Monday, February 20, 2012

Days 21 & 22 - Evan

Bio: A good phrase to describe Evan is “warrior poet.” It’s from Braveheart, which is one of his favorite movies. It’s totally true – he’s got a warrior’s heart and a worshiper’s spirit. He’s an artist and super talented on the guitar. Evan is also one of the strongest people I know. He was just built that way – broad shoulders and super solid core. He’s got red hair but he’s not prone to anger and is in fact very mellow. (Stereotype debunked!) I lived with him for two years and he is one of my favorite roommates.

Challenge: My challenge to you is to spend the day in silence. Do not speak a word, make a noise, watch tv, listen to the radio, anything. I do realize that this is a word day and I don't want you to lose your job - so speak if you absolutely have to at work but do your best not to. I want you to spend the day reflecting on life, the past 30 years and the next. You are required to find a place (hopefully outdoors, I know it's hot but do your best) and spend an hour in prayer / scripture. And one more requirement. choose one of these: 1. Go kayaking in silence, 2. Go biking in nature, 3. Go for a walk around a lake or park in silence.
24 hours of silence. GO!
Reaction: Uh oh. (The first day I read this was the day of the flash mob.) Gonna be pretty hard to get through a flash mob without talking.  I may have to give myself some exceptions.

Recap: As I mentioned in the previous post, this first day did not go well. (Which is why it became a two-day challenge!) I didn’t listen to music on the way to work, which was different. Once at work, I spoke as little as possible. I did answer the phone when it rang, of course, but otherwise avoided conversations. After lunch I was overcome with sleepiness, and could have used a little background music to help stay alert. A number of these challenges have forced me to confront how poor my sleeping habits are. Man!

With little co-worker interaction, it was sort of a lonely day at work. But the day came to an end eventually and I scooted over to the flash mob and my self-declared exemption from the silence. As I said last post, Evan found out I was talking and declared my challenge failed and that I would have to do-over. I was a little peeved, honestly, because I had already spent ALL DAY at work being silent. But he was the challenge-giver, and I actually hadn’t gotten a challenge for the next day, so…

Day two was better. One, with my preparation the first day, I knew a bit what to expect. I came prepared. No radio on the way to work. Few phone calls and no co-worker visits. I didn’t even get on the internet. I didn’t even text! After another long day at work, I was determined not to get tripped up in the evening, so I did not even go home.

I went back to the Lake.

Lake Arcadia had been such a wonderful, refreshing experience the first time I decided to go back and watch the sunset again. I knew no one would be there. I parked the car outside the gate and hiked in, enjoying a second visit to the tranquil nature. Or, mostly tranquil.

I had my Bible with me and read a couple Psalms in a spot with a different angle on the lake. I sat with my back to a tree and watched the golden sun sink below the horizon. The lake had a gentle, cool breeze coming off, and I was really enjoying the moment. Then I heard it.

I think it was a deer, just a severely asthmatic one. It was this heaving, panting almost groaning noise. It sort of came out of the blue too. It wasn’t a noise that slowly built until I heard it. It was suddenly, almost explosively loud. I jumped and I think gasped a bit. My movement / noise in turn scared whatever animal was making the noise, because I heard it bolt from my left side. I never caught sight of it, but I think both of us scared each other pretty good.

Even though I’d heard it leave, my imagination started to go to work on the “I’m alone in the woods as twilight deepens” vein. I could definitely picture a lot of grisly endings to my evening. So I packed up my stuff and hiked out.

Once back home, I was worried my roommate Jerrod would be there. (He’s such a talker and would no doubt make me break the challenge. Just kidding about the talking bit.) But he was gone, so I cleaned my room a bit, took a shower, and went to bed. I slept good that night.

Day 20 - Dave & Teresa

Bio: As with several of the other couples, I knew these two as friends before they started dating, and it was awesome to watch them fall in love and get married. Also something I appreciate about them is that they still hang out with me and my crew from time to time even though they are studly married folk now. Teresa and I share several traits. We both went to Baylor, are both social, both work in communication/design, and both of us thought Dave’s house looked kind of dumpy before she moved in and revamped it. Dave and I have different personalities but get along great. He is kind of a dork but owns it and is such a genuine person that everyone loves him. One legendary ski trip he and I basically acted out the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, voicing all the characters, on the long drive home. (News flash! I’m kind of a dork too.) Dave also was my accountability partner for a couple years, and his investment in me made such an impact on my life.

Challenge: Coordinate and participate in a FLASH MOB! Recruit at least 30 people and do it in a crowded public setting. Have fun! P.S. – if someone else has you doing something similar, you can just cook us a meal at our house or take a Zumba class with Teresa.

Reaction: This is AWESOME! I love flash mobs, and now that I’m reading this, I’m surprised no one has given me this challenge before. I enjoy attention, and have to say I’m pretty good at the whole choreography thing. So this challenge is perfect for me. Now who can I recruit, and where can I do it?

