Thursday, September 16, 2010

Goodbye, Disney. Forever.

It is with great sadness...

Alright, I'm just messing about.  I'm not really saying goodbye to Disney forever.  How crazy would I have to be?!

This blog, however, is saying goodbye to posts about Disneyland.  

I've been doing some research on blogging lately, and reading quite a bit about multi-blogging (maintaining several of these bad boys at once).  It just seems as though my efforts would be best served by maintaining some semblance of focus.  Since this blog deals quite substantially with family matters, my occasional outbursts of tomfoolery no doubt lend it a sort of imbalance.  At least, that's what I think.  Maybe nobody else cares.

But at any rate, I've decided to take my talents (at least those I associate with Disney) elsewhere.

In a collaborative effort with my wife (genius writer and proofreader that she is), Mark Treiger, and whoever else I can manage to talk into it, as of later today we'll be officially opening our own Disney blog -- 

Restaurants, Restrooms, and Rides, Oh My!:  Days In The Park  

Contrary to what some might believe (myself included), I know (because I've talked to you guys) that there are people reading my blog.  And they do like the Disney stuff.  You might not show up in my Followers, and you might not comment here, but your voices have been heard.  Rise up, my people!  Follow us over to our Disney blog!  And on the way stop by the Enchanted Tiki Room for a Pineapple Whip.  I hear they're scrumptious!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Safety Is Only An Illusion

I knew about a week ago when it happened that it was something that I was going to have to write about.  

About a week ago, while Lucas and I were sitting in the sofa watching PBS cartoons, I began to hear a woman shrieking in the distance.  She wasn't just screaming noise, but screaming words.  I can't really repeat what she was saying, or rather, I won't.  But it became very, very clear very, very fast that this woman was pissed off to the point of rage.  And I've seen enough news broadcasts (don't really watch them anymore, who needs them anyways apparently) to know how quickly south these things can go.  

It probably went on about 15 minutes or so when I saw someone else (a woman) from across the way go bolting up the street towards all the commotion.  It wasn't long before I could hear her yelling herself at the two of them (the fighters) to open the door and open the door now.  It was at this point I first heard the man's voice.  Amid all the swearing and referring to both women in what can only be described as derogatory terms, were these nuggets:  "Oh yeah?  I got one too", and "shoot".  I'm assuming, like me, you can put two and two together.  

I finally saw the lady who had gone running up the street come back down the street, where by this point a few people were standing around wondering what was going on.  She eventually walked off, and about five minutes later no fewer than four police sheriff's cars rolled up.  The cops rolled out pistols and guns drawn.  Enter random lady who apparently wanted to be a hero (Do the words "Billy Don't Be a Hero" mean anything to ya?).  Dunno where she had procured it, but she was literally walking towards the cops with the gun our friends the "fighters" must have had.  At the shouts of "Put the gun down and back away!" and "Everybody get back in your houses!!", I had of course had enough.  I grabbed Lucas and ran him into his bedroom and told him to stay low on the floor.  It might seem overkill (no pun intended), but with all this happening no more than 10 feet from my front door, well, fatherly instinct kicked in.  Not enough to save myself, though...

To shorten it up, the cops got the gun, managed to arrest the man (never saw the woman but no doubt they nabbed her, too), and went to work on the paperwork.  Oh, and they made sure to tell our hero what a dummy she was and that she was lucky they hadn't drop her where she stood, too.

I was talking to the wife about it later (of course).  It was kind of funny, because one of the first things she said was, "all the more reason to get out of here and into a house."  But I think we both know that doesn't really mean much.  

The truth is, nowhere is safe.  Nowhere on this entire planet is exempt from evil (or bad things, if you prefer), or its reach.  We do live in a good neighborhood.  The kids school right across the street is a good school.  We do live in a fairly affluent city.  Rent's not cheap, here, let me tell you.  All of what society says will keep you safe (sans me owning a gun myself, which some days seems more and more like a fantastic idea) we pretty much have.  

Moving won't help.  Running won't help.  If last week showed me anything, it's just how close to the edge we truly are all the time.  Sobering thought.  But running from the truth won't make it safer, either.

Lots to think about in the coming weeks and months.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Freaking Giddy Blog: 'The Dark Tower'

BD Horror News - Stephen King's 'The Dark Tower' Becomes Epic New Franchise!!

I've been hearing news about this for a while now, but it looks like it's finally going to happen!

A couple of years ago, I decided for my summer reading excursion (summer is the season I finally find time to start reading things I've been meaning to for a while) to go in a different direction with my Stephen King and read 'The Dark Tower' series (been reading King for years but mainly sticking to the horror novels).

Suffice to say, I read all 7 books in the span of the two months I had (some I read in two days flat punctuated with a few days space before the next one).  I didn't so much read them as I inhaled them.  Point of fact, as I write this, I see them on my shelf and I just may have to start them again.

Probably my favorite novels ever, and that's really saying something, I think.

You can imagine how stoked I am about this!  Of course, with the creation of such a thing (or rather, the adaptation of something to another medium) comes the possibility it will completely reek.  But with Ron Howard at the helm (of at least the first one) and such amazing source material to work with from the very beginning, this could be something epic.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Life Doesn't Always Have To Be Profound

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image,
       in the image of God he created him;
       male and female he created them.

One of the biggest issues I have with blogging is that I feel like I very rarely have much of substance to say.  I know that's not necessarily the case, and that sometimes (at least it's my hope!) they very much contain something of substance.  I write about my family and my relationships with my wife and children fairly frequently, so that has to count, I reckon.  But other than that, they're pretty much all over the place.

I was talking with my wife about it the other night (seeing as how she kind of worries about what she writes, too, sometimes) and the one constant I kept coming back to in what I was saying was, "I want the blog to reflect who I am."  And the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that that's pretty much exactly what it does.  It does an amazing job of reflecting who Chad Elliott really is.

As a person, I'm all over the place, all the time.  Truth be told, sometimes that gets me in trouble.  But truth also be told, I've had to come to grips with the fact that more often than not, I'm dancing to the beat of a different drum than most people.  But to me, those are the most interesting people in the world!  No doubt in my mind that other people look at me and see an oddball sometimes.  My sense of humor often is dry and sarcastic, or completely flies over other people's heads.  What I think is hilarious other people look at me like I've lost my mind.

The truth is, it used to bug me.  Made me wonder if something was wrong with me (and maybe something is).  But it's who I am.  I'm not a serious person all the time.  More often than not, I'm not willing to put all the serious stuff on this blog that I'm going through.  Who'd want to read that, anyways?  Blech!  It's horrible enough when I have it kicking around in my own head; I'd hate to throw it out there for general consumption.

My blog is who I am.  It's me in a nutshell.  I love my family and my sons so you'll see them a lot.  I love my Disneyland, so you'll see it a lot.  I watch a lot of Youtube videos that tickle my funnybone so you'll see it a lot.  Alabama football.  Christian anecdotes.  You get the idea.

If I'm reading Genesis 1:27 right (and I think I am) God gave us a lot of what makes Him who He is.  And if that's the case, He gave me what He wanted me to have.  He made me an oddball.  Thanks, Lord.  Appreciate that.

