A birthday letter to my firstborn

Dear Bean,

When I awoke this morning and remembered that today was your birthday, scenes from the past floated across the screen of my mind. Although it lasted just a few minutes, what I saw this morning has dramatically changed my perspective on our lives.

 I believe that your mother and I learned of your conception on Sunday afternoon, June 1, 1986. I conclude that because I recorded the event in my “Family History-1986” file under the month of June.

I deduce that exact date because I have an entry in my prayer records on June 2nd where the Lord promised, “I will teach you to be a father.” That would not have meant much to me unless I had recently learned that I was going to become one!

While I usually have to take a moment to remember what I did last weekend, I remember the moment that we learned of your existence quite well.

It was around 3:30-4:00 in the afternoon. Mom, being now several weeks past her normal cycle, stepped into the small master bath to take her first pregnancy test.

I was laying on our brass bed in the master bedroom at our house in Mar Vista, CA wearing straight legged blue jeans, a red short-sleeved pullover shirt with a white collar, a brown belt and my favorite brown shoes.

When she said, “It ‘s positive…I’m pregnant,” it felt like a bomb exploded above me, releasing an avalanche of responsibility down on me.

In an instant, everything changed.

My mind raced…

“…She’s not going to be able to work!

“…That means that I have to graduate quickly!

“…But how am I going to do that? I still have 60 more credit hours to complete!”

“…This wasn’t supposed to happen!…at least not this soon!”

Just a few months earlier in January on a nationwide satellite prayer meeting, the leader of our international ministry had forcefully encouraged all of the new young couples who were called to the ministry to wait at least two years before having children!

I didn’t want to call our pastor because, like many other young couples in our church at that time, we had decided to use natural family planning as our method of birth control. However, unlike the other couples, my wife was already pregnant before our third month anniversary!

I suppose that is what I get for expecting your mother to follow directions…

And lastly, I knew that neither of our parents would be thrilled with the news because I had just gone back to UCLA after a 2 1/2 year break and was within a week of completing my first quarter!

I knew of nowhere else to go so I turned to the Scriptures:

Psa 127:3 Behold, children are an heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is his reward.

I was overwhelmed…

 “That has to be true…

“God cannot lie…

“Children are a blessing…

“That has to be true!…

“Children are a blessing…”

And so I spent the rest of the evening confessing the Word hoping that some small bit of faith would enter my heart while your mother and I went and played tennis for the very first time.

Looking back now after this morning, it is easy to see that it truly was the goodness of God to give you to us so early in our marriage.

First, God used your arrival to speed my life up…

I immediately decided to attend both sessions of summer school. I went from being a 26 1/2 year old student with 5 quarters of school remaining to completing those 60 units and graduating in one year!

For the next six months, I continued working my 24 hour per week part-time job.

Then, despite the heavy academic load and work schedule, I became fruitful enough in campus ministry that the ministry’s international leader (the same one on the satellite broadcast back in January) told our pastor that I should quit my part-time job, raise financial support and become the director of UCLA’s campus ministry.

We did so well at raising support that I became the West Coast Regional Director for our ministry’s Partnership Development program. In fact, I had to fly back from helping teach at a national training event in Texas and drive directly to campus in order to attend my graduation ceremony!

Second, I have come to believe that God sent you and your brother and sisters to save our marriage.

Although your mother and I were both highly regarded followers of Christ, neither one of us were ready to be a husband or a wife. Our forays into sin had left both of our souls wounded, gnarled and twisted.

God, in His wisdom, saw that and mercifully sent you to us to occupy us with the new responsibility of being parents.

At that time in our life, those roles fit us better. I was better at being a father than a husband and she was better at being a mother than a wife.

Those years bought your mother and I enough time to heal and mature sufficiently so that we could prosper as husband and wife.

He was also merciful in giving us an easy first child…

I don’t mean that in the way you might think. I mean that we didn’t need very much discernment with you. It was easy for us to tell when you were ‘being bad’ and how we should handle it. God used you to gently start developing our philosophy of parenting and family.

Although we will likely never know with certainty, it is quite possible that you were conceived on your mother’s birthday.

I don’t say that because of any vivid memories of that evening!

