Friday, November 13, 2009

And the winner is...

Hey everyone, thank you for taking a look at my blog posting and thank you for all your comments. As you may have noticed, Keith, one of the editors for Holy Bible Mosaic was not able to make it to my blog to answer questions as he had intended. He did send me an email apologizing and will be in further contact when he has the opportunity. Apparently editors get busy and I can't blame him for this.

As for all of you who posted comments though, I have drawn a winner, and the winner is....

Addie Domske

Addie. I'll get ahold of you on Facebook so I can get your address and mail you the Bible certificate.

Other than that, stay tuned for news from Keith. I'm hoping he'll be able to stop by and answer any unanswered questions.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Holy Bible Mosaic

Note* Sporadically throughout the day, one of the contributors to Holy Bible Mosaic will be stopping in and looking at the posted comments. If you have a question, feel free to ask. Plus, anyone who comments between today and November 12 will be entered into a contest to win a free copy of Holy Bible Mosaic.

The first thing I noticed about Holy Bible Mosaic is that there is a clear division between the devotional section of the Bible and the Bible itself. Most of the devotional Bibles I’ve run across have the information spread throughout the pages of actual text. I’m a very linear person so the scattered-ness of it all really bothered me. I would find myself jumping back and forth, forgetting what I had just read and not being able to concentrate. Mosaic makes it a point to stray from this norm. You’ve got the text and the devotional, clear, cut and concise. Very much appreciated.

Another thing has bothered me about devotional Bibles was there really wasn’t much that tied the extra information together other than a theme. With Mosaic, the devotional section is based upon the church calendar, which prior to reading Mosaic I had never really considered. Advent was nothing more than a box of chocolates before Christmas and Lent meant my friends who went to other churches had to give up something fun. Mosaic walks through the church calendar and not only delivers nuggets of inspiration but also a very small lesson in the church’s foundational calendar.

The third piece that really rounds out the devotional section for me is the beautiful artwork. Though I can’t help but see a depiction of “Master Shake” from Aqua Teen Hunger Force in the “Bread and Fish Mosaic” featured on the cover and on “Epiphany, Week 4” (yes, I did just mention that in a Bible review), the artwork contained in the pages is stunning. None of this wanna-be cool, teen targeted graphic design that modern Christian publications seem so apt to include. The works of art contained in Mosaic are actual masterpieces in vivid color from all over the world.

The devotionals themselves, when viewed for substance, are quite good. Strewn with a mix of suggested scriptures, background information, printed verses, meditations, quotes and commentaries, a new and refreshing mix has been developed. With Mosaic, you don’t just have one person’s opinions over and over again. True to its name, Mosaic is constructed of a patchwork of the human population both modern and historical.

Overall, I think that Holy Bible Mosaic is a worthwhile publication that’s true to itself. NLT is not a translation I’ve read a lot of before but I do find the differences between translations interesting and sometimes enlightening. If you’re in the market for a new or additional Bible, at least stop by your local Christian bookstore and take a look for yourself. Or you could comment on this posting and win yourself a free copy of Holy Bible Mosaic. Any comments I receive on this post, between now and November 12 will be entered into a drawing. The winner will be announced on the 12th.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"Knockout Entrepreneur" by George Foreman (with Ken Abraham)

One of the most vivid and inspiring sports memories I have is when I watched the then 45-year-old George Foreman knock out Michael Moorer to regain his title as Boxing Heavy Weight Champion of the World. Since that day, the “Punching Preacher” as they called him has always held a special place in my heart. So when given the opportunity to review his new book “Knockout Entrepreneur” I was happy to do so.

What I found was not far from what I expected. “Knockout Entrepreneur” covers entrepreneurship in the same manner that the QVC commercials covered the George Foreman grill: a bit shallow, a bit campy but for the most part genuine.

Foreman, with the help of celebrity book collaborator Ken Abraham, hits on all the usual topics which every entrepreneurship book seems to rely; the value of honesty, integrity, hard work, perseverance mixed with the obligatory rags to riches stories of real entrepreneurs that we know we’ll have heard of once their name has been revealed at the end. The only real noticeable difference between this book and other entrepreneurship books I’ve read is that Foreman filters all his advice through boxing parallels. No surprise here.

What I did really enjoy about this book were some of the insights into his own life that Foreman gives. The fact that he rose to success with nothing more than a Jr. High education, the fact that he once took on his pet lion as it was trying to attack his brother (and won!) and the fact that he once carried a full grown cow on his shoulders). I will admit, some of his stories that were meant to inspire seemed a bit like justifications for things that have gone publically wrong in his boxing career (he had the opportunity to knock out Holyfield in his moment of weakness but had dreamed the night before that he killed him so he didn’t take the opportunity, or that he could have gotten up when Ali knocked him out in the Rumble in the Jungle, but that he was waiting for his corner man to tell him to get up and didn’t hear the count.)

If you’ve ever thought about being your own boss, this might be a good book to start with. It’s definitely not a complete and infallible resource, but it is fun, and that’s what I expected from George. In all truthfulness, what I really took from this book is that George Foreman is still a guy that I can look up to and would enjoy reading more about (I’m going to look and see if they have “By George” or “God in My Corner” at the local library as soon as I finish writing this up.)

"Satan and His Kingdom" by Dennis McCallum

As I do not typically read books on theology I had a very hard time picking this one up. After reading it I think I understand what may have been preventing me.

In his book “Satan and His Kingdom,” Dennis McCallum takes a very in-depth look at what the Bible truly says about Satan and how it relates to our everyday lives. Though Satan is the epitome of evil, our perception of him is very skewed. McCallum goes to great lengths to show how Satan’s primary tactic is that of a deceiver and though this idea isn’t as scary as the exploding heads we’ve seen in movies, we should be just as frightened.

Ever since his fall from glory, Satan’s primary goal has been to destroy humans, and though he is very powerful, there have been some limits placed on his power. Obviously he does not have to power to simply kill any human at any time or else he would have obliterated the entire earth already. On the other hand, he does have the power to whisper lies, which can cause one human to kill another and thus fulfill his goals. Satan does not have the power to read our minds (even through the psychic network), but because we are sinful beings, he is very well aware of what we will likely do and can make it seem as if he can.

Though I took a lot from the book, there were a couple of very insightful nuggets that really stuck out to me. In the chapter on countering Satan’s moves, the author writes,

“Many Christians seriously underestimate the power of God’s Word. If they didn’t, they would learn more about it. They’d spend more time reading and meditating on it. Actions speak louder than words, and the actions of many Christians clearly suggest that they have never understood how powerful the Word of God is.”

He goes on to highlight an illustration from a book by Chuck Smith. In short, if someone were to attack you on a dark street and start wrestling with you and then pull a knife, your entire focus of the fight would shift to that knife and trying to knock it out of the your attacker’s hand.

As Christians we are constantly at battle with Satan and the Bible is our primary weapon. It’s our knife if you will. Satan’s major focus is knocking it out of our hands and thus preventing us from knowing and loving Jesus on an ever-increasing basis. Be it TV, the Internet, money, our job, school activities or even church activities (yes he is that sneaky) Satan has done a good job at keeping us from our Bibles and of growing our faith by growing closer to our Creator.

Could it have been Satan or a demon that personally kept me from reading this book for so long? It’s possible, but I have a feeling it was nothing more than my sinful and lazy nature that is the culprit, and therein lies the problem. Satan has done such a good job throughout the years that he’s got us doing his job for him. I for one would like to change this behavior.

