Real Live Preacher

There’s a blog out there called Real Live Preacher that you’ve probably heard of. I say probably because I know pretty much everyone who reads this blog and know that most of them know Ed. Ed linked to Real Live Preacher every so often a couple years ago. In fact, I’m pretty sure the blog’s writer commented on Ed’s blog once.

In case you didn’t know, Real Live Preacher is a blog by Gordon Atkinson, a pastor who writes about his church, his life, his family, depression, religion and a multitude of other things.

Eerdmans (right here in Grand Rapids) published a book of his blog entries a couple years ago and apparently it didn’t sell as well as they hoped.

As I understand it (and I could be wrong about the details), they sent him the remainders and now he’s selling them on his website.

Along with the books (which are signed), you also receive odd surprises within the covers.

Kristen ordered one and we received a key (he doesn’t know what it’s for) and some religiously themed candy. Pictures of both to be attached to this post someday.

Kristen reads the blog regularly and I read it occasionally. As someone who attended seminary for a couple years, I’ve been on his end of the pulpit/visitation/church politics.

It’s interesting to be reminded of what that was like and of other things I spent more time thinking about in seminary than I do right now.

Not to mention the fact that beyond anything else, he’s a good writer, making it an interesting blog whether or not you connect with his major topics.

Ladybug Land

A few weeks ago my wife brought our daughters shopping at Meijers. She bought shoes for our youngest daughter, but decided to buy something for our oldest daughter so she didn’t feel left out.

Abby selected “Ladybug Land.”

Ladybug Land is a small plastic terrarium where you can raise ladybugs from larva to adulthood. You order the insects separately. They are mailed to your house along with the food.

Within a few weeks they grow to adulthood. Almost all of ours have emerged from their pupae, much to the amusement of everyone.

By everyone I mean everyone. Kristen has spent at least as much time watching them as Abby.

Now playing: Interpol – All Fired Up
via FoxyTunes

Get Your Racist Costumes Here…

My kids are looking forward to Halloween. They’ve been spending a lot of time looking through a costume catalog that came in the mail and informing us of what they’re going to be.

As someone who earned the odd graduate degree in sociology, I find that I can’t quite turn off that portion of my brain that automatically analyzes any document that I come across as a cultural artifact.

Hence I couldn’t help but notice that there were no black people in this catalog. After some more browsing I realized that I was wrong and that there actually were black men within its pages. Take a look…

Supa Mac Daddy

Two More Costumes

Fortunately there’s no racism any more or that might be offensive or something.

It’s Two AM. Would You Open Your Door?

It’s technically Sunday morning. Two A.M. I was working on a writing project (or, more accurately, had decided to stop working on my project since I intended to go to church in the morning).

Someone knocked on the door.

I decided not to bother to answer because I’m of the belief that no one I actually want to talk to would be knocking on the door at that time.

The knocking stopped and I heard voices, angry voices, one of which seemed particularly angry. I don’t really know what they said. It didn’t seem like much of a conversation. The only phrase I remember clearly is “motherfucking phone.”

That got repeated a lot.


I saved my file, shut down my laptop, and pulled out my cell phone, deciding that if it went on for very long that I would call the police. I also turned off the kitchen and dining room light, leaving only the inside light by the front door on.

The outside light on the front porch burned out and needs to be changed.

I peered out our front windows trying to figure out what was going on. If they were trying to break in to our house they certainly weren’t doing it very efficiently. I heard occasional thumping noises but never any ripping of screens or shattering glass.

Anyway, if you were going to break in to a house, why pick the only house on the block where the lights are obviously on?

Whatever was going on outside sounded more like an argument than a break-in.

Looking outside, I saw one guy standing on our lawn while another ran around a lot. Once he ran down our porch and ripped a small piece of wood off something in our neighbor’s lawn and ran toward our porch.

It made very little sense in that I only saw two people but I thought I’d heard three voices.

As I began to call 911, Kristen came downstairs. I stopped calling 911 as she started calling them from our land line.

She explained what was happening, adding that she thought they were trying to break into our house. I said that I didn’t think they were and she handed the phone to me and I explained what I’d seen to the woman on the other end of the line.

She said that they would send a car.

We waited. No police car came.

