28 August 2008

to insure, or not to insure....that is the question

Too often my mind starts going into victim syndrome. I try to snap out of it, but when something irrefutably wrong hits you square between the eyes, it's kinda hard not to feel like someone's out to get you.

Take for example this current conundrum. Obviously, leaving my job means leaving my health insurance behind. We were well prepared and began researching coverage almost immediately. Yesterday we get a call from our local insurance company stating that the provider would cover my wife and kids, but me.......no......denied........too big a health risk. WHAT??

We figured there must be some mistake, so our local company went to task trying to sort things out. No, I.......me........this guy, this specimen of health (hey, my doctor's words)........they were denying because of past health issues. Now, hold on....there hasn't been any past health issues except for a few bouts with the flu bug. What are they talking about? Unfortunately the deadline is tomorrow, to which I am faced with getting temporary insurance until I can contest their findings.

Now....I can't tell you how much of a blow this is to me. First of all, with little doubt in my mind, I am probably in the best physical shape of my life since college....20 years ago. I say this humbly, because it was a mighty big God who whipped me into shape. I'm running, working out...eating only the healthiest of food. I've been in to see the doctor for dumb things, I'm sure he thinks........but won't tell me because he's a good friend. What's up?

So, evidently there's this thing called insurance identity theft. Let me tell you a story about another guy, my age, who shares four things in common with me. 1) my last name 2) essentially my first name (kinda like eric & erik), 3) he was born in the same small town I was and 4) less than two weeks older than me. This Eric guy (names changed to protect the innocent) has gotten pulled over for drunk driving more times than I can count, his ex-girlfriend called my house thinking he was me (try explaining that one to the wife), and his creditors have called demanding I pay them........and this is where I think the problem may be. These were for unpaid WHOPPING MEDICAL BILLS. Hmmm.......it even went so far as Birdman contacting me once asking if I had sowed some wild oats in high school because he was told "that erik guy ain't the guy he claims to be". I told Birdman that I might have been cool at private school standards, but would still be a geek at any public school. I started figuring it would weigh down my political career, not unlike Bill to his Hillary.

So, now, I've got to straighten out another mess. In the mean time I'm considering going without coverage, locking myself in the house through the month of September and fashioning a bubble wrap suit for protection. My doctor friend was kind enough to say he'd help contest the issue, and if I needed a physical he could come to my house to ask me to turn my head and...yah...right!

DiVe, youth & technology

Several weeks ago I was approached to lead our Wednesday night youth group at our church. Youth is not something new to me, I did a five year stint with my wife, 5 years ago. And so, thinking of myself as young and having something to offer and having had a great experience with it before......I agreed.

Well, I'm two weeks into it. And I am excited about working with youth again, and seeing how God can impact these kids. But I've also realized that within just 5 years a lot has changed. I don't even get texting.....and this seems to be a primary method of communication. And then there's the whole Facebook thing. I set up an account several months ago but never did anything with it (was invited to be a friend and thought it would be rude to not, hence my account). But this new generation is all over it! So, yesterday I went it and spruced up my profile, added a picture, etc.. And now I've got invitations coming out my ears. Which is great, it's fine, it's how these kids connect. And I was able to find a couple of old college friends as well, so it's worth it. I'm not sure how I'm going to manage facebook, blogsites, varying email addresses, a company website.......and the rest of my life.

Our youth group is called DiVe, and I plan to do a series from the book UnChristian this Fall-to which I will do previews and follow-ups on, what else, a blogsite. So if you have any interest in this growing part of my life now, visit http://www.dive0809.blogspot.com/ . It's shaping up to be an awesome year. Pray for me!

26 August 2008

Landmarks & the Powers Church

Downtown Angola, Indiana at twilight


Historic buildings have the ability to inspire, cause us to remember, teach us about our past, and even give life to communities. My wife and I traveled to the northeast part of the state.....Angola area, to Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana's north regional annual meeting. We made a few stops in the progressive dinner schedule. The first was Powers Church, then to Pokagon State Park for BBQ in one of their stellar CCC structures...and back downtown to the Masonic Lodge on the historic city square. Angola's city square/circle monument seems to be a mini version of Indianapolis, and is probably the finest downtown square in the whole state.




