Sunday, November 30, 2008

Moving On

It's been an enjoyable few months writing posts on this blog, but I've decided this will be the last on this blog. I enjoy writing, and I could probably do it all day. But there are other priorities I've decided to dedicate more time to in an attempt to simplify my life a little and focus on the things that are most important.

There are other blog posts I hoped to write and never got around to. Like "Whisper School" -- how to help those members of society that seem to have a megaphone lodged in their vocal chords learn how to communicate in quiet tones. Maybe I'll get to those some day. In fact, my dream semi-retirement life would be to have enough funds set aside that I would not HAVE to work at a regular job and could spend time being with my family, doing things we enjoy, and writing in my spare time.

Whether that day comes in 5 years of 25 years has a lot to do with those "more important" things that I need to focus my attention on. Here's hoping for five!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Shattering the Scale

As I stepped on our bathroom scale yesterday for a daily (or more often) check-in, it literally broke. Broke as in cracked, shattered-inside, busted. The irony is my family has been doing a "Biggest Loser" contest and I was checking in to see how I was doing. I had to laugh out loud -- not many people can say they have broken their scale in the midst of a dieting program.

I have been trying to decide what the message is my scale was trying to send me. I think it could be any one of the following:

1) The weight charts are correct -- "morbidly" obese.
2) You are great just the way you are, overweight or not...so quit worrying about it and live your life.
3) Maybe if you quit weighing yourself so much and actually started exercising, you'd see some results!
4) Let's pick this diet thing back up after the holidays
5) Learn to laugh at yourself.

I don't know which message the scale intended to send. But it is not everyday I can say that I feel "smashing." :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Someone Knew

A few weeks ago, I did something I regreted as soon as I offered. There were some boxes at my company's office that needed to be delivered to Phoenix, and I offered to take them there because I was heading to a meeting in Phoenix a few days later. When the day to deliver them came, I realized what I had volunteered for...I was thinking of 3 or 4 lightweight boxes, and instead it was at least 10 very heavy boxes full of booklets. The place they needed to go was on the 4th story of a building and the parking area was a long way from the entrance. Even if I had wanted to move them, they wouldn't all fit in my car. So, I ignored it and told myself I would do it later. A week or two passed and every day I noted that I needed to get that done. But I have been so busy and the task frankly felt overwhelming to work into my schedule. The pile of boxes was unsightly at my office, and reminded me daily of the need to fulfil my obligation. But one day, I arrived and the boxes were gone. I still don't know who moved them for sure, and they probably don't realize what a relief that was to me, but in my crazy life, they were the angels in my life this week.

This is an Angel Friday post submission http://realangelsreallife.blogspot.com/

Electronic Idol

While we waited in a 20 minute line at the entrance to Disneyland last month with my family, I noticed a father with his wife and two young kids in the line next to us. He was working on his cell phone/PDA while they waited. The kids looked excited and, like most others, were busy playing with each other, laughing, and doing the things kids do. Without looking up from his PDA, the father would periodically call out "stop that", "hold still", or other prompts to his children. After about 10 minutes of doing this, he had enough and really let them have it. This time, he put down his phone, grabbed them by the shoulder, and said "we are at Disneyland, the happiest place on earth, and you are acting terrible. I wan't you to stop it right now and act appropriate." Then he want back to work on his phone.

He wasn't the only father or mother I saw similarly engaged with his cell phone over the next few days. I saw people checking e-mail on the Peter Pan ride, surfing the Internet while in line for lunch and making palm pilot notes while waiting for the parade to start. I also heard more than one of them scold their children with a firm, "We are at the happiest place on earth, now behave!"

I've been that kind of dad before. In fact, I check e-mail so compulsively on my Blackberry, that I decided to disable it before going on vacation this year so that I wouldn't be tempted to pull it out during a break in the action to do some business. Still, I found myself using the Internet feature to check the weather or updates on the election coverage. More than once, my wife has had to remind me that when we are out on a date, it is not the right time to send text messages, update Facebook or check in on a baseball game. More than once, I've heard my wife say she is ready to throw my laptop into the trash so that I will pay some attention to the kids or to the family. More than once, I've stayed up too late into the night returning e-mail or working on a proposal, or worse, mindlessly surfing the internet to catch up on the latest sports stats, political polls or weird news that happens in the world. And more than once, I've sat on the sofa, yelling at my kids to get back in bed while I work on my computer.

But that day at Disneyland, it really hit me. I watched the faces of the young kids, anticipating what was next in their "happiest place on earth" expeirence, only to be tuned out by their parents. What could have been so important that it kept that father's full attention from being paid to his kids? I could make the justifications for him -- if he didn't work, they wouldn't get to go to Disneyland because they wouldn't be able to afford it. The only way he could get the day off would be to answer a few e-mails while he was in line. They were only waiting to get into the park--that was not the important part of the Disney experience, etc.

I could make excuses for him because I've made the same ones myself. But it all became so clear to me at that moment what an act of self-betrayal that was. It has nothing to do with making a living or sacrificing time. Instead, it has to do with worshiping the electronic idols of the world. By worship, I don't mean that any of us would intentionally choose our Blackberry over our children if given the choice (although, there are certainly days that would be a tempting trade). But, what are we giving up by being connected to the online world, and what does that say about our devotions? Who is being cheated out of our time and full attention? How many kid's bedtime stories have been rushed or skipped so a parent can get online and get caught up with world? How many have stayed up too late too often by being too distracted by the never-ending world of information? How many marriages have been deprived of time that could have been spent talking or doing something together? How many better things could have been done with time that has been wasted in cyberspace?

At the risk of sounding dramatic, I worry that we are facing a plague. A plague of deterioration of marriage and family that has never seen the likes of the damage the online world has to offer. Anyone can publish a website these days, write or read opinions on any topic, conduct nearly any type of business, and could literally spend all day and all night on the Internet without running out of interesting things to do. To complicate matters further, we sometimes get fooled into thinking we are truly helping others by our online presence. We give someone a needed lift through an encouraging e-mail. We take time to promote the cause of freedom through an inspiring blog post. We fulfill our civic duty by keeping up with current events. We reward ourselves with much-needed "me" time by relaxing and exploring some areas of interest on the Internet to unwind from a busy day. And sometimes those things are true.

