Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Eve

On the eve of an important holiday, I pause to offer this:

Don't forget the candy.

I'm not sure why, but my family observed Halloween. This is unusual because of all the holidays that are inflicted upon us by the consumer-driven society that we live in; my parents were pretty level-headed. Sure, we'd have a nice meal on Thanksgiving and exchanged gifts, (which never came from Santa), on Christmas; but outside of that, Halloween was it. I can only remember one Easter basket--which I only got because my folks were out of town and I was staying with a friend (my Mom's contribution to the booty was a toothbrush). We didn’t hang hearts in February or shamrocks in March. There were no trips to the cemetery on Memorial Day and I know for a fact that I did yard work on Labor Day. We never had a flag to fly on Flag Day, I don’t think we ever celebrated Arbor day with a young sapling and the only thing different on a 4th of July bar-be-que from any other was my brother and I got to blow stuff up (cool holiday, btw).

So why do I remember on multiple occasions our house being decorated with tombstones while costume-clad revelers bobbed for apples and played pin-the-nose-on-the-jack-o-lantern? If a Christian family is going to skip a holiday, why wouldn’t be the one invented by the devil himself? I can only offer an answer by way of my annual fascination for the individually-wrapped bits-of-goodness that for some reason I cannot resist.

Most of the year I am candy-immune—it just doesn’t call to me. However, when the harvest season comes I am lured by those little, colorful sirens to partake of delights I would never consider. Mr. Goodbar? Sure. Take 5? Never had it, give me 2. Mix in some old favorites like M&Ms and Sweet Tarts and I’ll tell you why we celebrated Halloween—Candy.

Free candy too, put on a costume and walk the streets and people just give it to you. When I got too old, I’d dress up my younger brothers and take them trick-or-treating. Then, as compensation for my service, I’d garnish a percentage of their loot. A trick I’m sure I learned from my Mom. Who, in her wisdom overlooked much of the don’t-let-your-kids-out-on-Halloween-they’ll-be-sacrificing-cats talk, and let us have candy.

So for the record I will reiterate:

Don't forget the candy.

  • The average consumer celebrating Halloween will spend $48.48 on merchandise, up from $43.57 last year.

  • Candy remains a holiday staple and the largest spending category at $1.16 billion. The average person plans to spend $18.07 on sweets and 94.6 percent of consumers planning to purchase in that category.

  • Halloween maintains its spot as one of the biggest decorating holidays of the year, second only to Christmas. 59.8 percent of consumers plan to purchase decorations and 47 percent expect to decorate their home or yard. Consumers will spend approximately $840 million on decorations.

  • Halloween remains the sixth-largest spending holiday after: Winter Holidays ($435.3 billion estimated), Valentine's Day ($13.19 billion), Easter ($9.6 billion), Mother's Day ($11.43 billion), and Father's Day ($8.23 billion). Because it is not a gift-giving holiday or an apparel holiday, it ranks lower than other annual holidays in terms of spending.

  • Costumes are the second largest spending category behind candy. Consumers will spend approximately $1.15 billion on costumes, with 53.3 percent of consumers planning to buy a costume for Halloween. The average consumer will spend $31.88 on Halloween costume purchases.

  • 3.78 million children plan to dress up as a princess on Halloween, making it the most popular Halloween costume for kids this year.

Source: National Retail Federation 2005 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Peering From the Foxhole

I’ve been working on a big photo project for a friend the past few days and it seems like old times. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to watch the sun go down and then come back up all from the same seat. Not fun, but every now and then you have to pick up a weapon and stand a post, I just happened to draw the night watch.

Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.
You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.
We use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punch line.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I'd prefer you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post.

Fortunately for me I’m just in the National Guard and I don’t have to do this for a living. However, I am pleased with the results and my friend is as well.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Photo with Johno

My friend Johno is in town for NYMS at Cascade and he had a little time to kill in between lectures, so we drove over to the Japanese Gardens to burn some film. (Which more accurately should be clichéd: capture some pixels on flash memory, but I don't like the way that sounds.) The gardens are beautiful and today were exceptionally gorgeous with clear skies and temps in the upper 60s. I only wish we could have stayed for longer. Here's another shot I liked.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


I've been home quite a bit lately so I've been getting a few household chores done like laundry and dishes, but I am lacking in the go-grocery-shopping task. So, we are out of food. It is so bad that for a late breakfast my wife had low-fat, microwave popcorn. You’d think, “why not a bowl of cereal?” But, silly husband has not gone to the store to pick up milk and Capt’n Crunch does not taste right with water.
So after I went for a run with the dog, I was thinking to myself, what can I possibly eat that won’t mean a trip to the store. I’m too hungry to skip the meal altogether, so I must do something… Well, we have no bread, maybe I can bake some?—too long to wait. We might have Bisquick? Yeah, but only reduced fat, ~sigh~ that’s ok, I’ll just kill it with I Can’t Believe Its Not Butter.
I grab the Bisquick box and check out the biscuit recipe: all I need is Bisquick and milk? I wonder to myself if it would taste ok if I made it with water? Probably. Then I think, wait a minute! I’ve got powdered milk from my last back packing adventure and biscuits won’t care if I use powdered milk like the Capt’n would.
So I heat the oven, mix it up and cut the biscuits. I place them neatly on the Pampered Chef stone and wait for the magic. Not 7 minutes later I was looking at what can only be described as an oasis of nutrition in a desert of empty cupboards.
And let me tell you, standing in my wet-from-rain-mist, running shorts in the warmth of the residual heat of the oven I did not even reach for a plate. I put a knife in one hand and chunked generous dollops of I Can’t Believe Its Not Butter on the biscuits that my other hand was rhythmically feeding my mouth. I only slowed down on the third biscuit when I remembered we might still have some raspberry jam, which we did.
Exhibiting a small amount of discipline, I stopped after 3. I’ll save the rest for lunch. I’ll let you write your own moral to this story, but rest assured we are a blessed people and I am reminded of it daily.