They wandered off. Ran, actually. First they ran up our neighbor’s driveway. Then they ran down the driveway of the house across the street from us. Then they went south on a street near us, came back and traveled west down the street directly in front of our house.

Forty minutes later, there was still no sign of the Grand Rapids police.

After they’d been gone for a while, I called the police department’s line for non-emergency assistance and asked what was going on. The person on the other end of the line said that they had sent out a patrol car and that it was on the scene, but that the scene had moved. Apparently other people had called to complain from other houses in the area and the police had followed the complaints down the street.

Kristen and I decided to go to bed, guessing that it was over for the night.

The next morning we surveyed the damage. The piece of wood from my neighbor’s lawn lay in front of our door. A number of Kristen’s flower pots had been turned over, broken, or dumped off the side of the porch.

The hook on one of the hanging plants had blood on it.

The grill on our screen door had been bent in and there were a couple small blood spatters on the door itself.

I called the police non-emergency line to ask if I should clean up the mess or if they wanted to look at it for some reason.

I was told that I could clean it up.

At this point I decided that if this were a burglary, it was the least competent burglary ever in that rather than taking a knife and cutting through the screen door, these people had thrown our plants at the door and somehow managed to cut themselves on the pots. They had to be on drugs or something.

Yet, it didn’t seem quite right.

One of my neighbors called me today. He’d been out that night and came home at two in the morning to hear a fight going on on my front porch.

He saw three kids at my house. One stood on my walk. One stood on my porch. The other was taunting the one on the porch, swinging his belt at the guy, throwing things, and cursing.

The one on the lawn hung back and did nothing until one of the many thrown items hit the person on the porch. At that point, he tried to stop the guy with the belt.

Beyond that, our neighbor also thought he saw a couple of the kids (he guessed they were high school or middle school aged) go into houses on our block.

Interestingly, the neighbor in question was one of the other people who had called 911. At the time though, the operator had told him that they would send a car when they had one available.

He was unimpressed.

In one sense I can understand it. High school students fighting on a porch are probably not the worst crime going on in the city on a Saturday night/Sunday morning. Still, you’d think that the police would have more of a response than that.

As for myself, I’m disappointed that I somehow failed to notice the kid being victimized on our porch. I know how it happened. There’s a big bush between the window I was looking out of and the porch, making it hard to see what was happening in the dark.

Nonetheless, I wonder if I could have done something. I’d like to think I would have if I’d understood the situation better.

Triponds and A Little Bit More

I’ve had a few things on my mind lately, none of which have made it into blog entries. To list a few: the use of race in science fiction/fantasy, observations about life as a web developer, meditations on the fact that my kids started school last week, and maybe a couple other things that escape me right now.

Of the many things I could write about, I thought I might mention going to Triponds a couple weeks ago.

Triponds is a “family” campground. By family, I mean “oriented towards children.” The basic attraction of the place is that kids can have fun there.

They can go swimming, fishing, catch frogs, do crafts, listen to stories and go on hayrides. It is not so much a place for camping in an exotic location–unless you find southwestern Michigan exotic. It is near the Allegan State Game Area so there is plenty of hiking, canoing and presumably hunting (though it’s not like I checked for that) available.

For adults who don’t want to leave the campground? Um… Well, there’s free wi-fi for 30 minutes a day. After that you have to pay. To be honest though, I brought my laptop and was on around an hour a day and never got cut off.

I went to Triponds with my parents every Fourth of July for much of middle school and high school.

We went with five or six other families, renting out several campsites that were next to each other. From what I remember, I would spend the next few days playing, swimming, and reading. In the meantime, the parents would either watch kids and talk, play golf (they had a two hole “course”), or take care of the many details of camping (like washing dishes and so on).

I also remember singing together at the campfire, group meals, and of course roasting marshmallows.

It’s a little different as an adult. Kristen and I took care of all the details of camping (meals, carting kids to and from the bathroom, watching them to make sure they didn’t drown in the swimming pond). We also didn’t stay in the campground the entire time. We took a trip to Saugatuck because we didn’t really feel like watching kids swim for the second day in a row.

We’ll probably go back next year. Our kids had a good time.