Take away, however, the justifications and look at what is really happening. Is a person really more uplifted emotionally by staying home and reading an online note from a friend who understands what it is like to struggle with depression than to get outside for some fresh air and a walk with people he/she loves? Is being caught up with the current news really more important than helping a young child with homework? Have we really worked so hard at the things that are important in life to justify an hour of mindless web-surfing, or are our lives relatively easy compared with the physical and emotional burdens some of our ancestors faced?

There is a saying about good, better, best. If we can get diverted into spending our valuable time doing "good", we sometimes never get to the better or the best. Consequently, "good" diversions can be just as destructive as bad ones. And the scary thing is, we all can see pretty plainly the evils of the online world -- identify theft, pornography, hate speech, etc. But maybe we never saw this part coming -- keep us all so engaged and tangled in seemingly nobel things that we disconnect from the real world around us.

I find that easiest to do in the evening. Which is why I've stopped pulling out my computer after work unless abosolutely necessary. I know if I pull it out I will not exercise, I will not lay by my kids to help them wind down at night, I will get distracted by something on my computer that will take me away from my family.

I've got a long way to go, but I have had an awakening. Instead of seeing my Blackberry and my laptop as my friends that I long to return to whenever we are apart, I now see them for what they are -- electronic idols, trying to zap away my time, my life and my real relationships.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Making a Difference

I was driving through our neighborhood the other day, in a hurry, and felt particularly annoyed by the speed humps on the road between my house and the local elementary school. Then I remembered how they got there.

When we moved into the neighborhood about seven years ago, my wife decided that vehicles were going too fast on the road that passes by our house. It was hard to argue with that...some went speeds that must have been around 60 mph.

The unusual thing about it was what my wife said she was going to do. "I'm going to get speed bumps put in on this road," she said. Now, she didn't know anything about how to get speed humps put in, but she wasn't very worried about that. Instead, it might as well have already been done...she would figure it out and make it happen.

We found out it wasn't an easy process. It required petitions by the home owners (who are often different from the people living in the house at the time), securing city funds, street map checking to ensure the road isn't classified as a major passageway for emergency vehicles, and many other requirements. Undaunted, and with little help from me, she went around the neighborhood and began collecting signatures. Not everyone thinks getting speed humps is a good idea. And tracking down owners of rental properties takes quite a bit of persistence. However, after a month or so, she had the needed signatures and paperwork into the city. And shortly thereafter, we had speed humps strategically placed up and down the road between our house and the school.

They have become such a natural part of the subdivision now that I sometimes do not even think about them. But when they stood out to me the other day when I was in a hurry, I had almost forgotten my wife had anything to do with them. When I remembered, I smiled. I thought about how neat it was that she had put her mind to it and got it accomplished, even though it was quite a project.

That is how my wife is. She decides what is going to be done and doesn't really care what logic says about it or what the odds are. She just figures that she is going to find a way to get it done.

Sometimes.

There are other things she sets her mind to that don't happen, even when the odds are not nearly as stacked against the thing as they were with the speed humps. For example, she has a list, as I'm sure many people do, of things she wants to get done, many of which are things that she feels need to become daily habits. Some may be new years resolutions. Yet, unlike the speed humps, they never get conquered. One of those items has been, for nearly as long as I've known her, exercising. You would never guess it to look at her. She can eat whatever she wants and hardly gains a pound. Even after seven pregnancies and getting a bit older, she is still very trim and is very attractive. But she has never, in the 20 years I have now known her, made exercise a regular habit, even though for much of the time she has talked about it (for non-weight related reasons, such as overall fitness, strengthening a weak back, etc.)

I imagine we are all like that a bit. We get some things done that we put our minds to while others go unaccomplished. But not everyone has what it takes to get impossible things done with such persistence as does my wife.

So, what makes the difference whether something is a "speed hump" or whether it is an "exercise habit"? I wish I knew the answer to that. If someone can do anything they set their mind to, why do they then decide not to do some of those things, even after making a big deal about how they are going to accomplish something new.

It isn't ability. It isn't focus. It isn't strong will.

I think it has to do with who we care most about. The speed humps affected our children and others in the neighborhood. The speeding cars represented a current and future threat to our children. That is easy to rally around, to make time for, to beat the odds for.

But how about when it comes to ourselves? Do we care about ourselves as much as we do our children? Are we worth taking care of? Can we beat the odds for our own benefit?

Sound selfish? I don't think so. Fail to take care of yourself, and think about how many people will be worried, how many people will suffer, how much less good you will be able to do in the world.

But set those aside for a while. You are someone else's child. You come from parents, whether still living or deceased, who care just as much about you and your well being as you do about your own children. Would you do it for them?

You are a child of God who loves and cares about you and wants you to love and take care of yourself, whether emotionally, physically or spiritually. Would you do it for Him?

It's our choice--when things enter our minds that we know we need to do, that we even want to do or promise ourselves that we will do. But when are the times we treat them like "speed humps" and conquer the odds? And when are the times they conquer us?

If your answers are like mine, the person we most often let down is ourselves. We are the last to get much-needed attention. We suffer on with conditions that limit us while we go about trying to help others. But the concerning part is that it may have nothing at all about being self-less and service-oriented. It may have to do with refusing to do what it takes to take care of the one person who we ought to love because so many others dear to us depend upon-- ourselves.

The next time we drive over a speed hump, I hope it jars something within us to heal and nurture that part of us that is in the back of our minds as needing attention but always gets put on the back burner. For me, that is my weight and cholesterol. What is it for you? Whatever it is, I hope we can garner up whatever it takes to get it done and make it as lasting a part of our lives as the speed humps on the street between my house and the local school.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Throw Me an Innertube

Back to the penguins on my shower curtain...one of the most curious of the bunch was floating in an innertube. Sure, it was cute, but what was it doing in an innertube? Now, me in an innertube would make a lot of sense...I might sink (I know they say fat floats, but for some reason I am quite capable of sinking). But a penguin can swim like ... well, a penguin.

That made me think about how we are sometimes like this penguin -- we tell ourselves we need something artifical, something additional, to survive, when we really have the ability to do so already within us.

