The following is an article I penned for a long time favorite blogger and supporter, Diana Schwenk. We have been following each others blogs now for over 2 years. She’s in my Top 5 Commenters list!
Diana does a lot of work for charities and fundraisers. She spent a large part of last year helping out flooding victims in and around her area in Calgary. So when she asked me if I would like to share my experiences in ‘giving back’ I jumped at the chance.
OK, it took almost a week , to write it but by my latest post drought that is practically overnight!
Her network reaches far and wide. She wrote me the day after she posted my article to tell me it had been picked up and shared by a major online charitable newsletter. I was thrilled!
You can checkout some of the good things Diana does on this charitable site or check her out where I frequently find her, http://talktodiana.wordpress.com/. Thanks everyone! And thanks to you Diana for the opportunity. How’s the weather now?
I met Andy months ago in the blogosphere, and the more I got to know him, the greater my respect for him and his involvement in his community grew. I was delighted when Andy agreed to provide a guest post for The Other Bottom Line. Andy’s story illustrates so well the importance of building authentic relationships with the people who support your organization. Please see his story, in his own words, below.
A few years ago I ran a 5K race on a hot and sunny Saturday morning. The scene was picturesque, at a park bordering a local river.
It was a nice day. The race was for a good cause. There was a very tasty after race party including some southern grits and red velvet cake.
It was a fun, casual run with very little competitive aspects to it…
And so I wondered, ‘Why not a larger turnout for this event?’
Yes, I’m malicious, mean and scary,
My sneer could curdle dairy.
And violence-wise, my hands are not the cleanest.
But despite my evil look,
And my temper and my hook.
I’ve always yearned to be a concert pianist
I have dreams like you, no really.
Just a lot more, touchy feely.
They mainly happen somewhere warm and sunny.
On an island that I own,
Tanned and rested with no phone,
Surrounded by enormous piles of money.
I’ve got a dream
(He’s got a dream)
I’ve got a dream
(He’s got a dream)
She’s the most exciting girl you’ve ever seeeen!
Though my face leaves people screaming
There’s a child behind it, dreaming
Like everybody else, I’ve got a dream
Actually I have lots of dreams! Dreams for now. Dreams for the future.
Now the hard part is making sure they all come true…
…including making sure you know who the real star of this Disney Tangled movie really is….
This one is for all our Grandparents, family and friends out there.
Today in church my wife had Nursery duty so I was a solitary spectator in our church pew. Shortly before the service however Dylan came out to join me in our pew.
While her attention span still prohibits her from sitting quietly through a service, she has been able to find things to keep her busy so she is not so much of a distraction from the rest of us.
But that’s not to say she doesn’t have her own favorite parts of our service. One of them is the regular song of praise we Lutherans sing each week. As Lutherans we are very regimented and our skills and talents in singing are not nearly as evolved as our Baptist bretheran.
This song of praise, Gloria, or Glory to God, we do sing each week, its fairly easy for us Lutherans to sing and Dylan can now read along in the hymnal as we go.
So this morning it was great to see her singing along to this song. She was singing it proudly that even our neighbors in the pews glanced over to notice. It was a proud daddy moment!
So after the service was over I went to spring mommy from her nursery duties. I told Mom how proud I was of Dylan in church this week and I told her of her singing along to Gloria.
Mom, taking it all in stride replied, “Yes, Friday when she was searching her favorite Disney videos on youtube she actually did a search for ‘Glory to God In the Highest’.”
Well that did my little daddy heart proud and it took me back to memories of when she actually sings this song to herself, either on the way home from church some days or on the way to school some mornings.
Maybe I don’t have to worry so much about this one anymore.
Is it cold where you are? We are under yet another winter storm advisory here. I feel a need to escape t some place Hot! So with this Valentine’s holiday coming up had me reminiscing over past holiday trips, since we can’t actually go on one this year. Its been fun looking at pictures and reliving past experiences. It helps take the chill off! Thinking back, the trip that is the most memorable was the year we spent Valentines in Negril, Jamaica. So if you have a few minutes, can I tell you a funny story? Funny, now, that is.
