Southern Man

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Snow Tubing!

Yeah, baby - snow tubing.

Will update this one as soon as I download the pics from my phone. Yeah, yeah, I know.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Movie Review - Charlotte's Web

There are some films that really shouldn't be remade. Part of that may be simply because of the fondness one might have for the original, or because of their particular charm, or even because they were perfect the first time. For example, Southern Man grew up on the original 1969 rendition of The Italian Job and the 2003 remake, as slick as it may be, simply holds no charm for him. 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder, in spite of its significant departures from Roald Dahl's book, has a quirky charm that keeps it in constant rotation in the family VCR while Johnnie Depp's more accurate (if equally quirky) version gathers dust. And there is simply no way to improve on How The Grinch Stole Christmas as narrated by the legendary Boris Karloff. Southern Man feels rather the same way about the 1973 animated version of Charlotte's Web.

The book Charlotte's Web is a family favorite; it sits in a place of honor in the living room alongside the other two children's books by E. B. White (Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan) and a collection of Beatrix Potter picture books. Southern Man reads a chapter from at least one of these aloud to his baby daughter almost every time she visits. Like Wilder's Willy Wonka, the older film has a certain charm. It makes effective use of White's clean, simple dialog and the animation style is much like Garth Williams' original artwork. And casting Paul Lynde (who Southern Man knew only from his lengthy tenure on Hollywood Squares) as the voice of Templeton the Rat was an act of genius. It isn't perfect in the way that Karloff's Grinch is perfect, but it's close. Satisfyingly close.

So it was with a touch of trepidation that Southern Man took his baby girl to see the newest version of Charlotte's Web. Southern Man is seldom impressed with live-action animal movies anyway (Babe being a notable exception) but knowing that the talented Dakota Fanning played the part of Fern and that Julia Roberts gave voice to Charlotte offered some hope. And he was pleased to find that the film was entertaining and earnest without being overly dramatic or silly. However, the live acting was a bit strained in places and the animal voicing fared little better. While Dominic Kay is a convincing Wilbur, this just isn't the story for John Cleese's particular brand of humor. Steve Buscemi does his best with the lines he had, but sorry - Lynde's Templeton still rules the farmyard. And since this is a product of 21st century Hollywood there was more than one gratuitous flatulence joke. There were monents when one wondered what E. B. was doing in his grave. Southern Man supposes that the kindest thing he can say is that it didn't screw up the story too badly. It's worth taking your kids to see, once. But, like Depp's Chocolate Factory, this DVD will gather dust while the older classic continues to charm.

A Day At The Mall

As previously arranged, Southern Man picked up his teen-aged daughter this morning to take her shopping for a watch (part of his Christmas to her). However, what she really wants is a Nintendo DS Lite, which (much to her annoyance) has been sold out everywhere since roughly Thanksgiving. Indeed, the previous evening the two of us had spent a fair amount of time on the phone and the web searching for one. Anyway, we ended up at one of the big malls on the north side of the city and spent an enjoyable morning of shopping and drinking at Starbucks and such. She never did find a watch she liked but Southern Man bought her a bunch of other stuff instead, so she left relativly happy.

Then it was his baby girl's turn to shop. She had a shiny new C-note from her grandmother and was eager to put it to good use. The two of us headed back to the same mall and had just a terrific time shopping and playing in the kid's play area. She also ended up with a bunch of stuff and we also saw the new live-action Charlotte's Web in the mall cinema (Southern Man's review here). At last, I got to take her to a new movie before her mom (or my mom) beat me to it!

After several hours of malling her Christmas cash was finally depleted so we dropped by casa gf for a bite to eat. Then gf expressed a desire to see a movie as well so we dropped daughter back off at her mom's house and Southern Man steered for the mall for the third time that day. We ended up at Dreamgirls, which was OK (the singing was occasionally terrific, even if the songs couldn't hold a candle to the R&B that inspired them) but tries too hard to be both a musical and a movie and doesn't do all that well in either genre. And that's pretty much the only review that Southern Man is giving that one. His gf likes that kind of movie (and Southern Man often obliges her and tags along), but his taste tends more towards sci-fi or action-adventure (both serious and mindless) for his movie entertainment. Like the upcoming live-action Transformers movie...which surely won't be much worse than the animated original...