3 Big Announcements (Finally)

The time has finally come for the long awaited (at least long awaited by me) 3 big announcements post. I was hoping to do them as part of my 100th blog posting, but I felt the passing of Michael Shada was worthy enough to take its place. If you haven’t read that post, I would encourage you to do so. Aside from that, here are my 3 big announcements.

1. Bible Give-Away

I will be hosting a blog tour on November 5th here at joshkidney.blogspot to review the Holy Bible Mosaic. One of the contributors to Holy Bible Mosaic will actually check in with my blog on November 5th to answer any questions that people may have. If you stop by and leave a comment, you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a free copy of Holy Bible Mosaic. My first ever giveaway! I'm hoping more people stop by than just my mom, but if not, mom will be the one taking home the new Bible.

2. New Blog

I’ve debated starting a new blog for a while now. I enjoy writing, and a blog is the perfect outlet, but for a long time I struggled with the idea what to write. After a wide range of ideas, I finally I sat down and hammered out what topic I’m passionate about and would be willing to devote and entire blog to. I realized the thing I enjoy writing about the most is Personal Finance and Time Management. I also realized that most people would find this very boring which is why I’ll be writing those articles on a completely separate blog. I’ll let you know the title and web address as soon as I have the look perfected.

3. India

After a life-changing trip to Ukraine in May with Faceless International, I realized that I’m very much called to the Human Trafficking cause. To help broaden my perspective I’m teaming up once again with Faceless to take a trip to India in January. I will be blogging throughout the trip and would love if you stopped in occasionally to see what the team and I are up to. I would love it even more if you were to become passionate about the Human Trafficking cause yourself and began taking steps to help us rid the world of such a tragedy. You could start by signing this petition.

Stay tuned for a couple book reviews to be posted shortly. One on a book about the true nature of Satan and another on by one of my favorite athletes of all time, George Foreman (I loved him even before the grill).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Plans are fleeting

He zeroed in on me from across the room with a focus that was almost startling.

I’d been here before, so it wasn’t as intimidating as it could have been. The surroundings were new and so were many of the faces, but the story hadn’t changed. Net new assets and share of wallet, you know, the usual.

I stressed for 3 weeks that I wouldn't be accepted back to the company, but they allowed it and I was grateful. Now I was back and reexamining everything with new eyes.

“I’m Michael,” he said extending his hand to shake mine. “You must be the new guy.”

“Yep, that’s me. I’m looking forward to getting started.”

We made small talk and I explained how I was technically a veteran. I’d put in two full years then took some personal time away and now I was back and chomping at the bit to get moving. Typically small talk is scattered, empty and forgettable and I can always tell the instant someone isn’t paying attention any longer. That instant never came with Michael. Despite the buzz of the sales meeting that was taking place around us, to Michael, I was the only person in the room. It was just he and I. When I mentioned I was a licensed futures broker (usually about the time people’s eyes glaze over) Micheal’s eyes exploded with curiosity and the stream of questions followed. For the moment I felt important and I certainly wasn’t used to it.

The sales meeting came to an end shortly thereafter and I had to leave to get back to studying for the Series 66 test. “Don’t take it lightly,” he advised smiling. I thanked him and left.

Throughout the next couple weeks we would pass every once in a while in the hall or in the rest room. I’d met others from the team and they were friendly but Michael stuck out. When we passed in the hall it wasn’t the normal “Hi, how ya doin.” Even the shortest of interactions made me walk away feeling better about my day and about myself.

Monday. September 28. Finally the hour of the Series 66 was upon me. I’d easily sunk 30 hours or more of the last month into my studies and today was the day I put my knowledge to the federally regulated test. After an agonizing hour and a half it was time to click the “grade” button and despite the strong impulse to vomit I clicked without hesitation. I passed.

Exuberant from my victory I grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed back to the office. Michael and I got to the front door at the same time. We greeted each other and bantered a bit about the market and options strategies, Michael intensely focused as usual and I, my normal distanced self. Realizing we both needed to get to work, we made it short and parted ways. As I walked upstairs to the training room I turned and mentioned I had just passed the 66. “That’s reason to celebrate!" he said, the sun shining across his face through the office glass, "We’re really looking forward to having you on the team” he said , and I knew he meant it.

Michael was killed in a car accident Wednesday morning September 30th on his way to work. He was 25 and left behind a fiancé and a 2-year-old daughter.

I really didn’t know Michael that well. The combined time we spent interacting was probably less than 15 minutes, but in those 15 minutes he was able to leave an impression on me that will not fade quickly.

If there is anything I can take away from this, it’s that even the small interactions we have with people are meaningful.

Don’t take opportunities for granted. In a matter of seconds you have the power to make somebody feel important, to feel special, to feel loved. In doing so, even if they are your last couple seconds, they will be wisely used.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

3 Big Announcements and KC part 3

Now that I have finally taken and passed my Series 66 Exam I actually have some time to finish the 3rd chapter of Mindy and my weekend in Kansas City with a review of Benton’s Steak and Chophouse

Before I do this though I wanted to mention something that I think is really cool.

The next blog I post will be my 100th. This is pretty important to me because it signifies one of the few things I’ve actually stuck with in life over a period of time. My first post was in March of 2007 and even though it may have been infrequently, I’ve continued to post for the last 2 and a half years. With any luck, I’ll continue to do so far into the future.

To celebrate my 100th post I’m going to do something I haven’t done on this blog, I’m going to make 3 BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS. As “big” is a relative term, don’t get too excited. I’m not giving away a car (but a giveaway isn’t out of the picture.) Just check back in the next couple weeks and read my next post and you’ll figure out what it’s all about.

But enough of my rambling, on to Benton’s.

I was more apprehensive visiting this restaurant than any of the others on this trip, primarily because it was the most expensive. Despite the fact that it was our anniversary, at $33 a plate (easily the most I’ve paid for a meal), the champagne brunch needed to be spectacular. What worried me even more so was that Benton’s was located in the Westin Hotel. I’ve worked in a classy hotel before and just because the rooms are $300 or more a night does not mean the food is going to be good. Luckily, the fact that Benton’s was on our Passport Card eased my worries a little bit.

We arrived at the Westin shortly before our reservations and found the designated elevator with little problem. If nothing else, at least we would have a good view of Crown Center from the top floor of the hotel.

What we found in the brunch buffet and wait staff was a very satisfying experience.

I started my brunch with a slice of prime rib and a dish of cooked to order pasta with shrimp, asparagus and a tomato cream sauce. I’ve easily paid $20 a plate for the pasta alone at other restaurants and this was equal in quality. For good measure, I filled out the rest of my plate with several of the cheeses from the cheese platter, some amazing multi grain crackers and a croissant. When I arrived back at the table our server had brought champagne and coffee. Both were excellent as was the prime rib (though it was served more rare than I typically prefer, I realize this is how most eat prime rib so I don’t hold it against Benton’s).

Gus, our server, was amazing and acted as a concierge in addition to a server. Three separate times we asked him fairly complicated questions about the happenings in Crown Center and the facts he didn’t immediately know he sought out an answer for. If we ever return, I’m calling Benton’s and visiting when he is scheduled. He was that good.

Our meal was rounded out by several more trips to the buffet and choosing from the seemingly endless selection of breakfast, lunch and dinner fare followed closely by a trip to the dessert bar. By the time we were finished, both Mindy and I were more than adequately stuffed.

I would highly recommend Benton’s to anyone with a serious appetite looking for a semi formal but relaxed atmosphere and beautiful view. I don’t know if I could allow myself to spring for the price of the brunch without my Passport Card, but that doesn’t mean the food isn’t worth it. I’m just a bit too frugal.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kansas City - Day 2 - The Foundry at McCoy's

After the Bice Bistro debacle, it wouldn’t take much for The Foundry at McCoy’s to be a better experience. What we found far surpassed our expectations.