Ever think about how many times a typical person tells himself/herself daily that he/she needs something artifical in order to make it? Listen around you for a while and you'll hear it everywhere:

1) I need a cup of coffee to wake me up and help me focus
2) I need some tylenol to take away my headache
3) I need an anti-anxiety pill to calm my nerves
4) I need a cigarette to help me cope with stress
5) I need a Pepsi for an energy boost
6) I need some alcohol to help me loosen up (or celebrate, or help me sleep, or help me get through the night)
7) I need some study snacks to help me get my homework done tonight (one of my favorite lines while I was in school...which means doughnuts, icecream, cookies, etc.)
8) I need a sleeping pill to help me fall asleep/stay asleep
9) I need a diet pill to help me lose weight
10) I need some chocolate to ... (just about anything can fill in this blank)

Now, I am certainly not against using medicine to help treat diseases. But, it really is fascinating how many times we send ourselves messages in a single day that we cannot do something without the artifical help of something we eat, drink, inhale or swallow.

"I can't do this myself...I need to take/eat/drink ___________ in order to _________________"

For some of us, this involves consuming a steady stream of stimulants, depressants, other drugs and junk food from sunrise to sunset all based on a schedule of needs we feel we cannot meet any other way. I worry about what all of this does physically to our bodies. But, I worry even more about the message we send ourselves by doing this:

"I cannot do this without..."

You can't wake up without coffee? Yes, you can. Millions of people do it everyday. Debate all you want about whether coffee helps or hurts the human body, but I believe that convincing yourself that you can't wake up, be alert or be nice to others without a morning cup is a dangerous road emotionally. Yes, you can wake up...your body and your mind have the power to do it and you don't need coffee to do it for you.

You can't calm your nerves without a cigarette? Yes, you can. You did it before you started smoking. Millions of people around you do it every day. You've fallen into the mental trap of telling yourself that, long-term harmful effects aside, you need a cigarette in order to get through the day. But, you don't. And don't tell me that you smoke becuase you like it and you choose to do it. You may tell yourself or others this on the surface, but you know deep down, when you face the real you, that you do it because you believe you need it...it is scary to face the world without it. You don't know if you really can stop it. Afterall, if you really believe yourself when you say you smoke out of choice, then why have you tried to stop before? It may be nice to tell yourself that you smoke today because you want to. But, when no one is looking, you have to admit that you don't believe you can live without it today. The amazing truth, however, is that you don't need it -- you are strong enough to make it without cigarettes. YOU can calm your nerves and be just fine. YOU can deal with the stress life presents. Many people with weaker wills than you have done it. You have the power within you to do it too.

Can't quit eating ice cream when you are stressed? Yes, you can. While nothing may help make it through a difficult finals-preparation study night (or fight with a significant other) like an entire carton of Ben & Jerry's, you can do just as well tonight without it. There are people all around the world who make it thorugh stressful nights without downing a carton of B&J--it is just the "innertube" you've convinced yourself you need because you won't let yourself believe you can do it on your own. Allow yourself to really look at what you are thinking and believing, and you'll see that it likely goes something like this:

"Something bad is happening, and it is really stressful."
"This is scary/sad/terrible, and I can't deal with it."
"What can I do to deal with this?"
"I need Ben and Jerry's"
"But, I probably shouldn't...it's got 200% of the daily value of saturated fat in one carton...and I always eat a whole carton. Plus I had a cheeseburger for lunch, so I definately don't need any more saturated fat."
"But, what is more important to me right now-- fighting off heart disease that could come 20 years from now, or getting through tonight?"
"That is a hard call...I mean, I could develop cancer or get in an accident 5 years from now, in which case the heart disease won't have mattered all that much, and I could definately use the escape into Ben and Jerry's tonight. And, how much plaque can one carton cause?"
"I can't handle all of this decision making and gloom and doom"
"Where is the Ben and Jerry's...maybe I'll just eat 1 serving's worth."
"(One serving later) How can anyone say that 1 serving of Ben and Jerry's is 1/4 of this carton...it must be mislabeled, and I'm feeling better already, so I better keep going."
"I probably shouldn't have eaten the whole carton, but I'll resist the temptation next time..tonight it helped me get through the stress."

So, here is a call to ditch the innertubes, whatever shape or form they may take in your life. You don't need them. They don't really help you, in fact they hurt you more than just physically. For, every day you pull out the innertube and float on the surface while the other penguins swim, you further convince yourself that you are not strong enough to make it without artifical help. You believe that if you swallow some "liquid courage" (or pill-shaped, or smoked-courage, or ice-cream courage) for just another day, maybe you will be strong enough tomorrow.

But the truth is that most people who eat becuase of stress today will do it again tomorrow. Most who smoke their "last cigarette" today, smoke their next one tomorrow.

How do you ditch the innertube? No one knows but you, and it comes one decision at a time. I've seen people get off of terribly-addictive drugs in a day without ever having a relapse. I've seen others fight it for years before making it clean for a whole year. But the strength is in the battle. And it all begins in the mind, one decision at a time.

The next time you reach for your own personal innertube, saying "I need _________ to do _____________", think about the penguin on my shower curtain. Toss it aside with a vow to do it yourself. Tell yourself, "If this is the best life can throw at me, then I've already won." We can wake up, we can be alert, we can manage stress, we can relax, we can fall asleep, we can face confrontation and discouragement ... all of our own power. Don't give that power away for another day.

Toss the innertube, and swim.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

10 Things I Never Wanted to Know About You

When I was entering college, I didn't even know what the Internet was (apparently, Al Gore hadn't done a good enough job yet of advertising his invention :). I remember sitting in the University library trying to navigate my first Web page, telling my soon-to-be wife, "this thing will never catch on." It was too slow, cumbersome, and difficult to find things.

How things have changed in a decade or two. Now, we do most of our shopping for birthdays and Christmas on the Internet and actually going somewhere, rather than doing it online, is kind of a pain.

And we all have Blogs. I swore I'd never read one when I first heard the name. Not knowing it was a combination of Web plus Log, I was convinced if someone couldn't think of a better name than "blog", it wasn't worth looking into. Now, I write in one and so do more and more people every day. It's kind of nice...you almost don't have to talk to people anymore...just check into their blog every few days and you are instantly caught up on their life. And sometimes you know more than you may have ever wanted to know about their life. I guess it's the Jerry Springer effect--somehow it is easier to share things with the entire world that you would normally be too embarrassed to tell anyone privately.

