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Thursday, January 23, 2014

The NFL's Sherman Interview

Because we live in Europe, I often don't watch US sports until the next morning.  This was the case of the Seattle-San Francisco football match-up last Sunday.  In order to preserve the fun of watching it live, we stay off the internet, avoiding all social media because we know that fans like to tweet their every thought.  I'm much the same way!  The end of the game was epic.  I thought the Niners were going to pull it out but then Sherman got in the way of Crabtree making a catch.  It was an awesome play.  So when the game ended and I was able to see the jaw-dropping interview that Richard Sherman gave while talking to Erin Andrews, I had no other media influence in my brain.  My initial reaction was that he acted like a jerk in saying he was the best cornerback in the game while calling Crabtree a sorry receiver.  So I jumped on Facebook and wrote, "Nice game Seattle but Sherman was a real jerk at the end. Hate it when the pros act like such idiots. (Which unfortunately is more often than not.)"  And then I got started with my day.  Little did I know that the entire social media world had been blowing up with posts about this fateful interview.  Then a really interesting thing happened.  Seattle fans began to posting articles that lifted up Sherman's character and some comments on my Facebook post seemed to come to his defense.  There's a lot of commentary about this interview and lots of name calling.  One of the articles I read lifted up his character and his brains and all of the good stuff he's done in life. And in another interview that he has given, he seeks to give a bit more context to the Andrews interview.  
There were several things that have interested me about this situation.  First, I never said that Sherman IS a jerk.  I said he acted like a jerk, which I still feel he did. I thought it was jerky of him to make the choke sign and to keep referring to Crabtree as a second rate receiver.  Even in his explanatory interview he referred to Crabtree as a subpar player.  In fact, he said this,"If you put a subpar player across from a great one..."  Now, I don't care how much character or difficulty Sherman has had to overcome in his life.  No matter what school he went to and how smart he is, these comments are arrogant and taunting.  It's not nice and does not reflect well on his public persona.  Another defense of Sherman came in the form of, "well everyone does it."  OK, what are we, 13 years old?  C'mon.  The pros need to lead by example and mostly what I see are cocky, arrogant examples.  It's distasteful to the average fan. Other comments have been focused on how silly the post-game interview is.  True or not, it's part of the game and all the players know it. So just learn how to do it with grace.  
Now, what I find equally appalling is that people have expressed their opinion of Sherman in racist and bullying ways, attacking his character and his personhood.  But it does go to show the power of a few minutes of ranting in the public sphere.
Look, I am a competitive, intense, demonstrative person.  And if you've ever met my father, you understand well where it all comes from!  I've had my share of incidents while playing and coaching and even in life.  I've been mired in conflicts and outbursts that have cost me dearly in terms of what people think of me.  And I rarely if ever feel good about it when it's over because it's also not the whole story of me.  But it's a story that lingers and so we need to think about that when we're put in the unfortunate or fortunate position of being in front of a crowd who care about what you think.  
The interview definitely does not tell the whole story about Sherman but for those of us who don't know much about him, it just left a bad taste in our mouth.  And again, I stated that he acted like a jerk, not that he is a jerk.  And again, I think the racial slurs and other references to his inherent character are really wrong. But I find it equally interesting that Seahawk fans are finding ways to make excuses for his comments...like he is the best, so what's wrong with him saying so, or he came out difficult circumstances and overcame a lot of stuff to get where he is so he has the right to be loud and arrogant.  He doesn't need to be humble because his game proves how great he is.  One reporter even stated that as a nation we're not ready for lower class Americans from Compton to succeed.  I think that is quite the overreach. So for lower class Americans from Compton, the sign of success is that you can be arrogant and rude on public television?  I'm just not sure where that reporter is headed.  I do not judge Sherman's entire character on this interview.  He is obviously an amazing cornerback.  And he's obviously got a big personality.  But there are better ways to endear yourself to the public than by berating other players while singing your own praises.  I'll watch the Super Bowl with interest and hope to get to see some of Sherman's amazing talent in action again. And while I think I'm cheering for Denver on Sunday, (with teams that I don't really care about, I won't know until my gut tells me once the game starts) I would be very happy for Seattle to win because I like a good underdog.  What I don't care for much are arrogant pros who mouth off and strut around the field like gods and throw the choke sign at other players, no matter what circumstances they've come out of to get there.  Just let your game speak for you.  Sherman...if you'd had given a less obnoxious interview, the talk about you this week would've been all about your awesome game. Instead, you just gave us a whole bunch of silliness to focus on.
In the midst of all the Sherman ranting and raving, I also read an article about Peyton Manning, quarterback for the team Sherman's team will play in the Super Bowl.  At the end of this article Manning said this, "Dad said it best when he said it takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it."  Perhaps this truth was never more demonstrated than in the 3 minute post-game interview that Sherman gave.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Waste Not, Want Not