Recommended to us by my friend Eric Milner, a Westport resident and Ukraine Trip brother, I was looking forward to the immense selection of beers and casual fare The Foundry had to offer. As an added bonus, the Westport Art Fair happening all around us made the atmosphere electric.

When we arrived, the alternatively dressed yet super friendly wait staff showed us to a table on the patio where we ordered our first round and waited for Eric and his troop to arrive. An avid fan of Brown Ales, my first choice was McCoy’s own Hogpound Brown. Brewed less than a block from where I sat, Hogpound Brown is now a very strong contender for my favorite beer ever, holding ranks with none other than my trusted favorite Newcastle Brown Ale. Mindy chose McCoy’s Blackberry Lager and though I’m not a huge fan of fruit beer, the taste was very crisp and refreshing.

Soon, Milner and our new friends had arrived and before we knew it, it was time to order more beer and something to eat. Though I was tempted to stick with a good thing, I chose not to order another Hogpound and instead opted for an Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. Let me tell you this, you have not had a stout until you’ve had Old Rasputin. Even the head was dark.

After some thought I chose to order one of The Foundry’s house pizza’s called “The Bruce Lee” and Mindy went with the ultimate of bar foods, the “Serious Nachos.” Before we knew it our food had arrived and we could dig in.

Though I’m pretty sure Bruce Lee “the legend” was of Chinese descent, Bruce Lee “the pizza” was straight out of Thailand, but what it lacked in cultural accuracy it more than made up for in taste. Topped with curried chicken, Thai peanut sauce, mozzarella, provolone, red onion, carrots, sweet chili sauce and toasted peanuts, the Bruce Lee was a roundhouse kick to the pallet. Only Chuck Norris could serve it up better.

As for the Serious Nachos, I don’t believe I’ve ever eaten a more accurately named appetizer. The Serious Nachos were piled high with pork carnitas, black beans, cheddar cheese, pico de gallo, jalapeños and green onions. Though typically served with black olives and sour cream, we opted for no olives and the sour cream on the side. Regardless, there was no end to the flavor. Mindy was able to eat about 1/3 of the plate which left me and the rest of the table to finish it off. Within a couple minutes, there was nothing left and after polishing off the last of the Bruce Lee and Old Rasputin, I leaned back in my chair and melted in a food induced ecstasy.

If you find yourself in the Kansas City area and craving Urban flavored bar food with an artsy twist, The Foundry at McCoy’s is your destination. With their alcoholic milk shakes, themed salads and baja tacos just to name a few, The Foundry’s menu should be diverse enough for even the pickiest eater.

I look forward to another weekend visit with Milner and another trip to The Foundry, if for no other reason than to have another Hogpound Brown.

The Foundry at McCoy’s

Overall Rating – A

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Kansas City Day 1 - Bice Bistro

Maybe I was just tired from driving the three and a half hour trip or maybe the chef was having an off night. Whatever the case, Bice Bistro (pronounced Bee Chay), just off of Kansas City’s Power and Light District was far from impressive.

Mindy and I arrived optimistic for what would be the first of three dining experiences. Mindy had our second anniversary weekend planned start to finish, and thanks to her excellent taste, I was happy to eat wherever she wanted me to.

Parched from our journey I immediately ordered Kansas City’s own Boulevard Wheat. This choice would be the only good one of the night.

At first glance the menu looked fabulous. Offerings such as Risotto aragosta, Lamb oso bucco and Linguini Carbonara leapt from the page and whetted our appetites. I decided on a personal favorite, Veal Piccata, and Mindy chose Scaloppine (Veal in a Marsala Wine Sauce), both $22 plates. Ordering veal dishes for the both our meals may have been our first mistake, but considering we never make it for ourselves at home, it sounded especially good this night. I chose to order a Caesar Salad as well.

As soon as the waiter had taken our order, the bread arrived. Unlike most Italian restaurants that bring only one type of bread, Bice’s basket held small portions of 3 different kinds; Focaccia, Italian and crispy seasoned bread sticks accompanied by a cream cheese, olive oil and balsamic vinegar dipping plate. This offering, to Bice’s credit, was actually very enjoyable, though it would have been far more enjoyable if we had silverware or appetizer plates (all of which were brought well after our bread had been consumed).

After a short time my salad arrived and though displayed beautifully and topped with a generous amount of parmesan shavings, it may have been the worst tasting Caesar Salad I’ve eaten. The dressing tasted much like mayonnaise stirred with anchovies. Even the parmesan shavings were tasteless. My $4.50 would have been better spent at McDonalds.

Slightly disheartened but still hopeful, we waited for our main course. Once again, both plates were beautifully displayed, but the beauty was only skin deep. My first bite of veal was surprising. The picatta sauce was the strongest I have ever tasted. Thankfully I am a fan of strong tastes or I would not have been able to eat another bite. I would soon be extra thankful as the strong flavor of the sauce helped drown out the bland (dare I say from a box) garlic mashed potatoes and cooked spinach. In most cases I am a fan of spinach. Spinach salads, spinach artichoke dip, spinach almost anything is great, but spinach in and of itself, cooked and soggy as the only vegetable on the plate? I really don’t know what they were thinking.

As if this wasn’t enough, the veal was tough. I had difficulty cutting it, even with a knife.

Mindy felt much the same about her meal, though she did at least have the benefit of grilled asparagus as a side. The Marsala Wine Sauce was good, but not phenomenal. Her veil was tough as well. The highlight of her meal was the Cucumber Martini (but it's hard to go wrong with Hendrick's Gin).

Luckily Bice Bistro is one of the restaurants that accepts our Passport Unlimited Card and we were able to use our card to get one of the entrées for free (this is how we chose the restaurant to begin with). Bice Bistro excluded, we have always been extremely happy with Passport Unlimited choices and look forward to using it every chance we get, but even with nearly 50% off of our ticket, we were both thoroughly disappointed in our meal. We cook far better for ourselves at home at a fraction of the price.

If you know me at all you know I’m not a very negative person and very rarely whiney. It takes a lot for me to say something pessimistic, but in the case of Bice Bistro, there's not much good I can expound upon. I would venture to say that if the restaurant does not shape up, it will not last another a year.

Thankfully, our next night of dining would be the exact opposite experience and restore our faith in Kansas City dining... I'll post my review of "The Foundry" very shortly.

Bice Bistro

Overall Rating - D

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"Fearless" by Max Lucado

I must admit that this is the first Max Lucado book I have ever read. Several have been suggested to me in the past, but I’ve never been interested. Though I am a Christian, I’ve always found a majority of modern Christian literature off-putting. In my opinion most seems manufactured to sell to a Christian audience at a premium price and then it’s not even that good. But when I was given the opportunity to read Lucado’s new book free of charge, before it was released and then encouraged to write an honest review, I jumped at the chance. If nothing else I could resell the book on and make a couple dollars. Besides, I was intrigued by the title.

If you ask my parents, they will tell you I was usually a very intrepid child, unafraid of most things that kids commonly fear, at least until I watched the movie “Gremlins.” I still vividly remember dreams I had of those little green monsters in the weeks and months following the movie and even as an adult I haven’t been able to go back and watch the film again. Beyond this incident though, I still maintain a very cavalier attitude, typically unafraid of calculated risks and intrigued by the dangerous. So it was with a mind for my fearful friends and acquaintances that I read this book, and in turn would suggest to every one of them. I even took a little away for myself.

