Belkin, Holy, & Home

I’m going to go ahead and warn you that this is going to be a good one. Lots of things have happened recently and life is good.

To start, I bought a cover for my iPhone screen from Target. I was pretty stoked because I hate those nasty fingerprints that I leave all over the screen. When someone asks to use my phone, I hand it to them in a state that says “I just ate a bucket of KFC chicken and I smeared the grease all over my phone”. I put the cover on, worked out all the little bubbles, and voilĂ  – it still smears.

Jonathan Storment is a super good speaker. He spoke at RHCC today and talked about holiness among other things. He managed to say “snappy” to describe something, but other than that and other witty comments he had a great message. He said that if you think about holiness as inaction you are entirely missing the point. It’s not about what we don’t do or don’t say…it’s about the actions we do take. We can take a “we want to change the world” approach instead of “I’m better than you because I don’t watch House (shoutout to my encounter with super dad from a previous post)”. Man..I wish I could be holier instead of holier than thou, don’t you? His message hit home. I’m getting a little piece of humble pie each day and I love it. As Nedra says, “it takes bitter at first but goes down good in the end”. (or something like that…us Sparks are terrible at requoting)

Have you ever done something God’s way for real? It may be terrible at first but gives you such peace later. Next time you have a beef with someone, tell them directly instead of telling everyone but them. It goes completely against our nature but feels so much better later. You know that no matter what, you did it the right way and that is how we become holier. I think. If not, it works and makes you feel better at least.

We got an apartment today. WAHOO! we are very excited. The apartments are called the Mansions by the Vineyard which is an embarrasing and pretentious name but we like them and they are a super location. Come see us.

My contact broke in half this weekend. I wasn’t cool enough to pull a 4-eyed weekend (Lindsay Hall) but eventually I had to today. The one contact fell out and is now shriveled up somewhere in the carpet at church. I want to choose when I wear glasses and when I don’t have a choice I feel like I’m in 9th grade again with my tortoise shell rims while everyone else graduated to contacts. I’m lucky enough to have the option though so I’ll shut up.

I had a panic yesterday. I tried to call a realtor and I couldn’t hear one thing on my phone. I could put it on speakerphone and hear just fine or plug in my headphones and hear but no such luck on the phone speaker. I tried turning the volume up, going into the settings to look for something that got changed…nothing. I had to go to Costco today anyway to see if I could get a lone contact so we were going to swing by AT&T to have them fix my stupid volume. In the car on the way there, I started messing with the cool new screen protector I had. It then dawned on my that I didn’t have a volume problem until I put that thing on, covering my speaker. I started laughing really hard at what an idiot I was and how embarrasing that would have been when the AT&T people pointed that out. That would have been a story they would go home and tell their families at dinner. I would rather not be that customer. Way to go also, Belkin, for making a ridiculous product that not only shows KFC grease still but also prohibits any incoming or outgoing phone calls. EDIT: Taylor bought the iPod touch screen things, not iPhone. I’m still mad at Belkin for not labeling clearly and I left the last line to express that.

Lyrics of the week: God is great, beer is good, people are crazy. What does that even mean? There may be some serious wisdom in that.

HEB & Meatballs

We had a group of students come yesterday that were all first generation students or low income. They were one of the best well-behaved big groups that have come through in a while. Something within me loves to be with those kind of kids. They are so real and open about how they feel. With them, there are no false pretenses or stained-glass masquerades like our buddies Casting Crowns sing about. The director of this program told me that I held their attention better than every other tour. That’s probably because every other tour stuck to the script and bored them to tears. These kids haven’t seen colleges before. Do you really think they care about ebscohost or other research databases? No. Because I skipped the dumb stuff and stuck to what was relevant for them, we spent a good 15 extra minutes in COBA just sitting and talking through their questions. I bet others don’t take that time. Even people in our office were doubtful that any of them would be remotely close to coming here. I feel so strongly about us treating them just as well as the families from Highland Park who have 80 demands that we immediately cater too. They deserve just as much attention and quality we give others. Even if only 1 comes it is worth it to me.