I have become a much more frugal person while living in Sweden, in part because some of the products that I really enjoy, I am unable to get here.  So, in order to extend the life of these products, I take better care of them than when I lived in the US and could easily purchase the product.  This has taught me a lot about waste.  Manufacturers want you to waste a lot of product because then you will buy their product more often.  But I have been challenged to create less waste and to value resources with greater care simply because I have been forced to.
Here are three products that you should definitely be getting every last use from.
Ziploc bags: You should be washing and re-using ziplocs over and over again.  Long gone are the days for me when a ziploc bag gets one use.  Exceptions include raw meat bags...if you don't feel you can get the bag clean enough, then it's OK to toss it.  But with anything you store that is dry...nuts, crackers, bread, tortillas, etc., that bag should be used over and over again.  It just takes a little bit of time to turn it inside out, give it a scrub with some soapy warm water and let it dry.
Jif Crunchy Peanut Butter: Invest in a small spatula in order to get every last morsel of goodness out of the peanut butter jar (or any jarred product.) The inside of the jar is bald when I'm finished with it.  Peanut butter is heavy to carry across the ocean so I don't like doing it often.  Extend the life of this snack by scraping every last taste from the jar!
Crest toothpaste and the entire store from Bath and Body works: OK, lots of beauty products come in tubes and tubes are notorious for leaving loads of product behind.  A simple solution will extend the life of each product by at least a week.  Simply cut off the ends of the tube in order to access all that goodness that gets stuck inside.  You will be amazed by how much product is left in the lid of the tubes.   There is at least 3 days worth of body lotion in that lid and at least 2 in the tube.  Same with toothpaste.  Just take a minute to cut the ends off and you will quit throwing away days worth of product.
With pump soaps...when you are nearing the bottom of the container, remove the lid and put a small amount of water in it.  Shake.  This will ensure that the pump will continue to pull up the liquid  The soap is usually heavily concentrated so diluting it a bit won't hurt at all.  The thinner liquid is easier to pull up through the pump.
I have become a better consumer here in Sweden where certain things are not available and other things are ghastly expensive.  You've paid for the entire product.  Why not ensure that you use it all up?

