Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fakers

One of these smiles isn't real.


Computers are pretty smart. But they say the one thing computers can't do is read a face. Only a human mind (and sometimes a dog's) can process facial expressions and interpret their meaning.

I found these two photos of my daughter. If you have a mind (or at least a functioning right brain portion of one) you can figure out which is the real smile. If you're a computer, good luck! (Hint: Her nose crunches up when she loses her composure and a real smile takes over)

Here's what I realized. The faked smile photo is still lovable, but mildly grates on me. The real smile hits me with a warm burst that spreads through my chest...not just because she is my offspring, but because in it, I can see the real her!

Last week, I had a friend share with me some junk he is going through. (Thanks for sharing JF!) His face will have a smile soon enough, but I realized how authentic he was, and I loved him for it. The week before that a friend from long ago caught up with me and said he had just lost his job. (Thanks for being real GS!) Another authentic expression and another warm burst that spread through me.

I know we can't go around wearing our emotions on our sleeves and asking everyone to mop up after us, but this week, I'm going to remember my authentic friends, Vienna's authentic nose-crunching smile and I'm going to give my friends some warm bursts by being the real me.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Creativity vs. Innovation



My friend, George Foster, just got back from a visit to Brazil and sent me this photo.

This made me think of the difference between creativity and innovation.

Evidently, someone had three VW Bugs in different colors. They decided to swap out doors, hoods and fenders.

My email signature this week reads, "Creativity is coming up with new ideas. Innovation is putting those ideas to work"

Back to the VW Bugs. Creativity would be swapping out parts from three different cars because it was fun and clever. Innovation would be swapping out parts so that a small resort could turn their three different colored cars into a matching fleet of hospitality vehicles.

Fun!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Puppy

Introducing......


I don't know her name yet. It has changed a few times. The last I heard, it was Sugar.

She is a huge dog at just 3 months and has a James Earl Jones bark already.

O'ma is thrilled. O'pa?

Not so much.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Amazing Wife


Here she is. Miss Amazing!

She jumped in to help on the building project Saturday without any hesitation. I asked her about the concrete on her hands and if it didn't hurt her skin.

She said, "Nah, it's a great way to exfoliate the hands".

She rocks!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The memories we make.

Some days are sticky. You know, those days that seem insignificant, laborious or just normal? Those days you don't journal about or cite in answering the 'what did you do this weekend' question.

But they stick to your memory bank walls and years later they get remembered for no particular reason.

Can't say for sure, but I'm guessing yesterday is going to be one of those sticky days we remember as a family for very long time. We drove 45 minutes up into the mountains to help Rock Star Graeme work on a house he is building for a little old Indian lady.
And sticky days have sticky moments. I'll remember the moment I snapped this photo for the rest of my life.

Ellie was standing in field of tall grass at the foot of a mountain as the clouds rolled in. I'll remember the cow making noise off to my left and the hint of smoke that reminded me that an Indian woman was cooking up some lunch for us.

We all got in on it, got our hands dirty, got a few blisters and got in Greame's way. But it was a fun day and will become even more fun as the years go by.

What intrigues me about making memories is that sometimes the harder I try, the less memorable the days are. I've planned all sorts of 'family days' that end up being disastrous or dumb. And the only way I know they occurred is because I run across a photo someplace the reminds me. "Oh yeah, we had a picnic at that park...man, we sure tried hard!"

Then other times, I just show up for life and the memories I make are sweet and beautiful and linger through the months to follow with a vibrant streak of unforgettable color.

I'd love to hear from you. Have you tried really hard to make a memory only to have it evaporate?
What memories have you made that stick with you, and why?
Why do you think your mind or heart picks certain memories to let go of easily and holds on to others for a lifetime?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Crotch Grabbing

Forgive me for such poor taste in blog entries. It's a blatant attempt to get someone to read my blog...but in fairness, it did happen this week.


My wife took our kids to this really great waterfall in our little town. They hiked up and near the top and jumped over a stream onto a little island to celebrate.

The kids loved it and, well, you can see their excitement in the video.

What captivated me about this clip was von grabbing his crotch in excitement. Why do little kids to this when they are excited. I know it's not only my kids who do it. I've seen your kids do this too!

And then I wondered at what age this excited grabbing is supposed to stop and imagined what would happen if we didn't grow out of it.

For example, having your name called on the price is right...if you were to run down the isle grabbing yourself, would it be cute or disturbing?

Or if your husband just walked in the door and announced to the family, with Swiss ski vacation tickets in hand, that you all needed a break, would jumping up and down in this way tell him you really love him, or would he cluck his tongue in disapproval?

You boss announces you got a raise...ok, so you get my point. It's not an adult thing, which is good.

But it is cute in kids. So I'll just fight the urge next time I get really excited, and just watch this clip again and vicariously live through my kids.

Anybody else kids do this?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Old but Good Friends


I just got an email from an old, dear friend this morning. (More 'dear' and less 'old') I used to work with her at DaySpring many years ago.