The embarrassing thing about their visit is the miscommunication in my head. The organization that they came with was called the HEB Talent Search. I just didn’t understand why the grocery store HEB had a low income program where they searched for models and dancers. Alright, I guess. The entire day right up until the very end I really believed that this group came from the grocery chain. Who knew HEB also stood for Hurst, Euless, Bedford? Apparently no one besides people from DFW. Give me a break…

So I started reading Seth Godin’s book “Meatball Sundaes”. Disgusting title but pretty good book. What’s frustrating about it is the amount of evidence that the old way of marketing is gone. New marketing takes guts and creativity and there is no formula. I guess it is a fun challenge but also scary as crap for someone just starting out. All he talks about is how companies have to change their entire infrastructure and business plan in order to market to todays society. How do you think a CEO would like to hear that from an entry-level marketer? I’m sure that would go over well.

The idea is that companies use meatballs that they have used forever (tv, radio, etc) and just sprinkle some new cool stuff on top (twitter, SEO, etc). What you get is a meatball sundae and indegestion. Great, so how do you start making ice cream instead? That’s the frustrating part.

Speaking of meatball sundaes, I tweetled about this but there is just more to say., what are you thinking? For one, is the “dot” in your name silent? If not, do you realize you named your coffee shop a hair color? That was the first mistake. The second was your choice of cups. People are spending good amounts of time in your shop. Do you really thank them by putting their latte in the generic walmart cups they probably have at home? Classy. Taylor ordered a cream soda drink…his came in a clear solo cup. For real? I strongly suggest that you stop paying money for ugly hats that no one will buy and invest more in what your customers want. How about buying mugs to drink out of while they study or glass cups for your specialty cream sodas? My latte was good but there is power in presentation and you may have missed the boat on that one. I always have these thoughts about bad marketing…what better place to voice my opinions than my very own blog?! Match made in heaven.

The walmart cup is pictured below…

My dear friend emailed me tonight after finding this link. I love hearing from special old friends! Welcome to the rants of my blog, Daniel.

DMV & Miley

Why does no one tell you the downside of marriage? Yea, living together can be tricky and arguing about money and other things is an issue but no on warns you about the worst part…

No one tells you about sitting in line for hours to get your name changed. I was pretty fond of Sparks. I had it for 21 years and I really grew to love it. Now here I sit with every important document of my life fighting for a seat at the stinky DMV. I wonder if the people that work here have any friends. They sure aren’t trying to make any durig the hours of 8-5. But, hey…at least I’ll be a bona fide Texan when this is all said and done.

Last night Taylor and I got to play with Stone and Reagan “Hannah Montana Ballerina Cinderella Miley Stewart” Ratliff. (imagine getting that name change legally) Stone is 2 and Reagan is 3ish..?. Reagan and I had a good time preparing for her concert later that night at ACU. Being Hannah Montana herself, we had a lot to do to prepare. They had eaten at Subway, so Reagan got some stationary with stickers in her meal. We decided that would be the best to write her fan letters on. We carefully signed each letter (by putting one sticker on each sheet) and then we went around the playground delivering each letter. Surprisingly, all of Hannah Montana’s fans live very close…one under the slide, one in the slide, one on the bridge. Apparently all her fans were asleep though so we had to be very quiet when we opened the door to put the letters in. Sometime over the course of our playing, she started calling me Miley and I called her Hannah. I felt pretty cool…here’s Hannah herself delivering a letter:

I think I like kids because I still daydream like I’m 4 so it really isn’t a stretch to find fans that live on a playground.

The best part of the night? Watching Taylor send Mack down the slide.

Rubberbands & Megatrons

The most unfortunate part of Junior High is all the physical changes that happen to your body. Acne, voice cracks, braces… it’s just such a terrible time to look back on. The pictures from that era of life are unbearable. I think the worst thing ever, though, is headgear and those rubberbands that make a cat’s cradle in your mouth (a throwback to the 90’s for anyone who adored string art). This poor kid on Sunday had about 84 rubberbands extending from every tooth in his mouth. When he opened wide to sing, you almost cringed in fear that one would pop out and smack you in the eye. How is it that my phone can identify a song being played on the radio and give me lyrics, background, artist, etc. yet we are still subjecting people to the “rubberband braces” treatment. There has to be a better way.

