Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Perspective

I ran across this in the Wall Street Journal today and thought you'd enjoy it. It gives a good perspective not only on what we're going through but what we still have despite the chaos in the markets.

As Dire as the Times May Seem, History Isn't About to Repeat Itself

A long streak of speculative lending got out of hand as banks and even staid industrial companies made a stream of risky loans. Consumer spending on cars and clothes was slipping, but no one was paying attention. The stock market grew shaky in September, and then in October, the bottom fell out.


(Depositors crowd outside a failed New York bank in 1931.)


Suddenly, everyone seemed to want to sell. But there were few buyers, and over six bleak trading days, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost a third of its value. It was a panic, said a senior New York Stock Exchange official, "where all at once, the inconceivable terrors of the unknown and the unfamiliar are thrust upon the public mind; confidence is paralyzed, and until it is restored, chaos reigns."


The year, of course, was 1929, though it sounds just enough like today to make us wonder if we should stock up the pantry, take the cash out of the bank and hunker down for a 21st-century Great Depression. No doubt, the parallels are stark and frightening. But the differences between now and then are even greater.


Let's start with lending. In the late 1920s, as the stock market took off, banks expanded their loans for those most unpredictable of assets: stocks. Investors could easily borrow up to 75% of the value of a stock purchase. By 1929, almost $4 of every $10 in bank loans went to buy shares. In addition, Chrysler, General Motors and Standard Oil of New Jersey all made tens of millions of dollars available for stock loans. In one of the most egregious examples, an energy company called Cities Service sold stock and then used the cash to make loans for people to buy more shares.


When the market started to fall, however, brokers had to call clients for more cash to secure their loans -- a so-called margin call. Because they had seen short downturns before, customers weren't eager to bail out. The entertainer Groucho Marx borrowed from the bank, against his life-insurance policy and against his house to come up with cash to meet his margin calls. But it wasn't enough. During that dark week in October, his broker sold all his stocks, wiping out his life savings of $240,000 and leaving him deeply in debt.


"I would have lost more," he said later, "but that was all the money I had."


When those stock assets evaporated, an already weak banking system was crushed. In the first half of 1929, well before the crash, more than 300 banks had closed. More than 1,000 banks closed in 1930. Without a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., depositors lost everything.
Initially, the Federal Reserve did nothing. To try to keep speculative borrowing on stocks from continuing, it declined to reduce interest rates, choking off credit. Unemployment climbed toward 25% at a time when there was no unemployment compensation. In the Prohibition era, those without jobs couldn't even legally drown their sorrows in beer.


Most striking was the long reluctance to acknowledge a serious problem. During the crash, President Herbert Hoover insisted that "the fundamental business of the country ... is on a sound and prosperous basis." With far fewer players in the stock market than today and with greater volatility, few saw the crash's potential long-term impact. In fact, the New York Times declared Cmdr. Richard Byrd's first flight over the South Pole as the biggest news story of 1929.
The years after the crash told a different story. By the middle of 1932, the Dow had dropped 90% from its peak in September 1929. By the end of 1933, an estimated 44% of all first mortgages were in default. Only in the depths of that crisis did the government truly step up to address the many underlying problems.


Today, our mortgage mess looks like a disaster, too, but at least banks made loans against houses, assets that should continue to have at least some value. In the second quarter of this year, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, 6.4% of mortgages were at least one payment behind and 2.75% were in foreclosure -- modern-day records, to be sure, but not depression levels. The long-term impact remains to be seen, but the acknowledgment and quick action by the Federal Reserve and Congress truly set this crisis apart from 1929.


Admittedly, that doesn't erase the ache of watching our life savings shrink or ease the fear of what might be ahead. Clearly there are repercussions yet to come. But here are a few suggestions for coping.


Remember that we've been through tough times before. The Internet bust was almost as extraordinary as the 1929 crash: Between early 2000 and late 2002, the tech-heavy Nasdaq index fell almost 80%. You may recall the speculative real-estate lending that resulted in almost 2,000 bank failures between 1987 and 1991, and the Dow plunging 22.6% in one day in 1987. While none of those were pleasant, you're still here.


Stay the course. You know this, but it's a time to return to the basics. Live within your means. Reduce your debt. Keep saving -- and investing. When the cycle turns, and it will, you'll be glad you did.


Put your losses in perspective. This isn't easy. I know: I'm feeling genuine pain after losing my entire investment in Washington Mutual and watching a mutual fund I bought in March for one of my retirement accounts drop by 36% -- and that's before this week. I absolutely cannot bear to tally up all my losses.


This is my reality check: For more than a decade, I have gone to my local elementary school to tutor. There I spend time reading with children who own no books of their own, whose families can't afford school supplies and who have never been to a dentist. For the price of 45 minutes a week, I return to my desk feeling as wealthy as any one person needs to be.


Write to Karen Blumenthal at karen.blumenthal@dowjones.com

Thursday, September 18, 2008

"Greed is good."



That was one of the infamous quotes given by corporate raider Gordon Gecko (Michael Douglas) to his protege Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) in Oliver Stone's film "Wall Street."

Bud is enthralled by the success and wealth of Gecko. He's willing to do anything to achieve something that resembles the life of Gecko. By the end of the movie he's lost it all and almost destroyed the company his father has worked a lifetime for. He ends up taking Gecko down with him and we find out that greed is really not so good after all.

From a Christian perspective we already knew this. There is more to this life than the pursuit of the dollar. Unfortunately the is not the perspective of everyone and it's been all too obvious the past year and especially the last few months.

