Archive for the ‘Just Me’ Category

Canada vs. USA…Youth Ministry Style

January 3, 2011

As I eagerly anticipate yet another hockey battle between Canada and the United States (this time it’s the semi-finals of the World Junior Hockey Championships in a rematch of last year’s final when the USA won 6-5) I began reflecting on the relationship between the two nations.  There are some similarities (pop culture, relative geography, and at least one language), many differences (currency, measurement, and health care to name a few), and a lot of cross-over.

One of these “cross-over” areas is the field of youth ministry.  Admittedly, it’s mostly us Canadians (at least in our archdiocese) bringing in (or “importing”) resources and talent from down south, whether it’s keynote speakers, worship leaders, or program resources and ideas.  Once in a while, we will bless our American neighbours with our presence at a conference or gathering, such as the recent NCCYM in New Orleans.  In fact, our American friends even invited us to participate in the relatively (in)famous youth ministry flash mob

It seems like we’ve always been welcomed with open arms and hearts, sometimes receiving shout-outs from the stage, even if we’re referred to as America’s hat (thanks Popple). 

So it’s only natural that this good-natured ribbing would spill over into sports.

Now, a couple of disclaimers here:

  1.  It really is only hockey, as the United States would likely hammer a Canadian team in any other of the big 4 sports (football, basketball, and baseball) as well as some others:  golf, tennis, and NASCAR.
  2. Having said that, Canadians take their hockey much more seriously than Americans.  If Canada had lost the gold medal match back in February, it would have crushed the country (as opposed to the Americans who moved on to the next thing).  It’s just the way we roll up here.

But, since I’m a Canadian living in Vancouver, it’s only natural that I get excited about these Canada-USA showdowns on the ice.  Here are 3 examples:

World Youth Day 2002.  As our parish jostled for position (in a good Catholic way) with pilgrims from the States near the front of the stage for one of the gatherings, the Americans patriotically chanted “USA!  USA!”  Our in-your-face response was to shout back “5-2!  5-2!” which was the final score of the 2002 Winter Olympics gold medal hockey game (a win for Canada over the USA).  We found it quite funny.  They were quite confused.

2009 NHL Playoffs.  What started off as a friend-wager with Orin and Shannon of Oddwalk Ministries turned into a month-long saga of trash-talking, creative videos, and me nearly choking on a piece of steak.  I won the original wager when the Canucks disposed of the Blues in round 1, but then we went double or nothing for round 2.  As the Blackhawks ended the Canucks play-off hopes in round 2, they also ended our wager.  You can trace the whole thing here.  Thankfully, we didn’t do anything for 2010!  I would have gone crazy!

2010 Winter Olympics.   We all know the final result:  Canada over the United States by a score of 3-2 in overtime, thanks to Sidney Crosby.  This moment has topped many Top 10 Sport Moments of the Year lists.  What many people don’t remember is that the Americans handily beat the Canadians in the preliminary round, prompting my good friends Anne Marie Cribbin and Gene Monterastelli to send me flowers and card expressing their condolences

And of course, I re-kindled my fun rivalry with Orin and Shannon in a wager that encompassed both the women’s and men’s hockey tournaments.  You can see their creative end result at the end of this video blog (my last one of the Winter Olympics).

What will happen in today’s hockey game?  It’s hard to tell.  But one thing’s for certain:  I’ll be watching the entire game…and thinking of American youth ministry friends in the process.

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Committed to The Sing-Off: Observations of the Season Finale

December 20, 2010

The Sing-Off just wrapped up its second season, with Alabama gospel-group “Committed” edging out Nashville’s “Street Corner Symphony” to take the title.  Many of my friends know that The Sing-Off is my favourite TV show (edging out Glee and Canucks games), despite its “season” being only 5 episodes long.  These same people also know that Committed was my favourite from the very start as they remind me of my 2 favourite groups:  Take 6 and Naturally 7.  The fact that they are portrayed as devout Christians likely helps as well.  :p

Here are some relatively random thoughts from tonight’s season finale:

-It’s clear to me that being a male sextet gives you the best chance to win this competition.  Both finalists this year, and last year’s winner “Nota” are male sextets.  If you’re a college group…you’ll make it to the final three (Backbeats this year, Voices of Lee last year) and if you crack the top 2 as an all-male college group, you can sing on Glee (Beelzebubs last year).