But again, if I'm reading that verse right, it's okay.  It takes some of all kinds to make the world go around.  If this is me, and I was made in His image, well then I guess I'll just have to resign myself to that fact and live with it.  And you will, too.

Life doesn't always have to be full of profound moments.  And neither does my blog.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Things I Miss Living Overseas

One of the most popular questions in a "getting to know you better" exercise almost has to be:  "Tell us something most people don't know about you."

Whenever I've been asked this question (and yes, I have) my first response is usually that I lived overseas for five years of my life.  Followed by "Where?", of course, followed my canned "southern Africa" response.

And there you have it.  Something maybe some of you didn't even know about.  I lived overseas in southern Africa (Swaziland, to be exact) for roughly five years of my life.

I'll probably start blogging a bit more here and there about things I miss being over there (although, I have to admit, the years are beginning to cloudy and muddy up much of what I remember).

But thank goodness, my parents still live there and I still get lots of interesting things from them, including this.  I think that one of the things I miss most is the quirky attitude and sense of humor of so many over there.  This is an excellent example of just that (courtesy of my folks), and I would love to fly with Kulula Airlines (South Africa) given the opportunity.  Tell me this isn't a plane you'd like to fly in.



Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"I Missed It By A Few Days" Blog: Jason and Arsenio

I really missed the boat on this one.  Would have been perfect to actually blog this on the Friday the 13th we had a few weeks ago.  But alas, I missed it by a few days. 

Still pretty classic, though.  I remember watching this when it aired (at least my memory tells me that I did), and it still makes me laugh. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tidbits From the Land of The Mouse

As has been well-documented, one of the things I enjoy most at the Disneyland Resort is the hunt for Hidden Mickeys.  Truth be told though, as much as I may write about it, it really does make up a very small portion of what I enjoy at the Park.  Truth even more be told (so wrong!), I kind of don't even think about it anymore.  I've sort of trained myself just to be looking.  Typically when I go I will have a short list in mind of ones I have already seen that I need to photo (if I pass them) or a new one I've heard about online or something, but I'm usually too busy standing in lines or eating (or walking!) to really think about it much.

I know, and accept, that a lot of people just don't get the whole thing.  Seems silly or superfluous or whatever.  And that's fine.  But it's my blog, and I'll write about whatever the heck I want.

But for those who might actually care, there are two main reasons I hunt for them:
  1. It's just something fun to do.  It's something fun to do while you're just wandering around.  Much better in my opinion than watching other dads yelling at their kids, or listening to kids yelling, or listening to whoever yelling.  There's a lot of yelling at Disneyland, don't ya know?
  2. The competitor in me wants, in the face of all odds stacked against me, to be the first to spot any given Mickey in the Park. 
Now, the truth is, I suppose it would be really hard to judge who was the first to find a Mickey.  I accept that someone, at the very least the Imagineers who placed it there to begin (you geniuses, you!), has probably seen it before.

But I can do the next best thing, and that's check it against the Yellow Book (Steven M. Barrett's guide), or the Hidden Mickey's Guide website, or my personal favorite, by Rosemary & Neil Garcia.  I figure if I check it against these two (who seem to know the most) and they don't have it, I may at least get in prime position of being credited as the person who found it.

Hopefully you'll see where this is going.  On a trip recently I spotted a Mickey somewhere in Disneyland that I can't find listed anywhere in any book or any website.  I have submitted it to both websites, and I have in fact heard back from both of them.  I got an email from Steven Barrett last week that said he would personally check into it next time he was at Disneyland (not sure when that will be), and I heard back from Rosemary & Neil today (they live very near Disneyland) saying they had been to the park yesterday to check it out, confirmed it, took a picture, and are going to put it on their website and credit me with the find.

I won't give too much away yet about where it is and all, but you can bank that when it does go up and gets posted, I'll put it here post-haste.

The competitor in me is pretty happy this morning.  Ah, the little things.

It Won't Be Long Now ... Roll Tide.

Are you ready, Crimson Nation?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Around The Blogs: More Than I Should Bear

One of the things that I love most about my wife is her ability to teach.  She's an amazing teacher.  And she's not only an amazing teacher while she's in the classroom (she teaches AP English) but she's an amazing teacher while she's in the home. 

I love writing, but it's only with her help that I'm able to write, and blog, as frequently as I do.  If it were left up to me I wouldn't.  I'm too self-conscious about myself and my abilities (despite having been told the opposite on many occasions) to put myself out there.  For me, the proof would be in the pudding.  I'd have to have a bazillion hits and a quadrillion followers to consider myself a success.  And I so don't. 

But she taught me a lesson a long time ago, and that is this:  You don't write for others, you write for yourself.  Like any other art, writing is a form of self-expression.  It shouldn't be done from any ulterior motives or out of any sense of pride or arrogance, but simply because you want to.  Your willingness to put yourself out there, and put your feelings out there is an important human interaction.  You bare your soul (sometimes serious, sometimes not), but you do it for yourself.  And as long as you are happy with that, well then that's just okay.  Should anyone care to accompany you, well then that's just okay, too.

I wish I could say the following was just a simple case of nepotism, but it's not.  My wife is an amazing writer.  Brilliant, in point of fact.  And it's due to her beginning to blog that mine even exists now. 

Y'all check her out. 

More Than I Should Bear

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Take Me To My Happy Place!

It's just been one of those weekends.  I don't like death.  Don't do very well with it.  But there have been two to deal with to some extent this weekend (one for me, and one for my wife).  As such, the quest to find something to bring me back to a place of contentment has been priority #1 this afternoon (even as my wife is still away at one funeral). 

I was strolling through some old pictures this afternoon when I came across the one you see above you right now.  It's one of my favorite pictures of all time.  I'm not very photogenic.  I accept that.  In fact, I typically hate taking pictures period.  But something about this one (excluding the subject matter) has always made it a favorite of mine.  At any rate, it was taken on December 19, 2008 on my tenth wedding anniversary while my wife and I were celebrating at The Mirage in Las Vegas.  Kind of apropos, no?

At the time this picture was taken, I had just been really introduced to the Beatles' music the summer before.  Now, I do pride myself on being educated to a large degree (no pun intended), and I like to think myself pretty well-rounded at any rate.  So of course I knew who the Beatles were, and I already had a pretty healthy respect for their place in musical history without really knowing much of what they did (I've since come to find out that I knew a lot more of their music than I thought I did).  But a friend had introduced me to their 'Love' CD during that summer (basically the soundtrack for the entire show), and since it was our 10th anniversary and we did want to do Vegas fancy, I figured that taking my wife to see a show (a Cirque show, no less!) called 'Love' was probably just the way to go. 

Sparing all the boring and often gory details, suffice to say that the Beatles have since become my favorite band.  I listen to them.  A lot.  When the remastered boxed set came out in conjunction with The Beatles: Rock Band on 9*9*09, well, you get the idea.

I've indulged myself in my fair share of conversations about the Beatles over the past couple of years, and I've found that people are pretty much divided equally over three spheres:  the Beatles are overrated, ambivalence, and the Beatles are the greatest band ever.  There really doesn't seem to be much gray area at all.  But that ain't what this is about.

