Category Archives: Family

Updated Facebook Relationship Status: Heartbroken

One’s new relationship status isn’t complete until it is changed on Facebook and broadcasted to the world. Minnie changed her Facebook status to “single” today. This was my Facebook status update:

Thank you @Minnie Beechner for being my beautiful bride. The past 18 years have been the best years of my life. Thank you for accepting me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for being my soul mate, helper, lover, teacher and friend. You are my best friend. Thank you for showing me how to worship God in a new way and worshiping with me. Thank you for bearing, gifting and entrusting me with four handsome boys-you are a loving mom-kind, patient, nurturing and protective. Thank you for bringing joy to my life. Thanks be to God for giving me such an incredible, independent, bold and confident woman. I believe God brought us together and bonded us in marriage. I am blessed beyond grace and will be forever grateful for the years we have been husband & wife. I’m sorry for hurting you and loving you so poorly, I regret it every day. Your divorce from me has been finalized. Even though I failed you in the past, with God’s help I am being transformed and becoming a new man.

Well, it WAS the response I posted, but Minnie asked me to untag her, I couldn’t, so I deleted it.  She thinks that I did not mean the things I said…Let me just say I do.  With all my heart I do.

I was served divorce papers on February 13th 2012. The day before Valentine’s Day. I was completely shocked. It was like a 2×4 to the face. The effects were the same too: dazed, confused, pained, wounded, felled to the floor knocked out. I suppose I shouldn’t have been so shocked. Our marriage counselor looked directly at me and stated that if we didn’t change then the logical conclusion would be divorce. After, I asked Minnie if she thought that was true and she said no. I asked her if she’d let me know if she thought it was getting to that point. Even though she said she would, she never did. I never thought I would be divorced from Minnie. She really was my best friend. There was never a day when I was not in love with her. I’m still in love with her.

For the record: I was faithful to Minnie, I never touched another woman; I never gave my heart away to another. There was no physical abuse. No addiction or substance abuse. I wasn’t a deadbeat. I worked and provided for her and our family. I was quick to apologize when I was wrong-and even if I wasn’t. I don’t know why it is so important to me to communicate that list, but it is. Actually, I do know why.

Although I am not a verbal abuser in general, I was verbally abusive to Minnie the last 6 months of our marriage, before Minnie filed. I was hurt. I was broken. I took a stand. I lashed out. Minnie wilted and died inside. I didn’t know. If I had seen it I would have changed.  I swear I would have.

Minnie had my stuff packed up and I moved out day one. Thanks to Walter & Sean for helping me until I could stand on my own 2 feet. I eventually moved into my own 2-bedroom apartment. It isn’t much, but it is clean & organized, I have it completely furnished for me and my 4 boys. I’ve even done some decorating. I am learning what it means to be independent and a single father. Keegan, one of my 16-yr old twins lives with me. I see Kaleb, Calvin & Corbin for about 12 days out of the month. The boys are handling it very well for now, but I am fearful how it might affect them long-term. To teach them that divorce is an OK out is horrible. The sins of the father…

I refused to sign the divorce decree. Oh, the numbers and parenting time and such were agreeable enough and I signed those documents. The divorce negotiations were never mean or argumentative. But I love my wif, er, I mean, I love Minnie very much. I believe that God brought Minnie and I together, that which God binds in holy matrimony should not be undone by any man. We were married by two pastors. We wrote our own vows. A vow I could not break. There are no biblical grounds for our divorce, like I stated before, I was faithful to Minnie and I was not abusive to her or our boys. I do not believe that we have irreconcilable differences.  So I refused to sign; never a day will come when Minnie will wonder why I agreed to a divorce. I believe that Minnie and I can still work things out and have a marriage that is awesome. I hold onto hope.

I’ve been learning first hand what it means to manage unbearable pain.

I ran to God a couple of hours after I was served the papers and clung onto Him. One of the truly good things that has come from this brutal separation is that I have been reconciled to God, forgiven and on a journey of healing and comfort with my heavenly Father.

I’ve refused to fight or show anger to Minnie. I’m sad as hell and hurt like crazy, but, I can’t see how it would do any good to get angry, mean or fight. Minnie stated that if I hired my own divorce lawyer that we couldn’t be friends, so I didn’t. No legal battle.

The separation in general has been good for Minnie and I. There was even a time when Minnie and I were getting along very well. It was…great! But then she backed off again.

I make good choices and bad. It isn’t easy managing this brutal pain. Sometimes I try to fill the pain with things that aren’t the better option. But I feel like for every bad decision I’ve made, I have made 100 good ones.

I’m not “better off” without my best friend of 18 years. But I am going to be OK.  I guess.  That’s what they say anyway.  I can live without her, if I have to.  I am a better person than I was 5 months ago. I am a better dad. I am a better housekeeper. I am a better cook. I am a better shopper. I am a better money-manager. I am independent. I’m more in love with Minnie today than I ever have been.  I’ve never felt so incomplete.  I miss her every day.

I’m also in mourning. I’ve lost the person that meant the most to me. I lost my best friend. They say it is worse than a death because you have to see the loved one over and over again.

And that’s pretty much where I am. A divorced, broken man. I am trying not to let it become my identity.  I am becoming closer to God. Holding out for a miracle. Trying to manage the overwhelming pain. Trying to be transformed into a better person, for me, for God, for my boys, but especially for my bride. And learning to move on.

But not move on too fast or too far.  I haven’t changed my Facebook status yet.  Facebook automatically deleted the “married to…” part and just changed it to “married”.  The truth is that in my heart I will always be Minnie’s husband.  I love her.  I know that sounds so cliche at best and stalkerish at worst.  I am letting her walk away.  I’m going to move on as best I can.

“Joy is gone from our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning”  (Lamentations 5:15).

Thank you to all who have prayed with me and for me.

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My 3 Words for 2012

I’ve never been a big fan of New Year resolutions.  I’ve made some in the past and I’ve broken most.  Last year was pretty good.

I’ve been following Chris Brogan’s blog.  Chris Brogan writes:

Every year since around 2006, I’ve been challenging people to forego the idea of a resolution, and instead, to come up with 3 words that will help you define your goals and experiences for the coming year. Resolutions are often too vague, or too directed towards one goal. It might be “quit smoking” or “lose 20 pounds” or “get hired.” These are all fine aspirations, but I challenge you to dig deeper, to find three words that could be used as lighthouses to guide you through stormy seas, that can be used as flags on the battlefield of your challenges, words that will bolster you and give you a direction that goes beyond the goals you might attach as a result of these words.

Relationships – I will strengthen relationships in 2012.  Most of us have relationships in our lives that are broken or unhealthy that need to be fixed and improved.  I am no exception.  I’m sure there are many, but 4 such relationships come to mind:  my relationship with God, my relationship with my wife and my relationship with my twins, Kaleb & Keegan.  2011 was a year of challenge, struggle and disappointment for me personally.  Bad choices, responding in anger, communicating poorly.  Not just by me.  The Wienerdogs Indecent,  getting in trouble at school, a joy ride that lead to totaling mom’s car.  But that was last year.   These relationships are the most important in my life and I plan to seek reconciliation, peace, healthiness and intimacy.  I only have a few more years with my twins before they become independent, young men and leave home.

Believe it or not, I do have healthy relationships in my life.  My relationship with my little people, Calvin & Corbin, come to mind, relationships with friends and co-workers, and my brothers and sisters in Christ.

These relationships are my life support group.  When the challenges of life happen it is relationships that get us through.  I plan to mend the relationships that need fixing and continue to strengthen the healthy relationships.

Regimen – I will create a plan and stick to it in 2012.  A regimen is defined as a systematic plan. Regimens are what I hope to use to achieve my goals.  I plan to read the Bible more consistently, to pray, to spend time with my family.

Regimen is also a synonym of diet. If I were to make one traditional resolution this year it would be to lose weight.  I’m not sure what I am going to do just yet, but I am gonna do something.

Intentionality – I will be intentional in 2012.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of being intentional.  If one does not perform regular maintenance or take the time to make proper preparations or plan for the future then they’re setting themselves up for trouble.  It is an obvious life-lesson that many, many people overlook or ignore.  You can’t just sit back and hope things will all work out.  You have to be proactive.  You have to have a focus.  You have to be intentional.  And do it in all aspects of life.

Which means that I will need to be a little more specific about my regimens.

As with life, this is a work in progress, in process.  I’m just beginning to work on it, but at least I’m working on it.

-Derin-

Relationships

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Getting Old Sucks: Relaying the Message

I look around me and I see old people!  Everywhere I look!  Oh wait, that’s the mirror.  But that’s not me.  That’s some old dude.  Some middle-aged old man.  It can’t be me.

I’m sure our parents and grand parents and other adult friends all feebly explained to us mindless younglings about the weirdness of aging and the meaning of life.  I’m sure we listened politely and nodded while they droned on and on and while we tried to focus and look interested.  And off our minds went while they jabbered on about whatever.  But let’s be honest, they were the OLD PEOPLE!  Dumb old people at that.  Why weren’t they smarter?  They’d lived 1000 years!  How could we possibly relate to these ancients?

Answer:  Wait 20 years.

It is just weird getting old.  It is awkward.  It is frustrating.  It is mind-blowing.

I mean I don’t feel old, I don’t think of myself as old, I don’t act old.  Well, I probably act old, but I don’t intentionally do “old person” stuff.  But guess what?  I’M OLD.  News flash:  you’re old too.  I have a different face, body and hair.  I still have hair but it is quickly turning gray and retreating!

I tell myself that if I could go back with my brain that I would do SO many things differently!  Make better decisions.  Live more fully.  Love life to the fullest.  Treat people better.  Stay in touch.  Learn more.  Take more risks.  Because I’d know what is really important and I’d know what really matters. But you can’t go back.

But, you can try to relay the message to a generation who can learn something from our mistakes and regrets!  So I turn to my twins who are quickly approaching manhood and I get real serious and quiet and I begin to share all these secrets of life.  I’m old, I don’t feel old, but I am, listen to my experience!  I begin to divulge all this profound and amazing gems of information.  “Listen to me sons of mine and you will be happy, you will be successful, you can know what REALLY matters and what it is really like!  You will avoid the pitfalls of life.  You will take chances and live life to the fullest!  You will have healthy relationships.  Here comes the good stuff!”

And my kids, my offspring, my blood, my babies,  they give me this look.  It is a familiar look!  I KNOW THAT LOOK!  And then it hits me:  It is the same look I gave those old folks that were trying to explain all those things that went in one ear and out the other.  And they smile and they nod. And their eyes are unfocussed.  And they are looking into space.  Are they comprehending what I am saying?  Can they even hear me?  Are they even paying attention at all?

And I stop in mid sentence, in the middle of the most important thing they can ever hear.  And I pause.  And my mouth closes.  And I smile as I give up and say, “I can help you if you can just comprehend what I am saying.”

But they can’t, they haven’t lived long enough yet.  And it makes me sad.  And it makes me love them all the more.

Getting Old Sucks: 20-Year High School Reunion

It has been 20 years since I graduated from high school.  Twenty years.  1991-2011. Two decades. It sure doesn’t seem like that long ago.  It really does feel like yesterday.  But on paper it is a lifetime ago.  How do you measure 20 years?

Married with Children

Married with Children

  • Shortly after HS graduation I had my heart brutally broken!  Thanks for that.  Welcome to the journey to adulthood.
  • I started and completed college!  I squeezed a 4-year degree into 5 1/2 years!  That takes talent.
  • I’ve become a husband.  I have been happily married (to the same woman) for over 17 years.  17 of the past 20 years.
  • I’ve become a father.  I have 4 boys.  I have twins who are 15 and who are working at the cafeteria of the college I graduated from.  Weird.  They’re like little adults.  How did that happen so fast?
  • I have built a career.  I have had over 10 different jobs, but only one career.  Even though my career has been in the same building for the past 10 plus years, the company has changed names 3 times.  I’ve moved floors 4 times.
  • I’ve lived in 6 different cities in 3 different states.
  • I’ve gained over 100 pounds!  BUT I was too skinny when I left HS.  BUT now I am overweight!  BUT I’m on a diet.
  • I’ve lost contact with old friends, gained new friends,  and have reconnected with many of those old friends!  (Thank you Facebook)
  • I’ve lost a parent.

Why all the talk of the past 20 years?  Well, because my 20-year high school reunion is in a couple of months and there is chatter on the web and Facebook.

Derin

UPDATE: New Year’s Resolution: 2011 Edition

Day 2/365 - New Years Resolution

Ugh. Not yet.

New Years Resolution #1:  Spend less time on Farmville
I have not played Farmville yet this year, nor have I replaced it with Wizard 101!  Woo hoo!

New Years Resolution #2:  Finish getting CISSP Certified
My paperwork was verified.  I can officially add CISSP behind my name!  All I am waiting on now is to receive the actual certificate in the mail!  YAY!

New Years Resolution #3:  Lose a little weight
Ugh.  Not yet.

New Years Resolution #4:  Eat a little healthier
I really like food.  I won’t admit to being addicted, but I do have an emotional attachment.

New Years Resolution #5:  Spend more time with my boys
Apparently 15-year old boys do not wish to spend time with their dad.  HOWEVER, they do wish to gain driving experience.  Power to the dad!  We have also talked about driving around and finding geocaches (look it up).

New Years Resolution #6:  Read more with my wife
I read one book this year.  Maybe that should count as resolution resolved.

New Years Resolution #7:  Walk more with my wife
The year is still young-ish.

New Years Resolution #8:  Photoshoot at least once a month
This is an easy one that I am failing to do.  But boss also wishes to do this more, so I think this will be on track shortly.  I missed a great chance at Gardner lake when it was still mostly frozen over-a gaggle of geese!  It was pretty cool.  Seize the day people!

New Years Resolution #9:  Blog at least twice a month
How many spaces after the period ending a sentence?  WRONG, only one?  What the heck?  Yeah, I’m not unlearning this one easily.