So Southern Man spent pretty much the entire day at the mall. That's a lot of fun, once a year or so, and he's looking forward to doing it again in, say, late December 2007.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Party Never Stops... the busy, busy world of Southern Man and his gf. Week off, indeed.

Wednesday kicked off with the moving of the rest of Southern Man's stuff from his former garage (mostly big pieces that were just shoved to the side earlier). The fun part was that Southern Man's son came along for the ride and got to drive (even though he's still pre-permit) out to Southern Man's land (to drop off the trailer) and back into the city. We had a good talk and I'm pleased that we're slowly but surely rebuilding our damaged relationship. On the other hand, Southern Man's new garage (and old barn, for that matter) are both now filled to overflowing. That barn needs some roof repair as well. There's a couple of projects that he's in no mood to tackle for a while yet.

That evening was gf's family Christmas with relatives in a nearby city. That was, surprisingly, a lot of fun. There must have been half a dozen kids under six there, all running about and having a great time. If our relationship goes somewhere, Southern Man's youngest is going to have lots of new little girlfriends to play with. But the highlight of this party was a round of Dirty Santa, where Southern Man scored points with gf's eldest by re-stealing a gift she had but lost and giving it back to her. He also learned how to play a new (well, new to him) dominos game, 42, which is a trick-taking game (kind of like the card game spades) and is apparently a family favorite.

Later today (Thursday) Southern Man and his gf and his mom are having lunch together, and tonight is the first team meeting at his newest employer, H&R Block. Sometime before then Southern Man has to re-learn how to tie a necktie. He took a look at the rather sad state of his credit card balance and has vowed to stop using that card entirely for a while and pour every penny he earns doing taxes this season into paying off his pre-Christmas bills. It's a lot more fun to spend it than it is to earn it, but now it's time to pay for all that fun...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Movie Review - The Pursuit of Happyness

You would think that after such an exciting and wonderful Christmas that Southern Man would be ready to take some rest, but noon his gf was on the phone and ready to shop. Well, Southern Man had Christmas money to burn and a list of stuff he wants, so off we went to the mall.

The mall has a big theater complex and gf wanted to see another movie. This time it was Will Smith and his real-life son in The Pursuit of Happyness (sic), which is "based on the true story" of Chris Gardner, a homeless black man who beats the odds to become a successful businessman in early-80s San Fransisco. Gardner, who was at first reluctant to have his life story on film but later heartily approved of both the film and of Smith's portrayal, and Cecil Williams, the minister of a women's shelter who broke his own rules and allowed Gardner and his son to stay there, both have cameos in the film.

Southern Man's son asked if Smith's acting was "good" in this film. Well, it was certainly his most intense performance since Ali a few years ago and far beyond anything he did in the entertaining-but-still-awful Men in Black II and Wild Wild West. Garner and his son endured heartbreaking hardship during his dogged struggle for success, and their relationship as portrayed by Smith and his real-life son is authentic and convincing. The film does a good job of showing the gritty lives of the (mostly black) poor and homeless of San Francisco as well as the lush lifestyles of the successful (and mostly white) businessmen and stockbrokers of that era. On the other hand, you know how it's going to turn out. However, Smith's intensity and charisma and a solid supporting cast make this film work.