Rather, it's about just being happy.  The truth is, I could probably come up with about a thousand reasons (okay, exaggeration I admit) why I like the Beatles.  Why I think they're great.  Blah Blah Blah.  But all of those reasons aren't why I like them.  I'm a firm believer that sometimes humans just need something to make them smile; something to make them happy.  Something to click for them.  The Beatles do that for me.  It really is that simplistic.

When I'm having a dreary day and I hear "Here Comes The Sun", I can't help but feel a little bit brighter.  When I'm driving down the street and "Hey Jude" comes on, and all the people in the car start singing I can't help but laugh.  When I hear "All You Need Is Love" I think about my wife.  The list could go on and on.  But that would be boring.

The point is this; I can't help but wonder what kind of a world it might be if everyone had something, just that one something, that just clicked for them and made them happy.  Something that wasn't predicated on rhyme or reason.  Something they could just enjoy without other people making them feel foolish or whatever for doing so.  I'm content knowing that this makes me happy simply because it does.

What makes you happy?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Random Acts of Randomness on the Web : Why Is The Rum Gone?

Because they can't all be serious posts...

I just wish I could figure out the whole Teletubbies and Pikachu thing.  o.O

Friday, August 27, 2010

Around the Blogs: Disney Parks Blog

I know I've mentioned the Disney Parks Blog at some point in another blog (maybe the one about Star Tours?), but they threw up another one last night that got my attention and I figured it belonged here.

I was really stoked to see it because Disney typically eschews any "official" stance or whatever regarding the Hidden Mickeys.  So it was really quite cool to see them actually do a blog post on their website about it. 

The post itself is here:  What is Your Favorite Hidden Mickey?

And I've included the video in their post as well.  It was actually informational to me, too.  I think I've seen roughly 80 of the Mickeys or so at this point, but about half of the ones in the video I was unaware of.  Kind of odd for them to give them away like that, but I'll take what I can get.  And if you do follow the link, pay special attention to commenter #30. 

The Romance Was Thick That Night...

I love my wife.  No doubt about it.  I know that she knows it, and I fervently hope that others who know us can see it.  If not, send me an anonymous comment and your complaints will be dealt with swiftly.

But although I love my wife, the whole idea of "romance" and "being romantic" is, I confess, sometimes lost on me.  The whole "guy thing" and not understanding is actually quite true.  We're wired so differently that sometimes I don't know whether I'm coming or going.  The things that I would think would drive her wild fall flat, and then sometimes the little things I do, which make no romantic sense to me whatsoever, earn me massive brownie points.  And if I manage somehow in my idiocy to string them together, look out!

I may be completely off base here, but I think that often times what romance really boils down to is sacrifice.  Giving of oneself to please another.  Giving up something you want for something that they want.  Doing something you wouldn't normally do because it's not really your "style" because you know it will make theirs more important than yours.

Stephanie and I don't get to spend a whole lot of time together with just the two of us.  After years of trying to "cheap" our way through things, we've finally come to the realization that we have to do what we have to do to get time away from our children.  Even if it means (GASP!) paying a babysitter.  It had been so long since we had been out that we both thought a night in the park; no, scratch that, we both thought a night in THE Park (Disneyland) was just what the doctor ordered.

We did the normal ride thing, and the normal dinner thing, and so on, but then I got in my head to do something that I had never done in the 14 years that I have been with my girl.  We rode the carousel.  And I think that may have been when it dawned on me: 

The thing that horrifies me

may be just the thing that makes my wife the happiest.

Maybe I do kind of understand this romance thing after all.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"From that day on, if I was goin' somewhere, I was runnin'"

Summer's gone, and with it soon will go my stress.  Well, at least about some things.

Don't get me wrong.  While I love summers and the amount of time I get to spend with my family (both the wife and kids), the months are hard.  Being someone wired the way that I am only makes it harder sometimes.  Without all the boring details, looking back on the last couple of months produces moments of glee as well as moments of sheer horror.  Okay, maybe I exaggerate.  But there were days that weren't fun.  Sho 'nuff.

The truth is, though, that none of us are immune to these moments of stress and worry.  I'm not an enigma or the exception to the rule.  I am in fact the rule.  But as time has wound down this summer I've found myself drawn back more and more to this one verse; or rather, part of it:

"Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."(Hebrews 12:1c)

Life is a race.  It's something that's long and hard, and full of stones being pelted at us (sometimes metaphorical and maybe sometimes real).  But it takes a person of real character to be able to persevere and to continue to run when we're unwilling, and sometimes feeling unable, to do so.

I think maybe that's part of the beauty of Forrest.  And I can't help but love the imagery in this movie the more and more that I see it.  Life can sometimes do a pretty darn good job of crippling us.  It can make us stiff and unable (or unwilling) to move sometimes.  It can throw things at us that hurt.  Big time. 

But we have a cheerleader.  Truth is, sometimes we're so busy wallowing in ourselves that we can't see the truth that we probably have many cheerleaders encouraging us on.  And once we start moving, no matter what's behind us, the shackles that are binding us down and keeping us from reaching our full potential will burst from our legs, the dust will rise from our moving feet, and we'll leave our problems behind.  We'll be amazed at our own resiliency and what we are able to accomplish.  We just have to keep runnin'. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Star Tours: Special Edition

A quick stroll through Tomorrowland (who are we kidding?  a quick stroll through Tomorrowland?!) netted me the above picture a couple of weeks ago.  Blending Disneyland and Star Wars together was pure genius!  No doubt in my mind that George Lucas did it especially for me.

In a weird twist of fate, the first time I ever rode 'Star Tours' was at Walt Disney World (and not Disneyland).  Point of fact, many of the rides I now love so much at Disneyland I first rode in Florida.  Funny how that works.

At any rate, 'Star Tours' was a staple of my trips into Disneyland.  The ride was always fun, the kids loved it, and the lines were almost always short (gone are those days, I would imagine).  But as most people know by now, the "old" has passed and the "new" is coming fairly soon, and in 3D-HD no less!

While there is a ton of debate from nerds like me as to whether the ride needed updating (for many, it is borderline hypocrisy to change it), I have to confess myself extremely excited about it.  As much as I loved the old one, let's be honest, it was horribly outdated.  Classic, yes.  Loved, yes.  Outdated?  You betcha.  So as sad as I am to see the one I grew up knowing about leaving, I'm ready for whatever they throw at me.  It's Disney.  How bad can it be?

A couple of weeks ago Disney Parks Blog posted the following video that will be in the queue for the new ride.  Enjoy!  It might be nice to see Alderaan before Vader gets a hold of it.  And I can't help but loving how they kept the "old ride" feel to it.  Star Tours wouldn't be the same without those chimes.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mickeys - Sunshine Plaza

Been a few days, and nothing really fetching my interest in terms of blogging today, so I'll do another Mickeys blog.

California Adventure is typically the first park that I go into whenever I go, so it's a good start.

And as always, many have been intentionally left "unfound" for later addition.  


Friday, August 20, 2010

"I'm the SMART Clark Griswold"

So, I have a friend who tells the following story:

One night, he was home with his wife watching 'National Lampoon's Vacation' for probably the umpteenth zillionth time.  He says he doesn't believe his wife really enjoys watching the movie, but he thinks it's more of a "pity viewing" than anything else.  

