Thanks, Vladimir

Well, if you’re reading this – chances are you’re looking at the most recept “change” to the layout of my blog. I recently upgraded the blog to WordPress 1.5 which allows you to download and install custom themes and templates.

I found this one and though it was “gorgeous – just gorgeous”. It was created (and freely distributed, mind you) by this guy named “Vladimir Simovic”. (view his site here)

I can’t say much about ole’ Vladimir because his site isn’t in English – but all I can say is “Thanks Vladimir!”.

Hope you like the new look. More to come soon – but sleep is calling.

For the Kingdom,
Fred

Stuff (for lack of a better word) happens

READER WARNING:
This is a long post … read it ONLY if you wanna laugh at some insane events and if you’ve ever had a really bad set of days and want to relate!

OK – let me begin this post by confessing loudly … the last several days, I’ve been a complete jerk and wipeout. Combine some work stress, personal frustration, overall lack of rest with a long string of little “freak things” – well, it’s not a good combination. Still no excuse to behave in such a way that nobody wants to be around you. My sister was IM’ing me earlier and she said “remember God’s grace is sufficient” to which I replied … “yeah, I think I had a block on that yesterday”. But, I’m clearing the stream and it’s flowing again.

So why even start this story – ohh … I figure somebody has had days or weeks like this, you’ll relate – and well … you may even laugh!

I can’t say exactly when it started. I guess it would be last Thursday evening. We did a server upgrade for our hosting company – although I went to bed, I had my cell phone next to the bed in case of an emergency. I really never slept – lightly – kept checking it … logging onto email via the cell phone (lying there, trying to sleep) to see if the upgrade started, completed, etc. You gotta understand – these things can make or break your week. Luckily, it went pretty good – only one customer had issues, and that was predicatable.

Friday was a crazy day – recovering from the upgrade – I was exhausted, but in a common, horrific lack of judgement, I opted to stay up late watching JAG and NUMBERS on CBS instead of going to bed early – something I greatly regretted since I was to spend the entire day Saturday hopping around Wild Adventures theme park w/ the kiddies. That long day of pushing strollers, carrying kids, and riding rides concluded with a dangerous, fall-asleep-3-times-at-the-wheel drive home past midnight.

Sunday – the Lord’s day (ha!). No day of rest here. Get up at 6:00 – lead worship practice at 7:45, AM service at 8:30, go to practice at my church at 9:00 – lead worship and make it through a really long service – TOO LONG – didn’t leave the church until 1:00. I just wanted to go to sleep – but there was no groceries at home, so off the family goes to eat lunch w/ some friends.

Here’s where it starts getting nasty. I’m already “ill” that I’ve been in “church” for over 5 HOURS and I hardly feel close to God. (does that teach us something?). Now, instead of driving home and getting a quick nap, I realize Joy needs me to take the van (and the kids) home so she can go to the grocery store. Oh well – the kids are already in the van – so I’ll just take the van and Joy can take my car … “It’s over there in the parking lot – keys are in it … just take my car”. In a not-so-friendly kinda way, I jump in the van and take the drive to our house. Get out – unload the 3 kids … send the boys upstairs for a nap, start changing Rebekah to get her down for her nap … the phone won’t keep ringing .. finally, I answer it and it’s Joy … “Fred – I don’t have any keys to your car”, she says – as I feel the weight of my keychain hanging in my back pocket.

As if it’s her fault, I bark something mean (probably, I don’t remember) and start screaming for the kids to come back downstairs – time to pack them back up in the car and go get Momma. This saga ended, giving me a beautiful 30 minute nap – only to have to wake up, take car seats out of my car, unplug/packup my keyboard, keyboard stand, and wires – load them in the car and haul my equipment to “Rafters” target=”_blank”– a local blues bar down in the village where our church is having a Sunday PM worship outreach called “Oasis”. I’m hardly in the condition to be leading ANYONE in worship.

Oasis … well, let’s just say we’ve got some work to do. We had a great guy named “TJ” to play drums with us … great, fun guy, and very talented … except we’re on a tiny stage in a tiny bar … and those drums were louder than anything imaginable … well … OK, the floor monitor in front of me was louder than the drums. We had no real time to rehearse (again), and although I was lucky enough to know nearly half of the songs, the drummer had only heard 1 or 2 of them ever. Let’s just say “it wasn’t very tight”.

Enough of that – time to get home – our next server upgrade is starting around 10:00 PM Sunday evening … here we go again. Will I ever sleep? The upgrade goes fairly well – only I spend the rest of Monday trying to get a login script that affects every customer working. Can you say “fun”?

Of course – I forget the other things that just get under your skin. Like the incredible importance of my main “SuperDrive” on the studio/media computer … it’s the one we use to make backups, burn DVD masters, CD-R masters, and transfers … but it’s not working … what’s this … a black, rubber band … some kind of belt – oh no .. and now, some felt circle thing is falling out of the drive – oh well … there’s a few days of downtime to take the computer to the closest Apple/Mac tech, plus a few hours drive. Great.

