Thursday, June 30

The Gathering Power of a Motivated Force

I got to see the start of something tonight. And it was more exciting to me that the newest Bachelorette or American Idol. I saw the beginning of a mission team.

This was actually the last meeting (probably) of the Virginia Conference United Methodist Young Adult Brazil Mission Trip Team (or some title such as that - Methodists like long titles. And acronyms) before they depart on July 21 for two weeks in mission in Brazil. Carl is on the team (you know Carl...he was the one whose dear departed truck Jenny was recently replaced by Suzie...but I digress).

So - this is how I was a spectator to the emerging partnership: the 6 young people are from various spots in Virginia - and Lynchburg was playing host to the meeting tonight. The great Ida Powell - ruler of kitchen and all things home economic - was kind enough to pull a small team together to serve the young folks a nice dinner. She and my mom prepared a lovely summer supper of canteloupe, tuna salad on tomato wedges, a broccoli/cauliflower salad and a delightful potato salad made with PURPLE potatoes!! Fancy stuff. And Ida made some lovely carrot curls holding carrot sticks. And deviled eggs. angel food cake.

Apparently Brazil's flag involves green, blue and yellow. The centerpiece even reflected that. Ida is cool.

Carl kept saying he just wanted something simple. But, you know something? Ida Powell was exactly right. This was an event worthy of special treatment. This was the beginning of something great.

I saw 6 young people energetically planning their trip. One week they working with the Shade and Fresh Water project of the United Methodist Church. They'll be spending time in outreach programs including Vacation Bible School, working with about 50 kids each afternoon. And the team is excited!

To experience the process of seeing a team meld together is awesome. To have people pulling together for a common goal. To catch the next person's enthusiasm and to have another person catch yours... If you haven't seen that (or better yet, been a part of it) - I believe you're missing out.

Tonight there was talk about things like cotton balls (for sheep) and supplies for games - how much things would weigh (thank you airlines...) or cost (Methodists are a generally frugal people) or what might be available in Curitaba. And a lot of logistical stuff like passports and visas. But I had a spectator's view. I was there to pour water and serve dinner - and I was supposed to be unobtrusive. And they were very appreciative of our efforts (seriously...carrot curls!).

The unique perspective that I got though - was because I had to leave for choir practice. When I left, the team was being served a dessert of GREEN angel food cake with BLUEberries and YELLOW pineapple sauce. (Nobody has the style and panache of Ida Powell)

When I stopped by about 90 minutes later...there were 6 people in the midst of planning. Their glasses were empty and forgotten - Ida said they had been "talking a blue streak" for an hour. I could see the energy and passion. This is going to be an awesome experience for them. I got to take the team's picture...I look forward to seeing them together again at the end of their journey. To see a group of people willingly put themselves aside for others is refreshing. To see it begin with such camaraderie and comfort is inspiring. To get to see it gel in people with such joy and faith...priceless

Tuesday, June 28

Random thoughts - Volume 10ish

Party night. TWO parties! Whoot - I'm gettin' all craaazy!

Did Happy Hour to celebrate a birthday. Hmmm...been a little while since I've done a shooter of anything...but it WAS a celebration so I took my aqua-greenish beverage and downed it. Reminded me of Kings Dominion Days.

I (sort of) recall a series of shooters one night - one was called a Stoplight. One red drink, one yellow drink, one green drink. I understand that sometimes it is served layered...that bartender was not so skilled. But I remember that was the first night that I had a bar tab that topped $100. And (as I foggily recall) I didn't care. Working at KD was like college, but I got paid...and I didn't have to go to class. Otherwise, you spent the day working at a job that you liked (not that it couldn't have its challenges) and then lived and hung out with people that you liked. (not that THEY couldn't have their challenges).

And sometimes that involved some drinking.


Many times.

But not at work.

Anyway...back to the fellowshipping tonight...I had a great time at happy hour with da boyz. We had some good appetizers (one of my favorite food groups) and some fairly watered down booze. Thanks to the cool guy that picked up the tab for it.

Then I got to go to the second party - Sushi Club for the Elvas birthdays. Now you must understand, I would enjoy Sushi Club with Rush Limbaugh...THAT is how much I love sushi. (hmm...not sure that both Rush and I would survive a meal together...) But this group is uber fun. We share a lot of interests and there is never any lack for conversation. In fact, there are usually at least two conversations going on at once.