New Years Resolution #10: Take up a hobby
More like hobbies, plural.  Photography, security (CISSP CPEs-continuing education), social media management, learning more web page coding (SEO, connecting to a database, shopping cart) blogging.

New Year’s Resolution: 2011 Edition

I have never been a fan of New Year resolutions.  I have never consciously made, kept and resolved a New Year’s resolution.  Having said that its good to have goals.

  • New Years Resolution #1:  Spend less time on Farmville
  • New Years Resolution #2:  Finish getting CISSP Certified
  • New Years Resolution #3:  Lose a little weight
  • New Years Resolution #4:  Eat a little healthier
  • New Years Resolution #5:  Spend more time with my boys
  • New Years Resolution #6:  Read more with my wife
  • New Years Resolution #7:  Walk more with my wife
  • New Years Resolution #8:  Photoshoot at least once a month
  • New Years Resolution #9:  Blog at least twice a month
  • New Years Resolution #10: Take up a hobby
    FarmVille
    FarmLess

New Years Resolution #1:  Spend less time on Farmville
I wasted way too much time on Facebook’s Farmville last year.  Yeah, I have over 3 million dollars, the largest farm you can get and lots of everything, it is time to move on from the farming version of hunting and gathering.  Of course my end goal is to waste less time, but I am already testing the waters out on Wizard 101.

New Years Resolution #2:  Finish getting CISSP Certified
The hardest part in becoming CISSP certified is over, I passed that blankety, blank exam.  But now I have to jump through a few more hoops.  One is getting my resume updated and detailed to ISC2’s standard.  I am also gonna strive to put together a total of 4 resumes-biographical, technical, project managerial and managerial.   I have always liked playing with different resume styles and layouts.

Healthy Choice Logo
Be Healthier

New Years Resolution #3:  Lose a little weight
I can easily stand to lose 100 pounds, but I also am thinking realistic.  So here goes, the goal:  25-50 pounds.

New Years Resolution #4:  Eat a little healthier
One of the ways I plan to lose 25-50 pounds is to use an (free) Android phone app I got that offers different 3-7-day diets, complete with shopping lists.  I thought that might be a cool and tastey method, instead of holding to just one, long diet.  Another method I may try is just counting calories.  And doing some exercise, maybe with the Wii Fit.

New Years Resolution #5:  Spend more time with my boys
My twins will be 15 in a couple of weeks-they are freshmen in high school, weird.  The time just flies.  I wanted to do so much with them.  I wanted to build them a tree house.  I wanted to have long talks about life lessons.  Play more video games.  Teach them how to drive.  Have deep theological and philosophical discussions with them.  Of course there is still time, but it involves being extremely intentional.

Cover of "Ender's Game (Ender Quartet)"

Read More

New Years Resolution #6:  Read more with my wife
Check.  Minnie gave me a copy of Orson Scott Card’s new book, Pathfinder, for Christmas, I am on page 596 of 662.  Awesome book, by the way.  I just LOVE OSC (start off with Ender’s Game, go, NOW!).  I will do my best to offer reviews as I check the books off the list.

New Years Resolution #7:  Walk more with my wife
I dread thinking about this one.  I have never been a walker.  I hate the cold.  But, I like the idea of spending quality time with my wife doing something that will be healthy for both of us.  I am also gonna use my Android phone to track miles and calories burned, I love technology!  I love my phone!

New Years Resolution #8:  Photoshoot at least once a month
I have this really great digital camera, a Canon G10.  It has all these dials and settings and it is just a great camera.  It is what professionals use when they just want a simple camera and not a huge, top-of-the-line professional camera to lug around.  And most of the time I have the settings on “auto”.  I’d like to change the settings,  but I don’t know what they mean!  I’d like to learn more about photography and take more cool pics.  I also have this cool phone, have I mentioned that, that makes sharing pics extremely easy.  I also would like to post a video or 2 on Youtube!  I may use MS’s Movie Maker!  Ironically there are tons of youtube videos that teach you how to make youtube videos with Movie Maker.  Come on, that’s just cool.

New Years Resolution #9:  Blog at least twice a month
Check.  If I am not posting here it is because I am posting here:  http://inchdeepmilewide.wordpress.com/ I plan to use this blog to hold myself accountable.

New Years Resolution #10: Take up a hobby
I am hopefully setting myself up for success for this one.  Photography is one, security is another, but I am also getting roped into acting as a social media manager for a woodworking guild, so that may include the learning of what it means to be a social media manager as well as working with wood!  Win-win! 

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My First High School Football Game

I went to my first high school football game last night.  My twins and I went to the Gardner Edgerton vs. Blue Valley West football game.

A Highschool American Football game

My first high school football game ever.

Catch that:  It was my first high school football game ever.  Yep, ever.

Here comes the understatement:  I hated my high school experience.  It was just…awful and painful.  I wasn’t popular, I wasn’t a jock, I wasn’t a brain, I wasn’t part of the drama club or chorus, I wasn’t an AV nerd, I wasn’t in the chess club.  I wasn’t in to art, cars, pep, hemp, computers, yearbook, newsletter, video games, math, meth, smokes, goth, debate, (deep breath), shop, science, government, cheer, beer, steer (ha, cowboy), dance, history…or anything else high school-related.  I never supported my high school’s sport teams.  Go Cougars, yeah, whatever.

What was I into?  I was into God.  A church geek, a Bible thumper, a Jesus freak, a righteous rocker, a religious retard.  OK, maybe that last one was overstating it a bit.  Although it wasn’t a clique, it was still a persecuted and discriminated group (of one?)  to be in.  I was alienated and ostracized.  I admit I brought some of it on myself.  I didn’t have a lot of friends in high school, but I did have a few close buddies.

My high-school years weren’t all bad, like I said, I was a church geek.  When I was at church with my youth-group friends life was perfect.  Our youth group was full of kids, it usually had 30 to 50 teens from several different high schools!  I had friends who looked up to me, friends who loved me and took care of me, friends who helped me grow up, friends who are still the best people in my life.   And leaders that cared about many different aspects of my life.  At church I was popular.  At church I was a drama and chorus geek!  That’s right, I sang and acted-at church!  Heck, I even skateboarded, that counts as a sport right?

My high school years are far, far behind me, but my twins’ high school years have just begun. Four fresh years ahead.   I was very impressed with the “meet the teachers’ night” message and presentations.  There are so many opportunities for students to be successful and prepare for life and college.  And I really want my twins to have better opportunities than me.  A college education without college loans would be a great start.  In addition, an education that develops marketable skills that keep their interest that allow them to give their family better opportunities would be…well, perfect.

Christ is still a most important part of our lives.  We are attending a different Nazarene church that has a thriving youth group.  The twins are making friends, volunteering and hopefully developing a relationship with Christ.

We thought that high school football games would be something we could do together.

My first-ever high school football game was everything I expected it to be, lots of loud rivalry, colorful team spirit, disrespectful kids and, foul-mouthed adults.  I felt incredibly out of place.  But the twins got to hang out and make new friends and fit in.

The #8 Jags fell to the #2 Trailblazers 49-7.

I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)

I don’t remember many of my dreams.  Dreams as in the movies that play in your brain while you are asleep, not life ambitions.  I don’t know if dreams get weirder or more real as a result of what you eat before bed.  I think popcorn triggers odd dreams for me.  I’m not too sure what I ate last night…pork chops, mashed potatoes, green beans…  I did not have Electric Prunes (wink).

Dreams are weird.  One frequently recurring dream I have is about my teeth falling out!  They get loose, I mess with them and OOPS, I pull one out!  Or I make it a little looser than it should and I try to kinda shove it back into place!  I always wake up and check my teeth!  There are lots of theories out there as to the possible meaning of such dreams.  Here are a few offerings from just one of many websites, Dream Moods had these offerings:

…dreams about your teeth reflect your anxieties about your appearance and how others perceive you…”

Another rationalization for these falling teeth dreams may be rooted in your fear of being embarrassed or making a fool of yourself in some situation.”

Teeth are used to bite, tear, chew and gnaw. In this regard, teeth represent power. And the loss of teeth in your dream may be from a sense of powerlessness.

“A scriptural interpretation for bad or falling teeth indicate that you are putting your faith, trust, and beliefs in what man thinks rather than in the word of God. The bible says that God speaks once, yea twice in a dream or a vision in order to hide pride from us, to keep us back from the pit, to open our ears (spiritually) and to instruct and correct us.

Another explanation though is that when I was a kid I lost my teeth pretty late (I was a preemie).  I remember going to an Iowa wresting match and pulling out 3 teeth!  I also have skinny teeth-fragile teeth.  So who knows.

I had a dream once and I remember thinking, “I could make a book or a movie out of this one!”  It had character development, a beginning an action-packed middle and even a great twisted ending!  And it was fairly original!  I woke up, told myself that this could be it!  Smiled, fell back to sleep…and you guessed it, I never could remember it.  They say you should keep a notebook by your bed to write dreams down.

My friend in college had such weird and horrific dreams that he learned how to take control and steer his dreams!  Yeah, pretty Nightmare-on-Elm Street-ish.  I had another friend who practiced Wicca and believed that he could enter into other people’s dreams and ultimately kill them.  He used to walk up to other people and tell them what they dreamed the day before.  Weird.  I have met people (usually guys) who say they have never had a dream that they can remember.  And people (usually gals) who say they have a dream every night that they vividly remember.

My wife has nightmares fairly regularly.  Quite a few years ago she woke up one morning angry as all get out at me!  I mean she was ticked!  When I asked her what was wrong she said, “You know what you did!”  She took a shower, after she was done I asked her again and she hadn’t a clue what I was talking about!  She totally forgot the dream!  One of my twins and also my youngest has nightmares.  Corbin climbed in be last night because he had a bad dream.  I remember talking to my younger twin Keegan about a bad dream many years ago.  He was pretty little and frustratingly described that a giant “square” was chasing him.  I asked him to describe the square…it looked kinda like a mouse and had a long bushy tail…OH, a Squirrel!  Poor guy!

Why all this blogging about dreams?

I had a dream about my dad last night.  It makes me think of the first time I had a dream about my dad after he died.  It was pretty much an ordinary dream, a family visit or whatever, but somewhere in the middle of it I was chatting with my dad, and suddenly I realized that I was having a chat with my dad!  My dad who had died.  He seemed kinda oblivious to it, I mean we were having a chat!  But I knew that I had my dad back for a moment.  I knew I had something special.  And it made me smile.  And so I tired my best to savor it.  That was about the time I woke up.

I miss him much.

What’s in your dreams?

-Derin-

Remembering Memorial Day

The topic for the Friday KMBZ Shanin & Parks Show focused on Memorial Day.  They were asking if Americans just thought of it as a holiday away from work and a time to relax and have fun, grill out and camp or if Americans really took time out to remember.  I called in and was the first caller on the subject.

I explained that I was just another person who took a holiday off and didn’t think too much about the meaning.  But that changed on Memorial Day 2005.  I was camping with my family in the back yard of a friend’s house when my father called.  He told me he was on his way to my house and that he should be in town later in the week.  We were all looking very forward to spending time together.  Later that evening I received a phone call from my aunt-she was traveling with my father, they were both recent retirees.  My father was feeling ill and laid down and never awoke.  He had a heart attack.  My father’s passing changed my personal outlook of Memorial Day.  I also went on to explain how blogging has been a great emotional outlet for me; I have blogged about my father’s passing and also about losing a set of fraternal twins to a miscarriage.

They (Shanin & Parks) were very kind to let me go first and let me speak without interruption.  It was a good call.

So on Memorial Day I take time out to remember.  To remember my father most of all.  But to remember those that have passed away-not just military veterans, but friend, family, etc.

I hope your Memorial Day was relaxing, but I also hope you spent time reflecting.

-Derin-

It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses a House

Y’know when you watch a movie and then you watch it again later and it takes on a new meaning?  I re-watched Fun with Dick and Jane:

An update of the 1977 comedy, Dick and Jane are living the good life. That is until Dick (Jim Carrey) loses his job shortly after getting a promotion that convinced his wife Jane (Téa Leoni) to quit her job. The money is gone, and the house ends up in foreclosure. Dick decides to turn to a hilarious life of crime to pay the bills with his lovely wife by his side. Then together they decide it’s time to steal back what Former CEO Jack McCallister (Alec Baldwin) had stolen from them.

The first thing to go is their lawn-the sod gets repossessed.  The electricity gets shut off.  They bathe in the neighbor’s sprinkler system.  They downgrade to a POS compact car.  It was a really funny movie a couple of years ago.  Now it is an uncomfortably funny movie.  You don’t have to look too far to see the effects of the current financial crisis.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the financial crisis for a few months now.  Things are getting pretty rough.  I am in the telecom industry and work for a company that can fall apart at any moment.  And I am not alone.  I have many friends and former co-workers that are jobless.  A couple of my friends just got laid off.  A few years ago there were still jobs to be found…now it is somewhat different.

Most people, even though they live paycheck to paycheck, could survive for a few months.  But then they get hungry.  And cold.  Or hot.  And frustrated.  And depressed.  And finally desperate.  Desperate people do desperate things.

Think about it.  I mean really think about it.  What if…What if you lost your job.  Spouse loses theirs.  Interview after interview, resume after resume.  Can’t find a job.  Or worse yet the ONLY job you can find a $10.00-13.00/hr job.  Any job means no unemployment checks.  Or unemployment runs out.  No insurance.  $10.00 per hour times 40 hours a week times 2 (mom & dad) equals…about $40,000 a year.  That’s about 75% to 50% of what most of my friends at Embarq make in a year (with both working).  Could your family make it if you lost 25-50% of your income?  Even those jobs will fade when folks can’t afford to eat out or remodel or whatever.