-That Boyz II Men and Committed performance literally gave me chills:  they blended so well together and sounded like they’ve been singing together for years.  I was loving every second as Motownphilly has always been one of my favourite “old-school” songs.  I just wish the song was longer.

-Is it a rule that Nick Lachey must sing a Christmas song with the contestants…complete with fake snow falling from the rafters?  Last year it was “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and this year it was “That’s What Christmas Means to Me.”  Fun enough, a tad cheesy, but it’s what we’ve come to expect!

-Speaking of Christmas…the “What Christmas Means to Me” montage was a nice thought, but I wish there were a couple of more references to Jesus and the spiritual meaning of the holy-day.  Only judge Nicole Scherzinger answered with “Baby Jesus’ birthday woohoo!” but even that response came across a bit contrived.  And of course, the big graphic that splashed across our screen read the safe “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  Just sayin.

-I can’t complain too much though, as God’s presence and influence was evident in both the video montage for Committed, as well as in Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town’s swan song, as Jerry proclaimed “God Bless” as he was exiting the studio.  And in a nice way to end the show, Terry of Committed gave praise to God in his acceptance speech, saying they owed the win all to Him.

-Nick Lachey’s constant litany of puns.  ‘Nuff said.

-I found the positioning on stage (when they were about to cut down from 4 groups to 2) quite interesting, as Street Corner Symphony and Committed (the 2 finalists) were on the left and right-most sides of the stage respectively.  Perhaps it was a fluke or coincidence.  But I firmly believe they were placed there signalling they were the final 2 groups, while the others remained closer to the centre of the stage to prep for their final interview and swan songs (to minimize the movement on stage).

-Also, did anyone else notice the stage-hand running onto the stage immediately after Jerry Lawson & Talk of the Town finished their swan song?  The camera cut to a shot of the entire stage, and you saw this poor guy running off the stage as fast as he possibly could…likely receiving an earful in his earpiece!

-As well, did you notice that Nick Lachey was dressed EXACTLY like Street Corner Symphony during the closing segment:  black suit with purple shirt.  No conspiracy theory here…I just found it quite amusing.

-Lastly, I would love to see either Take 6 or Naturally 7 as special guests on a future episode.  While neither of them have the “star power” of tonight’s special guests, I think they would easily win over both the studio audience and audience at home with their talent, blend, and style.  And if they ever combined into one mega-group:  Naturally Take 13…I would be in a cappella heaven. 

Thank you NBC for a great, albeit short, season.  I can’t wait until next year…although it saddens me that I have to wait a full 12 months for Nick Lachey’s next Christmas number.  I guess that’s what a PVR is for!

To Tell You the Truth, I’m Like Whatever

December 19, 2010

A recent poll out of the States listed the 5 most annoying words and phrases that people use.  Here’s my take on each of them along with another 5 that annoy me for different reasons.

Whatever.  This word likely tops the list because it’s over-used.  While many people use it to express indifference or to be accommodating, it quickly becomes annoying when no one makes a decision because they are trying to defer to others.  At the OYYAM, this word reared its ugly head in New Orleans when we were trying to figure out a place to eat for dinner.  We ended up going to a little place that we had passed 30 minutes earlier.  Before we knew it, 90 minutes had passed, and Analyn and I had to leave before receiving our food because we had another commitment!

Like.  This like doesn’t refer to the “like” feature on Facebook, rather the like tendency of people, like young and old, to like interject this word into like every single sentence sometimes like multiple times.  I don’t see this one going away anytime soon…a fact I dislike.

You know what I mean.  I admit it:  this is the one word/phrase from this list that I use way too often.  One of my best friends also uses it a lot, and we often bug each other about it.  While it might sound polite, as if checking for understanding from the listener, at least in my case it’s a lazy speech habit.

To tell you the truth.  I can’t stand it when someone starts a sentence with this.  It shouldn’t have to be stated that you’re about to give a truthful statement or opinion.  Same goes with the word “honestly.”  Am I supposed to conclude then that every sentence that doesn’t start with “to tell you truth” is a lie?