We were at one of those giant tables that only exist in Chinese restaurants. Probably a good thing - because I think we may have gotten loud a time or two. The sushi may have been hard to reach - but somehow we managed.

A good time was had by all.

But I still want more sushi...I'm addicted to wasabi. Is there a 12 step program for that?

Anyway - to wrap this back to where I started...I had a wild and crazy TWO party night...and I'm headed to bed about 10ish. But I still recall some days that I would just be figuring out where we were going at 10ish - and I think that I could still do it.

Just not as often.

Tuesday, June 21 did I get on the topic of Hoarders?

Oh my...another one of "those" posts... As I type this - I have no idea what the next word will be. A topic...a topic...what am I typing about? A dream I had? - not really. Although...

I did have a dream last night that was remarkably exhausting. It all started with my innocent channel surfing last night. I saw a pile of stuffed animals and paused for a moment. Only a moment. And then I was sucked an episode of...Hoarders.

As Carlton would say..."oh mylanta". This is too much.

Each episode of Hoarders (I believe this is the third time this has happened to me...) follows the stories of two people. Once I watched about a guy who hoarded recyclables. And unlike a lot of hoarders - his hoard was meticulously clean. Not so with one of the ladies last night. Bless her heart, this woman was living in a chair in her den. No heat. No running water. She had to climb over a mountain of garbage to get to said chair. In the interest of you not losing your breakfast or lunch...I am going to refrain from expounding on what "no running water" means in a house. A'ight?

The other lady last night had thousands....many thousands...of stuffed animals and dolls. She had bought them at thrift stores and yards sales. She was rescuing them. Her happy little friends.

I think that the thing that draws me in...and the thing that makes me so that these folks are so terribly unhappy and alone. And I empathize with them. I wanted so badly to give the doll lady a hug. She bought herself friends. It is hard to explain. But I am deeply moved by their stories.

And I think that both the show and the Hoarders website do a pretty good job of stressing the importance of working WITH the person affected - and the importance of aftercare.

I know a hoarder. And no, I'm not talking about my Dad. He is a pack rat, but by no means is this a manifestation of mental illness. That would be a whole other post entirely! But seriously - there is a person whose hoarding is known to me. I would not wish to be more revealing than that. This is an immensely private situation. But I know that her family attempted to "fix" the situation by clearing out the house in a huge weeklong purge. And I would be willing to stake my life on the fact that the hoard has returned.

If you only treat the symptom - or can't get to the heart of the matter - then you may have only made the situation worse. And so, even though I feel sure that this person could be endangering her life...what do I do? I'm not close to the family. I don't want to intrude and make the situation worse.

It is hard to imagine two shows more different than Hoarders and {wait a second - I was going to say "Inside the Actor's Studio"...but that is actually on Bravo...A&E...isn't that supposed to stand for Arts & Entertainment? Rabbit Trail alert!!! - just scanned through the lineup of shows on A&E. Holy cow. Seriously? What is artistic or entertaining about this stuff: Parking Wars? Dog the Bounty Hunter? Gene Simmons Family Jewels? Oh Arts! Oh Entertainment! Wherefore art thou??

Ok...clearly...that is one beaten hamster. But at least not squashed like those cats in that one lady's house.




Monday, June 20

If you're missing your hamsterbeating...

I think that I shall institute a new policy here at the Beaten Hamster. If you are logging in and sad that there isn't a new can send me a message that says "hey - go beat a hamster, eh?"

Better yet, "hey - go beat THIS hamster: and follow that with a topic you think that I could (or should) pontificate upon." Now, you understand - I may or may not take your suggestion.
And even if I start OUT on topic - I have a propensity to wander off on rabbit trails. You may not have noticed that...

I think that it would make for some interesting posting. Or - perhaps not. Time will tell.

I wrote in a post not too long ago about my mentor Joe Campbell. And I believe I wrote in there about a time that he offered to do a half hour show on any topic that I presented to him. Let me go look at that post...hang on... Yep. I was (and still am) disappointed in whatever topic that I chose that day. Where did I put the key to that time machine??? Anyway - I am now going to pontificate upon a random thought/idea/situation.