One of my favorite radio programs, This American Life, on NPR, had an incredible episode a couple of months ago entitled, Bad Bank.  They talked about a hypothetical bank-the smallest in the world, it has the owner’s $10 and a guy’s $90-he earns 3% for storing his money.  Then the bank turns around and loans $100 to a gal at 6% for a doll house.  This is called a balance sheet.  $100 in the bank, $100 being loaned out.  The bank profits 3% interest right?  Except gal loses her job and can’t afford her doll house payments anymore.  Now the bank doesn’t have the guy’s $90 to give back.  The program stated that the top 3 banks in the US have a unbalanced balance sheet-if there was a run on those banks today they would fail.  The banks want the government to know this, but not the average person!  As a friend of mine pointed out, the FDIC insures deposits up to $100,000 right?  Correct, and who pays that?  The government, the taxpayers, you and I.  And so banks are using that argument-give us a bailout now where folks can keep their homes, or bail us out later when we crash and burn and folks are homeless.

I live on a street that is full of duplexes.  The short block has maybe 20-30 families on it.  If half of them lost their jobs to the point where they could not pay their rent/mortgage and got behind to the point where they were getting evicted…if that happened over the period of a few months they would easily get escorted off the property by the authorities-some would get deported.  And what would become of empty houses?  Where would homeless folks go?  Personally I have no family in the area.  I have no friends with extra houses in the back yard.  But what if that happened over the period of a couple of weeks?  And multiply that times the number of neighborhoods around the city.  It is a much different picture.  There would not be enough police to force folks off the properties.   There would be folks who refused to leave.  There would be desperation, theft, anger, violence.  Things could get way out of control very fast.  Evicting squatters would be at the bottom of the list and the least of anyone’s worries.

OK, here it is, here is the heart of my thoughts:  What is the role of the church in these financially stressful times?
Does the church encourage their congregation to uphold the law and keep the peace?  Will churches open their doors to people who are homeless?  Open soup kitchens and clothing pantries?  Offer transportation-carpools?  Treat people with dignity and respect?  Offer training?  Assistance?  Pull their monies together?  Help single moms?  Pay mortgages and rent?  Stock food pantries?  Pay for lights, gas, water, etc?  Or be in a similarly depressing state?  Will churches end up in foreclosures too?

One of my friends has been laid off-for a year.  He paid his bills with credit cards.   He is pretty upset that he did the responsible thing, went into debt and kept current and others are getting bailed out.  And what about those that took out loans that shouldn’t?  The ones that knew they could not afford it?  The ones that depended upon the banks to deny them the loans.  They should get bailed out?  Businesses should be rewarded for failing?  It doesn’t seem fair!  The responsible ones are getting punished.  That all sound reasonable…right up until you lose your job.  And you suddenly become one who shouldn’t have taken out a loan.  You become the irresponsible one.  You become the failure.  And you feel like you have no options.

I work with a guy at Home Depot (most likely a few guys like this), he has a wife and child.  He works full time and he still qualifies for federal assistance.  I mean he is doing things right!  And he still can’t make it!  He is still at poverty level.

Another friend points out that laws are man-made and that we should do what we need to do to take care of our families.  What does that mean?  Squatting?  Stealing?

Another points out that God won’t give us more than we can handle.  But I am afraid that this line of reasoning is “prosperity Gospel” and faulty.  The truth is that God will never let anything happen to us spiritually to cause us to fall from grace-to break our spirit.  I am afraid that money is another matter.  Food, shelter, clothing, transportation-not spiritually guaranteed!  Will my theology friends steer me straight?  Or back me up?

Another says let’s go, the rapture is coming, Big Daddy is gonna take us home.  However, history paints a different picture of suffering and poverty-Christians participate, and are not delivered from it.  The plague, the depression, wars, martyrs.  God’s people are continually delivered from their sins.  Just not from the pains of this world.

And I am sure the list can go on and on.  The economy isn’t really that bad…It is the worst ever.  Tax and spending is the answer or not the answer.  The President is too liberal.  The Republicans are vetoing everything.  But I don’t care about the President or our government or economists.  I care about the church.  What is the church gonna do?

Another one of my friends attends a church who wishes to move from a temporary setting (mobile church-they set up each week in a school or some sort of facility, then tear it all down and store it during the week) to an actual building.  The pastor is continually asking for money for this endeavor.  My friend asks if that is the responsible thing to do?  The pastor is encouraging folks not to get “distracted” by the environment around them.  My friend is a little uneasy about that.  He sees people around him having a rough time.  He doesn’t want them to become a distraction that gets ignored!  He is considering giving to a charity.

What happens when folks stop paying tithe?  Not because they don’t want to, or because they don’t have any money left after paying for food.  But what if they don’t have money.  Any money!  What if they don’t have food?  No place to live?  No gas to travel?

I know it is a depressing and bleak picture.  I hope it is all crazy talk.  On one hand I say that things will never get that bad.  On the other hand I see layoffs and low-paying jobs.

But…what if?  And what will Christ’s church do?  I hope pastors are paying attention.  I hope they are thinking about preparing for a possible crisis.  I hope Christians are thinking outside of their consumer society.  Outside of their immediate family-you might not think you have extra room…but your friends may be eying your garage or basement soon.  Heck, I might be eying your basement!

I would like to know what you think.

Here’s what I think I think:

The church has a real opportunity to be the church.  The real test will be to see Christians taking in other Christians (and non-Christians!).  Families!  Will churches open their doors to the poor?  The homeless?  The filthy?  The non-Christian?  I hope so.

Will Christians do the right thing?  I don’t know what I would do if I was facing eviction.  I don’t know where I would go or what I would do.  I have no family in the area.  I don’t know who I would feel remotely comfortable asking for a place to stay-for a family of 6.  Or a handout.  Or a ride to work.  I would really want to stay and become a squatter in my rented duplex-my landlords have a real nice house…until they need to downgrade to my place.  I hope I embrace legal and peaceful options.  I hope I remember who is my Father.  I hope I remember you, my friends and offer to help you.

Will Cristian landlords reduce rent?  Will Christian business owners take a decrease in pay?  Will Christians continue to sacrificially give?  Will Christian landlord evict families?  Well, these are difficult ones that have no easy answers.

I hope most of these questions will not have to be answered-especially by me.

-Derin-

PS:  Please send pics of your basement.

Out with the Old, In with the New

Although I did not blog a great deal this past year, I have been reading many blogs-mostly my friends’-that have challenged me and have helped me grow.  There are links to those blogs along the sides here, but a special thanks to Pastor Donnie, Pastor Monte Asbury, Joe Kumor, Joe Hays, Dave Brush & Bill Marty (also a shout out to Ben and Irene DeLong).

So here is a quick look back to 2008 and a possible peek at the future.

Looking Back at 2008

2008 was one of the fastest years for me.  It seemed to go by at light speed.  I am sure that working 2 jobs had a lot to do with it.  Minnie and the twins have been in drama classes and performances this past semester and that has also contributed to a very busy schedule.

Transportation was another issue that contributed to business as well as financial strain.  One minivan has had the engine replaced, the other had the transmission rebuilt and also had the head gasket replaced.  And now my minivan needs radiator work.  Fun times.  It is hard for us when we only have one vehicle.

It has been over a year since we entered into the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University program.  My check is being garnished to pay off student loan debt, but the amount that is being garnished doesn’t even cover the interest.  Our church now offers online tithing, and we are taking advantage of that-It isn’t even a conscious choice, tithe just automatically gets taken out of our check.  So we are regularly tithing, we feel pretty good about this.

I finally signed up with Facebook this past spring, which is likely a reason for less blogging.  I had never done any of the social networking sites, so it was all new to me.  I have been able to reconnect with friends from college, high school and even elementary school.  I joined a group dedicated to the alumni of my old youth group-that has been especially fun.  I have been able to better stay in touch with close friends and have had some relationships strengthen.  On the down side I am addicted to a couple of the games-Mob Wars in particular.  Join my mob, feed my addiction.

Daycare has been a pretty jolting change this month.  All of our children have been with the same daycare provider-so for over 12 years we have been with the same babysitter.  Earlier this month without notice, our daycare provider announced that she is closing the daycare, is divorcing her husband, moving out of her house and moving in with her lesbian friends.  Not much more to say about that.  We found a new daycare and will start in a few days.

Looking Forward

I kinda agree with my friend Dave B about not going on and on about new year resolutions.  Now having said that, Minnie wanted a Wii Fit and I found one at the very last minute.  I feel fat.  I look fat.  Heck, I probably smell, and sound fat too.  I would really like to lose weight.  Maybe I will this year.  It would be a very healthy move.

Other than that I have no major issues that I wish to address.  Notice I didn’t say that I have no major issues.  I have lots of issues.  I just wish to ignore them.

But that isn’t totally true.  I mean I am at a pretty healthy spot in my life.  Physically, spiritually, economically, relationally and emotionally I am pretty good.  Same thing for the rest of my family.  Of course there is always room to grow, to love better, to worship without barriers, to serve more, to rest more, to eat better, etc.  And I think most of the time my family is progressing on that endless journey.  Joe Kumor is our small group pastor and that has been a very healthy thing for our family.  Love you guys-had a blast ringing in the year on New Years Eve!

Kaleb and Keegan turn 13 this month.  Teenagers.  Yeah, pretty big deal.  They have been practicing their teen attitudes for awhile now.  But overall they are great kids.  They are healthy, doing well in school and have pretty good attitudes most of the time.  They have great friends and they have a zeal for life.  Not to mention that they own the Nintendo Wii and DS Lite.  Love you guys!  Remember the XBOX 360 is mine, so be good or you won’t be able to play Guitar Hero World Tour any more.  Just sayin’.

Calvin turned 5 last month and Corbin turns 3 at the end of this month.  Everyone is growing up.

And that has been the biggest awakening of all during 2008 that I can take into 2009-I am getting older.  We are all getting older.  All my boys are growing up, becoming young boys and on their way to young men.  Kaleb and Keegan will never get that tree house I promised them if we ever bought a house.  Minnie (turns 40 this year) and I are approaching *GULP* MID-LIFE.   And that just seems weird.  Is half of my life really over?  Most likely.

So I suppose that it is time for a mid-life crises.  I am open to suggestions.

-Derin-

Getting Older

Here are some signs I know that I am getting older:

  • My pastor is younger than me.
  • My joints and muscles hurt.
  • My bones crack and creek.
  • My hair is turning gray.
  • My tween twins (I have tweens! That is another sign) have mobile phones (with THEIR money!).
  • I have friends younger than me who are divorced. And remarried.
  • I’m not funny. At all. I used to be. I think.
  • Girls don’t flirt with me anymore-including my wife. And when I flirt with them I’m the creepy old guy-even with my wife.
  • I used to be confident and sure of myself.
  • I used to have dreams and ambitions.
  • I get up at least once a night to use the facilities.

-Durk-

The Ups and Downs of Life

It seemed I was a mite of sediment
That waited for the bottom to ferment
So I could catch a bubble in ascent.
I rode up on one till the bubble burst,
And when that left me to sink back reversed
I was no worse off than I was at first.
I’d catch another bubble if I waited.
The thing was to get now and then elated.
—Robert Frost, In a Glass of Cider

The Flood of 2008

I received this vivid and emotional email from my very good friend, Dave Phares. Dave and I grew up together in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Dave is now a pastor in Monticello, IA. My mom and step dad also live in Cedar Rapids-they are outside of the flood area. Thank you Dave for sending this out.

_________________________________________________

I was in downtown Cedar Rapids again yesterday. I’ve never seen anything like it in Iowa before. The other day I was talking to my wife about floods and I mentioned to her that I’m an Iowan, and this means I’m used to flooding and tornados every spring. But this is unreal. A town to the north was destroyed by a tornado. I heard it was a half-mile wide tornado. I didn’t believe the person at first, because we don’t have EF5’s in Iowa. We get little tornados that take a roof or two, and uproot a few trees here and there. Occasionally we’ll lose a couple of buildings. The half-mile wide variety tornados are pretty much reserved for Texas and Oklahoma. But sure enough, it was measured as an EF5. The strongest tornado in Iowa in over 30 years. Now the flood. A couple of weeks ago they were saying we might equal 1993. Then we heard that this might exceed 93 by two feet. Then, when it was supposed to crest on Wednesday at 24 feet (2 above 93) we got a storm (the same system that produced the tornado that killed the scouts, an EF3 they say). That storm hit the brakes over central to eastern Iowa and dumped on us for several hours. All of a sudden we were around 10 feet over the 93 level. All this is to say that things are strange this year.

Back to Cedar Rapids, for those of you who know the town, the water went from 10th street between Mercy Hospital and McKinley Middle School (my Junior High!) to the east, and to the foot of the hill that Kingston Stadium/Vets Memorial stadium sit on to the West. It took my parents house and went about 8 or 9 feet from the ground level. My sister’s house is dry, but she lives only about a half mile from the western edge of the flooding. This flood took out thousands of residences. The smell of the city reminds me of wet cats and dogs who’ve decided to take a roll in their own feces. The A&W on Ellis had sludge all around it, and sadly it had the worst smell I’ve encountered so far. You know it was sewage. Downtown is completely dark except where work crews have lights running via generators. Downtown is likely to be dead for a while. There is talk of the city and county government offices moving into Westdale mall. The city busses are taking up residence at Kingston stadium, the central police station has moved…everything is different. There is no lighted traffic control at all down there. Stop signs have been put up everywhere, and it takes considerably longer to get around. Red cross trucks are all over driving 10 miles an hour, passing out water to anyone who needs it. On Friday the whole town was at work cleaning out the ruined stuff in their houses. Almost everything the flood touched gets tossed. If you’ve ever been into the “bad” neighborhoods in any big city, you know what it looks like when someone’s been evicted: all their stuff sits on the street corner. Imagine that, but with a pile in front of every single building. Even the high rise buildings downtown.

I got to see my parents house on Friday. This isn’t the house we grew up in. It’s the place my parents bought two years ago; small but nice. There’s mold already growing on the kitchen cabinets. Every conceivable peice of wood is warped…the doors, the floors…everything. The carpet that was once a light grey is now dark brown. The whole thing has to be gutted. And that is the story for everyone in their neighborhood, and for everyone in around 4000 houses. Then there’s Iowa City, Waterloo, etc…everyone’s been hit.