Actually.  I don’t really have a problem with this one, especially if it’s used properly as if correcting someone or stating a fact.  Actually, it’s a heck of a lot better than “to tell you the truth!”

Here are 5 more words and phrases that I find quite annoying:

360 degree turnaround.  People often talk about someone making a complete change in his life, and usually it’s a positive change.  Unfortunately, they use the term “360 degrees” in trying to show a turnaround.  This is obviously very wrong, as it’s 180 degrees that gets you moving in the opposite direction.  In fact, a 360 degree turn signifies no change at all, as you wind up going in the exact same direction you were moving initially.

At the end of the day.  This one is used a lot in sports, often when talking about an end goal or desired outcome:  “At the end of the day, it’s about improving every game” or “At the end of the day, we got the 2 points.”  This last example makes literal sense, as it gives a finite time-frame and objective way to measure success.  But it doesn’t necessarily work for everything.  Try this:  the next time you hear someone start of a sentence with “at the end of the day,” see if it truly matters if you look at it at day’s end, or if the start or middle of the day will suffice.

No offense/Don’t take this the wrong way.  I don’t care what the speaker is about to say to you…the mere fact that he’s started off his sentence this way:  you better brace yourself.  Somebody gonna get hurt…real bad.

Basically.  I can’t believe how much I used this word in everyday conversation.  I even catch myself saying it, but I can’t stop.  I think my intent is noble in trying to explain things in a clear and concise manner.  I just need to see if I can do so without saying “basically” every second sentence.

Um/uh.  As I continue to develop my public speaking skills, I need to remove some word whiskers (thanks Dave for the technical term!).  My most evident one is “uh” or “um.”  In contrast to “basically,” I’m not as aware when using these.  It’s when I watch video of myself (that sounded a tad ego-centric…haha) or listening to audio (still ego-centric) that it sticks out to me.

And lastly, here’s a bonus one:

We need to talk.  When I hear these words come from my lovely wife Gail, I know what she’s really saying:  “YOU NEED TO LISTEN!”  And as my friend Mark Hart would say:  this isn’t an invitation for a dialogue.

You know what I mean?

Youth Ministry “Flash Mob” at NCCYM 2010 in New Orleans

December 13, 2010

Here’s the Youth Ministry “Flash Mob” from the National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry (NCCYM) held in New Orleans in December 2010. It features some of the biggest and brightest Catholic youth ministry speakers, worship leaders, and musicians…as well as 4 Canadians from the Archdiocese of Vancouver. :p

It technically wasn’t a true “flash mob” but it was effective nonetheless: we performed it to promote the big Youth Ministry Extravaganza variety show that evening (featuring many of the dancers).

Special thanks to Joia Farmer for envisioning, planning, and executing the entire project and for inviting us to participate! Make sure you watch the entire video, as Joia calls out a few people (including Gene Monterastelli, Chris Padgett, and yours truly) as ones she’s concerned about…haha.

This video also includes a bit of footage from our rehearsal, and the song is TobyMac’s “Funky Jesus Music.” Enjoy!

http://www.claytonimoo.com

http://www.twitter.com/claytonimoo

The Day Faye Met Her Match (Our March was Almost a Crawl)

December 12, 2010

I have just returned from a wonderful trip to New Orleans for the biennial National Conference on Catholic Youth Ministry (NCCYM) presented by the USA’s National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (NFCYM).  So right away, you know this blog is going to be about youth ministry because of the number of acronyms in the opening paragraph.

I went with my fellow OYYAM (Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry) staff members along with 4 YM (youth ministry) and YAM (young adult ministry) leaders from SAK (St. Andrew Kim parish…not their official acronym…but I just love saying it…LOL).  Okay, enough with the acronyms for the sake of acronyms.  Acronyms FTW!

I’ve been blessed to attend these conferences in the States for the past few years since 2004 (the conference for adults such as this year’s alternates with the conference for teens) but usually I’m flying solo or with one other staff member.  Thus, I was very excited to be joined by Analyn, Faye and Gerard this time as we collectively rubbed shoulders with some of Catholic YM’s most prominent speakers, artists, and workshop leaders.