In this spirit, here are 10 things I hope to never find on your blog(my apologies to any friends or family who have actually posted any of these things in their blogs...I assure you this is not written about you ...I'm talking about all those other weird people out there).

10) How many pimples you popped on your spouse's back, face, or any other body part yesterday.

9) Anything about body parts, for that matter. Or how smelly you or someone else you love is.

8) Pictures of your naked children, especially if they are placed in cabbage leaves or other strange things.

7) Anything that mentions your affiliation with, support of or sympathy for Oprah or anything she endorses.

6) Thanks for posting your favorite music on your blog. If I would like to listen to it, I will click on it, but please give me my agency so I can read your blog in peace rather than force-feeding me music I would never choose to enjoy. After all, I may have vowed never to listen to Enya again, and I wouldn't want to be forced to break my promise just because I'm visiting your blog (I know I could mute the sound, but even with the sound muted, some really repulsive artists somehow magically get their music waves into your system...probably through your fingers or something).

5) All of your pet peeves, spelled out in great detail. Come on, give us something uplifting to read. This one guy went on and on about hating camping and stuff...it was like he couldn't say anything positive...

4) Things that make my wife feel like she is not as good of a mother as you are. So, please keep it real and post lots of pictures of your over-piled laundry, dirty rooms, and messy children. Also, mention how you yell at them occasionally, ignore them while you do self-indulgent things and any other parenting imperfections you can think of, so that we will know you are human too.

3) That someone else MADE you write a blog. You know, like the following entry:
"There I was, minding my own business, when the entire country of China called and demanded that I create a blog. I really didn't want to do it, but since they insisted, I will now begin writing about all my personal business for all the world to see.(By the way, when they called, China did mention what a great writer I am, which is why then INSISTED, I create this blog)".

2) Anything about your new multilevel marketing company, how it sells itself or you'd like to help me become rich, for a small startup fee.

1) Entries that should have been marked: "Warning: For women only", but weren't. I'll go ahead and make you a promise: If you'll mark it that way, I promise I won't read that entry. This, more than maybe anything else, may help solve the "Wow, I REALLY, REALLY didn't want to know that" syndrome.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

High Security

I understand the need for security in many important places -- like airports, court rooms, and banks. I might even understand if you wanted to put security around a really good donught shop, because we've got to protect our country's most important assets. But one place I had never really considered to be all that high of a security need is a hospital.

After all, who wants to steal a sick person? Or hurt one...I mean, what's the point...they are already in the hospital. I understand protecting the baby unit, but the rest of the hospital I think is pretty much fine with a Wal-Mart greeter at the front door.

And I never had experienced all that much security at a hospital until a recent trip to visit my brother, who was pretenting to be sick (it is amazing the attention you can get if you tell people in an emergency room that your heart is doing strange things...you better mean it if you say it, because they are not letting you go until they put you through all kinds of tests).

I wasn't that surprised when we were asked to sign in at the security desk...that seemed fair enough. But it didn't stop there. They called the room we were going to visit to tell them we were coming. Next they wanted to see a photo ID to verify identity. My mother, who was with us, didn't have her ID with her, so she had to fill out a lengthy identify verification form. It was quite a process. After that, they took a digitial picture of each of us and printed it out on a temporary ID badge that they asked us to wear at all times. At this point, I was a little bit annoyed. We were going to visit my brother, who wasn't really even sick, and they were acting like we were getting clearance to visit the President.

But just when I was feeling sorry for myself, I noticed a guy nearby that had it worse than we did. He was leaning over a table, wearing a hospital gown, going through some sort of inspection that was much more thorough than ours. I didn't know whether to be nervous that we weren't done with the security screening and would be next in line, or whether to be relieved that we apparently got the expedited version. We put on our badges and hurried past, and no one ever stopped us, so I guess that guy just got the short end of the stick (or whatever the case may be).

The whole experience made me think though...if we could just hire the hospital people to be in charge of keeping us secure, we might be in good hands. You wouldn't have to worry whether your children were safe at school, because the hospital security people would have it covered (although checking in and out each day may take hours). You could shop at the grocery store without concern that someone was going to break in, without signing in, and cause all kinds of violence. There would be no weirdos at the library anymore, because security would screen them out. And there would be no concern that your jelly doughnut would be taken by prior customers--security would have it sitting there waiting for you, locked in an airtight container.

I guess the only drawback would be where to get all the money to pay for this kind of security. There isn't that kind of money in schools, grocery stores, libraries or doughnut shops.

Maybe that should tell us something about hospitals and hospital bills.

But at least all the sick and wounded can sleep well tonight, knowing no one is going to break in an steal them.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Because

It is not only a great Beatles song, but it is probably the best answer to nearly every question that involves the word why.

Parents have long tried to find the right answers for the never-ending inquiries posed by their children. "Why do we have to do chores?" "Why is the sky blue?" "Why does Jimmy get five gifts from Santa at Christmas every year when we only get one?"

Although we may get frustrated or even annoyed when our children ask all of their "why" questions, it is ironic that we turn right around and pose similar questions to our Maker. "Why, when I am trying my hardest to live right, does life keep presenting challenge upon challenge?" "Why does my neighbor find a great job making lots of money when I am barely scraping by on a small salary with no benefits?" "Why did God save the life of the ill child when his parents prayed in faith for a miracle, yet mine passed away?" "Why would a loving God allow some to be born into a free country and others into captivity?" "Why would I be asked by my church to teach the six-year-olds in Sunday School?"

It is easy for us to see how our own children are missing the big picture when they bombard us with puzzling "why" questions. It is not always as easy to see from an eternal perspective how God must feel toward us when we ask the "why" questions of the grown up world.

I leared in a family studies class once that the best answer parents can give small children when they ask "why" is the simple word, "because." Although not usually successful in quelling curiosity when spoken angrily or mockingly, a simple, humble "because" really does work remarkably well with young ones. Try it sometime...

Child: "Why is the sky blue"
Parent (Lovingly): "Because, sweetheart"

So, why does "because" satisfy the curioisity of young ones? Maybe the answer is more important than we realize. Young children trust their parents and believe they know all of the answers. Knowing that their parents have a handle on the mysteries of life is reassuring and can allow them to go back to what they were doing. As long as they know their parents know the answer, they don't need much more of a detailed explanation. They have faith.

