Wednesday, February 25


Man, did I ever have a great idea. Got to have dinner with Terry, Melanie and Tina at Hummus Place, which was very good. Hard as it is to believe, I'd never done karaoke before, so I suggested it. Everyone was down and, man, did we have fun! For me, Terry picked '1979', 'ITEOTWAWKI' and 'West End Girls'. I picked 'Enter Sandman' and 'I Will Follow You into the Dark' for him (and sang along, hopefully not too interferingly). Then we sang 'Bohemian Rhapsody' out in the bar (ie, outside of the private room we had for an hour). I was terrible! Didn't really know at first what Terry was wanting from me and then couldn't really do it. Sorry, Terry!

(I've got 4 pix up over in Facebook, if you're into that.)

Anyway, I sure had a great time and hope my friends weren't just faking it ;-)

Monday, February 23

Wil is funny

One of the critical components of Positive Psychology is using your strengths more than trying to improve weaknesses. Toward that end, there are assessments to take, including one for children. I took it with Wil in mind (Christine and Elizabeth are working through her). His number two strength was humor, and I want to capture a couple things about that.

(I'm going to need some help from Christine on this post, but I'll let it be after the fact instead of trying to get all my ducks in a row in advance.)

We once had a Clifford book that said something like 'The boy likes to laugh. Clifford likes boys who laugh.'

(If we still have it, we should probably set it aside because it's such a strong memory for me. If it's already gone, that's ok.)

I've always thought about that passage in relationship to Wil. He loves to laugh. To this day he likes to watch Chip and Dale or Looney Tunes and laugh hilariously at parts he loves.

We once had some random CD-ROM (again Christine might remember the details) that Wil liked to play. This is while we were still living in Tulsa. It might have come out of a cereal box or something like that. (Incidentally, the twins called them CD-WOMs back then ;-)

Anyway, you give the parrot something and if it's the wrong item he'd say 'Squak! Not that kind!' and Wil would laugh hilariously every time.

I love how much Wil likes to laugh. And I hope he stays that way forever.

Sunday, February 15

My current obsession...

is Positive Psychology.

I got into it in a roundabout way: caught Jonathan Haidt's TED talk and started looking at his other stuff. Read everything he had on the web for his book 'The Happiness Hypothesis', including quite a few complete chapters, then bought the book. (Which just goes to show the value of making things available for free and then people buying them...)

Once I finished reading THH closely, I requested the two Martin Seligman books our library has: 'Learned Optimism' and 'Authentic Happiness'. Seligman is maybe the leading figure in the field. I'm partially into both of these books (one is audio) and as interested as ever.

Then I found out my friends, Kurt and Kathi, are into the field through a different entree, Tal Ben-Shahar, who teaches the biggest class at Harvard and it's on Positive Psychology. His website is not as rich as I might wish, but his book's selling like hotcakes ;-)

It does look, however, like all of his lectures from the course have been put up on YouTube. The first one is here. Not sure if I'll watch them all, yet. That would be a lot of time, and it's a pretty inefficient medium.

What's my motivation? I am not as happy as I should be. I have a great life in most ways. But my mind has some pessimistic function that is working against me. I am hoping that I'm going to be able to recalibrate.

Shame and hope

+ Headline: Selig on A-Rod: 'Shamed the Game'

True in itself, but a bunch of crap coming from Selig. He and the others owners and the union shamed the game more than anyone by looking the other way and wishing it wasn't try.

+ Iowa Football Coach Ferentz Gets 7-year Extension

This is pretty good. Ferentz doesn't need a raise. Locking him up is probably a good idea. He does well, but I just wish he'd get us over the hump to consistently top 25 and challenging for the Big Ten title every year. Is that so much to ask? We want up to Michigan and Ohio State territory.