The markets are in turmoil and we're learning that (surprise!) there can be too much of a good thing. In a nutshell we're seeing that greed driven companies have not only put themselves in jeopardy, but their employees, their customers and stockholders and the markets in general.

Think of the names that have been so prevalent in the news lately:

Shearson Lehman - bankrupt

Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac - under government control

Merrill Lynch - sold last minute to Bank of America to avoid bankruptcy

Bear Stearns - bankrupt

AIG - narrowly avoided bankruptcy with government intervention

It's much too complicated to go into detail as to how all of this took place. But sadly it does go back to a time of easy loans. Lots and lots of easy loans to people who eventually would not have the means to pay back. Pair that with insurance contracts being sold to cover those easy loans. Lots and lots of insurance contracts (CDS's or credit default swaps if you've heard the term recently). The loans went bad - lots and lots of loans went bad leaving mortgage institutions swinging in the wind. When the loans went bad the insurance contracts kicked in (or were supposed to kick in) leaving lots and lots of insurance institutions like AIG swinging in the wind. This is a very simplistic summary but it all boils down to the euphoria of fast, easy money and the notion that the good times will never end.

Companies were bleeding cash as the result of these bad deals. In addition the collateral against the loans was losing value at breakneck speed as more and more properties, residential and commercial, hit the market in fire sales and foreclosures. Think supply and demand. As more properties hit the market there was ample supply but banks and lending institutions were in such turmoil that lending rules became extremely tight - ample supply and very low demand. The result was (is) rapidly decreasing property values. As asset values fell and had to be 'written down' on balance sheets credit rating agencies become wary of the fact that these companies may not be able to meet their debt obligations. They downgrade the company's credit rating thus making them responsible for additional collateral payments to creditors. More and more cash ran out the door until there was none left. Crisis - to put it mildly.

It's a mess. However, this too shall pass. If we're not at the bottom yet I believe we're close. Steps are being taken to ensure liquidity in the markets. Honestly, I have been very impressed with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and his team's response to all this. His plan to keep AIG afloat was not actually a 'bailout.' In the end the taxpayers could come out of that deal with a nice profit.

Read more about the plan here: Will AIG plan cost taxpayers money, or just sleep?

All in all, let's disregard Gordon Gecko's advice about greed and stick with a more reliable source:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. - Collossians 3:1-3

By the way, the '4th Degree Byrnes' fantasy football team is currently 2-0. I'm carrying Payton and Eli Manning on the roster. Any suggestions for QB this week?


Friday, August 29, 2008

It's Here!


Our fantasy football draft is tonight. Finally there is some real NFL news coming through regularly. Don't get me wrong, the Brett Favre "I'm retired, no wait, I'm not retired" saga was fascinating...
Ok, to me it really wasn't. But at least it gave us a small taste of pigskin action during the baseball only time of the year.
But that's over now - Brett's a Jet and no, I don't plan on drafting him.
This is only my third year to participate in fantasy football. The past two years I've co-managed a team with my friend Tate Tefertiller. It was a good run. We won it outright in year 1 and split the pot with most points last year. So far, in two years I've invested $20 and won $300. We needed an extra team to fill the league this year so Tate and I parted ways. I figure why not, I'm playing with house, or actually my friend's money, for the next 10 years at least.
I'm definitely a Cowboy fan but I really enjoy the game itself. The nice thing about a fantasy team is that you've got guys in lots of games on any given Sunday. Now the enjoyment of watching other games is increased since you've actually got a vested interest in many of them as well.
So we'll see how it goes. I'm also turning a college football Top 20 poll each week to be posted on Allan's site. Go to www.allanstanglin.com and hit the link for KK&C Top 20. If anyone (other than those participating) has input about the weekly top 20 for consideration just post a comment here. I'm definitely not a huge follower of college ball so any tips would be appreciated.
School is in full swing and the kids are doing great. Except for the fact that Dillon picked up a stomach bug and has been home the past two days. What a schedule - all summer off, go to school for three days, stay home sick for two and then get a three day weekend.
I'm hunting with the boys Monday. Pictures to follow next week.
Everyone have a great Labor Day:
Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September. The holiday originated in 1882 as the Central Labor Union (of New York City) sought to create "a day off for the working citizens".
Congress made Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894.[1] All fifty states have made Labor Day a state holiday.
So if the original intent was to create "a day off for the working citizens" why don't we call it Non-Labor Day?
Just curious. Enjoy it anyway.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Welcome Hadleigh!

Today, at the ripe old age of 36, I became a great-uncle. Now to clarify. I already considered myself to be quite an uncle. You could certainly say great. But today I became a great-uncle in the technical, genealogical, family tree kind of way. At about 8am this morning Hadleigh Ann Agnew came into this world. all 7 pounds 8 ounces of her, the daughter of my oldest niece.

We rolled into Oklahoma City (to our traditional OKC accomodations - Ron and Su's) about 12:30am. Got everyone settled in their designated sleeping areas and got the Suburban unloaded. Corlie was going in for her c-section at 7. Laid down on the newly purchased Coleman air-bed around 1:15 and set the alarm for 5:30. Keep in mind that it is the thought that counts.

The next thing I can clearly remember is Shanna waking me in a panic and saying it was 7. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind it seems I may possibly recall an alarm going off. The memory is faint and I cannot say for sure the event even occurred. At least that's what I told her since the job of waking us up was clearly on my shoulders. Fortunately she was much too focused on getting ready in the least amount of time to actually come down on me the way she probably should have.