Monday, January 13, 2014

Our Wonderful Friend Bali

Bali was a special person at Immanuel Church.  He was born in Malaysia but came to Sweden many years ago to play professional football (soccer).  At some point in his life he suffered some difficulties and had a nervous breakdown that led to some mental limitations.  But he loved Immanuel Church and Immanuel Church loved him.  He was such a character.  He had a big, bold laugh and he was a kind and generous soul.  He was always giving people gifts, sending post cards, asking about how people were doing.  He wanted to shake everyone's hand on Sunday and he truly embodied the reality of God's love for all of his children.  He would come to our Bible study and sometimes he'd contribute with something relevant, but most often he would be off on another topic!  My favorite line of his from our Bible studies was when Doug was asking people to identify with Abraham and Sarah, how they must have felt as foreigners in a strange land.  He asked the group to share feelings about when they first moved to Sweden.  Bali pipes up, "When I first came to Sweden, I thought the women were the most beautiful women in the world!"  How we have laughed about that.
Bali was a great servant as well.  He washed dishes almost every Sunday after our coffee time.  And even though he could've just come to our outreach lunches each month and enjoyed the meal, he came and served instead.
On Tuesdays he was Jewish because he could go to the synagogue and get free coffee.  Lots of people around town knew Bali because when we was still doing pretty well he would wander around town all day, stopping in and out of the places where people were nice to him.  Every once in awhile he'd bring a friend a little nuttier than even he to the church.  The two of them were quite a pair.
He did know more about global football than any other person I've ever met.  He was my go to guy for information during the World or Euro Cup.  He loved football and knew the game well.  He also demonstrated his amazing athletic ability until late in life.  We'd get together to play badminton and while he couldn't run or move quickly, his hand eye coordination was still excellent.  He loved participating in whatever it was we were doing on any given day in the church.  If the doors were open, he loved being there.
He loved calling us on the phone and did so several times a day and for awhile, the night as well!  We finally got him to understand that he could only call people between 9.00 a.m. and 9.00 p.m.  From then on, at about 8.45 p.m. every day, we'd get a call from him!  Even though at times it drove me crazy, when the calls stopped due his increasing decline, I missed hearing from him.
A little over a year ago Bali's health, both mental and physical, began to decline and a decision was made to move him to a home where he could get good care.  The downside was that it was 3 hours from Stockholm so he could no longer come to church and people from church could no longer visit him easily.  This was a huge loss for both him and us.  We spoke with him on the phone periodically but reaching him was harder.  And he was declining more and more so his contact with reality was getting more and more sketchy.
Yesterday we learned that he died.  It was hard news to receive even though we knew it was a phone call we would inevitably get one day.  He died in his room and we are unsure of the circumstances.  His heart had been failing him so it was likely a heart attack.  We are all hopeful that he went peacefully.  He's at a better place now but we will miss his presence on earth.
Every church should have someone like Bali in the congregation.  The Balis of this world remind you of the core of the gospel, keep you grounded in reality, bring you back to the basic values of God's love for all of God's children.  There were times when his incessant coughing during our sermons drove us mad and days when our patience with him would grow thin.  But then he'd smile his big grin, roar with his big belly laugh, and come up with a comment that would put a smile on your face for the rest of the day.
Our good friend Bali has left this earth and has now joined the saints in heaven above.  Their gain is our loss but what a gem of a person he was.  I'm very thankful that he was part of our lives for the whole of our ministry at Immanuel.  Peace to his memory.  There are many classic, wonderful ones to ponder.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

London Baby!

On Wednesday morning, we bid farewell to our friends in Woking and made our way into London.  We could take a train from the Woking station to Victoria Station so it was an easy, quick 30 minutes practically to the door of our hotel, across from Victoria.  We were able to check in early, got upgraded (awesome since the room was paid for by credit card points), and enjoy a warm Doubletree Hotel signature chocolate chip cookie. We could see the Apollo Victoria theater from our window which was cool since this was our first stop.We wanted to get tickets for the 2.30 matinee of Wicked and were hopeful to score some decent last minute tickets.  We knew from a previous visit that the theater releases front row seats for 29 pounds ($48.00) the day of the performance but we also knew that you usually have to get there early in order to secure these.  But on Wednesdays, with the matinee there are more tickets available and not as much demand for the matinee since many folks are working!  So much to our total surprise, when we got to the window at 10.05 a.m. (box office opens at 10.00), and they offered us front row center, we jumped on it!  Couldn't believe our luck!  From there we jumped on a red double decker bus which took us past Hyde Park, Marble Arch, down Oxford Street and eventually to Tottenham Court Road.  We realized we were close to the American International Church where our good friend John works so we decided to pop in and say hello to him and the youth pastor there.  It was great to see them and John was free for lunch so we headed over to the Carpenter's Arms pub, where I enjoyed a great lunch last time we were there.  We weren't all that hungry because we had eaten a little something mid-morning so we ordered the fish and chips to split and John had the ox cheek pie.  I must say, this was indeed the best fish and chips I have ever had.  The outside was crispy and perfectly spiced with apple cider vinegar and tarragon.  I am not even a huge fan of fish and this was delicious!  The green stuff on the side are the classic mushy peas you will find on many plates in Britain!After lunch, it was time for the show, so a quick tube ride back to Victoria got us to the theater on time.  Wicked is just one fantastic show.  I had learned all the music since the last time we saw it and seeing the show again after knowing the story so well was a real treat.  The woman who played Elphaba was absolutely fantastic and we loved taking it all in again.  One of my "in another life" dreams would be to play the role of Glinda in Wicked.  Elphaba is awesome but there's something about Glinda that just makes me laugh! The woman who played her did a great job as well.  The staging is beautiful and clever and I found myself smiling through the entire show!  The magic of theater...it really does stir something in the soul.  Not sure what it is but I loved every minute of this big, beautiful musical.  

