Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Internal Struggle

I'm trying to wrap up paper #4 for my seminary class before I leave for Mexico on Friday.  This one is to be written about the purpose and function of the tithe in the OT.

I geared my direction of the paper around not utilizing sources outside of the Bible and our assigned course commentary, just like I have in my previous three papers.

I'm wrapping up page 5 (it has to be between 7 and 10 pages), and I just hit the point where I'm seeing the potential discussion points swell, and how much my paper would be enhanced by researching some outside sources for inclusion in this paper.

But I would need more time than I have before I leave to expand it and make sure I maintain cohesive quality.  I so desperately do not want to ask for an extension on this.  I've done very well in the class so far, and I know I could probably get one if I sent the prof what I have and say that I want to make it better, but I think I care more about not having to ask for an extension.  I would rather this professor remember me for not being an inconvenience to his schedule by asking to turn a paper in a week and a half late and writing a mediocre paper, than writing a stellar paper and interrupting his expected work flow.

Okay, now that debate is resolved in my head.  I get distracted very easily.  Back to writing.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Mexico Countdown

I can't really say, "it feels real now," because it's always felt that way.  The impending arrival of our leave date hasn't snuck up on me in any sense.

We had our final team meeting today, and it was very productive.  I finally received the packing list.  Two things really made me breathe a sigh of relief: 1) air mattresses and 2) kids are not allowed to bring electronics.

We are tent camping in a secured compound just south of the border.  Our Jr. High pastor comes across as pretty no frills, so I was presuming we were laying our sleep bags directly on the floor of the tent on the dirt or concrete.  I normally have no problem saying I need an air mattress for my back issues and my sleep issues, but I really struggle with being an exception when we're trying to teach the Jr. Highers about servant leadership, especially when they usually can't see an exception for anything more than "he gets something that I don't," and not being able to acknowledge how much easier they can function for a week on interrupted sleep than a 28-year-old can.

One of my biggest pet peeves (okay, I have a long list of them, but this is near the top) is kids' addiction to electronics.  I think there is immense value in letting kids get bored and forcing them to observe the world around them.  I read an article once that touted one of the benefits of summer is having kids get bored enough to make their minds wander.  That point is where concepts can start to gel, and all the "book learnin'" from school can start to come together for them.  So I'm glad that we're presenting a consistent message on this.  Kids have been told to have their parents' numbers written down and that they can use an adult's cell phone to call to establish ETA for the return trip (and we have all the emergency contact slips with us), so there will be no need for them to have any electronics.

I think I'm almost ready with setting up my coworkers for me to be gone from Friday through the Monday after Easter, but it may be a little tight getting all my reports done.

My main stressors right now are my next seminary paper and my arm.  The paper is due this Saturday, but I need to have it done on Thursday, as well as knock out a quiz and a couple online forum posts that would be due the next week that I probably won't be back online with coherency to complete by that Saturday.

With my arm, I had blood work done two weeks ago, and the nurse who drew me messed up.  On the first attempt, she missed the vein.  On the second attempt, she got the blood but must have nicked a nerve in there, because my whole arm was throbbing after I left the Dr's office.  The pain would ebb and flow, but never truly subsided.  I finally went back in a week later, and they put me on the strong pain meds to sleep at night because the pain was waking me up.  Yesterday I was finally able to do a couple push-ups and pull-ups for the first time since the draw, and the pain is much more localized today instead of being throughout the whole arm, so I'm hopefully on the mend.  Just in time to go do a week of construction work in Mexico.

I'm also not crazy about the only getting one shower thing (on Thursday), but oh well.

Okay God, you've got this.  Here go I in faith.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Seminary Papers

I hate writing papers.  Hate is too soft of a word for my feelings actually.  Oh, to go back to writing technical accounting memos that did not have a required length and where brevity was celebrated.

I sit here trying to wrap up paper #3 (of 5) for this seminary class, and I’m just spent.

I must acknowledge, though, that my professor for this course has been amazingly helpful.  He’s given feedback on outlines, advised me mid-paper, and showed a great deal of compassion.  At the beginning of the course, when I expressed my trepidation over the papers in our “get to know you” online class forum, he responded, “I'm not expecting publishable-quality composition. I hope this isn't a generational thing about learning, but I feel that it is important to be able to think through a given topic (any topic, not just biblical), then put those thoughts down on paper in a coherent, concise, and well-written (English composition--grammar, spelling, sentence construction) manner….I'll work with you on this!”

