Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Merry, Merry, What is Christmas?

It's almost time for my annual new year resolutions post. I'll get to that soon. I'm still thinking about those...

But today, I want to ask you a simple question:

After the Christmas lights turn off and everybody goes back to work on a gray, overcast day in December, what are you left with? What was the point? What does Christmas mean?

Here's an interesting read if you're looking for a good answer to my question:

My guess is that if we really examine our own hearts, we'll find that the meaning of Christmas - for us - has been hi-jacked a little bit by our culture: good feelings, spending time with loved ones, presents, "peace on earth", "Jingle Bells", eating awesome food...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

When it's All Worth it

Raising kids is hard. It's a complicated process that never ends - not even when they're "grown up" and out of the house. That's because as we teach our children, we're also ourselves learning how to teach them. And every lesson taught - and learned - or re-taught and re-learned - is again another new lesson - because the circumstances have changed: you're older, the child is older, the day's events are different, and every variable is different. The weather is different, too!

Raising kids is complicated - not just because it is - but because it's what we call life. Life is complicated. There are new variables every single day. You can't even perform the same, simple task the same way from one day to the next. Take a less simple task as an example: you learn to walk as a toddler. Then you run. Then you gain speed and mobility. You train. You run further, faster, longer. Then you get older. You lose some of your edge. And sometimes, you lose your ability to run at all. Or even walk. You can't approach running in the same way from one day to the next because you're not the same person from one day to the next. Life changes. It's one of only two constants*.

But here's the deal: some of the most memorable moments in the last six years of my feeble existence have been spent with my children. Those moments almost always relate to something they've done - a laugh, a tumble, a word or sentence, a mess.

These moments make you realize that yeah, as cliche as it sounds, you wouldn't trade your kids or these hard days for the world. Psalm 127:3. This post has made me start to think about some of those moments in my own life, going as far back as I can remember. I think I'm going to try to compile a list of them and post them here over the next year or so. (It will take a while to remember them, to think through the years, and I don't want to miss any.)

If you're wondering what that picture is in this post, it's my son's bedroom after he decided to remove all of his books from the bookshelf.

Monday, December 12, 2011

We're Here to Help

I met with a friend today whom I hadn't seen in months - probably close to four. His wife had a baby about eight weeks ago, and 12 weeks ago, my wife had a baby, and 16 weeks ago, my family moved a half hour away from where we used to live. It makes spending time with former friends difficult and many times, just plain unmanageable. But not today.

So his wife just had a baby; and, just like me, he's a stay-at-home dad (whatever that means). It's not the easiest road to travel, and now my friend and I can empathize with each other and those dads around the country who stay at home during the day and make less money that their wives.

We concluded our time together, our babies in hand, by me saying a few words of encouragement and praying for him. The main point I wanted to drive home was that we'd always be available to him and his wife if they needed to talk, bounce ideas off of us, hang out, pray with or for them, or otherwise agonize together as parents.

Megan and I want to be known as doers of friendship, not just lip service friends. We want you to know that if there is anything we can do for *you*, we're here to help.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Armenian Cookbooks and a History Lesson

I've been shopping for Christmas presents this afternoon - for an affordable Armenian cookbook, in particular. I didn't realize how difficult the task would be. I guess I didn't realize (until I looked at a map a few minutes ago) just how small and insignificant Armenia is in the world. I mean, Armenia is on par, size-wise, with Israel. But I'm not saying that Israel is insignificant. I guess I'm saying that people see Armenia as insignificant, but it's not.

Here's a fact for you: People complain about Israel or Palestine "losing" land - or any number of "countries" (IE: ethnic/religious groups in that region) but Armenia seriously lost a lot of land to Turkey. It's like 700 km from Yerevan to the Mediterranean, and you've got to figure that Armenia at one point stretched at least 200 km both to the North and South of Musa Dagh, which is basically right on that sea. But let's keep in mind that the history of this region of the world has always been messed up. Land is trading hands all the time, and it's been that way for way over 2000 years. I don't want to get into a debate over whose land it really is... My opinion is that all land is on loan from God, and one day he's going to take it all back for himself anyway...

So my quick history/geography lesson came as a result of researching various regions of "Armenia". You see, to at least some Armenians, they still call parts of what is now Turkey "Armenia". I don't disagree. But I also don't think it matters, in some senses. What I mean is: politically what you call a place matters. Historically what you call a place matters. But when it comes to calling a place your home, if you're an Armenian, if you grew up in Cilicia, for example, you're likely to call your childhood home "Armenia." I think.

Back to my quest for an quality Armenian cookbook.

I'm not sure there is one. I've found a lot of "church lady cookbooks" - you know, the ones the ladies at churches compile and print for their congregations? Yeah...