But we adults are sometimes possess too much critical thinking to always be satisfied with "because" for an answer. We want to know the real reason behind the answer. We want it to make sense for us logically. However, consider the following examples from the scriptures about how we can certainly put even more trust in God that there is a reason to our grown-up "whys" than our children put in us when try to satisfy their "why" questions:

1) Matthew 7:11
"If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father in Heaven give good things to them that ask him?"

2) Malachi 3:13-18
13 Your words have been astout against me, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee?
14 Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?
15 And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.
16 Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.
17 And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.
18 Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.


3) D&C 6:34
"Fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail."

4) D&C 122:7
"And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."

5) Joseph Smith History 1: Footnoe: Account of Oliver Cowdery
“I shall not attempt to paint to you the feelings of this heart, nor the majestic beauty and glory which surrounded us on this occasion; but you will believe me when I say, that earth, nor men, with the eloquence of time, cannot begin to clothe language in as interesting and sublime a manner as this holy personage. No; nor has this earth power to give the joy, to bestow the peace, or comprehend the wisdom which was contained in each sentence as they were delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit! Man may deceive his fellow-men, deception may follow deception, and the children of the wicked one may have power to seduce the foolish and untaught, till naught but fiction feeds the many, and the fruit of falsehood carries in its current the giddy to the grave; but one touch with the finger of his love, yes, one ray of glory from the upper world, or one word from the mouth of the Savior, from the bosom of eternity, strikes it all into insignificance, and blots it forever from the mind. The assurance that we were in the presence of an angel, the certainty that we heard the voice of Jesus, and the truth unsullied as it flowed from a pure personage, dictated by the will of God, is to me past description, and I shall ever look upon this expression of the Savior’s goodness with wonder and thanksgiving while I am permitted to tarry; and in those mansions where perfection dwells and sin never comes, I hope to adore in that day which shall never cease."

So, the next time a young child persists with "why" questions, try the simple answer: "because." Likewise, the next time we find ourselves posing the same question to our Maker, let us listen for the same, loving answer and the wonderful reassurances that are contained within it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Camping, Swimming or Dogs -- Part III

Before moving on to dogs, just in case anyone doubted the previous post about swimming, check out this link http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=53127 (pay special attention to the tips at the bottom of the article!). Happy swimming, everyone!

Now, this next subject is perhaps the most controversial. Make fun of water and camping all you want, but don't insult Fido (or Rex, Spot, or Fifi). So, I will approach this topic gingerly (we once had a dog named Ginger, by the way, but the pun wasn't intended).

I lived in a small town for a while named Kennesaw, Georgia. They had a law in that town that every resident had to own a gun (seriously). Perhaps not surprisingly, they had one of the lowest crime rates in the nation. Not all towns in Georgia had that law, but they all shared an unwritten law: Each household in Georgia must own a dog. Or at least it seemed that way to me while I was there as a missionary for my church.

Our form of transporation was often walking or bicycling, neither of which are good options when nearly every home has at least one canine. I hadn't though much about it until I was walking one afternoon down a beautiful, tree-lined road in a small Atlanta suburb. The city bus had just dropped us off, and we headed on foot toward the home at which we had an appoitnment. A few homes before our desitnation, a large dog appeared at the end of the driveway. He was not happy to see us at all and made it known by his angry barking. Knowing I wasn't the worlds biggest dog fan, my missionary parter called out "here boy!" As soon as I heard those words, I knew we were in trouble. This dog didn't want to play, he wanted to, as a dog lover would say, protect. Attack is probably a more accurate word. He came at us full steam ahead, and my partner, athletic guy that he was, climbed on top of a car. He laughed as he continued, "Here boy...get him!".

Let me pause here to say that I am not a climber. When I was a kid I never climbed trees or fences. I try to stay away from ladders or anything else with steps. So, climbing a car, which has no steps, was not really an option for me. At the time, I didn't know what I would do for a living, but something in me must have known I was destined to be a therapist. What did I do? I talked that dog out of attacking me. I leaned against the car, heart racing, and spoke softly and kindly to him, telling him that he didn't really need to be so angry and that I was sure we could work things out rationally. I don't remember much of what happened after that, but I think it must have been like Daniel in the lion's den, becuase somehow the dog called off the attack, my partner got off the top of the car, and we were in the home a few doors down for our appointment. I still had adrenaline pumping when the family said to their son, "Go get Toby to show these boys". I didn't know who Toby was, but was not kept in suspense for long.

Toby turned out to be a dog, only he was the size of a small horse. I am not kidding, and I am sure there is a name for this breed of dog. But the top of his head and my head were at the same level. This opened up a new world for me: there are dogs the size of humans walking around! This one turned out to be pretty docile, but even if he just stepped on me by accident I would have been in trouble.

The next two years held many opportunities for daily dog interactions, which gave me plenty of opportunity to consider the many reasons I didn't want a dog around for the rest of my life:

1) Dog are all stuck in the Oral stage of Freud's states of development. Whether they like you or hate you, you are going to experience something relating to their mouth...licking, biting, drooling. It comes with the territory. I prefer a pet that keeps its mouth to itself.

2) Have you ever seen what a dog puts in its mouth? I'm not just talking about dog food, although that is pretty gross all by itself. There is a verse in the Bible that talks about a dog returning to its vomit (to eat it). And if that is not enough, they eat what comes out the other end as well. No wonder their breath smells like it does. Someone once told me a dog's mouth is cleaner than that of a baby because of the enzymes in a dog's saliva. That gives me little comfort. Even if it were clean, which I highly doubt (come on, if it were true, wouldn't they bottle up dog saliva and use it as a cleaning product? We could keep our kitchens spotless by spraying the super enzyme dog drool everywhere), what good is clean if it stinks? Now, if dog breath smelled more like fresh citrus, maybe I'd concede on this point. But when it smells like all of the stuff they eat, I'm keeping my distance.