But let me tell you about the Powers Church. It was built in 1876, eight miles east of Angola and was used by several congregations over the years. The setting against the cemetery is picture-perfect and the building is in a remarkable state of preservation, down to the original oil lamp holders. In 1976 descendants of the family who constructed the church decided they wanted to save the structure and began a preservation effort of ambitious proportions......right down to meticulously hand-painting wall paper to match the original which was cleaned, repaired and touched-up. The efforts have paid off....the building was listed on the National Register in 1983 and is in use for summer Sunday evening services. Hat's off to the Powers family.

For more information about Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana visit http://www.historiclandmarks.org/

22 August 2008

the hitching post

When we moved into our charming old house, there was an unsightly and out of control Chinese Elm hedge growing along the north property line. Between our house and the neighbor to the north is a platted alley, abandoned many years ago by the city. Under the hedge, along the alley was a large rock pile...probably dating to when the alley was abandoned.

I love relics.....relics that tell a story, tie a place to a time. After we moved in, I wanted to put an authentic wood picket fence around the backyard (yes, I paint it frequently). So I tore the hedge row out and used the stone for landscape border. I found one stone that had me baffled for a while. It was a piece of limestone, tapered on all four sides, with a metal rod buried in the top. At first I thought it came from the railroad, then thought it was an old stone window sill. Then I found another square stone under the hedge, flush with the ground that obviously had this stone mounted on top of it. It became clear........it was a hitching post along the old alley-way.

It now serves the function of garden ornament, greeting visitors at our back gate. I also found an old tin stop sign, light blue in color and square. It was near the corner where alley and Michigan Road met. It's in rough shape, but I have it in the barn and hope to do something with it someday too. Many times we pass by things and have no idea of their history until the story is revealed. I love the stories tying relics or places to points in time. They tell us something about ourselves many times.

say it ain't so


Fall? Could this be the first sign of Fall? Where did the summer go? I'm kayaking Sugar Creek this weekend, along with the first and only campout of the year......I want summer weather just another weekend longer.

20 August 2008

up to my ears in critters

the bat racket & skillful caulking job


I think the word is out among the animal kingdom. Visit my house and you're welcome to stay. We had 3 sleepless nights due to a bat in our house, for which I spent half a day Friday and half the day Saturday tearing the house apart......caulking every crack 1/4" or bigger. 3 tubes of caulk and 2 cans of expandable foam. The bat has not returned. Side note: if you see a tennis racket in someone's home, does it mean they play tennis or swat bats? I believe here in Indiana, it's for swatting bats.



We've had a mole problem for a few years now.....but the mounds are getting quite tall in the front yard....so much so, the building inspector stopped by and asked if I had a permit for excavation. So, this friend of mine, the wii guy, suggested using a spring loaded steel trap, as he had, to rid myself of the varmints. It worked! Joy of joys........I've snapped two little guys in half and have about a dozen more to go.



Then there is our snake friend (or friends?). I saw him the other evening, Saturday night, after a long day of caulking for bats, by our back porch where I like to sit and relax. He slithered into hiding while being chased by the dog. I didn't think too much of it until he showed up again, I think it was the same one, yesterday morning. This time he reared back to strike when I went to pick something off the ground. One of the biggest garter snakes I've seen. So, now I'm thinking.....I'll let you live being the environmentalist I am (forget the mole story for a moment). So I got a broom and tried to chase him west toward the river....instead he went east toward the foundation of our house....then into the foundation of our house. A time or two I had him pushed away with the broom, but I sure was making him angry....as angry as any snake I've ever seen.



I'm done with our town living wildlife adventure......I'm moving out into the country where the critters used to live.

18 August 2008

little pink houses...


I am a control freak.

It's a problem I have and admitting it is the first step to, well, controlling it, right? When we bought our house in our quiet little neighborhood, the boxes had not yet been entirely unpacked when I made an offer on a small vacant lot within eyesight of our back drive, to control what might happen there.