Sunday, February 8

My Super Bowl Twitter stream

Ok, it's kind of lame to get it up so late. Just think of it as being here for posterity ;-)
  1. That game was amazing
  2. That games was amazing
  3. Ben: you're great. now, please. please, protect your head and your career!
  4. @shawncoons congrats! Ben is the man!
  5. Holmes=MVP
  6. wow!
  7. will it hold up?
  8. @Soob the F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter couldn't stop Larry Fitzgerald! ;-)
  9. that sound you here is Vegas sweating
  10. now, plenty of time for Steelers
  11. what a game!
  12. plenty of time. Cards have to be calm
  13. sorry @shawncoons, but great game!
  14. penalty aside, did the mantle just pass from Ward to Holmes? what a catch!
  15. Harrison: what a punk!
  16. @Soob me, too. but i still think the Steelers are going to win. i hope i'm wrong
  17. @Simlaughter nah: Cards. Steelers have already won 5!
  18. @Soob seriously!
  19. @Simlaughter : but the Seeger Sessions were so great!
  20. lol: good Polamalu ad
  21. @Soob : he's 9. that's my boy!
  22. Wil: wouldn't 1-D just be lines?
  23. Breaston has the best hair in this game
  24. Boldin's having a good game
  25. @ufez : word
  26. @shloky : might be more like jump the shark
  27. @regavqueen: good show, but the music wasn't that great. hardly any singing
  28. @kaliczi: what i said, too
  29. i think the Cards are letting this one get away (unless they can do something on this drive
  30. @shawncoons: true. sorry, dude
  31. cute. i have liked the Coke commercials
  32. Am I just crabby? Not impressed by the commercials or Bruce (but the football's good so far ;-)
  33. does Bruce have a voice left? not much singing
  34. anything from the Seeger sessions?
  35. what will Boss' set list be?
  36. How can that be? Matt Millen stinks! He made the Lions even worse!
  37. Matt Millen will be on the the Halftime Report?!
  38. huge turnaround. the Cards were hanging in. could have gone up by 4. now down by 10. 14 point swing.
  39. nice Cardinal TD. good game
  40. Picking: Steelers. Pulling: Cards.

Saturday, February 7

25 Things

This is one of those chain-tagging things. It's going around Facebook and I did it over there. I actually had to do 2 copies because you can only tag 30 people per note and I needed at least 60! I got some good comments, so here are the links in case you're on Facebook and want to check them out: [1] [2]

Rule change: I am tagging back those who have tagged me to make sure they see it. I'm also tagging people who's 25 things I have read that DID NOT tag me. This will be my magnum opus! (Or at least the Mother of All 25 Things ;-) (And, seriously, just stop reading when you get bored) And if you haven't done it and don't want to, hey, no sweat. Don't do it. (Except for Madhu. You have to ;-) "Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you. (To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)"
1. My first car was a 1976 Pontiac Phoenix that my dad bought for under $1000. It worked just fine.

2. I have been east as far as Jordan, but only west as far as Seattle.

3. I met Mister Rogers in person and got his autograph. He brought the puppets out for the kids who were with us. When I shook King Friday's hand, I said 'You majesty', and he said 'I see you know how to greet a king.'

4. I would be very open to living and working overseas right now.

5. I can quote songs and movies until you're sick.

6. I worked as a Mason's Assistant one summer at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

7. The first morning I woke up after finding out we were having twins I said 'We need to buy a station wagon'.

8. I touched Arnold Schwarzenegger in front of the Frauenkirche in Munich.

9. I once got on a plane in Charlotte and Joe Gibbs was sitting in first class. I said 'Good morning, Coach' and he said 'Good morning.'

10. I loved the semester I spent in Tanzania. Learned to speak a little Swahili. Climbed Kilimanjaro almost to the top (nailed by altitude sickness).

11. I have spoken Spanish functionally and studied Biblical Greek and Hebrew.

12. I am very interested in ProtoIndoEuropean language and culture.

13. I tell the twins about once a week 'You know you must have the nicest mom in the whole world.'

14. I took voice lessons for eight years and earned a voice scholarship. I was not the most deserving student, though. Nowadays I'm enjoying singing occasionally at my church.

15. I love music deeply, many different styles.

16. Unfortunately, I came to the 80s alternative party late and missed the hey day of 3 of my favorite bands: REM, New Order and the Smiths. I still have all their stuff, but didn't get to enjoy it while it was happening.

17. Singing in the Wartburg Choir was an amazing experience of being a part of total excellence.

18. Christine and I never dated. When we had 'the talk' about our relationship, I told her I thought we should get married. She agreed and we got engaged.

19. I thought I was destined for greatness, but that never really panned out. Sometimes I still wonder if I'll do something great someday. In the meantime, I am a pretty decent dad.

20. I am ashamed of many of the things I said in my 20s.

21. I keep expecting Christine to trade up. I tell her I will understand, I know she deserves better. She says she hasn't met anyone she'd rather be married to, which I say is a sad commentary on men.