But you know what is cool. On Friday I saw the whole town out working. Not a few industrious people, but the whole town. Think of the man hours it took to make those piles in front of the houses. On Friday afternoon there were thousands of people in every neighborhood cleaning up and patching things together. I love being an Iowan. I love being a midwesterner. We may be considered fly over country by those on the coasts, but in the hearts of these people is the same rugged determination that defined the early pioneers. No complaining that the government should do more. No whining about “why me?” Just elbow grease and determination. There ain’t no way the people are going to give up, they’re up for the fight. It was good to see.
-Dave Phares-

Derin Says: I just want to add that many folks who bought new houses in the past 10 years were told that they were way outside of the flood plain and they were not even given the opportunity to buy flood insurance-and now their houses are underwater. FEMA may be able to help some folks. I remember the flood of 93 pretty vividly. Water would pour in over engines and ruin them. People were replacing hot water heaters multiple times. Cattle and other farm animals died. Crops were ruined. My car got stuck in a foot of water (my stupidity to try to drive through it). Branches and trees were down daily. All kinds of flood water and none safe to drink. And on and on. It seemed to never quit raining. And this time it is much worse.

My friend Scott called me last week-another person I grew up with in Iowa. Even though Scott lives in St. Jo with his family, his mom still lives in Cedar Rapids-she’s OK. He told me that this has been quite an emotional experience for him.
Posted by Durk (without Dave’s formal permission)

Lost Luggage-When I Grow Up I want to Be an Adult

Our past has a sneaky way of catching up with us. The truth is we all have our own baggage that we would like to permanently misplace somewhere. Throw it out, burn it, leave it behind-lost forever. Most of us deny our past, forget it, pretend like it never happened and we move on. But we don’t move on. Because we don’t know how. We get stuck. Our past effects our today.

My good friend Irene had such an experience. I appreciate her honesty and I hope she embarks on a journey of healing. But it reminded me of my own journey and my own past.

My 4 year old had a very tough time waking up this morning. I didn’t just switch topics… It turns out that even though mom and dad sent him to bed, he didn’t actually go to bed or to sleep. Instead he was caught by my twins playing in his room with his toys with the light on pretty late! Of course HIS version of the story was that our twins barged into his room, turned the lights on and woke him up.

This is what children do: They make bad decisions, they suffer unknown consequences and then they angrily blame someone else later on. But, that’s what kids do! They don’t know any better. When Calvin realizes that it feels better to be awake and happy in the morning then he’ll make better decisions at night. Or he’ll understand that he is the reason why he is cranky and whiny. But today he is 4 and he just doesn’t get it. So it is the responsibility of someone older and wiser to guide him and help him make the right decisions. Someone safe.

What happens when the influence isn’t wiser or safe? What if another guides us in the wrong direction? What if an adult hurts us? Well, then we get a whole lot of 4 year old adults running around.

I have a past too. And so does my spouse. It is ugly stuff. Abuse, hurt, pain…unhealthiness. At one time we were adult children, running around making bad decisions that hurt ourselves and others. We blamed our past and we blamed others. Because we didn’t know how to make good decisions-we just didn’t know what that looked like. We just knew the screwed up past. We had an inkling that our past wasn’t the same past as most of our friends. We hoped that the present wasn’t how things were supposed to be. But we didn’t have the maturity to make the right decisions. We become a wounded adult child. We needed help. We needed another healthy influence to help us grow up. And to help us realize that we are responsible for the choices we make today.

So some of us seek help. I spent the first several years of my marriage in various Christian self-help groups. Christian 12-step programs, learning how to recognize the screwed upness of my present, learning how to set boundaries. Recognizing who caused the pain, identifying the unhealthiness in the past, understanding how it effects my present and finally recognizing that I am the only one to blame for my present. Recognizing my need for Christ and healthy friends. I found safety. I found people who were like me. I found healing. And I was able to break free of my past and be liberated.

I didn’t do it on my own, but I grew up somewhere along the line. I still have my past-I can’t erase it. It isn’t lost luggage. It isn’t stuck in a closet somewhere. But it is no longer the centerpiece of my life. And it no longer controls me. I have learned how to deal with it, to live with it. It is neatly packed and out of the way. Where it belongs. Where it won’t hurt me or others. I don’t have a need for it. Because it is dirty and trashy. But I understand it. I remember it when I need to. And most of all I learn from it. I recognize when I am doing something because of it. And I make a different decision. A healthy decision. And because of that damn dirty, filthy, sinful, painful, abusive, harmful past I am able to help others. I become a wounded healer. That is a miracle and it is grace and mercy all at the same time. Heck, now I am an adult among many 4 year olds! It seems absurd at times. I’m the healthy one! Healthier anyway…

Minnie and I are always keeping an eye out for those around us who are wounded and who we identify with and who might be looking to grow up. We’ve been there. We want to help. The truth is we aren’t the parent/adult that is needed in their lives. Christ is the only healthy adult that can truly transform and heal and restore one to healthiness. Fortunately Minnie and I know that Holy Father. And we would like to facilitate introductions.

-Derin-

The Keech Club Penguin Blog

My twin’s wordpress blog has gotten 15,614 hits.  My site has gotten 2,438 hits.  Holy hits Batman!  I mean they’re 12!  But here is the big difference-they blog about Club Penguin.  I blog about debt and part-time jobs.  Another difference-they actually say something every few days, I haven’t had much to say for the past couple of months.  And that is because I haven’t actually had much to say, I haven’t had any glorious or profound thoughts.  I have been working.  And that is pretty much it.

-Derin-

Celebrate the Day That Christ was Born to Die

I love the Advent season. It is a season of anticipation. It is also a season of Christmas music. At the Home Depot they have been playing Christmas music since Black Friday.  I am about sick of it.  And I couldn’t figure it out at first…I mean yeah you hear the same song every 45 minutes, by a different artist, sung completely different, and sometimes, most depressingly, in a country style, but why do I have this urge to remove my eardrums out of my head with a utility knife?  And then it dawned on me:  None of the songs were actually about the birth of Christ!  They were all commercial Christmas music for the most part. Songs about winter and snow and lights and Christmas trees.  Trite and familiar and it is supposed to make people happy. It just pushes me closer to the postal edge.  I’ll give you a white Christmas in a winter wonderland…  Willie Nelson sings Christmas songs?  Brings shivers to my spine.

On a different note…(get it, on a different NOTE?  Because music is made up of notes?  And I’m talking about music…Yeah, pretty funny stuff!)

Ever since City On A Hill: Its Christmas Time came out I have been hooked. I hope you will check out the link and buy a copy of it, you will not be disappointed. It is Christmas worship pure and simple. There is one song in particular that cuts into my heart, it is an original song (new) and it is sung by Jars of Clay, but the lyrics just tear me up. It is talking about Mary: “…you gave birth to the death that would bring us to life.” Just insanely powerful. Jesus was born with one purpose: To die for our sins so that we may truly live.

The other series that I just can’t get enough of is BEC’s Happy Christmas volumes 1-4. There are many traditional songs that are sung traditionally and some that are sung with a rock edge. And some original stuff on it too. Here is my favorite song of the series by Reliant K. Click on the link to see the youtube video and hear the song.

Reliant K-I Celebrate the Day

Again, Christ came to this earth and was born to die so that one day I would pray that he would save my life. Wow. Incredible. Powerful. Simple and profound. It just makes me want to fall and worship the Christ Child and anticipate his return.

Jesus is the reason for the season.

Happy Christmas,

-Derin-

Blessed Beyond Grace and Giving Thanks

I used a new phrase in the past couple of weeks, “Blessed beyond Grace”. Now, I don’t know if I actually coined it, but I can’t consciously remember hearing it. And, quite frankly, I like the phrase a whole lot. At first read there is no such thing as being blessed outside of grace. But I mean it to say that I am blessed beyond Grace (capital G). Beyond salvation, beyond reconciliation, beyond forgiveness. I am blessed even though I have been made right with God and have a relationship through Jesus Christ. I am blessed even beyond that. God has chosen, for whatever reason (and let’s be accurate-out of grace) to bless me with many other things in addition to salvation (Grace). I hope that makes sense…God continues to pile on the goodness on top of salvation.

I was born in the richest nation in the world. I have clean running water that probably has fluoride for the teeth and minerals added for good health . I don’t merely live in shelter, but a 3-bedroom duplex with a garage and basement. And not out in the sticks or isolation or in the middle of a crowded ‘hood, but in wealthy, affluent, convenient Johnson County, KS. I have 4 Wal-Marts within 10 minutes of my house, like 20 within 20 minutes. Heck, 135th st has 2 Wal-Marts, a Sam’s Club, 3 Price Choppers, and at least 5 Mc Donald’s-all on one friggin’ street. (Is “friggin” a cuss word?)

I am not merely clothed, I have designer jeans, name brand underwear, new socks, a catalog-company shirt and a super warm fleece. And shoes. And that isn’t merely what I am wearing today, but my drawers and closets are full of nice clothing.

Shelter, clothing…FOOD. Yeah, fridge stocked with it, freezer in the basement, cupboards and pantry full of it. I am at least 50 pounds over weight.

Transportation, check. I have 2 minivans. That alone makes me wealthier than 92% of the world.

So, I guess what I am saying is that I have much to be thankful for and, that ultimately, I am blessed WAY beyond Grace. I have an awesome family. My wife loves me. I have 4 healthy boys. I have 2 wiener dogs (Dash & Izzy) that are mostly potty trained. I have a great job and so does my wife. I have an XBOX360 and a Wii. Ahh, blessed. I have friends who love me (or at least love to make fun of me). I am mostly healthy. I am somewhat intelligent and educated. I go to a great church with a great support system. I work with great people.

You can’t get much better than that.

Here is the Beechner family Christmas card 2007. Derin & Minnie are in the back. Then Keegan is on the right left and Kaleb on the left right, they will be 12 in mid January. Calvin will be 4 in mid December and Corbin will be 2 at the end of January.

Beechner Family Christmas Pic

Notice the sledding pics?

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays & Happy New Year,

-Derin-

Part-Time Jobs, Death of Dreams, Reality Bites

Where to start…there is so much I want to talk about…I have made many observations this past few weeks.

Observation:  If I work 30 hours at my new part-time job (Home Depot) then I will almost make enough money to pay half a payment for half of my total student loans.  Or another way of looking at it:  I will almost make enough money to make a payment on the interest on one loan.  I need about 4 more part-time jobs to make any difference.  Which sucks.  I am working a whole lot of hours for a whole little pay, spending way too much time away from home and family, making time sacrifices and I am sore and tired all the time.  I almost like the job itself and the people I work with.  But I am not so sure it is worth it.  I simply need to make more money.

Observation:  Dreams exist so that they can be killed and obliterated, only then can one start to accept reality and live their miserable life.  I see people every day who want to do more with their lives, become a lawyer, pastor, own their own business, etc.  These people are dreaming.  They are still 18 years old and have the lie in their heads that they can do whatever they want to do.  My case-in-point:  I saw a magazine last night at Home Depot, it had a dream house on the front cover.  I remember the days when Minnie and I would sit around and dream about the perfect house…wrap-around porch, verandas, gazebos…sigh.  Then it dawned on me:  I am never gonna have that.  I may never even be the owner of any house.  It is time to wake up.  I’m never gonna fulfill those dreams, no pastoring, no dream house.  No putting my kids through college.  No retirement.  No new cars.  No nice chrome, front-loading matching washer and dryer.  No big-screen, HD TV.  No refrigerator with the ice maker and the water dispenser that holds the milk on the door and has that extra door on the outside where you can just reach in and get juice or milk or a snack.  No white picket fence.  Although Home Depot sells most of that stuff.  I’ll work until I am dead.  I’ll have debt until I die.  The best that I can hope for is to teach my kids to not follow in my footsteps.

Kids…I keep telling myself that someday Kaleb and Keegan will grow up in a house, with a yard and a tree house.  Another dream.  They are growing up so fast.

OK, so I am a little depressed and feeling sorry for myself.  So what.  Reality bites.

Observation:  Debt still sucks.  I was talking to a friend this past weekend and he confided that he was not very happy with God and student loan debt (and other debt).  There was cussing involved between him and God.  I cuss about 2 dozen times a day to myself.  The really bad 4-letter words too.  I am angry and frustrated.  This student loan debt is doing more than killing dreams.  It is starting to consume me, starting to master me.  I hate the fact that I went to MNU to be a pastor.  I hate that I feel cheated and lied to by Christians.  I even consulted with a bankruptcy lawyer last week.  But there isn’t much they can do unless one is disabled or at the poverty level.  I am neither and am actually sad about it!  I hate that even though I am taking steps to better myself that they really don’t matter!  I mean really!

So let’s review…Mad at God…Conned into going to MNU…insanely high student-loan debt…2nd job meaningless…hope slowly dying…future looks bleak…Life sucks.  Yep, that sums it up.

And then I hear the angel in the other ear:  You have a great job.  You have a great family.  You are getting caught up in consumerism.  You got to play the XBOX360 this past weekend and kill people-that was so much fun, remember all the carnage and death?  That was fun right?  You’re just tired.  Slow down.  Take a breather.  Calm down.  It’ll be OK.

But reality still bites.  There still won’t be that “American Dream”.  And yeah that is the lie of a consumer-based culture.  But it is still a lie I want so desperately to be a part of.  I don’t want to work 2 jobs until I die.  I want my kids to have a better life than me.

Man, I am tired.

-Derin-

Timing is Everything

I remember talking to a co-worker that had worked in a financial aid office. She said to NOT wait to pay backDave RamseyDave Ramsey student loans! That they would wait, allow interest to accrue, apply fines and penalties and fees and wait some more. Then they would come after you with a vengeance. That was 7 years ago.

I remember the MidAmerica Nazarene University recruiters coming to my church, into my youth group, into my Sunday School class. I had felt called MNUto ministry, to preach, to pastor a church. But neither I nor my family could afford to pay for me to go to college. I had no idea how I would afford to go to my church college that would train me for ministry and prepare me for pastoring. But the recruiters had an answer: Financial Aid, student grants and student loans. That was 16 years ago.