I say that because, if my math is correct, you were born 289 days or 41+ weeks later and both Mom and I vaguely recall that you were a little late.

Also, now that I understand how “natural family planning” was supposed to work, I would bet good money that our charts would verify that your mother was a very fertile field right around that time!

And lastly, your mother took the pregnancy test about 7-8 weeks after her previous cycle.

If it is true, you were God’s birthday present to her that year. I had the pleasant task of being the delivery man!

I have told you many times that you were an ideal firstborn child for us. Tonight I tell you that you were a well-timed child and I am so glad that God interrupted our plans and sent you and your brother and sisters when He did.

Happy Birthday!

Love,

Dad

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Ambushed by my mother-in-law!

One of the signs that you are starting to get a little “long in the tooth” is that you and your friends spend a great deal of time conversing about your various ailments.

I hope this post is not a sign of things to come, but…

I am 54 years old…

I had my first colonoscopy this morning.

For my younger readers who might not know what that is, how shall I say this…It’s a video tour of your colon.

No, I am not kidding. My doctor gave me pictures to take home!

No, I will not post them!

If you are thinking, “But isn’t there…like…stuff in there?”

No, there isn’t. They take care of that the night before.

You know how Hollywood celebrities go on a radical diet before shooting a movie? Well, it’s kind of like that. The doctor prescribes this liquid, you drink it and then spend pretty much the whole night on the toilet getting ready for your time ‘before the camera’.

Needless to say, I was pretty tired when I got home.

In fact, I was too tired to want to do much of anything…no Internet, no serious reading…

As I laid down in bed, I saw a book that my mother-in-law had given us about 10 years ago called The Maker’s Diet. I picked it up so I could read a few pages just to make sure that I did not want to read it. Then I could put it in the Goodwill/For Sale box with a clean conscience. (I really like books!)

Sixty pages later, I finally put it down and so I could go to sleep!

The first chapter tells the author’s incredible battle against various mysterious ailments and all of the “natural”, “homeopathic” and “alternative” health remedies that he tried.

I was hooked…and I am glad about it. Talk about great timing!

In the days leading up to the colonoscopy, I had been thinking that if my intestine was going to be completely cleaned out, I should probably take some steps to rebuild my intestinal flora.

In fact, the first thing I did when we got home this morning was drink my first bottle of Lifeway kefir and take my first probiotic pill.

Guess what chapter three was about?

You guessed it…the importance of intestinal flora! I am so glad I picked this book up at this time! Stay tuned…

Oh, I almost forgot, the doc gave me a clean bill of health. No sign of cancer!

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Helping a young man escape a dastardly trap

As I was getting ready for bed last night, my phone rang. It was my son.

He had called earlier in the evening to express his frustrations that the car we had loaned him was costing too much money. I figured that he was calling to apologize for ending that call so abruptly.

He wasn’t…

He was even more ticked off than when he hung up!

Our 1990 Nissan Maxima had died on the way home from school. This was not one of the problems that were bothering him on the previous call. This was a new one.

Fortunately, he was only about 200 yards from his apartment.

As he described what happened, it sounded like a problem with the charging system. I commiserated with him and tried to encourage him by telling him that we could call AAA in the morning and tow the car to his mechanic.

When he started asking me details about how that would work, my brain started filling with fog…

“Dude, it is now long past my bedtime…

“I was already tired before you called…

“Your mother usually deals with AAA.…

I told him that I would get back to him in the morning.

It just so happened that my wife was visiting her parents in CA. I thanked God for the two hour time difference, called her, brought her up to speed and asked if she could help. She agreed to call AAA and make the necessary arrangements.

When I awoke in the morning, I saw a text saying that everything was taken care of with AAA. She had added him to our account so that he could call for a tow and had already communicated everything to Big A.

Ahhhh…while I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, I did manage to marry very well!

Everything was taken care of. What could possibly go wrong? People call AAA every day…We’ve called several times and each time things have been as smooth as pie.

At 11:15, I happened to glance at my phone and noticed that I had two missed calls. Big A had called me at 8:40 and 8:43. I had been in a meeting and had left my phone at my desk.