After the movie we retired to casa gf for leftover roast and potatoes and a few hours in front of the tube. Not a bad way at all to spend the day after Christmas.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Movie Review - Rocky Balboa

Southern Man is no stranger to going to movies on Christmas Day, and this year it was Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa, the latest installment in the legendary Rocky series. Attendees were Southern Man's gf and another couple. Two of us were totally pumped about a new Rocky flic; the other two were so-so. Southern Man's gf was in the former camp and he was in the latter; the other couple were also split (he was pumped, she was not). But we all ended up enjoying the movie a lot.
The easiest (and cheapest) review would be - if you liked the other Rocky movies, you'll like this one. But Rocky Balboa deserves more than that. The absurb-sounding premise - a sixty-year-old has-been prizefighter ends up in an exhibition match with the reigning champion - actually works pretty well on screen. The drama is a bit heavy-handed at times but is occasionally touching and even endearing. You really feel for the characters in this film, and that's a rarity in movies today. There's only one fight, at the end, but it's a convincing one. It's probably going to end up as one of the best in the series, perhaps second only to Rocky itself, and is a satisfying close to the saga.

So if you're a Rocky fan, you won't be disapointed by this one. And if you get dragged to this one, don't fret too much about it; you'll have a fine time.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day

Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!

A wonderful Christmas Eve was followed by a terrific Christmas Day. After a lazy morning at home cleaning up the mess left behind by the kids, Southern Man picked up his gf and her two daughters for lunch with some of his friends (a couple from church and one of their daughters), which was most pleasant (and gf's daughters were good sports about getting dragged to a stranger's house on Christmas Day; thanks, girls!). The meal was "pulled pork" with all the fixins, and Southern Man even made out with a doggie bag for later. We then headed downtown to meet some of her friends (which are rapidly becoming our friends) for Rocky Balboa (Southern Man's review in this post) and finally to their place for a little Christmas party with fun and game and altogether too much junk food.

Yeah, it doesn't sound like much but it was a good, fun day. And now Southern Man is at the front end of a week almost entirely without work! Whoo Hoo!

It's Christmas Eve - Have an Eggroll

What a terrific Christmas Eve it has been!

The day began by rousing the aforementioned 2/3 of Southern Man's kids and coaxing them to bathe and shower and dress and brush their teeth and their hair and such. We went to our "family" church for breakfast and a Christmas sermon (where we picked up the other 1/3 of the kids), then went to the local megachurch to meet Southern Man's gf and one of her daughters (the other has acquired an automobile and has thus joined the workforce so she can pay for it) and attend their noon service (with lots of terrific music courtesy of the younger portion of the band and another excellent sermon by the senior pastor), and finally went to casa gf for roast and potatoes and carrots and corn and tossed salad and dinner rolls...yum, yum! Then it was back to Southern Man's abode for a few hours of rest - and then we packed the sleigh and headed to Southern Man's folks (with a stop at a local Chinese place for takeout) for family Christmas Eve.

A long-standing tradition is that all of the kids (Southern Man has one brother and one sister, with four nephews between them) and their families gather at Southern Man's folks for Christmas Eve, then scatter to their in-laws (or wherever) on Cristmas Day. There were thirteen there this year; we were down two, as brother's wife was ill and Southern Man's ex did not attend. Southern Man's father always directs the reading of the nativity account from Luke, with the younger set reading parts as well. Everyone has a stocking, and another long-standing tradition is that we put anonymous (or at least pseudo-anonymous) gifts in everyone's stocking. It's no secret that Southern Man always brings a twelve-pack (or equivalent) of everyone's favorite beverage but on occasion he can manage to slip in something unseen. Everyone pretty much knows what everyone else likes; for example, Southern Man's mother always gets a small mountain of jigsaw puzzles in her stocking. The youngest kids act as Santa and a great time was had by all. All attendees age thirteen and up also drew names for the family gift exchange earlier in the year; Southern Man was given a lovely webcam and is thinking about his first contribution to YouTube even now. Southern Man's father usually drags out the slide projector and this year it was a recap of Christmas past. Southern Man looked pretty good at age three or so by PaPoo's tree in his whitie-tighties; perhaps less good as a long-haired teen hippie wannabee. Another long-standing tradition is that everyone brings food (thus the aforementioned pit stop at the Chinese place) and the "meal" is just whatever shows up. The title of this blog was uttered by Southern Man's sister when someone made a good-natured complaint about the, ah, eclectic nature of the evening menu.