And when we learned that the two small homes immediately behind us were owned by the same landlord, I suggested that if the "pink house", as we referred to it, ever came up for sale that we would be interested in buying it. The other house was a little off to the right and somewhat hidden by our barn....it was the pink house in which I saw restoration potential.......and I saw it everytime I looked out our windows. The landlord said he'd think about it and came to us just weeks later. So we bought it......although my wife had (still has) mixed feelings on the "investment".


after the "uncovering"

The little diamond in the rough had pink aluminum siding, hurricane aluminum awnings and white and green aluminum chain link fence-6' tall. And it had a dumpy front porch and zero landscaping in the small front "yard" between it and the street. And the furnace sat in the middle of the dining room and the living room was painted black. We did a lot of work on the "pink house", ultimately uncovering its original wood siding and trim, revealing an 1856 Greek Revival Cottage. During the initial uncovering the house looked hideous, and even I had to really work hard to see the potential. The porch we opened up and found columns dating to about 1900. Ultimately I want to put a front porch on more in keeping with the earlier style, but it is what it is and we don't want to bankrupt ourselves in the process. Painted, landscaped, and significant interior reworkings........it's not a bad little place now and our renters have become friends of ours.

There was a craze to install aluminum over just about everything in the 1950's-early 70's. Pink seemed to be most fashionable around lakes, at least here in Indiana. I can't off the top of my head think of another pink aluminum sided house here in river city. Evidently there is a group in Indiana working to save these powder puffs. Me, I much prefer the historically accurate green.

after the "restoration"

Can't help but hit on this analogy. People seem to be set on always keeping up with the Jones' so to speak.....so, that meant, covering up with asbestos shingles, then aluminum siding, then vinyl siding, etc.. Instead, why don't we showcase who the real house is? Why are we quick to cover up, and not celebrate the true appearance, the true beauty of the authentic? And why do we do that in our own lives? Why are we quick to cover up, to stick on the latest fashionable thing-be it clothing or electronics.......or.......cover up the hurt, the ugly........because once we do a little "uncovering" then we can be healed; we can bring restoration to the beauty of the authentic....we can be made whole again.

But first we have to get under the surface of the pretty pink siding to find what is real.

16 August 2008

S is for....


Simple



Summer



Smiles


My little girl turns another year older Sunday. I find myself praying for my kids more each day and it seems that with those prayers of reliance on my Father for their protection, I find my love increases for both them and Him.....and I pray they see Him in me.

14 August 2008

the true Olympian

I'm sure many of you have been watching the 2008 Olympics, from the incredible opening ceremonies to lap after lap of Michael Phelps winning gold for the U.S.A. in record breaking speed and numbers. While not an athlete (does running 3x a week make me an athlete?), I am always inspired by stories of remarkable strength and endurance, of exceeding one's personal best in strength.

So, the Michael Phelps saga is a remarkable one indeed, worthy of respect and admiration. And I don't want to take anything away from the gold medals he's been racking up, but I learned of another, maybe more remarkable story yesterday from Men's Health, that is clearly being overshadowed by the Phelps phenomenon.

Eric Shanteau, another Olympic swimmer, found out just 7 weeks before he was to leave for Beijing that he has testicular cancer. He opted to forgo treatment and compete, not letting his teammates down, for the games he's been training for nearly his whole life. His diagnosis is good because it was detected so early, but still......knowing that diagnosis would have to play games with your mind in the pool. I had a good friend in college, Ryan, whose best bud from back home-which was California I believe, also attended college with us. He hung out at the studio with Ryan so I got to know him pretty well. He went home over spring break and visited the doctor who gave him the same diagnosis.....the problem was that the testicular cancer was in advanced stages. He came back to finish the year, also undergoing treatment, but didn't come back in the fall. Ryan said he didn't make it through the summer. 20 years old. Most guys that age don't give any thought to the disease, much less dying.