Recap: I got this challenge on a Wednesday, and I knew right off that to do the flash mob I wanted to would take more than a day to put together. I wanted music, dancing, craziness! So I decided to give myself a little extra time to plan and coordinate. I decided to do it on Friday. Friday’s challenge had not been delivered yet, while Thursday’s had, so I could make this challenge work for two days!

I thought of several possible locations, like the mall or downtown somewhere, but ruled them out. People have done stuff at the mall before, as well as downtown. I wanted my flash mob to be original and unique, maybe at a business one of my friends worked at. Then I had a brilliant idea. My friend Morgan worked at Lifeway Christian bookstores off NW Expressway. Easy, central location, with a captive audience of someone who would totally enjoy a flash mob. I bet they’ve never had a flash mob there before! Also, just in case her management had a cow about it and fired her, Lifeway was a second job for her and was not her main source of income. Morgan is a fiery free spirit, and I felt sure she would adore a random visit from her friends. Location picked.

Next hurdle was people. I was glad Dave and Teresa said “recruit” 30 people rather than “30 people must participate.” I got to work on inviting my 30. Lots of texts and e-mails. Several people were interested, and several more were not. Flash mobs are sort of divisive activities.

However, as I talked with more and more friends about the plan, it became apparent that I could catch the largest group of them on Thursday rather than Friday. I didn’t want to double-down on challenges, but it didn’t look like I had a choice. I planned it for right after work on Thursday, everyone meeting up at 5:00 in the parking lot around the corner from the Lifeway store.

I wanted to make sure Morgan was there, so I put my sneaky hat on and sent her a message asking about hanging out Thursday at 5:00. “Sad, can’t. L Have to work” was her reply. Perfect.

Now for the dance. I have wonderful friends, but they aren’t all rhythm champions. And we had essentially zero time to rehearse. So I needed a dance that everyone already knew and that was simple. Incredibly simple. Addictively simple? BAM. Welcome back to 1995, it’s time for the Macarena!

So all the pieces were falling into place. Dance: Macarena. Location: Lifeway Bookstore. Guests: 30 invited, about 8 for sure show ups and possibly 3 more able to come. The plan was going perfectly. Which meant it was all about to fall apart.

I arrived at the meeting place about 30 minutes early. A big, abandoned Circuit City was next to the Lifeway store, so I parked the car and tried to calm my beating heart. In order to pull off this challenge (technically from the day before), I knew I would have to break the new challenge I had opened that morning from my friend Evan. (More on that in the next post.) I decided it would just be a short period anyway, and he wouldn’t need to know.

Brave and bold friends began arriving – Jason, Shyla, Amber, Michele (who drove in from out of town in time for the flash mob), Hugh, Jenny, Kat, Andrew and Samantha. It was blazing hot outside, so we huddled under the decaying circuit city sign while I went over the plan. We did a Macarena practice run. Everyone did great.

I had brought a mini boom box with me and a CD with latin-ish music on it. The plan was this. We would wander into the store in groups of two or three. The first group (Andrew and Jenny) would locate Morgan and pretend to be interested in some merchandise at the back of the store. The rest of us would then filter in while they distracted her. I would find an outlet and get the CD ready, push play, blow a whistle I’d brought with me, and we’d form a triangle in the front of the store and do our dance.

We were waiting to see if anyone else would show up, and Jason called our roommate Evan to see if he wanted to come. Evan, the guy whose challenge I was supposed to be doing. Evan, who told Jason to tell me that no, he wasn’t coming and that I had to re-do his challenge because I’d cheated. Which was true. Busted.

Then Hugh started to get a little freaked out. Apparently he gets really nervous about public craziness, which is understandable. I told him he could take pictures/video and document the event if he felt too uncomfortable to participate. He considered this for a moment, then decided he still couldn’t do it – he would be too embarrassed just watching us be embarrassing. So he left.

Sensing my flash mob beginning to fall apart, I initiated the plan.

Andrew and Jenny went into the store. A minute later, Amber and Michele went in followed by Samantha and Kat. Jason, Shyla and I were in the last group. Waiting another minute was actually excruciating, because we watched this frumpy looking middle-aged lady go in the store, and I just knew she would not enjoy our upcoming spectacle. But what can you do?

At last our time arrived. My group went in. A quick look around the store showed not many people were in there, which was disappointing but I guess I should not have been surprised. It was Thursday afternoon at a Christian bookstore. I moved quickly into the book section to hide the boom box and scouted for a power outlet. I found one amongst the framed art section (why do Christian bookstores always have gratuitously large religious paintings for sale? Who buys that stuff?) I went over and plugged in the box. But the power light did not come on. No juice.

I went to the next outlet over. Tried it again. Still no power. I looked around. Amber, Kat, Michele and Samantha had formed a group one row into the books and were staring at me and whispering nervously. Each passing second frayed all our nerves more. I did not anticipate how fast my heart beat would be at that moment. Preparing to be brazenly loud in a quiet, dignified setting got my blood running!