That explanation of his purpose of assigning papers (for our benefit and edification, not just as an arbitrary assignment), was immensely helpful to me.

And I must admit that I am learning an incredible amount more about the God and the Bible through writing these.  I’m getting way more out of these than any paper I wrote for my bachelor’s degree.

But it doesn’t make me like the process of writing them.  Five pages down, two to go.  I want this done before I hit the road for Orange County tomorrow so I can enjoy that free of this dreaded assignment.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lost & Found

Ever since December, I have started down a scary path of losing and forgetting things. To date, this is the list of items gone missing:
  • iPod shuffle
  • a credit card
  • CD walkman
  • and two or three other things I can't remember right now (seriously)
I'm blaming this on a combination of work stress and a lack of prep in hosting. The work stress is self-explanatory. But I did so much hosting in December for various things, that in the last-minute rush before guests arrived, I would shove the last bit of stuff away somewhere to deal with later. It happened so many times that I forgot some of my hiding places.

I have scoured this house and my car for these items many times over. It's been driving me crazy.

The iPod shuffle was the worst, because it requires either music or a running partner to get me to run longer distances (or run, period). My main running partner is not waterproof, so she kept canceling on me due to rain. I went almost a month without running. When I started again a month ago, I wasn't able to cross the 4.5-mile hurdle.

I finally gave in and bought a new one on Amazon last week. It arrived Thursday. The night before, I found the old one! It was under the front seat of the car. I had looked and felt under there countless times. It was underneath the car alarm Mike had helped me disconnect back in early December. The alarm unit is only about 3" x 3" in size. In all that time, I would have expected it to shift around that I would have seen the iPod shuffle or the cord at some point, but no such luck. I just hadn't bothered to take the alarm unit out of the car. Oh well, at least I have one for the Blossom Trail race.

The credit card I found a few weeks later in a sweater. Pockets are the main places I keep checking. I'm baffled at how I still haven't come across some of this stuff yet.

Just more evidence that I'm really losing it.  :-)

Monday, March 4, 2013

And day 2 of vacation goes like this...

I slept, but not great.  Oh well.  I haven't been able to shake the nasal congestion from the head cold I had at the beginning of the week.  I've been using afrin spray a few times a day and snore strips at night, and it helps, but hasn't resolved it all.  So not being able to breathe through my nose wakes me up.

At 7 a.m. I gave up on sleeping and went back out to the pool.  I had woken up with a persistent but low-grade cramp in my right calf (probably a combo of a hard run and driving so long), so I was hoping this would help unlock it.  This time I had it to myself.  I sat in the hot tub for awhile, did a few laps in the pool and then back to the hot tub for awhile.

I showered off, at breakfast out of the bag of food I had packed, and then decided to go for a walk.  I hadn't brought any running stuff because I hadn't anticipated wanting to run that soon after the race.  So I just walked down Vine Street and then back up for probably half an hour.  It's very rare for me to go out and walk anywhere.  I'm trying to practice keeping my head up for better posture and for appreciating scenery.  I habitually look down when I'm running for two reasons: 1) I want to quickly identify anything that might trip me, and 2) I give up and walk if I see how far I still have to go, so I keep my eyes low so that I can only seen 10-20 feet in front of me and keep telling myself I only have to make it that far.  So I need to psychologically get past #2, and start appreciating the beauty around me.  I'm a work in progress.

Normally when I go out of town on a weekend, I like to find a church to visit.  However, being unscheduled was so critical to me that I didn't do any research in advance, even down to not asking the desk clerk about any church info.  Usually I find attempts to do so very stressful and frustrating because churches are typically terrible about making location and service times readily available to out-of-towners (pamphlets at hotels, website, and answering machines).

When I got back to the hotel, I decided to give it a try.  I requested a late checkout and got 1 p.m., so that should give me time to get back from anywhere and pack up afterward.  The front desk had a packet giving service times and directions to four churches.  The last two had already passed.  My remaining choices were Assemblies of God (10a) and a non-denominational church (10:30a).  I decided to try to get to the AG church first.