I see a bit of a reflection of me in Shanteau, or at least what I hope to be. You train for something your whole life, only to be thrown a curve ball just before the big meet. Shanteau's decision to persevere can be inspiration to all of us that when we're pressing toward the mark.....not to let anything, ANYTHING, distract us from the goal. It's not about the number of medals, but running the race.
To Shanteau, possibly the greatest representation of the Olympic spirit I've seen.

13 August 2008

wow.

they



grow up




too




fast!



It was a little bittersweet this morning, watching my kids head off for their first day of school, my little girl's very first day of kindergarten. Bittersweet because while I love being home with them during the day....I certainly was able to get a lot done in a quiet house this afternoon. I think I was the only dad at the bus stop this morning too. Cherish your kids, time goes by so quickly you'll blink and they'll be gone.....I used to not believe this, but it was just yesterday my son was playing in his 1 year old cake.

12 August 2008

Hearing from God.


Lake Superior, the morning God & I had a little chat

Two weeks ago our pastor spoke on various ways we can hear from God. Now a good friend of mine once commented...."you evangelicals always think you're hearing from God, do you believe you hear from Him audibly??" So, this may warrant some explanation. Sometimes we know in our spirit God is prompting us to do something, to approach someone, reach out to someone. There are times when something is "revealed" to us, such as a deeper understanding of scripture. Often in nature God gives us a metaphor as a message to us. And there are times, I believe, that He can even speak in an audible voice....just as He did to Moses, John the Baptist, (S)Paul, etc.; although I haven't experience that!

The message got me thinking about times when I've heard from God......when I knew it is Him revealing truth to me in a remarkable & personal way. I can think of a few occasions in the last two years, and probably very little before that. I don't know that it proves me any more spiritual than someone else; maybe, rather, God needed to hit me upside the head with His omnipotent 2x4.

So, I look back and celebrate the fact that two years ago, He revealed something in my heart that shouldn't be there......a grasp for power, and gave me a sign in nature "the David tree" to say, hey, I'm speaking directly to you.....be more like David, a man after My own heart. And I think about that time last summer on Lake Superior's shore, as I looked out and saw the perfectness of God's creation, that He spoke to my heart and said, you too I made perfect. And while reading the Sermon on the Mount this Spring, I was struck by the absolute personal-ness in Christ's directive......be salt and light in river city. And then with His prompting, introduced Him to my good buddy this summer.

And wow.....how this relationship with my great big dad up in heaven has grown because, or maybe in step with, His talking to me. I believe we can all hear God speak, it's just a matter of listening.

11 August 2008

not a good thing


Well, I know what is NOT a good thing to experience on your first day striking out on your own. We had some severe storms sweep through last Monday that drove us to the basement once the rain starting going horizontal out the window. Just as the wind seemed to let up, I told the family to stay in the basement while I go upstairs. Then I got a shout to come back down stairs and as I did I heard water pouring. We got a lot of rain in a short period, but I didn't expect to see a waterfall in the basement.....that shot out of one crack like a faucet. I said to my wife....this isn't good. Had only FEMA seen this last January...they may not have turned me down.

So, I've got a bid to do some drainage work around the south side of the house. Not sure what I'll use to pay for it. My daughter insisted that I didn't need to work; so I pressed her for an answer to how we would pay for the mortgage once the money ran out.....she said we could just open up the lemonade stand again. I told her we might need to raise the price of lemonade from 25 cents.

10 August 2008

9 years old today!


We probably spoil and obsess over our dog more than other folks. I concede to that criticism. He was our "first" child, we got him not quite a year after we were married. Well, today is his birthday, he's 9 years old and we are very proud parents indeed.

We felt bad though, the weiner's birthday is usually accompanied by a trip to the Dairy Queen, and we were, in fact, in Ohio this morning and wouldn't make it back to get him from his lodging accommodations at the local vets. Problem solved, I contacted Bird Man, who loves weiner dogs, and he volunteered to pick up the birthday boy while the vet was open this morning so that he wouldn't have to spend his 9th birthday in a cage.