I will now go to Google (almighty Google...) and go to a random place. That button that says "I'm feeling lucky"? I'm curious to see where it goes if you don't type anything into the search window. Hang on...

Crikey! It did go someplace cool! It took me to the wondrous land of Google's Logo History! What a fun thing to find! Mostly because it has let me go and visit the uber-cool version that was up for Les Paul's 96th birthday. If you missed it...or didn't know that you could bring it back...go here! It is a functional and recordable guitar!! That was a fantastic one.

I didn't realize that they changed it so often...what fun. You can see images of lots of different ones, but you can only revisit some of them. I still think that this is neat.
I love a company that doesn't take itself too seriously. It seems like the management of Google embraces their people's need to be creative and sometimes silly. Any workplace with a slide gets a thumbs up from me.

I'm glad that my boss lets us be creative and sometimes silly too.

I love my job - how refreshing...

Now - send me some hamsters to beat. And I'll probably get around to them...sooner or later...

Thursday, June 16

A post by email - I hope!

I think that I got the settings right so I can post from my blackberry. Or - as it has so often been lovingly called - my crackberry. (So says the i-addict) (nah - that's unfair. He's much better at ignoring the beeps and whistles of his phone. Hmm...I could learn something there.

So, it's not so much that I feel I have so much to blog about that I HAVE to be able to do it from the crackberry. It is just the covenience of jotting something pithy AND brief during a commercial. Or a sleepless hour.

Speaking of sleepless hours during the night. Thank God that they don't happen very often any more...but when they DO...I think we should be compensated in some way. Frankly - I want that hour back. I will take it in the form of an afternoon siesta - an extended daydream - even an extra hour that very morning! Or a cash equivelant.

I believe 30 bucks ought to do it.

What say you? I think I have my first political platform plank for Election 2012.

Okay - pushing the send button. Wonder if it will work? Me too!
Sent from my BlackBerry®

Wednesday, June 15

#99 - and still I ramble...

Tonight seemed like a good night to celebrate the 99th edition of The Beaten Hamster. And perhaps look back over the past 6 months.

- when I started I thought it would be no problem to sit down and whack out a post every day. I don't think I was aware how much I would care about how it looked. I really hadn't thought about adding pictures. And that takes about as much time to do as the writing itself. I still look at the layout of every newsletter edition (I'm the editor of 2 - The Spire for Centenary United Methodist Church and Building Blocks for the Kiwanis Club of Lynchburg) and blog post.

- I still haven't figured out how to blog from my Blackberry. Sure, those posts would be without pictures...but sometimes I could be pithy AND brief. Well...maybe...You know, I was the layout editor for the Amherite - our high school newspaper. Had to do actual paste-ups for that. I loved the challenge of making everything fit and be readable and flow. So - I'm still pretty particular about the way things look.

- I still look at the stats on how many people look at the Hamster. And I'm still not sure how I feel about that fact. If you click on that word "stats" there....yeah ^ up will take you to a blog post that I wrote about my top three posts (most views) at that point.
And I just re-read it. And I still find #3 hilarious, #2 bone-chilling and #1 interesting. The "stats" post is pretty interesting. I think I shall go look real quick at what #3, 2, 1 are now. Hang on.
#3 - Very Sad Hamster with 56 views
#2 - Seatbelt Height with 61 views
#1 - Late Night Post with 91 views

So...we have a new #3. In fact "Random Sunday Evening Thoughts" doesn't even make the top 10 now. I have no idea if that is interesting or not. But "Very Sad Hamster" - like "Late Night Post" are very raw emotional posts. And each of them affects me to read again. I like the posts that I have written about people who affected my life. People like Joe Campbell and Kathleen Sihlanick. The great thing about both of them is that I know I remembered to tell each of them how very special they were to me - while they were still here. So, though I can't wait to spend more time with them in the next life...I don't have regrets.

- I find that sometimes the reason that posting takes me so long is that I stop and is pretty therapeutic. When I sat down to write this evening I was actually in a pretty bad mood. I'm irritated with some red tape and small minds in a part of my life...but stopping to realize that I'm so incredibly blessed with great friends, laughter and influences...makes all the petty stuff fade a bit. I'll bend and be able to fight another day. Otherwise I might topple like the tree in the storm. A beneficial side effect I had not predicted.

