Thursday, May 24, 2007

Photo contest and ramblings of the day

Photo Contest - American Humane Society

The American Humane Society is having a photography contest for my FAVORITE thing to photograph -- animals!!! I am going to enter. I can't believe that this is a coincidence that I've been thinking how much I love photographing animals and this happens. I might not win, but I've got to try!!! You can enter as many times as you like so I'm going to enter several -- not knowing what the tastes of the judges might be. I'm definitely sending in "cat bath" with Joshua and Little Kitty. I'd also like to send in the one of Sunshine with the sunglasses and Joshua and the one of Sunshine lying by the front door and Joshua lying on her. I'd just have to FIND THEM first. I thought I might also take some more photos to enter as well. The contest runs June 1 - July 31. First prize is $2,000 and runners up get $500. IMAGINE getting paid to take a photo!! The shame of it is that I've taken SO many animal photos that I can't use.

Fingers crossed that I'd even get honorable mention. Maybe I'll search the internet for more photo contests. WHO KNOWS!!!

The picture I got framed of Joshua playing football is wonderful. When I picked it up from Hobby Lobby I was so surprised at how good it turned out. The colors are vibrant and the words pop from the frame. We took it to the park tonight to show folks. I guess it was bragging a little, but I just think it's such a cool look with the mats.

Kevin, Joshua and Scott leave tomorrow for Piney to set up camp. Bryce and I will leave Saturday morning after I drop Scat at the vet and pick up the shoulders and chickens from church and drop mama's off.

I need to clean house tomorrow. The floors need to be mopped and some dusting needs to occur. It never ends, but I've gotten so much less stressed about this area of my life. Good thing!

Tomorrow is our "official" five month wait for Ellie. I know she's coming. I see the answers to my prayers about the speed up slowly starting. Others are jaded and pessimistic about the rumors of speeding up, but I know I have asked God for it and that it is in His ability to answer "yes" to me if it is best so I am not surprised that it comes on the heals of my specifically asking others to pray for this. I am willing, however, to wait as long as God needs for me to for Ellie to be born and be ready to come home with us. I know her spirit already. I told someone today that I don't know if I'm truly ready for the magnitude of the blessing that Ellie will be in our lives. Joshua has irrevocably changed my life forever in so many ways; I know Ellie will do the same -- my little black eyed, black haired girl with the almond shaped eyes.

What Are We Teaching Our Children?

We all agree that today’s youth are the future of our country. As parents we are all aware of the magnitude of the jobs in front of us to raise children who have values and morals in a society where there are no absolute truths. As a parent, I take the opportunity to use every moment to teach my son what is right and what is wrong – and that there IS a difference. I teach him that we are responsible to an absolute God who has no gray areas. I teach him that what God says is the ultimate authority of how we should live our lives. I try to set an example for him, and fail miserably more times than not. But, I am trying. I try to make sure the role models in his life are Christian adults who model the behaviors I want him to learn.

Recently, we have been struggling with the Biblical concept of exhortation. Our baseball team has struggled to succeed because we have been a team of “I’s” instead of a team of “we’s”. The success of the individual player has been more important than the success of the team. Today, for example, we looked up the word “exhort” in the dictionary. We learned how to spell it and what it means. A simple definition that a nine-year-old can understand is “to cheer on, especially with shouting”. How appropriate a definition for a baseball team! I reminded my son that it was God’s direct command that we exhort one another – that we build up others with our words and not tear them down. Along with my efforts at home, our coach, a quiet man, has consistently reinforced this behavior on the field. If the one thing our team walks away with this year is the ability to build up another player when they are doing well and when they are not – the score, in my book, will all be recorded in the WIN column. You see, our team hasn’t been winning a lot this year. In fact, we’ve only won one game.

And then, I got to experience the “miracle” of a team that finally “got it”. Our team learned that when you build your friends up, they actually feel better about their skills and they actually play better. As the unofficial team “photographer”, I hear a lot of things that others don’t hear. I hear the conversations in the dug-out. Today, for the first time, I heard all the players saying nice things to each other – building each other up – practicing the Biblical truth of exhortation. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, that once they were feeling that their teammates believed in them, it bred confidence that they really could do the job they were put on the field to do. Children who never hit were hitting. Balls were being caught; outs were being made.

After an hour and a half of playing, our boys were up 9-3. And then, the adults took it out of their hands. Apparently, there is some type of tension between our coach and the umpires. I don’t know what it is, and I don’t care. It is not my business and should have nothing to do with my son, his team or the game of baseball. But, apparently it does and it did. Game start time was 6:00 p.m. Game end time should have been 7:30 p.m. At 7:32 p.m. the umpire allowed another inning to occur, even with protests from parents and coaches of our team. During this inning, questions arose as to whether the coach could drop his last batter. Much discussion ensued about this. The child in question eventually did bat. Then our pitcher accidentally hit three batters. Parents stood up and screamed at the field, “ARE YOU GOING TO LET THIS CONTINUE?” and made the assertion that the pitcher’s dad, our coach, told him to do that. Who in the world could come to the conclusion that this child would try to hit another kid and hurt him? These children play sports together all the time, share teams and different sports. They go to school together; they are friends. On and on it went until our kids lost 10-9.