After the show, we took a little rest back at the hotel and then decided to head out for a bite to eat before the next show began.  This time we jumped on bus 24, which takes you right into the heart of Westminster...Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, London Eye, up Whitehall, past 10 Downing Street to Trafalger Square where the National Museum and St. Martin's in the Field greet you.When I pass this area of town, I always feel like, OK, now I've been in London!  
For those of you who know us, you know that when we go to London, we eat sandwiches or simple pub meals so that we can spend more money on theater tickets!  You also know that Doug thinks England has perfected the egg salad sandwich so we often find ourselves at Pret A Manger (ready to eat) ordering up sandwiches accompanied by salt vinegar crisps as they say in England.  Chips are fries.  Crisps are potato chips.  Well, this trip was no different.  The little snack we had in the morning was indeed an egg salad sandwich and now with only a few minutes before we needed to be at the theater for the evening show, Pret did not disappoint.  Egg salad and watercress.  It doesn't really get any better than that!  England does the carry away sandwich really well.  I wish Stockholm had more places with a really good, ready made, take away sandwich.  Ah, the delights of England!
The final event of the night was the show Spamalot.   We had been wanting to see this for quite some time, but it left London before we had a chance.  One of the reasons that I gave Doug this trip to London for Christmas was because I saw this show was back. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it's Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail set to music!  It was really funny and super silly!  To enjoy it you must be willing to understand that at least 50% of the show has nothing to do with anything!  Silly is absolutely the best word to describe this clever, funny, enjoyable show.
After the show, we wandered out onto the Golden Jubilee Bridge for a look down the Thames.  The blue lights forming half a circle are the London Eye, lighting up the London sky.It was raining just a little bit so we couldn't linger but I never grow tired of the iconic sites of London.  It's such a fun town with all of the things we love.  It's refreshing to be in a country where you speak the language most of the time!  We love the theater, the cozy pubs, the bustling city life...London baby.  It's one of our favorites.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Jolly Old England