- Upon skimming through some posts, I realize I blog about food a lot. Car wrecks and food. And I still can't find a decent Cuban sandwich in this town. Unless I make it. Made Cubans on the grill on Memorial Day. They were delicious...once you carved the really burnt parts off. Will try again - maybe 4th of July? Or would that be Un-American to serve Cuban sandwiches for Independence Day?

- Random thoughts occur to me. They make no sense.

- I like Mexican Hairless.

- See? Random thought. Synaptic misfires.

Hamster thoroughly beaten this time.

Monday, June 13

Canmore dreams

I thought this was going to be about tree down at the river. And - in brief - know that we are mourning the loss of 2 more trees (3 if you count the one that got creamed...but it was a strange little tree anyway) at the Riva Howse. But there are several silver linings.

It did not fall on the house.

It did not fall on any vehicles.

It didn't destroy the launch pad for the rope swing.

But since the rope swing was in tree #2...moot point at best. Perhaps a diving board? Oh no...I said it. We are going to need some signed waivers.

And there was an excellent crew that cleaned up the debris this evening. And Trudy brought ziti.

So - this could have been a blog about the trees.

But then something cool happened when I pulled in the driveway a few minutes ago.

I checked my phone (because we DON'T do THAT while driving!!) and saw that I had reconnected with an incredible friend from the past. Cool guy. Great smile. And can play the guitar. And he's about 7 feet tall. Just an impressive person - physically and in every other way.

Met him when I went to visit Canada. (not when I was 5, but more recently) I went to visit two of my non-biological brothers who had moved out west. I had never been to the Canadian Rockies before. Heck - I hadn't even been to the lamer version here in the states. (kidding!) And I found a spiritual home. Canmore, Alberta.

Anyway - reconnecting with my friend tonight brought back a thousand memories of my time there. Which - if you measure by only a few. Let's see - the first trip was 10 days. I thought that was going to be plenty of time. Wrong. The second trip was the entire month of October the next year. I thought that was going to be plenty of time. Wrong again. The most recent trip (which was far too long ago) I think I was gone for 6 weeks, give or take a day.

Drove a big brown conversion van up to New Brunswick to pick up one brother, John. We drove to their biological parents' house in Ontario (driving through Quebec was strangely disconcerting...all the signs in French. It made me oddly queasy) and then Dan flew from his place in British Columbia so he could take his motorcycle out west. This way we could all sleep in the van - so he'd be able to do the trip on cheap.

The next nine days are worth a post or two of their own sometime...but it's getting late.

Tonight I shall be dreaming of Canmore. And the mountains. And the Caesar salad at the Sherwood House. And the freaky colors of the water up there. And competing with Dan to see who could top each other in the kitchen. And watching my friend fall in love with bbq sandwiches (he always ate the first one right over the crock pot). And the hot springs that were out in the middle of nowhere. And ketchup chips.

Ask Dan where my dang ketchup chips are....

Sweet dreams, eh?

Thursday, June 9


I have come to a decision.

I am going to stop feeling guilty about not blogging some days.

You see...I have an overdeveloped sense of guilt. I may have been Catholic in a previous life. Heck, I may have been one of those monks that beat themselves with canes in order to be more pious.

I just have to face the fact that I can't possibly do it all. At least not all the time.

Of course, having said that...I have a busy weekend planned!

I'd like to invite everyone out to the Yard Sale at Centenary UMC on Rivermont Ave on Saturday. 8am to noon. No breakfast being served...just piles and piles of treasures. I passed through there this evening and that place is full.

Sunday is Music Appreciation Sunday. The Handbell Choir will perform Kum Ba Yah (and quite masterfully considering the fine quality of tonight's rehearsal!) and the Sanctuary Choir will perform 4 spirituals. For a gathering of pretty white Methodists...I think we'll do very well.
Just need the Holy Spirit to put a little extra soul into it...

Then Sunday evening is the choir picnic.

I'll try to check in here once in awhile too.

But if that doesn't work out...

I'm not going to feel guilty.


not much.


I need a 12 step program.

Sunday, June 5

River Fish

Today I witnessed the birth of a new river fish. Jacob.