First I have a few disclaimers! A) This vacation trip was a good five years ago. Any resemblances to this blogger in the pictures is merely coincidental. B) All the rumors you have ever heard about Jamaica are true….It is a beautiful tropical island, yes, there is a ganja drug problem there, and tourists do actually disappear there. C) There are many, many beautiful resorts there, most by the big chains from Breezes to Sandals and more. We unfortunately didn’t stay at one of them.
The view I had from my beach chair
Arrival: We flew into Montego Bay airport. Now for a third world air port Jamaica’s was pretty nice, with no hassles upon arrival, once they staffed the Passport arrival area. In fact, it may be one of my favorite air ports because it is small and there is a Jimmy BuffettMargaritaville right on premises. This is particularly cool for when you are waiting for your flight to arrive on the way home. Margaritaville has a great menu and a gift shop that is sure to leave you cashless, in case you had any funds left at the end of your vacation.
As with any trip when leaving the country, always do your research first! One very valuable tidbit we found was find yourself a taxi driver in Jamaica before you arrive. I can’t under estimate this enough, given what we heard about some. We actually found a few advertised on the Internet with references. Stepping out of the air port, on to the curb with your luggage, this piece of research paid off from the beginning.
The cab drivers were thick as thieves, trying to get you to ride in their cab. I immediately pulled out my sheet and asked for “Juan, our cab driver”. They all quieted down in an instant and one said he is over there. We went over to his cab stand, introduced ourselves, and boarded his cab. Once inside this rustic 4 door sedan, he turns around points to a small cooler on the back seat and asks, “ Would either of you care for a Red Stripe? I brought one for each of you.” Score one for Jamaica! (It took almost 7 hours to get a Guinness in Ireland) Double score, since my wife doesn’t drink beer!
It takes about a good two hours to travel to Negril from Montego Bay. So our cabby asked if we were hungry. We said yes. So before we left Montego Bay he pulls off to a quaint road side café; a locals only type of joint. He asked if we ever had Jerk Chicken before? We shook our heads no. So he said, “come on…”
We had our first taste of Jerk Chicken by some locals that knew how to prepare it. It was great! It was served on paper plates with a big helping of dirty rice. I stumbled upon another Red Stripe. So far so good. The rest of our trip to the resort was very bi-polar. Very beautiful scenery coupled with views of poverty ridden towns, that we have grown accustomed to seeing in the Caribbean. It always leaves you wondering what happens to all the tourist money, taxes and jobs that come into a tiny country like this.
The Resort: We arrived at our resort, Merrills III. It was only our third all-inclusive we had been to and easily the least glamorous. But it was what we could afford at the time, and given what we just drove through, very adequate. We unpacked, cased the joint for amenities and waited for dinner…..Jerk chicken and rice. 😦
We ate. We explored. We went to bed. Hmmmm? I can see through the roof. The ceiling above us was very much a thatched roof. We could literally see some stars. Trying to be positive, we thought very appropriate for a beach side resort…as long as it doesn’t rain.
On the other hand, if the property directly beside you happens to be an outside, midnight beach bar, with absolutely no walls, right on the beach, catering to late night beachcombers because the volume is so loud it draws them in from two miles away, then we have a problem. (Sigh) And, yes we were in Jamaica. And, yes every song was reggae but there are some songs that should not be covered in a reggae motif. The Captain and Tennile’s “Muskrat Love” is one for instance. Even after days of hearing this it still made no sense. Live bands playing top 40 hits to a reggae beat just don’t sound good. Reggae songs sound good. The Bee-Gees do not. This bar started around 12 midnight. It was very loud, like our beds were stage front. And the party lasted until the sun came up. Pretty cool if you were 20 or so. I guess.
