The 100-Word Word


Being a former newspaperman, I love following the Overheard In The Newsroom blog.

I was amused by this recent entry:

Reporter: “My story is already over 700 words and I still have a second soldier to interview.”

Editor: “You act like I can’t edit. I could edit the Bible down to 100 words.”

But then it made me start thinking. What if I did have to present the entire story of the Bible in 100 words? What would I say?

And the thing that fascinated me was, I wonder how intensely personal an exercise it would be. How much would me 100-word Bible be just that — mine? How different would somebody else’s look?

So I thought I would take a stab at it. But what I would really love is for other people to do the same. How much to they differ? What do we each take away from what we read? I suspect it would demonstrate just what an incredibly personal love letter to each of us His Word is.

And the truth is, if I were to do this as an ongoing project — if I were to, say, do this again a year from now, and two, and so on, how much would my own version change. How much is this version different from what I would have written five years ago?

Here’s my very poor attempt at it:

In the beginning was a Father, who created children He loved very much. His children were headstrong, and ignored what He tried to tell them, hurting themselves in the process. He watched patiently as they ignored Him and made mistakes — always trying to help, always weeping to see them turn their backs on Him and to see them hurt. Eventually the children made such a mess of things that a price had to be paid, a price higher than the Father wanted His children to suffer. So He came to Earth, suffered and died, to save His beloved children.

What would yours say?

The Turnabout Intruder


It was bad enough with Star Wars.

The boys saw a scene from the Original Trilogy on a television, watched for a moment, turned to me, and asked, “Why are those clonetroopers shooting good guys?”

Sigh.

But then, yesterday, the seven-year-old and I are talking about aliens, in reference to the movie Megamind, which has one character, Megamind, who is very clearly and alien, and another, Metro Man, who looks like a normal person, despite both being from other planets. So I’m explaining the diversity of aliens in science fiction.

And then there are the aliens that look almost like humans, like Mr. Spock.

“Who is Spock?”

Knowing that he’s seen the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie, I try to explain which one Spock is.

“Is he the one who was always kissing the girl?”

Um, yes. Yes, he was.

The next generation thinks that stormtroopers are good guys, and that the guy on Star Trek who’s always kissing a girl is Mr. Spock.

Angels and ministers of grace defend us…

Chicken Tenders and Other Bad Words


“Ooooh, you said a bad word!”

So the five-year-old informed me when I told him what I fixed for lunch today — to wit: chicken tenders.

“What?” asked his mother.

“He said ‘tenders’,” Caden informed her.

Heather, apparently unprivy to previous relevant conversations between her sons, continued to look confused.

“Tenders,” I knowingly explained, “as in, ‘oooh, he was kicked in the …'”

Heather made a valiant effort at explaining that chicken tenders were a perfectly valid form of food, and that ‘tenders’ was a perfectly acceptable word to use in describing them.

Caden, on the other hand, just continued to be amused that I, and now his mother, kept repeatedly saying a bad word.

So I tried a different tack. “I could say ‘I had four apples, BUT I gave Caden three.’ And it’s OK to say ‘but’ when I’m talking about the apples like that.”

Caden paused, and pondered this.

And then looked at me with his most serious expression and asked …

“What are ‘butt apples’?”

Nature, Nurture Or None Of The Above


To be fair, it’s happened before in good ways.

But Thursday morning before the launch, as Finn and I were facing off and I found myself entering terra incognita of child discipline with a mad, hurt, yet staunchly stubborn and defiant seven year old in front of me, the thought entered my head, “This child is so much like me.”

It’s a weird feeling.

By nature, he’s not like me at all. He’s not mine. He inherited nothing from me. Genetically, he doesn’t have my stubbornness any more than he’ll ever have my nose.

By nurture, yeah, he’s starting to be a little bit like me. You can definitely tell where I’m starting to rub off a little on both of the boys. The little things make me smile — like hearing them tell a “One-hundred-and-one” joke like we do in the improv shows. The big things make me really happy, though — you can tell there’s an increased love of narrative that I think is really cool. And, Heather says, they pray more, and more personally, because of me. And, yeah, that means a whole lot. A whole lot.

But then there’s another category, the none-of-the-above comparisons.

You become friends with someone because you find things you have in common. At the beginning of a dating relationship, you’re amazed at all the commonalities — “You like movies!? I like movies! And, hey, we’re both bipedal mammals! How amazing is that!? Clearly we were meant to be!”

