Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New citizens

Last night I had the opportunity to help with a citizenship class in Grand Rapids. The class is offered by City Life Church and I met the leader of the class a few months ago at a party. I offered to help and when she learned I worked in state government she asked me if I would participate during the lesson on government.

The class had roughly 10 people or so with about half from the Dominican Republic. I was the "special guest" and was interviewed at the beginning as to why I work in government and also how everyday people can get involved in the system. Then after the presentation of the material I was able to go around the room and help answer questions that came up during their small group study time. I was a little nervous that I was not going to be able to answer all their questions but thankfully I still remembered most of it from my government text books.

I was amazed at the class's eagerness to learn. They have a lot to memorize and most are starting with little or no basis of understanding. I am going to get the list of questions they had to answer and offer the test to my friends here in Lansing to see how they do on it.

It was a fun night and I enjoyed helping people learn about our country. We really do live under a unique government that does allow for the common person to participate. Sometimes I take that for granted. Talking with the students last night reminded me how privileged I am to live in America and work for the state of Michigan.

A prayer for Katrina's victims

Dear Lord,

I awoke this morning listening to the horrible news accounts regarding the city of New Orleans and the rest of the gulf coast. I am once again amazed at the force and power of nature and yet it pales in comparison to your power. And while you are a God of power you are also a God of mercy. I pray that you would show your mercy by reaching out and comforting those who have lost loved ones. Help them understand why you allowed this to happen as I am sure they are asking that question. For those that lost their homes, I can only imagine the sense of loss and grief and helplessness they must feel after losing everything they own. Help them find peace and a place to rest.

Please use this awful event to move your people to compassion. May the church shine like a beacon in the storm to people who have lost their way. Move my own heart to give and help however I can. I am reminded by this tragedy of how blessed I am. Help me not to take my home and my family and friends for granted. I am sorry that it takes other's losses to remind me of that.

Lord, I know that you are a God who takes pleasure in restoring lives. I ask Lord that you would restore the homes and lives of the people impacted by Katrina. I know that you excel in showing your glory during times of trouble. This is a time of trouble and now is your time to shine. I look forward to seeing your hand at work.

I ask all this in the name of Jesus Christ.


Monday, August 29, 2005

My weekend with the kids

This weekend I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time around kids. Saturday I helped out Brian and Tammy who are friends of mine from church. They run a carnival every year at MSU for the international students. The students bring their families to the event and there are several games where they win tickets and prizes. They even had snow cone and popcorn machines. I was assigned to the fishing pond game and the kids had a great time with most of them coming back multiple times to play. The kids came all from over the globe and were really well behaved. Much better behaved than American kids.

That night I called my friend Aaron to hang out. I was hoping to play cards but he had offered to help his neighbor fix his car. They started at three and were still going strong at 8 when I got there. After sharing my limited advice on fixing cars which included my willingness to call a professional, I went inside and hung out with their wives and kids. Reagan is 2 years old and she was really excited when I came into the room. I love that. I wish older women would have the same response. Reagan is very fun and very talkative. After she went to bed, I then turned my attention to Preston who is a cute little 5 month old boy. I just sat and held him for about an hour. It was really relaxing to have a kid to cuddle with. I hated to give him back to his mother at the end of the night.

Sunday morning I volunteered for nursery. I have been trying to give up nursery duty for over a year but my friend Michelle begged me to help out. I did have a good time playing with the little kids. There are so many toys that watching them is a pretty easy task. The hardest part is breaking up fights when they all want to play with the same thing.

All in all it was a fun weekend. I think I like being around kids. They really are a blessing.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Cindy Sheehan

Last week our Senate district lost a loved one over in Iraq. His name was Brian Derks and while I did not know him personally, reading about his life and his family in the local newspaper makes me feel like I knew him and even miss him in a strange way. He was young, ambitious and idealistic. He knew that he might have to make the ultimate sacrifice and in the end he gave his life for a noble idea of protecting our country and battling tyranny in a country halfway around the world.

Unfortunately, too many of our young men and women are having to make this sacrifice. This sacrifice is often harder on the remaining family members and loved ones left behind. One reason could be that the people back home were not ready to make the same level of commitment or didn't believe in the cause their loved ones died for. This is what has led us to Cindy Sheehan.