If I had the money, I think this was the most promising one I found. Again, I think it's too much money:

- this bad boy is 65 USD, including shipping!!!

Looks pretty cool, but you can't really look inside. A ton of pictures, but could probably use either fewer and more recipes or just fewer all together. And cheaper, please. But again, this one hits the mark as far as hip factor goes. It sounds like the authors have a killer restaurant in Lebanon...

My second and third choices are pretty much equals, and I'd hate to settle on my gift by buying one of these seemingly lesser cookbooks. Again, the problem with shopping for cookbooks online is that you can't really get a good feel for them. Here are those two:

The Recipes of Musa Dagh - $20 on Amazon.


Simply Armenian - Only $17.

So what do you all think I should do? I'm totally torn. Oh yeah, this search has also help me to come to the conclusion that Armenians don't use cookbooks, so the mere fact that I'm even looking for one is paradoxical.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

When I'm Not Me
Over the past month, I've had conversations with two different friends about what it means to be "me" - whoever you are. We all came to the same conclusion:

One thing that makes you you is that you find special satisfaction in doing a particular type (or types) of work. You've been uniquely gifted, and if you're not regularly exercising those gifts, you're acting contrary to how you were created to act.

Those gifts could be anything: dancing, typing, editing, marketing, talking with people, building, designing, writing, punching or crunching numbers, analyzing, caring for someone, snapping a picture, digging holes, driving, teaching, learning - whatever. The thing is, sometimes your desired vocation doesn't turn out to be your occupation - at least for a particular season in life. But hang in there. I say that as one who struggles with this very thing.

Just to clarify: vocation is just one part of who we are. It isn't the whole person. It's not even the most important part of the whole. But it's a part that gets over-emphasized in countries like the USA.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Supporting the Companies that Support Climbing

Something has been bothering me lately.

Two days ago, I received the newest issue of Vertical Times in my mail box (yes, mail box). I read through it immediately. I got to the second-to-last page and, as always, I am careful to review the entire list of corporate donors. Until this evening, I couldn't tell you why I do that. I couldn't put my finger on it, but now I can tell you: I was interested in seeing which companies are actively involved in the climbing community - which companies demonstrate a vested interest in the activities that I'm interested in.

But why does that matter? In some of the same ways that it makes sense to "buy local" (stimulating the local economy, local owners have an interest in the community prospering, these people are often our immediate friends and family, their product offering can be, and often is, unique and nearly one-of-a-kind, and they often support other, fellow local businesses and causes), it makes sense to support the companies that support your interests - in my case and those of many of my friends, climbing.

Here's a list of the AF's current corporate donors:

For starters, let me say that I don't know over what amount of time these donations have come in. They may reflect lifetime donations by an organization. I plan to contact the AF to see what the numbers actually mean, and I'll update that on this post.

A couple things surprised me about the list:

1. PrAna, which I thought to be a fairly small organization, is one of the top five donors. Experience has told me that PrAna makes the absolute most comfortable climbing clothing ever, but I did not expect a top five from them. It really makes me wonder why we don't see other brands that make apparel that high up the list: Marmot, Mammut, and Arc'teryx, in particular.

2. I didn't think Outdoor Research made that big of an impact in the climbing world. I guess I was wrong.

Here's the biggie, and here's really what sparked this post:


Yesterday, I was at my local climbing gym, Vertical Endeavors, in Warrenville, IL. I looked around and this is what I saw: 8 out of 10 climbing harnesses on 70+ climbers were Black Diamond brand. Another 10% were Petzl and the final 10 were probably Wild County, Mammut, etc. That's a lot of cash going Black Diamond's way from the climbing community.

I then thought about my own, personal gear: carabiners, quickdraws, slings, harnesses, nuts, cams, tents. I'd say 80% of my climbing gear is Black Diamond brand, 10% is Petzl, and the final 10 is a combination of Trango, Metolius, and C.A.M.P. Again, that's a lot of money going to Black Diamond.

Considering these sorts of numbers, Black Diamond should be able to donate eight times the amount of money that Petzl donates and closer to 16 times the amount that Mammut donates. But on the Access Fund donor list, all three companies are in the same bracket. The simple numbers here mean that Black Diamond should easily be in the next rung up. (They all give/have given between $50 and $100k.)


About one year ago, I wrote a letter to Mountain Hardwear, expressing my unhappiness with where their company ranked on the Access Fund donor list. The company did eventually respond by saying that they donate to a number of organizations and are constantly working on giving more. Interestingly enough, the company is not listed in the current issue of Vertical Times, though they are listed on the donor list on I'll have to contact the AF to see what the deal is there.

My next step:

  1. I'll call the AF and see what's up.
  2. I'll write a letter to Black Diamond.
  3. I'll buy my coffee from Intelligentsia (who gave the Access Fund between $250 and $500!)