The thing I love about her is that even though we haven't spoken in years, when we do speak it just feels normal and right. When I hear from her, I just feel relaxed. No guilt for not having written, or called. No expectations to plan a trip across the country to share a meal with her family. Just a warm and sincere 'howdy' and update.

There is just something special about Sandy and her family and I'm looking forward to a day far down the road where I can sit in my wheelchair, have my friend Sandy shuffle over to me in old people slippers, and we pick right up where we last left off.

Sandy, here is the latest family photo. Thanks for being such a brilliant friend!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Silent Movie

I worked really hard trying to get the audio portion of this video clip to show up....


(Insert silent pause here for irony).


video

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Mexican Circus


I was pleasantly surprised.

I didn't know that when we set out to attend the circus in a small little village in the mountains of Mexico that Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue would be there in leopard skin posing as Tarzan with trained monkeys that jumped through a ring of fire. Impressive!

I also didn't know that Disney sponsored the event and everyone from Shrek to Mike Wazowski and Mickey Mouse would be there.
Impressive indeed!

What was really impressive, though, is that Mexicans are really good at being resourceful. Sure, they didn't have the latest in laser lighting technology or a fancy sound system. But what they did have, they made great use of and at the end of the night, I had to step back and say, "Que Bueno!" and "Hola Nikki!"

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Naughty T-shirt


If you've travelled to another country, you've seen one. You know the ones. The T-shirts you see on the street, the one that has some off the wall or naughty message, the one you wish you had a camera to capture, the one that makes you deliberate between laughing or feeling bad for the person.

Sofie came home from church and told me about the worship leader's son who was wearing one of these shirts...to church...that said, "I love boobies".

Poor guy. If he only knew what the shirt said and how truthfully honest he was being with the world without knowing it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Things you can only do in Mexico


We had some of our favorite people visit us just recently. Dan Brokke and his son Dustin were here for about a week. Dan came down to discuss his book that is being published in the Spring and to hang out with us.

Here's five fun things we got to do with Dan and Dustin.

1) We walked where Aztecs walked. I don't know the exact name of 'the pyramids' or who lived there. I know they were built before the time of Christ and that is pretty cool to be walking on buildings that are that old, even if they used to have human sacrifices up on top. (Mel Gibson's movie "Apocalypto" brings that bit into perspective.)

Dan and Dustin are standing on the top of the pyramid that is called 'The Sun' and in the background you can see "The Moon".


2) We fought street vendors. Well, not actually fighting, but we learned how to insistently say "no thanks". Dustin was in his glory, especially talking to the vendors who sold primitive replica weapons. In fact, I think I captured him mid-negotiations in this photo.
We turned down offers for blankets, jewelry, fake jade, sunglasses, t-shirts, and whistles that sound erie and give you gooseflesh.
And once you buy from one guy, they all descend like vultures on the poor victim.


3) We boarded a refugee boat. Well, technically, it was a tourist boat, but we kept pretty close to the life-jacket bin just in case. The disco music played on the tired speakers overhead made it seem less dangerous, I suppose. This was one of those moments that will be remembered fondly in a few years...but now? Not so much.

4) We saw things unique to Mexico. For instance, you just don't see a mexican police guy wearing this kind of hat down at your local Circle K.
Back home, it's not everyday that you get to see police officers buying pirated music and videos while toting machine guns. This was fun. Need I say more?
And how often is it that you see a game of chess nearly going to blows?And movie producers. You don't meet those everyday back home. (I'll post on my friend, Cris, later)
5) We launched a balloon that is powered by a coat hanger with strips of rags set on fire. (It's the rainy season so don't turn us in to Smokey the Bear). We watched it disappear into the night sky until it was a tiny dot.


Thanks Dan and Dustin for coming to visit us! Hope you made it home safe with your weapons!

Friday, August 8, 2008

How to be a Rock Star...instantly!

I'm glad I got out of bed yesterday. I learned something that I'll remember for the rest of my life.

I blogged about my mom's decision to put her dog down. (Interestingly, I found out the word for that in Spanish is "Sacrificando" which means sacrificing. So I'm officially a dog sacrificer now.)

What did I learn yesterday that was so important? I watched somebody instantly elevated to Rock Star status.

Graeme Shoebridge is a young guy spending his summer here building houses in the Indian villages. He took leadership in helping make the dog sacrifice happen. My mom said her goodbyes to the dog and went to town so she would not be present when it went down.

When we were done and the dog was buried, Graeme wrote a very kind and sincere note to my mother, bought her flowers and when my mom came home, he hugged her. But get this...(Graeme, I hope you don't sacrifice me for telling everyone this)...while hugging my mother who was in tears, Graeme cried with her.

Instantly Graeme went from a super guy, to Rock Star in my mom's eyes and everyone else's.

Understand, Graeme is no sissy. He's a construction management major, he rides motorcycles and doesn't flinch when he hammers his thumb. He's as tough as my Uncle Steve. In fact, I think I saw Graeme iron his blue shirt in this photo while he was still wearing it.