I crossed to the other side of the store and tried some outlets on the far wall. No juice. Drat. The music wouldn’t work. It would have to just be our voices. I went back to the holy knickknacks section and set up the video camera.

All eyes were on me from my team, waiting for me to initiate. I took a few deep breaths to calm my very rattled nerves and moved to the center. Better just to get it over with. I saw Jenny and Andrew coming towards us, which meant Morgan was about to get the surprise of her week.

“Who’s ready for a Morgan mob?” I shouted (cleverly), though my voice sounded less confident in the stately bookstore than I’d hoped.

My wonderful friends rushed out and we created our ragged formation. Morgan stepped out and gasped, laughed, and clapped. We did the Macarena.

Well, here, see for yourself. (Video forthcoming)

It was fun. Not as Hollywood polished as I had pictured in my head, but whatevs. She loved it, we did it, great challenge. Done and done.

Day 19 - Mom

Bio: My mom is a great lady. Here are things I love about her: I can make her laugh faster than anyone else, and her laugh is contagious. She values truth greatly, stands firm on it, and fights for it. She can turn any food into a tasty meal. She is shorter than me. When she makes a mistake, she genuinely apologizes for it, and I have watched her live this out since I was a little boy. Because she had two boys, she’s tackled a whole slew of boy things with gusto, including climbing a 14,000 foot peak in Colorado and spending bug-infested summer nights out camping. She has gorgeous red hair. She has a twin. When she and my Dad have problems, they work through them. When my brother and I tag team, we can totally fluster her! My Mom has a deep and honest relationship with God.

Challenge: Dear Ben, July 19 would have been Pop’s 98th birthday. It would be nice if you would put some flowers on his grave. I can tell you how to get there. Love, Mom

Reaction: Pops was my grandfather, who passed away in 2007 in his late nineties. I had a couple distinct responses to this challenge. One, relief that the challenge wasn’t heavy on time commitment or activity. Two, surprise and, in a way, delight that the date had fallen just right for Pop’s birthday. Three, some sadness at the reminder that he is not with us any more. His passing still feels recent.

Recap: I drove by a flower shop after work and picked out two really brightly-colored flowers for the arrangement, purple and yellow. Pops was a super grandfather, and he loved getting people’s attention through jokes or magic tricks. He was very good at magic tricks. He could amaze me with his slight-of-hand, pulling coins out of my ear and making stuff in his hand disappear. Pops was a Baptist minister for several decades, and he loved people, loved talking to them and making them laugh and being part of their lives. I was glad for the chance to brighten up his grave marker on his birthday – he’d like that.

I drove over to the cemetery and found he and my Grandmother’s headstone, which reminded me of a Pops story. When Pops bought that headstone in the 1990’s, he left it in his trunk for the winter months (better traction, he said.) So he was trolling around town with his headstone rattling around his trunk. Frugal and practical, two of his most admired characteristics. (He couldn’t resist a sale, so whenever we needed soda, we’d visit Pops’ garage where he had a ton of 12-packs he’d acquired at sales.)

As it was a typical July day, I was sweating from the two-minute walk from my car to the gravesite. The sun was approaching the horizon, tinting everything with a golden hue. One unique thing about the headstone is that all the other ones on their row are facing west, but Pops and Grandmother’s are facing east. I hadn’t realized that before, and it brought a smile to my face. How appropriate.

I put the flowers down and messed with them a bit, moving them here then there until I liked where I’d placed them. I stared at the headstone. It is very simple, just names (Harold P. and Alice F. McGlamery) and years of birth and death. Not even the month or day, just the year. Again, frugal and practical. Many of the other headstones around them lack ornamentation- we Oklahomans are not easily given to unnecessary flourishes. I briefly considered whether I was sad their graves did not have flowers more often. I live close and could bring stuff by more often. But their headstone is good indication of how they wanted it to be. A simple marker of lives well-lived. Pops and Grandmother left behind something far better than a fancy gravestone. They left a legacy.

Both lived for Jesus faithfully, though they also had specific areas of faults and failures. They loved each other, not a mushy fairytale love, but a even-if-we-quarrel-daily-we-stand-by-each-other love. They were married for over 60 years. They raised good kids and spoiled their grandkids (but not too much.) And in their final years, when age and health slowly took away their independence and vitality, they kept their hearts focused on the hope of restoration and renewal in Christ.