“Fearless” is written in the form of a daily or weekly devotional and even includes a discussion guide in the back. I was able to read through the book in about 2 days time with little effort and thoroughly enjoyed it. Lucado is honest and forthcoming with many of the fears he faces or has faced in his own life, and it’s easy to relate to him knowing he’s been there and done that. What is even better is that all of his points are reaffirmed with scripture. Though I’ve read most of the passages Lucado cites in his writing, I had not noticed or at least taken to heart how often Jesus referred to the idea of fear or rather having no fear. The scriptures make it abundantly clear that God has the best intentions for us whether we can understand His methods or not and as Christians, though He does not promise us a life without stress, turmoil, hardship or even tragedy, we can have faith that in the end, no matter the struggle, we will be with Jesus for eternity. As the book quotes “Everything will work out in the end, and if it’s not working out, it’s not the end.”

I especially appreciated Lucado’s illustration about Monopoly money on page 103. In the current economic climate, finances are a chief concern. Being smart with the money I make and saving for the future are very important focuses in my life, but as important as they both are, I must remember that in the end, I cannot take the money with me. Money holds no value in God’s eyes. It’s what we do with the money while we're on earth that matters.

Overall I give high marks for “Fearless,” though I would suggest reading it a chapter a day or even a chapter a week to be discussed with your small group. The book’s format does not lend itself well to cover-to-cover reading. There’s just a bit too much to take in.

As for me I will most likely read this book again, only slower, and I have a few specific people in mind that will be receiving the book as a gift.

As for you, whether courageous or cowardly, this book probably has something that can help you grow.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

10 Stupid things I said in my teens and early 20s.

Now that I’m “growing up” I find myself thinking back to a lot of the things I said when I was younger and reveling in my naive stupidity. It’s a commonly known fact of life that teenagers and college agers think they know everything. One of the greatest things I’ve learned so far in my nearly 28 years on this earth is that I “know” very little and I can learn a lot more from people than I can probably teach them. This doesn’t keep me from trying though, so with that in mind, here is a list of 10 stupid things I said in my late teens and early 20s.

Some are personal and probably won’t relate to you or where you’re at in life, but they’ll be a good laugh. On the other hand, some are probably things you’ve heard come out of your own mouth. If I sound harsh, don’t be offended. I’m not saying anything to you that I haven’t already said to myself at some point or another.

1. I’ll NEVER work there again.

You think I would have learned after the first time, but no, I can picture 3 different times in my life where I uttered these words. All three jobs I ended up coming back to eventually, one of which I’m currently working at and happily basing a long-term career plan around. When you’re broke, even the worst job can seem appealing again and often times when you return with a different attitude you can’t understand why it was so bad in the first place. Luckily my dad taught me to never burn my bridges. Imagine me re-applying at a job after I had previously told off the boss. I know the movies make it look like the most liberating experience in the world, but in most cases it’ll do nothing but hurt you.

2. I will always love you.

Yeah right. Not to be a downer on love because I’m married to a wonderful girl who I plan on spending the rest of my life with, but mostly bad decisions are made after these words are spoken. Yeah, I’m sure it was meant to be romantic, but 10 years down the road you’ll probably be laughing at yourself. I know you think you’re always going to feel this way, but you won’t.

PS. Girls… guys will use this line without remorse, and most of them only plan on “loving” you for the next 20 minutes or so.

3. Money is not a priority.

The love of money is the root of all evil, but the disrespect of money in your life will lead you to more heartache than almost anything. I talked to a girl once, who after having a “revelation,” quit her job and bought tickets to Portland on her credit card. “Money doesn’t matter,” she said “I’ll figure it out later. I just need to get out and live life.” You can live life, and probably even a fuller life, without spending a ton of money. The trip to Portland, or clothes from the Banana Republic that you can’t really afford may feel liberating in the moment, but that credit card debt is going to be an anchor around your neck when you’re tossed into the ocean of life!!! I’m not joking!!!

4. God put me here to save Rock and Roll.

Nothing really to learn from this one other than things you say while in highly philosophical moods and trying to impress girls are usually ridiculous. I kinda want to shoot myself in the face for having said this.

5. I don’t like being efficient.

Used to be I didn’t care if I had to make an extra trip, found things on sale, re-watched a movie in the theater, threw away leftovers or drove a vehicle with bad gas mileage, but the truth of the matter is that if you’re not being efficient, you’re being wasteful. Planning ahead, or even just thinking ahead can make a world of difference in many areas in your life.

6. I don’t care what people think about me.

Now this one is tricky so listen carefully. For the most part, I still don’t care what people think about me. I don’t care how I look driving an old car (that I’ve never made a payment on) instead of a new one, or living in a small house (that we can afford) instead of a big one. I’m not worried if people judge me on certain things and I believe this is good trait. On the other hand, the meaning of “I don’t care what people think about me” has changed from when I originally started saying it. In the past, this line was nothing more than an excuse to do whatever I wanted. I didn’t care what certain people thought as long as not caring made others think highly of me. It’s only now I realize how hypocritical I was.

7. Any trendy phrase I have ever spoken.

Trendy language just irks me. It’s probably something I should get over because it’ll never go away, but I can’t help it. Shamefully, I admit I have been a part of it in the past. Nowadays I just try to ridicule the practice by using the phrases long after they have lost their trendiness. Currently, my phrases of choice are “ahhhh snap” circa 2003 and “Niiiiiiice.” Phrases you can punch me in the nose for using would be “Legit” and “I know right?” at least until next year. Seriously people, they’re just trends! Some frat boy or valley girl probably started them. No one was saying them last year, and no one will be saying them next year!

8. I would DIE without music.

Seriously. Yes I said that. Like I’m really going to stop breathing if I can’t play guitar or listen to my ipod. And to think, most of the music I was listening to back then really sucked. (Oh yes, your musical tastes will change.)

9. I HATE this town!

Believe it or not, even the angst filled teens and New York, Seattle, Paris and Rio De Janeiro have probably spoken these words. The place you live is not the problem, YOU ARE. I’ve traveled all over the country and the plight is always the same. “There’s nothing to do here” (strangely enough I usually hear it from the kids who WON’T be coming to the concert we’re putting on for them). Stop you’re whining and go do something already.

10. I’m never going to use this in real life.

I think I drove this one into the ground, mostly in my Algebra 1 and 2 classes (both of which I failed the first time I took them). Have I specifically had to use Algebra 2 in my life since I graduated? No, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t generally used it, or wished I’d spent more time learning it. Challenging your mind stretches your brain. It helps you think and it helps you reason. Having knowledge will never be detrimental to you regardless of if you’ll be able to specifically use it. I really wish I could have those high school days back. I would have been less lazy and signed up for all the advanced classes and I would have breezed through any of them simply by putting my mind to it. I’m sure you could probably do the same.

Just so you know, I plan on writing another one of these posts in about 10 years called "10 Stupid things I said in my late 20s and early 30s."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Post-It Goals

I promise, the next blog I write will be the “Stupid things I said in my late teens and early 20s.” I just wanted to write a quick blog about something I did last night that was a lot of fun and will hopefully be very beneficial.

First a little back story (if you don’t care, just skip to “The Activity.”)

I’m a stickler for making plans and setting goals. I don’t like just drifting through life. We’ve only got so much time on earth and I want to make the most of the time I do have. My “problem” is that I’m a dreamer. I think way too big and then get burnt out or just plain fail trying to make huge leaps instead of small steps.

