Sunday, July 27, 2008

Learning New Skills may not always be good for you

I heard that learning new skills was good for you. Especially the older you get. Not sure where I got this, but I vaguely remember hearing that it helps prevent Alzheimer's. Which is why you've got airplanes full of people working Sudoku puzzles, all in hopes that by the time they figure them out they will either have a) healthy brains, or b) arrived at their destination, even if they don't know who or where they are. Cause I guarantee you, those puzzles are not inherently fun or relaxing, but instead put you into a math-induced coma.

So I have tried something more practical in the past week. First I tried my hand at Putting in and taking out a contact lens. (I don't really consider wearing them a skill, just in case you wondered.) This became MY GOAL, on the order of JFK's vision - by the end of the decade, landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. (Practice saying it like him, it sounds more dramatic.)

By the way...
I have always thought the ending of the Man on the Moon vision - "and return him safely to earth" - was an interesting tack-on, like we might not care if we got them back safely, as long we beat the Russians in getting them up there.

NASA techie #1 "Hey does anyone know how to get Neil back?"
NASA techie #2 "No, it wasn't in my job description."
NASA techie #1 "You hungry, let's go get pizza."

Back to our featured story...MY GOAL-
The Contact Lens Skill wasn't just for my long term mental health. Its because I'm tired of reading glasses. Mostly, finding ones I like, then sitting on them in the car or crushing them in my backpack on the plane. I thought it would be more convenient to get A Contact Lens. But actually, I almost lost my short term mental health learning this refined and extraordinarily difficult art, which is practiced successfully by 40 million Americans according to my reassuring optometrist, Dr. Ipokeu. Anyone who tells you its easy to learn to put in contacts should be immediately regarded as a habitual liar. I tried every method and trick for days to keep my eye from blinking at the critical moment. Turns out my eye has a fantastic avoidance system for having someone's finger in it, including my own. This is what eyelids are supposed to do right? 50 years of training, and my eye has it down pat.

I discovered my eyelid is actually stronger that my finger's ability to hold it back. I tested them at the YMCA, and my eyelids can lift 150 pounds, but my index finger and ring finger only about 2.5 lbs. So, my eyelid wins every time.

As if the Contact Lens Skill sessions weren't enough, I decided to vastly diminish my long term Alzheimer's odds in the same week by putting on new screens that turns our backyard in to a small version of a batting cage. Turns out Mr. Weedwacker got a little too close over the years (another skill I must improve on) and I have enough rips in the screen that they serve as safety flaps to let the lizards know they are now entering our living area.

My friend Bob gave me great instructions on how to plan for, measure, cut, and install the screens. Even gave me the tools. Unfortunately, he could not do a brain transplant beforehand to tell me which side of the rubber stripping to put in that holds the fence into the frame. Of course, I had it turned the wrong way. Never once did it occur to me that I had it turned the wrong way. That is why God gave men wives. So that they can show us how to do stuff.

Wife: Honey, maybe if you turned it around it would help.
Husband: Right? Its obvious this is the right way.
Wife: Hey, look, its easy the other way.
Hsuband: #$%^&#! (while screaming)

Yes, it was magic. Suddenly, I did not have to use the strength of my arms, legs, and eyelids to force the threading in the groove of the frame in the fence of the cage that surrounds the house that sits on the street that Jack built, but it actually went in fairly easily, much easier than a contact lens in fact.

So, there are many morals, principles, and lessons you, or I, can take from this week of Learning a New Skill. Feel free to make up your own. I had a few to share, but I can't remember them now.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Family Reunions

Its been a week already, but our family went to KC for the annual Bubalo reunion, aka Bubalo Golf Tournament and Eating Extravaganza. Our whole family gathers each year for a weekend golf charity tournament, which honors my dad's inolvement with young people. We came up with the idea of this golf tournament shortly after he died of cancer almost 10 years ago.

A fond and somewhat excruciating memory of my childhood was of my dad taking me and my three brothers golfing. The excruciating part of the memory is that these endeavors usually involved 5 hours of running around a course looking for lost balls and generally wreaking havoc on the lives of anyone who was unfortunate enough to have chosen to play at the same time as us. My dad lived life with an eye on the watch, and was afraid of "slow play" like it was the Grim Reaper, about to descend upon us if we should cause someone to wait more than 10 seconds. This, we managed to do alot. We weren't great players, but we were more in shape by the end of the round. That's what jogging 18 holes of golf will do for you.