I included this picture if you are at all confused:

We went to Richland Hills on Sunday morning with Taylor’s parents which leads me to Introductions Part 2. During “Hug and Howdy” time, every single person in my vacinity turned and greeted the person they came to church with. In front, behind, beside….all people around turned towards the familiar. This is exaclty my point. Even though RHCC is a gigantic church with small groups where you can find “community”, we aren’t willing to greet our neighbors during a designated greeting time. It’s kind of ridiculous. I don’t know what inside of us keeps us from extending a hand but I feel sure it is turning people away from our churches.

Thanks to dear ole Lindsay, she told me about this blogger who is hysterical. I haven’t read all of his posts since that would take forever, but I especially loved this:
It reminds me very much of my times in the Center for Building Community and Loving Your Neighbor As Yourself, LYNAY. It was hilarious the requests we had sometimes. We had two people dating in LYNAY that broke up sometime over the course of the semester. When it came to “family time” where people shared prayer requests, the boy heartbreakee would get up and give elaborate requests like, “I have just had a lot going on in my life. I have a broken heart and I feel like I am not going to be able to love again. I really don’t know if I can trust people anymore…” I wanted to stand up and scream for him to call his beau later instead of using prayer time as a venue to get back at her in front of everyone.

We also had the girl who would give the “mine will top yours” kind of request. I am not being insensitive I don’t think, it was just a given that she would stand up and make an outrageous statement. One Monday afternoon we had several hurting people – deaths of mothers, car crashes killing friends, etc. In the midst of all these gut-wrenching prayer requests, the over-the-topper says, “I am going skydiving this weekend…soo…that’ll be fun. I guess pray that I don’t die or something!” Wow. Your timing is impeccable.

Mom is getting an iPhone this week…be thinking about apps to suggest to her.

Baseball & Introductions

Today was the best day EVER in campus visits. There was a tournament in Abilene for like 20 high school teams so we had around probably 7 or 8 families walk in wanting to grab information about campus. Baseball boys are my favorite I think (especially since Taylor was one). This one boy and his mom walked in and immediately I could tell they weren’t that interested even though they wanted information. Another lady had offered them the campus tour at 1 but they declined. In comes Sarah, the salesperson of the century (or so I become on things I really love). I started by telling him that it was heavenly timing that the tour ended before he had to leave and ended up resorting to bribery with a free tshirt and appealing to his manhood by telling him he’d be riding on our cool golfcarts. Whichever of the two he fell for, he came back at 1 with his mom and brought a friend. Afterwards I asked how it was and they both said “we really like it…we didn’t even know it was so nice”. They also reminded me oh-so-subtly that I owed them shirts. I guess salesmen come in handy on occasion…hopefully we’ll have 2 new players next year.

We had another boy who came yesterday in the late afternoon when I was trying to finish up to go home. He came in with his dad and I set him up for a campus visit today. He asked if he could have his name put on a visitor parking spot since he’d seen the other visitor names and and I told him absolutely. When he came this afternoon he was smiling from ear to ear and goes, “thanks so much for the parking sign!” His friend then told me they’d been outside taking pictures with it. Way to go baseball tourney for bringing all these cool kids.

Changing gears, a long time ago I got onto a kick about introductions. It occurred to me some time ago that you don’t get anywhere in life without introducing yourself and meeting those around you. It sounds elementary but is shocking how many people forget it’s importance. Think about it – you wouldn’t have any friends or significant others or even jobs without a simple beginning of an introduction. Why is it human nature, then, to skip this step? How many times have you been with a group of people who all know each other and no one introduces you? Even worse, how many times do people judge our churches by the number of people that meet them when they visit? It’s kind of embarrassing how self-focused we get. I wish everyone would just catch on. Every single relationship in life starts with an introduction. I wonder how much better we would all get along if we thought enough about others to meet them, remember them, and introduce them to others. Isn’t that where Marilyn Manson went wrong? Supposedly he went to some youth group that didn’t accept him…chances are they didn’t care enough to even meet him. Now look at what he’s like.