But at any rate, he claims that as the movie progressed and the antics of the lead character (a man named Clark Griswold who is wonderfully played by Chevy Chase, or so I hear) continued to spiral more and more out of control, that his wife kept looking back at him with a smirk on her face; one he characterized as being half-sympathy, half-revulsion, and only a quarter-loving.  Of course, my friend immediately got defensive and shot back at her, "What are you grinning at?  I'm nothing like him!  I'm the smart Clark Griswold."  

He tells me his wife then proceeded to laugh uncontrollably for the next fifteen minutes or so while he sat in stunned silence.

Now, never having seen the movie myself, I can't really say one way or the other whether her feelings about the matter are justified or not.  My friend is a great guy!  Loves his family!  Would do darn near anything he could to please them.  Does it make him seem crazed and lose his temper every so often?  Sure!  But it's only because he loves them.  But at any rate, he wanted me to pass on the following questions in the hopes that someone could clarify for him, once and for all, whether Clark is really as stupid and buffoonish as his wife has always said he was.  So here you go:

  1. Who would not want to be seen in this beauty?  
  2. Is driving across the country rather than flying really the preferred method of travel?  As Clark himself would say, "Getting there is half the fun.  You know that!"
  3. Don't all children all over the world love a rousing rendition of 'Jimmy Crack Corn' with mom and dad?
  4. "Kids, are you noticing all this plight?"  Isn't a trip into East St. Louis, in fact, worth it for the children's education and well-rounded being?
  5. Is it really considered animal cruelty if the dog refuses to get into the car by himself?  Is Clark, in fact, a "dog-killer"?
  6. This is not so much a question as a statement.  Anyone, and I mean anyone could have missed that "Road Closed" sign.  And jumping the Truckster 50 yards is indeed something to be proud of.
  7. Does Clark in fact have, as stated to him, "manure for your brains"?
  8. Wouldn't any other man, in his position, have offered to place Aunt Edna (who didn't even have the decency to die at home, but instead chose to on a vacation she imposed upon) in a night-deposit box like Clark did?  Which leads to #9...
  9. When the wife gets pissed that Clark offered to put Aunt Edna in the night-deposit box (or ship her home via Federal Express), and basically insults and belittles him in front of the children, wouldn't any other man in Clark's position also jump naked into a pool with Christie Brinkley?
  10. This really has nothing to do with Clark, but I've always wondered, can BBs in fact get lodged under the skin and lead to a very bad infection?
So there you have it.  My friend submits that Clark is in fact a loving, caring and nurturing father surrounded by a shrewish wife, imbecilic cousins and bratty kids who wouldn't know a good time if it jumped it and bit them.

What say you?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Feed Your Inner Geek!...

...Or your Outter Geek!  I really don't care which.  If you are at all interested in movies and you are at all interested in video games, you gotta get out there and watch this perfect amalgamation of the two. 

Do Not Pass Go.  Do Not Collect $200 (although you may want to swing by the bank and collect the roughly $10 or so it might cost to buy a ticket to this flick).  Just go see it.  You won't be sorry.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Where Were You, Skype?

As I sit in my bedroom some Saturday mornings and watch my children talk to their grandparents on the PC using Skype software, I can't help but smile and be happy that they have a way in which they can communicate with their grandparents, and see them to boot when they are so many thousands of miles away.

But at the same time I am filled with an inner-rage that is almost uncontainable.  A rage that demands of me that I put my fist through the computer screen and run about the room screaming like Godzilla as he is attacking Tokyo and the surrounding suburbs.

Where were you, Skype, when I needed you?  Where were you 14 years ago when I met my wife and I rang up hundreds of dollars in phone bills every month talking to my fiance on the phone?  Where were you when I needed to talk to my parents 20 years ago and couldn't because we couldn't afford the $10/minute phone calls?  Do you know what you've cost me over the years?  Do you have any idea what your laziness and procrastination to be developed and implemented have cost me?

I ought to punch you in your stupid Skype face, that's what I ought to do.  But ultimately what good would it do?  I just hope you're happy with yourself.  Thanks a lot, Skype.

**editors note:  of course, The Bangles have absolutely nothing to do with Skype.  I just really love their music**

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Evangelism Is a Contact Sport

19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.  (Matt. 28)

"Blow 'em up, baby!"

Mickeys - Entrance Plaza

So after my last blog entry, I decided it might be time to go with something a little more lighthearted.  Disney (what else?)!

So comes the first of my blogs documenting the Mickeys we've found all over the parks.

I figure it best to start at the beginning, with some of the first ones that you can see entering the parks area, and work my way in. These are all found between the Disney Mickey & Friends Parking Structure (where you pick up the tram), through the security checkpoint that let you into the Entrance Plaza, and inside the Plaza itself between the two parks.

Nothing terribly difficult in finding these.  They are a large portion of the ones that are in this area.  I've intentionally left a few out so I have more to add later as I go back and take more photos.  But these are a good many of them.  Next time you're at the park, check 'em out!


Monday, August 16, 2010

Feelin' Sappy (sung to the tune of 'Feeling Groovy')

Feeling sappy this morning.  Feeling a bit of age this morning.

I say that a lot, but it's usually followed swiftly by someone knocking me down to size.  "You're not old!", or "I'm old!", or "Come back and see me in 25 years and then tell me you're old".  Okay, so I readily admit in terms of actual years and mileage I have on me, I'm not especially old.  But, I refuse to be told how I can feel, and right now I feel old, consarned it all, you whippersnappers!

Truth is, today it was looking at my children that made me feel, well, maybe so not much old, but definitely aging.

I'm truly blessed to be able to spend so much time with them, and to have a wife who wanted one of us home with them so badly that she allows me to do so.  We both agreed long ago that it was my job to do so.  And I treat it as such.  Laundry, vacuuming, mopping, dishes, homework, dinner all fall in the domain of "Chad".  And truth is, I have struggled with that a lot over the years.  It's not the manliest of jobs, after all.  And many a night I've lain awake in bed listening to Stephanie sleeping while the guilt tried to eat me alive.

But over the past year or so I've really tried to slow it down and notice more and pay more attention to the little things.  Last week Michael started the 3rd Grade.  Nicholas, the 1st.  Little Lucas is only a couple of years away from being away from me, too.  If time continues to fly like this, they'll graduate tomorrow.

I think that Stephanie and I both realize that our "baby days" may be over.  We haven't officially called it quits on them, yet, but we're both older now and both beginning to realize that the "new phase" of our lives we always say we're getting ready to enter just may not involve raising anymore children.  It makes me sad.  I've enjoyed every minute that I've had with my babies, but I know that it can't last forever.  MJ will be a teenager before I know it, and God help me if I'm trying to raise teenagers and babies at the same time.

So I stood in the schoolyard this morning just watching all the children from so many families.  I could see Michael at the other end of the blacktop (all by himself in line because he doesn't really need me anymore) and Nicholas on the other, looking small and quiet in his first grade line.  He's growing up, too; can't deny it anymore.  And just when I thought the feelings couldn't consume me anymore, little Lucas walked up to me and asked me to pick him up, and he put his arms around me, kissed me on the cheek, and laid his head on my shoulder and told me he loved me.