Do I care that they lost? Of course. What parent wouldn’t? Would I have complained just because it was a loss? Absolutely not. But, here is the quandary. How do I now explain to my child that in life there are rules (the game is over after an hour and a half) and that he has to follow them – BUT others don’t. How do I explain that his team did everything right and were winning, but because of some idiotic adult tension, his team lost? How do I explain that his team lost the game that really was theirs because adults had some personal conflicts that continue, week after week, to come on the field? Why can’t we all get along? Why is it so hard to understand that the real reason we are out there at the park night after night is for our children to not only have fun but to learn life lessons that they can use all their lives? When my son grows up and gets a job will he transfer his baseball team skills and respect his boss and play by the rules – or will he learn that it really doesn’t matter if you play by the rules, you must win at all costs. Will he learn that exhortation and forgiveness are the most important skills he will learn or will he learn that if you don’t like someone you can get back at them in subtle ways – even if it hurts other innocent people in the process? Will he turn out to be the “untouchable” Pac-Man Jones or the unforgettable Cal Ripkin? Will he model the actions of the world or will he model the actions of his Savior? I know what I want for him. I know I want his role models to understand the impact they have on the lives of hundreds of children. I want them to understand that although they are children, they understand when things are not fair, and that it hurts them – probably a little worse than we adults, because they have not had the opportunities to learn just how bad our world really is.

I want adults to act like adults and to consider what they are teaching the future of our world by their actions.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Gift of Assimilation

I have sat through many messages in church about our spiritual gifts. I have wondered and wondered what my "gift" was and how to accurately describe what I felt my gift was. While there are many gifts I would like to claim as mine, God has made me as I am and has blessed me with what I call the gift of assimilation. This came to me while I was working here in South Carolina. What a time for it to be revealed! What in the world is the gift of ASSIMILATION you might ask. To me, it is the ability to think of many, potentially unrelated things, and bring them or put them together to make something new.

Miriam Webster defines assimiliation as:

1 a : to take in and utilize as nourishment : absorb into the system b : to take into the mind and thoroughly comprehend 2 a : to make similar b : to alter by assimilation c : to absorb into the culture or mores of a population or group3 : COMPARE, LIKEN intransitive verb : to become assimilated.

When I began to think of this, I thought of my desires to scrapbook (putting memorabilia, photos and other "pretties" together to capture a memory), the videos I make (putting together photos, music and quotes to help people remember an event) and all the other "creative" ventures I undertake. But, then I allowed myself to expand on what I COULD do with this gift -- the ability to bring others together -- people who are totally unrelated or different, in order to make or do something good. What a wonderful gift!!! Let my prayer always be, "Here I am, Lord -- use the gift you have given me for Your good; use me."


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Things I've Learned While in South Carolina

I've spent the week here in Columbia, SC doing project work for State Farm. While here, I've taken some photos and made some observations about life in this city. Mainly, the people here are kind and friendly and the weather is simliar to Nashville. There have been some, um . . . interesting moments and photos to capture. I share them below.
  • Cats can be named Mr. Mouse, although, I firmly suspect, they do not like it.

  • Dogs named PorkChop like to lick your legs – and crawl through them and run around them.

  • Aloe vera plants can be taller than I am. This fact will make me stop the car, back up and take a photo out of the window.

  • Electric towers cause cancer. I met a man whose mother died of breast cancer, father of lung cancer, wife currently has breast cancer and his dog is dying from cancer. They all lived next to each other – on the power lines. I continue to pray for this man and his wife and dog who are both battling breast cancer. I was so touched at how much love and compassion he showed for each of these people and animals through the stories he told.

  • Roads made from sand are bumpy and you have to drive very slowly.
  • If you drop your camera, it will ruin it and cost you two hours of lost work looking for a CHEAP replacement. However, if your friend yanks the lens around a little (after you beat on it for 15 minutes and it wouldn’t move), it WILL pop right back into place and work fine.
  • There ARE people who have more animals than me. They appear really sane, too.
  • There are a LOT of cats here.
  • Cats can live to be as old as 25 (Lord have mercy on my soul!). The photo is of Zollie. She is 25. My mother says she's ugly. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I think she's lovely.

  • You can mix a Labrador and a Poodle and get a creature called a LABRADOODLE that looks ridiculous.

  • Dogs apparently think I’m cool – and tasty -- as I have had my legs licked so much today I won’t need to shave for a few days.

  • Great Danes look an awful lot like small horses.

  • You can use empty swimming pools to store firewood. Apparently more than one person does this as I have seen two already this week.

  • Parents who leave their children at home alone after school should tell them NEVER to come to the door.
  • If you are off work from a knee injury, you can make an entire front door out of stained glass.

  • If you walk around 118 houses in a day, your hips hurt -- A LOT -- at night.

  • Beagles hate me, but hummingbirds and pit bulls seem to like me.
  • Dogs can dig a hole deep enough to bury themselves in.

  • Wrinkles, the dog, thought I had tasty toes.

  • Clematis grows beautifully in South Carolina.

  • The GEICO lizard lives in South Carolina.

  • Eucalyptis grows as a TREE. I’m not sure how I thought it grew, but apparently, it’s a TREE.
  • And last, but MOST DEFINITELY NOT LEAST: I could not find my way out of a mud hole 99% of the time, but if I pass a Krispy Kreme store in a city I’ve never been in, I can, without fail, find my way back to it when the HOT NOW sign is on.

It's been a hard trip. The weather is good, but the work days are long. Susan and I spend 10 hours a day taking photos and then try to work several hours at night on paperwork and getting ready for the next day. Sleep is a commodity that is rare on project trips and we both started this trip extra tired from the week before. A friend reminded me today that I'm lucky to not be stuck behind a desk and that my job allows me to experience all types of people, animals and places. For that I am thankful.

So, it's off to sleep. Tomorrow is the last day of field work. My goal is to complete the 85 on my schedule for a weekly total of 478.