 Indeed, it was a fabulous 4 days of faith, fun, food, and fellowship (wait…this sounds like a Spirit Day promo or something):  we got to see old friends as well as make many new ones as we explored the theme of “Marching With the Saints.”

But our march was almost relegated to a crawl right off the start.

On Thursday afternoon, we made our way to the Exhibitor’s Hall to pick up our credentials (nametags) for the conference.  Gene of APeX Ministries had them at his booth, as he had generously arranged to “sponsor” us for the conference.  We excitedly approached the entrance and peered into the massive hall in the Convention Center (think the size of 2 football fields).

That’s when I saw her.

A tiny, serious woman stationed at the door.  The only person standing between us and over 100 exhibitors.  I quickly surmised that she was ensuring that everyone was wearing their nametags as their entry to the venue…similar to what we do at Spirit Day.

I don’t even know why I tried, but I casually tried to walk past her.

“STOP!  You need your badge.”

“Our credentials are actually with…”

“Doesn’t matter.  You can’t go in.”

Normally, at this point I would try and say something charming or at least disarming.  Maybe explaining we were nice Canadians (something we were recognized for quite a bit during the conference…but I’ll save that for another blog) or appealing to my good looks.  But I could tell that neither was going to work:  this one was a non-negotiable. 

I turned back to the rest of the staff after my futile entry attempt.  Knowing Faye’s admirable penchant for sticking to our firm yet fair office policies especially with respect to registration for our events (case in point:  one of our favourite lines in the office is “We’re sold out…even the Pope can’t get in”), the only thing I could say to her was:

“Wow Faye…this lady makes you look like a teddy bear!”

We erupted into laughter because my statement was both sad and true.  Faye’s really good at what she does; sometimes I’m scared of her.  But even Faye might have trouble holding a candle to this security woman.

Our laughter was interrupted by the appearance of Mark Hart (Vice-President of LIFE TEEN and long-time friend of our archdiocese), who, like us, wanted entry into the hall but not yet with his credentials.  After some quick hugs and hellos, Mark was met with the same fate at the door:  he wasn’t allowed in.

“But he’s tonight’s Keynote Speaker!” I said through my giggling.

As expected, the lady didn’t react to my comment as Mark stood waiting at the door.  Meanwhile, Chris Padgett bellowed from the spotlight stage inside the hall:  “Hey everybody, it’s Mark Hart!  Come join us!” 

Mark sheepishly pantomimed back that he couldn’t get in.  It was an unintentional brilliant comedic moment.

Mark came back to our group and said “I think we can take her if we all split up…we must be faster than her.”

Our strategizing was cut short by Gene, who emerged from the hall with our credentials (turns out that Analyn had summoned him via text).  A few seconds later, a LIFE TEEN staff member came out with Mark’s.

We greeted Gene and thanked him before donning our nametags.  As we once again approached the door, I complimented the woman for doing a good job.

Her quick grin confirmed that she indeed knew how to smile.

So we proudly marched into the exhibit hall with a new spring in our step in eager anticipation of what the next few days held in store.

Shootin’ Straight with Jeremy Roenick

February 1, 2010

I was blessed with the opportunity to meet 20-year NHL veteran Jeremy Roenick last week. When my cousin Dusty (who is an accomplished hockey player in his own right) called me on Tuesday night asking me if I’d like to meet Jeremy Roenick, I took about 0.8 seconds to say yes! So less than 24 hours later, I was in Jeremy’s hotel room in the Hyatt as part of an informal social gathering.

By the way, for the rest of this blog, I’m going to call Jeremy Roenick by his well-known moniker of “JR”…it’s easier to type and I’m sure he won’t mind. :p

The night started off rather auspiciously for me as I didn’t hear JR ask me what I did for a living (perhaps I was too busy tweeting that I was with JR…haha). But I did hear him say something like “We’ll start with this guy who seems to be ignoring me.”