As most people know, she is the mother of a lost soldier in Iraq who has taken up camp outside President Bush's house in Texas. She is demanding a meeting with him. She has called the war a mistake and Bush a liar and the most dangerous terrorist alive. I am not sure what she hopes to accomplish by meeting with Bush other than to embarrass him. One can almost understand how a mother could become so hostile towards the man she blames for the death of her son. However, her blame is misplaced and her anger is causing her to say things that do not bring honor to her son's memory. In her heart she must realize that President Bush is not to blame but has no other outlet for dealing with the immense pain. It's easier to blame someone than to realize it was her son's choice to lay down his life over staying home and building the life she wanted for him.

The most frustrating part of the whole ordeal is how the left wing groups have manipulated her. There are some on that side that might honestly care about her and her son but the rest are simply using her to attack a supposed weakness of Pres. Bush. The media is loving it because August is a slow news month and because they can highlight the personal side of the war. When war is personalized, support for the war usually plummets.

Most people support the war when it's described in general concepts. Good vs evil, spreading freedom, protecting our country from future attacks, etc. These are all good things that Americans support. What they don't support is losing somebody they know. Somebody with a name and a face is hard to forget and hard to justify sacrificing in the name of some abstract cause or idea especially when they have lost the link between the war and that cause.

The next few months will be critical in winning the war. Iraq needs to pass their constitution and continue building up their own security forces. But more important is for the President to communicate how we are making progress. He needs to bring the war back to the level of ideas and move it away from the personal stories of loss. He needs to restore our faith by explaining how winning the war really does make the world a better and safer place. The American people want to believe in such a cause but we need to be reminded especially in the face of such grief and tragedy.

Friday, August 19, 2005

My Trip to Vegas

I just got back from my first trip to Las Vegas. I flew out to be in my friend CJ's wedding and had a really good time.

One of the first things I did while waiting for CJ and Maggie to get to town was enter a Poker tournament at the MGM. I wanted to play for the experience and realized quickly that I was not going to win any money. I actually played pretty well but only made it the final 50 out 90 or so players. The action is a lot faster than on TV and a lot harder since you don't get to see everyone else's cards. I did have fun and kept thinking it would be dangerous if I lived near a casino because I could see me being a regular in these types of tournaments.

Another highlight was later that day while I was sitting by the pool. This really attractive woman starts chatting with me and we are making small talk. She then asks me if I can rub sun tan lotion on her back. At this point, I figure she must be a little drunk but then decided this might be the most action I get in Vegas so I politely obliged.

The middle of the week was the wedding and it was short and sweet. I wish all weddings lasted only 5 minutes. We had barely stopped laughing at how cheesy the chapel was by the time the ceremony was over. One thing that did strike me was that they don't mention the until death do you part in the vows. It must be a Vegas thing.

Later that night we went to the club where Maggie's bridesmaid Charell used to work to celebrate. It was called Studio 54 and supposed to be one of the hottest clubs in town. It was pretty obvious that CJ and I didn't really belong at this kind of club. Plus as I was gawking at the dancers I kept getting bumped into. The only fun part was being with Charell and getting looks from others guys who were wondering how I was at a club with such an attractive woman.

CJ and I did get a chance to go golfing one day and it was hilarious. Our first tee shots are complete shanks. At this point, I think the other guys in our foresome were regretting the fact they had to play with us. But I gotta say that as ugly as my game was, the course was more beautiful with mountains, desert and palm trees. I can see why people are attracted to the area. It was also good to have some alone time with CJ.

On the way home our flight was overbooked because of the bad weather in Chicago. The seat next to me was the only open one and I kept watching people as they walked down the plane aisle. I kept hoping I wouldn't get stuck next to some big guy who smells bad and snores. (I already sat next to him on the flight there.) Finally at the last minute this cute woman sits down next me. It turns out she is from grandville and we had mutual friends. At this point, I am feeling a connection as she is laughing at my jokes and holding my arm during the turbulence. Then all the sudden she starts talking about her husband which kind of killed the mood. Oh well, it was still nice to have a fun person to sit next to on the way home. It almost made up for the airline losing my luggage. I knew I should have tipped the skycap more than a buck a bag but it was all I had left. Hopefully my luggage gets here today.

All in all it was a very fun trip. Las Vegas is way too big to do in a couple days. I need to go back again and see what I didn't get to. But It was great to see CJ and I am glad he got married. His wife is really sweet and I am excited about their future.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


The last few months I have been feeling a bit out of place here in Lansing. Until just recently it seemed like most of my closest friends were from college and lived in other cities. It is hard to develop the same type of relationships post college and it seemed like the friends I had gotten closest to here in Lansing had moved away. As a non-married person, friends are important, especially when you have good news or bad news to share or even when you want to hang out at the last minute. Some days it's hard to find that type of friendship.