Alas, the evening at the folks ended all too soon and Southern Man had to again load up the sleigh and haul the kids (and their luggage and their toys) back to their mom. But Christmas Eve wasn't yet done; Southern Man hastened back to his own place to clean up the disaster left behind by the kids and get his gf's gifts under the tree prior to her arrival for our own gift exchange. There is nothing quite like exchanging gifts with your gf late on Christmas Eve in a living room lit only by the Christmas Tree and the fireplace...I never dreamed that Christmas Eve could be so wonderful, only seven months after my family was torn apart.

Christmas is tomorrow! Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Vacation

Whoo hoo, it's Christmas vacation with the kids! Or at least 2/3 of them.

Teen daughter elected to stay home with mom, but Southern Man and youngest daughter and teen son headed south to Big D yesterday for a two-night Christmas vacation - the best he could manage this year.

We arrived Thursday afternoon and just bummed around for the rest of the afternoon and evening. The main events were Friday. We spent the best part of the afternoon at the Dallas Galleria eating and shopping and ice-skating. Southern Man hadn't been on skates for thirty years but managed to get around the rink a few times. Make that a few dozen times. Youngest daughter was tireless on the ice and skated for close to two hours. The evening attraction (and the main reason we came to Dallas) was the dinner-and-show at Medieval Times, in which the audience are guests at a feast in a royal castle and witness a pretty amazing live tournament with live horses and jousting and swordplay and all sorts of fun stuff. We cheered for the Green Knight (who looked amazingly like Orlando Bloom) and he almost went the full distance and was bashing the crap out of his final opponent but was defeated at the last minute. This was eldest son's second visit to Medieval Times (the first was with a church teen group) and he appeared to have a great time. In Southern Man's opinion, it is a better show than the similar Dolly Parton Dixie Stampede, which the family once visited in Branson.

Tomorrow morning after breakfast we'll head back home for an early Christmas at Casa Southern Man, followed by a busy Christmas Eve beginning with church, lunch with Southern Man's girlfriend and her family, and a fun, fun evening at Southern Man's parents with pretty much the entire family.

Yeah, Southern Man has promised this before, but: this post will be updated after photos are developed.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Concert Blues

After a busy Monday morning of tax class and busier afternoon dealing with last-minute student appointments and getting grades turned in for three universities, Southern Man found himself invited to two Christmas Concerts that evening - one coming in a rather belated message reporting that his teenage daughter was performing that very evening and sorry I didn't tell you sooner.

The first was notable in that Southern Man's gf finally got to introduce him to her friend Noah Crawford, the talented young man who occasionally plays the child version of Earl Hickey in flashback sequences in the TV sitcom My Name is Earl. So Southern Man got to meet a bona fida TV star of sorts. He's quite a charming and likeable young man and Southern Man hopes he goes far.

The second was notable in that the aforementioned belated message about that night's concert provided the wrong time and the concert was already over by the appointed hour. Oh, well. There will be other concerts...

And the blue part of the day is that Southern Man's relationship with his ex is even more strained than usual. It's sad when two people who have shared so much can't even have a normal conversation. Lord, I pray that you would bring both of us peace and comfort. Continue to heal me of the pain and the bitterness that had so often has caused me to erupt in anger, and grant me the gift of responding to hurtful words with your lovingkindness. Amen.

Weekend Update

The highlight was, of course, the TSO concert...Saturday was mostly running the kids to and from their various commitments (teen son had a mission project at church; teen daughter, a piano party). Southern Man and his little girl did engage in one of their usual Saturday treats and toured the food samples at Sams Club. After gathering everyone up again everyone went to a piano recital at Southern Man's workplace (one of his students doubles as a music major) and then the kids were dropped off at church for the Saturday performance of their Christmas program.