And as is always the case, God was looking out for me. The procedure was delayed by an hour. We arrived at the hospital, had time for hugs and greetings with the rest of the family and then heard the announcement from the nurse that Corlie and Hadleigh would be out in about 5 minutes.

And they were. And we were there to greet them with everybody else.

August 22, 2008 - Hadleigh Ann Agnew is born and my new title makes me feel old.

But as many of you know August 22 was significant to our family for another reason. August 22, 2000 was the day that dad left this earth and claimed his much deserved place in heaven. Every year since, on this day, I've talked to mom. I've spoken with dad's sister, Aunt Pat. Every year since, on this day, Bill Podsednik, one of dad's best friends, calls mom. It's just tradition. Some sort of unwritten rule that we're going to check in on each other on this day.

We will always remember August 22 in this way. Today it's nice to have something else to remember. Naturally with all these thoughts I couldn't help but think of the following:

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hawaiian Falls

The band had the opportunity to play at Hawaiian Falls water park several times this summer. Naturally the band gets in for free but the sweetest part of the deal was that me and the kids got in free for every show as well. I must admit it's much easier keeping them happy for two hours at this venue than at a restaurant. Here's some shots of the band performing. It was a very nice setup. Instead of pulling up a chair or stool for the performance you could just grab a tube and have a leisurely float. I estimated a crowd of about 400 one day. We're looking forward to next summer.



I'm not sure who Shanna kept tipping her hat to. I'm pretty sure it was not her husband who was working tirelessly making sure no one was drowning.

Had to get at least one picture of Kevin - the oft forgotten drummer.


More Wedding Pics

No commentary with this post. Just getting some more pictures on from Halie's wedding.











Monday, August 18, 2008

Matthew 3:17

"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

This is what Shanna and I were saying Sunday morning. Of course we say that often when speaking of our children (we do put 'daughter' in there when appropriate). But Sunday was different. Sunday was the culmination of the prayers of a mother and father, the discussions with their oldest child, and a three day class at Legacy titled 'Faith Builders.' (Again, a very special thank you goes out to Allan, Lance and Kipi).

Sunday was big news. A new assembly with the Legacy family meeting together in one service. A new worship center. And in that new worship center a new baptistry. And boy did it get a workout Sunday. There were seven baptisms Sunday - seven. Allan's summary still gives me goose bumps:

"God was saving souls and robbing hell." Indeed He was.

For us, the news was especially big as Dillon decided he was ready to devote his life to the Lord and put on Christ in baptism. I was given the honor of baptizing him. I've told God that I'm not sure how many times he will allow me to personally participate in such a joyous occasion. I've told him that I really don't care what that actual number is - as long as it's at least four. Today that number is down to three. More would certainly be welcomed but three is now the target. We will continue to pray for those three as we did for this one:


I had rehearsed for three days:

1. Talk about wanting to do this four times.

2. Talk about our discussions with Dillon and the Faith Builders Class and how he came to this decision.

3. Make the comparison to the Brandon Heath song "I am not who I was."

4. Take his confession and get it done.

But as we entered the water - I froze. And so did Dillon.

Literally.

You may have read in the previous post that members of Legacy were reading through the entire bible in the days that led up to our first assembly in the new building. Apparently the hot water pump was making too much noise and it was being picked up on the audio recording. Sometime Friday or Saturday the heater was turned off and in all the activity turning it back on got overlooked.

I had decided to skip the waders and just put on some shorts and get wet along with Dillon. As our feet hit the water the 'cold reality' set in. I looked out at the audience - many of whom were crowded around us within reach (a nice new capability):

I made it through the part about how we had discussed this with Dillon and how the impact of the Faith Builders class had helped bring him to this point. Then I looked down at Dillon and there were literally ripples running away from him as the shivered in the water. I'm not sure if he was trying to smile or keep his teeth from shattering - or both. I went into overdrive for fear that hypothermia may be setting in. I quickly spoke about the song "I'm not who I was" and said that when he came up out of that watery grave he would be a new person - different from who he was. I covered his mouth and basically said "I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit" as I laid him back under the water.

He confessed to us at home for those of you keeping score.

He came up a new child of God and had the entire Legacy family read Colossians 3:1-4 to him:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Did it go as I planned? No. But as always it went exactly as God intended. It didn't matter where we were or what was said. It didn't matter that the water could have been used to chill the Dr. Peppers for the waiting chicken dinner. The only thing that mattered was that one, actually seven, more souls were added to the kingdom of heaven Sunday.

I told you it was big news.





Friday, August 15, 2008

Crazy Summer 2 (plus BIG NEWS)

The last six weeks have basically been the first paragraph from the last post all over again. Crazy summer - or at least what's left of it now. This will be a current post with updates of everything from the summer as I can get to them. I'm shooting to have summer 08 complete before summer 09. I know I made promises - sue me.

Legacy's new worship center is complete. The finishing touch was added yesterday and it was a big one.:

A 40 foot cross was put in place yesterday on the front wall of the building. It faces Mid-Cities Boulevard for literally thousands of people to see everyday. I hope it will serve not as an object of worship to them but as an object of why we worship. The cross represents the most important sacrifice that anyone could, or ever will make for us.

Many from the church met at the building yesterday morning at 6:45 for a brief devotional as we watched the cross being lifted into place. Seeing it hoisted up by a crane I asked Allan if he thought this was an historical recreation of the scene at Golgotha. Then a very uneasy feeling came over me. As I watched it being lifted up I couldn't help but feel as if I were there on that hill. The building was gone. The crane was gone. The huge cables and ropes fixed to the cross were gone. There was only the cross. For a moment I was not part of the crowd in a parking lot but I was part of a crowd watching helplessly as the son of God was lifted into place along with that cross.