I’m also a big Dave Ramsey fan. Several years ago, when I had a whole lot more debt than I do now, I read “The Total Money Makeover” and it changed my life. One tiny aspect out of that book that I grabbed onto was making small goals and achieving small victories. At the time, my mountain of debt seemed so overwhelming I didn’t even want to think about it. Dave suggested that to be successful at paying it off, I needed to focus on my smallest debt and pay that off to experience a victory. Even though the first credit card had only $500, I paid it off and it felt great! It motivated me to power through the next credit card and then the next. A series of small goals and victories eventually helped me wipe out my credit card debt. It was so beneficial that I decided to carry the concept over into other parts of my life.

The Activity

Last night my wife and I sat down and discussed the things that were most important to us in this period our lives. We narrowed our ideas down to 5 categories Debt, Savings, Home Improvements, Business and Fun and wrote all of them down on separate Post-It notes. Then we stuck them on the mirror in our bedroom. From there we focused on 5 goals in each category and wrote them all down on Post It notes and stuck those on the mirror underneath their category. Here’s kinda how it looks (you’ll have to imagine the dotted lines as post its)

------------------- -------------- ------------------------------

Debt Savings Home Improvements

------------------- -------------- ------------------------------

Car Loan $10,000 Remodel Bathroom

------------------- -------------- ------------------------------

School Loan 2 $8,000 Front Deck

------------------- -------------- ------------------------------

School Loan 1 $6,000 Kitchen Window

------------------- -------------- ------------------------------

Discover Card $4,000 Basement Windows

------------------- -------------- ------------------------------

Visa Card $2000 Interior Doors

------------------- -------------- ------------------------------

Now the fun part is going to be achieving our goals, from smallest to largest and then celebrating each of the victories with each other. Once the Visa is paid off, we’ll take down that Post-It, BURN IT and then maybe go to a nice dinner (using cash). For every $2000 we save over and above our current savings we’ll take down a Post-It and do something fun.

Speaking of fun it’s a very important part of the Post It wall. It reminds us to remain human while pursuing our goals and includes things such as visiting family in different parts of the country, going on a vineyard tour and working towards the highest goals of taking a trip to visit friends in Hawaii and later a resort in Mexico or Jamaica.

Once we wipe out a category, we’ll refill it with new goals, or we’ll make a new one and set the bar a little higher.

None of this is set in stone either. That would take the fun and motivation out of it. If we achieve a couple small goals and that big goal is still miles away, we may fill it in with some more small goals if we feel so inclined.

The whole process sounds a little complicated but it really only took us about 30 minutes to do and it was really fun. All in all, it’s a simple way to enjoy working towards what you want in life. I would highly suggest it to everyone, regardless of their marital status.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Not sure how many of you are big readers, but I found a cool website that you should check out if you are. I read about it at and it's called

Basically what you do is sign up for a free account and then post 10 books you have that you don't really read anymore. Posting is very simple, you just have to punch in the ISBN number. Once you've posted 10 books you get 2 free credits, each good for a book. Then you can search through the catalog of over 3,000,000 books and order them. When you order, the person on the other end mails you the book free of charge and it is yours to keep. The trade off is that when someone requests one of your books you do the same, paying for the postage it costs to send. When a person requests one of your books, you get a credit to request another book. It's as easy as that!

I read a LOT and am often disappointed when the library doesn't have what I'm looking for. This is a great source to find what I'm looking for, and best of all, I can choose to keep the book if I want.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The X and Y of Buy

If you make your living as a sales person, or have ever interacted with a person of the opposite sex, I would highly suggest “The X and Y of Buy.”

I was a little hesitant to start reading this book, though I’m not sure why. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down and finished it in 2 days. As a person who has struggled to make an independent living at which sales is the heart, I found Elizabeth Pace’s insight extremely valuable.

Most people understand that there are intrinsic differences between males and females, but very few have been able to understand the reasoning behind these differences. Pace sorts out the facts in a very neat fashion and details them in a way that is understandable and interesting. Not only will I use her advice in my day-to-day sales work, but her insights will be invaluable when it comes to personal dealings and my life as a husband.

There were many times during the book where it felt as if Pace had taken instances directly from my married life and explained why both my wife and I acted as we did. When I gave the book to my wife to read (who finished it in less than 24 hours and later gave a presentation based on what she read to her networking group) she felt the same and we found ourselves laughing out loud on many occasions.

I would suggest taking notes while reading this book, as there are a lot of facts and tips crammed into its 200 pages. As for myself, I plan on reading it again very shortly, this time with a highlighter. I also plan to put this book on my bookshelf and return to it several times over. The advice really is that good.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Sorry I haven't posted for a while. Things have been very busy on this end. I've actually got 4 blogs in the works, one that I'll get up in the next day or two reviewing a book I just read. The others, as soon as I get motivated, on the following topics.

Stupid Things I said in my late teens and early 20s.

Remembering the passion of your "first love" (not about relationships!!!)

Art or/of Money?

For this morning though, I thought I'd share this video I just watched. I think I'm a little emotional in the morning, especially considering this video almost made me cry. It's just that we don't see enough good news these days. Everything seems to be negative and scary and controversial. I want to start a news channel that only has good news. That way when people are feeling down about the world or themselves, they can flip over the channel and see that there are still some good things going on in the world. 

I'm a sucker for bravery. I've said in the past "I would jump at the chance to die a hero," which could probably be filed under one of the above blogs that I'll be writing shortly. In a sense though, it's true. It's likely we meet heroes everyday. People that feed and clothe the hungry and give homes to orphans and love the loveless. As much as I admire these people and strive to be one, the adventurous side of my heart watches with envy when others put their life on the line and put their courage to the test. I'd like to think I'd be able to stand up to the challenge and have the guts to do something heroic. Until that time comes though, I'll just have to admire people like the ones in this video.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Self Improvement

I've recently decided I don't write enough.  I type a whole heck of a lot but when it comes to putting pen to paper I'm falling behind. I want to change that. The only problem is that I have terrible handwriting, especially when I'm trying to write fast. 

So here's my personal challenge. I'm going to start writing in cursive again. I hated it so much in school that once I was out I never did it again. Now I'm wishing I hadn't. Cursive looks cool in a journal, even if it's sloppy, and the whole point of cursive is to be able to write faster. Maybe my teachers did know something...

Anyway, I started yesterday. I had to google how to make a capital "I."

This should be interesting.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Eternal Struggle

I read a blog today  that inspired me to write. You can read the inspiration for yourself at It’s very good.

The overall theme of her blog was essentially why do men suck so bad and why are the bad guys so attractive to women? Let me first start off by saying, I am in no way, shape or form the perfect man. If you talked to my wife and she told you the truth, she could easily describe me as one of the men I’m about to decry.

On the other hand, I do think I have a tiny bit wisdom on the subject, at least from the point of view of a man who tries (every once and a while) to be a good man.

I’ll start with the men first, then move to the women (what you thought you were immune ;).


Our world seems to be overrun with man-children: Members of the male sex who are technically old enough to be considered men but who have not progressed beyond a Jr. High or High School mentality.  They can’t commit to anything, they base their value on performance and achievement, and they are constantly hurting themselves and anyone who gets close to them. When they die, 3 subjects will sum up their life:

1. Sports (or video games or music or drugs or add activity here and mix and match as you please) – Whatever they can do to fill their time and take their mind off the fact that they are miserable and dying inside.

2. Money – How much cash can they make, have or at least appear to have: Money is also the catalyst that helps them achieve subjects 1 and 3.

3. Conquests – How many women can they con into sleeping with them: The word “power” could be used as a substitute. Same difference.

Any man who is telling you the truth will tell you that there is not much in this world that is more appealing than these 3 subjects.  And this is exactly the problem.