3) Dog owners all think their pets are the kindest, most peaceful creatures ever. I've been through this little diologue exchange more than once:

Owner: "Don't worry, Jack doesn't bite"
Me: "Nice Jack" (petting him cautiously and making a mental note to find some hand sanitizer as soon as possible after leaving the home)
Jack: Bites me on the hand (or leg, or shoe, etc.)
Owner: "I'm sorry, he never has bit anyone before"

4) Can you imagine how many friends you'd make if you went up to strangers and sniffed them all over? Yet we think it is so charming when dogs do this. Well, not me. I have been sniffed too many times in places where I just wasn't comfortable. Nothing is worse than losing sleep over whether you've been violated by a dog. I will never forgive my friend, Eric, who hooked me up with "the latest" dog repellant product -- special underwear that would ward off dogs by giving off an unpleasant scent, keeping you and your private parts safe distance from Rover's nose. Well, the joke was on me. I should have had a clue when the package said "beef jerky flavor". Now I know.

Dogs get combined with the other two things I have struggles with: swimming and camping. In swimming you've got "Dog Paddle", which is hard to do without thinking of all of the above problems with dogs in general. Then you've got people who want to take their dog swimming with you. Wow! That is like taking the problems with dogs and swimming and magnifying their effects exponentially. While camping, it doesn't make sense to bring your dog along. First of all, if I have to leave my computer at home, you should have to leave your dog. Remember, we are trying to get away from regular life when we camp? Second, dogs sound too much like bears when they walk around in the middle of the night.

I feel much better now that all of this business about camping, swimming and dogs is off my chest. On the one hand, it is good to be out of the closet. On the other hand, I do not look foward to the awkward looks I know I will get the next time I see one of you on a campout, swimming activity, or the next time I am at your home politely petting your dog and pretending not to be bothered at all. The good news is I like my kids and friends and neighbors more than I dislike any of the things I've written about, so I will endure what everyone else enjoys the best I can. If these postings have not convinced the world to cancel all camping activities, eliminate swimming entirely and rid the earth of dogs, then...well, at least I tried.

Now, how does all this relate to the intent of this blog...the penguins on my shower curtain? Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Camping, Swimming or Dogs -- Part II

Whoever invented swimming obviously did not think it through all the way. I'm sure the intentions were noble, but they might as well have said, lets find a medium (water) to rinse off all the grossest parts of the human body (the nose, the armpits, the grease in the hair, the mouth...I'll stop there) and put it in a big bowl. Then pack it full of lots of people, all of whose bodies are being similarly "rinsed off'", and let everyone soak it in together.

I know what you are thinking...chlorine, right? My sister in law used to work for a youth wilderness camping boot camp and they would go to remote locations and live off the land. They drank water that had feces floating in it, bugs and organizims swimming in it, etc. And all they did to make it safe was dump in a small amount of chlorine and wait for everything to stop moving. So, I'm not debating the safety of pool water. I am simply opposed to the disgusting thought of jumping in a pool of shared body fluids, whether or not they are disinfected. Imagine wanting to take a bath at night. After filling the tub, you dump in some dirt, have your children urinate in the water, stir in some slobber and snot, ring all the grease out of your teenager's hair and pop a few of his/her pimples to add the the mix. Just before hopping in, pour in a bit of liquid chlorine to kill all the germs, stir and enjoy a refreshing bath. No one in their right mind would agree to this, but this is just like what we do when we swim.

And its not just the kids who are peeing in the pool. Don't get me wrong, I blame it on them too, but there is no denying the feeling of release that comes for letting a fresh stream of urnine go in a large body of water. How can anyone resist that temptation, especially when you've got to keep your eye on the kids and can't very well get out of the pool to use the facilities. But, even if it were just the kids , do the math. That is a lot of gross extra fluids added to the water!

But let's move on from the germ element of swimming for a moment, because I could write volumes about it, and discuss some of the other problems with swimming.

1) Name another time that (in the name of wholesome family entertainment) it is socially acceptable for everyone to strip down to next to nothing and play together. We go swimming for church activities, work parties, family reunions and with complete strangers. And no one seems to think it is strange to be hanging out with one another in the equivalent of our underwear.

2) I never really have liked the sun all that much, probably because my skin burns so easily. So, I didn't spend all that much time in the sun as a kid, but even so, I have sun spots on my face now as an adult. The other day I went to get them checked out by a dermatologist, thinking you never can be too careful with the prevalence of skin cancer these days. Apparently, he agreed, because he burned one of them off with liquid nitrogen. It was a wonderful experience, offering the whole range of human emotions...fear and anticipation, exquisite pain, burning, relief that your entire face did not burn off...I highly recommend it. I'm sure skin cancer itself is no better, by my preferred prevention is to stay out of the sun entirely.

3) As much as I don't like the sun, I hate sunscreen even more. Its perfumes spike my allergies and it feels really gross both when it goes on and when it dries. Not to mention the large amount of square yards of sunscreen it takes to cover my body...proper application can take hours. I tried one of those spray-on kinds once, only to discover that it is nearly impossible to get a uniform application. Unless you have access to a paint sprayer and vats of liquid sunscreen, I have to warn you that you will end up looking like you had a pattern of random burn streaks tattooed all over your body. So, it's back to manual application, which to me feels like rubbing liquid Crisco all over your body.

4) Your feet burn on the way to the water. Your body nearly goes into shock when you enter the ice-cold water, even in June. The wind blows on you when you get out of the water, making you chilled all over again, even though it is 110 degrees outside. Your feet burn again on the way back to your towel. That is way too many transitions and adjustments for me.

5) It is hard to know where you are going without opening your eyes under the water. But if you open them, you have to realize that you are either getting all the above-mentioned nasty germs in your eyes, or an acid so powerful that it can kill all of those nasty germs. I don't really want either of them in my eyes, so I keep them closed.

6) If I don't want the water in my eyes, why would I want it in my mouth? And no one can swim without getting the water in their mouth. In fact, watch someone coming up out of the water sometime. The water just pours out of their mouth, along with a bunch of saliva, adding even further to the disgusting mixture of body fluids.

7) I once had a friend who was in charge of keeping pool chemical levels in the proper range at a public pool. He told me they rarely ever really checked it...they just added in some chemicals once in a while and called it good. If our one hope hinges on all the germs being killed off by chlorine, are we really willing to trust a teenager with that job? Or the pool man? Or anyone?