Now my wife and I have 2 student loans that are about $100,000 apiece. I have never been able to enter into ministry for many reasons, one being that no church would ever be able to afford to employ me where I could pay the school loans back. I’ll never forget the speech that my church history professor gave my junior year of college. He said, “75% of all Nazarene churches are 75 people or les. So if you have more than $5000 in loans the average church won’t pay you enough to pay them back.” Thanks prof. Williams. Why didn’t YOU visit my youth group?

I remember filing for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy judge asked if I had a doctorate with that kind of student loans. “Nope,” I replied, “I went to a private, religious college.” The credit card debt went away, but student loans are not easily forgiven in bankruptcy so the loans did not go away. That has been well over 8 years ago.

Now, for some reason, the US Department of Education wants their money back…and they want it pretty bad. I may be a day away from having the US Dept of Education garnish my check, @15% of my disposable income per paycheck for the rest of my life. Interest will still accrue. And that is only for one of the two loans.

In addition, the state is currently garnishing my check and my wife’s check to the total of 25% per person, per check. It is for a medical bill. We won’t be able to pay rent this month. We both have pay day loans out. We have one maxed out credit card. I have 2 401K loans that I am repaying. As I write this, my bank account is negative.

Dave RamseyThe Sunday after the Student Loan collectors started talking to me my friend, Mike called me. It was just after church and he invited me to a Dave Ramsey class. Of course I said yes. Thanks Mike.

There are a few positives. I have a great family. I have 4 boys. I have a great job. So does my wife. I am taking steps in the right direction. My good friend Bill is acting as our financial counselor, he has been great to keep us focused and encouraged-he even paid for my wife and I to attend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University classes. I have stopped my 401K contributions. No cable. No Internet. Of course it is because we owe them too. I plan to reduce the cell phone plans to the next plan down. We rent, but both of our minivans are paid for. I changed my tax exemptions to get more money back during the year instead of a refund The federal gov’t will take that anyway). I have been taking my lunch to work instead of eating out. One pay day loan is paid off. I have 1 401K loan that will be paid off by the end of the month. I won’t be giving to United Way next year. I have even applied for several part-time jobs and my wife has been taking extra duties on at her school-that will be extra money too. I have been in contact with the people I owe, trying to make a plan and trying to take control and be responsible.

And of course, I participated in my first Dave Ramsey class last night.

-Durk-

Amazing!

You’ve got to check this video out. I couldn’t find this exact one on youtube, but there are others from the same group.

Check this out: http://www.childdrowningprevention.com/index.html

Amazing or what? I can’t even do that. I watched it with my jaw slack and with my eyes popping out of my head.

I also could not have been the one to film it-I couldn’t have waited!

-Durk-

I Always Feel Outta Place…

…whenever I go to my kid’s school. Now let me explain. My wife is a teacher in a very affluent school district. One of the perks is that she gets to bring her (our) kids into the district to be educated. That is awesome and my children LOVE the other kids and teachers. The education is of the highest quality.

But these families live in million dollar homes. I rent a duplex. They travel in brand new SUVs, expensive minivans and fast shiny sport cars. I drive a cheap minivan. It is old and it is paid for.

Not one person or persons have made me feel bad. No one points and laughs. No one stares and no one gives funny looks. But I am still an outsider. I do not live or hang out in their neighborhoods. I do not shop or eat in the ssame tores that they do. I am not part of their community.

Except of course, all our children go to school together.

I can accept that most of the issues are in my head. That I have the problem and not “them”. But this does not make me feel any better.

And then to make things worse this year is the first year in a middle school. New school. New kids. New parents.

I hated jr. high and high school. I remember that awkward, weird age. I was a geek, an outsider. I STILL have nightmares about going to the wrong class or skipping class because I couldn’t figure out my schedule! STILL!

And this week was no freaking different! It was meet the teacher night and I was given a schedule to follow. You simply go where the schedule states right? Well problem #1. I have twins therefore I have 2 schedules. No one else had 2 schedules. They are similar, but not the same. So first I have to figure out which classes to attend. I finally just choose one of the schedules and stick with it. I chose the schedule that had a technology class instead of the drama class. Then of course I wandered around looking for the right place to go.

Problem #2. The schedule changes from day to day. So even within one of the schedules I still had to figure out what classes I am supposed to be going to-what “day” it is supossed to be for this one night meet the teachers crap. So wouldn’t ya know it. I walk into the technology class and it is normally at the same time that the music class is-the music class that I had just met the teacher of… So I looked like a goober going to a class where there was no meeting of the teacher…it was the period before. While I was in that stupid music class. And then I was late for the class I was supossed to be meeting another teacher at!

I still feel out of place in a middle school. Stupid meet the tachers night. Stupid schedule. Stupid school.

-Durk-

I love to Blog

I know, you would never guessed! But I love everything about blogging. I love the writing. Blogging has given me an avenue to vent, joke around, be creative, review, journal, and just ramble on and on. I love the recording aspect, the memorializing. I love the picture part of it, kinda a voyeuristic aspect and it allows you to share family pics with friends and family. I like the idea of having a presence on the web. Blogging is becoming a bit of a passion for me. As it has for millions!

In my pursuit of blogging I have run across some pretty cool stuff, photo sharing (I am not quite finished reviewing all of the photo sharing sites on my list), free space and new blogs.

The latest blog site that I have come across is wordpress.com. [I was blogging at blogger, I migrated to wordpress.] Check out keech17.wordpress.com and thewienerdogblog.wordpress.com.

I really like their blogging format, it is extremely intuitive and easy to use. I actually like it a tad bit better than blogger! I shall try to remain loyal. One of the things that the wordpress blog site can do that say this site cannot do: upload pictures. And their themes have a lot of options and customizations.

Like I mentioned, one of the limitations of blogger is the inability to upload pictures and files. I ran across another cool, but extremely simple web site that seems to not have too many restrictions on file storage- www.wikispaces.com. Check out Durk’s PPC software site. It is pretty simple and plain; not too many graphics or themes. But one very unique thing, you can create pages super quick and you can upload and link to files with ease and speed.

I have been trying to think of a way to use all of these cool websites with their unique services, storage, blog formats and various bells and whistles. I have been trying to think of them as tools at my disposal.

I plan on sticking with the photo sharing sites for a few reasons. They can hold a whole lot of pictures. It is a one-stop shop for organizing and backing up pictures. They allow you to put together some pretty cool shows and filmstrips and such. And then easily allow you to share. It makes sense to have one place to store all of our pictures.

I plan to use wikispaces.com for file sharing and if I need a link to a separate page-like what I did with the email correspondence and the PPC software. It makes sense to have one place to store files and host extra external pages.

I also decided to get the family involved.

Kaleb & Keegan created their Keech site; it is dedicated to their adventures with and cheats for Club Penguin.

I also started thewienerdogblog to have another blog to maintain! And of course to chisel out a spot on the web for our Dash and Izzy.

That pretty much covers everyone except for the wife. I am still working on her. She has concerns as to how she will be portrayed to current and prospective employers. Many employers will scour the internet searching for potential employee’s presences on the web.

This is a valid concern. But as long as one isn’t sharing inside secrets, dissing the boss or complaining about students by name, then you should be OK. And so should she.

-Durk-

Summer Vacaton 2007 (6 of 6)-Religion

PART ONE

There is a definite change in mood as you get closer to the East coast and as we got closer to Minnie’s fundamental family.

Between Kansas City and St. Louis there are dozens of adult book stores and adult clubs along the highway. That changes as you get farther east. The adult businesses were replaced with huge religious billboards that offered strange church-language messages-telling people that they were sinners and to repent and asking passerbyers if they knew where they would spend eternity. Sinners, repent and eternity. Old words that used to hold common meaning and now sound foreign and for some reason harsh. The world does not have a religious foundation like it used to. Culture changed dramatically. Christians haven’t changed that much over time.

Minnie’s family still hands out tracts to people. In my opinion billboards and tracts are an easy way for Christians to feel good about themselves without actually having to invest time and energy developing relationships with others. Then again so are looks and stares and judgments. I can’t dismiss them altogether, but I question their effectiveness. I can’t name one person that I know that was saved via a billboard or a tract. I do have friends who have accepted Christ as a result of other Christians who have become true friends to them. Offering acceptance, friendship and finally offering direction to a missing piece in their life.

But these antique religious messages also send a negative message, “CHANGE WHAT YOU ARE DOING”, but why? And change to what? There is no message of hope and no message to turn to a personal, intimate God who desires to relationship with mankind. It is a fundamental difference of what it means to be saved-of what salvation means. To these folks it is being saved from hell. To me it is being transformed so that we can enter into a relationship with God. One is positional and the other is relational. The first involves freedom from punishment and the latter involves a friendship that blossoms now and fully develops in another life-heaven.

Then there is the Amish and Mennonite country of the East-Pennsylvania Dutch country. First there is the names of the towns, cities and townships. Many are named after biblical words and names, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Emmaus, etc. But then it gets a little weird, Harmony, Fertility, Blue Ball, Puseyville, Lucky, Unionville, (I am NOT making this up!), Pillow, Fruitvill, West Middlesex. I thought there was a Chastity, PA, but I can’t find it now. What were these pious people thinking? OK, I know that some names hold much different meanings now than at one time…but come on! There is a bumper sticker that reads “In Pennsylvania Intercourse is just this side of Paradise” And it is geographically accurate. And those names all seem to clash with the visual (there is a town named Media)-horse and buggies and wool clothes and pastries and farmers markets and quilts and head-coverings and overalls and bikes for the progressive, and long beards and the black hats. We saw a horse and buggy that had been hit by a car. I do not know if anyone got hurt.

PART TWO

Like I mentioned before, The In-Laws are fundamental Independent Baptist. Which means they are first and foremost Christian-I consider them brothers and sisters in Christ. And then they are Calvinists (once saved, always saved) and then they are fundamentalists-which practically means that they have issues with those that don’t believe exactly as they do. I understand this, I attempt to have friendly, thought-provoking discussions, and finally agree to disagree, and most of the time we walk away still friends (or at least still related).

And there’s my cousins and my sister-in-law. Cousin Melanie married Josh. Melanie comes from a missionary family, she is a preacher’s kid-she grew up in South Africa. She has had some wild times in latter years, but she is now trying to lead a life that honors God. The rest of the family has high hopes for Josh. Now I wouldn’t label Josh as a pagan or anything, but he is not a professing Christian. I would label him as a seeker and I think that he might even want to accept it all blindly, but he just can’t. Why should he!? He seems to be analyzing and, well, seeking. And that is totally cool, I respect that very much. Sister-inLaw on the other hand just can’t wait for Josh to “make a decision” to follow Christ. It is this terminology and mindset that troubles me.

There are so many people out there just waiting for someone to say a prayer or to make a confession. To me those initial steps are crucial, but not the end all. For me it comes back to a relationship. At the essence it is a relationship with Christ, but the journey often involves relationships with those around us, friends, family etc. Fellow believers that offer advice, encouragement and most of all, an example.

It kinda starts with a warped view of Calvinism. John Calvin was a theologian and one of his core beliefs is “perserverence of the saints”. Which means that one cannot lose thier salvation, they just can’t wake up one day and not be saved-like they lost their keys or something. But is has also come to mean that one cannot willingly walk away from the faith. This is where we differ. I do not believe that anything or anyone else can steal our salvation away from us. But I do believe that we can leave it behind, we can walk away. It is though we walk beside Christ and as we pause (as we stumble, as we make bad disicions, as we hurt ourself and others) Christ continues. We can always ask for forgiveness and opt to catch up. But sometimes we don’t chose to catch back up, we camp out in our weakness and selfishness and often times lose sight completely and it is then that we need to re-establish our relationship with Christ-to be put back beside him again. It is the “inbetween” that folks aregue about. Where would one spend eternity if they are in that “out-of-sight” state. The state where they have done nothing to improve thier relationship with God and do things to hurt God. Sin is sin and it still separates us from God.

Apparently I am one who was hindering Josh from making his end-all dicision. I pointed out a shirt on the boardwalk at Ocean City, MD. It was a Harley-Davidson shirt and the back said, “If you can read this then the b*tch fell off.” I thought it was a pretty funny, I still do. It is just a shirt. It is pop culture. ANYWAY, Tammie let me have it via my wife. Apparently Josh said something to Tammie to question my salvation. And she was accusing me of preventing Josh from making that fateful decision. I am not so sure what Josh actually siad.

So Josh, sorry bud if I offended you, reall, forgive me. Even though Christians aren’t perfect some still have a sense of humor. Taste is another issue. I might not have much of the latter, but I like to laugh, a lot! And we could have a whole discussion on cussing and wholesome conversation. I always strive for wholesome conversation, but sometimes I cuss, it might be a bad habbit, but sometimes coming from someone like me, well it is out of place and adds to the funny! There are also those that cussed in the Bible, those that used very strong and curt words-cussing I do however, try to pay careful attention to who (whom?) my audiance is.

Tammie, I am sorry that it got back to you, but when Josh is ready to enter into a relationship with Christ I hope he has a full understanding of what he is getting into, at least that is what I see him looking for before he makes a dicision. There is nothing wrong with that. I just hope he doesn’t think that he has to surrender a life of fun and humor for a life of solomn boredom and family baggage. The Christian life is so full of LIFE and freedom and joy and fullfillment.

-Durk-

Summer Vacation 2007 (5 of 6)-Riding in Cars with Boys

All total we traveled 3000 miles. I must have filled up over 10 times! We stayed in 3 hotels. We went under mountains and through them and over them. We passed by fields, forests, lakes, an ocean, over bridges and through tunnels. All the while with four boys and a back-seat-driving wife! Minnie did something that she often does-something wonderful and magnificent and magical-she brought audio books along! SWEET!

We listened to 2 great books, Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen. And A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. we also listened to part of Culture Warrior by Bill O’Reilly, but since we did not finish I will save my review until another time-I will say I found what I heard extremely interesting and appreciative.