It seems so small and insignificant but it is so powerful. The people that make us feel important are those that go out of their way to meet us and then remember our names the next time they see us. One time in Memphis I visited a church with my friend. The day that I visited, my friend and I were stuck with about 15 older guys (seniors and juniors in high school when we were freshmen) so for one of the few times in my life I was pretty quiet. I had a good time but barely anyone spoke to me. I don’t think too much about it until my friend informed me that the youth minister’s wife had bad-mouthed me to eveyone, talking about how stuck up I was. The only problem with her making this claim (besides the obvious reasons of her leadership position among other things) was the fact that she never…NEVER…met me. Didn’t one time introduce herself yet judged my entire character. Maybe that’s where my obsession stems from, or maybe I just like people. Either way, I stand firm that the world would be a much better place if we learned to extend a hand and meet others, put names with faces, and got past the exterior to the person inside. It all starts with an introduction.

Orphanage & Rats

This weekend was Al & Shannon DeZonia’s weekend. It was a pleasant time, but even more pleasant was the 5 grown individuals we had staying at our little duplex. It was really funny and slightly insane. It made me glad that they knew they were welcome to stay here even though we’re the old married couple. Luckily Estebaan and Whitney will join us soon as grown-ups.

Here’s how ridiculous the Brooks’ Orphanage living arrangements were and how cute our friends look all cuddled up together:

and here is the future Ice family’s newest addition, Lucy:

Lucy got to stay with us this weekend, too. What’s funny about that is how my dog acted like a 5 year old. Jealousy will do crazy things to you. Look at her face…I mean seriously. Mack didn’t really have a chance of getting attention when she was around. To display his frustration, he wouldn’t even look at me when I called his name and he would walk right past me to whoever was sitting closest, lick them, and stand there while they petted him. He completely ignored me and made sure I saw him getting his lovin’ elsewhere. I didn’t realize that dogs acted that much like children.

Speaking of animals, this story goes down in the history books and is being told by request. Last year, we had a girl come visit campus with her parents. They came because of the hurricanes in Houston so the fact that they were there was sort of unfortunate, seeing as they were evacuated and all. So I’d been with them all day and they seemed pretty normal. In the late afternoon I was going to give them a tour of the dorms and they were walking back to meet me at Zellner, our old Welcome Center. The dad walks in first followed shortly by his daughter who – picture this – sprints into our building crying hysterically and throws her arms around her dad. In between sobs and shrieks she tells her dad something very serious because they both run outside towards the parking lot. Obviously curious at this point, we all go over to the window to watch the scene unfold. So dad and daughter go to the car, look inside to see something horrific, and daughter runs and throws her body down on the grass in front of Zona Luce. The mom (who is several yards away) somehow catches on and is bawling in the middle of campus. Not knowing what to do, I walk outside to make sure everything is ok. I’m thinking surely they hit someone with their car or left Grandma in there who has since died or something.

I walk over to mom and ask if everything is ok. To this she replies, “NO!! Ohhhhh ohhhh I just can’t believe it. Ashley has just had such a hard time this year. Ohhhhhh ohhhhhhh…our dog died and then she broke her wrist playing sports and ohhhhhhhhhhhhh. We were supposed to go to the hotel to drop them off but we didn’t ohhhhhhhh and now…. ohhhhhhh no no no no.” I was a bit confused so I asked her more clearly what had happened. She then says, “They died. Oh they died. She’s so upset. Her rats have died in the car.”

Let me get this straight, ma’am. You are causing such a scene that people are walking out of their offices to make sure everything is alright all because some rats died? Oh wow. At this point all we could do was try to keep a straight face as Jacob Martin got a box from somewhere to dispose of the dead rodents. The mom then told me all about how these weren’t just any rats, they were very special rats. In her words, “Buttons just had the best personality and Fuzzy was just….. well, retarded… and they are just irreplaceable.” Riiiight. The best part? Ratty will be at ACU in the fall.