Thanks Bird Man......and I'm sorry about the baby bunny he disemboweled in front of your grandson!
The picture with me was our first day with the weiner, and him tearing up a magazine, and our subsituting him for a real child at his first Christmas.

08 August 2008

the new Morning Commute







It's been a week since my last day on the job......and settling into the new routine has taken a toll on my wife......I, on the other hand, am doing great. It's been fun, so far, to wear shorts and t-shirts to work. BUT, I have been busy...hence my inability to blog.

I have developed a bit of a new morning routine.....I call it my "commute". Up at about 5:50 a.m., splash water on my face, get on my new running shoes and hit the pavement no later than 6:20. We have a "loop" behind our house that equals a total of .2 miles. I run a few laps, then walk, then run a few more, walk, run, etc. until I expire.

I tried running before but had improper shoes....after a few weeks it felt like someone had driven a nail through my shins. So as kind of a new order of things, and possibly succumbing to pressure by several of my buddies who run, I got up last Saturday morning and ran. And let me tell you.......I got back to the house, downed some water, went out and sat in my "new" porch chair with a cup of yogurt. With the sweat dripping off my lowered brow and forearms resting on my legs, my chest still heaving to catch my breath, I looked up to see the sun rise to wash over the first tree.....a large spruce a few houses down.
The sun rising on a very new day indeed. I felt brand new. Free. Like I was starting this life all over again. It's a beautiful thing.

06 August 2008

Pope Benedict, Sevies, McCain & Charbenaeu

Four guys walk into a bar........


It sounded like a joke, didn't it? Between some recent mailings I received and a phone call yesterday afternoon from a pollster, I couldn't help but blog.

Last week I got a letter from "Keep the Faith", a Seventh Day Adventist organization; in it they railed on Geedubya because he said he "sees God in the eyes of the Pope" and said they were "shocked" and that this is "a wake up call" (I wish I had a dollar for every "wake up call"). It went on to say essentially that Bush is going to construct an idol to the beast because of a desire to coordinate our policies with Rome, yadda, yadda, yadda.....ok, it didn't say that specifically, but it is implied. This is pretty fundamentalist stuff here. Anyway, I quit reading at this point, but kept the letter for a Catholic brother in Christ because I knew he would be fried. I haven't spoken to a good Adventist brother in Christ about this yet, but I intend to.

Did you notice I referred to both of them as brothers in Christ? Because I have no doubt they are. It's too bad right wing nut jobs have to target the Catholic Church with this end-of-the-world garbage........rather than target the homeless and hungry with Christ's love. Not that I'm an expert on Catholics, but this is what I know: I've got a couple of awesome Catholic friends who have portrayed the image of Christ (ie: I see God in their eyes) far more so than some of the hate-monger evangelicals I've had the distinct privilege of knowing. I've sat and talked with nuns in a round table discussion where it was evident in the 2 hours we spoke they were far more concerned about reaching a hurting world than anything I heard in six years at a Baptist school.

Now to give props to the sevies (Seventh Day Adventists), and I mean no disrespect, they call themselves this. I went to a Seventh Day Adventist University, after going to a Missionary College, after attending a Baptist High School, being raised Charismatic, after leaving the Church of God (it's a wonder I can think straight). Fact is I didn't know it was Seventh Day until I was taking a tour and the guide asked me if I was "SDA"...thinking he meant some kind of disease, I repeated it back..."SDA? Uh, no, I don't think so" and he had to explain. I broke a cardinal SDA rule by having a pepperoni pizza delivered to studio once and a girl friend asked if I knew what I was eating and I said, probably hog mixed up with a bunch of other bits and pieces......they don't eat meat, particularly pigs. I tried not to offend and started referring to Saturday as Sabbath....which thoroughly confused them and they began to think I was SDA again. Some of my profs and friends from there are honestly some of the best people I have ever known.....with a concern for people unparalleled by even Catholic standards. I assume my name is on some SDA list, hence the Pope letter.