Water for elephants was about a man’s story in a circus in the 1930s in the midst of the Depression. It is told within a couple of years ago as he is much older. He starts out, “I am 90 or 93, I forget which…” It was a very touching story. It made me miss my dad. But it also made me thankful that he did not outlive his mind and body. It was also a story about life in a circus! It is a fairly new book and it was great, I highly recommend it. The ending was fantastic.

A 1000 Splendid Suns was also a great book. It journaled the life of 2 women who grew up in Afghanistan. It started in the mid 1970 and went to just a few years ago. Afghanistan, as it turns out, was peaceful and beautiful and radiant in the 1970s. Then the cold war hit smack dab in the middle and the U.S. gave the Afghanistan tribes weapons to fight off the Russians. Communism was established and land was taken away. The one thing that communism did bring to the region was a great importance on education and to have it equally to males and females. But women were allowed to learn and go to universities before this. Religion was downplayed and so was commerce. Once the Russians retreated the tribes were left with weapons and fought each other for power. Many people died at the hands of their own country men, but different tribes. There were fighters who tried to establish free elections, but they too were motivated by power and greed. Some tribes that had felt like they had been oppressed fought not for fair representation, but for total control. Then the Taliban came and everything went to hell. The Taliban proclaimed and enforce Sharia law. Women suddenly became worthless and oppressed. Women had to be covered in public by wearing burkas. They were never allowed to travel without a male escort and could not laugh in public or initiate conversation. Women were forbidden to work and attend schools. Hospitals were segregated. The character in the story was forced to attend a hospital with little electricity and ran only by women. They were not allowed anesthesia and the main character delivered a baby by cesarean with no pain medication whatsoever. A drought hit the region at the same time. Finally, Al Qaeda forced out the Taliban. I do not know how things went after that. There is actually a love story woven in and a relationship that strengthens between a young wife and an older wife married to the same abusive man. The few story lines take a bit to develop but are well worth the wait.

The Afghani book was written by an Afghan for Westerners. It showed how the people in general do not hate America, but have become oppressed and have been kept uneducated and taught to love war. It made me realize how little I know of the region, culture and history.

Since I am in review mode I will talk about Ratatouille which I saw with my family. Transformers was completely sold out. Disney’s Ratatouille was entertaining and the story was pretty good. The ending TOTALLY and completely sucked though. The multitude of rats running the kitchen was unbelievable and dumb. They spent all this time making us think that it is special and uncommon for a rat to interact with a human and to cook, then just expected us to think that it was OK for hundreds of rats to do the same, out goes special. It was like saying “Hey this is special and magical and now it is common life, no big deal.” The story with the food critic was pretty cool, I liked that-it was creative and fun-I liked the resolution. Then the very ending with the transitions that happen in the restaurant was just joltingly sudden and just disappointing. It was like they created a great script and built up to a great conflict then just wasn’t quite sure how to resolve and wrap things up-so they made a few wrong decisions…and it became boring and disappointing. I guess the theme came through: Anyone can cook. Yippy.

-Durk-

Summer Vacation 2007 (4 of 6)-Oceans of Fun

On the fifth of July we traveled to Ocean City, Maryland. We got there a little late but still had time to play in the ocean. Corbin hated the water. I think he was scared of the moving water and the crashing sounds-the water may have been too cold for him too. Kaleb & Keegan LOVED the water. Calvin warmed up to the ocean on day 2.

The Boardwalks has a whole host of beach shops, games and rides. Kaleb & Keegan and I rode on a few roller coasters and had a blast! We ate cotton candy. It was a beautiful evening, warm but not hot with a cool breeze.

That evening there were fireworks! They had been cancelled on the 4th Due to wind and they had also been cancelled in PA due to heavy rains! They were very beautiful at the ocean. The weather was perfect! Corbin hated the fireworks.

Day 2 at the beach was an adventure. Kaleb & Keegan had boogie boards and they got pretty good at it. Calvin was timid of the water but loved the wet sand and splashing along the “finish line” as he called it-where the ocean met the sand.

Sand…I learned that I hate it. It would not have been so bad, but I did not wear my swim trunks to the beach-neither did Minnie. I don’t know what I was thinking! I brought it to the beach, but there was no where to change! You were not allowed to change in the public bathroom! So I had jean shorts on and therefore only waded in the ocean. I also failed to put sunscreen on my legs-they got burned real good.

That evening we met up with Minnie’s cousin Melanie. Her husband met us later and we all had a nice visit. Melanie is trying to get into modeling and Josh is trying to get into the comic book business.

We found out after we returned home and attended church that our pastor and his wife had been to Ocean City on the 6th! We were all there at the same time! Pretty cool.

-Durk-

Summer Vacaton 2007 (3 of 6)-Family

Vacationing in Pennsylvania means visiting family! Specifically, The In-Laws.

Staying with tradition I cut my hair before we left Kansas City. The tradition started the first time my wife and I visited her family on their turf. I met them when they came here to Kansas when Minnie and I got married. My hair was long and my wife’s hair was short! My wife’s family are fundamental Independent Baptists and they did not like my long hair! So I cut it all off when I went to Bethlehem, PA for the first time. And this trip was no exception…I was WAAAY over due for a whacking anyway!

Breaking with tradition we stayed with Minnie’s sister Tammie instead of Minnie’s parents…Tammie, what to say about her? Well, I lover her. She is strong-willed and stubborn. She rebels against her mom and dad while ending up just like them! She works too much-work has become her identity and I fear that one day all the lack of sleep and stress will take its toll on her. I hope not. She’s wounded and she is struggling to live a healthy life, but then again so are most of us. We butt heads most of the time, but what I really want to show her or prove to her or persuade her of is that there is a whole world out there that is better than the one she places herself in, the one she hates and tolerates and escapes from and martyrs through. It isn’t MY world, but it is different and one that I have found by grace. But just the fact that I want it for her usually is the reason she won’t attempt it. Although she did say that if she could find 1 job that paid the same as her current 2 jobs that she’d consider moving out here! Hey, that is something!

Minnie’s parents are in a new house! It is away from their previous book-cased, row home, house and it actually has a yard! And a car port! And flowers and trees! And none of it is shared with the neighbors! SWEET!

Minnie’s aunts, Darene and Fran, haven’t changed much. They still live together in the same house with their dogs. A couple of new dogs and a couple less than before. They show their love by giving us all kinds of gifts that they have gotten over the years…backpacks and games and toys for the boys. An expensive telescope that we strapped to the roof to transport back to KC. Other nick knacks. And then the stuff that we just couldn’t fit and had to leave behind, exercise equipment and all kinds of really cool stuff.

The rest of her family offered things to take as well, food, a weed whacker, blankets and more exercise stuff…drinks and candy and…well, gifts that they lovingly lavish on Minnie and her family.

They all bide for Minnie’s time and attention. Tammie “won” the most by hosting us! And she was an awesome host and we felt very comfortable and taken care of! Tammie also traveled with us on much of our vacation. We had a great time visiting with her. Minnie has grown very close to her sister over the past years and Tammie loved getting to know the boys more. Minnie’s parents won a little bit by offering meals and a new house to visit and check out (new neighbors and a new yard and a new garage and a new basement), but I know her dad wanted to spend more time with Minnie-even though he got to hang out with us a the Knobels theme park, I am sure he would have liked to spend more time with just Minnie without everyone else. Minnie’s aunts won a little by offering stuff! They buy all of this stuff for us but we have to personally pick it up! They took us all to lunch one day-that was very nice. I think all of the children are a little overwhelming for them-the kids are messy and loud and Darene and Fran are quiet and have their routines.

Minnie is the prodigal daughter, the one that returns home every so often-not often enough. The one that made it out. The one that lives too darn far away! The one that married. The one that didn’t stay home. The one that went off and started her own family far away from the East. Just about the only one in her immediate family who is not bound to the rest of the family by physical location and emotion. That is a blessing and a curse, good and bad.

There is always running around trying to visit everyone and worrying about “equal time” and such is true on any family trip-Mine when I go back home to Iowa and Minnie’s as we traveled through Pennsylvania.

We got to see Minnie’s ailing grandparents. They seem to be doing well. We got to see Minnie’s best friend Kenda and her family-well most of her family. And we got to visit Minnie’s cousin Melanie and her husband in Ocean City, MD.

I love Minnie’s family, my family. And I love that they love Minnie and the rest of us.

-Durk-

Summer Vacaton 2007 (2 of 6)-Observations about the East

The East is cramped. Tiny 2-lane Turnpikes and highways. Pressed together row homes. Long, narrow alleys. Narrow, curvy roads through the mountains and valleys. Cars parked all along both sides of the curbs. The beach was crowded. Cramped.

The East is impatient and FAST. This I actually like! I like speed, I like to go fast. I wanna go, go go! But when you combine tight spaces with speed it can be disastrous. Fortunately, we had a safe trip-even when those motorcycles came out of freaking NOWHERE!

The East is beautiful. Driving under and through the mountains & valleys. Dancing around at the beach, and wading through the crashing raves. Driving by the forest, marshlands, rivers & bridges. Going to parks, through old Amish & Mennonite country, by corn fields & tobacco fields, farms, and country towns. Heck even the old abandoned steel factories in Allentown, PA were sadly rusty and beautiful.

-Durk-

Summer Vacation 2007 (1 of 6) – Vacation from My Vacation

Maybe it is transporting 6 people all across the East. Maybe it is 3000 miles I am putting on the rented Yukon. Maybe because I am not visiting my side of the family. Maybe it is the awful East coast driving in cramped space. Whatever the reason, I need a vacation from my vacation!

Now don’t get me wrong…it is great seeing family (even The In-Laws!). The mountains in PA & OH are a spectacular site. The beach at Ocean City, MD was powerful and soothing and neat. But it was rush to get there, rush to see everyone and rush to do everything once you are there and with family and friends!

Where is the relaxation! NO TIME!

My children and wife had the time of their life. I am VERY thankful for that.

-Durk-

Memorial Day 2007

Memorial Day holds unique significance to me because my father passed away on Memorial Day in 2005. He gave me life and loved me. And I miss him much.

In honor of Memorial Day I thought I’d post my thoughts from a few years ago.

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I embarrassingly bought the pregnancy test. I read the positive results by email. Minnie was pregnant again! I tried not to tell anyone; that lasted about 5 minutes. When the doctor’s found two heartbeats for the first time I was elated. I thought “Twins again?! No problem!”

Minnie’s first pregnancy with our identical twin boys was full of potential complications: Bed rest in the hospital, delivering early admitted to the NICU. But in the end they turned out perfect. They are handfuls and ornery, but they are our pride and joy.

We thought that the next pregnancy would be a breeze, we thought, “How easy it will be to have only one child?” Minnie’s next two pregnancies ended tragically in miscarriages. The first hit us very hard; we tried to gain closure by having a memorial service. The second seemed easier.

I don’t know if it was the novelty of having twins again, that fact that Minnie and I were in a good place to plan for more kids, or just that Minnie and I were going to have babies in the house again. Whatever the reasons I really wanted these babies.

I prayed so hard as the doctor’s searched for the heartbeats again a few days later. “Please God, Please God…” Smaller babies. No heartbeats. Our babies died. Another miscarriage.

Minnie found comfort from friends. She found comfort in the Bible. She found comfort through songs.

For me, there are questions: Where is God?

I thought He was there with Kaleb & Keegan. I thought I saw his work. Does he give us gifts just to turn around and take them away? Was this really His will? What kind of God is that?

Where was God? Is He a God who put things in motion in the beginning and now just sits back? Where is the personal God I’ve grown up with? Is this really for the best? Will good come out of it? I don’t want “good,” I want the babies.

And I’m mad. I’m mad at God for not stepping into my life, and I’m mad that I am close enough to Him to get mad at Him. Maybe if I distance myself from him, He can’t hurt me; He can’t anger me…and I won’t hurt Him by getting mad at Him.

Then I am reminded of Jesus, who was fully man and fully God.

I’m reminded that Jesus prayed hard, he asked for the cup to be taken away. It wasn’t. I’m reminded that Jesus asked questions: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God didn’t forsake him. I’m reminded that Jesus grieved: “Jesus wept.”

In the end there are no answers. In the end it is just Jesus and me, pondering, asking, expecting answers. It is Jesus and me grieving. But the best part is is that it is Jesus and me.
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“I really Wanted these babies” Written February 8th 2002 and read in worship at Christ Community Church shortly after. Thanks Pastor Dave for encouraging me to reflect and write.

Since this writing God has blessed my wife and I with 2 more healthy boys, Calvin Wesley and Corbin Riley, they join twins, Kaleb Nathaniel & Keegan Daniel.

-Durk-

Ferris Wheel: The Scariest Ride of All!

At the end of every school year the MidAmerica Nazarene University region for the Nazarene denomination hosts Nazarene Night at Worlds of Fun. Worlds of Fun is an amusement theme park in Kansas City and the day holds special meanings as I get to reunite with old friends and catch up on their lives.

Last Friday was another Nazarene Night at Worlds of Fun. I took my 11-yr old twin boys. We love to ride roller coasters. The Mamba is an awesome ride! Unfortunately the Boomerang was closed. We got stuck and passed on the Fury of the Nile. It was a pretty darn good night. The boys had a blast.

As the evening started to come to a close I decided that it would be fun to ride the ferris wheel! WOF calls it the Skyliner. I know it is somewhat of a slow ride. But the line wasn’t too long and I thought it would be a nice pleasant ride.

I was wrong. Mistake #1 was opting to ride the scariest ride at the park.

There is always anticipation of the excitement you hope to have on the ride. Anticipation in a roller coaster line just adds to the thrills. We stood extra long in the Mamba ride so we could get the front car! Standing in the line for the Ferris Wheel we were fairly calm and relaxed. This was mistake number 2.

Hype in a roller coaster line might look like waiting until you are strapped in and commenting on how you hope the coaster doesn’t derail. Ha, ha. Funny. And the roller coaster only lasts for a couple of minutes. Hype on the ferris wheel consisted of looking at the signs that read “Do not rock cart.”