In other news, these two kids came today that had terrible terrible speech impediments. I thought the kid’s name was Doe. It was Joe. It was really sad, but they were homeschooled by their mom who also had a speech impediment. That seems counter intuitive to me. I felt really bad for them but I couldn’t understand them for the life of me. Some people were so good at talking with them … they wouldn’t even really look you in the eye when you talked. You could tell that they were extremely insecure and it was heartbreaking. I wish that sympathy would have helped me understand them better though. Sheesh. We need Sara Craddock or Kylie to come to the rescue.

Walks & Quilts

I just went on a walk. It convinced me that heaven will have a sweet iPod mix and a beautiful walking trail. Maybe even a dog to walk with you. I just love the carefree feeling with music blaring in your ears and a breeze in the air. My playlist was playing our wedding mix and it reminded me for the ump-teenth time how blessed I am. I have a fabulous husband…end of story.

So this might be the funniest thing ever if you don’t already know about it. (Allison, if you read this one too you’ll love this.) Yesterday, we had a group of kids come to sing. Luckily, Laza and I got to give them a tour earlier in the day so we got to know them. It was one of the best groups we had because they just opened up really well and asked good questions (I think they came from pretty conservative backgrounds). Anyway that’s not what’s funny.

We were all strongly suggested to attend their performance that night during which the kids sang some songs, had a devo thought, sang some songs, rapped a little, had an encouraging word or two and sang some more. That’s pretty much the exact chain of events. At the end, however, they called up one of our VPs for a time of blessing. The director asked if anyone had a chair for Phil to sit in at which point we all became nervous. They gave him a present that, as it turns out, was a quilt. He’s then forced to compliment the pattern while they bring in a ghetto white plastic chair. Phil sits down (quilt in arms) and the entire group songs a song just for him. During the song the students come down one by one to touch Phil and whisper blessings in his ear. If you’re imagining an awkward scene in your head, multiply by about 4 and you will be more accurate. It might have been the greatest moment in campus visits history, save the time that the girl’s rats died in her car. Seriously, it was one of the most fun groups, just slightly awkward ending… I think quilts are meant to only be hung on your grandmothers wall.

MK & House

I got to see Mari-Kate on Sunday for the first time in forever. She brought her boyfriend (who I didn’t really get to meet at the wedding seeing as a: she was deathly ill and b: I was getting married = preoccupied) who I decided I really like. I’m really happy for them…but more happy that I got to see her. We have the kind of relationship that is unexplainable. I strongly believe that MK and I were born half boy/half girl. We have a very boy-ish friendship where we say exactly what we think no matter how much it makes the other mad, we spend a few hours apart, and we’re good as new later. Most girls are not like this. Seeing her made me sad that I don’t have her in my life more, and that friendships like that are few and far between. I bawled on the way home from Pocahontas on Sunday because I was blubbering to Taylor how I didn’t know anyone there and how I didn’t have a job yet and how I just wanted to have really good friends like MK there. Think I’m a little stressed? Me too.

Funny story… we had a dad come today who was wearing a “John Hopkins Medical” shirt and I asked if he knew Dr. House. (You would understand this joke if you watch House – if not just stick with me) It got awkward for a second and then the dad said something along the lines of, “No. That show is banned from my home. When I watched it for the first time and saw how his personality was, it did not depict the Christian morals that I am establishing in my home. We do not watch that show in our house because it is trash.” Huh. Well, welcome to ACU! This day sure did get off on a great foot! Yikes…

Uncle Elwood’s funeral was so good. It was funny – exactly how I want my funeral to be. Almost all the siblings (all 9 remaining brothers and sisters) got up and told stories about funny things Elwood did. It was a good time. The best part was that we had 2 southern potlucks back to back. You seriously can’t beat a good C of C potluck.

Elwood the Great & Arkansas

I’ve been dreading this day since I was little. Uncle Elwood was and probably will always be my favorite uncle. It wasn’t that he played games with me or taught me funny songs. I don’t know what it was about him but I loved every time I got to see him. He was always mismatched – and I mean severly. Stripes on stripes, Dickies full-length jumpsuits…he wore it all.