Life may indeed be moving on, but I plan on draining it of every stinking minute that I can.

Michael right after his birth - 7/24/2002

Friday, August 6, 2010

Quite Possibly The World's Greatest 'Hide and Seek'

I've often been accused of having an obsessive-type personality. The people in my life who know me the best would probably have no problem whatsoever confirming this fact to any doubters who may still be out there.

When I was growing up, one of my favorite games in the world to play was 'Hide and Seek'. I've often regaled others (whether they wanted me to or not) with tales of playing differing varieties of the 'Hide and Seek' game into the wee hours of many a summer morning. In point of fact, even now, whenever I can play 'Hide and Seek' I'm more than willing to do so. At our annual youth lock-ins, more often than not, you'll find me in the thick of things with the rest of the teenagers whenever we play 'Hide and Seek' in the sanctuary of the church at roughly 2am. Not many things in this world could ever keep me awake past 2am. 'Hide and Seek' is one of them.

Enter the Wonderful World of Disney. I've always been a HUGE Disney fan. I grew up watching the movies and television shows. I grew up knowing the characters, singing the songs. Basically, I was just one huge Lame-O. To this day, if anyone asks me what my greatest vacation of all time was, I will immediately and without hesitation spew forth, "Disneyworld when I was 17." Try me. On second thought, don't. I don't do well under pressure.

When I met my wife and decided to move to California, I did indeed know that I would be living a scant 40 miles or so from the "original" Disney theme park (and this was before California Adventure existed). However, for the longest time the desire to go remained dormant. It wasn't until I had actually been living in Southern California for several years that I took my first trip into the park. It was roughly the same time that I first heard of the Hidden Mickey.

Without belaboring the point, at some time during last quarter century, workers/Imagineers began placing Hidden Mickeys all over the Disney properties. You can find them everywhere (in all the different parks, hotels, restaurants, etc.) and anywhere (I saw one outside a bathroom once). No place is safe. Anytime a new attraction is built, it's prime real estate for a new Mickey to show up. Some get moved from time to time, and some are removed from to time. You get the idea. There are little Mickey Mouses hidden all over the park, okay? Just gonna have to trust me on this one. ºoº See what I did there? Hid a Mickey right smack in the middle of my blog.

It's generally accepted that there are probably hundreds of the things all over the place, and that there is no "official" list. The closest is probably Hidden Mickeys (available at your friendly neighborhood Disneyland kiosk) by Steven M. Barrett, and even he doesn't have them all. Everyone has their own criteria for what they consider a "true" Hidden Mickey. Many of mine are on his list. Some are on his questionable list. Some aren't on any list at all. That's part of the fun of the game.

I try to answer the following questions when I look for Mickeys:
  1. Is it in the general shape of a Mickey head (or in some cases a real picture of Mickey)?  Obvious, right?
  2. Does it seem purposeful?
That's it.  All there is to it.  I know some people will argue whether something is or not, or whether it's a hidden Mickey, or a "decorative" one, but that's just part of the game.  And it's part of the fun.  Keeps me coming back.

Even so, they really failed to capture my imagination for the longest time. If I happened to see one, great. If I didn't, well no big deal, either. And for a long time, I didn't. It wasn't until I started going regularly when I began to get an annual pass annually (HA!) that I was bitten by the HM Bug. The Trifecta. My love for Disney, 'Hide and Seek' and my obsessive personality all came together and gave me a whole new outlook on life. Worlds collided. Planets divided. The world was fruitful and multiplied. Well, maybe not all that (except the last one, Google "overpopulation" and shudder) but it did begin to become a part of my Disneyland experiences on a much grander scale.

I "mentally" collected them for quite some time, but one particular day when I got on a roll (spotting several on my own with no clues or tips from anyone or anysite) I decided it might be fun to begin documenting them in photo form. Not just for myself, but for the kids (they love the idea of them, but often can't see them in time when we're on rides or whatever).

So without further ado, I present the first of what will probably be weekly blogs dedicated to the Mickeys in some shape or form.

I can by no means claim that I found all of these on my own.  I'll never say that I did.  Some of them came from a friend I go with fairly often (Mark, you know who you are!), and some of them came from online lists or other people as I was in the parks (Cast members and other Disney fans).  The two websites that I like the best are and this one from a couple of huge fans, Finding Mickey.  However, a great many of them I did find all on my own as I wandered around the Park, and I'm especially proud of those.  I'll probably make special note of those as I post them.  

I'm not out to argue whether something is hidden or not.  I just wander around and look for Mickeys.  If you want to deem them hidden that's great, and if not, that's great, too.  I'm including pretty much whatever I see, and you can be the judge. 

I hope Disney lovers out there will appreciate it. All others, well, we honestly don't care what you think.


Inside the loop of Screamin' - Fire Alarm in Tower of Terror Video
Breastplate on Pirates of the Caribbean - Mickey Shadow in Jack's Treasure Room

Riverboat Painting (shot from aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Eyes of A Child, or, A Friend Does Not Have To Be a Peer

People have long said that there are two sides to every coin. It's a cliche that's probably been used for about as long as the coin has existed (perhaps I should research that one day). Call the two sides what you will. Heads - Tails. Good - Evil. Yin - Yang. Whatever.

People have also long said that there are two sides to every person. For me, the two sides of the coin most often at war with each other are the Parent - Friend sides. Unfortunately, we live in a time when children seem to, on a more and more frequent basis, be completely bereft of any parental guidance whatsoever. Take a look around you and prove me wrong. I dare you to try. I think that one of the most unfortunate consequences of this cultural shift has been our unwillingness to find any middle ground at all with our children. Another human fallacy seems to be the propensity to take things too far. We either swear that our children "will not behave like that" so we clamp down so much they have little to no freedom whatsoever (often only delaying the inevitable rebellion) or we just depend on them to develop themselves into well-rounded individuals through things like "active-listening" (thanks, Raymond!) or other such philosophical/psychological methods. Not to say that any of these are bad in and of themselves, but again, it's meant to merely make a point: we tend to be one way or the other.

One thing you hear a lot these days (at least in terms of raising children) is that you "are not your child's friend, you are their parent!". It's even popular in Christian circles (and maybe especially so).

Well, I disagree (so what else is new?)!

A friend and I were talking recently about this very topic (no idea how we got on the subject) and the topic of our own childhood came up. Not to belabor a point, I was quick to point out that when it came down to my feelings about my own dad, I had no trouble differentiating between my dad the parent, and my dad the friend. He was ample parts both. My dad the parent ruled the roost, taught me right from wrong, disciplined me, and let me know who was boss. My dad the friend taught me how to ride my bike, how to catch, watched baseball and football with me... well, you get the idea. Was he still my parent while he was doing those things? Of course. But I can still remember the child-like glee in his eyes when he did many of those things. I still see that look now when we're watching certain movies my mom can't stand. My dad knew how to successfully tread the line between being a parent and a friend, and I always knew which he was at any given time.

I want my own sons to know the same thing. I don't want to come down on them like a hammer 24/7 for their own good to keep them out of trouble. I also don't want to be just their friend. I want to be their parent, and their friend. I want to walk the line, and I want to do it successfully like my old man did.

