Dwight: Ok, do something stereotypical so I can get it really quick.

goooood mooorning vietnaaaaaam! if that's not funny to you, then you need to be watching the office on thursday nights.

so it's been a few weeks since my last post so i figured it was time to update the world, or at least mi madre and my handful of other readers to what's been going on lately.

yesterday was one of those unplanned days that ended up being pretty chill. one of the kiddos from san diego came up to visit and get out of the house for a couple of days while on spring break. he's a photography buff, and wanted to come take some pics in l.a. and along the pch. the plan was to head down the coast and loop up back north through the valley and get a bunch of rolls of film used up. well, the weather didn't exactly cooperate, so we ended up cruising down one of the nicest drives in the world in the middle of a torrential downpour. needless to say we didn't take near as many pics as we wanted, and just ended up driving around los angeles kinda aimlessly, just talking. it's kinda cool when you can have those days where you don't really do a whole lot, but it still ends up being a busy day, and one where you had fun. we ended up meeting the cuz and mucho risas chica for dinner at chili's and by the time we got back we were all pretty wiped out. something about rainy days kinda makes the world seem like its moving a little slower.

one of the things we talked about was how over-hyped stuff can become. here we are cruising down hollywood blvd, sunset blvd, rodeo drive, and bel air, and we really weren't all that impressed. we felt bad for all of the tourists that were braving the rain to find these 'famous spots' in l.a. don't get me wrong, l.a. is a great place to visit, and there are a million things to do here, but hollywood and beverly hills?... we really don't see the hype. for example, graumanns chinese theater where all of the starts put their hands in concrete, and where they reveal people's starts for the walk of fame (by the way, we missed destiny's child getting their star by about two hours.... dang) is actually really tiny, and it's in the middle of a block of some random star maps stores, fast food dives, and some other unmentionable shops. not exactly the glamourous setting you would expect.

my favorite part of the hollywood is the star walk of fame. sure they reveal the stars in front of graumann's, but most stars end up being three miles down the road in front of a popeye's chicken. for example, if tony danza wanted to see his star he would have to find the pawn shop it was in front of, and move the person sleeping on it. for me it's a great reminder of priorities, and helps throw things into perspective.

and it's not just l.a. i remember a while ago i thought it would be really cool to see graceland when i was out visiting my grandparents in memphis. at the very least, i wanted to see some hardcore elvis fans crying in front of the gate. so we went to find graceland, and it was kinda in the middle of the hood, had graffiti all over the walls, and the house was about the same size as some of my friends' back home. i really couldn't imagine that being the main destination for a vacation. i think this is why my parents never really took us on a whole lot of vacations to see things or places, but people. i know we stopped at the grand canyon a few times, but it was always on the way to or from visiting family in texas. unless it was somewhere really exotic, or a place where there were many things to see in one area, i can't really remember taking a vacation to see a destination. hmmm, never really thought about that...

on monday, i was down in san diego to visit my second family and help dantheman get his old car up to murrietta. talk about a comedy of errors. so dantheman's dad restored an old mg years ago, and let dantheman have it as his first car. when college came around the mg went back in the garage because it wasn't really going to work in oklahoma. so as far as i know, the mg ha been sitting in the garage for about seven years. now that dantheman and futuremom have a house, more specifically a garage, dantheman inherited his car back. anyways, watching us try and push this thing out of the driveway and out on to the trailer must have been a sight to see. we came about a half an inch from ruining a classic car on several occasions. fortunately the car needs restoring, otherwise it would have been a really bad day. so after the longest drive up to murrietta, we finally get the car to the house, when we start trying to back the car dolly in to the driveway. the problem here is that the car dolly's are not meant to go in reverse, and we had both missed the giant DO NOT BACK UP sticker on the arm of the trailer. so we park the trailer across the street, dan steers the car, and i have to push it off of the trailer myself while dan guides it towards the driveway, which has a huge slope to it. we get in the driveway, then dan starts to work on trying get the garage door working. we finally get it open, then start pushing the car up the driveway, when dan yells stop again. now the goofball decides that he doesn't want to wash the car in the garage, so he hoses it off in the driveway, which means we now have to push a wet car. so i protest, and we wait for the car and the driveway to dry off, then we push it, yet again, up into the garage. after days like that i can see why we are friends, we have the same way of planning.