When I was in elementary school in Omaha, Papa, Claxton, and Elwood (the Smiths were very fearful of generic names) all came to pheasant hunt. When I was going to bed one night, I asked my mom if I could take Uncle Elwood to show-and-tell at school the next day. Most kids brought ant farms or gerbils…I wanted to bring my 80-something year old great uncle because he was that special to me.

So the day finally came when my mom called and told me that he’d had a stroke and died. I wasn’t devastated or even really that sad. He was 94 for goodness sake! I don’t blame the man for going to hang out with Jesus, Mother Teresa, and anyone else he finds to party with. It’s just a sad realization that the Smith family reunions I dreaded going to as a kid won’t be around much longer. Unless you have been before you just can’t imagine Aunt Polly’s canned pickles, the random junk my great aunts bring to sell in the family auction, or the acapella gospel hymns we sit around singing for hours. I’m looking forward to this year because I think I have a better appreciation foe the uniqueness of my family. I know Uncle Elwood will be kickin it in heaven singing right along with us.

At any rate, Taylor and I decided to get our dog and gear and head to Pocahontas for the funeral. You know you’re close to memphis when a disgruntled, ghetto Taco Bell employee is yelling in jibberish getting frustrated that you can’t decode it. You know you’re in Arkansas, however, when an old beat up Chevy pick-up rolls down it’s windows from the drive-through and a semi-toothed woman inquires about your dog. Better yet, Toothy gets out of the car, pets our dog, and then asks, “you gon’ get any pups outa ’em?” I wanted to say, “Ma’am, even if he can somehow reproduce again, I highly doubt that we will subject his offspring to a life of backwoods beer pong and ‘coon hunting.”

Addictions, Rangers & Ozarks

So as it turns out I didn’t at all change the look of my blog. Apparently my hard work didn’t pay off when reading my blog anywhere other than my computer. I promise all the fonts looked awesome on my screen though. Crap. I guess the background is still okay.

I ended up buying an iPhone. I love every second of it too. I added about 3 pages of apps in the first few hours and have been adding and deleting since. I knew I had a problem, however, after I woke up in the middle of the night in a sweat worrying about if I downloaded the app or not. This is bad news. Taylor is also slightly addicted – every time I set the phone down for one second he picks it up and starts playing with it. Coolest thing about the phone: the Bloons app. I played it on and now it is right on my phone. Sweet.

This weekend we drove to Fort Worth to go to the Ranger/Yankee game with Luke. The game was on Monday, so we decided to go up on Sunday early to lay out by the pool and hang out with our friends that night. It wasn’t a problem, because Taylor’s parents were on their anniversary trip. We pull up to their house in NRH only to see Wes & Ellen’s car. We called again and told them we were coming to FW (even though we were right outside) and they told us they not only hadn’t gone on the trip but Taylor’s sister and brother-in-law had come to visit and brought their dog. Whoops…ruined that party. It was interesting with Mack and Blanco together but it was fun.

The Ranger game was so bloody hot that I got a full frontage burn on all exposed skin. They also lost 11-1 to the Yankees. Way to go, Rangers! Also, I tweeted about CJ Wilson but yet again he didn’t respond. One day he’ll reply – I know it.

Houston and I gave a tour today to two families: a football player and a music major. Sometime over the course of the tour, Music’s family started talking about some Ozark college whose curfew is 10 p.m. (curfew meaning lights out) and who locks up freshman cars on Sunday night until the next weekend. All week the cars cannot be accessed. When I was alone with Football, I begged him not to compare Ozark with ACU. ACU has rules that seem strict compared to other schools, but Harding for goodness sake doesn’t even let students live off campus or wear shorts to class. That’s just a little bit outrageous. Yes, you do have curfew one year at ACU and yes you are required to attend chapel daily, but at least we don’t make cookie cutter students – you can at least have a zillion piercings, tattoos and a mohawk while you do it. Thank goodness for ACU letting us be our own person and have our own beliefs. I wish next time Music would save the Ozark talk for when Football isn’t around – it sort of ruins the experience.