I know there are some who object to the display of crosses in fear that they become the focus of our attention. I respect that and admit we must always guard ourselves against putting any idol or symbol between us and God. But yesterday, I wish everyone could have experienced what I did. It was a powerful reaffirmation that the cross is real, the man is real and the sacrifice is real.

Immediately after the service Legacy started reading the bible. Ok let me clarify - it's not like we've never read it before. But yesterday at 7am we started reading the bible - straight through, 24 hours a day. I had the 4:30am shift this morning. For fifteen minutes I read about Solomon in 1 Kings 2-4. Once my shift was up the next reader slid into place and picked up where I left off. No pauses, no introductions. Sunday morning as we meet together the entire congregation will finish the reading. The last few verses of Revelation, as a body, together in unison.

It will be a big day. One service, a new building and Babe's fried chicken for lunch. But that's not the BIG NEWS. It WILL be here Monday. I promise.

Stay tuned.....

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Crazy Summer

I'm long overdue for lots of additions to the blog - I know, I know. So much has been happening over the past month that everything seems like a blur.

We're going through some major changes here at the office. We're making a move to a new broker/dealer and it's a tremendous task. New paperwork has to be obtained from every single client. So for the first two weeks of June I was chained to my desk, combing through every client's file creating databases, spreadsheets and letters to be sent out. On Wednesday, June 18th I got to the office at 6am. Worked until 6pm. Straight to church to lead the youth group devotional and then had a summer camp meeting afterward. Left the meeting and got back to the office at 10:30pm. Worked until 4:30am. Got in bed at 5:30am and was back at the office at 9. That was not a typical day but it wasn't far from it.

Shanna and the band played at Hawaiian Falls waterpark June 8th and 15th. Dillon, a new member of the Legacy youth group went on 3 backyard mission trips. We went to Angel Fire, New Mexico with Shanna's family the last week of the month. See what I mean? Lots going on.

Oh yeah, and we had VBS - Moses:Bound for Holy Ground. I managed to make it to four practices during June which added to the frustration of the director, Kipi Ward. I had some small cameo appearances in the musical and even a one line solo to the tune of Barry Manilow's Copa Cabana. Not bad considering we came back into town the night it started.

Find out more about all four night of VBS at Allan's website : www.allanstanglin.com

Shanna and the kids leave for Oklahoma City Saturday. Dillon's going to camp at Oklahoma Christian. She's going to drop him there and then stay a few days with our good friends Ron and Su Crawford. I'll be playing the bachelor for a few days. We've got new internet at the house and a tuned up computer. I promise to catch up on pictures from:

Halie's wedding

Shanna and the band at Hawaiian Falls

Our trip to New Mexico

And whatever else has accumulated on the camera.

Stay tuned.....

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

And the winner is....

I received the following picture today and would like to go ahead and submit it as the official photograph of the 2008 parents of the year.

The photo came in an email with the subject 'The moment before the pain begins.' I think this certainly qualifies. At first glance you can't help but notice the guy getting smacked in the face by the bat (at a Rangers game no less - no comments about Rangers batting - at least they're .500 so far).


But look a little closer. I especially like the lady in the tanktop who continues shoving in nachos as if she knew the guy's face would take the hit. Everyone else is taking cover like they're in the middle of a hail storm. Except for the little girl in the middle. Yeah, that's her - the one who is basically being shoved toward the bat like a miniature human shield. I'm assuming that's dad and guessing mom's already under the seats. Congratulations to our winners.

I'd like to think that I would have reacted differently. You know, throw myself in harm's way to protect my children. But therein lies the problem. There's four of them. Do I grab the closest? The smallest? The girl? There is no good solution. No doubt any of these scenarios would only make way for future counseling sessions over the way 'dad liked you better' or 'always made things easier for you.'

So it's every man for himself. Kudos to this guy for figuring this out in advance and letting everyone take their chances.

We leave for New Mexico tomorrow and I'm ready. I leave here a pile of work and take with me lines and songs to memorize for the VBS musical and two bible lessons to write for summer camp. That's a vacation.

Seriously it will be great to get away for a little while. Even though I've been tied to the office and not seen the gym in three weeks I'm still planning a trip up Wheeler Peak. My partners from last year - Tate, Aaron and Kevin will have just returned from a Vegas getaway. Slackers. I'll text them from the top.

Be back on at the end of the month - unless our mountain accomodations have wi-fi. Don't count on it.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dillon's a Mess

Like most parents, we like to joke about our children and refer to them as being a 'mess.' Well last Thursday the joke became reality for Dillon. In one of his first events as an official member of the Legacy youth group he had the pleasure of being turned into a sort of human mixing bowl.

See, Thursday was the annual messy game day. I actually had never heard of the event but it was refererred to as 'annual.' In any case, you can see it was messy and as you can also see - that was fine with Dillon.

Thanks to Allan for the pics. You can click on these for a larger view.


He was turned into a human sundae.



Then had some mustard, ketchup and I really don't know what else added.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Which costs more?

Next week we leave for Red River, New Mexico. Shanna's parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last November and instead of a party they opted for us all to take a trip together. I'm really looking forward to it and I know Shanna and the kids are as well. What I'm not looking forward to is a loaded down Suburban pulling a trailer being filled with $4 a gallon gas. Shanna and the kids do not yet know that we will be foraging the forest for food.