I called to see if everything had gone smoothly.

“Yeah. I called AAA and waited about 20 minutes. When the tow truck came, the driver said ‘I can tow it to your mechanic which is 13 miles away or do you want to take it to my mechanic which is just a few miles down the road?’ ”

“Oh, so you were calling for my advice.”

“Yes. I called you and then I called Mom.”

Mom wasn’t able to answer because she was in the middle of a call with our health insurance company.

“So what did you decide?”

“I told him that he could tow it to his mechanic since it is closer.”

“Did the mechanic say what he thought the problem was with the car?”

“He said it sounded like the alternator.”

“And did he say how much it will cost?”

“He said around $500.”

“WHAT? $500 TO FIX AN ALTERNATOR?”

My Spidey senses immediately started tingling

“What’s the name of the mechanic shop?”

A quick search on Google Maps didn’t really tell me much. But when I clicked on the little man to get the ‘Street View’, the picture became a little bit clearer.

The sign in front of the tow truck driver’s “mechanic” said it was a body shop!

“What’s the name of the company that towed it?”

I am sure that it is just a coincidence…but the towing company has the same address as the mechanic!

Hmmm….let me see if I can figure this out…

The driver tows the car to the mechanic who then charges higher rates to cover the kickback that he pays the driver for bringing him the business!

 I told Big A to get over there as quickly as he could and tell them not to do ANY work on the car.

I then called my local AAA in Kansas City. A young woman listened while I explained the whole situation and then said, “We have a policy of one tow per incident.”

“I realize that. I am asking if you would make an exception?”

To my surprise, she put me on hold.

After a long five minutes, she came back on the line and said, “Because of the extenuating circumstances and the fact that the car was not towed to the originally requested location, they decided that we will make an exception!”

I was hopeful while I was waiting on hold but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.

She then transferred me to the Philadelphia branch…

I then had to tell the entire story again.

As I finished, the young man said, “We have a tow truck on the way.”

“May I ask what company?”

THEY WERE SENDING THE SAME ONE!

I protested…

The operator didn’t see the problem.

“If I am right, and the towing company is in bed with the mechanic, it could get a little ugly !”

“Ohhh…”

He finally saw the light…

“OK. I need to go talk to dispatch so I am going to have to put you on hold.”

As soon as he put me on hold, my phone rang.

I didn’t recognize it but the (215) area code meant that it was from the Philadelphia area…

IT WAS THE ORIGINAL TOW TRUCK DRIVER!

And he was not calling to see how my day was going!

He growled, “You know this is a cash call…”

“I know that is the normal policy but AAA said that they are making an exception and are authorizing a second tow.”

“They are not! There is only one free tow per incident so this is going to be a cash call and it is thirteen miles to his mechanic.”

Allow me to translate: “Hey, *#&&-%+**, I am going to charge you so much money that you will wish you left it where it is!”

I figured that telling him what was really on my mind would not be helpful so I calmly replied, “That’s fine…I am on the phone with AAA and they are finding a different company to tow the car so you don’t have to worry about it.”

Conversation over! He hung up on me…without saying “Good-bye” I might add.

15-20 seconds later, I received a text from Big A saying that the car had to be off of the property by 4:00 or he would have to pay a $50 daily storage charge. It was 3:10 in Philly.

So their little mousetrap has an additional feature.…

The mechanic decides to fix the car right away. Maybe he calls to inform you or maybe you are supposed to call. It doesn’t matter to him because he is going to charge you $50/day for “storing” your car. What if you don’t have the money to pay for the repairs?

“Don’t worry about it…We’ll keep the car here until you can pay for the repairs.”

You get your paycheck an the end of the week and head down after work to go pay the $500 for the repairs. Ooops…they forgot to tell you…they close at 4:00! So, the next day, you leave work early and hear, “OK, that’ll be $500 for the repairs and $250 for storage.”

And, that my friend is how the game is played.

The AAA operator came back on. They had another towing company.

I quickly Googled it…

This company was right around the corner from “the mechanic”! A little doubt started to creep in…

“They will be there in 20-25 minutes.”

I looked an my watch…3:15! Man this is going to be close!