The beach and ocean was beautiful though. Our room opened up to the pool area (beside the beach bar!) on one side and above the kitchen on the other We had either Jerk Chicken or Jerk Pork everyday for lunch and dinner. And regardless of which entrée we were having that night, the kitchen side always smelled like pot. When in Rome we thought!
Beach: The beach was nice; coarse white sand and clear blue Caribbean waters. Gorgeous! We were there to tan and snorkel and just relax and figured to spend most of our time there. Considering how much sleep we weren’t getting at night (from the outdoor bar silly person!) It was the place to be. Relax with a Red Stripe and soak up some vacation I thought. My foot had to be wrapped in tape every day from a running injury so the idea of walking far in the sand or shallow surf was really out of the question any way.
A wrapped foot kept me on the beach and out of the water
But what is with the armed guards on each side of the resort? The resort had rental police at each side of the beach along the property’s borders. We soon deduced it was from keeping unwanted locals off the property and harassing the guests. A few hours later we found out they were on the beach to keep unwanted locals from harassing the guest….on the beach.
You see the beach front was open to anybody walking by and the best way to describe the traffic along the beach was think about your last professional baseball game you went to. How many vendors marched by you there, selling a wide variety of goodies?
Negril’s beaches were very similar. You had all kinds of locals parading down the beach, trying to sell you their goodies. They tried to sell relaxing tourists everything from aloe plants, baby bananas, jewelry, bandanas, people-who-knew-people that sold the local crop, souvenirs, and even a Valentines Day dinner and snorkeling cruise aboard a sailboat. They all sounded just like those barkers at the ball parks. If you made eye contact they closed in. If you said no, they tried harder. If you got frustrated and asked them to leave, and they figured out you were an American, they called you a racist (we all must be racists in America evidently). This is when the policemen on the beach stepped in. Now this didn’t happen all the time but you did learn not to make eye contact. It is with this type of mentality, of a local beach peddler, that we were advised not walk very far on the beach at night. ..very unfortunate on a Valentine’s getaway!
Now the beach wasn’t all bad. We walked up to a locals craft market and found some nice things to bring home. We found another Margaritaville beach bar about a mile in the other direction down the beach. This was very nice; like a mini resort. We spent half of our souvenir money there it seems. It turns out half of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville’s are located in Jamaica, which is another story (summed up in the video at the end). But if you are a fan, it was a pretty cool place to be on in barefoot, sun burned, half-naked on vacation.
I blew out my flip-flop
We met other nice people. Ate at some nice beach side bistros we found while beach combing (you can only eat Jerk Chicken so many times!). We were actually enjoying ourselves on the beach, as we should. Did I mention all-inclusive and Red Stripe? We actually had everything we wanted except…. snorkeling. So on Thursday, when the lady selling the Valentine’s Dinner Cruise and snorkel trip passed by we hopped at the chance.
St. Valentine’s Dinner Cruise: Our vacation getaway to some place warm had been OK so far. A little sleep deprived, but OK. But it was Valentine’s Day coming up and we hadn’t had a chance to swim with the fishes yet. We thought this was just what we needed to make our trip …memorable!
The plan was to sail on this large sail boat, sail down to a snorkeling spot, swim for a while, and then be served a dinner on the boat on the way back while the sun set. It sounded like fun!
We boarded the boat with the other 20 or so passengers. Everything was included , including a bar downstairs in the cabin. We proceeded to sail down to the snorkel spot. Then we heard a voice from the captain’s chair, “Oh no! Pirates!”
A chuckle in his voice kept me from terror. I turned around and here, speeding up to us, was a motorized canoe with two freaky dread lock males aboard. Now, I don’t know Jamaican pirates from Somalian but I didn’t like this. They came on board, went down below for a few minutes, then left the same way they arrived. We were spared!
It wasn’t long after I noticed, couple by couple going downstairs, two at a time, then coming back up. It wasn’t long after that we got wind of that familiar cash crop of Jamaica’s rising from the cabin below. Modern day pirates in deed! Watch out Tubbs and Crocket! (sorry 1980’s refereance) I smiled to myself…no escape!