Oh yeah – the final one – our van (gosh, it’s only got 60K miles on it) … Toyota must have decided to skimp on the factory tires – they’re toasted. Off to Wal-Mart – time to fork out the dough for (4) new tires – and a good 2-hour wait … let’s just drop it off and come back tonight.

So – I go back to Wal-mart with the family – and I’m actually excited – I found a 14-foot trampoline on clearance there, and the boys have wanted their own trampoline since they were old enough to say “dah-dah”. This is classic shopping horror tales though – Joy gets the trampoline and is checking out @ Sporting Goods. I’m standing in line at Wal-mart’s automotive checkout. There’s only one guy in front of me – great! Hmm … and all he wants is an oil change – yeah …

10-minutes later … I’m still standing there … and I hear those words “I’ll have to re-enter this – it’s not going in” … I’m thinking (in foul language, no doubt) “***** computers”. The Walmart guy’s fancy little handheld computer that he spent 10 minutes asking this guy a gazillion questions about his make, model, oil preference, mother’s maiden name (just kidding) was all for nothing – so, they have to start all over again.

FINALLY – the guy places his order and it’s my turn. All I want to do is “checkout”. I say “I wanna pay for the Toyota Sienna”. No problem – scan, scan, scan, scan .. that’ll be $300+. I whip out my glorious VISA and SWIPE away. Grind, grind, grind – the register prints out a slip of paper that says “call issuing bank”. What – you gotta be kidding me – try it again. Same response – call issuing bank … declined.

Oh – did I fail to mention that I’m now doing this with ALL THREE KIDS – I’m holding Rebekah in my arms, and Jon Michael and Will are running around in circles, screaming, knocking tires over, and trying to pull the fire extinguisher off the wall. They seriously need someone to snatch them up, take them outside and instruct them in the “ways of the Lord” – – – but not me – I ain’t losing my place in line … Joy is long-gone to the car to get the trampoline loaded up.

So, what can I do … I leave my place in line (a bit embarrased) and go to the customer service counter and use their phone to call BankOne. Instead of the usual barrage of automated prompts, I’m overwhelmed with a never-ending discourse of all the previous weeks transactions in a recording … “purchased from … on this date … this amount” … there is no escape key – there is no “press 0 for an operator” … just a never-ending readout of my statement. Finally – when it’s all over, it says “Press 1 if you recognize all of these transactions” … and then I finally get into the “on hold” queue for a representative.

Running e-commerce sites, I’m all too aware of credit card fraud, fraud alert freezes, etc. I figure that’s it – and sure enough … Joy was checking out w/ the trampoline, with my checking out on the same account with a large “tires” purchase. That, coupled with gas stations, restaurants, and the theme park we’d been at on Saturday (which the credit card company referred to as “WILD ADVENTURES, CIRCUS, THEME PARKS, and FORTUNE TELLERS” … BankOne’s automated fraud alerts were triggered to protect my account. OK – I understand and appreciate that – but this crazy family actually make all those purchases … so unfreeze my account .. PLEASE!

The lady was so sweet, apologized, and reminded me that it was for my protection. I told her I understood – and she said “OK – you’re good to go”. I hang up and now my place in line is gone, and there are now 3 people in front of me.

So I wait again (luckily, Joy has now come back and rescued me .. or should I say, rescued the kids, at this point). Finally, the guy rings me up … guess what. NO DICE. “Call Issuing Bank”. OK – at this point, I wonder how Jesus would NOT have been SCREAMING. I’m sure HE would’ve handled it – oh how I’m not the one here who is ‘without sin’. I finally choose an alternate payment method and move on.

Joy wants the receipt for some curtain rods she’d bought earlier – she wants to make an exchange. The receipt isn’t in my pocket – didn’t I give it to Joy in the driveway? No – she reminds me that I had it in my pocket. So the furious search begins (keep in mind, usually, a missing receipt wouldn’t be a big deal, but now .. .it’s the great tribulation). I empty all my pockets (with great motion, mind you). I stamp back into the store and look on the floor. I finally give up – I must’ve left it on the desk at home – but I could swear I gave it to Joy in the driveway. Finally, just for the fun of it – I look in her purse, and there it is.

Enough is enough – today is a new day. I got a decent amount of rest, and vacation is now on the radar. You know – in all of this, I just fell asleep asking God to teach me to handle things like this more graciously – I asked my kids to forgive me for being such a grumpy person to be around. God’s just shaking his head, thinking “he’s not quite ready yet”. But – at least I can say “I failed”. Today, I’m just ready to pick up the pieces and rejoice that it’s a new day.

OK – if you stuck with me through this novel, you either think I’m the most worthless person on planet, or you’re thinking “man, I can relate to that all day long”. Hope you enjoyed it … writing it felt great, and I’m totally amused by it all now.

For the Kingdom,
Fred