As humans we are imperfect, we are damaged goods. We are born evil and will remain as such unless we experience the power of Christ. Even with Christ, the lure of evil is often times overwhelming.

If anyone has ever raised a puppy, one of the first things you learn is that you can’t just leave puppy chow sitting around. A puppy will literally eat itself to death. As men, we are puppies left alone in a land of infinite puppy chow… which leads me to my next subject.


Why are women so attracted to the bad guy? I can’t say any of this without certainty because I’m not a woman, so I’ll just have to go off of observations I’ve made and material I’ve read on the subject.

Observation 1 – It’s not just a cliché; the whole bad guy thing really does work. I was the nice boy for the longest time. I also never had a girlfriend for more than a month (they always dumped me), but then I started putting the pieces together. Soon enough I was playing guitar and I had tattoos, piercings and dread locks. Before you know it, I was dating a model. See visual aide number 1.

   Visual Aide Number 1

Observation 2 – The bad guy thing works for a while, but then to keep them happy, you’ve got to turn into a good guy. When we met I was a college flunky with dreads and tats and not much else going for me. When she dumped me I was an Aviation Administration major with a perfect GPA, full ride scholarship and nice preppy haircut.

Observation 3 – As much as women want to catch the bad guy and tame him, once they tame him he gets boring and they get bored.

So what’s a guy or girl to do in this insurmountable clash of the titans? John Eldredge, in his book “Wild at Heart” really helped me understand, and his explanation with God’s help, shaped the foundation that my one successful relationship has been built on.

In the book he says that inside every woman there is a beauty. A beauty who is looking for a prince to slay the dragon and rescue her so they can ride off into the sunset, and off to adventure. He goes on to say that inside every man there is a dragon to slay, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.

Notice the story does not read, “The prince rescued the princess and she became his life and he became hers.“ The adventure is a very important part of the story and cannot be ignored. 

(As for the question, why do women like bad boys? Bad boys tend to signify adventure, drama, and danger, most of which women find exhilarating. Not that good boys can't be exhilarating, but let's face it, they usually aren't.)  

Now I would be foolish to think I could wrap up the entire male/female relationship conversation in a few short pages. There are obviously innumerable scenarios. I also do not believe that every woman needs a man, or visa versa. But for those who are looking, I think these ideas may be a good place to start. See visual aide number 2.

  Visual Aide Number 2

Mindy and I have been married for a little less than 2 years now. Our entire relationship has lasted about 5 years. Notice my nose ring and gauged ears. This picture was also taken at one of my concerts. Mindy is very supportive of the adventure that God is sending me on, and I am very supportive of her adventure. We have not tried to “tame” each other. We have our bad times and our sad times and are by no means a perfect example, but in the end we both understand that we will not give up and with God’s help and God’s help alone we will transverse this awkward existence known as life.

For a few more random thoughts on the subject, I leave you with this"

“Love, love, love, is all we ever talk of, talk and talk is all we ever get done"

- Staggerford

“Love is a verb.”

- DC Talk

 “A friend of mine spent twenty years looking for the perfect woman; unfortunately when he found her, he discovered that she was looking for the perfect man.”

- Warren Buffet

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Va moozey tim yeppa mooch?

It’s been one full week since I’ve been back in the United States and I still don’t know what I want to write. It’s been a busy week, so I haven’t had a whole lot of free time to just sit and decompress. The free time I did have I spent watching House M.D. I’m not a proud addict, but I am addicted…

At most I have a collection of random thoughts so I’ll put those down for lack of something better to write.

1. I’m going to be in big big trouble if I ever have a daughter. As attached as I got to a couple of the girls there in just a few short days, a daughter of my own will probably be too much to handle. Future suitors beware…

2. The orphans could really use a good financial education. They’re given about 600 Grivna a month from the Government and most of it is blown on payday. These kids don’t have a lot of out of pocket expense. Imagine what they could accomplish if they were to save half of what the Government pays them. 300 Grivna a month for the 36 months they are at the Orphanage leaves them with 10,800 Grivna, or about $1400 US at the current exchange rate. Not a lot by US standards, but not too bad for a Ukrainian orphan. (I don’t’ know what kind of investment tools they have in Ukraine, or if they are even stable, but I’ve got to believe that saving something is better than spending it on alcohol and candy.)

3. Ukrainian orphan boys could probably thrash US boys in athletic competition, and they don’t have fancy equipment or supplements to make them bigger, faster, stronger.

4. I’m definitely going to know at least a good handful of Russian by the time I go back.

5. I’m definitely going back.

6. Kiev is a really cool city, almost like if they put Chicago in the Great Smokey Mountains of North Carolina.

7. US culture is so obsessed with TV and the internet that we miss out on a lot of real life experiences.

8. I watch too much TV and spend too much time on the internet.

9. Ukrainian colds hold on for a lot longer than US colds.

10. I can’t spend too much time thinking about what the future may hold for the kids I got close too. If I was able, I would have taken a couple kids home to live with me, or even stayed to look after them, but I can’t (not yet anyway). So here I am, sitting comfortably in the US and feeling very helpless for their situation. This is when I have to realize, above all, that I can’t save the world. God is in control. He’s called me to this cause, and He’s called me to recruit others for this cause, but there is nothing worthwhile that I can accomplish outside of Him.  

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Return Voyage

Wow, I’ve been “home” for a couple days now and I’m just getting around to doing this.

First I’ll write about the trip home and then I’ll get to the “what I’ve learned” part in the next blog. I was going to try and do it all in one, but I've been so busy since I've been back, I haven't been able to get straight in my head what I want to say. 

As is typical in the United States, I hit the ground running just as soon as I got off the plane. Thankfully, God provided a bit of a respite even in my travels when he allowed me and 3 other members of the Faceless team to be upgraded to First Class for the 10-hour flight home. Though I feel a little guilty that the rest of the team was stuck in coach, the added comfort of First Class was very welcomed.

After getting off the plane and through customs in New York, I had to rush to make my flight to Milwaukee. In the end, the rush was unnecessary as my flight was an hour and a half late. This in turn caused me to miss my connecting flight in Milwaukee. The airline was generous though and put me up for the night in the Wyndham Hotel. I didn’t sleep that well, but that was partially due to jet lag. I woke up at 5 am the next morning, had some Duncan Donuts and coffee and jumped on my flight to Minneapolis.  In Minneapolis, my beautiful wife surprised me by picking me up, which made the day great.  We had lunch at the Macaroni Grill and then spent the afternoon wandering through Ikea and the Mall of America (which was shocking to the senses after having been in Ukraine living with orphans the day before).  The next day I woke up to run over the set with Bright Light and then the Pilot for Kite set, and then it was off to play Water’s Edge in Albert Lea. 

This morning I woke up at 7:00 to see Mindy off. I spent morning drinking coffee and learning Russian. I’m going to be prepared for the next trip. Despite the coffee and non-drowsy cold medicine I took, I fell back asleep at 11 for another two hours. I’m really hoping my body becomes acclimated to the central time zone soon. Tonight we head to Wisconsin for another show. Then it's off to Illinois for a week long camp.

I'm really looking forward to getting back to Omaha and seeing my dog Henry and spending some more time with my wife and friends, but for now I've just got to keep pressing on. If Ukraine taught me anything, it's that time can fly by faster now that it ever has in the past.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A few more pics

Let's see how it goes this time.

Posters on the side of a building. They're all over the place.

Ukrainian kitties like me.

So do Ukrainian kiddies.

Alyona on the left and Vika on the right right after they painted my fingernails bright red. Hopefully not the future faces of human trafficking.