Southern Man actually attended said Christmas program on Sunday morning, and it was pretty good. The entire family had roles in the production and all did a great job. Southern Man is awful proud of all of his kids and he hopes they know that. He then went to the local megachurch noon service and heard yet another pretty good sermon (second in his diakoneo series), went to a friend's house for leftover Audrey's Mess, then headed out for some last-minute Christmas shopping.

The mall was a complete zoo, of course. However, we stumbled upon a pretty nifty deal - former OU heros and Heisman Trophy winners Jason White and Billy Sims were there signing autographs for charity. Some lucky Sooner fan is getting an OU T-shirt with both names on it. After the mall we hit a bookstore (Southern Man had a couple of Barnes and Noble gift cards to burn, and burn them he did) and then called it a day.

The coming week should be both busy and fun.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Concert Review: Trans-Siberian Orchestra

What an awsome show!

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra (wikipedia) (home page) played to a couple thousand here in town two years ago; nearly three times that many last year (a show at which Southern Man and his ex had lucked into third-row floor seats directly across from the keyboards); and sold out the venue this year. Indeed, Southern Man was a bit tardy in procuring the tickets and the show actually was sold out, but the venue had opened up a few more sections literally moments before Southern Man arrived at the box office. Thus, our tickets ("us" being Southern Man, his two older kids, Southern Man's gf, and her two kids) were directly across from the left side of the stage; not bad seats at all, but a bit oddly sited. The only downside from my point of view is that the keyboards were on the other side of the stage.

The band opened with my favorite TSO tune - The Wizards In Winter, a song so cool it has its own wikipedia entry and which is featured in (among other places) an amazing Christmas-light show constructed by electrical engineer Carson Williams, who gained sufficient notoriety through the videos of said show and its sequels that he was able to go into the light-show business for himself. Sorry, no links to the videos but you have more than enough information to hunt them down if you desire. Trust me, it's worth the effort; they are extremely cool.

TSO then worked into their well-known Christmas story, which ran for about half the show. The second half was mostly classical (or at least quasi-classical) selections. Surprises included an outstanding cover of Eric Clapton's Layla (another song so cool it has its own wikipedia entry and, yes, Southern Man would just about kill for tickets to Clapton's upcoming show) and (like last year) just a teasing little bit of Yes, one of Southern Man's favorite bands of the past. All of it rocked! And of course the accompanying light show was absolutely state-of-the-art. TSO has definitely earned the Southern ManTM Seal of ApprovalTM and hopefully will continue to be a regular part of his holiday celebrations.

And the very, very best part of all was that all the kids absolutely loved it!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Audrey's Mess

Southern Man is happy beyond words; he gave his very last final examination of the semester tonight! Yeah, he has yet to grade it (and a massive stack of others sitting back in his office) but tonight was cause for celebration.

By good fortune he had an invitation to dinner and was served the following:
  • One pound of browned ground beef
  • One can of tomato soup
  • One can of ranch-style beans with jalepenos
  • One can of spaghetti with sauce

Combine all of the above and heat thoroughly in the microwave. Layer the bottom of a nine-by-thirteen pan with tortilla chips. Pour the mess over the chips, cover with grated cheese, and bake in a 350-degree oven for twenty minutes.

Yeah, it sounds a little gross but was actually pretty good (not to mention easy to make). The cook called it "Audrey's Mess" after the friend who invented it some years ago. Along with a tossed salad and some homemade fudge, it made a fine casual meal. However, Southern Man's kids have relatively low tolerance for jalepeno peppers so there will have to be some modifications if he is to try it on them. They will probably like it, though; it's not unlike the "three-way chili" their mom makes (chili over spaghetti over chips). Southern Man is pleased to note that some of Audrey's Mess is in his freezer even now. Indeed, there are enough frozen leftovers in there that he shouldn't have to cook at all until well after Christmas. Indeed, given his lack of workouts for the last month he'd do well to not eat at all until well after Christmas. Not much chance of that, though!