So I sat for a moment at their graves, and said a few words in memory of Pops. I’m not sure if the ones who have passed on can hear what we say on earth anymore or not, but I told him how much he meant to me and how much he taught me. And (despite my over-dramatic nature), I left it at that. I got in the car, turned on the air conditioner, and drove home.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Day 18: Paula

Bio: Along with Amber (Day 12) and Brian (Day 15), Paula is a treasured friend who joined the twenty-somethings group at church around the same time I did. We both have a deep love of community, and have served together in several different leadership roles. There is a part of me that adores CAMP, the out-of-the-normal experience, roughing it, fires and making your own dinner, getting to know your friends in much deeper ways than you have before. Paula loves that too, and she has put on some retreats that are golden memories for me – Camp Leila with the midnight rowboat adventure, shooting firecrackers at her parents’ farm in Pawnee, the infamous night hike at Watonga. Not to leave out trips to Chicago, Red River or Kansas City. (“No, Daniel, it’s get me one, not get me some!”) Truly awesome memories.

Paula is joyous, Paula is sweet. Paula is steadfast, earnest, and neat. Paula has just the right touch for every occasion. She is also an inspiration on discerning vocation.

I say this last sentence because Paula did something extraordinary. After several years in the medical field, using her college degree and making a decent income, Paula took the time to listen to God, listen to her soul and determine that she was called to leave it and go back to school to be a nurse. Not just for a whim. Because she knew her own giftings and strengths, and she felt that the intersection of her abilities and the world’s needs led her to be an oncology nurse, ministering to cancer patients’ physical and spiritual needs. So she did. She had a horrible medical emergency that knocked her out of school for an entire year, but she did not give up and kept at it until she finished.

Even though I didn’t live through it as she did, her experience matters to me, because it shows me that there is value to taking the time to listen to the Holy Spirit and to our own dreams. It shows me that it takes courage and sacrifice to risk changing what is familiar and comfortable. And how she is now, how satisfied she is with her new occupation, shows me it is worth it. So thanks, Paula, for living purposefully.

Challenge: I won’t print the entire letter Paula wrote me, because it is three wonderful pages of personal stories, encouragements, and challenges. But I will excerpt a few passages.
“I have been reflecting on my own 30th birthday and the subsequent years. I have now, and had then, an impression/idea that things, life-things, were going to be very different for me after 30. My 30th was pretty dramatic (not what I’m wishing for yours). However, from that time till now, I’ve had so many adventures and such excitement, more life packed into these past few years than almost all of my twenties. It’s the excitement and adventure I wish/pray for you. There is something to the age of 30 (really, really!) I tend to think of David and Joseph, and even Jesus. Their lives got spectacular at 30.
…One of the main differences in my life now from my life then is a stronger and deeper sense of true godly freedom, an ongoing discovery of true grace, and a continually surprising assurance of deep love. These things continue to cause every day to be an adventure.
…So, on your 30th birthday, it is my prayer that your life be full of and maxed out with wonderful, exciting adventures with God. My challenge to you is to be immersed in life-giving words for an entire day. … I have included 7 CD’s in this package that you are to listen to in its entirety throughout this day. I realize there are 24 hours in a day and about 7 hours of teaching to listen to. So start early and play late. I have faith you can do it!”

Reaction: Paula is so alive! What powerful words. She should seriously work on writing devotions- her words are simple, true, deep and genuine. Paula is just awesome! As for the challenge, wow. 7 hours of teaching in one day? Looks like it is a sermon series titled “Sons of God” by the pastor of Paula’s church, A.T. Hargrave of Crestwood Baptist. That’s a tall order. I won’t be listening to the new album I just bought on my ipod today!

Recap: Let’s address the elephant in the room immediately. I bombed this challenge. I did not even finish the second CD on the day of the challenge, much less the eighth. (Which, by the way, there were eight, not seven CDs in the teaching series she gave me. Eight hours.) There were a few things that did me in.

One, the announcer who sets up the CDs sounds like Kermit the Frog. Actually, this didn’t affect my progress, but it sure is a remarkable vocal resemblance.

Two, in the CD’s introduction, a church member (not the pastor) makes a statement that had me instantly hitting the rewind button and listening again. He said, “One of the manifestations of God is Jehovah Rophe, the God who heals us. We know it is God’s will for us to be healed.” The reason I listened to that part several times is I don’t agree with his statement- God’s will for his children is for us to be HIS, whether or not we are healed. Sometimes God chooses to heal someone’s physical sickness or problem, and sometimes he doesn’t. I am sure this gentleman didn’t mean any harm by what he said, but I was instantly worried that Paula had given me a bunch of CDs with bad theology, so I listened intently and deliberately to every Bible verse and sermon point. That is good for absorbing teaching but bad for marathon listening. I am happy to report that the actual sermon series itself was great, even if there was that moment of (in my opinion) poor word choice up front.

Three, I had a dinner party planned for that night that would require time to set up and a couple hours of hosting. I hit a new moment in my challenges journey. I was tired of doing crazy stuff. I was tired of nixing regular, planned activities for ridiculous adventures. I was getting tired of my own challenges! So I didn’t drop everything for this challenge like I might have if it was on Day 4 or 8. I had the dinner party (which was fun) and called it a day.