Having a funny feeling he was speaking about me and to me, I sheepishly looked up and proclaimed: “I would NEVER, EVER intentionally ignore Jeremy Roenick!” This comment was met with a lot of laughter from other people in the room, and I was relieved to see JR smile. More importantly, I was thankful that he didn’t goon me while having an NHL flashback and thinking I was Derian Hatcher or Darcy Tucker.

I told him that I worked for the Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, running an office that does ministry for and with young people. He commended me on doing noble work, and I felt a sense of pride.

Later on in the evening, I made some small talk with JR as I helped him return some chairs to his balcony. I asked him where he lives now (Scottsdale, Arizona) and I mentioned that I’ve been to Arizona numerous times, both for church events and to visit friends (who I met through these church events). This led to another quick discussion about my role as the YMO’s Director and he once again affirmed me for serving in a position that allows me to help others. I couldn’t surmise if JR was a Christian, but regardless he seemed genuinely interested in me and my work.

I then asked him: “Is it okay if I ask you a few hockey questions?”

“Sure.”

My first question was “How do you think the US Hockey Team will do in the Olympics?”

“Probably 4th or 5th,” he said, “behind Canada, Russia and the Czechs.”

“Wow,” I said, surprised, “but I won’t quote you on that.”

“Oh, you can if you want,” JR replied, “I’ve gone on record with my prediction. The forwards are good but they’re too young and too inexperienced. Miller (the goalie) will have to be at his absolute best for them to have a chance.”

“Thanks man…are you surprised at how well the Sedins are doing this year?”

JR answered “Not at all. They are remarkable players…especially Daniel.”

I found that answer interesting, considering Henrik is the one leading the NHL scoring race. I wasn’t sure if he was mixing them up, or if he truly wanted to single out Daniel. At any rate, I was thoroughly enjoying the conversation, and he was certainly living up to his reputation as a great interview (or in this case, conversation). All right…enough of the softies, I thought.

“What’s your take on this whole Burrows-Auger thing?”

JR replied, “I believe Burrows 100 percent. But he probably could have gone about it a different way, either through his coach or GM. But I believe him completely.” As we looked out at the city skyline from his 34th floor balcony, JR said “Auger’s ego is the size of this city.”

This was getting good. “So I’m presuming you’ve played in games where Auger was the referee?”

“For sure,” JR said. “And he’s the biggest BLEEP BLEEP and BLEEP BLEEP around.” (As I’m sure you can guess…he didn’t say the word “BLEEP”…there were other more colourful words in there; words that I would have to go to confession for saying).

I completely lost it and started laughing so hard that I thought I might fall over the railing and onto Burrard Street below. On one hand, JR’s response didn’t surprise me, as he’s known as one of the most outspoken players to ever play the game. On the other hand, it did surprise me a bit, considering our nice conversation about church just moments earlier.

We returned inside still laughing, and then took a couple of pictures: one of us arm in arm, the other featuring JR ready to unload a barrage of punches on me. I left soon afterwards grateful for the chance to meet him.

The next morning, the TEAM 1040 Radio station was going to have JR on as a guest. I emailed the TEAM, telling them that I had met JR the previous night, and I suggested that they ask JR for his opinions on the US Olympic Hockey team and on the Burrows-Auger incident. I also attached a picture of us as evidence (not that they cared).

Sure enough, they asked JR about both things, though it might have had nothing to do with my email…they could have been planning to ask him those types of questions anyway. Upon hearing his radio interview, it was nice knowing that he was indeed shooting straight with me, as his responses were very similar to the ones he gave me the night before.

Except for the swear words. Somehow those didn’t make it on the radio!

Emotional Roller Coaster

January 6, 2010

After the 2 extraordinary hockey games on New Year’s Eve (the Canucks storming back to beat the Blues in overtime and the Canadian Juniors staging a dramatic comeback to beat the American Juniors in the shoot-out), I had extremely high hopes for yesterday’s hockey double dip. It was unrealistic to expect the same level of drama and excitement from both games, but I was at least hopeful for 2 wins. Little did I know of the emotional roller coaster that I was about to ride!

Now these games certainly did not have life-or-death consequences, but when you’re a self-proclaimed Ultimate Canucks Fan, you take these things seriously enough.