Note: This run up in oil prices really chaps me. Quit feeding me this garbage about it being a 'supply and demand' issue. Should some of this ridiculous price increase be attributed to increased demand and/or decreased supply? Sure. But think about this - the price of a barrel of crude in June 2007 was about $65. Today it's over $133. So logically if it's supply and demand one of two things has happened in the past 12 months. Either we're now using twice as much or there's half as much.

Ok, I realize that conclusion may not be sound from an economic theory standpoint but consider this article posted on CNBC Tuesday:

Bubble, Bubble, Oil Is Trouble …
Posted By:
Daryl Guppy
Topics:Commodities Energy Asia
Sectors:Oil and Gas
Is the world running out of oil? Or gold, or rice, or wheat, or almost any other commodity you care to name? Despite some usual shortages that have been offset by a surplus in other areas, there has been no significant change in the fundamentals of supply of most commodities.

Nor has there been a dramatic unexpected increase in demand from China, or India, or elsewhere for products in the commodity markets. The most likely culprit for the persistent and strong growth trend in commodities – speculators.

“Since the price hit $105, everything above $105 is speculation. Something like 50 – 100 billion dollars has poured into the market the last 2 months”, says Dr. Fereidun Fesharaki, CEO of FACTS Global Energy Group.

The disconnect between oil prices and fundamentals is a disturbing bubble...


Alright, enough of my rant. Check out this link for an interesting perspective on the price of oil:

CNBC - Which Costs More?

I found it very amusing until I got to Tabasco. That really hurt - I love Tabasco.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I guess I'm it

I've been tagged - or at least Allan's blog says I've been tagged. I don't know how this tagging stuff works and I'm not sure Allan does either. I wouldn't have known about the 'tag' if I hadn't read his entry for today. We may need to check with Mrs. Brownstone or Jennifer Green to find out the official tagging rules. Anyway, here it goes...


My life from A to Z:
A. Single or Attached? Attached. Very Attached.

B. Best friend? Shanna Leigh Corley Byrnes

C. Cake or Pie? Ouch. This is a hard one. I guess I'd have to lean toward cake since it pairs so well with ice cream.

D. Day of Choice? Now it's Saturday. Soccer's over so it actually feels like a day off.

E. Essential Item? My Crackberry
F. Flavor of ice cream? Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

G. Gummy Bears or Worms? Bears

H. Hometown? Home is North Richland Hills, TX. Born in New Orleans and lived there a year. Always planned on going back to see my first home. Mom says don't bother now.

I. Indulgences? Chips and hot sauce. It really should be it's own food group.

J. January or July? July

K. Kids? Dillon 12, Dawson 8, Delanie 6, Dakota 3

L. Last Movie I Saw in a Theater? Honestly I don't remember. I had to check the movie listings. I think it was Nim's Island with Shanna and the kids.

M. Middle Name? Barnett

N. Number of Siblings? Zero

O. Oranges or Apples? Oranges

P. Phobia or Fear? Allan singing 'One Day More' in the VBS musical

Q. Quote? "I don't want to shoot you and you don't want to be dead." Danny Glover in Silverado. Couldn't help it -it was on last night.




R. Reason to Smile? Too many to list. This sums it up...

S. Season? Summer

T. Tag Four More: Let's just say if you're reading this consider yourself tagged.

U. Unknown Fact About Me? My freshman roommate at OC was featured on Letterman's Stupid Human Tricks.


When we were roomies I don't think his face would have held more than three cans.

V. Vegetarian or Oppressor of Animals? If by 'oppressor' you mean someone who likes to eat meat then that's me. However, I do enjoy a side of vegetables with my steak.

W. Worst Habit? Time management

X. X-Rays or Ultra-sounds? Ultra-sounds. I never bought any of those glasses - I didn't really think they worked. I know from experience that ultra-sounds work.


Y. Your favorite Food? Mexican. Any. Three meals a day.

Z. Zodiac? Capricorn.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Almost historical

I have to digress for a moment. I know I still owe the blog more pictures from the wedding. I'm still going through all of them. For now I have to express some sports frustration.

I enjoy sports. I watch it when I can and when I'm interested. Like many I become much more interested during the playoffs, championship series and even during certain streaks.

This year has seen it's share of streaks. I think it's fascinating to watch as a team tries to accomplish something that hasn't been done in thirty years or more. I just knew that this year I would be witness to history. I would be the person thirty years from now saying "I remember that season" or "I remember when that happened."

So let's review...

The Patriots. Tom Brady was quarterback for the fantasy team that Tate Tefertiller and I co-manage. Certainly Tom was a big reason that we were in the money for the second year in a row. But there are plenty of other teams I'd like to see in the Super Bowl - namely the Cowboys. However, by the end of the regular season I was pulling for the Pats to win it all. But I'm not a fan of the Patriots. I'm a fan of the game. I'm sure that the 72 Dolphins were great but they've had some miserable spokesmen and honestly I'd like someone to shut them up. So this was the year. The Pats were going all the way. The Super Bowl was merely a formality. Oops, they lost. And with that loss came more talk from certain Dolphin fans and ex-players about them being the greatest team ever. Don't even get me started on strength of schedule for the 72 Fins or the fact that Eli Manning should have been a Charger. Just leave me alone about the perfect season that almost was.

The Tigers. I don't follow the Tigers as close as I should considering my strong Memphis ties, but I do try to keep up as much as possible. This year they make a push to be the first undefeated team in NCAA hoops since 1976. Somehow they manage to lose to Tennessee at home. Payton Manning was at the game.

Note the obvious Manning connection.