However, I did not give up on the challenge just because I didn’t get it done in 24 hours. It took from July 18 to October 19 for me to listen to all eight CDs in the car on the way to work, but I kept at it a little at a time until it was done. The messages are focused on us viewing life not as orphans, but as sons of God. I enjoyed the speaker’s folksy style, but that did not diminish the insight he shared. Really good content, and I am happy to loan my CDs to anyone who’d like to listen.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Day 17: Steve and Janie

Bio: Steve and Janie were both friends from church who started dating and got married. It’s always fun to get to watch two friends you know separately form a life together. I went to Spain with Janie on a mission trip, and two things stand out to me about her. One, although she is quiet, she can have this great sarcastic wit if you listen closely to what she says. Two, she is a journaling queen, and no mistake. In the flat we stayed in, she would stay up journaling every night. I really admire people who make time to journal, I think it’s a good sign of a strong inner life. Steve is fun, and genuine, and nuts. He is super friendly, good at sports, and has a dog named Blitz who he talks to in a “muppet” voice that is one part Grover and two parts Fozzie. When he leaves me voicemail, he always includes a message from Blitz too, delivered in his signature “blitz” voice. We co-led a study of a book called Celebration of Discipline, and it was great because he and I got to be better friends through that. Great book too.

Challenge: Well, Ben, since you are turning 30, and are such a fine, outstanding young man, we thought it was about time for you to get hitched. You know, tie the knot…. Get married.

So, we picked out the flowers (they are so beautiful), the cake (so scrumptious), and everything else. The best part is we took the time to carefully pick out a bride (your favorite part, we know.) All you need to do is get dressed and show up to the church. Isn’t it exciting! Now, it starts at 9 AM, so don’t be late!

Reaction: Some context here, I read this at approximately 9:15 on July 17 (a Sunday), so I definitely freaked out. Not because I really thought they had a bride for me, but because I was late to church and apparently they had a surprise planned, waiting for me. I seem to be pretty consistently late everywhere, so this was yet another opportunity to cry out to the world for its cruel institution of time.

Then I noticed a second piece of paper in the envelope, and opened that.

REAL challenge: “Ben, now that you are in a complete panic, we’ll get down to business. Challenge? Did we hear you say you want a challenge? Well, how about you sit with us at church (9 AM service) to start things off.

Do you like musicals? We hope you do, and since you enjoy attention, you get to be the star! You might think “That sounds amazing,” but of course, there is a catch. Anytime you speak during the day (from 7 AM to 12:01 midnight) you have to sing your reply. It’s like The Sound of Music or High School Musical, but better. You can’t tell anyone why you are singing, and you have to leave the house sometime today. That means you cannot avoid people, avoid talking, or avoid places. It’s been said the average person speaks close to 10,000 words a day, so we expect the same from you. Only in song!

The fun isn’t over yet, though. You have to go up to random people and pull at least 5 pranks. We recommend watching clips of Edbassmaster on youtube. Look under “Ugly Face, Elmo” or “Chinese Food Take out Prank” or “Drive-Thru Pranks” or “Skippy Stare” for ideas. When you are performing these pranks, and only then, you don’t have to sing. Make sure to get video footage too.

You are probably getting really overwhelmed, but we also want you to get serious, so spend the best hour of the day reading your Bible and in prayer by yourself. If it is put on your heart to witness to someone, do it.

Have fun, don’t forget to document (pictures and video) and remember, we’ll be watching you!!!

Reaction: Wow. That’s kind of a lot. Steve and Janie did not go light on the challenge for the day, huh? Singing all day would be difficult on its own. Doing pranks on strangers? And an hour in the word. And I’m already late for church? Gosh, I AM overwhelmed.

Recap: I raced to church and, instead of sitting in the back as I usually do, I roamed along the sides of the auditorium searching for Steve and Janie. After a bit of searching, I realized they weren’t there!! So I sat alone. (In case anyone is keeping attendance, Janie and Steve did NOT go to service on July 17!)

As the service wound down, my sense of dread increased. Due to my tardiness, I managed to get into church without having to talk to anyone, but I knew when the service ended that my “musical” duties would begin. I really had no idea how I was going to make the singing thing work without looking like a complete freak (which, as you may have noticed from other challenges, I have a big aversion to looking foolish.) 

Service ended, so I nervously headed back to where my friends were gathered. Alright, better bite the bullet, I decided. Make it look natural. And cool. Somehow.

 I nodded to my friends Tim, Brian and roommate Jerrod. “Hey, how was your week?” Tim asked.

“Good,” I sang, in a low tone that, in my head, I thought might sound like my natural voice, but in real life, sounded nothing like. My cheeks flushed. Tim persisted.

“Yeah, what did you do?” he asked.

I cleared my throat and tried again to find a singing tone that would mimic my speaking voice close enough to fool my friends.

“Not much,” I sang, aiming too low and sounding a bit baritone. “Mainly just work,” I sang higher, overshooting and squeaking like Carol Channing. Tim gave me a weird look. My blush deepened. I went on the offensive.