This reminds me of a story in the bible where Jesus came to raise a dead man back to life. And in the story, he looks around at the family of the dead guy and starts crying, and it mentions in there three times that he cries. Then he tells the dead guy, Lazarus, to come out of the grave. And he does. And then there is probably this awkward interchange between the former dead guy and his relatives..."So....Laz....how've you been?"

I've often wondered why Jesus cried. Was it because of a personal sense of loss, and then he suddenly remembers he is Jesus and quits his crying and does something? I'd like to think it is because Jesus was like Graeme and was really good at laughing with those who laugh and weeping with those who weep.

After yesterday, when I'm visiting your house and you are having a party or celebrating a wedding, if the turning water to wine thing doesn't work for me, I'm going to celebrate with you the best I can. And if you're crying, I'm going to pull out the tissue and weep with you a little before I start looking with you for a miracle.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

How to be instantly hated


I found out how to be instantly hated today.

Here, let me try it on you. Let me ask you a question and see what your response is?

Here goes: "Hey, can you tell me how to euthanize a dog?"

(...see, you hate me already....)

Let me explain. My mom asked me for help today. Her very old, very loved, and very well cared for dog is on her last few breaths. We live in Mexico up in the mountains a far drive from the vet and she has asked me with sad tears to help her relieve Greta of her pain. She can't stand up straight without howling, she whines when you gently touch her head, and she is old as dirt. (The dog, not my mom!)

In my desire to help, I googled "How to euthanize a dog". I wanted to see if there was an over the counter medication that we could give the dog to save her the misery of being lifted into the truck, the pain of every little pothole on the drive to town. I also thought it would be nice to have her last few moments be spent where she was queen for all these years-on O'mas front porch.

I saw some poor soul unsuspectingly already asked this question in a discussion group and it had generated quite a bit of response. It was one of those questions you hear someone ask in public, and judging by the response they get, you become very thankful that it was them doing the asking and not you.

The question generated more controversial response and accusations and wrong assumptions than any other topic I've seen discussed on the internet. I thought people cared about nuclear bombs, the environment and Lindsey Lohan. But pick on a dog, and brother, you've got it comin'.

And I know I shouldn't have enjoyed it, but I secretly liked reading how upset people got and how they talked at each other instead of seeking to understand before stating their views.

And it digressed from there, it went to gun laws, homeless crack addicts, name calling 'city slickers' and 'country folk' and even got into theological discussions on the difference between a spirit and a soul in an animal.

My conclusion is to look around for a vet who can make the trip out to the house (and who will keep me from looking like a Nazi to the world).

It's going to be a sad day for Oma. Greta was a dear companion and friend. You can email Oma at rovenstinez@earthlink.net and tell her you are thinking of her. (But please don't say bad things about her son.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Mug Shots on Money




I was preparing for a magic trick for VBS when it hit me how awesome the 100 Peso bill is.

In the trick, you rip the bill a little, and then 'repair' it...except I couldn't rip it. Honestly, I couldn't.

I took out the equivalent to this bill and compared the US $10 to the Mexican $10 bill.

The guy on bill looks tougher than nails, and I bet if you put him in a wrestling ring with Alexander Hamilton, Alex would be asking for a stunt double fast!

Alex look calm, nice, almost sweet. He looks like someone I'd like to have over for dinner but not somebody I'd put in charge of protecting stuff.

This gets me to thinking. What can you tell about a country's culture by looking at their currency? Can you market yourself as a kinder, more magnanimous country by showing a guy like Alex? What would happen if you gave Alex a little 'Jack Sparrow' facial hair treatment and an Axel Rose dew rag?

I'm going to try that in Photoshop. Maybe the Treasury Department will like my ideas and issue a new 'tough guy' into circulation.

Have you seen any interesting characters on currency from other countries?

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Little Skin, a Little Violence...


I don't know how it got started. I can't say I'm necessarily proud of it. But the fact is, it's a tradition and it's probably here to stay.

My kids have this expectation that whenever we go someplace to stay overnight and stay in a hotel, that we get to play the slapping game.

It happened just this weekend in Mexico City.

It begins when I start to get undressed to go to the hotel swimming pool. Each kid gets just one chance to leave the most pronounced hand mark on dad's white torso. And it's not just the kids that get a chance, Lisa insists on a turn as well.

I haven't worked on the technique myself, but judging from the red marks, the one who slaps hard and then quickly removes their hand leaves the longest-lasting mark. Sometimes it's just a few fingers and sometimes it's a whole hand, but there is always a clear winner.

There are a few howls, some laughs, and there are lots of handprints to show for it at the hotel pool.

Why does this game make sense? It doesn't. But if given the preference of wearing a T-shirt that says 'World's Best Dad' or a few hand marks at the pool, I'll take the hand-marks, especially if the kids remember me as a tough old owl.

Besides, with red marks on my body, nobody can really tell that I haven't worked out since the 5th grade.