I was down on the dock talking to Trudy (who is wise in the area of physical education and her kids still haven't drowned) and she said - I bet he could swim without that life vest. Now, don't get scared - she didn't say it while pushing my 6 year old nephew off the dock.

After clearing it with his mom (who shrugged and said sure, give it a try) (I love her laissez fair parenting style. Works well with this adventuring boy!) we asked him if he wanted to try it. I was the one in the river catching him and Trudy was on the dock guiding him to the ladder.
You never saw such excitement as the look in this boy's eyes when he realized he was doing it! He would push off from the dock and swim toward me. Part dog-paddle and part underwater breast stroke...not Olympic material (yet!) but perfect for being a river fish.

And then he would push off me and swim back to the ladder.

After he felt pretty good about that - he started jumping off the dock. He's just fearless! He even did a pretty respectable dive one time. He didn't think about it - he just jumped in head first. I was never more than about 3 feet away - and whenever I thought he might be getting in trouble...I was a lot closer real quick. But he pretty much had it.
Thanks to all the forces that aligned to give me the chance to be part of that.

At one point - when Trudy and I were talking with him (and he was quite seriously listening) about there needing to ALWAYS be an adult he could trust in the water with him - he told her that he trusted ME. And that it would probably be best if I was the one giving him swimming lessons. I quite agree with him.

But I have the feeling that he's going to come back from Montana an accomplished swimmer. He'll be there for about two months (in two days...sigh...) and there is a pool available. So - I'm probably going to miss out on the skill development.

But let it be known...that he swam to ME. For the first time.
And trusted ME to be there to catch him. And propel him toward the ladder.

I've got the footprints on my stomach to prove it.

And on my heart, too.

Wednesday, June 1

Bambi = Tasty!

Okay - I know it will seem like a strange meal to eat by the river...but we basically had pot roast and potatoes and carrots tonight. And it was mighty tasty. But there was no need to invite Denise, because we were eating Bambi tonight.

I've never had an aversion to eating wild game. I'll try most anything. I'm sure that through the years I've eaten squirrel and rabbit at least. Although we are not rednecks ourselves...we are indeed redneck adjacent.

Some of the most interesting memories of my childhood involve campgrounds and brunswick stews. We were members of the National Campers and Hikers Association when I was real little. Somewhere we still have a couple of the leather vests with patches. Fringe leather. As I recall - we kids' vests were made of vinyl or something and they didn't survive the years. But Mom and Dad - and probably Karen and Denise had the real deal.

The patches were from various campouts we went to - including a Frostbite Campout (in January, I believe) and a wonderful visit to Canada. I think I was 5. We camped there and back. I recall a stop in Hershey Pennsylvania. That place smells INCREDIBLE! We didn't go to the theme park (I think I remember discussion of it...but was probably vetoed by $$) but we went to the factory. Which, at the time, you could take a tour of. I could have stood there watching those Hershey Kisses being made for an entire day. I still have a great love of touring factories - the process never fails to fascinate me. Remind me to tell you about some of the tours sometime.

We made another stop in Niagara Falls. I think that was when I declared myself Canadian. Apparently for a long time after that I continued to tell people I was from Canada. I do love it there.

We took the tour at the falls that goes underground and has observation from behind one of the falls. Everyone was wearing the same yellow raincoats. My parents had 4 kids by this time - and temporarily had one less. Yep, I got lost. Thank goodness I am charming (and that there were other NCHA people around) because they reconnected me to my Mom and Dad pretty quick. I just remember that it was dark and very wet. And loud!! The roaring water was wonderful. I am a true Pisces - I adore water in all forms. Ocean, river, lake, bathtub, pool, creek, pond, falls, mud puddle. I'm drawn to water.

As I write this - I'm wondering why I haven't been back... I've been to the Canadian Rockies on several occasions. And drove from New Brunswick to British Columbia on "The 1" (10 or 12 great days...I'll tell about it some day...but probably not all about it...) I've been to NYC - but haven't made it to the magic of the falls again. Maybe I've just been holding that experience for the right time. Perhaps that time will be soon.

Where was I? Oh yeah, redneck adjacent...

Dinner was good.

It is ok to eat deer.

Thanks Mom!

I feel drawn to water now...shower, then sleep....

Hamster is beat...g'nite hamsterbeaters!