“Brian, what’s new,” I sang, low and soft, and throwing the attention over to him. Brian answered, but I didn’t pay attention as I scrambled to think of a solution. This first singing encounter was not going well, and I had over fifteen hours of singing ahead of me. Every second felt like it lasted excruciatingly long. I needed to buy some time to think of a solution.

I pretended to check my phone and, nodding to the other gents, I exited the church sanctuary. I went and hid in the bathroom for a couple minutes, but did not come up with any outs, so I drug myself back out and walked down to where my small group meets.

A few folks were waiting in the hallway outside our room, and I nodded to my friend Hugh. “What’s up?” I sang at him, still trying to find the perfect tone.

“Somebody sounds chipper,” Hugh said. More blushing on my part. Sure wish I could talk, I thought. And then a revelation hit me.

The challenge is to sing all day, as if I am the star of a musical. What’s one of the most popular musicals of all time? My Fair Lady. And who is the star of that musical? Rex Harrison, he of the speak-the-song-and-sing-a-few-notes-at-the-end fame. There was my path. I’d be like Rex Harrison, speaking the lines, then singing the last few notes of a sentence or phrase. He was certainly a Broadway star, so it fit with the challenge. And it could save me from blasting out loud notes all day. Perfect!

“How was your weekend?” I asked, softly singing the last word and trying out the Harrison phrasing.

“Good,” Hugh said, and filled me in on his goings-on without noticing my slight of tongue. My friend Kat wandered by, so I tried my speech-sing on her.

“Kat, are you enjoying being on vacation?” I spoke-sang. Kat’s a teacher, so she was on break. She didn’t appear to notice my slight singing. Success!

After small group, a bunch of us went to lunch at a Chinese restaurant, and I was able to speak-sing the whole way through lunch without any comments. I did notice one thing, though. Normally I say what I think, with only a minimal filter in place. But this day, I had to think through everything I was going to say and determine which words I would sing. So I took note of everything I said. Every word that left my lips, I thought through before I said it. And it really was a new experience for me. (Don’t laugh. You try it!) It’s restrictive, in a way, because it slows down the quick flow of conversation, but it makes my words more reasoned, more considered.

I don’t know if I’m describing this very well, but it was like I measured my words. I spoke less, with shorter sentences, so everything I did say I tried to communicate as clearly and succinctly as possible. I was limited in what I could say, but maybe in a good way.

I retreated to my house for the afternoon, because my roommate Jerrod is quiet by nature and quite content to not bother a person with a lot of conversation, so I knew I’d be safe from the singing challenge. I turned my attention to the prank requirement of the challenge. And the first thing that came to mind is probably the most-used prank of all time. The Ding Dong Ditch (DDD).

Some people did a lot of toilet-papering and car chalking and DDD-ing in their middle school years, but I was a rather well-behaved fourteen-year-old and never dreamed of such daring-do. The result of this is that, as a grown-up, I now adore middle-school pranks and never feel too “grown up” for a good ole TP or DDD.

The DDD has a lot of variations, but the classic variation is this: 1. Approach house, 2. Ring door bell, 3. Flee, 4. Hide and watch your victim come to the door needlessly, 5. Cackle with glee.

The challenge specifically said random people, so I waited until the cover of darkness had fallen, and then I picked my first random house, one on the northwest side of UCO with my random friends Matt and Julianne inside. (They are awesome and very, very random!)

As this is not my first prank-attack, I prepped my car for the operation: dome light turned off, parked several houses away, and driver-side door unlocked (in case a speedy entry to the vehicle is needed.) There was some sort of college kid party going on across the street, and I didn’t want to be identified, so I walked as nonchalantly as I could towards Matt’s house. Heart-pounding, I stretched out a trembling hand and pushed the doorbell.

I heard nothing. No faint sound of chimes, no echo through the house. I was already tensed for a quick getaway, but I hesitated and jabbed the button a second time. Still nothing, but I couldn’t risk staying there in case the doorbell did work, so I did my best Usain Bolt impersonation and ran like the wind.
I had a video camera in my car trained on the house to record what transpired, because I ran in the opposite direction of my car (this ain’t my first rodeo!) After a good ten minutes of wandering side streets, I got back to my car and checked the video camera. Bust. No one came to the door.

I could describe the next three houses I went to, but it was basically a variation on the same theme- excitement, DDD, no one came to the door. What is wrong with people these days, ignoring their door bells after 10 pm at night?! America, you need to answer the door! And by America, I mean Brian, Steve and Janie, and Matt and Michael specifically.

However, I am proud to say that after TWO rings at the home of my (random) friends Kyle and Jason, someone did come to the door!! I asked them about it later, and turns out it was neither one of them, it was their third roommate who I don’t know. But regardless, at least one of my DDD’s worked! There is hope for our nation yet.