As an aside and speaking of serious, a few of my friends thought I was serious on Monday, when I tweeted and put on Facebook the following update: “Trying to convince my lovely wife to send Sean on the Canada Line by himself tomorrow for the Canucks game. So far, no go.” I thought it was obvious that I was joking, but some of my friends apparently don’t find me very funny. I received a few replies via Twitter, Facebook and text message ranging from “I’m siding with Gail” to “Are you serious?” to “Got a screw loose?” My answers to those questions: “As per usual”, “No I’m not” and “Likely, yes.”

Anyway, back to the roller coaster. As the work day ended, I put a new update up, hardly concealing my excitement for the 2 hockey games: “Trying not to sound spoiled or ungrateful here, but I’m more excited about the game I’m PVRing (World Juniors) than the game I’m going to see live with Sean (Canucks). I guess the chance for a gold medal and global supremacy can do that to you.”

I boarded the Canada Line in Yaletown (to head back to Richmond) at 5:20pm and quickly struck up a hockey conversation with a fellow passenger. As we both checked our phones for updates, we were elated to see that Canada has scored first. HAPPY! During the 20-minute ride, Canada went from up 1-0 to down 2-1 (SAD!) to tied at 2 going into the 1st intermission (HAPPY!).

Gail brought Sean to the Lansdowne station at 5:50pm and I said a quick hello and good-bye to Gail, Jake, and Kayla. Sean and I boarded the Canada Line and headed back downtown. Trying to bring closure to my poor attempt at humour from the day before, I posted: “Sean is on the Canada Line on his way to the Canucks’ game. For the record, I am standing right beside him.”

As we got off the train downtown, the score was now 3-3 heading into the 2nd intermission. Still HAPPY! After a quick sushi dinner (surprise surprise) we made our way to GM Place and got in at 6:50pm. We had to make our way through the hordes of people gathered in the concourse watching the Junior game on tv. The score was now 4-3 USA. SAD!

We made a quick pit stop in the washroom, and upon coming out we learned it was now 5-3 USA. VERY SAD! Needless to say, all of the Canucks fans watching were in a sour mood.

The Canucks game started per usual at 7:07pm, and Sean and I noticed right away that the arena looked more empty that usual. We concluded that there must have been around 2,000 people still watching the Junior game in the concourses. It was a surreal experience…the crowd was very quiet for the slow start to the Canucks game, yet we could hear people “ooohhhing” and “aaahhhing” from the bars and concourses in GM Place.

Sure enough, we heard a loud cheer at 7:11pm when Canada scored to pull within a goal. HAPPY! Then, just 2 minutes later, more cheering, as the Canadians tied the game at 5. EXTREMELY HAPPY! The Juniors then went into a 20-minute intermission before overtime.

Happiness turned into sadness as the Columbus Blue Jackets scored 2 quick goals on Luongo just 5 minutes into the game, forcing people’s attention to the live game in front of them. SAD! The Canucks returned the favour, putting 2 quick goals behind Mason and then going ahead for good before the 1st period ended. HAPPY!

Just as the Canucks’ 1st period was ending, overtime for the Juniors was starting. Sean and I tried to catch glimpses of the Junior game on the TVs in the GM Place bars, but they were too far away. Suddenly at 7:38pm, Sean turned to me just as we heard a collective groan from those in the fringes: “I think USA just scored.” EXTREME SADNESS! With 2 minutes left in the Canucks’ 1st period, hundreds of people flooded in to take their seats (opposite of what usually happens with 2 minutes left in a period).

Then, I posted my last update: Only a Canuck win will slightly off-set my disappointment in Canada’s loss. A lot of goals in this game too!”

Our beloved Canucks scored 6 minutes into the 2nd period, making it 4-2. HAPPY! Then, the Blue Jackets scored just 17 seconds later to cut the deficit to 4-3. Not really SADNESS, but a bit of WORRY. However, the Canucks soon remembered they were playing Columbus and scored another 2 goals to head into the 2nd intermission up 6-3. HAPPY! HAPPIER!