Something extra special about Nazarene Night at WOF is that the park hasn’t been open too many times in the season. So there are young teens still trying to figure out how to operate the rides. This always scares me just a little. What if Teen Operator makes the ride go a little too fast or puts the brakes on a little too soon? One thing that we noticed was that every other car on the wheel was empty. That was fine as our line wasn’t too long. But as we got closer to our turn the line got longer and the empty seats started to fill up. Keegan asked the operator why every other cart was empty and the reply was that the wheel needed to be balanced. We could see the operators trying to figure out which seats to fill as they filled all of the carts of the wheel.

Finally it was our turn to take a seat.

We sat in our ferris wheel cart and the bar latched in place. Keegan worriedly explained that he just heard the teen operators comment to each other as they tried to figure out which car to fill next, that the wheel would be impossible to control if it got off balanced. This was not what I wanted to hear. The wheel moved and more passengers got on.

With every stop the cart would shake just a little more violent than the time before. Kaleb & Keegan would scream louder each time. As our turn FINALLY came to get off the ferris wheel a girl in a cart behind us lost it. She started to scream that she wanted off. Thankfully Teen Operators understood and let her off.

As we exited the twins told anyone who would listen NOT to go on the ride. I saw a friend as we exited and I commented on the girl that lost it. My friend replied that the girl had been on the wheel for almost an hour!

I commented to another friend about our terrifying experience. He calmly replied that he couldn’t believe that I went on the ferris wheel! That it was the worst ride there!

This year’s scariest ride goes to the Skyliner, World’s of Fun’s ferris wheel. YIKES. Never again.

Durk

Professional Line Stander

I like to think of myself as a professional Line Stander. What that means is that I have stood in many a line to get something I wanted-for long periods of time, in less than pleasant circumstances.

I started off innocent and as an amateur standing in simple lines such as a line for a movie’s opening day premier. I’ve stood in lines such as the last two Matrix Movies or for Harry Potter flicks. These lines take little preparation, you show up, buy a ticket, buy some popcorn and a drink, maybe some candy and then, well, then you stand in line. Or maybe you sit in line or fidget with both. You bring a buddy along and the time passes by and you have a great time. The most I have ever stood in line for a movie is about 3-4 hours. It was easy time spent and well worth it.

I have done most of my Line Standing with my good Line-Standing buddy Bill. Bill is the one who took me under his wing and slowly turned me from a newbie to a seasoned professional. Yeah, it is all his fault-I place the blame firmly on his shoulders.

He and I have stood in line for about a half a dozen movies. Then we stepped up and waited in line at a bookstore for the last Harry Potter book. We got there in the early evening and waited around until the book went on sale at midnight. Again, fun times. Long line, but relatively short wait.

Then the XBOX360 changed everything.

I must first mention that I am a HUGE eBay fan. I have bought on eBay for many, many years, but just in the last few years have I ventured out and sold things on eBay. I do OK, not great, not anywhere near a part-time job, but enough to keep me at it and keep me on the lookout for new things to sell.

I must also mention that Bill is a pretty huge gamer. He has a few gaming systems and a library of games. What can I say, he’s an adult kid. Bill had a problem-namely his wife-who did not want Bill spending $500 on another game system. But Bill is an adult kid! HE HAD TO HAVE THE SYSTEM. Bill also knew that many, many others would have to have the system too! He also thought that there would be many, many others who would look for a system on Ebay. So this is where I initially came in. The initial plan was for me to stand in line with Bill and I would buy a system that Bill could sell on Ebay possibly making enough money to pay for a system that Bill could keep.

At this point Bill had 2 problems, Penny-Pinching Wife and eBay-bitten friend-who was getting greedier by the second. So Bill and I modified the plan. Plan B: We’d stand in multiple lines to get multiple systems so that both of us could come out with a system that would be mostly paid for!

And that is what led me to stand in a line at a Wal-Mart for 10 hours. Then outside a Sears in 40 degree cold for 8 hours. And still another for more than 15 hours outside of a Best Buy. While it snow and sleeted. It was COLD. We came out of the lines with 3 systems each and sold the 2 systems for just about enough to cover all of the costs for all 3 systems plus games and controllers.

I suppose that in of itself made me a seasoned Line Stander. Then Bill and I did it all over again a year later-fall 2006 when we stood in line for about 36 hours for the PlayStation 3. And again for over 24 hours a couple of days later for the Nintendo Wii. For this venture I actually started to recruit followers. I invited my good friend and neighbor and partner in eBay, Clayton, to stand in line with me. And I even got my twin boys into the act! They hung out with me in both lines-and ended up buying their own units and making their own money! Skipping school for a day for the cause (they love me)! Both lines were inside a warm Wal-Mart (I am not an all-bad dad).

I turned around again with Bill and Clayton after that last Nintendo Wii line and stood in yet another line at a Target for about 8 hours (no twins, sent them to bed). We ended up with 8 Wiis to sell.

Finally Bill coaxed me again to stand in line with him for another Wii. At this point I truly am a professional. I am almost addicted-to the line, for the experience, for the thrill, to meet the people, to answer the question 503 times, “What are you in line for?” Because I am dumb. Call it what you want. And this time it was so that Bill could have one and then an extra for a family member.

So, if you’re counting…that is multiple movie lines, a book line, 3 XBOX360 lines, 1 PS3 Line & 3 Wii lines. Yep I am a professional Line Stander.

What’s next? The Next Harry Potter book and the next Harry Potter movie! SWEET. I can’t wait.

———————
-Durk-
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If You Never Had To Worry About Money EVER Again

It is really fun to dream about winning the lottery-to win 100s of millions of dollars.

My email and lunch buddy, Kevin, and I were talking on this subject. He asked me what the very first thing I’d do after I won that kind of money. OK, after you tell your wife and a few friends. We happened to be at lunch and so I told him that I’d go back to work to tell everyone and then politely get my stuff and quit-walk out to never work another day in my life. Kevin said he’d pack up his stuff and not tell anyone! In the past he’s said he’d just not go back, forget his stuff-hire someone else to collect it for him!

For some people it is hard to grasp what that much money can really do for them and others. Our other email buddy, Chris sent me this quote from a CNN article:

Daisy Buck of Bluff, Utah
I would quit my job and retire. Then, I would give some money to my children/grandchildren and to my family. Most of it would probably go to fixing my house, paying the bills, and just kicking back and enjoying life.

My friend then pointed out, “Just in case you didn’t get it, I’ll repeat it for you, ‘Most of it would probably go to fixing my house.'” Well Daisy Buck of Bluff, Utah, your house must be one heck of a fixer upper. I replied to his email and joked that I could pay up my rent for years. But folks don’t really understand how to think with that much money.

I was thinking along a different line…I’d build a house and furnish it with all new EVERYTHING. With the exception of some personal photos or some really meaningful personal stuff I would walk into my new house naked and empty handed ready to embrace the whole new life inside. I apologize for the mental picture.

Kevin and I continued talking about a woman that had won that had kept her job. I remarked that that was just plain irresponsible! I then went on to say that it would be cool to sit back and invest in people’s dreams, finance thier business endeavors or the like. But Kevin was quick with a chastise, you don’t need to invest with the purpose of making money…YOU HAVE MORE THAN YOU’LL EVER NEED! The question isn’t what would you do with all of that money, how would you spend it. No, the question is what would you do with your life! What would you do to impact the lives around you? What would you do for mankind? If you never had to worry about money EVER again what would you do? Where would you go?

It is kinda like an episode of the A-Team I saw on Tuesday January 14, 1986. Captain H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock was the crazy character-the BEST character I might add. Well he was on Wheel of Fortune. Remember when you could go shopping as a winner on Wheel of Fortune? You’d buy 2-3 big things for thousands of dollars then go for the $150 lamp or $75 dog statue. But not Murdock! He bought 5-10 of the little things and then had enough to get one big thing! Pretty funny. I love the A-Team. (Sigh).

So for Kevin he’d just go fishin’! He’d go volunteer at a fly-fishing shop to learn the trade and go somewhere to be alone fishing! I am more extroverted so I would do things to include my friends. I said I’d buy a really nice suit to wear to some really nice restaurants. Kevin said he’d never wear a suit again! I said I’d hire a chef to make meals where I could lose weight.

And that is how it is for most of us. We’d pay off our bills. Or buy a house. Or buy a car. Or set up some trust funds. Or fix something up or restore something. But that is all piddly stuff! I mean a $1M dollar house plus extravagant $500,000 in bills plus a REALLY nice over-priced sports car…well that is still just under 1% of a $200M payout! PEANUTS! A drop in the bucket! I’ll be 35 this year. Let’s say I live to be 85, that’s 50 more years…200M divided by 50 years…that’s $4,000,000 a year…about $75,000 a week…that’s over $10,000 a day! And that is without any kind of investment whatsoever. TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS A DAY!

Some folks would fly to different places. I’d buy a plane and learn how to fly it when my pilot wasn’t taking me to a show in New York or to a national park in California for a birthday bash with 1000 of my closest personal friends! Or for a snowball fight in Alaska! Some folks would buy a really nice house or fix up the one that they have, I’d build a housing complex where my family could live in an over-sized cul-de-sac of 4-5 houses that were connected by underground game rooms and pools and a really large banquet hall and maybe a theater or bowling alley…With a 5-story hotel off to the side where people could stay for free while visiting me! Yeah, now we’re talking. Some folks would buy a sports car; I’d go to a car dealership and get one of each with cash in hand, or cash in boxes.

I’d also do some cool stuff for my friends and family. I’d be creative in giving money away. I’d buy my kids a toy store. Maybe a video game store too. Heck maybe a train for the Thomas the Tank lover in my house complete with an engine, cars and a caboose on a 20-mile long track. I have a friend who really likes beer. I’d buy him a bar. Tell him that if he doesn’t want it he can sell it and do whatever with the money. My other co-worker is a pilot; I’d buy him a jet. I’d buy pocket PCs and laptops and maybe an Escalade for all of my friends!

I’d take Rush Limbaugh out for dinner. I’d play a video game against Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. I’d hire author Orson Scott Card for a one-on-one lecture/Q & A about his books. I’d pay to eat at a fund-raiser to meet President Bush. I’d build a house with President Jimmy Carter. I’d donate money and time to that “Extreme Makover: Home Edition.” That darn show makes me cry every time!

I’d build a church for the church plant that I attend that currently meets in an elementary school’s cafeteria. I’d give $100 bills away for no reason at all. I’d spy on folks just to learn what extravagant gift they want for Christmas and leave it on their front porch.

I’d help the poor as much as I could. But that kinda goes back to the idea of financing dreams and investing in businesses. I’d do that, start new businesses or invest in companies. Not with the purpose of making more money, but to create jobs and to build a legacy for generations to come. Maybe create departments at those jobs to recruit the homeless, clean them up and give them a place to live to transition into the workplace. Give them hope.

What Sam Walton did for his family and for the rest of the world is pretty cool. He created jobs; his Wal-Mart brand is world-recognized. Look how Wal-Mart is driving down the prices of prescription drugs. Not to mention the community involvement and the money that they are able to give to charity. I know some folks hate Wal-Mart.

Then you read story after story of those that have spent all of their winnings and get sued or file for bankruptcy. How can that be? The first thing you should spend money on is a financial advisor!

Some folks go back to work to be around their friends and maybe work at what they love. Some people might go off and be alone never to be heard from again. Others would stay right where they are and fix things up. Others may invest to make more money. And still others will buy a whole lot of little things and maybe waste all of their money.

But a few will do something worth while. They’ll leave their mark on the world-and not merly for the sake of being remembered. They’ll be a good person. They’ll have enough money to be a human being and give back to mankind. Maybe that’d be me. Then again maybe I’d end up filing bankruptcy in a few years.

I’d learn how to ride a Harley. I’d buy minivans for all the moms at the local Mothers of Mulitples organization. I’d build a really freakin’ huge tree house that spanned a forrest! OK, maybe not.

What would you do? I’d love to hear from you.

-Durk-

Planes, Pains and Automobiles

Planes Right before Christmas my co-worker Anthony asked me if I wanted to eat BBQ for lunch. I love BBQ. I love lunch! I love BBQ for lunch! So of course I said yes! Then he said, “I ain’t driving.” Immediately I thought ok, he wants me to drive. Then he added, “So I hope you don’t get air sick!” Then I remembered he’s a pilot. SWEET! So I replied, “SWEET!” So he flew me out of the tiny airport on the other side of Gardner (not New Century) and we landed just outside of Paola and ate BBQ at their BBQ joint at the airport! It was really cool. It took about 20 mins to fly there and about 15 mins to fly back. Anthony borrows his friend’s Drummond Traveler. It has seating for 4 but only has a capacity of 600 pounds or about 2 people. It was truly amazing. Thank you very much Anthony!

Pains I had surgery for the first time a couple of weeks ago…double hernia surgery. I almost died that weekend. OK, that’s not true, but I sure felt like it. And I was tempted to end it all a few times. The surgery was on a Friday morning and I was in and out and fairly lucid and pain-free and in bed by 11:00. I say fairly lucid…I distinctly remember my wife and my 2 youngest boys coming in to see me, I was happy to see them and I greeted them and I got dressed and we left. I was really scared about saying something stupid after surgery and embarrassing myself, but nope, I remember Minnie and the boys coming in the room and everything afterwards and everything mostly clearly, I guess I told Minnie 3 or 4 times that my watch was in my shoe, she had taken it out of my shoe and had placed it on the table…but whatever right, I mean there may be some silliness, IT WAS SURGERY FOR GOODNESS SAKE! HA. Whew. Life is great. Until Minnie explained to me that that wasn’t the first time she had come into the room, that she just stepped out for whatever reason (whatever reason included taking the young ones with her…SHE WOULDN’T LEAVE THEM ALONE WITH ME? What?). And that I had said something stupid to embarrass myself when she was in the room earlier. Earlier? But you just came into the room…no earlier…great. Good times. So I can’t show my face around post op for a few years and my next surgery may have to be at a different hospital-so I can traumatize another group of innocent medical care personnel. I still can’t figure out why she let me believe that she was coming in to see me for the first time. Or why she told me at all! I mean I was pretty happy to see her and the boys…I guess for a second time.