then we go return the car dolly to the uhaul place where we had a great lesson in customer service. so on the way up from san diego the strap on the right tire popped off twice, making us stop and check and redo the lockdown on the freeway. this is not a good thing because teeth on the clamp are worn don a bit, and there is a very real likeliness that the straps will continue to fly off. not to mention there is a classic car in tow, and i'm right behind it on the freeway for an hour drive. so we tell the lady at uhaul what happened, and she starts yelling at us, saying we tied it down wrong, making us feel incompetent. here's a lesson in customer service: the customer is always right. i don't care if i come in saying purple balloons started flying out of the tires, you apologize to the customer for anything out of the ordinary and you smooth things over, you never make the customer feel stupid. then the lady puts the strap in and starts tugging on it herself, looking at us saying 'it works now'. i gladly mentioned that there was huge difference between a lady tugging on the strap and a two ton car on the freeway pulling on the strap. here's the thing, we weren't looking to get money back or trying to start a ruckus, we just wanted them to know for future references, so that it didn't happen someone else. when we mentioned this she got even more mad at us. seriously, not big on uhaul right now in murrietta. me and dantheman just had to laugh though, not a whole lot of stuff you can do about idiot people.

so what else is going on...

i had another big realization over the past few weeks. i am unconventional. this should not surprise anyone that knows me at all, but it's something i've lost sight of over the past year or so. here's the thing, i've always had a bunch of rules to live by, parents, high school, college... and now, i don't really have those rules. when i was a kid, i had my parents rules to work around (note i'm not saying breaking). if my parents told me to do something, i would get it done my own way. in school as a kid i always did my own thing as well, esp when it came to expectations of work load and grades. i got to the same place that they wanted me to go, but i went according to my own directions. in college, i had probably the most rules i've ever had in life, and that's the happiest i've ever been, mainly doing things that were a little outside of the conventional rules of oc. now that i am out on my own, i only have God's rules and my own. over the past year i've started to do things that go against my own rules. nothing bad, but things like trying to copy other youth ministers, take up hobbies other people have, and spending most of my day in the office. here's the thing, i took an unconventional way into youth ministry, and i never intended on being an average youth minister. so why am i trying to act like one? i went from looking to others for ideas, to trying to be like others. i lost my outside perspective. also, i started off my ministry with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder that i used to use as motivation. i don't have a youth ministry degree, i'm single, and i did not have any experience when i started looking for a job. a lot of places passed on me because of any combination of those three things, and as a result i developed a motivation to prove to myself and the rest of the world that God could use me for youth ministry. having that conventional youth minister image really helped me define my approach to ministry, and had lost sight of that. i started going against my own rules and i wasn't as happy as i wanted to be. so in the past few weeks i've gone back to getting that image of the typical youth minister in my head, and making sure that i am paving my own path to the same destination. i want to reiterate that this does not mean i am breaking rules for the sake of breaking rules, this just means that i approach my classes differently, and i spend my time differently. in no way shape or form do i condone breaking God's rules, but i do recommend that we all look at the path that God has intended us to travel to the same destination.

this has been a fun revelation though. i feel like i did back in my punk ska days in high school. i feel like it's me and God walking through the woods vs. us taking the park trail. there's also a part of me that wants to get a mohawk, a couple more tattoos and find my old spiked jacket. that might have to wait, but one of my friends put it pretty well, "d.j., you don't need a mohawk, you have one on your heart". very true. man, the freedom that comes from knowing that you have your own path to walk is amazing. just thinking about it gets me charged up. it's a great testimony of God's good will too, we were never designed to fit into the mold of another person. i am on of a kind, uniquely and wonderfully designed by the same God that put the stars in the sky. why should i try and change that?

other random thoughts...

the cuz had this quote at dinner last night: "your nickname was trucker, maybe you'll know. why do they call it a semi truck? if anything a regular truck should be called a semi truck cause it's not near as big."

my oldest guitar ras, is about to become artwork, or a decoration. we bought her back in 94 for something like forty bucks, and we've traveled all over this country together. she's always had a great sound, almost like a ukulele, but as of late the neck has started to warp, making it tougher to actually get her to sound good. it's going to be a tough day finally hanging her on the wall for display purposes only. she's been good to me though, covered in stickers, with a wide, worn down neck that was really easy to learn on. we've played a lot of songs together, gone through a lot of strings, campfires, beach trips, plane rides, camps, jam sessions, and i think a few trips down the river. so far anyone that remembers my guitar and the good times she brought with her, just thought you'd like to know.

speaking of guitars, i bought a bass guitar last week at a pawn shop. let me tell you, my neighbors really love me now. so now i'm teaching myself to play bass. actually, i figured it was easier to buy a bass and learn how to play, then trying to program something that sounds like a bass on garageband. for a cheap beat up bass it's pretty sweet. it won't be long until i dress up a little, but for now the key is teaching myself how to play. chalk this up as me doing things my own way. either way, i was able to record a bunch of stuff last weekend, and hopefully i'll have some stuff posted on myspace before the summer starts. we'll see.