Having said that, over the past few weeks, I have noticed just blessed I am to have a couple of close friends in town. Two men have taken the time to hang out with me lately and I am really enjoying their friendship. Kevin and I have become regulars at the starbucks and even have an outdoor table that we have established as our preferred seating. I have known Sarah, Kevin's wife since college but just got to know Kevin this year. At first I wasn't exactly sure what he and I would have in common but the more we hang out, the more I enjoy him. He has a very good perspective on life and I like just sitting around talking and bouncing ideas off of him. Hanging out with him reminds me of my college days.

Aaron and I became friends last fall. His wife and my ex-girlfriend are close friends and before I knew it all four of us were hanging out for game night. Lately we have ditched the women and gone to the movies and played a round of golf and I look forward to doing more guy things with him. What I like best about Aaron is how honest and real he is. There is no pretense with him and I really like that. I feel like I can just simply be myself around him.

What I like most about both Aaron and Kevin is that "get me". It's hard to describe, but I often feel like people don't know where I am coming from but these two guys both do. I appreciate that. They make living Lansing a little more bearable.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Completely Random Facts

A friend of mine recently forwarded me this list. I found it so interesting that I wished to share my newfound knowledge with one disclaimer: I have no idea if any of the facts mentioned below are true. Without further ado:

In the 1400's a law was set forth that a man was not allowed to beat his wife with a stick thicker than his thumb. Hence we have "the rule of thumb"

Many years ago in Scotland, a new game was invented. It was ruled "Gentlemen Only...Ladies Forbidden"...and thus the word GOLF entered into the English language.

The first couple to be shown in bed together on prime time TV were Fred and Wilma Flintstone

Every day more money is printed for Monopoly than the US Treasury.

Men can read smaller print than women can; women can hear better.

Coca-Cola was originally green

It is impossible to lick your elbow.

The State with the highest percentage of people who walk to work: Alaska

The percentage of Africa that is wilderness: 28%

The percentage of North America that is wilderness: 38%

The cost of raising a medium-size dog to the age of eleven: $6,400

The average number of people airborne over the US any given hour: 61,000

Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.

The first novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer

The San Francisco Cable cars are the only mobile National Monuments.

Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history:

> Spades - King David
> Hearts - Charlemagne
> Clubs -Alexander, the Great
> Diamonds - Julius Caesar

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

If a statue in the park of a person on a horse has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle. If the horse has one front leg in the air the person died as a result of wounds received in battle. If the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.

Only two people signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed on August 2, but the last signature wasn't added until 5 years later.

Q. Half of all Americans live within 50 miles of what?

A. Their birthplace

Q. Most boat owners name their boats. What is the most popular boat name requested?

A. Obsession

Q. If you were to spell out numbers, how far would you have to go until you would find the letter "A"?

A. One thousand

Q. What do bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers, and laser printers all have in common?

A. All invented by women.

Q. What is the only food that doesn't spoil?

A. Honey

Q. Which day are there more collect calls than any other day of the year?

A. Father's Day

In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Hence the phrase......... "goodnight, sleep tight."

It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month . which we know today as the honeymoon.

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts... So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them "Mind your pints and quarts, and settle down." It's where we get the phrase "mind your P's and Q's"

Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim, or handle, of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service. "Wet your whistle" is the phrase inspired by this practice.

Monday, August 01, 2005

What Left Wing Media Bias?

People often ask me if I believe that the mainstream media is biased against Republicans. I really do and you can look no further than a recent quote in THE HILL newspaper by Helen Thomas as an example of this bias. She said "The day Dick Cheney is going to run for president, I'll kill myself. All we need is one more liar." Thomas also said: "I think he'd like to run, but it would be a sad day for the country if he does,"

For those who don't know Helen Thomas she used to be the press person assigned to cover the Whitehouse by United Press International. For many years she was considered the dean of the whitehouse press corps and had the privilege of asking the first question during presidential briefings.

Apparently, Ms Thomas has taken great issue with her statements being printed in the newspaper. She claims she was not speaking on the record when she made the above comments regarding Dick Cheney. Isn't it funny how the press doesn't like being treated the same way they treat the subjects they are covering. What isn't funny is that people with such bile and hatred towards our elected officials are the ones who get to filter the "news" for a large portion of the American population. Does anyone really believe that she was always fair and accurate during her reporting years?