8) All of this is compounded when swimming in a lake rather than a swimming pool. Take all of the above, add in a bunch of fish (complete with their cycle of life of eating, shedding, excreting, giving birth, dying, etc.) and other water creatures, and it is no wonder why the water is slimy and green. And yet we jump right in and pretend there is nothing wrong with it. That gives me a great business idea...turning cesspools into swimming holes. Why not? People swim in lakes and that is not all that different.

9) When I was a kid there was a man in the neighborhood that everyone called "uncle" who lived at the public pool (or at least he was there every time we went). He used to play a game called "Try to drown the children". You've played it before, I'm sure. It was where someone bigger than you holds you under the water until you think you are going to die and finally releases you for a short moment while you gasp for air and then puts you under again. I think public pools have craked down on this kind of behavior these days, but the game is still played each day in pools all around the world when adults aren't looking. But hey, I guess there are worse things that a strange man everyone calls "uncle" could play in the pool with your children when no one is looking.

10) Where do you put your wallet while you swim at a public pool? In the locker? Oh yeah, besides the fact that it costs a quarter (which I never have since I only carry plastic cards to pay for things these days), there is the dillema of where to put the keys while you swim. You can't swim with them (see wikipedia under "rust") but you can't just leave them poolside for someone to grab and open your locker. At the gym they give you little bracelets you can wear to solve this problem, but they haven't figured it out yet for swimming pools. And the last thing we need is identify theft while we are trying to relax in the cesspool.

I know some of you smart people may have perfect solutions to one or more of the above problems (although I assure you I can argue with your proposed solution), so go ahead and post them. You know, like only swim in your own swimming pool where you can monitor the chemicals, post a "no peeing in the pool" sign, or swimming indoors to get away from the sun. But, no matter how you slice it, there is no getting around the fact that we are swimming in a giant tub of shared body fluids and acid.

So, you now understand why camping is out and swimming is out. How could anyone dislike man's best friend? Stay tuned for the next post to find out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Camping, Swimming or Dogs -- Part I

I grew up with a father who despises all three: camping, swimming and dogs. Being the oldest, I think these same preferences were imprinted upon me at birth (along with some other characteristics of my father, such as legs that refuse to tan no matter how much sunlight they see). Of course, being repulsed by camping, swimming and dogs makes you unpopular with nearly anyone who likes to do anything fun, so I have spent much of my life attempting to psychoanalyze the root causes of these dislikes and even trying to learn how to like each of them. Thus far I haven't been very successful, and this is my attempt to explain why. I think you will see how normal I am.

Camping: My idea of camping is eating some hot dogs and smores in my kitchen and then resting in my bed while watching the travel channel. What is not to like about camping? Well, bears for one. I am not really scared of them, but I am pretty sure they are after me. If you have ever stayed awake at night on self-appointed bear protection duty, which I have many times, you will know what I mean. There are bear-like sounds that happen all night long and I am reasonably sure, although I do not ever dare to look, that they are dancing around my tent at night taunting me, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. I once heard that bears will come after any trace of food, so much of my pre-bedtime camping routine is to make sure there are no crumbs of any type anywhere in the tent, the car (they could break in and then what would we drive home in?) or anywhere in the campsite. Unless I'm camping with people I don't like, in which case I put all of the crumbs in a neat little pile in front of their tent.

Speaking of tents, that is another problem. Whether or not they have instructions, they never seem to cooperate. I have spent nearly 3 hours trying to put up a tent (just to clarify, this tent was more like a folding mobile home, but that is another story). It is humiliating to ask for help from another guy while taking the kids camping for father and sons campouts. Or one of the scouts on a scout campout. Or my wife on a family campout. Or the forest ranger when I'm camping alone. Then there is the food. As a youth, every trip I went on involved a plan by our camping leader (which was never my parents, because we didn't camp as a family) to create the world's best "tinfoil dinner". I soon learned that tinfoil dinner was a code name for "raw meat and crunchy potatoes." Except when you are able to make a fire big enough to actually produce some heat, in which case it is more like aluminum-wrapped charcoal. Needless to say, I have gone hungry on more than one campout, which is why when I take my kids camping, I pick up McDonalds on the way there. I could go on forever, but here are 10 more reasons for the camping aversion (sorry to all of the boyscout leaders that I may be offending):

1) Mosquitos, undeterred by Off! spray
2) Where are all the toliets/ Have you noticed the forrest doesn't have very many good things to wipe with?
3) Maybe I'm made like the princess that felt the pea through the mattress, but if you ever need help locating the hardest spot of ground and the most rocks, call on me to pick the site to post the tent.
4) Tent stakes do not go in well through solid rock
5) I don't carry a gun, but what do you do when a bad guy comes in the middle of the night and wants to kill you and your children? If you had a gun, would you shoot? If so, what if it was your uncle trying to play a funny, but scary, joke? If you don't shoot, you are toast. I bought a house for a reason, and one of the reasons was locking windows and doors and deadbolts.
6) If there are no toilets around, where do you think everyone is going to the bathroom? That's right, it is everywhere you are stepping, sitting, exploring. Enough said. And don't tell me the rain washes it away. I watch Mythbusters (did you know that when you flush the toilet it really does send thousands of germs flying through the air in the bathroom? Enjoy that thought next time you brush your teeth).
7) I once tried to blow up an air mattress. Let's just say if I had decided to finish someone would have had to perform CPR to keep me alive. So, I'm back to the hard ground again.
8) Every good idea I get about something fun to do while I'm camping involves electricity. "Ah, it is so peaceful and quiet, I think I'll check the score on the D-backs game." Or, "what a great time to write in my blog". You see the problem.
9) I can give you a detailed report about how loud and how often everyone in my camping group snores. Tents do not make good sound barriers. See above for the reasons I am not sleeping at night and you will know why I am able to provide this valuable snore-tracking service. See me if you need any background checks on potential husbands.
10) Nearly every camping trip leads to a "let's go to the river/lake/swimming pool" (I don't know why but sometimes camp sites are near swimming pools). That leads to disorder #2, which you will find in my next blog post.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Vacation...Oh, Really?

First of all, I looked up the definition of vacation in the Family Dictionary (you know, the one that tells how words mean different things in large families than in other contexts). Nowhere to be found were the words relax, fun or invigorating. Instead, it read like this:

"Vacation: An expensive event, sometimes requiring post-trip recovery periods in a medical and/or psyciatric hospital facility, where parents typically work harder, sleep less and ponder constantly why their perfect vacation ideals so quickly surrender themselves to a pragmatic hope of basic survival without rendering permanent phyical or emotional scars to any family members. See also, Torture via Hotel Room, Torture via Minivan, and 'Child-Induced-I-Gotta-Pee-Rage'."