_______________________

oh yeah, and John McCain. I got two.....2.......count them, TWO more letters from his campaign one day last week. In the one he addressed me as "Dear Friend"....I thought that was a nice touch. The friend letter was a pretty positive one, to get me jacked up about a RNC Victory this fall....it has VICTORY capitalized and in bold print 3x on the first page alone. The second one is more serious with an underlined statement saying Obama will surrender to Al Queda. So, I guess the difference is clear, Obama "surrendering" to Al Queda or McCain surrendering to big oil companies. Crazy. John did want to make it clear I can only give up to the legal limit of $2300. So how did he just get over a million bucks from the oil companies? I can't compete for influence even at $2300.

_______________________

And since yesterday was a testy day with some insurance issues and phone calls I had to make, seemed like a perfect ending to the afternoon when someone from State Senator Charbenau's campaign called my house to ask if I thought Indiana was going in the right direction. The poor girl didn't stand a chance. I said "NO, absolutely not" and then she asked about voting republican and I said "the quicker we get those guys out the better", then she told me how Charbeneau understands the tough economy and voted for property tax reform, at which point I cut her off and said "let me tell you, my taxes, as a middle-income now out of work fella are going to go up by nearly $800 because of Mitch's tax reform while the slumlord across the street is going to have his taxes go down.....do you think that's fair?" uh, no, sir, she said. She asked if I planned to vote for Balmer (his opponent) and I said, "well, I plan to vote against Charbeneau." I wanted to go into the whole quality of life issue in Indiana, but I realized that the RNC may have the phone tapped, peg me as an Obama sympathizer and make me rat out my Catholic friends.

04 August 2008

the scenic drive


The fountain in the town square (or triangle) in Lagootee


The German influenced Catholic Church of Jasper-one of the finest in Indiana


The old "North Pole" post office at Santa Claus...97 degrees when I left

Coming back from Santa Claus, Indiana I realized how nice of a drive Highway 231 truly is. Jasper in the midst of celebrating its German heritage, Lagootee with its downtown square and fountain, Greencastle and Crawfordsville, then north out of Lafayette on 25 through Delphi and Logansport. Indiana really can be a charming place to travel. A lot of history with winding scenic roads along this stretch. It seems to me that people take more pride in their towns when they choose to celebrate their heritage, or ethnic background.....such as Jasper.

01 August 2008

news from around the state.....again

OK, this is one of those "only in Indiana" kinds of things:

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indiana State Fair exhibit promoting education about colorectal cancer includes a 40-foot model of the human colon that visitors can crawl through.
The free exhibit at the Clarian Healthy Lifestyles Pavilion on Aug. 6-17 is dubbed "Colossal Colon" and depicts healthy colon tissue as well as tissue with hemorrhoids, cancerous and non-cancerous polyps, Crohn's disease, diverticulosis, ulcerative colitis and various stages of colon cancer.


Is this for real? Well, I guess I applaud their efforts, but you wouldn't get me in there.

________________

Speaking of hemorrhoids, the Snyders are in the news again (SB Tribune):

SOUTH BEND — A split verdict in the trial of former Roseland Town Councilman David Snyder has the two sides taking sides all over again. It took two hours Thursday for the jury to reach verdict: guilty on misdemeanor battery charges, but not guilty on felony intimidation charges.

I think the whole town of Roseland is a bit wacky, in a representational democracy, we elect people, of the people....which explains a lot about my corner of the world.

________________

Thanks to the governor's property tax "relief" plan that will cause my taxes to increase and slumlord's to go down, it appears that the cities of South Bend and Elkhart, along with many others, are having to make tough choices with budget shortfalls. Many of the arts programs supported by Elkhart and the zoo and parks of South Bend appear to be on the chopping block. Mitch, whose Lt. Governor runs around making statements to communities that they have to compete with other states based on quality of life issues, who wants to bask in his "success" of property tax reform, should well consider that rather than propelling Indiana to the forefront, he likely has reduced us to the armpit of the Midwest.
An armpit with very good roads around Indianapolis.

the right words

My better half has put this transition into nearly poetic terms.....
http://www.garner4.blogspot.com/