And when we do things together that we both enjoy, I want them to know that the glee they see in my eyes mirrors the glee I see in their eyes, and that it's genuine from a man who is both their parent, and their friend.

I think that my pictures speak for themselves.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Six Years Old And Preparing To Soar

For the last couple of weeks or so, whenever I have had the privilege of walking my children to school in the morning, I have also had the privilege of having to stand idly by while Michael and Nicholas, curious as they are, walked over to my son's little kindergarten playground to see the bird's nest. Apparently, a rather "fat" pigeon was perched in said nest protecting her eggs.

Yesterday the eggs and the "fat" pigeon were no longer there. I'm not really sure what happened to them, and it really made the boys quite sad.

Yesterday also happened to be my son's 6th birthday. He'd been telling me for months that one of the things he wanted most was to be taken to Disneyland by me on his birthday; we never had before. So, not having to ask me twice about going to Disneyland, I dropped off the other boys with their mom and drove the 40 minutes to Anaheim for his birthday celebration.

I really can't explain why we did what we did next. Typically, California Adventure is the place the kiddies love to play because many of the attractions there are geared towards the smaller kids. Some of their favorites are there. But for whatever reasons (neither he nor I had ever expressed an interest in riding this one; at least, not together), the first attraction (at Disney, they're attractions, not rides!) we partook in was 'Soarin' Over California' (basically a flight simulation where you fly, or "soar" if you like, over some of California's most beautiful scenery -- it really is an amazing attraction; it comes highly recommended!).

However, I was a little bit worried about him. I knew that if he ever got on the attraction, he would love it, but in the meantime, there was plenty of line and time ahead of us for him to get himself worked up in. Sure enough, within minutes I looked down at my little man and saw his eyes drop to the floor. I asked him what was wrong, and with little tears trickling from his eyes, and little lips quivering, I could barely hear him as he mumbled to me, "Daddy, I'm scared." And while a part of me felt the almost overwhelming desire to take him out straightaway, instead I knelt down beside him and held him close to me and told him he'd be okay, and that I'd always be there to take care of him. I told him there was nothing to be afraid of.

For the next half hour or so, we meandered through the lines, me pointing out all the pilots' pictures on the wall, and all of the pictures of the planes. I was trying anything to keep him mellow. The entire time, though, I was wrestling with myself. It was only a ride (not an attraction at this point in the game, but a ride!). Was I doing the right thing? Was it worth frightening him?

At one point, he made a last ditch effort to get out of line using the "bathroom" excuse, but again I reassured him instead of letting him get out of line (thank God he didn't really have to pee!). Before you knew it, we were listening to Mr. Patrick Warburton (love that guy!) give us our last minute pre-flight instructions, I was buckling him into his seat, and we were off.

Aside from the running monologue I kept giving him on the flight (to encourage him) it was a quiet flight. I kept glancing over at him to see his reactions, but for the most part, I just listened to what his hand was saying. It never left his daddy's the entire time. On the parts where we glided, he relaxed. On the parts where we flew fast, he squeezed and held me tight. And in the end, when we left our seats and I asked him what he thought of it, my son soared.

And I couldn't help but think of the "fat" pigeon and her little eggs, and how if they had been left to their devices they would have eventually become little birds in their own right, at first scared, but then later ready to take flight. And I can't help but think that my little boy is growing up. He's in the pre-flight himself, and one day soon he'll be ready to soar completely on his own. He won't need my hand to hold and squeeze anymore.

But until that day comes, Daddy will be right there to hold that hand anytime he wants, and we can soar together.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Never Ending Saga of an aspiring Space Ranger

Growing up, I knew that I was something special. I felt within the very core of my being a "force", if you will. At a very early age, I realized just what that "force" was when I watched Star Wars for the first time at the tender age of 2. What my parents were thinking taking such a mere babe to such a mind-numbingly influential flick is quite beyond me, but nevertheless it set me on a course towards which the end-result would undoubtedly be my attaining Jedi Knight, and later Master, status.

Alas, anyone who knows me will agree with me that this did not happen. Although Yoda and I share much in common (we both have hair in very odd places), the Jedi career never quite panned out.

So, in a stroke of genius I have recently decided to cut short my dream of becoming a Jedi in the hopes of becoming just like my other hero in life, Buzz Lightyear. What can be said about Buzz that hasn't been said before? Flashing lights and a nameplate on his chest. Rapidly expanding wings on his back. Yelling out "To Infinity, and Beyond!" on a moment's notice. And apparently if I follow his lead I can eventually have a reset button in my battery compartment that when pressed will immediately make me fluent in Spanish. It's not exactly C-3PO's "6 million forms of communication", but it's a start!

So without further ado, I immediately proceeded to Disneyland to begin my training with Buzz. As can be seen by the pictures I have provided as evidence, if my competition doesn't become somewhat stiffer, I should have no problems attaining the rank I so desire with Star Command.

taken at roughly 1600 hours, 03 May, 2010

taken at roughly 1615 hours, 03 May, 2010

So, as can be seen, we see significant improvement in score and use of trigger finger in a very short span of time. I can only surmise this means that I am indeed Space Ranger material, and I was born with an innate ability to rapidly shoot Emperor Zurg in the chest over and over again. Even Star Command's feeble attempt to throw me from my game by providing me with a weapon on which my laser was set a full 2 feet beneath my sights was useless and laughable.

So, I hope to continue to update this as time warrants. One can only hope that this dream, unlike my Jedi dream, will pan out and that one day I will be leading the charge alongside my friend Mr. Lightyear against the evil Emperor Zurg, sworn enemy of all we hold dear.

If not, I hear they are looking for a new elevator operator at the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"It's just too damn big..."

I remember my first cross-country trip with the family in tow. I knew setting out from one end of the country (California) and trying to drive all the way to the other end (Alabama) would, in the fewest words possible, try my patience. Not the least of my worries (in addition to the usual questions: "Will my car make it?", "What if we break down in the middle of nowhere?", and "What if I need to go the bathroom in the middle of nowhere and there isn't a rest area for another 50 miles!?") was knowing that I was going to attempt to do so as quickly as possible, and with two (at the time) very young children in the backseat. If memory serves, it wound up taking around 3 days -- Fontana, CA. to Phoenix, AZ. on Day 1, Phoenix to San Antonio, TX. on Day 2, and San Antonio to Dothan, AL. on Day 3 -- a trip of roughly 2,200 miles. I often look back in wonderment that we made it, to be frank; I felt like a zombie much of the time. And it didn't help matters that Stephanie was sitting in the back seat the entire trip (to tend to the boys). There was no-one in the front seat to poke or prod me should I fall asleep.

Whenever I travel, like a lot of others I'm sure, I tend to view trips (especially long ones in a car) in sections. In our case: Fontana to Phoenix, Phoenix to San Antonio, and San Antonio to Dothan. And of course, for the most part, those segments can be further broken into mini-segments, if you will; there is always plenty to see. While it doesn't really make the trip any shorter of course, it fools the mind into thinking it is so. And for the most part, it works like a charm. That is, of course, until you come to a place called Texas.