22. I've got a lot of neuroses.

23. Like Scott, I like wine (love, actually), but never acquired the taste for beer. I wish I liked it so I could 'have a beer with the guys', but I don't.

24. I read 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings' in the 2nd grade. They have been my favorite books (along with 'The Silmarillion' and 'The Children of Hurin') ever since.

25. A friend once told me I was looking for the relational Holy Grail. That used to be true. The same friend said I was the most self-aware person he'd ever met. What do you think, based on this list?


26. Having surpassed my life quota of bad haircuts, I now cut off all of the unruly stuff and am much happier this way.

27. I used to be a pastor. I still love teaching Bible Study and Sunday School.

28. Embarrassing confession: 'Getting Things Done' changed my life. Something clicked. I by no means practice it thoroughly. That would be too oppressive. I'm just trying to get a few things done.

29. I often use my own punctuation conventions, though some have been adopted from British usage.

30. I am impressed by those of you who have 25 cheerful things (Suzy, Camille, et al.). I struggle with pessimism, frustrated idealism and cynicism.

31. I want to write books. I have started at least one called My Childhood in Iowa (Damon read the notes). I have many ideas. I thing I'd like to write young adult fiction. But, so far, I have not had the discipline to follow through.

32. Riding RAGBRAI (across Iowa on a bike) was awesome and I'm proud I did it. Tentatively planning on doing it again this year.

33. I was in the best shape of my life the summer before my sophomore year of college after lifting 4 days a week. Loved it.

34. I used to act a lot. I first played Kurt in 'The Sound of Music' at Clear Creek High School in 3rd grade. I think it really helped my confidence. I played Kurt again in the Iowa City Community Theater 'Sound of Music' in 5th grade. Lots more acting in jr hi and high school. All the male leads because the director loved me. My favorite role was Tom Wingfield in 'The Glass Menagerie'.

35. Up until college I was very buttoned-down and pretty preppy. I loosened up working at The Pittsburgh Project.

36. I have lost 20 pounds and re-gained it at least 4 times in the last 6 years. I am trying not to let that depress me during my current efforts.

37. Here in the Carolinas you can be a mountains or beach person. Mountains.

38. My 9yo daughter loves HGTV. This is strange.

39. Ran into a college friend at a pick up basketball game ... in Addis Ababa.

40. Marvel at my laziness! (But some of it is the pessimism.)

41. I go through life looking for a place to lie down.

42. Did you know Facebook has a tag limit? It's 30. I'll show them. I'll do two copies of this with different tags!

43. Autumn rules the other seasons. They bow down and say 'we're not worthy!'

44. I think it's about time I wrapped this up, don't you? ;-)

On to glory: Mack Bethune

Wil and I just got back from Mack's funeral.

Mack was an old gentleman in our church. As we've attended over the past year, his health has gotten worse and he was mostly getting around only in a wheelchair.

The twins sort of struck up a friendship with Mack. He was a really nice old guy. He probably started it by sharing candy with them before services.

Then, this fall, Mack was in the Sunday school class I taught and I got to know him better.

One Sunday morning, when there was breakfast between services, and while I was filling my plate, the twins, on their own, got up from the table we were sitting at and went to sit with Mack, who was sitting alone. That is the proudest I have ever been of them.

One time Mack gave them a ride on his motorized wheelchair.

Mack got sick for the last time in December. The twins and I went and visited him in the hospital, took Xmas/get well cards, and sang a carol. That was the last time we saw him in this life.

We have been praying for Mack to get better, but he died this past week, and I rejoiced that he has gone on to eternal life and full health and happiness.

I hadn't gotten around to telling the twins yet, but when Wil and I went to church Wednesday night, I thought I'd better tell him so he wouldn't be surprised. I said I had good news and bad news. When I told him the bad news, he asked what the good news was and I reminded him that we believe that those who trust Jesus with their life live with Him forever and that Mack won't be sick or need a wheelchair anymore.

After children's choir, I could tell that Wil had been crying. Turns out, one of the kids prayed for Mack to get better, and that got Wil. He prayed that Mack would have a good life in heaven and broke down in tears.

Part of this story is that Wil is (often) such a sweet, sensitive boy.

So, I asked him if he wanted to go to the funeral, and he said yes.

It wasn't emotional for him at all. He sort of paid attention and was ready to go home after the 45 minutes.

I'm especially glad I went as a reminder of my faith and a celebration of Mack's life, here on earth and in eternity.