my other purchases of note lately def send out a nerd alert, but i really don't care. i'm going to put a spiritual spin on this so don't make fun, but lately i've been buying legos. talk about a cathartic hobby, legos are awesome. there's something very calming about putting together legos. maybe it's the hour or two of focus that it takes to put them together, the ability to create and sort out a mess into something constructive, or just the reminiscing on fond childhood memories, but i'm all about legos as of late. and to double the nerdiness, i've been buying star wars lego sets. don't expect me to dress up and go to any conventions any time soon, but i have told a few of my friends about this, and i have gotten some jealous responses. so here's the spiritual stuff i can draw from legos. first, there's the all important part of following directions. if you want your creation to look anything like the picture on the box you better follow all of the steps. then there are the specific pieces that make every lego creation unique. you know those parts that you would never use again on another creation that work only for that one thing, which is why you keep the directions, you can rebuild it again later. speaking of the pieces, you could draw a lot from the way the pieces are designed to fit together, and how you can take so many different colors and shapes to create something. then there is the sheer creativity it takes to design lego sets. forget getting a man in space, how long did it take for the lego guys to figure out how to build the millennium falcon? and finally, there is the ability to sit quietly and dive into your own world for a while that is awesome. i know this may sound a little juvenile, but i recommend the next time you are stressed, or just want some quiet time, go pick up some legos.

well, it's about time for me to be a grown up and get to work. some of the kiddos are coming up to skate the church before ROOTS so i better move my car.

by the way, thanks for all the positive responses to my past several posts, both written and spoken. it means a lot to know that my ranting and raving can bring you laughter and encouragement.

one love, one heart.


Use the force young Skywalker...

this may go under the 'you had to be there' section of my stories, but there's been a few things that have happened in the last few weeks that have got me cracking up...

first off, i have to preface this story with the fact that i love traveling by plane, because there is always the greatest potential for an awkward moment when a bunch of strangers are enclosed six inches from each other for hours on end. nuff said. anyways, on my trip out to dallas a few weeks ago i was seated on the on the back row of the plane. the two ladies to my left and the three across the aisle were all chinese, which looking back, makes for a funny picture thinking about a massive white guy and a bunch of skinny asian women crammed in a plane together. anyways, i started to doze off as soon as we took off, which was a little more difficult than usual, because i couldn't lean the seat back. so here i am sleeping sitting straight up when we hit a little turbulence that startles me. i open my eyes and there are a pair of jeans about three inches from my face. i was pretty freaked out, but the girl that was trying to step over me was freaked out even more and tried to jump into the aisle, planting her face on the ground. she got up laughing, then i started laughing, then the ladies by us started laughing and saying stuff in chinese. i had no clue what they were saying, but just kind of smiled and laughed along. then they started laughing even more, and i think it's because i was looking like a moron trying to laugh along to jokes made in chinese. ahhh, awkward moments... so much fun.

on the flight back, the plane was pretty empty, and everyone had their own row. talk about a great flight, we even got to watch walk the line, which is climbing up my favorite movie list. here's the funny thing about planes though, when you have to go to the bathroom, everyone knows what you're doing. it's not like you are hiking down the aisle to talk to your neighbor in row 32, so there's no need to really pretend. that, and anyone that's traveled on planes before has been in the same place, having to walk down the middle aisle holding on to seats as you go because the plane rocks a little bit. so as soon as the movie is over a whole group of people head to the back of the plane to use the two lavatories. both doors are locked, so now we have like 5 or 6 people standing in the back galley area. so we start small talking about the movie a little bit while we're waiting for people to filter through. all of the sudden one of the doors open and this horrendous smell fills the air. this lady pokes her head out, sees us, realizes it smells awful and then closes the door immediately. she then hides in the bathroom until the rest of us (who are trying not to laugh so we don't have to breathe in the noxious air) take our turns in the other lavatory. here's the thing though, she kept poking her head out to check and see if we were gone. seriously, we're on a plane, we all know what you did, and there really is nowhere to hide. just walk back to your seat and let that be it. seriously, are you going to hide in the back until we land and everyone has left the plane. the longer you wait the more people are going to worry about you. i had a good laugh over this one. sorry if it doesn't translate well into a story.