Having looked up the defniation ahead of time, I knew what I was in for. So, this year we planned a vacation by RV. Seemed like a great idea, since we could have more space, go at our own pace and keep the kids as far apart from one another as possible. Besides, anything that combines television, a refrigerator and a restroom all in one vehicle has got to be great. And it was in many respects, although it certainly still met the Family Dictionary defnition of vacation. Rather than giving a travel log (although you can find one on Kathy's blog), I simply condensed my thoughts down to 10 lessons learned while on this summer's vacation:

1) I firmly recommend never trying to drive something the size of a house down a freeway, though a drive-through at a fast food restaurant, into a gas station, or anywhere else for that matter. As far as I am concerned, "Motor" and "Home" should not ever be combined. It is a great concept, but for the safety of everyone inside and outside the RV, my vote is for all homes to remain immobile.

2) That being said, there are few things more attractive than watching your wife drive something the size of a house down the freeway (although we haven't tried monster trucks yet). Not sure why, but I am pretty sure it is a fact. Even so, RVs are a great way to keep your family size right where it is, for more reasons than one.

3) Whoever is driving gets to pick the music everyone listens to. I quickly learned that I would prefer listening to the Wiggles and Backyardigans than to the "Funeral Singer "(Josh Groban) or the soundrack from Enchanted.

4) There is a natural law that the less sleep you have while traveling, the less likely it is that you will be able to get sleep at times when you should (such as at night). One night, our youngest decided not to go to sleep until about 2:00 am and another night she was up for the day at 3:30 am.

5) Everything I don't like about myself comes out when I drive on crowded freeways, windy mountain passes, and steep slopes.

6) The closest thing to communism in the United States is the pacific northwest. They have a rule for everything and are going to keep you and the environment protected...like it or not. $1000 fines for littering, $120 fines per person for not wearing a seatbelt in an RV, fines for talking on a cell phone while driving, fines for asking for plastic bags when you shop (Ok, I made the last one up).

7) The more your vehicle needs gas, the higher the probabily of high gas prices at your next stop. I think we hit pretty near the $5 per gallon mark in some towns.

8) Never eat at a restaurant in a town where there are more people in the restaurant than officially reside in the town.

9) The floor of an RV is a magnet that attracts wrappers from candy, food pakcages, toys and anything else that touches the hand of a child.

10) Being with your family for 10 days straight is wonderful, even when the ideals of what the perfect vacation ought to be fall short and even when none of us are perfect. It is great to have people who still love each other after seeing, smelling and experiencing both the good and the bad sides of one another.

11) Ok, I cheated and added another...There is very little wrong that sleeping children, a cool breeze, some premium ice cream and a mental image of your wife driving a house down the freeway can't cure. Who needs valium when there is Tillamook Ice Cream and 65 degree summer high temperatures!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Snorkeling Penguins...

Cute little penguins floating on innertubes, wearing snorkeling gear. That is just weird, yet it is what appeared on the towels, shower curtain and other decor in our downstairs bathroom a few weeks ago.

They weren't always there...there was a time that the bathroom once had simple, bright lime-green walls, few, if any, frills, and no animal images. However, Kathy recently had a burst of creative energy (which was followed by the arrival of a new Target credit card in the mail...I guess we finally got 10% off the purchase after years of faithful Target employees offering the promotion each time we check out), and now we have these funny creatures staring at us in the "guest" bathroom (attention: future guests at the Penrod home--don't say I didn't warn you!).

Not comfortable with the presence of so many other pairs of eyes in the bathroom, I decided I'd try the other downstairs restroom. Normally it is reserved only for desparate moments, since it is the one most of the kids use and the smell and appearance are usually quick reminders of this fact. But, hey, I thought, it has to be better than being stared down by penguins.

Well, come to find out the once-smelly boys bathroom now is a sparkling clean monkey-themed museum. There is even a monkey trash can that is far too small to hold actual rubbish, so I figure it must be there either for use as a backup thimble or perhaps simply as a figurine. Now, I faced a critical decision. Would I rather "use the facilities" with monkeys or penguins surrounding me? The other option, climbing the stairs to the grown-up bathroom, seemed unreasonable (I'm glad you agree). Since it is summer in Arizona, I opted for the penguins, figuring I would rather feel like I am in antarctica than the rain forrest.

It didn't take long to regret that decision. The bathroom is cramped for space, so while seated on the toilet, one is face to face with the shower curtain to the immediate left. Exactly at the level of my eyes and no further than a few inches from my face was penguin #1, eerily staring directly into my eyes. I soon realized I shouldn't have complained about the direct eye contact from #1 as I realized penguin #2 had a different sort of angle to his glance...he stared straight down, and that was not an angle with which I was comfortable. I folded the shower curtain over #2's eyes and avoided direct eye contact with #1. Then I reached the breaking point--penguin #3 had sunglasses on, and I had no way of determining where he was looking. That was enough for me. Having lost all need to use the restroom, I decided to get out of there as quickly as possible, but not before running into a penguin soap dispenser, toothbrush holder, hand towel, and wash cloth package (which I think is for decoration rather than use, judging by the fancy ribbon tying it together). Half-expecting to see an image of a penguin in the mirror beside my own (like the hitchhiking ghosts on Disney's Haunted Mansion ride), I decided to flip off the lights and get out as quickly as possible, with a vow never to return.

My kids seem to enjoy the penguin and the monkey bathoom, although the penguin room is technically reserved only for special guests (see above warning). Then again, they also enjoy urinating in our swimming pool and dipping ice cream in ketchup, so I'm not sure they are the standard with which I should be comparing myself when it comes to good taste.

Being a man who believes in confronting his fears (see vacation blog entry), I decided to muster the courage to enter the penguin room once again, although admitedly this time for research rather than functional purposes. This time, less focused on their voyeristic tendancies, I noticed some interesting things about the various penguins that surrounded me. That is when I got the idea for this blog. Read on in future posts to find out about how Snorkeling Penguins on Innertubes have a lot more to teach us than we first realize.