When it comes to Texas, I've never seen anything like it. I remember the nice long 4 hour drive it took to get from California to Arizona. Piece of cake. I remember the moderate 6-7 hour drive to get from Arizona to New Mexico. Doable. I remember the short and sweet 3 hour drive from New Mexico to Texas. Vunderbar! The 6 hour drive from Louisiana to Mississippi. The 3 hour drive from Mississippi to Alabama. You get the idea. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for Texas. The closest analogy I can think of is that this must have been what it felt like to be the Israelites, once they left Egypt, wandering the desert for 40 years. I believe they must actually have been in Texas, to be frank. Not even the desert around Mt. Sinai could possibly have been so bad. My time in Texas can be summed up in the two sentences that almost assuredly exit my mouth anytime I speak of my trip (and now trips) through this grand state:

  • "I never did think I was going to get out of that place..."
  • "It's just too damn big!"
And lest you think I jest, I present this evidence to you; when one enters the state of Texas on Interstate 10 from a westerly direction, you will hit three major cities in the state; El Paso, San Antonio and Houston. Nothing more, and nothing less. Here's the breakdown:

  • El Paso to San Antonio: ~550 miles and 8.5 hours of driving
  • San Antonio to Houston: ~200 miles and 3.5 hours of driving
And while we're at it, toss in for good measure these two:

  • New Mexico Stateline to El Paso: ~a half hour
  • Houston to Louisian Stateline: ~another 120 miles and 2 hours
So let's total this up; from the time you hit Texas from New Mexico it is roughly 900 miles and 14.5 hours of driving to make it from state to the next. See? Maybe I'm not so crazed. You literally go from saying "It's only another hour until we get to Arizona, New Mexico, etc." to saying "It's only another x-number of hours until we get OUT of Texas..." And lest you think it can't be that bad of a trip, I challenge you to look up Interstate 10 on Google Maps (here, I'll even include the link for you!). There's simply nothing out there for HUGE stretches of time. And what is there may remind you strongly of films you might have seen involving chainsaw-wielding maniacs. Anyone at all whom I may have regaled with the tale of my cross-country travels would undoubtedly be able to corroborate that I said pretty much everything I've said here, and maybe more.

I was reading an article about Nick Saban this morning (what else these days?) and came across a quote that got me thinking about this trip. He said, "The journey itself is important, not just the destination." And it really does sum me up pretty good. While it may be a lot of fun to crack wise about Texas (and how scared I am to go through there, how big it is, how it is its own country, etc.) that's really not what I remember most about the trips there, or any of my trips for that matter. (The irony that Alabama just defeated Texas for a title and that I'm quoting Nick Saban in an article heavily reliant on my time spent in Texas is not lost on me one iota). I'm an observer. My wife will tell you that I remember things that most people just pass off, and that the minutiae of things really are what matter to me. I like to soak it all in when I'm traveling. I tend to remember things like what restaurants were in what town, and where they were, so we can go again the next time we go through. What hotels are best, and so forth. You get the idea. Heck, we even remember some of the "wonderful" filling (gas) stations we stopped at deep in the heart of Texas. And by wonderful, I mean scary as hell (but wonderful now that we're nowhere near them).

So while my talk about my cross-country excursions will inevitably turn to Texas when I'm talking to others, when I remember the trip with my wife, it's completely different. I'll talk of the night we spent in Phoenix where Michael rolled off the bed at 3 in the morning and started screaming (we can all laugh about it now). I'll talk about that pigeon we crushed with our car while screaming down the Interstate in New Mexico (and how it was still sticking to the grille when we pulled up to the gas station on our way into Texas (a gas station we almost didn't make it to because I had miscalculated my gas mileage, but we don't talk about that)). We'll talk about "Goat-Cheese, New Mexico", an imaginary place loosely based Cochise, New Mexico, and how we need to get the wife's ears checked out.

And yes, we'll even talk about Texas. We'll talk about seeing those cows "doin' it" on the side of the road, and laugh until we're blue in the face. We'll talk about the humongous steak houses peppered across the landscape (many out in the middle of nowhere) with their very own slaughterhouses standing right beside them ("Come on, come all! Choose the cow YOU want on your plate!"). But we'll also talk about all those lightning blasts and thunder rolling over the mountains (God's creation) while we're out in the middle of nowhere, just trying to get to our next stop, and how gorgeous it is (and sounds!). And we always talk about our brief stop in Kerrville, Texas a few nights before Christmas, and how beautiful it looked, like something out of Norman Rockwell painting, and how (although we never will) nice it might be one day to return there, maybe for good (even though we know nothing about the place -- it's just one of those moments frozen in time). We don't, however, talk about Houston.

Sometimes I look in the mirror and wish that I wasn't so anal and obsessive about some things. But it's times like this when I'm reminded of what an integral part of my make-up that it is, and that it's out of that same vein that I'm able to "get more" out of my journeys than some people are (at least, that's what I'd like to believe). While I might be the first to piss and moan about how long the journey is taking, and how boring and arduous parts of it are, when it's all said and done, I'll tell you (and those who know me best will, as well) that contrary to how it may seem, I was in fact able to enjoy the journey. The "big" is made up of all sorts of "little" things that make it all worthwhile.

Sometimes, just sometimes, "It's just too damn big..." can be a really good thing.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Castle of Voices

Once upon a time there was a young man. Not a handsome and strong prince worthy of a princess' love, but just a man. This young man had long been wandering the world aimlessly, stopping here or there to take bread or water, but never for very long. In short time he would grow bored again, and his wanderings would continue to take him far and wide over the landscape of life.

One day while out and about, as he wandered through the forest, he crested a hill and saw in the distance a castle with many flags and pennants fluttering in the breezes. With nothing going on in his life, and nothing better to do, our young one decided it might be worth a trip to the castle, to see what it was about.

He slowly made his way to the castle and stood looking up at it. It was a fairly nondescript place standing here in the middle of nowhere, he thought to himself, and he wondered how on earth it had come to be here. But with nothing better to do, he decided it might be worth a trip inside the castle, to see what he could see. He began to wander around the castle until he came to the main gate. How strange there was no-one there to guard them. Shrugging, he plodded across the drawbridge and entered the main doors which stood open to him, as if they had been waiting his arrival this whole time.

What wonders awaited his eyes inside! The walls surrounding him were completely without decoration, but upon them was door after door. Hundreds of them. Maybe even thousands! And painted in strangest colors imaginable. Some were starkly black or white, while others were fanciful with polk-a-dots or other strange and odd designs. It was a castle full of doors. But what on earth were they there for? What did it all mean?

Finally, because he simply had nothing better to do, and nothing pressing upon his time, he decided to try his luck at opening one of the doors. But which one should he choose? He supposed it might be best left to luck, although really and truly, what did it matter? They were just doors after all. Closing his eyes, he began to turn around (only twice, though -- really, what purpose would there have been in spinning more than twice) and opened his eyes upon a door with pink trim, upon which flowers of some sort had been painted. Again, because he had nothing better to do, our young man walked slowly to the door, opened it up, and stepped inside.