Picture Update

Today has been an excellent day. We haven't done a whole lot of work today because of a few set backs, but we've had a lot of time to hang out together which has been nice. I've been taking a couple photos so I figure they'll be able to tell some of the story best.

It snowed the other day. Actually it didn't, this is just the cotton from the cottonwoods. During the day, it's constantly floating through the air. It's very pretty actually.

This is what the hallway looked like and below is what it's shaping up to be. The school picked the color and loved it but I think I liked it the way it was before.

I'm having some issues uploading pictures so I'll try to do some more a little later. This is just the teaser ;)

Friday, May 29, 2009

тому що ми не можемо забути

I find it uplifting that days which feel the most ineffectual can often be redeemed by a few short hours of extreme purpose.  Last night, several members of the Faceless team had a great opportunity to get to bed early, yet chose to abandon it for talk of future hopes and dreams. Not dreams of fame and fortune but of a coming movement.

As so many people warned me, I was shocked by what I saw when I first arrived at this orphanage. I had mentally prepared in the weeks leading up to this trip for the worst possible scenario. I pictured sad and hungry children, wearing tattered clothes and sole-less shoes. Visions of Oliver Twist asking “please sir may I have another” tormented me in my sleep, but even my darkest expectations could not come close to reality.

Strangely though, the atmosphere was not worse than my imagination, but far better. Despite the mullet being the haircut of choice, the orphans are dressed far more stylishly than ever was when I was their age, and we’ve eaten 4 healthy meals a day since we arrived. Most of the kids are constantly smiling and joking and laughing and the orphanage they call home isn’t half bad.

Today, as I was updating my Facebook status, Alyona, a 16 year old Ukrainian girl, who earlier in the morning had stolen one of the work gloves off my hand, barked at me in Ukrainian to get out of my chair. As soon as I stood, she confiscated the chair and a computer and gave me the universal symbol for “talk to the hand.” This is our relationship and it started when I made smores for her and her friend Vika at the campfire.

It’s not hard to imagine these girls living a life in the United States.  If you put them in a line up with American girls of the same age, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. What is hard to imagine is that statistically, Alyona and Vika are more likely to be sold into sex slavery than to have a career or get married.

Of the kids we’ve gotten to know while we’ve been here, let’s say 10 girls and 10 boys, the statistics say that 2 will commit suicide before the age of 18, 6 of the girls will be forced into prostitution and 7 of the boys will enter into a life of crime.  Though it doesn’t show on their face, Alyona, Vika, Oksana, Shasha 1, Sasha 2, Mischa, Olya and Sergei hold little hope for a bright future, and a vast majority of the United States is unaware that this tragedy exists. My hope is that when they become informed, they choose to act instead of changing the channel, closing the magazine, or clicking to another web page. The convenience of distraction is one of evil’s closest allies.

Earlier today, a couple of the guys and I made the 10 minute trek into town in search of a moneychanger and something cold to drink. On the way we ran into 2 of our orphan friends. The kids look forward to days like this because it is when they receive their monthly allowance from the government. The allowance adds up to 600 grivna or about 80 US dollars. It’s the only money they receive and it is usually blown on frivolous items that most teens are prone to buying. Mischa, one of the teens who met us on the street, had other plans for at least part of his money. As he approached us, he handed Danny a red tin box. Danny opened it to find a detailed collector’s knife, a gift from Mischa. Stunned, we walked with the boys into town. When we got to the moneychanger, Mischa motioned to us that we didn’t need to change in our money, that he had some that we could use if we needed. Stunned again. After finding nothing in the stores we started to walk back to the orphanage. After passing a group of merchants on the street we stopped to wait up for Mischa who was trailing behind. As we turned, we saw him putting money into the cup of an old beggar woman whom my friends and I had walked by without noticing. As if this wasn’t enough, when we got back, he had bought a chocolate bar for all of us to share.

It astounds me that a teen that has been dealt such a hard deck in life can be so generous. It makes me want to fight for him that much harder. These are not worthless degenerates that can serve no better purpose in life. These are loving, caring human beings with loads of potential that weren’t fortunate enough to win the ovarian lottery and wind up born in the U.S.A.

We’ve been blessed as a country and it is our turn to bless others. You have been informed. The question is what will you do about it?  Will you choose to be a part of a movement that won’t carry your name or your personal achievements, but that will change the course of history? Are you ready to step out of your comfort zone and catch a glimpse of what the world we live in is really like? Are you willing to inform yourself and others about the tragedy that exists no further than an ride away from your own front lawn? Or will you switch on Conan and forget about it?

The choice is yours.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Very Superstitious

It’s been a pretty slow day today, at least for me. I got to feeling pretty terrible last night around 9 and tried to go to sleep early, but that didn’t happen. Luckily, despite the lack of sleep, I woke up this morning feeling a little better than I did last night. I’m starting to think that I actually picked this up from our hotel room in New York. Danny and Stephen are both sick and we all stayed in the same room. We started working on wallpaper right away and finished the first room. It’s looking pretty good, and the team is already starting to paint.

Despite feeling bad, the last couple days have been really good. The kids here have really started warming up to us and the language barrier isn’t nearly as extreme as I thought it was originally. I still want to learn the language, but we’re having a great time even without it. Even some of the girls have been warming up. I was afraid I was just a big scary American to them but we’ve been joking and teasing each other today so I’m not so afraid of that anymore.

We had an interesting lesson on Ukraine the other night. Ukrainians are a very superstitious people. First of all, I found out that whistling is a bad thing. The superstition says that if you whistle you will lose all your money. Besides that I found out that when a baby is born, it is believed the child will be jinxed if their parents talk nice to it. So for the first few weeks of its life, they say things like “Stupid baby,” “ugly baby.” They use a nice baby tone to say it in though. There are also some pretty crazy superstitions for women as well. If women sit at the corner of the table, they will never get married and if they sit on the ground, their ovaries will freeze and they’ll never have children. Black cats and ladders apply the same as they do in the U.S. but mirrors have a bigger role here. Here you can’t put a mirror facing the door. If you do, when you bring money into the house, the mirror will push it back out. And when someone dies, they put covers over all the mirrors and reflective surfaces because if they don’t, their spirit will get caught in the mirror.

I love learning about different cultures. I wonder what the roots of these superstitions are. I may have to do some research when I get home.

Ron, losing the battle to sleep... so much for that Facebook Status.

Lori showing Micha some pictures behind the Mac army. The kids                       are surprisingly technologically savvy. I guess it's a generational thing. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


This is my new friend Sasha. He's smooooov with the ladies, but I can kick his butt in wrestlin. He calls me "Datzel." I guess that's a famous person here in Ukraine that has the same hair as me, or lack there of. Now he's famous cause he's on the internet.

Wallpaper and Advil

Day 3

I woke up this morning with a bit of a cold I think. It may just be allergies. The building we are staying in is fairly old and I’m pretty sure there is mold and there is definitely dust. I can’t complain though. Some coffee and a few Advil made me feel almost as good as new.

I got to thinking as I was getting around this morning. I really wish I knew the language here so that I could communicate more effectively with the kids. When I speak, it sounds as much gibberish to them as their speech sounds to me. If I could just speak to them I’d be able to maybe reach these kids even more. Then I got to thinking about the way I am at home. I speak the same language as most of the population yet I go out of my way many times to not talk to people. I may have to reconsider my methods when I get back home.

We began putting up wallpaper in the room today and it’s starting to look good. The paper we’re using is mostly for texture and will be painted over. We have a human trafficking seminar this afternoon that we will attend with the kids. I don’t know yet how much they know about it. Considering the statistics, I’m guessing they don’t know that much.

