up some rays!

A Nor'easter--brings terror to the hearts of mariners, but to those in the Baltimore-D.C. area it brings a holiday of sorts.

Of course the flag on the front of the house says it all-- "It's Five O'clock Somewhere." And the reflection of the fire in the window of snow, shows how we are dealing with the cold, white stuff. I'm reminded of a song that goes, "O the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful!"

Wine Tasting Saturday

Saturday, the last day of February we had a very enjoyable experience in attending a wine tasting. We made our second ever visit to the Iron Bridge Wine Company to taste some wines and enjoy some food with friends.

We actually started with the reds since we really prefer reds. The tasting was excellent and we were able to taste a wide variety of wines and even bought a few.

Attending these is a lot of fun and allows the tasting of wines we otherwise might not get to enjoy. There were a number of gems in the wines we tasted and I will be reviewing a couple of them in the near future.

Two that both Chris and I enjoyed were:
Possum's Vineyard Shiraz, 2004, McLaren Vale, Australia and
Mas des Aveylans "Cuvee Prestige" Syrah, 2004 Rhone Valley, France.

Bottom line though--a great Saturday afternoon activity.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I Have an Idea

Think about it. What does the look on this child's face portray? Someone is going to hear about a great idea welling up in the mind of the cutest 3-year old in the world! And that someone is probably Gramma!

And yes--this was taken during our visit to the B&O Train Museum and Ethan was on overload with great ideas!

And this one is for his Mom. Who says he doesn't smile for pictures? This is a smile. Sort of.

Ah the joys of a creative mind and a devious spirit!

And of course, the joys of being three and free. When the biggest decision of the day is do I chase the dog or beat on my brother, again.

One more time then--I have an idea and you are bout to hear about it.
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