But you share those things not because of any shared background, but because you both just happen to have taken different roads that ended up in the same place in those areas.

Caden and I have a few of those, but, to be honest, any commonalities with Caden are more with an idealized version of me than with the real me. I wish I were as free-spirited as he is, able to enjoy life the same way, as gifted at encouragement as he just naturally is. I tell him I’ll do something, and get around to it a few days later, and am greeted not with a “finally” type of response, but with “Good remembering, David!” I wish I could master that outlook.

Finn and I, on the other hand …

I saw him standing there in front of me last Thursday, and could put myself in his shoes, standing like that in front of my own dad. Stubborn, proud, desperately wanting to be as much in control as I could be. I wished I knew how to tell him that. It also made me put myself in the shoes of my dad a couple of decades ago. I have a few things in common with him, too.

I also see myself also in Finn’s cleverness. He’s competitive, but he loves figuring out how to work the system, to find the loopholes that give him an edge. Like me, he’s an odd blend of introvert and extrovert. He’ll not speak to a schoolmate in public because he doesn’t know what to say, but he’ll do a chicken dance in front of friends at a Havoc game.

It’s fun. I had no idea what it would be like having kids be a big part of my life, and that’s been one of the biggest surprises — that one of the most challenging and most rewarding parts of it has been discovering just who these two guys are as people. They have their own personalities, vastly different from each other, but each with so many things that warm my heart and probably more than a few things that try my patience. But they’re both just so wholly and fully and uniquely them.

It’s a cool thing where my commonality with their uniqueness gives me a perspective that Heather doesn’t have; it lets me feel like I actually contribute something.

And knowing that being around me has an impact on them; seeing how they are shaped because I’m in their life, is one of the most rewarding experiences and yet heaviest burdens I’ve had.

A Shuttle-Launch First — Seconds!


Back in November, I spent about a week in Florida. Waiting for the space shuttle Discovery to not launch on its STS-133 mission.

Going down there for a launch and coming back without seeing it was not a first for me.

This week will be.

I’m going back down this week with Heather and the boys to try once again to watch the launch of STS-133.

I’ve been down to Florida for shuttle launches six times now.

I’ve seen three launches.

I’ve seen three scrubs.

I’ve never been back down to watch one launch that I also watched scrub. This week will be my first time making a second attempt to watch a particular mission launch. Obviously, I’m hoping this trip is more successful than the last.

We hadn’t been planning on trying again for this mission, so soon after our last trip down, but Heather was offered the opportunity to go down to the launch on a work trip, so all four of us are driving down there.

I’m really hoping it goes this time, so that she and the boys get to see it. As we finished up the book, Caden in particular took a real interest in the shuttle, and started talking recently about wanting to go try to see one again. (“Even if we don’t go to Disney this time,” he offered.) On the plus side, it will probably mean more to him this time than it would have in November. And, of course, Heather, having now co-authored a book about the shuttle, really out to see one launch.

So, wish us luck. Should be an interesting trip.

The Good Of The Juan


The envelope was smaller than it should have been.

Normally around this time of year, I get an envelope from Compassion International with an update about my sponsored child, Juan., with a new picture and his family and school situation.

This year, the envelope marked “Information About Your Sponsored Child” was smaller than it should have been. I worried. I opened it up, and there was only a single sheet of paper inside. Oh no.

It was bad news, but not as bad as it should have been. Juan had stopped attending the Compassion student center, and so was no longer participating in the program, and his sponsorship had to be ended.

I really don’t remember how long ago I started sponsoring Juan; I would guess about six or seven years. I wish my story were that I was a better person, but the truth was, I went to Family Christian one day and they were running an offer were you got a good coupon if you signed up to sponsor a child, so I did.

Juan is 15 now. He lives in Guatemala. He struggled in school; as I understand, last year he was still only in second grade. We wrote back and forth a few times a year, not as frequently as I should have. I thought it was sweet that, long after the divorce, he would still ask me if I knew how Nicole was doing. He was a good kid, and I wonder what happened. Of the options, I would like to think he had to dedicate more time to the needs of his growing family.

Compassion, of course, encouraged me to begin sponsoring a new child, and even found one similar to Juan to suggest.

Instead, however, I’m going in a different direction this time.