The Canucks ended up winning the game 7-3, making Sean and me very HAPPY! Upon walking past the YMO on our way back to the car, I decided to leave my computer at work, effectively signaling no more work for the evening. HAPPY! And we made it home in quick time, forgoing late night sushi (SAD!), but saving money in the process (VERY HAPPY!).

As you can see, the 2 hockey games toyed with my emotions and challenged my ability to stay sane. I guess that comes with the territory of being a true hockey fan.

I shudder to think of what the Winter Olympics are going to do to me! HAPPY…I hope!

O Christmas Tree, You Fell on Me!

December 22, 2009

Last Friday, we held our annual Christmas gathering for the YMO (Youth Ministry Office) at our place and as always, it was a great night of fun, fellowship and food. There were many highlights, including the fabulous Shabu Shabu dinner, watching all of the YMO kids play with each other, and of course, our Nacho Gift Exchange, featuring stealing, wheeling, and dealing. Read that title a couple of times over…you’ll get it eventually. :p

As we were nearing the end of the Nacho Gift Exchange, I was positioned in my regular spot at the coffee table right in front of the Christmas tree. Suddenly, I heard a few screams and one voice in particular: that of Faye screaming in her loudest (yet slowest) voice: “LLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOKKKKKKKK OOOOOOUUUUUUUTTTTTTTTT!” It was reminiscent of a slow-motion action sequence from a John Woo movie: I can vividly recall the look of horror on Faye’s face as she struggled to get the two words out. By the time I figured out that Faye was telling me to “look out”, it was too late: the Christmas tree had fallen on top of me, completely enveloping me and immediately making me its biggest ornament. I was sprawled out face-first on my coffee table and was still wondering what had happened as all of the adults quickly removed the tree from my back. Thankfully I wasn’t hurt and thankfully the tree didn’t hit anyone else. As everyone else returned the tree to its upright position, I recall two people asking me if I was okay, while three people asked if any ornaments broke. Great…more people were concerned about the decorations than they were about me!

To be truthful, it was actually only one person asking if I was okay: the other was my daughter Kayla who started to cry after initially putting on her best brave face. As I thanked her for her concern, someone pointed out that Kayla was likely crying because Daddy had destroyed Christmas, as opposed to being concerned for my health! Thanks a lot guys.

In replacing the ornaments on the tree, we had yet another good laugh: my rather imposing frame had left a distinct imprint in the tree. It took us a few moments to re-shape the artificial branches and fill up the hole left by my body.

In re-tracing the events of the evening, the tree likely fell because I was tinkering with it earlier in the evening when Gail noticed that it was leaning slightly forward. I guess in my efforts to fix it, I actually made it worse (a common theme for me with respect to things around the house). I’m pleased to tell you that since then we have re-enforced the base.

Thus, the tree shouldn’t fall again. After all, I wouldn’t want it to destroy the ONE gift I have under the tree (as opposed to the kids with their dozens)!

5 Things I Learned While in the States

December 15, 2009
We had a great family day on Sunday, as we spent the day at the Seattle Premium Outlets. We bought Christmas gifts, some things for Kayla’s upcoming birthday party, the boys got Heelys (roller shoes), and even I bought some clothes (a rarity). My lovely wife Gail actually didn’t buy anything for herself, as she was too busy spending on our daughter.

The trip was not only entertaining (and somewhat expensive), but it was also educational. Here are 5 things I learned (or re-affirmed) during our trip to, in, and from the United States in America:

1. I drive fast. My family and friends likely wouldn’t call me an overly-aggressive driver, but they also wouldn’t call me a passive one either. I know that I’m not the most patient driver (that’s why having all of the religious bumper stickers on my Jesus-mobile was good for my driving!), but I do think that I’m a good Asian driver. Anyway, for better or for worse, NOT A SINGLE vehicle passed me on the 75-minute drive home to the border from the outlet mall, while I likely passed between 150 and 200 vehicles. I think it was a combination of the bad weather and people (other than me) driving very cautiously. It brought back memories of my drive home from Portland when we first got our new van a couple of years ago…the ratio of cars that I passed compared to the number of cars that passed me was likely around 10:1.