By this point I'm getting a little desperate in my quest to experience sports history. Let's talk Stars hockey for a minute. The Stars had a good season and were definitely the underdogs in their playoff series against the Red Wings (who went on to win the Stanley Cup). They get off to a horrible start - down three games to none. Only two times in history has a team come from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series. The first time? 1942. The second? 1975. The current year? 2008. How many years between 1942 and 1975? 33. Between 1975 and 2008? Thats right, 33. You can't make this stuff up. You could say it was in the stars for the Stars to win. They win the next two games. Then they lose in game 6.

I didn't see the Kentucky Derby. I did watch the Preakness and saw Big Brown glide to victory by over 5 lengths. Doing so he became the fourth horse to win both races and still be undefeated. Much like the Super Bowl, the Triple Crown seemed just a formality. 30 years since the last Triple Crown winner. Big Brown ended up going out of the gate at the Belmont at 3 to 10 odds AND...

It wasn't even close. It was so bad that Brown's jockey basically pulled him from the race and had him trot the final straight.

Best I can tell, there's not much on the horizon. The NBA playoffs seem pretty normal. Still too early to tell for baseball. Oh wait...baseball.

I will be able to tell my kids and grandkids that I remember when Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's home run record. I can then go on to tell them the heartwarming story of BALCO, performance enhancing drugs, scandal, grand juries and congressional hearings.

I'll be straining my memory for something else unless the Rangers find a way to win their first ever playoff series. That would be more than historical - it would be miraculous. And it would require them to actually make the playoffs.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Halie's Wedding

We traveled to Quartz Mountain Resort this weekend for the wedding of our niece, Halie Swan (now Halie Thompson). Naturally the entire event was beautiful with pretty much everyone in the family, the whole family, having some part. Dawson led Dakota down the aisle on a miniature horse. Yes, you read that correctly - a horse.

Once the horse riding ring bearer (Dakota) and the horse leader (Dawson) are set, Dillon leads the horse off stage left. Now everyone is in place. In the video you will see Delanie - the flower girl on the left. You'll also see Dakota - the short one in front, and Dawson.




video

Dillon had a little lower profile role as far as the actual ceremony went. Now he was a tremendous usher. Of course the whole wedding thing is really an auto-pilot performance for him now. This was his ninth wedding to be in. With the exception of singing, performing the ceremony and actually being the one geting married, I don't think there's much he hasn't done.

After getting everyone seated he becomes the horse whisperer. He does an excellent job of keeping 'Scooter' happy and occupied during the ceremony. Then he leads him to the front so Dawson and Dakota can exit the same way they came in.




What happened after I really can't explain. I actually caught as much as I could on video just so I would believe it actually happened. Dillon, who had played a pretty low-key role during the wedding, decides it's time to take center stage during the reception. So that's exactly what he does.

video


More pictures to come as I'm able to go through them. I just promised Dillon I'd get him on the web ASAP in case Dancing with the Stars is looking.

By the way, Toby Keith was there too. Ok, he was actually there on vacation but Shanna fought past her normally shy nature and got him to pose for a few shots.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Focus.

Last night I had the pleasure of filling in for our preacher, Allan Stanglin, while he was away at a conference. With the exception of a couple of small classes, the adults all meet together in the 'gymnatorium' for a time of worship. (By the way, in a few months when our new worship center is completed, the gymnatorium will be converted to an actual gym). So I'm not sure you can technically call it 'preaching' but as a friend told me, "you were in the pulpit, man that's preaching."

I spent about twenty minutes talking about our focus. The lesson revolved around the story of a young man named Chris McCandless who struck out on a journey to Alaska to find peace, solitude, and happiness. He spent two years wandering/hitchhiking/adventuring around the western US before finally making it to his destination. He went alone and he went with very little in the way of supplies. The goal was to 'live off the land' and get by with as little as possible. He had grown weary of all the materialism he saw around him so he tried to put himself as far away from it as possible thinking it would bring the life he desired.

The story of Chris' life was made into a movie in 2007 - directed by Sean Penn.


http://www.intothewild.com/


I enjoyed the movie although it may not be for everyone. Now that's it's on DVD I'd say it's definitely worth a few bucks for anyone to rent. (Note: it is rated 'R').

I'm not going to give away the ending just in case you want to check it out. But I will tell you that Chris made it to Alaska and lived what he thought was the ideal life for a while. By the end of his time there it is apparent that the joyful life he was looking for had more to do with his focus, his attitude, than his surroundings. It also became obvious to him that a happy life had to include others.

The point was for us to not lose our focus. It's obvious that we can be distracted by work/school, etc. But we also need to realize we can lose focus even when working for God. I've certainly seen instances where someone's mission, ministry, program or outreach became more about their efforts and accomplishments than a way to impact others the way Christ wants us to. I don't think it ever starts this way - it's simply a lack of (or loss of) focus.

By remaining focused on our relationship with Christ we grow closer to him. The closer we grow to him the more we want to please him, the more we want him to be proud of us. It's exactly like the bond between a parent and child. In a relationship like that, one that's based on love and selfless thinking, we don't strive to serve the other person out of some sense of obligation. Our love for them makes us want to please them. It makes us want to serve them.

When we have this type of relationship with Jesus we automatically become servants. We can't help but to want to go out and feed the hungry, provide clothing to the needy, find shelter for the homeless...you get the point. We can't help but to want and go out and treat people the way Christ would have. It all boils down to our focus.

Christ offers happiness. He offers joy. He offers fulfillment. We're not going to find it running around trying to keep ourselves busy. We're not going to find it out alone in the wilderness. The only thing we have to do is fix our eyes on him. Everything else will come naturally.