That attempt could be a whole blog in itself.  It was supposed to be 1 mile away from the hotel.  I followed the very simple directions and found myself at a residential neighborhood intersection.  No church, no significant volume of cars, no people walking anywhere, nothing.  I tried mapping the address on my phone, and it said I was already there.  I tried searching for "Assemblies of God, Paso Robles, CA," and the result was the non-existent address where I was.  The hotel packet had a number, so I decided to call it.  To my surprise, someone answered (church was scheduled to start in 5 minutes).  To summarize, the woman on the other end of the call confirmed that I was calling an AG church, but she wasn't sure of the address, but she thought it was on 13th St (where I was).  She seemed very confused by the fact that anyone would have trouble finding her church.  I asked how long the church had been in its mystery spot, and she responded "forever."  She proceeded to describe various features of the building.  I gave up, thanked her and said good-bye.  It was one of those, "You! Off the planet!" phone calls.  I even tried driving down 13th, wondering if I might find it.  No luck.

So onto the non-denominational church.  It wasn't easy to find, because the directions were vague, but I made it!  It was "get to know you" Sunday for them, so they had a table out with sticker name tags and markers.  It was a very casual church, so I fit in perfectly with jeans, a dress shirt and tennis shoes.  The building felt small, mainly because of how many chairs were packed in the the sanctuary.  While I think it's great to get every seated in the service, it made it very hard to get across the sanctuary to the restroom, and would be a fire hazard for a "say hi to five people you haven't met yet."  I did introduce myself and speak to the couple sitting next to me, Jordan and Marin.  She's pregnant with their second child and they just moved back to the area a month ago after living in L.A. for a few years.

The pastor had a very pun-ny sense of humor, and goofy demeanor.  Halfway through the sermon I started writing down his jokes because they were SO awful they were hilarious.  He announced we'd be reading out of the ESV, the Extra Spiritual Version.  At the beginning, he had said that this was going to be a "fun outline" because of the alliteration.  Three bullet points, one starting with "I" and the other two with "A."  I let that one go.  We were going through the last part of Philippians 3, and midway through the sermon he said, "Remember that joke I told a few weeks ago, that really bad one?"  He referenced it in succession a couple more times before finally releasing it:  Philippi was a province of Rome.  So Philippi was Paul's Rome away from Rome.  I died laughing.  Thankfully a few others in the congregation were chuckling, because I was having trouble regaining composure, and I was sitting directly in the middle, only about four rows back.

I didn't linger afterward because 1) I was hungry, 2) it was so crowded it wasn't comfortable to mingle and meet people, and 3) my checkout time was fast-approaching.  I dashed back to the hotel and had all my stuff out of the room at 12:58.  I asked Obed at the front desk for a good but cheap local place to grab lunch and he gave me some suggestions.  I ended up at a pub where I ordered an ABC burger (avocado, bacon and cheddar).  It came with garlic fries.  The whole meal was so delicious and way more than I should have eaten, but I couldn't stop.  I was so full leaving that place.

I had originally wanted to get in a hike or a trip to the beach, but it was 2 p.m., and either one would have been at least an hour or two of a time commitment, so I decided I was good with the R&R I had enjoyed, and turned Harry (my 99 RAV4) homeward bound.

I stopped in again at San Antonio Winery and Elise was there again.  She served me another few tastings and we chatted for a bit more.  I decided to buy a bottle of Asti while I was there, and she gave me the three-bottle discount because I had purchased yesterday as well, even though this only made two bottles purchased.  For as cheap as I am, I like to deliberately spend and make an effort to support local businesses, especially ones with this welcoming of an atmosphere and where they don't charge for their tastings.  I want to prove to them that their business model works.

Lupe had recommended a couple of other wineries last night while we were talking out at the pool: Broken Earth and Tobin James.  I was watching for them and ended up pulling off a little early.  I walked into Vina Robles.  I asked the greeter specifically if their wines were more sweet or more dry, stating that I enjoyed the sweeter wines.  She got so excited and gushed about their sweet wines, and ushered me to the back.  The tasting servers told me they mainly make drier wines.  I did a sampling of the whites (not complimentary), which except for the Savignon Blanc, were very good, but I left disappointed at either the greeter's idiocy or her deception.  I'm not sure which it was, but suspected the former.  There was another winery on the other side of the driveway, Robert Hall, and so I decided to stop in and see what they had before I committed to a tasting.  They were very upfront about what they had, and after hearing my mini-sob story, poured me a tasting of their moscato free of the normal charge.

I continued on, stopped at Broken Earth, mildly impressed with their selection, but more with their patio and view.  I just sat for a while on the deck enjoying it all before getting in my car.  I ended up skipping Tobin James because my sister Joy called and we were talking about plans for her upcoming graduation.