Fifteen minutes later, Big A called to tell me that the guy had arrived, picked up the car and they were on their way to his mechanic.

I then went into the nearest phone booth, slipped back into my ‘Clark Kent’ attire, went back to my desk and with adrenaline coursing through my arms, tried to act like nothing had happened.

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The unfair advantages of the fair sex

When I started my car after work on Friday afternoon, I headed straight to the muffler shop. it was quite obvious that I needed some work on my exhaust system.

When I pulled up, the guy said that there was no way he could get to it. He further informed me that he couldn’t do it on Saturday because he was heading out of town as soon as he finished the job he was working on and closed up shop.

I suppose that I could have just continue driving the car as it was, but I just can’t bear the thought of my car sounding like so many of the loud cars that drive by my house.

As I was leaving for work this morning, my wife said that she wouldn’t mind taking it to the shop. I printed out a map and gave her $160 cash.

I figured a small repair would cost $50-60. A major repair would definitely be north of $100.

The guy fixed the car for $20!

I think I am going to start doing all of the grocery shopping and send her to get all of my automotive work done!

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She’s a big girl!

This morning my youngest daughter left for Omaha, Nebraska. She was selected to help with the Grand Opening of the new Bonefish Grill.

At my direction, she drove the SuperCrew F150. I reasoned that since it is November and it is not uncommon for large amounts of snow to unexpectedly fall in Nebraska, I felt that she would be more comfortable if she were driving the vehicle that she uses on an every day basis.

Well, it turned out that the weather wasn’t the problem…

A few hours after she left, the truck started running roughly and the “Check Engine” light came on.

She called me…but I was in a meeting and couldn’t take the call.

She called her mother…but she was on the phone discussing the $865 lab bill with our health insurance company and couldn’t answer.

Instead of panicking, she called my mechanic and asked him what she should do!

She got off the freeway and asked the woman at the counter of the Love’s truck stop where she could find the nearest auto parts store.

“I have no idea.” The woman then pointed to a customer entering the front door, “But he can tell you.”

Cakes told him of her predicament.

“You don’t want to go to the auto parts store. I’ll give you the directions to my mechanic.”

When Cakes pulled up to the shop, there were three heavily tattooed men sitting around smoking cigarettes.

She thought, “Oh boy…here we go.”

She went in and explained the problem.

One guy went into the shop and hooked up his computer to figure out what was wrong with the engine.

Then, the situation got more interesting…

A police car pulled up.

As the cop stepped into the office and started talking with the second guy, the third guy walked out into the driveway and started talking to two rough looking Samoans that had just pulled up in an SUV!

While all of this was developing, the guy in the shop informed Cakes that one of the coils that supplies spark to the cylinders had gone bad. He said, “Usually, we would charge you for a new coil and then there would be labor. But, we happen to have a used one here…so I’ll put it in and there won’t be any charge for the labor.”

I don’t know if this sudden burst of generosity was inspired by the fact that a policeman was “interviewing” his buddy or not. Frankly, I don’t care. My daughter was safe, the truck was fixed and it only cost $40!

The whole episode was over in less than an hour!

When I finally spoke to Cakes on the phone, she excitedly told me the whole story and said, “I handled it all by myself! Daddy, I’m a big girl!”

I wholeheartedly agree.

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No Shave November

I received a text from my youngest daughter this morning…

“Can you do ‘No Shave November’ for me????”

I didn’t really want to. I don’t really understand when this started or what it’s all about…

Besides, when I grew my first beard earlier this year, my wife didn’t like it. She couldn’t get used to kissing me (yes, we still kiss!) with whiskers on my top lip.

Well, I like that my wife likes kissing me. Fun things seem to follow, if you know what I mean…

But then a thought entered my head…

“She’s leaving for a week and a half…so she won’t be around…so why should she care.”

I texted back…

“Since Mom is leaving me to spend time with another man for the next week and a half (she is flying back to California to visit her elderly parents), I am going to say yes…until Thanksgiving morning.”

Evidently, that made her morning…

“Haha, yayyy!!! :D…Maybe I’ll participate and not shave my legs ;)”

The last time that Cakes didn’t shave her legs for the month of November nearly drove my wife crazy. The thought of her coming back to Missouri with my face and Cake’s legs covered in hair is just too much fun.