Tomorrow night is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert! Whoo Hoo! Can't wait!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Friendly Fire

Another church service and yet another good sermon. Southern Man is definitely on a roll here.

With the semester winding down, Southern Man's Monday-Wednesday evening course has, well, run its course and he had a chance to go to the local megachurch this evening with some friends. The guest speaker was pastor and author Richard Exley. He does a lot of work in men's ministries and has written some good books for men; hopefully Southern Man can pick up a few. After a most entertaining book giveaway he took his text from Genesis 27 - the tale of two brothers, Jacob and Esau, and how the younger acquired from their father both birthright and blessing at the expense of the elder. The sermon title: Wounded By Friendly Fire.

This really spoke to Southern Man for many reasons. Recent divorce not withstanding, he's not had the best of relationships with his own father and Exley's anecdotes about his relationship with his father really hit home. That's something that Southern Man is determined to get to work on. Another thing Exley said was that "wounded people become bitter people." In other words, when you're hurt by somone you love, you often respond in anger. Southern Man can certainly relate to that; it wasn't all that long ago that he lashed out at his then almost-ex in anger and bitterness that stemmed from the deep, unending hurt of our failed marriage.

Anyway, some of us went to dinner afterwards and had a good conversation about the sermon and about our various situations (Southern Man isn't the only one in the crowd left unexpectedly single in recent months). Sometimes Southern Man thinks he's the only one hurting, and it's just not so. There are lots of walking wounded out there.

I tell myself over and over that my father didn't mean to wound me. He did, but he didn't mean it. I'm finally beginning to understand that and perhaps can use that to begin to rebuild our strained relationship. I don't know about my ex. Certainly things were said that were meant to wound. No doubt she, too, was to some extent reacting to the many accumulated hurts of our failed marriage. I just don't know, though. Our relationship is also strained, at best, and I really don't know what to do about that other than continue to pray. Lord, I pray that you would continue to give me the strength to look ahead to the future and the capacity to forgive those who have wounded me. And, Lord, speak to those who I myself have wounded; I pray that you would forgive me and comfort them as you comfort me. Amen.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Office Party

The annual departmental Christmas party was Saturday night, and a very good time was had by all - in no small part because Southern Man was in charge of the bar. Longtime readers may recall that Southern Man's ex was working part-time as a bartender during the last nine months of their marriage (which contributed in no small way to the ultimate demise of that marriage) and she was pretty damn good at it. Well, Southern Man managed to pick up a few tips from watching the master (not to mention from drinking her fabulous 'ritas) and fashioned his very first mixed-drink effort as follows:
Blend the following:
  • 2 cups sweet and sour mix
  • 1 1/2 cups Cuervo 1800
  • 1 cup Triple Sec
  • 1/3 cup Grand Marnier
Wet the rims of the glasses with lime juice and press into coarse salt. Fill the glasses with crushed ice and beverage. Garnish with a quarter-slice of lime and serve.
The recipe says "serves eight" but when Southern Man's 24-ounce goblets are used it's more like three. We'll call them margaritas magnificos del hombre meridional - Southern Man's magnificent margaritas. He should have called them "twelve dollar 'ritas" since that's about what they cost him to make. His very first one went to the former dean of his college, and when she saw it her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. Suffice it to say that with the addition of several bottles of wine and a bottle of rum by the eggnogg the party became quite merry. Southern Man is already booked to run the bar at the next one.

We ate and drank (I think this was already mentioned) and played "Dirty Santa" (Southern Man not only sucessfully avoided the infamous Flying Pig that always appears at these parties, but made out with a nice art set that will end up in his baby daughter's stocking) and re-arranged the host's furniture and played cards well into the night. It was a good party. And given the deleterious effects of just one margarita magnifico, Southern Man stayed late (after everyone else left, he and his good friend, the host, chatted and watched a big chunk of The Two Towers together) to ensure that his drive home was un-impaired by his magnificent creation. However, tonight's blogging (four, count 'em, four updates) was fueled by a half-goblet version of the same - the very first alcholic beverage (other than beer) that he's had at home. Like Adam tasting the fruit of the forbidden Tree of Life, Southern Man's newfound knowledge may be...dangerous in the long run.