I received some very kind feedback after the lesson last night from several people. Paul Brownlow went so far as to say I should be preaching more. I told him that if I get the chance to fill in now and then I probably would. As for the pulpit at Legacy, I assure you that position is set securely within the capable hands of Allan. I even checked in with him for some pointers to tie all this together. I'll leave you with the first thing out of his mouth:


Matthew 6:33 - seek ye first the kingdom of God

Stay focused.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I told you Nanny rocks!



A few weeks ago the boys were at Wal-Mart trying to figure out a way to spend some Christmas and birthday money that was apparently burning holes in their pockets. It was the same old, same old. Dillon heads for the Xbox games and Dawson wants to check out bicycles and remote controlled cars. But they were instructed to stay together and as they strolled the aisles they found it:





Rockband. It's not just a game, it's like having a band. You can have a singer, a drummer and two guitars all playing at the same time. It's the greatest thing since, well...Guitar Hero.


Separately they can't come close to paying for it. But together? Yeah, together there's just enough. So that night we're tearing open the huge box and setting up stage. Bedtime was extended - I mean, have you ever heard of a rockstar with a bedtime? So they got an extra 45 minutes and were able to get a few songs in.


They were back at it early the next morning before school. But it wasn't long before they added a new band member:



Yes, that's Nanny tearing it up on lead guitar.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Yetis rejoice?

Yesterday, Allan finished up his series on Habakuk. Despite significant trials in his future, Habakuk declares his faith in the Lord:

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”


Shanna and I were on our way back to Fort Worth Sunday morning. We had traveled to Vernon for our niece's wedding shower Saturday night. So we missed the sermon, which I know was great. I wasn't able to get the full details but Allan had requested everyone to bring their cell phones to service yesterday. I know, strange, but you have to know Allan. Anyway, he had those with phones send the scripture to someone. Shanna received it twice. Once from Mrs. Brownstone and once from Jennifer Green. The one from Mrs. Brownstone came through as it was written in Habakuk. However, the message from Jennifer had a strange twist. See, she lived in Alaska for a time while her husband was working the oilfields there. I'm assuming, based on her message, that she was able to see the abominable snowman while there. I had always assumed they were just legend but according to her they exist and they share our faith. Here was the message from her:


"Yeti will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior."


It makes me wonder if these creatures are real and if she attended church with one/some of them in Alaska.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ten Things Wednesday

Ok, it's supposed to be Ten Things Tuesday but I forgot to do this yesterday. Mrs. Brownstone guilted me into doing this as apparantly the only other man participating is Skelty. However, I signed up to do this last Wednesday and I just couldn't make myself do 'Ten Things Tuesday' on a Wednesday. While mowing the yard yesterday I remember it was Tuesday and I needed to get this done. But after finishing the yard, planting a new flowerbed, watching American Idol and getting everyone settled in bed I forgot. So here I am, posting Ten Things Tuesday on Wednesday anyway.

Ten Things I'm Thankful For:

1. Shanna. She is a wonderful wife, mother, friend and servant. Convincing her to marry me was without a doubt the best thing I ever did. To say I married out of my league would be a tremendous understatement.

2. Salvation. Like Shanna, God always forgives me when I screw up and he'd be the first to tell you that is more than a few times a day. Shanna could vouch for this but usually she won't.

3. Family. I've been blessed with 4 wonderful kids, great parents, a fabulous extended family and great in-laws.

4. The ability to do yard work. Let me clarify. I don't particularly like mowing the grass. If the city would let me I'd consider having the entire yard paved. But they won't so I'll get out and push the mower every week (or so) until November and be thankful that I'm physically able to do it.

5. Friends. We've got the kind of friends that people dream about. You know, those friends who will come over in the middle of the night if you need them to.

6. Dawson's feeling better. Until this morning, he was running a fever that would hit 104. Last week our dentist Dr. Jay (ok Dr. Corley but he's Shanna's cousin and I can get away with calling him Dr. Jay) discovered that Dawson has a tooth with an abcess. It needs to be pulled to make way for the new ones but he wanted to clear up the infection first. We couldn't get his fever to break and were concerned that the tooth was the cause. The pediatrician really felt like it was just a virus that needed to run its course. Turns out it was. He's feeling better today.

7. Ron and Su's new grandbaby. Our friends from Oklahoma City recently took guardianship of a young girl they met through their inner city mission. It's not their biological grandbaby (they're in their 30s) but I know it will be loved and spoiled as if it were.

8. Church. These are very times exciting at Legacy and I feel blessed to be a part of everything that's going on there.

9. Spring. I like the warmer weather. It may be a sign that I'm getting older but I'm going to deny that for now. Winter is ok in Texas but after living in Colorado winters here can be a little boring. I'm ready for pool/beach/lake weather. I'm ready for everything to green up and start blooming - even if it means yardwork.

10. Shanna. Definitely worth mentioning again.

I'll try to remember this again next Tuesday. Let's all remember to count our blessings everyday.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Officially "pre-teen"

Dillon's 12th birthday was March 23. According to many other parents with slightly older kids, it sounds like we've got one more year of him being somewhat normal. I tell them Dillon is very smart and advanced for his age because he quit being normal quite sometime ago.

Really, he's a great kid and we enjoy giving each other a hard time.

Since his birthday fell at the end of spring break, Shanna thought it would be good to give him his gift a week early, as spring break began, so he'd have the week to enjoy it.

What do you think it was?