last week we had our monthly sr. saints breakfast. a group of 30 or so seniors go out and eat breakfast, and i pretend i'm awake join them. so our preacher lawdog was running about twenty minutes late, so all of the senior saints were looking at me for answers. the nicest, sweetest, little old lady sitting across from me says we should punish lawdog when he gets in, and i mentioned something about a kick to the shins to wake him up. so when lawdog gets there, he makes his way around the table, shaking hands and greeting all of our seniors. when he comes to this lady, she stands up, holds onto his arms for support, then proceeds to continually kick him in the shins. then she stops and switches legs. the expression on lawdog's face was a priceless mix of utter shock and amusement. i almost fell out of my chair laughing at the sight of the sweetest little old lady kicking our 6'3" preacher in the shins while holding on to him for support. once again, a story that prob doesn't translate without having been there, but an image i will hopefully have in my head for a long while.

so what else...

yesterday was a pretty good day. me and some of the youth ministry crew went to see the world baseball classic game between team usa and team korea. aside from the fact that the us got beat soundly at a game we invented, it was pretty exciting to watch. here's some of the highlights:

this was the first time that i have actually been to a sporting event where a team was representing the united states as a whole.

i have never seen that many american flags in one place.

or korean flags.

although there really wasn't a whole lot of baseball to get excited about on our end, the few times where we did get the 'U-S-A, U-S-A' chant going were absolutely amazing. say what you want about our country, but when it comes time for us to be loud, we're loud.

when they played the korean national anthem, everyone was very respectful. the best part of their anthem for me was listening to the old man behind us sing. talk about pride, this man was amazing. from the looks of it he was a granddad there with his whole family. when they started playing the korean anthem, he started singing in one of the most powerful voices i've ever heard. it was one of those voices where you know the guy believes in what he is saying. very honest. and when i start to think about what this man had probably been through in his life, i was pretty moved.

team korea fans. simply amazing. they were relentless and absolutely awesome baseball fans. if team usa doesn't win, i'll be glad to see team korea take the prize. although, there were a small group of fans not doing much for dismissing stereotypes by banging on pots and pans whenever team korea scored.

the team that the us fielded was absolutely awesome. jeter, rodriguez, griffey... all on the same field. but that does lead me to some other points:

the low-lights of the game...

next time team usa puts together a lineup, we better have our best on the field. none of this 'whoever shows up' business. it may end up being a good thing having our team lose in the world baseball tournament, maybe it will spur on some pride in our players. i guarantee that there wouldn't be a whole lot of college or AAA ballplayers turning down invites.

our fans. there will always be those ignorant few raider fans that give us a bad name. all night our fans were pretty respectful, until a korean guy named bum ho lee came up to bat. i know there are plenty of jokes there, and trust me, i kinda chuckled when i first heard the name, but that's no excuse to be an ignorant jerk. one guy starts yelling out some jokes, and gets all of the korean fans riled up. good job guy, it the korean fans didn't shut you up, i'm sure the american fans would have.

that being said, there were a couple of fans from both sides that started some trouble, and were promptly escorted out of angel stadium.

all in all, it was a fun game though. we had some good laughs, and there were two things i noticed that have completely sold me on the world baseball classic: first, i love being able to pull for team usa. i love seeing american flags, and i love chanting 'U-S-A' at the top of my lungs. my patriotism is pretty high today, and there's a good chance of me and the cuz watching rocky 4 tonight. secondly, i like being able to pull for player that i don't normally get to root for. i.e. the boston red sox and atlanta braves. it was nice to finally be able to pull for guys like chipper jones and jason varitek. best of luck to big papi and all those other guys i won't like in a few weeks.

oh yeah, i also had my first stadium dog of the season, always a reason to celebrate.

random thoughts...

i'm cold. that may not seem like a big deal, but it is to me. it's been in the 40's and 50's around here lately during the day, and dropping down to the high 30's at night. when i lived in oklahoma this wasn't a big deal, and i would laugh at people that complained about the weather. now that i am a californian again, i find myself taking pride in the fact that anything below 70 is freezing cold. and before anyone comments about how weak we are when it comes to weather, i know. i am perfectly willing to accept this as fact. i am also going to go to the beach on christmas day. nuff said.

there are certain movies that help you relate with any generation. if i want to relate to my kids, i pull out some anchorman, or dodgeball quotes. and before they got killed, i was using a bunch of napoleon dynamite quotes. if i want to get my friends laughing, dumb and dumber, happy gilmore and billy madison do the job. for people my parents age, blazing saddles is golden. anyone older than that, just go straight for the three stooges. i know there are plenty more to choose from, but these are my go-to movies.