That being said, we’re tempted to try to get a group of people interested. It would be more fun for us for a number of reasons. For one thing, it turns out that camping as a group seems to be how things get done at Triponds. My family wasn’t alone in that. We met a number of people doing the same thing.

Most of our friends aren’t particularly interested in camping, but Triponds does rent a few cabins. It’s something to think about, anyway.

Flipping Off the Police Can Make You Money

One night during college I was sitting in a friend’s car and talking. As I was talking I would occasionally make a gesture with my hands. At one point, I raised my index finger as I explained something.

As I did this a campus police car came around the corner, drove past the car (which was parallel parked) and stopped.

The policeman (who I can only assume had stopped one too many parties that weekend) got out of the car, knocked on the window and then proceeded to lecture me on how I had no right to flip him off.

I wasn’t able to persuade him that I’d raised a different finger. Fortunately, he didn’t bother (or didn’t have the ability) to charge me with anything.

Oddly enough, to judge from the following article, it appears that I might have been paid thousands of dollars if he had.

Motorist who made obscene gesture to cop awarded $3,000

It makes me start to reconsider my tendency toward being respectful of authority.

Toy Electric Guitar

One of my daughters (Becca) recently had a birthday. One of her aunts (who will be left nameless) bought her a toy electric guitar.

You can’t actually play anything on it. It doesn’t have strings, but it does have five buttons high on the fret board that play prerecorded guitar riffs in different styles ranging from rock to blues to country.

She loves it and plays it a lot. Kristen and I are of course just a little sick of it.

Here’s a bit of actual play post birthday party:

To set the scene it must be noted that Becca and Abby have put down the guitar (Yay!) and are playing with the baby carriage that Becca also got. They are pushing dolls around in it and pretending that they are hurt.

Becca: Let’s take the babies to the hospital.
Abby: OK.

Becca: Baby, you are going to the hospital.

They push the stroller around the living room for a bit.

Abby: And let’s pretend that they pass a concert!

Things go downhill rather quickly from there.

Another scene:

Kids have gone to bed. Kristen (my wife) is cleaning up the living room and has picked up the guitar. She presses one of the frets and we can both hear the ensuing guitar solo.

Then she mimes beating the guitar against the floor.

Me: What are you doing?
Kristen: I’m imitating the Who.

River Bank Run 2007

Wow. Though it’s not over yet, May has been a new low in writing blog entries. I’ve managed to write only three this month (not counting this one) one of which had what, three sentences? For what it’s worth, I have been writing. It’s just that most writing I’ve been doing lately has been on my novel. The rest of my time has been spent reading books (most of it) and playing video games (a little). For example, last night I spent a few hours dying while playing Star Wars Battlefront 2.

As evidence that I’ve even been trying to blog, I give you this entry about the River Bank Run that I started more than two weeks ago, but never finished till now.

Some of you may be curious how I did in the River Bank Run on May 12. I did OK though not incredibly well. I ran it in 2:25–which is about six minutes slower than last time. My goal had been to hit consistent 9 minute miles and finish around 2:20. Admittedly, two hours and twenty-five minutes isn’t that far off, but I’m still sure I could have done better.

I like to think that my slowness can be blamed on pulling a muscle in the course of training. This is at least partially true, but it wasn’t a really bad pulled muscle. I could feel some soreness when I walked, but no pain and I had full range of motion in the leg.

When I called the doctor I was told that I could run, but if I felt extreme pain at some point during the run I needed to stop immediately.

I like to think that I would have done that anyway.

The beginning of the run went phenomenally well. I was running consistent 8:49 minute miles through about the halfway mark. Actually, that’s just what the official race splits say. As I remember things, I did decently until mile 10 or so.

That’s when I began to hit the really bad hills.

At first I was okay even then, but ultimately I couldn’t make myself continue at a consistent speed. I let myself walk a little while and then did it several more times (all rather briefly) despite the fact that running felt better in some ways than walking.

That’s when I lost a lot of ground, getting passed by a number of people–including Spiderman and my cousin Mike.

Some guy ran the race in a Spiderman costume. We passed each other a few times, but I ultimately lost out when I took a bathroom break. I didn’t see him after that.

As for my cousin… I didn’t even know he was running until Kristen noticed that he got a time about five minutes faster than mine.