The first stop on our English getaway was Woking where good friends from Stockholm have a second home.  Upon waking, rain was falling softly at first then with increasing vigor.  Our plans for the day changed with every new drop.  It seemed the clearing forecast was increasingly unlikely so we made plans to drive to the pub for lunch instead of walking and to see a movie this afternoon instead of exploring quaint little towns.  Upon getting out the door however we noticed a bluing sky and even some sunshine. We turned the car around, change into wellies, grabbed two of the three dogs and took a walk across the nearby golf course.  The trail was so gorgeous and I was enchanted by the fresh holly!  I'm so thankful we made this switch!  It was a beautiful walk on a fairly warm day and it was wonderful to get some exercise, chat with our dear friends and enjoy the lovely English countryside.  From there, we jumped back in the car and drove to Newlands Corner where a gorgeous view and a delicious hot chocolate awaited us.  The wind was up so we jumped back into the car and headed to Cranleigh, a charming town with an old fashioned sweet shop, a nice pub for lunch and a lovely coffee shop.  Lunch was great.  Pubs in England are hard to beat for just good fare and the burger I had went down easily! After lunch we enjoyed strolling through the village shops admiring the nice things for sale. Our afternoon coffee spot was a very interesting loft.  When we got up to leave at 3.20 p.m. I was struck by how light it still was outside!  Wow!  Nice to punch out of the 3.00 darkness of Sweden!
From Cranleigh we headed over to Guildford, another sweet town. The view from the top of the car park was very sweet.  What a charming and beautiful place Guildford is!  To my great surprise, there is a Krispy Kreme shop!  I did not indulge as the pub lunch was plentiful!  It was fun to see England's version of a dollar store: 
We wandered through the town, continued our window shopping, chatted up a storm with our friends and relaxed over a glass of wine in another great restaurant.  We finally decided that it was time to head home.  Upon arriving back at the homestead at Fishers Hill House, we were delighted at the fantastic welcoming committee.
Today was beautiful, new and interesting.  Relaxing time with our friends while sharing lovely sights and wonderful conversation is such balm for the soul.  It really was a grand day in jolly old England.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2014 Begins

We had a happy New Year.  I hope the same was true for you and yours.  Our dog hates New Year's in Sweden because fireworks explode all around and he is not a fan of the boom.  So we thought we'd have a quiet, enjoyable evening at home surrounded by good friends, with some good food and a lot of laughter.  Vida and Jen are women from church who are both actively involved in our ministry in a variety of ways and we appreciate their friendship very much.  For some reason lasagne sounded perfect to me.  We decided to try out the new table cloth as well!  I look forward to many gatherings around our table in the year ahead
After dinner we played farkle, watched this silly 10 minute film that is legendary in Europe called Dinner for One.  See this link for more information.  We've come to enjoy watching this and we laugh and laugh at the silly physical comedy of the male actor.  Finally, it was close to midnight so we grabbed a bottle of bubbly and went across the street to the hill nearby to see if we could see any fireworks.  It was a crystal clear, warmish night in Stockholm so the stars were out in full force and it was pretty comfortable being out.  Lanterns were also floating through the night sky so all in all, it was a pretty magical setting.  A kiss for luck with my beloved Douglas started the year off well! We wandered back home to see if Tanner had survived and while he was a little ramped up, he was doing pretty well.  We fell into bed around 1.00 a.m. on January 1, 2014.
New Year's day was relaxing and nice.  We watched some American football and cleaned up the house.  I took the Christmas stuff down early this year because the woman who helps me clean was coming Thursday and we are going to London for a few days next week and I did not want to come home to it.It's fun to put it up and it feels good to take it down.  I do enjoy the opportunity that empty shelves present to re-think what we'd like to put up and have around us in our house.  I'm definitely into less is more and interested in de-cluttering our lives as the year unfolds.  Cycles and seasons...they are good for us!  I couldn't quite bear to put take the lights out of the windows yet.  It is so dark right now...still need that constant glimmer!  
In the evening we watched the Rose Parade from Pasadena, CA.  My family attended this parade every year when I was a kid and as a teenager I even spent a couple of nights sleeping on the curbside waiting for the parade the next day.  It's fun to see on TV but there's really nothing quite like being there to see the flowers and smell the roses, so to speak!
The new year is off and running.  We had a long range planning day with our staff and got the first newsletter of the year put together.  I haven't started a big diet or gone to the gym yet but maybe one of these days! At least I am walking the dog a bit!
We've a busy month ahead but the anticipation of our winter hiatus in CA awaits us.  We look forward to seeing family in both MN and CA.
What will 2014 bring?  We do not know the answer to that question right now...but I'm confident that joy and sorrow will meet and that love will cover all things.