albums. this may be me officially turning into one of those 'old music guys', but i don't really care. i kind of miss actual albums. i feel like too many artists are gearing their songs towards the single, and not really focusing on creating a cohesive album. and i miss album artwork. i miss the days of opening up a new album and sitting there and reading the lyrics to the songs while staring at the cover art. i say this being part of the problem as much as anyone else. i pretty much buy all of my music off of itunes now mainly for availability and price. you really can't beat 9.99 for whole albums. i also know that as soon as i save up enough money to get an ipod, i'm going to pretty much eliminate any need for a tangible collection of music. all digital. it's kind of like when you know your favorite baseball player is going to retire, you know you'll still like baseball, but it's going to be hard to root for that team the same way as you did before. all of this comes from the fact that my friend valleygirl bought me some actual records the other day at the thrift store. big props to her and anyone that still collects vinyl.

speaking of gifts, risas mucho chica was out shopping the other day and got me a set of bowls that made me crack up. i now own a set of dodger and raider bowls. now if only i could find something worthy of putting in those bowls, like used kleenex... maybe some of lil stizz's dirty diapers...

oh yeah, i now have three copies of walk the line. thank you to my friends and family that know i love johnny cash.

not so random thoughts...

in the past few weeks i've kind of checked out of my typical routine and thought process. actually, we're going on a couple of months at this point. regardless, i'm doing a lot of introspective thinking and here are some of the things that i've been doing/ thinking lately:

the big thing right now is figuring out the big thing. i've been doing a lot of narrowing down and thinking through my priorities, and trying to focus on the top few. sounds simple but believe me, i've been losing sleep over this. but i have been able to narrow down my list of priorities to these top five:

1. spend time with God. sounds easy, makes sense, def needs to be number one if any of these other things are going to fall in line. it's funny how the biggest thing can be the easiest to forget.

2. get organized. i'm making so many lists right now of things to do it's unreal. this also includes time management which has never been something i've attempted working on, much less making it a priority in life. this one is the tough one of the bunch.

3. free time. as much as i love vegging out, i am making sure that my free time is actually spent dong something i want to do, instead of what i always feel like doing.

4. follow through. this goes right behind getting organized on things that are going to be tough to do. i never really understood why i had to do homework until recently. (this is the part where my parents insert an 'i told you so' in here) but homework was simply a means of getting used to getting things done. ouch. i should have done more homework. not having deadlines has been kicking my butt. back when i did have deadlines, if i didn't do something, the time would pass, i would take the consequences and move on. not so much anymore. now things don't simply pass by with time.

5. going back to my roots. i have always been an unconventional person. this is one of those things that i have known, but have been reminded of recently. i've lost this. i have always had rules and expectations to abide by that i have always found my own way through and around. now that i am on my own, i don't really have any person's rules to follow except mine (obviously God's rules are a separate issue). a big way this has changed me has been my approach to youth ministry. i started looking at what my goals have become, and they have started to look like everyone else's. that in and of itself is not that bad, because there are some awesome youth ministers that i work with, but i am not them. i got into youth ministry by going down a unique path, and i've stopped walking down that same path. i've started to break my own rules, and not the ones that are associated with youth ministry. last friday i spent the day hanging out with some kids skating and painting, and then finished the day at a punk show. that was a great reminder of where my direction is in ministry.

another thing i ran across a while ago was the 'life satisfaction index'. it's a simple equation, assign your reality a number from 1-10, then assign your expectations a number from 1-10. now subtract your expectations from your reality (reality of 8 - expectations of 6 = satisfaction of +2) if the answer is above 5, then your expectations are too low for your reality. if the answer is below -5, then your expectations are much too high. the goal is to aim for a +2, where your reality is slightly better than your expectations. my problem as of late is that things have either been a +9 or a -9, without much middle ground. so now i go back to re-examining my expectations, which is an interesting trip. more on this as i start to get the hang of it.

something else that hit the other day, was the way i am handling dealing with my dad. i have focused so much of my attention on the fact that mi padre is a great man, and i have no doubt about where he will be spending eternity, but i have neglected the fact that i am dealing with a natural part of life much sooner than most people do (hmmmm, an unconventional experience, this kind of rings a bell..). the best comparison i could come up with is that of luke skywalker. he went to train with yoda, but had his training cut short before he could fully become a jedi. he had to go a roundabout way of completing his training. i'm kind of like luke skywalker in that i'm going to have go about my growing up in an unconventional way. now if only i had a lightsaber....

well, that's enough head shrinking for now, my guitar is calling out my name, as is my porch overlooking a little league game. thanks to everyone that reads this and encourages me. the swell is coming, and look for me to be riding some serious waves in the near future. till then,

one love, one heart.