Somehow we usually ended the afternoon by feeling it had been a great time, despite scores that matched the heat index on a hot Missouri summer day. (It does seem we usually chose the hottest day of the year to play, so survival was pretty much a victory.)

The family of Missouri Bubalos has grown from 2 parents and 4 sons to include their 4 wives, plus their 14 children and their spouses/fiance's/girlfriends. And a couple of their children. Add in the Northen Bubalo tribe from Duluth, Minnesota, where my dad was born - his brother Bob and some of his family attended - and you end up with the scene above. We may have had people who just jumped in the picture for all I know.

We've done T Shirts for all 10 years. My brother Mark plus some of his friends from St. Peter's UMC do most of the heavy lifting for this tournament. All the money raised goes to send kids from their church to camp and on mission trips.

I was happy to be part of winning The Wisk Broom Plaque - won by the team I was on with 2 of my nephews and my brother Al, it will be proudly displayed in Al's office this year in Indiana. Seems a wisk broom was an indispensable tool of my Grandad Bubalo, and genuine mostly-used relic was saved and turned into a trophy for the family team with the lowest score.

The weekend is a reminder of the power of family. Certainly anyone's family background makes a huge contribution to who they are in life. You may spend your life trying to overcome the background or riding its benefits. Sometimes a bit of both. I've been fortunate that what my family gave me balances way out on the positive, for which I am grateful.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Lucky travel clothes

I believe anyone who flies a lot has found their most comfortable travel clothes. Yet rarely does this get talked about. I am breaking this trend and telling the world. I have a short sleeve/ long sleeve - depending on the weather on arrival - and jeans. My favorite short sleeve was getting worn. It also had an chlorine stain that made it start to look like a work shirt. Imagine the joy when the same shirt went on sale online for $15. Same color same brand. I imagine its about 8-10 yrs younger than the old fave - on hangar, on way to retirement. But I can still travel in comfort.

Sent from my BlackBerry wireless handheld.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

In the Lion's Den

Oh yes, Matt and I are not still stuck at Dulles in a thunderstorm. Though when we did get cleared to take off, the pilot referred to us as "the pathfinder, the first plane given permission to go west through the storm to find a route between all the major thunderstorm cells that other planes could follow." I wasn't very excited to be a pioneer at that moment, but I was also too tired to really care. Plus what do you do at that the flight attendant call button and lodge a protest. "Could you please tell Mr. Pilot that I am not as adventurous as he is and that I did not buy the Pathfinder thrill ride fare, just the basic economy fare?"

Yesterday I spoke at X Track. Its the 5 weeek cross cultural preparation class for our staff who are headed for international assignments. It is always so encouraging to be with them. You rarely find a more teachable audience. They are following Jesus to the edge of their comfort zone, out on an edge where their faith has never been before.

To lift their spirits, I took them on my own little journey through Daniel 6. Here is the short summary. In first grade, we learn the lesson of Daniel in the Lion's Den. God rescues those who follow Him. I like that lesson. It is helpful, it comforts me.

It's just that as we grow in faith, we need to teach the other lesson of Daniel 6 that precedes deliverance, i.e. sometimes following God fully will get you thrown in a lion's den. There is a good reason we don't drive this point home to first graders on the flannel board at Vacation Bible School. "Okay kids, who wants to get thrown in the lion's den? Just follow Jesus with your whole heart, and eventually you'll get that chance. It may not be until your 70, but just wait, it will happen."

This teaching would really hurt our VBS numbers.

However, as we grow we need to not only be challenged by the example of Daniel's integrity and dedication to follow God fully, and God's deliverance of those He loves, but also that following Jesus will at some point, and probably many points, lead us into lion's dens and fiery furnaces of challenges where the outcomes are not certain.

Because sometimes you get a physical deliverance, and sometimes you don't.
Try on Hebrews 11:35-38. A nice cheery verse you don't find in a lot of Christian bookstores. No bumper stickers will be made with this on it.