We reached our snorkel location. It was at the foot of what was called one of the 10 most famous bars in the world, Ricks!
See the local climbing the cliff to get back up to Ricks?
Here was a bar, on the west side of Negril, with perfect sunsets, where the apparent draw is cliff diving! Can you imagine? Getting all Red Striped, feeling invincible (or invisible) and jumping two stories into the famed Caribbean Sea? With no apparent way to get back up to the bar…unless you can climb the cliff wall. Have you ever been THAT drunk? Not me. I’ve done some crazy things
Watch out below!
We grabbed our snorkel gear and hopped in the water. The water was nice and clear. Their were enough fish swimming to keep it from being a wasted dive. We explored the caves and tried to stay clear of the drop site from above. Not too bad really. We enjoyed it.
We finished and climbed back in the boat, toweled off and prepared for our Valentine’s Dinner Cruise dinner. You guessed it, Jerk Chicken and rice of course 😦
We ate our modest meal, happy to have finally been able to snorkel. We watched the coastline as we motored back home. Not a bad day all in all. Even met some pirates!
We soaked in the scenery along the coast. Oddly, I noticed we were slowly being left alone. Did I smell? Whassup? It seems everyone had migrated over to the ocean side of the boat. I stood up and looked over and then grabbed my wife by her hand. As we were cruising home without a doubt the most beautiful sun was slowly setting on the horizon. Nobody talked (they were all stoned…..just kidding). We just watched as something beautiful was happening before our eyes. Then someone pointed to a solitary sailboat was on a collision course with the sun on the horizon. The timing could not have been better scripted. As the sun slowly dipped halfway into the sea the silhouette of the sailboat cut across the orange ball, sailing directly in front of it before our eyes. It was like it was a scheduled perk of the V-Day cruise. It was a Valentine’s Day gift to us.
Our Valentine’s sunset. Can you see the sailboat approaching?
With apologies to myself, my family and all future readers, I was not going to spoil this moment by whipping out a camera. I decided to take a picture early, tuck the camera away, put my arm around my wife and just enjoy this moment unfolding at sea. The camera doesn’t come close to capturing the moment anyway. It was a special moment, at least to me and few future Valentine’s moments could ever stack up to it.
We got back to our beach, walked hand-in-hand back to our resort. Resolved to be forced fed yet another midnight version of Muskrat Love, and remember that day for a long time. Pirates for crissake!
Jamaica left us with some wonderful memories of a beautiful island yet inhabited by hundreds of panhandlers. We resolved never to go back because of that. Many of the locals were just too nasty if you ventured off the property. And we like to walk on the beach at night. There are too many other Caribbean islands out there, just as beautiful, we thought.
And we resolved to explore every one of them for some more memories.
A few days ago our kitty disappeared. Mom remembers seeing the front door left open a bit after I brought in the groceries. He was old, by cat numbers. We had him as long as we had been married.
My wife came home with him after a trip to her home town (quite undiscussed!) a few months before we got married. In fact, if I am ever at a loss for how long we had been married, come anniversary time, I just ask how old is the kitty?
So the girls are a little up set with their kitty being missing. We put a bowl of food for him by our front door and a blanket to sleep in the next night. The night before of course were those frigid arctic fronts going through town where the overnight lows were below freezing.
I didn’t hold out much hope for him but the girls still wanted to believe. Finally I told Dylan he may not be coming home. Her face sunk to sad. I explained he is old and how cold it got the previous night. Optimistic, or still not wanting to concede the inevitable, she offers, “Well God would watch over him and keep him safe, right?”
If it were only that easy Dylan.
Through some coaxing from good friends and at home, I have started reading the Bible at night. I have never done this, for no good reason other than I don’t like to read.
Go figure, I love to write but hate to read.
I started on this easy ‘Read the Bible in a year program’. Right now I am reading in Genesis, specifically where God and Moses are talking about freeing the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Previously I only knew this story from Charlton Heston and the 10 Commandments.