I arrived home around 6:30, just in time for a game night with my small group.  I decided not to even go home first because I knew I'd get busy with unpacking and checking out the water issue.  I did do something pretty drastic and purchase a car wash on the way to Katie's.  My windshield was so bug-ridden that I decided it was worth the $5.

After the game night, I went home and found the water had receded.  I still was having the plumber come out to snake the drain so it wouldn't reoccur, but I was glad not to have to sleep with the stench of the backed up water.

Hands down an excellent time away from home.  I was simultaneously exhausted and rested.  Now back to real life.  I have a lot to get done before my trip to Orange County next weekend.  Work, one more seminary paper, a LOT of seminary reading, and various other obligations.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Finally Away!

As I sit here at the Courtyard Marriott in Paso Robles, I feel so relaxed.  I was so desperate to get out of town.

I ran the Blossom Trail 10K with my coworkers this morning in Sanger, and had a wonderful time.  The company I work for sponsors the race each year, and they purchase a number of entries for us to participate.  If not for it being a "showing company spirit," I wouldn't have stuck around for the race and would have left town the night before.  I think I came in first in the Company, and I think I set a new PR for myself at 51m53s.  It would have been lower, except I was following the herd, and the herd missed a turn and went around an extra (but small) residential block, adding about 0.13 miles to our course.  Looking back, there was an arrow on the pavement, but no signage, and since the first guy missed it, most of us missed it.  Somewhere after me, somebody figured it out, because I passed on of my coworkers twice: once right before my wrong (lack of a) turn, and once shortly after we were back on course.

Afterward I came home to finish packing and do a little house cleaning.  Right as I was ready to go, I noticed an odor in my bathroom.  The tub had about two inches of water in it.  So did both of the showers.  Ugh.  I called a plumber and described the situation.  He figured it was a backup of the drain, and that the water levels would only rise if more water went into the drain by turning on the faucet or flushing the toilets.  He reassured me that it was unlikely to get any worse and that it could wait until Monday.  I poured some bleach in each area, and cracked the windows to vent it out.  I wasn't about to let this ruin my weekend.

It is weekends like this one that I am so grateful for my traveling with my old job.  I have racked up a lot of hotel rewards points from my extensive travel, mostly with Marriott.  I always had in mind that I was saving them for an awesome honeymoon.  But since my wife has yet to show up, I've decided to start enjoying the use of some of these points.  And I actually have to have some activity on my account each year

It took awhile to get on the road, but I was finally on the freeway at 2:15p because of other interruptions and errands.

I stopped at two wineries on my way to the hotel, Eberle (German for small, wild boar, BTW) and San Antonio Winery, both wonderful.

At Eberle, a woman named Kathy served my tastings.  She was a hoot!  Probably in her 50's, she would pinch her nose and say "voignier" in a high nasally voice just for laughs.  She said they offer five complimentary tastings, but in a hushed tone, she admitted to being lousy at keeping count.  I enjoyed their wines, my favorite being a blend of three whites and a sweet muscat wine.  They had a beautiful deck and hill-top view, so instead of buying a bottle to take home, I just ordered a glass of the muscat and enjoyed the beautiful overcast afternoon.  Sweater weather, but not overly windy or freezing.  It had taken me this long to get here, I figured it was time to stop rushing.

Elise served my tastings at San Antonio Winery.  I had discovered this winery on my trip out this way last year and knew I wanted to visit again.  I purchased a bottle of a sweet red wine that I enjoyed because it's rare for me to find a red wine that I like.

I stopped at A&W for dinner.  I figured that since I ran a 10K that morning, I had earned a root beer float.  Absolutely delicious!

I then checked into the hotel and read for a little while.  I am behind on my reading for seminary and am really working to catch up.  After cranking out a couple of chapters, I donned swim trunks and headed out to the pool.  A young family was there, so I just sat in the hot tub and talked with them for awhile.  Lupe and her fiance Robert were enjoying a bottle of wine while her daughter Diana and niece Leila were alternating between the hot tub and the pool.  They live in Bakersfield (I gave them my sympathies).  Robert used to live in Fresno, and he says he misses it.  Robert is a police officer, and Lupe is a hospice nurse.  They are getting married out here in three months, and are attending a wedding expo tomorrow to help finalize some of their plans.  I did go over once and crank out some laps in the pool, but I tired out pretty quickly.  I figured I did enough to help loosen the muscles.

Then back to the hotel room for some blogging and now off to bed.  No alarm is set for tomorrow, and agenda is entirely TBD!