And after the hour-long drive home (the party was fairly far afield from casa Southern Man) he ended up driving a friend to yet another distant city to pick up her daughter. But even though Southern Man didn't get home until the wee hours (and then had to build a fire in his freezing duplex) he still made it to church on time the next day.

Next week is finals week at Southern Man's university employer, followed by the always frantic week-before-Christmas, followed by (praise the Lord) an entire week off, then as January begins my first week of actual work as a tax preparer for H&R Block, and finally the starting bell for the Spring semester. It should be quite a month.

A Cold Weekend

Southern Man woke Friday morning to a freezing-cold duplex; the heater had failed during the night and the central blower was industriously distributing twenty-degree garage air throughout the domicile. A message to the tenant service guy that morning went unanswered, but Southern Man got 'hold of him late Friday night. He promptly appeared, took a look, said it was a bad gas valve and he couldn't fix it right then, and promised to have a serviceman out on Saturday. Well, said serviceman appeared on Saturday, took a look, said it was a bad gas valve and he couldn't fix it right then, and promised he'd be back with the required parts early next week.

Then the tenant rep called offering to spring for a hotel until the heater was repaired! It was a nice gesture that Southern Man would have quickly accepted if he'd had the kids that weekend, but being kid-free at the time he negotiated for firewood instead. Thus, Southern Man now has a well-stocked woodpile and has enjoyed a near-constant fire for most of the weekend. Although the heat from four computers keeps the study fairly comfortable, the other upstairs bedrooms are pretty much uninhabitable without a heavy coat (it turns out that both upstairs bathroom heaters are also kaput). However, Southern Man must admit that the living-room futon pulled up close to the fireplace is not half bad at all and he has spent some very enjoyable hours there. The world would be a happier place if everyone spent more time in front of the fireplace.

Into The River

Today was another two-service Sunday, and again I was blessed to hear two terrific sermons.

The pastor at my home church continued his series on "Getting Healthy For The Holidays" with a lesson on repairing broken relationships, which is a topic much on Southern Man's heart these days. Southern Man's ex still pretty much avoids any unnecessary contact and there's a lot to repair yet to be done there. Hopefully we will someday have some kind of normal relationship again. And Southern Man is continually seeking ways to rebuild and strengthen his relationship with his two teen-age kids. He has them next weekend, and again for a few days before Christmas. We're all going to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert the first weekend and Southern Man is working on some out-of-town plans for the pre-Christmas visit.

The noon service at the local megachurch was equally terrific. The preacher (a guest rather than the regular pastor) chose the first half-dozen verses from Ezekiel 47 for his text. This is where the writer walks out into water - first up to his ankles, then his knees, then his waist, and then into water too deep to ford. His message - get off the riverbank and into the water of the river of God, and the deeper you go, the better.

I don't usually care much for Old Testament sermons but this one really spoke to me. Not that I'm not in the river, but I'm not as deep as I should be or could be. Lord, I pray that You would give me the strength and the wisdom to walk deeper and deeper into Your river with each passing day and let the waters of Your love and compassion and forgiveness flow over me and through me, that I might love and forgive others as You love and forgive me. Amen.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Double Header

Today was a double-header Sunday, with one sermon at my home church and another at the local megachurch. Both were terrific. I never dreamed I'd enjoy being in church for six hours straight on Sunday mornings, but there it is.