Let my people go!
Like any Good Book, the Bible offers a whole lot more account than the movie did. What struck me was although God wanted to free His people out of bondage He first continuously hardened Pharaoh’s heart to not let them go.
God tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground and becomes a snake, plagues come of frogs, gnats and locusts. Each time Moses hopes this miracle will free his people. After all, since he started asking Pharaoh to “let my people go” Pharaoh made it that much harder on them in slavery.
“God, please let my people go!”
Desperate, Moses pleads with God to free his people as they were suffering so. God responds, He hardens Pharaoh’s heart so in the end His greatest miracle will be remembered forever and there will be no doubt to how great He is.
God could have freed the Israelites the first time with the first miracle but that would not have shown the extent of His greatness.
And so, while I was running for most of the morning this past Saturday, doing my 1/2 marathon thing I was thinking (I had some time to kill)….
Sometimes, Dylan, we don’t need to understand God’s plan. It may not make sense to us at the time. It may even seem mean or our prayers aren’t being answered. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be Great!
This concept led me to think of our troubles with infertility several years back. We sought the best fertility doctors in town in trying to have a family. They boasted how we ought to be ready for twins as they were that good!
The doctors created a “perfect embryo” then implanted it in my wife. We were finally going to have a family! But the embryo died.
We tried this again. The doctors made some adjustments. This time I /we prayed so hard; night and day, forceful begging and pleading for a child. The new embryo was implanted. This one ” couldn’t be better!” We prayed tirelessly. Yet the embryo died.
Undaunted and dieing to have a family we tried the IVF procedure one more time. Third times the charm, right? Everything went well. We prayed night and day, pleading to let this one work. Please God, let this one live!
We both fell silent for two days when we got the news.
I swore then and there I would never, ever pray again. Three years of praying and begging, and making deals. It doesn’t work. He doesn’t listen. Its a waste of time.
“God, please let my people go!”
Well I wouldn’t have this blog if ‘it was that easy.’If you have been following this blog for a little you know what amazing kids I am blessed with by now. God’s plan was GREAT! His plan is so much better than I ever could have imagined. So much better than I could have asked for! These two girls of ours are miracles from God.
Yes, he could have granted us our prayers the first time we went down the IVF road. Or the second. And we would have been very grateful. But what a skilled architect God was in fulfilling our dreams. And He has left an indelible impression in me, leaving no doubt to how great He is.A dream that will never be forgotten!Just like with Moses.
This past Saturday I ran my 1/2 marathon on a dare from a friend. Quite unexpectedly I got real emotional on the rain filled ride to the race that early morning. I teared up, making it even that much harder to see. And I screamed at the top of my lungs, “Thank you! Thank you God!”
Here’s the weather before the run. Unless you had a wet suit on it was no fun.
Yes, it was rainy and wet and cold for this run. The temperature was 48 degrees when I woke up and still 48 when the race started and 48 degrees 2 hours later when I finished.
It rained most of those two hours I ran, making for less than ideal settings to excel in shorts with a soaked shirt and a soaked head. Many times I wanted to take the short road back to the finish line and call it a day and not finish. No one would blame me I thought, considering. But I thought, it sure beats the alternative.
It sure beat lying in a hospital for surgery for the removal of an organ..or two. Or taking chemotherapy tablets or radiation. It sure beat staying at home with a compromised lifestyle because cancer had taken part of my body. Yes, running in the cold rain, unprepared, for 12 miles wasn’t so bad..considering the alternatives. I may not have been in the best shape of my life but I finished the 13 mile run!
While just a shadow of my former self in this race, I still did it!
When I first found out I had cancer back in May, it is safe to say I was scared. I was scared of what was going to happen to my future. Or if I even had a future. But I never blamed God. I knew he had a plan for me. I was still scared after all, I didn’t know what that plan was! But I knew it was part of His plan for me.
Looking at Dylan and Skylar that afternoon, I can’t help but think and get just a little bit excited about how great a plan He has for me this time!