OK, so I was home on bed rest and sleeping and still waking up from the surgery…Sometime shortly after that my body rebelled against me. And at some point I actually had to get up to go to the bathroom, yeah, well, that was a mistake, because I just had to do it again later! It took me about 10 mins to slide to the bathroom and then go and then crawl back to bed. But that really doesn’t even explain it, because first you have to sit up…and I just don’t know how I did that, then STAND up, and “stand up” may be overstating it a bit, I was on my feet and fighting the urge to pass out, but if you do that you just have to stand up again. “Sloped over” is a better term, grabbing the nightstand, dresser, walls, sink, tub…and then crying when you have to sink back into bed, but relieved until you remember that you actually have to LAY DOWN again…Yeah it was painful. Then my wife reminds me at every chance she gets that SHE had a c-section that she gave birth 3 times…yadda, yadda, blah, blah…We are not talking about HER! It was my first surgery and I have a whole new outlook when it comes to surgery and pain!

Well, it is amazing what a few days can do, I was feeling pretty good Sunday night with soreness, I was still moving slowly, but I actually walked downstairs! And I began to eat more. But the drugs were running out, the good drugs! The reality-altering drugs! So I cut back and ended up running a fever most of Sunday night. Monday was pretty good once I got up and moving, just a little sore, I got the chills again in the evening, why is it always the evening when you get the sickest? But I did get to play the best video game ever: Lego Star Wars. I mean you have Legos, and everything is made out of Legos and you have Star Wars! Legos AND Star Wars! Amazing. One can pass out just from thinking about it. I must have gnawed on my tongue during surgery because I have a very painful canker sore, that actually kept me awake! You know when you put your shoe on and the tongue slips down so you pull it out? Yeah I guess they could have done that when they intubated me.

Keegan discovered a mysterious lump in his armpit before Christmas. We took him to our family doctor right after Christmas and she was concerned but not worried. They did blood tests and CAT scans, but found nothing. They scheduled a surgical consultation for a few weeks later. Then he started to have blood in his urine. More blood work and another CAT scan. The diagnosis was constipation and no connection to lump. That seemed to get resolved. We finally had the surgical consultation last Thursday and the doctor agreed that it needed to come out and scheduled the surgery for the NEXT DAY! That was awesome timing. The surgery went just fine; it was Keegan’s first surgery. They biopsied the hard lump this past weekend and preliminary results are that the lump “doesn’t look like lymphoma” and its “most likely benign”. So it sounds like Keegan is going to be just fine. Praise God!

Automobiles I own two minivans, a white one and a purple one. First the white van broke down, it lost power and would not start. Then while that was in the shop I smacked into a deer with the purple van and damaged the front passenger corner. After 3 separate stays at the shop we spent $3000 on the white van, I think it is all fixed. We have not fixed the purple van yet.

Derin

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I’m Not Cool (Anymore)-The Minivan Controversy

I have had many friends over the years vehemently refuse to buy a minivan. Folks with 3 plus kids. Folks that are intelligent. Folks that can’t fit their whole family in a car-so they drive 2 cars, to the same place! Families that scream minivan. Why? Because they think that minivans will make them turn from being cool to not being cool. And I also have had several friends with kids give up in defeat and buy a minivan and resolve to be not cool anymore.

OK, listen closely, here comes the truth: If you have kids you aren’t cool anymore. No you’re not! NO YOU’RE NOT!

If you are married you are not cool, well, OK, you are somewhat cool because you can pretend you are not married, and because you don’t have kids yet, but this is just a transition stage. And if you are married WITH children, well, no, you are not cool. Single parent? You are not cool. There’s also an age where you move from cool to not cool even if you are not married and don’t have kids, but that is just creepy and not the point of this entry.

I am not cool. I have a minivan; in fact I have two mini vans, a purple one and a white one. I drive the white one. I may not be cool, but I am still a guy. But let’s be clear on this. It is NOT the minivan that makes me not cool! It is the 4 children and a wife! It is my twins laughing at me and not with me. It is my 2-yr old son asking me if I have a penis too, in public. It is my 9-month old spitting up on my shirt! Minivans have nothing to do with it.

I had this conversation with a co-worker a few years ago and she went on and on about rollin’ up in her SUV with the bling, bling rims and blah, blah, blah. If you park your pimped out SUV then strut to the back door, open it and pop out a kid. Well, guess what? You might think that you are cool, but you aren’t!

If you roll up in a Lamborghini heads will turn. You can be in the scene from Mission Impossible III, with the Asian chick with the hair and the red dress and the Italian sports car. You drive up, heads turn. You park and eyes are glued to you and your car. You open the door and your long, naked leg hits the pavement while sticking out of your skimpy, sexy red dress-heads will turn and mouths will open. You walk sexily to the other side of the car and open the door and bend over-there will be gasps-maybe even applause! You come up holding your 9-month old baby boy…Heads will turn alright, THE OTHER WAY! The applause will halt and people will smile with embarrassment and disappointment and many will laugh and shake their heads! Why? Yep, not cool.

You can be a cool mom or a cool dad and even a cool wife and cool husband. And guess what? I am a very cool dad and a somewhat cool husband! And you know what? There is nothing in the world cooler than having your kids, and sometimes your wife, think you are cool!

Like my friend Jeff said today on this topic: “I guess you can’t be cool and responsible at the same time.” EXACTLY. You can be young and single and cool-you have the whole world before you. Or you can be married with children-not cool anymore.

But here is the thing: Being married with children, well, that is the world in your hands.  Holding your 9-month old after you have all the spit cleaned up and having him recognize you as Dad and then he smiles real big and laughs…that is cool.

That’s cool.

-Durk-

2 Parts Malcolm, 1 Part Sweet Life, 1 Part 7th Heaven

That is pretty much the recipe make up of my family. Let me explain and then there will be a plea for help.

2 Parts Malcolm – My sister in law, Tammie, gave me the first season of Malcolm in the Middle on DVD for my birthday present. It is truly a creative and funny show. Thank you very much Tammie! It is my family without the genius kid and without the authoritative mom (and no authoritative dad either). And it gets the most parts of the make up of our family. It is dysfunctional and has devious children always getting into mischief. My life is similar, we are messy, I had to pry the crisper drawer open in the fridge and I had to wade through toys, mail and clothes just to get to the kitchen. The light is broke (not merely burned out) in the kitchen, so we use the light above the oven and the light above the sink. Thank goodness the fridge has a light.

1 Part Sweet Life – I am throwing in The Suite Life of Zack and Cody pretty much only because the show focuses on twin boys that get into trouble. And so does my family. We have identical twin boys and they get into everything. They fight something fierce with each other. And they have different personalities. No, we don’t live in a hotel and there is no laugh track. Sometimes we are very entertaining, just ask the neighbors next to us-on the other side of the wall.

1 Part 7th Heaven – The last part of my family make up comes from 7th Heaven-but when everyone was young and there was no relationship, girl/boy drama! We are the big family (4 boys) and our faith in God is extremely important to us. Beyond that I guess we are nothing like the show. But I really couldn’t think of a TV show that was boring and uneventful. Maybe we are more like the weather channel-you check in with us from time to time, but there isn’t too much exciting happening, pretty much the same thing, different day, with a storm here and there-we get through it OK though. There’s no prime time weather channel dramas. The weather channel without the drama…HA, that is funny.

OK, where in the world am I going with this? And isn’t my life one big giant plea for help? No, keep reading.

Keegan was invited to participate in the People to People Student Ambassador Program. A program designed to invite local students and send them to Australia for 19 days to be exchange students. Sounds cool right? Well, Kaleb wants to go too. If you don’t have twins this will just seem like a sibling thing (life isn’t fair, get over it), but they act in many ways like one person. So it is an issue. But you know what; they said that Kaleb could apply right along with Keegan! Cool right? Well the cost will be about $6000 PER KID. And $400 has to be paid with the initial application-that has to be submitted within a couple of weeks. There is this elaborate application process where you would think that they would “weed” out applicants and only choose applicants based on certain criteria such as grades, extra-curricular activities or how much the kid is going to add to the goodwill relations between the USA and Australia and thus aiding in providing peace to the rest of the world.

This is what makes me ponder the make up of my family. No geniuses. No athletes. No silver spoons. And even while medicated the twins still manage to put thought and planning into making a working hinged door in the middle of the fence-y’know, so they can get out through the side of the fence; the fence that surrounds the back yard of our rented duplex.

We got diapers, drooly kids (and a drooly baby). We eat in front of the TV instead of the table that is stacked with mail (we have a lot of mail), leftovers still on plates and food that never quite made it to the cupboards yet. (“We are just gonna eat it later.”) We have a puppy and the remnants-of-a-puppy carpet. The basement has a layer of clothes trying to make their way to the washer and dryer…on their own. Our garage is a storage area for all the stuff we don’t want, but can’t even give away.

Well, glory day, it turns out that the application process pretty much consists of confirmation of initial payment and verification that your kid won’t do anything to destroy the existing goodwill that exists between the two allies. And that the applicant won’t cry to come home five minutes after he steps foot onto the 15-hour flight. They called this “mature enough to go”. Since there are no fences between our two countries I don’t think that goodwill will be destroyed (no planks to hinge). And as long as Kaleb and Keegan remain a duo they won’t be home sick for each other and cry to come home.

(Big sigh) That only leaves one obstacle…or how I look at it, 12,000 obstacles.

I don’t have $12,000-twelve thousand dollars… And it just so happens that neither do Kaleb or Keegan. After seeing a video and a PowerPoint presentation THEY REALLY WANT TO GO! They keep asking, “Can we go? We really want to go.” And how can I tell them no? I mean the People to People folks gave us the address to a fundraising website! A FUNDRAISING WEBSITE!

So we are gonna give it a try. I mean it really is an opportunity of a lifetime if they go.

If they go.

There is still a cry for help, and that is where you come in. You will be hearing from us. We will be telling you how we are doing and what the latest news is! We will be knocking on your door, calling you on the phone, emailing you, sending you snail mail and trying to sell you anything and everything that we can get you to buy from us.

Maybe my family will find just the right recipe for success.

-Durk-

Here is the new blog for Kaleb and Kegan’s venture: http://twinfundraising.blogspot.com/

August 2006 Family Pics for Mom

It’s Been Over A Year

It has been just over a year since I lost my dad. I was reminded about it just yesterday-a friend asked me how I was getting along since my dad’s passing-I told him that it was a year ago on Memorial Day. A whole year. The year where you experience all of “the firsts”. The first birthdays without dad/grandpa, first his birthday, then mine, then my wife, then my boys. The first holidays without a visit or a phone call-Independence Day, Labor Day weekend, Halloween (Dad would have liked the boys’ costumes and our Hallow Haunt business), Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, etc. We purchased a white mini van. Then there was the birth of Corbin Riley. Dad didn’t even know Minnie was pregnant. Corbin was baptized on Easter Sunday. And finally Memorial Day was here and gone. It has been over a year. And I have to say that it has been a…well, an awkward experience for me.

As most of my friends know (and some acquaintances), I am a pretty emotional guy. I cried when my kids were born (yes, all 4). I cry at movies and TV shows; I cry every time I watch that “Extreme Makover: House Edition”. I cry as I worship God. But I have not “emotionally” mourned my dad’s passing-I haven’t cried.

I can’t really tell you why I haven’t cried, why there is the absent of some emotional moment where I come to grips with the powers of the cosmos and the rhythm of life. But I know this: I loved my dad very much and I miss him very much.

My dad and I had a pretty close relationship. We got along great, always did. I loved to hear his stories. I think my dad was proud of me and loved my family. And I miss him. There’s hardly a day that goes by where I don’t have something reminding me that dad isn’t around anymore. Something to fix around the house, something to look at with the car, a family milestone to share, pictures to email, and the list goes on and on.

There was no funeral, no viewing, no ceremony, no memorial service, no gathering to just talk! And that is the way my dad wanted it, he wanted to be cremated and that’s it-no dwelling on the painful passing, just remembering the good times. And that’s what happened. There was a road trip-all the way to New Mexico to meet up with my Aunt (who dad was traveling with-they both had retired less than a year before his passing). Although it was a somber trip, for me anyway there was no journey involved, no formal opportunity to feel the pain and to process things. I say “for me” because I remember my wife and twins talking and crying. I just drove in silence. Not really thinking, not really processing. So I have had to find other ways to process life without dad.

I saw a counselor shortly afterwards. It helped. One of the big questions that he posed to me was did I feel that my father was proud of me. Although I had to think about it, I had to say yes. Yeah, dad was proud of me.

In some ways I have done better than my dad. He was a 6th-grade drop out and I completed college. He had had 2 marriages and I have worked pretty hard to build a happy marriage and to form a family. I have a good job. I have a good life. Dad was happy for me. He told me many times that he loved me. He would hug and kiss me and my family-he adored my children.

My dad was not a professing Christian-he did not claim to have a relationship with Christ and with God. That is also a source of pain. I have never looked to my dad as a source of spiritual guidance or direction. Now I know that my father could have had some sort of death-bed experience-he was not feeling well, had lain down and then had a heart attack that took his life-almost immediately. Maybe in his sleep. Maybe not. He did not seem to greatly suffer. I am thankful for that.

It would be comforting to know that my father had had a spiritual experience before he died. It would be immensely comforting to know that I would see my father again in the next life. But I can’t really hold onto that kind of hope. I know that was not true of the way my dad lived his life and I just don’t know that to be true in his passing. And that makes it more difficult to process; as far as I know, my dad really is gone. Most likely I’ll never see him again. And that is probably the most painful part of all.

It has been a year. Still no tears. Still no explanations as to why there have been no tears. I still miss my dad. But I am continuing to process things. Even with this writing.

-Durk-

Pictures For Mom

Mom wanted me to put some pictures up of the family. So here ya go mom.

Infant Corbin:

Corbin at Hospital:

Corbin’s Hospital Visitors

More of Corbin’s Hospital Visitors