I texted back…

“She will love that! Maybe if we both shave on Thanksgiving morning, she will REALLY be thankful.”

With that, I started growing my second beard. It will probably take me the whole month to actually grow one!

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But it’s the exact same thing!

Do  you remember when I went to the doctor for my first physical in nearly 7 years?

Just a plain old physical…nothing special.

Well, I got a surprise when I got home…

An $864 bill from the medical lab!!!

The only reason I decided to schedule it was because our health insurance covered all of the expenses when my wife had hers.

I guess I should have gone to my wife’s doctor!

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I just pulled up a stool at the bar

I made an appointment at the Apple Store Genius Bar.

I was hoping they wouldn’t give me any grief for buying my new machine at MicroCenter. But, now that I think about it, it’s actually their fault. It’s not my fault that they no longer carried the machine…

“SO DON’T GIVE ME NO STUFF!”

They didn’t.

I told them my predicament, the Genius plugged in his special gadget and 15 minutes later, I was headed back to the car with OS 10.6.8 installed.

I like Apple.

 

 

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Hey, it’s not working!

Aahhh, the excitement of a new computer…

How quickly it begins to fade!

Before I bought my new laptop, I asked the salesman if this computer would run Snow Leopard (Max OS 10.6). After talking with the tech geeks in the back of the store, he assured me that it would.

So, imagine my surprise when I stuck in my Snow Leopard disk, clicked the button to install the operating system and received an error message that I have never encountered.

“OK…fine…there is more than one way to skin a cat.”

I changed the settings and rebooted the machine directly from the Snow Leopard disk.

Everything was going fine until a grey curtain would start slowly dropping down from the top of the screen letting me know that I had caused a kernel panic.

For the uninitiated, a kernel panic is a message that basically says, “Dude, you have really screwed up. You are freaking this machine out!”

I got my old laptop out and did a quick search on the ‘Net…

“Good…I’m not the only one.”

I then tried the method recommended by the author…

The machine replied, “Sorry…you can’t do that!”

I went back and found the last ditch suggestion. I tried it…

The machine basically said, “Seriously? Is that all you got?”

“You are kidding me! Am I going to have to return this machine?”

I was a little animated when I called MicroCenter…

“Hey, I asked you guys specifically if this machine would run Snow Leopard and I was assured that it would.”

I then described the difficulties that I had encountered.

I heard the tech guy’s keyboard clicking away while he pulled up my order, then pulled up the specs on my specific machine.

“I am on Apple’s website and it says that your machine is designed to run OS 10.6.6 through OS 10.7.2.”

“Then why can’t I install it on the machine?”

“What are you using?”

“The disk I bought at the Apple Store.”

“That’s the problem.”

“What’s the problem?”

“Your disk is the retail version of Snow Leopard.”

“OK???”

“That is OS 10.6.3. The machine will only run OS 10.6.6 or later.”

“Where can I get a later version of the operating system?”

“You can’t.”

“Then what am I supposed to do?”

“I’m afraid you will have to go to the Apple Store.”

New computers are SO FUN!!!

 

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My bank thought I was moving a little too fast!

After I had cancelled my order with Apple last night, I asked the young man what was the nature of the problems with the payment. He replied that there were no funds in the account!

???

That gave me a little cause for concern because when I made the transfer, I confirmed that the money had been transferred from my checking account to the account that I use for purchases on the Internet. When I say that I confirmed it, I mean that I checked the balances in both accounts. The money had definitely been deducted from my checking account and had definitely been added to the Internet account.

After we got home from church this afternoon, I quickly changed my clothes and headed down to the family room and logged onto my bank’s website.

The balances in both accounts were now back to what they were before I made the transfer!

My best guess is that because I completed the transaction to purchase the computer within seconds of transferring the funds, I must have triggered some type of consumer protection mechanism against bank fraud.

I don’t really know…but, to quote the Grinch…

“That worked out nicely!”

I say that because I am now the proud owner of a brand new 17″ Unibody MacBook Pro that is covered for the next three years with AppleCare!

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