So there you have it. Day 17, done!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Day 16 - Sarah

Bio: Sarah is a friend I first met in 2005 when I was getting involved at Henderson. She is charismatic, smart, and a go-getter, she loves music and live concerts with a passion, and she is a photo-taking nazi who will enlist absolute strangers to take photos of her and friends. She is serious about those photos!

There are two things I really admire about Sarah. One, she takes the time to know her inner world enough that she knows what she wants. I don’t mean that in a selfish sense, I mean that in a purpose-filled life sense. Her activities, her time, her city of residence, all of these things are informed by her sense of where God is leading her and what he has entrusted her to do.

Two, she loves art and culture along with having a powerful faith, and can recognize the value of some “secular” art. Eternal truths are spoken or illustrated in the oddest places in art and culture. Just because the author isn’t explicitly faith-focused doesn’t mean there aren’t powerful truths to uncover in their work. As an example, Sarah introduced me to my favorite magazine, Relevant Magazine, which I highly recommend for any and all.

Day 16 Challenge: Ben, I’ve enjoyed browsing your blog these past few days, reading all about your exploits with pictures for proof. I honestly have struggled a little bit to come up with a worthy challenge for you. Although I’m still not convinced I have done so, the clock is ticking on my date. I’m pretty sure I need to get this in the mail TO-DAY. So here is, perhaps, a strange challenge… sort of like a car wash in terms of choices. I’ll explain.

If you’d like a GOOD challenge (wash, underbody, dry): Set aside an hour or so and go visit a kill shelter (as in an animal shelter where they end up putting the animals to sleep). If allowed, spend some time with the animals, petting them, maybe even letting them lick your face (I hear you are into the whole kissing thing).

If you’d like a BETTER challenge (full body shine- conditioning, tri-color foam, Durashield Protectant with Body Armor): Find a home for one of these animals. Rack your brain and track down someone who’d like a pet, and secure some kind of verbal agreement that he or she will in fact adopt from the shelter you visited.

If you’d like the BEST challenge (Tire shine package- long lasting tire shine, wheel cleaner PLUS full-body shine): Adopt one of these animals yourself. I realize this may not be a realistic challenge for you, and that is why you may consider the challenge complete should you do the “good” or “better” option. However, I did want to throw it out there in case you had been thinking, “Man, what I’d really like for my 30th birthday is a pet!” And that is it… enjoy your Saturday!

Reaction: Huh. I continue to be surprised at the originality of the challenges. From what I know of Sarah, I would have bet money she would have had a music challenge of some kind, so this one takes me by complete surprise! I’ve never been to an animal shelter, so it will be a first for me in discovering what those places are like. I have to say, my chances of adopting a pet are pretty slim at the moment. 1) Jerrod owns the house so he gets to decide that stuff, and 2) I don’t think I want to keep an animal locked up in our house for 8 hours a day when I’m at work. Still, I’m glad she gave me options.

I looked online and found the city of Edmond (where I live) has an animal shelter not too far from my house, off of Danforth and I-35. So in early afternoon, I hopped in my car and headed over there. There are several buildings housing city offices spread out among a pretty wooded drive alongside the animal shelter, which gives it a nice, nature-infused feel. Walking up to the door, I noticed several signs declaring anyone bringing an animal into the shelter had to go in and give the staff a heads-up first. I’m guessing there was an unfortunate incident or two between animals in the entry area.

I read the sign outside the door, which listed the various services the shelter provided, and at what price. Euthanization was an option, so I knew this was a kill-shelter, part of Sarah’s requirements. I haven’t thought too much about kill-shelters being bad or good, but if you want my opinion, they don’t upset me. Having wild animals roaming around isn’t good for public health, so these shelters provide a service to all of us. And if these animals get a chance to get adopted first, then that sounds like a fair system to me.

One of my friends, Kyle (Day 5) has rescued two dogs from the OKC animal shelter, and one of the things he’d warned me about was the smell. According to Kyle, walking into the OKC shelter is like getting hit in the face with an overpowering stench of dogs and cats. (Let’s be honest, folks. It’s largely dogs). However, I can honestly say the Edmond shelter does not smell that way. It smells of bleach. Strongly. Still, I’d rather go into a place that smelled like a cleaning product than one that smells like 100 odorific dogs. Good job Edmond.

There were two ladies at the front desk. One of them was helping a dad and his daughter fill out adoption paperwork for a dog, maybe a lab, sitting next to them. I waited in line, and listened to the process. Adopting sounds really easy, with one condition – that you own your residence. This man did not, and so the worker explained they would have to call the landlord and talk to him or her and get permission before they could sign over the animal. The man didn’t look pleased, but I’m sure this saves the shelter from adopting out animals that get returned a few days later when a landlord finds out.

The second lady, short, brown-haired with a bit of a button nose, waved me over. “What can I do for you?” she asked. I told her I wanted to look at some animals, if I could. She buzzed open a door next to the waiting area and I walked through.