He almost instantly regretted doing so. Why is it so dark in here?, he thought to himself. But after the initial shock wore off, and his eyes began to adjust, he began to hear voices in the darkness -- voices which spoke of and promised beauty, wealth, pleasure, love and lust. His head was spinning. With so many voices to choose from, how was he ever to know what they meant or what they wanted from him. But what was worse? He couldn't find the door he had come in! As he fumbled around in the pitch another voice reached his ear, and while he was initially want to ignore it, this one was different. It didn't speak of physical things, but of something different. This voice spoke of courage and bravery, and of having a loving, caring and considerate spirit. And as he strained into the darkness, he noticed something he had not before -- not only was his room full of voices, but also of slowly pulsing lights dancing in the distance. They pulsed in different ways, some brighter and some dimmer, some faster and some slower. But there was little doubt in his mind -- one pulsed faster, and stronger than all the rest. And suddenly, seized with an urge he could not explain (and certainly had never felt before) he ran full-bore into the sea of lights around him, looking for the one that was so strong.

Now it just so happened that the one thing, the only thing our young man carried him at the time was a small, transparent glass container to hold treasures in. The only problem was up to this point our young man had never truly found anything to treasure. But now he had. He must have this light and voice that was before him! How beautiful it would look in his jar as he traveled the world. It would light his way and whisper the most extraordinary things to him. How he would love it, if he could just catch it! Yet every time he approached it, it moved away. It was like a will-o-the-wisp in the distance, just constantly out of his reach. Finally, in a fit of desperation (and emotion again never seen in our young man) the young man screamed aloud, asking the voice how he might catch it. And as all the other voices quieted at last and only one remained, in the stillness his voice answered him; "Just ask me to, and I will come with you and be yours forever." The young man, who had not truly spoken in quite some time asked, and the voice came with him, and filled up his container with its shining light.

The young man left the castle that day, knowing that he would never return, carrying his voice with him. And to this day, if you come across the young man, you will see that he is still carrying that jar of light and voice with him everywhere he goes, through all of life's journey and adventure, almost as if they were lovers holding hands...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Not Necessarily In That Order

Growing up in the South (yes, we capitalize it!), for a lot of folks, life revolves around three primary tenets: God, Family and Football. And given the time or circumstances, not necessarily in that order. And although it may sound cliche, or like a cop-out, it can become really difficult to describe to someone not from where I'm from.

Football is as much of a part of how we're raised as our church is, or how our family functions and operates. You're literally born into it. In my little corner; you're either Bama or, well, that other school in the state. If you don't believe me, consider this: It's a popular choice in many instances for the parents of a newborn child in Alabama to forgo the "cute" blue or pink beanies usually planted on babies in hospitals because they've brought their own crimson or orange ones to the party. You gotta raise that kid "right" from the very beginning. You grow up hearing all the men in the house "whoopin' and hollerin'" in the living rooms on Saturday afternoons, on Sundays you gather around to discuss what happened in the game before Sunday School or "Big Church" starts, on Monday-Friday you spend your recesses on the school playground playing football in the dirt with pinecones; Alabama v. Auburn (no-one represents any one player, you represent the team out there in that dirt), and then after school, it's more of the same. You live and breath it the entire year. And on some days, like during the Iron Bowl (Alabama/Auburn), the entire state stops moving for a few hours (it used to be my favorite workday of the year at the mall, because during that one game, the mall was almost completely empty -- you were a nut for being there during that game).

I grew up as a lot of kids do during that time, appreciating my team because that's just kind of what you did. Even if you didn't understand the game, or get exactly what the deal was, you still grew up being groomed for it -- to take the mantle one day and instill it in your own kids. You might not "whoop" it up yourself on Saturdays (you were too busy being a kid, after all), but if one were to ask you "who you rooted for" there would be no hesitation whatsoever in your answer. You just sort of "float along" being a "fan", until one day, something changes. And for different people at different times. It's almost like a good kind of asbestos poisoning. One day you wake up and you've just been surrounded by it, and inundated, and "raised" with it for so long, that it's just become a complete and total part of who you are. The switch is flipped, and it becomes an all-consuming desire in your heart. You're not a child anymore. You've grown up.

For me, the year was 1992. When I look back it was only a delay of the inevitable. A lot of people may look at it as an easy pick since that year we won a championship, but the truth is, I have no doubts whatsoever that had I actually lived in America, and more importantly Alabama, before that year I would have been just as much a fan during that time as I became that year. The seeds had long since been planted. I watched them play every game that year and I fell completely in love. It seems only fitting that that year was capped with a National Championship -- unfortunately, it would be a very long 17 years before I'd experience such elation again.

The next 17 years wrought a lot of changes. Primary among them may be my move away from Alabama to California. While it was difficult to leave family behind, make no mistake about it, it was almost as difficult to leave behind Alabama football. Listening to Eli on the radio on Saturday afternoons was gone, as was the odd game that was actually televised. It became harder to follow them at time, but the devotion never wavered one iota. I watched all I could, and listened all I could on the internet, and did all I could to keep going. They were 17 years of heartache -- much of it self-inflicted by the team I loved so much. So many coaches. So many sanctions. So many Saturdays angry and hurt. So few Saturdays where I left the living room after a game feeling truly happy about the state of things.

Enter Nick Saban. I remember standing in Tuscaloosa, outside of Bryant-Denny Stadium one day in the summer after he was hired. It was hard not to be awed looking up at the statues of Coaches Wallace Wade, Frank Thomas, Paul Bryant and Gene Stallings; the men who had secured our 12 prior national titles for us. It was impossible not to notice the empty alcove standing next to Coach Stallings' statue -- the one reserved for the next man to bring us back to the top. Would it be Coach Saban? I just had to smile at the groundskeeper nearby (was he a prophet?) my dad and I when he said they expected to fill that spot up in the next 3-4 years. Could it be?

Enter Year Three...

...the team finally became a team. The team finally became champions. I watched every game this year, knowing that should we win them all, this year's game would be played a scant 30 minutes away from my house. Nothing would keep me away should we go. As the weeks ticked by, and the wins kept coming, and the tension mounted, the hope began to soar. Get to the SEC Championship. Done. Win the SEC Championship. Done. Punch your ticket to your first title game in over a decade. Done. At last.

What started out as an attempt to describe my feelings on January 7, 2010 as I stood (not sat, I never sat) in the bleachers at the Rose Bowl will not end that way. As I've sat here sifting through the thoughts in my head, I've come to realize that words simply won't do. I'll just have to go on knowing what I feel in my heart, without being able to describe that to others, and I guess that's okay. The closest I will be able to come is this:

It was the single, greatest night of my entire life.

I've experienced a lot of joy in my life. I'm married and have a wonderful wife. Three children who I adore (and want to kill at the same time). Fantastic parents. An extended family that I love. A relationship with Jesus Christ that dictates almost every facet of my life, to the best of my abilities. There have been numerous moments in my life that I will always cherish and remember among the greatest moments in my entire life. Nothing will ever diminish them, and I don't intend to make it sound as though something did. But you have to understand, when something is in your blood, it doesn't supplant something else -- it just is who you are. And over the years I've come to understand that.

I will say that my life goes in this order: God, Family and Football. But if I were anything less than honest about this, I just couldn't live with myself. And for a four hour period of time last Thursday night, that order was flipped on its head. I'm not sure anything outside of God and Family will ever top it.

Roll Tide.