My home pastor has started a series on "Getting Healthy for the Holidays." He's not referring to physical health (although there are plenty of jokes and asides about the caloric perils of the holiday season) but to spiritual health. His theme today was on your appetite - as in, what you feed yourself. "Do not hunger after the junk food of the world," he said, and I agree whole-heartedly. Southern Man has long held some disdain for practically everything on television and hardly ever turns on the tube when he's alone; his TV serves mainly as a monitor for the VCR and DVD and LaserDisc players. Yeah, Laserdisc; Southern Man may be a techie but he often bets on the wrong format. Witness the several boxes of Beta tapes in his garage that he can no longer play. Which, sadly, includes the entire run of Star Trek: The Next Generation and a good bit of Star Trek: Voyager. And, sadly, his VHS copies of the rest of Voyager and pretty much all of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine were made on a deeply maladjucted VCR and those tapes are also mostly unplayable. Yes, Southern Man is a Trekkie. DVD sets of any season of any of the above will be welcome as Christmas and birthday presents for the forseeable future. Don't even ask his opinon on whether you should go with Blu-Ray or HD-DVD; he's bound to guess the wrong one. Anyway (Southern Man tends to drift a bit, as his students will attest) the sermon was pretty good - good enough that I took fairly copious sermon notes, which is not my usual custom. Of course it's nice when the pastor says things that you not only agree with but are also largely doing. Not that not watching TV is that big a deal.

The noon service at the local megachurch was also good - the best of the handful of sermons I've heard from their senior pastor, anyway. His new series is based on the word diakoneo (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Greek), (Strong's Greek Dictionary), which means, roughly, to serve or minister. The pastor's admittedly loose interpretation is "to love from the center of who you are." I won't bore you with the details of the sermon but suffice it to say that I am, for the first time, beginning to really hear God's voice through this particular church.

Six months ago, Southern Man was going to church just to survive. Now the worst of the storms of separation and divorce have passed and he's going to church to learn and grow. There are no doubt plenty of troubles still ahead but I am feeling stronger and more able to deal with them with every passing day. Lord, I pray that you would continue to give me the wisdom and the strength to accept Your love and to give my love to others; to ask Your forgivness and to freely and honestly forgive; and to seek Your will as I walk the path You have set before me. Amen.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Snow Days!

The midwestern USA had its first serious winter storm late this week. Now, on a big winter storm the public schools are pretty quick to close (as opposed to risking their busses and their precious cargo on icy roads) but the private universities generally ignore the weather. But this storm was enough that even the private schools took notice and the happy result was not one, but two glorious snow days.

Southern Man predicted this wonderful treat on Wednesday, cancelled his evening classes, announced that he would not be in on Thursday, and (since his rental duplex has an old-fashioned wood-buring fireplace) made a detour by his folk's house for a load of firewood. By the time he got home that evening the closed-school list was already growing and happily enough included his own employers, making both that night and the next day off "official" snow days. Thursday was spent inside by the fire tidying up and playing computer games and drinking hot chocolate and just generally relaxing. He did get out late that evening when a friend with a four-wheel-drive jeep dropped by. What's a snow day without at least one Wal-Mart run?

But the roads were bad enough that Southern Man's employers all cancelled classes for Friday as well for a second "official" snow day. Alas, Friday was also the kickoff for fifty-plus hours of training as one of H&R Block's new hires for the upcoming tax season. Fortunately, the roads weren't that bad and Southern Man's old Explorer (which hasn't had an operational four-wheel-drive for a while now) was able to get him around with minimal fuss.

This is also Southern Man's weekend to have the kids and for once he had all three, as his son's road trip to St. Louis was cancelled (no surprise there). The weekend kicked off at with an evening at their grandparents for pizza and chicken wings and salad and Scrabble. The kids spent the night there so Southern Man could attend even more tax training Saturday morning and we've all spent the afternoon and evening at Casa Southern Man burning through his firewood at an alarming rate and roasting marshmallows and making s'mores and watching OU whip up on Nebraska (14-0 at this writing) and just generally having a great time.

Tomorrow they go back to their mother after church, ending what was effectively a four-day weekend. And only two more weeks of classes and tax training! Christmas is in the air (and wish lists from all the kids are on Southern Man's desk) and he is looking forward to a wonderful holiday season.