I stood in a wide hallway with a couple doors leading off of it and a bit window ahead. To my right was a row of medium-sized cages with cats in them. Some were tabby, some were black and white, and one was all white. I felt a little awkward staring at the cats when I really had no intention of adopting one. It was like I worried they’d be able to tell and would, I don’t know, hiss at me or something. Cats are usually pretty stand-off-ish anyway. One of my friends told me, “Dogs think of themselves as people. Cats think of themselves as gods.” Which I think is pretty true. So what these cats did surprised me.

They were affectionate. With a stranger. I put my fingers through the slats of the top cage and started petting the cat there. It had been asleep, but it woke up and began pressing itself against the wires, letting me pet it. Once it was obvious I was staying and not moving on, all the cats did this. Some were more insistent than others, but all of them (about 15 cats) were eager for my touch. One of the cats on the bottom row of cages stuck its front paw out of the cage and hooked my shorts in its claw, almost as if it was crying out “Pet me!”

I made time to pet each one of the cats, and gave a couple some extra pets because they tugged at my heart strings a little. I wonder what goes on in a domesticated cat’s brain where it comes to long for human touch, as these cats did. Have we bred that into them? Do cats that go feral miss being petted and rubbed? I know people need human contact, but these cats acted like they did too. It surprised me.

I walked over to the big window and looked in on a kitten room. There were somewhere around 30 kittens in the room, which looked to be kitty heaven. Lots of comfy cushions lay about for napping, there were several large scratching posts with multiple levels for the cats to play on, along with hanging baskets and toys scattered on the ground. Seriously, if you are looking for a moment of sheer “AW” cuteness, that room will not be topped. Right next to the window was a chair that had five to seven kittens sleeping piled into a heap together. Others were romping around the scratching posts, and others were sleeping here or there about the room. I stood at the window and watched for a bit, picking out the different colors and types of fur in the room.

Loud barking interrupted my reverie. Two volunteers came in, a teenage boy and his mom, who each had a dog on a leash. The dogs were eager and straining at their leashes, and the two led the dogs into a room off the hallway where loud barks greeted their entry. Dogs are just loud.

I located a second room of dogs, other than the one the volunteers went into, and walked inside. There were about 16 cages, large to my mind (seven or eight feel long, four feet wide, 7 feet high) made of cross-hatch fencing. All the cages were full. I started at one end and worked my way down, petting the dogs. There were a lot more little dogs than there were big dogs. I don’t know if that is generally true of all shelters or just this one on this day. Of course the dogs were eager for me to pet them, as I anticipated.

One of the dogs towards the end was impatient for me to get to his cage, and he barked at me insistently to get over there and pet him! I like to think of myself as young and hip, but sometimes my inner fuddy-duddy comes out in force, and this was one instance of that. I didn’t like that dog barking so loud, and I didn’t appreciate him trying to get me to skip the others and attend to him only, so you know what I did? I skipped his pen and petted every other dog first. That showed him, huh? Maybe I should be disturbed by that. Maybe that shows a mean streak in me. I don’t know. If I’m honest, even though I think dog lovers are cooler than cat lovers, I am not a dog person. Dogs are stupid, and you can’t reason with them, and they are overly dependent on you and needy for attention, and I just prefer animals that behave. That’s sort of how I feel about children too. Shudder for my future offspring, and say a prayer!

I went through a second round of petting the dogs and then left the room. Out in the hallway a Mom and her pre-teen daughter were staring in the kitten room and discussing which one they wanted to adopt. The brown-haired shelter worker was there, so I struck up a conversation with her. Her name was Kelly, and she was from Scotland (which I noticed her accent break through the more I talked with her.) Actually, confession: I don’t remember her name, but I’m pretty sure it started with a K and Kelly sounds Irish, which is close to Scotland, so there you go.

The shelter worker told me they had two rooms for dogs, and both were full, that there were too many people not taking care of their dogs. They also recently moved the adult cats to the cages and put the kittens in the kitty room because there were so many of them. I asked what brought her to the U.S., and she said she was a grad student in violin studies at UCO.

The mother/daughter duo wanted to go into the kitten room to take a closer look at their pick, and I asked to tag along, so we all got to go into kitty heaven. The kittens weren’t as desperate as the caged adult cats to be petted (and many were asleep), but I did give some love to about 10 little kittens. One of them, my favorite, had funky stripes all over his body and was sleeping in this hanging basket all by himself. He’s probably the cool kid of the group.

The mother/daughter team picked out their kitten, and I had no more areas to explore, so I called it a day and headed out. I did make a measly little effort to shoot for the better challenge, and texted several friends that I was at the shelter, it was simple and easy to adopt a pet, and if they wanted one they should come over and get one. I didn’t get any replies, though, so I guess I only accomplished the “good” challenge. I can’t say that I walked away from the shelter with any new revelations on pet adoption, but if I ever do decide to get a pet, I know the Edmond animal shelter is a great place to do that.

However, since the car wash theme of the challenge got me thinking about it, I did go wash my car that day. I got the medium-grade wash, too. ;)