1. GI Joes
2. Clothes
3. A set of encyclopedias
4. A cell phone

If you said cell phone you're a winner! 12 years old and 'wireless'. We had pretty much decided to wait until at least 13 before we set him up with a phone. He was doing his best to convince us that all of his friends who were sporting phones basically viewed him as underprivilidged and pre-historic. This really kicked in at the beginning of this year when he began middle school. So, I like to think he knows that we didn't cave right off the bat just because we wanted him to 'keep up with the Joneses.'

Our primary rationale was that as summer begins he will be entering the youth group at church. There will be activities going on all the time that will require drop offs and pick ups at various locations. It will be nice to have a quick phone call from him rather than parking at the church for undetermined amounts of time waiting for the youth group to arrive from an event. Plus we knew this would be more of a necessity next year as he enters more early morning and after school activities.

I heard someone say that you know you're living in the 21st century when you've got three phone numbers for each of your family and friends. Six people in our family..........

During the week, Dillon paired up with his friend Andrew for an 'airsoft' birthday. Andrew's birthday was earlier in March and they had planned on this for several weeks. So one very windy and slightly cool afternoon, we met at the park for hot dogs, cake and airsoft wars. What more could a 12 year old boy want?

FYI, airsoft guns shoot these small plastic pellet/bb like things. The boys are safe - always in protective goggles. These things can't break the skin but they do sting enough to keep me and Dawson on the sideline.

Happy 12th Dillon - we (a whole lot of us) love you!

Friday, April 11, 2008

April Showers from a power washer

Wednesday night I was at the office late getting ready for a client review meeting Thursday. Shanna had spent the day working out, cleaning house, shuttling kids - pretty much the normal stuff. She emailed me about 5:30 to see where I was and how I felt about staying in, i.e. skipping church.

She knew we shouldn't but I was not going to make it not matter what. I still had an hour or so to finish the report and then was off to OfficeMax to have it prepared for presentation. She was wiped out and the thought of getting four kids bathed and fed in an hour was just too daunting.
So we skipped.

I got to the house about 9 and happily ate the salad she had prepared for our dinner. We were in bed by 10:30 - a little early for us and an obvious sign of how tired we were.

Casey, our almost 14 year old foxhound, was up at 3:15am. This was a little early for her bathroom break. She has a built in alarm system to notify us of her need to go outside. No barking or whining is necessary. She simply gets up and starts cautiously walking around the den. A few seconds of her paws hitting the wood floors is all it takes to wake us. Imagine Lord of the Dance performed by smurfs with all the dancers performing to a different song and you have an idea of what the sound is like.

So I get up to let her out and as I enter the den from the bedroom a wind hits the house like I've never heard before. I'll admit, I panicked a little. It had to have been 60-70 mph (the weatherman later confirmed this).

Our office sits up on a hill and our computer guys constantly stresses how important it is to get our server shut down when a strong storm is approaching. I hear our computer speakers belching out static everytime the lighting strikes so I run over and shut down the computer.

Oops. How can I check the radar now? I just shut down out internet. I'm sure Dish Network is not working in this mess. So I head for the Blackberry (yes I can call it my Crackberry as I am addicted). I pull up the radar and there are so many colors over our county that it looks like a bad abstract painting.

Lighter. I need to find the lighter in case the power goes out for good. Hey, maybe we've got a flashlight that works - meaning the kids didn't leave it on after the last time they played with it.

In walks Dawson and Delanie - go get in bed with mom I calmly say. Delanie heads that way whimpering - she doesn't do well in the morning or when her sleep is interrupted. I think Dawson just headed back to bed. He tends to take these things in stride. Dillon never got out of bed although he admits the storm did wake him which is a true testimony to the strength of it. Dakota's always in our room by 2am anyway.

Lighter - check. Flashlight - check. Let's give the Dish a shot. Hey it works. The radar is on and the weatherman is giving a perfect explanation of all the splashes of red, yellow, green and purple on the screen. Storm's moving fast - very fast. Strong wind, multiple rotations along the front line of the storm. I sit in the chair and watch until everything blows over - about 4am.

Everything's back to normal - except Casey. She's got heart failure so anxious moments like this tend to get her worked up. Plus she's still got to go out but there's no way she's going out in this. Finally the urge overtakes her fears and she quickly heads into the backyard and right back in. Total time out had to be less than 8 seconds.

Finally get some sleep off and on starting about 4:30. On the couch with one hand on Casey on the floor next to me.

Luckily, we sustained no damage. Our fence on the northside had a couple of panels fall over but they've been falling over for at least a year. So far, I'm taking a hardline stance on this one. I bought all of the fence on both sides last time (Shanna says last two times - she may be right) and I'm not going to do it again. My dog's pushing 14. She doesn't venture very far and if she does it's not very fast. Our neighbors on that side are trying to sell the house. I don't know them as they haven't lived there very long. I do know I had to escort the North Richland Hills police into my backyard a few months ago to see if there were any drunk teenagers back there. According to the officer several climbed the fence, knocking it down again, as they fled the underage party next door. None present in our bushes.

So I'm assuming that either the owners, or the new buyers will want to strike a deal to get the fence replaced. We'll see. Until then I'll keep wrapping it up with bungee cords.

So like I said, we had no damage. Many neighbors were not so lucky. Two houses down had a huge tree fall hitting the house and damaging their truck. As I drove Dakota to school it was a pretty eerie site and I realized just how lucky we were.

Here's some pictures from Allan Stanglin's blog on April 10. They live about a mile from us. Their neighborhood, from a damage standpoint, looked pretty much like ours. If you want to see larger images use the link to his blog above.


Hopefully everyone made it through the night safely.