I was speaking with Suzanna, another German worker with YWAM, the other day and she was saying that they are in the process of building another home for these kids for after they graduate. One of the biggest issues these kids face is that they may have trade skills, but they don’t have many life skills. They wouldn’t know how to get an apartment or pay bills or cook for themselves. Once they’re out of the orphanage, they’re on their own, and they’re not developed enough to be on their own. This house would be big enough for 12 kids and 2 sets of house parents to teach these kids the things they haven’t learned yet and give them a fair shot at life.

They still need a lot of funding, approximately $160,000. I don’t know yet where donations can be sent, but I’m going to find out.

Once again, be praying for all of us. There are several people who are feeling under the weather, and the aches and pains of doing construction work is starting to set in.

Marshmallows and Soccer

Day 2 - 11:56 pm

Today ended up being a really good day. We finished up our work around 3pm and changed clothes to go play soccer with the guys and totally got schooled. These kids were good. I did score one goal though, which is pretty impressive considering I’m terrible.

After soccer we lit a campfire and roasted marshmallows with the kids and made smores. It was the first time I felt I made a connection with some of them, but considering it’s only early on, I think we’ll be getting along pretty well.

The highlight of the day was sitting in our bedroom and telling stories with the guys. I laughed so hard.

The low light of the day, and probably the most difficult obstacle to overcome is that you can’t flush the toilet paper down the stool. You can do the math on that.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

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Day 2 - Part 1?

Day 2 – 5/25/09 – 7:00 am Ukraine time (11 pm Central US time)

I slept in my clothes last night because I was too tired to change out of them. Thanks to Soviet construction, we couldn’t find the light switch to turn out the lights in our room. I know it’s downstairs somewhere, but we’ll have to figure out that mystery today. Despite the lights being on, I slept like a rock and woke up refreshed and needing to go to the bathroom. One look out the window, told me my timing had not adjusted yet. It was pitch black outside and the clock read 2:30 am. Luckily with a trip to the bathroom and some will power I was able to fall fast asleep again and awake with kids playing soccer outside and the sun shining brightly into our room at 5:30 am.

Getting around in the morning is a little interesting as there is only one public bathroom on our floor to share between about 20 of us. Luckily there are stalls and toilet seats. This is thanks to the team that was here before us. It would have just been porcelain toilets and nothing else if it weren’t for them. I think I’ll make it a point to wake up nice and early the rest of the trip so that I don’t have to worry about being in anyone’s way.

Breakfast will be served in about 30 minutes and I’m praying there will be coffee. Though I spent time in the coffee shop yesterday, there wasn’t any coffee made. The only coffee I’ve had to drink is the small cup of surprisingly phenomenal coffee on the airplane yesterday morning. European airlines definitely do it better than US ones. The food was even really descent.

Afternoon Update

Breakfast was great this morning. It consisted of buttered noodles, a fried egg and a pickle. They also have a 3 in 1 instant coffee that's really good. 3 in 1 as in coffee, cream and sugar. It took me by surprise though. I was expecting plain black black coffee.

We worked our butts off this morning. We're re doing 2 rooms and a hallway in the orphanage. I spent the morning wetting down and scraping the ceiling, removing the water soluble paint so that we can repaint the ceiling. Tonight we're having a basketball tournament and a marshmallow roast. It should be a lot of fun!!!

Ukraine Day 1

Day 1 – 5/24/09

We arrived in Kiev around 10:30 am, 8 hours ahead of the time at my house in Nebraska. The trip was fairly comfortable and not nearly as long as I expected it to be. I have no idea why I thought I would need a battery pack to extend the life of my ipod. The group spent a good portion of the time talking, and we tried to spend another good portion asleep. That wasn’t always successful. One of the strangest things to me was seeing the sun set, and then rise again only a few hours later.

As soon as we landed and made it through customs, we hit the ground running. There was a bus waiting at the airport to take us to the YWAM base, which was a boat on the river. We met some of the folks who would be with us and learned a little bit about what we were doing and about the kids we were helping. The statistics that stuck out in my mind the most was that 10% of the students from the orphanage will commit suicide before the age of 18. 60% of the girls who graduate from this orphanage will be victims of human trafficking and 70% of boys will enter a life of crime. Graduation is in a month.

After training we jumped back on the bus and drove to the actual orphanage. Though we were all told the best way to beat jet lag was not to sleep, most of us couldn’t help ourselves and slept the rest of the trip in the bus. Soon we were at the orphanage and loaded into our rooms. The beds are small, about ¾ the size of a twin bed, maybe smaller, but are comfortable enough to sleep well in. Though we were all tired, it was not yet time to sleep.

We met several kids right away, and Stephen McGee, a photojournalist traveling with us who has an amazing gift of getting to know just about anyone in 5 seconds flat, took to playing soccer with the kids while the rest of us toured the facility. In the coffee shop (the size of a large bedroom with a bar and a coffee machine and some tables) I met a boy, I’m guessing around 16 or 17 years old, taking music lessons and who asked if any of us played guitar. I told him I did and he asked me to teach him. I told him through a translator that I would try after his music lesson was done.

After the tour we went back to our rooms to relax a little, but it wasn’t long lived. Helmut, a German carpenter that is working with us, was already building a platform that was to be used to paint the ceiling in one of the rooms. It was more than a one-man job so I took to swinging a hammer. We finished in about 30 minutes and the boy who I was going to give guitar lessons too was already at the door so I grabbed the guitar and we went back to the coffee shop. Trying to teach someone guitar is difficult in the first place. Trying to teach someone who spoke no English was even more so, but he was motivated and quickly learned the G, C and D chords.

Quickly it was time for dinner so we headed down to the cafeteria and ate our first Ukrainian meal at the orphanage. It consisted of half a tomato, some sort of rice, bread, hot tea and a type of pastry that was round and had sour cream on top. The orphans ate their meal in less than 5 minutes and were out the door. It took us a little longer, and as soon as I was done, the boy was ready to play more guitar. We worked at it a little more in the coffee shop and then he wanted to move outside so that everyone else could here. We sat on the steps of the orphanage and drew in a few more of the boys who wanted to hear “System of a Down,” “50 Cent” and “Eminem.” Unfortunately I didn’t know any of this music so I played them some Pilot for Kite stuff and they seemed to like it. One of the leaders, and older woman here at the orphanage, brought out a blanket and ushered us to a bench area by an outdoor ping pong table where kids were playing. This caused several more kids to it and listen as I quickly ran out of songs to play. Luckily Danny, the singer for a band called National Product, came down and took over the performance.

You get many different reactions from the kids. Most of the girls look at you as if they’re trying to figure you out and are highly suspicious. The leaders say the girls are the hardest to get to know. Ukrainian girls are very girly, even more so than American girls. They rarely play sports or lift heavy objects, so when American girls are here to help and are playing sports and lifting 2x4s the boys are very intrigued.

The boys are easier to get to know aside from being normal teenage boys. Though you don’t speak their language, you understand that some of them are making fun of you, but it really isn’t that bothersome when you can’t understand them. The leaders said this was normal and that pretty soon they’ll be your friend and won’t want to leave your side.

As of right now, Ukraine is not what I expected. Though there are definitely differences from the US, there have been many times I’ve caught myself feeling as if I were just in Lincoln or some other town in the US. Visually, it’s much the same. There are buildings, green trees and cars that have the steering wheels on the same side as they are in the US. The people, though usually very much Russian looking, are just everyday people like you and me. Until they speak, it feels like any other town in the US. This may be due to the fact we are isolated at bit at the orphanage. I’m sure we’ll be making some trips into town in the near future, and that should usher in a bit more of a culture shock.