My new child, Hansell, is less than a month younger than Finn. (His birthday is the day before mine.) Like Finn, he’s in second grade, and his performance is above average. He has one sibling, and they live with his mother and stepfather. I wanted to find a child similar to Finn, in hopes that they could become penpals and learn about each other. It would give the child another link beyond just my sponsor letters, and help Finn learn more about life outside the United States. Hansell lives in Nicaragua, where Flint River sends mission teams, and Finn and Caden have participated in fundraisers they’ve done in the children’s program at the church to support the trips, so there’s even a connection there.

I’m excited about it. I hate that Juan left the program, but I want to make the most of the opportunity by starting over in Compassion a little wiser and more experienced about how to go about it so I can be a better sponsor this time.

I’m always very reluctant to push charity causes — I believe firmly that charitable giving is best when it’s given to a cause that the giver is passionate about. So I’m not going to encourage you to support Compassion if it’s not something you are interested in;particularly since it’s a cause that really needs not only money but time to show love to the sponsored kids, even it if’s just the occasional letter. If you are interested, however, I’ve found it to be a good program, and would encourage you to sponsor a child.

Kinda-Review: Green Hornet (In Which I Become An Old Fuddy-Duddy)


I wanted to go see Tron again.

Heather was going out for a girls’ night with some friends, so the boys and I were having a guys’ night — dinner and a movie. There aren’t many kids’ movies out right now; and they’d pretty much seen them, except for Yogi Bear, and I do have some standards.

I’d seen Tron thrice before, and the boys had seen it twice. They’d seen Green Hornet once before, and I’d not seen it at all, and Finn really pushed for Green Hornet (because he wanted me to see it) over Tron.

I normally would have balked at the PG-13 rating — the recommended age is older than both boys put together — but their granny had already taken them, and all involved swore it wasn’t that bad. So I’m not going to be exposing them to anything they haven’t already seen. Well, OK, then, Green Hornet it is.

I should have stuck with Tron.

The thing that I’ve been wondering since then is whether it was really that reprehensible, or whether it was just my perspective was different watching it with the boys. What would I have thought if I was watching it by myself?

And it was reprehensible. The “heroes” treated each other badly. They treated women badly. Their language was awful. They fought police and put them in mortal danger on a lark. (And these are the good guys.) They were cavalier about destruction of property and endangering bystanders. Arguably, they had no redeeming traits at all. Sure, there’s a “redemptive” level of “helping others,” but it’s really far more about their own self-indulgence; their “help” is self-centered, dangerous and largely unproductive. Even their climactic battle, presented as being important, is ultimately pretty whimsical.

And I’ll admit a further bias that, while I’ve never been a huge Green Hornet fan, I felt like the movie was disrespectful to the original source, which is something that’s a big turn-off for me in movies. If you want to remake  a property, remake it in the spirit of the original. If you want to make something in a different spirit, then use some creativity and do it with your own invention instead of someone else’s.

So I can’t swear that I wouldn’t have enjoyed Green Hornet if I had seen it by myself, but I would imagine probably not. (Adding to this theory — I’ve never seen, nor had any desire to see, any other Seth Rogen movie.)

But it’s another piece of evidence for the state in the growing case that being around the boys is making me an old fuddy-duddy. Exhibit #193 — Last week, I was at the comic book store, picking up my weekly comics. (A good exhibit for the defense, let the record show.) Caden wanted a book, and I grabbed a Star Wars comic off the shelf because it featured on the cover a large number of Clone Troopers, which Caden loves. (I’m not sure whether the prosecution or plaintiff arguments are supported better by the fact that part of me finds it wrong that their post-prequel upbringing makes them think stormtroopers are good guys and not care about Han Solo.)

Flipping through it, I saw that it showed Anakin, sans a good chunk of his arms and legs, dangling from the ceiling, having his cybernetic systems replaced. Later in the book, and somewhat subtly, a minor character’s head is visible mid-frame, having been removed from its proper place via lightsaber. Is this appropriate for a five-year-old? How am I supposed to know? Is it any worse than the last Star Wars movie, which he’s seen?

And I found myself thinking a weird thought, that I never thought I would think.

And let me point out, I think it should be optional, I think you should be able to publish whatever sort of comic book you want, but I think there should be a way of knowing what comic books are appropriate for what audiences.

But, dadgumit, I miss when books were approved by the Comics Code Authority.