Monday, October 17, 2005


I have very few childhood memories that do not include my brother Blake. Blake was born when I was 12 days short of 2 years old. I don’t remember him being born, but I can tell you of countless adventures that we shared. I often marvel at the wisdom of my parents placing us so close together. Without Blake around I wouldn’t have had a constant playmate to laugh with, make up games with and learn to deal with shared living spaces with. I’m not sure how people without close siblings get by and I am glad to see that Griffin will not face the challenges of childhood alone. His new brother Adam will bring him numerous laughs, games and shared living spaces challenges.

I can only guess that Blake feels the same way, although I am sure his perspective is a bit different. I am confident that he and Kim will give Griffin and Adam the boundaries and freedoms that they will need to grow up as great friends. Nice job Blake, give that new kid a squeeze from uncle J.


My good friend Stephanie's brother-in-law played his first concert at the Aladdin on Friday night. They wanted some nice pictures, but didn't want to pay a lot of money, so they traded me 2 tickets for some images. Brent is definitely a master on his instrument and it was a treat to hear him play. His music is loosely categorized as world fusion and I would encourage you to check out his web site:

I think I got some good images. It was fun to push the limits of my equipment with very little light.

On the lighter side, I was mistaken by a man as a professional photographer and a woman thought I was Lance Armstrong, yeah it was really dark. (But I was still flattered by both of them :)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Long Time Coming

My dog has been very patient over the last 6 months as I torturously work over her head and out of her reach. If you've spent any time with Labradors you know that they long to be with their owners--you will always find Sinopah in the same room as me. So, when I started climbing that evil ladder and leaving her behind she was faced with a challenge. At first she would bark at me to come down, and then she would just wait lying in the sun at the base of the tree for me to return.
Well, this week I finally finished the staircase to heaven and she can join me in my room in the sky. Her energy and intensity are magnified up here as she wags her tail for butt-scratches and watches the kids, dog-walkers and squirrels that she could never see when she was tethered to the ground. Sometimes I catch her gaurding our lawn from the landing in the middle of the stairs, I wonder what the other dogs think when they come by and see a dog 10 feet up in the air?

I'm working on the stair railings for the rest of the week and then I can begin putting in the windows and door. (Just in time too, the rain has already begun to fall.)

Welcome to the treehouse my friend. I'm sure we are in for some grand adventures up here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Katrina Thoughts

I’ve been a little stumped about this post. I have more to say about my time in Louisiana, it just hasn’t materialized. So here are a few final thoughts:

I am humbled by the financial support I received
With one simple email request, God rallied His followers and completely overwhelmed my financial needs for this trip. I wrote in the e-mail, that I sent out the day before I left, that I think God empowers some people with the time to go and others with the resources to help send them. I do not think either role is any less important. I only hope that the people that helped to support me feel the joy of partnering in such a work. If you donated to this effort, know that you put me in a position to help people who had their world blown away by Katrina. Thank you ten times over.

I am an adventurer
I am the type of person that seeks adventure—if you know me, you are rolling your eyes and thinking, ‘duh’. Much of the draw for me to go to LA was the possibility of adventure. For crying out loud, the list of supplies to bring included a chainsaw. How cool is that? In my world that is the closest thing to a light-saber I will ever touch, how could I not be in for an adventure? Now, while I still consider my trip an adventure, it was not filled with the thrills that one might expect while wielding a gas-powered samurai sword. Instead, the Lord taught me a simple lesson about His need for workers, their expectations and what He really needs from them. The first day I was in Slidell, my assignment was to dig small holes in the ground every few feet to follow a sewer-pipe from one end of the Hilltop Rescue and Relief property to the other. Huh? What about the chainsaw? Where is the adventure in digging holes? It turned out that the 40 people who were working at HillTop shared one toilet and one shower and I was assigned to a team that was building a shower-house complete with 4 toilets and 4 much needed showers. I’ll admit that when it comes to ‘jobs’ in the Kingdom I often get the flashy up-in-front assignments, so this gave me pause. Does the glamour of the job define its usefulness? I’ve often preached that it does not and working that shovel I got to put my money where my mouth is. I spent 5 of my 7 workdays on that shower-house and I pray that God was glorified with each one.

There is more to do
I’m sure by this point hundreds of people have been a part of the Hilltop Rescue group in Slidell. I was only there for 7 days while others have been there for a month. They are still cleaning out houses, doing laundry and removing fallen trees. And they will be for many months to come. Please continue to support them in prayer and with contributions—the work they do is making a difference.

Where are the pictures?
I took very few pictures while I was in Louisiana. It is hard to explain why, but I just didn’t get out the camera. People’s homes and livelihoods were destroyed and I didn’t feel like taking pictures. I’m sure you’ve seen a ton from the news. Remember, every time you are shocked by a picture of the destroyed house, there is a real person or family that lived there. My good friend Johno got some images that remind me of just that.
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