As I ended the run, I reflected that I felt surprisingly good for having run that far. Approximately ten minutes later, I had to rethink that as my body’s endorphins wore off. I felt the pulled muscle quite well, but that was balanced out by the fact that my other leg felt just as bad for different reasons.

If just one leg had felt bad I would have been limping. As it was…. Well, can you limp on both legs? If you can, I probably did.

I had good time anyway. I’ve been thinking about how I’ll train next year already–assuming I can. The pulled muscle still hurts a little. I plan to call the doctor about it again, but the fact that it’s been feeling consistently better each week since the run makes me less motivated than I ordinarily would be.

In the meantime I’m thinking that I’ll be exercising via bike, rollerblades and swimming and give running a bit of a rest.

I’m also tempted to take up rock climbing. We’ll see if I get around to it.

P.S. Did I mention that Kristen also ran? I should have.

P.P.S. Though many races offer free beer at the finish, I strongly recommend fruit. I have no idea how much watermelon and orange slices I ate, but at that moment they were wonderful.

My Grandmother

My Grandma (Hilda) Zoetewey died today (Tuesday, May 8, 2007).

It wasn’t unexpected to my parents. Apparently she’d been put on a new medication and had been having trouble adjusting to it. On the other hand, she was almost as old as my grandfather who died last year. She made it to her late nineties.

It’s harder for me to summarize her life than his because (I realized just now) I know less about it. I know that her parents immigrated from the Netherlands and moved to New Jersey. I know that they then moved to Denver because the family thought it would be better for her mother’s health. Ultimately though, it wasn’t good enough because her mother moved to Arizona (or was it New Mexico?), divorcing her father because he didn’t want to move. I seem to remember (but I’m not sure if this is true) that her mother paid for the divorce (at least in part) with money that the children had earned working.

I remember being told that she worked for some wealthy people as a servant while a teenager. When she stopped working for them, they told her to pick something of theirs to take home with her. She picked a lamp. I remember seeing that lamp in their house when I was a child and in the assisted living center that they later moved to.

I remember her playing pattycake with my younger brother when he was a baby. I remember the green beans (and other vegetables) growing in the garden behind their house as well as the flowers growing along the side that faced the driveway.

I remember that she would set the table the night before for the next morning’s breakfast and would be up and helping us get ready no matter how early we had to leave in the morning.

She volunteered for years at a local hospital. When she ended up having open heart surgery there, I’m told that they didn’t charge her. I’m not sure anymore whether that’s true or not, but I think I heard that at one point.

Between my grandfather and herself, they raised four children, one of whom died of cancer in high school. I remember seeing a photograph of him next to their bed.

One other thing that I remember about her is that she worried a lot. When Kristen and I got married, we had to drive from Grand Rapids (where the wedding had been held) to Holland (for the reception). They had come from Colorado for the wedding. One of the first things that she asked me when I talked to her at the reception was whether I had been speeding on the way over.

That anecdote is more funny if you knew her (though admittedly, it’s not that funny…). I’m confident that other people have much better Grandma Zoetewey Worrying-A-Lot-About-Minor-Things stories.

Another tendency of hers that I remember is that she would pass the food around the table until it was gone, constantly encouraging you have a little more with the aim of leaving nothing on the table. I imagine that this isn’t uncommon among people who survived the Great Depression. Still, it was one of her more noticeable characteristics.

I remember one time when all of us (us meaning their children and grandchildren) were gathered for some meal. Grandma was asking someone if he or she wanted more ice cream.

Someone else said, “Mom, don’t force it on him.”

Grandma said, “I’ve never forced food on anyone in my life.”

The whole room broke out into laughter and I think she may have laughed too–after a moment.

We still don’t know when the funeral is and bearing in mind that it’s in Denver, I probably can’t go. I wish I could (though to be honest, I’m still thinking about it).

All in all though, I’d rather talk to her than go to her funeral. I was thinking a few days ago that I ought to call her, but somehow I didn’t. I know that my Dad called her weekly or near to it. That’s a good thing.

I’ll miss the cards she sent and the letters she would write on them (growing slowly less legible as her vision got worse). I wish my own kids could have seen her more.