2. I learned a new short-cut. On our way down, the snow was starting to wreck havoc on motorists, and we passed 2 or 3 accidents as we headed south. With our eyes set on exit 202, traffic came to a standstill at exit 212, forcing us to exit off the highway. As we got lunch and gas for the van, I asked 4 different people how I could make my way further south without getting back on I-5. I got 4 different answers, so I went with the most convincing answer (coincidentally, it was also the last person I talked to…he gave me the most detailed directions as I waited for my Whopper). We took a side street that ran relatively parallel to the highway, and entered back onto I-5 at exit 206 after about 10 minutes of driving. Five minutes later, we were at the Wal-Mart by the outlet, having saved likely anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes of waiting in traffic.

3. I sound like a DJ. While purchasing a car-charger for my phone at Wal-Mart, I made small talk with the cashier, who happened to be Filipino. It went the way that my conversations usually go with someone I meet who I deduce to be a Filipino:

Me: “Are you Filipino?”

Him/Her: “Yes, are you?”

Me: “No, but my wife was born in the Philippines. She’s actually Chinese though.”

Him/Her: “Oh that’s nice. What are you?”

Me: “Handsome, don’t you think? And very charming…”

Him/Her: “I mean, what nationality are you?”

Me: “I’m half Japanese and half-Chinese.”

Him/Her: “I thought you were a DJ…you sound like one.”

Me: “Uh…thanks…I think.”

This is truly how the conversation went (except for the line about being handsome and charming). She caught me off-guard with her DJ comment, not only because I thought we were still on the topic of ethnicity, but more importantly because no one has ever said that I sound like a DJ. I was caught off-guard and was actually speechless (for once). Meanwhile, Sean had a really good chuckle.

4. Americans don’t say “You’re welcome.” This is something I’ve noticed ever since befriending more Americans and doing more travel in the States. Now, I’m certainly not saying that Americans are rude (far from it), but you’ll more often hear “Uh huh” rather than “you’re welcome” in reply to “thank you.” Uh huh just seems like a more natural response for many Americans.

5. I can actually live without Twitter and Facebook. As soon as we crossed the border into the States, I turned the data function off on my phone to save money (translation: I’m really cheap). It felt quite good being somewhat disconnected as I was able to concentrate on being fully present to my family. Gail was thankful because I was better able to carry all of the shopping bags without my phone in my hand. Some people have been bugging me saying that I’m addicted to tweeting and updating my facebook status. I counter by saying that I try not to tweet or Facebook trivial things, rather my posts usually have some sort of wit or wisdom attached to them. As with most things, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle.

Now excuse me as I go post this on my website and on Facebook and then tweet about it.

What’s on your PVR?

November 9, 2009

As most PVR-owners know, there’s a limited amount of space on the machines (as great as they are). So depending on how much you record, you may have to constantly monitor the available space and delete shows as necessary.

As I eagerly anticipate the next new episode of Glee (my new favourite show, as well documented through my tweets on Twitter ), I’ve been watching older episodes that I’ve saved, often being forced to erase other shows just so I can keep the Glee episode with “Bust a Move” in it.

Canucks games? Gone. BC Lions games? Gonzo. Gail’s Grey’s Anatomy? Actually…I don’t touch these…because if I erase them before Gail watches them…somebody gonna get hurt a-real bad!!! And I think you know who!

You can tell a lot about a person by what they stand for. By who they associate with. By what they do with their money. And even by what they eat…

But can you surmise anything about a person or family by examining what’s on their PVR? I’ll let you be the judge as I list our pre-programmed “Series Recordings”:

Kayla
-Sesame Street
-Hi 5

Jacob
-Franklin
-Dog Eat Dog
-Adrenaline Project

Sean
-Suite Life on Deck (this show is on about 27 times a day)…also, I know Sean’s list looks rather short, but he watches virtually everything that I do…for better or for worse haha

Gail
-Amazing Race
-Grey’s Anatomy
-Hell’s Kitchen
-Survivor (with Clay)

Clay
-Glee
-Survivor (with Gail)
-The Ultimate Fighter
-Celebrity Apprentice (when it’s on)
-24 (when it’s on)
-WWE Monday Night Raw…yes…sad but true

So there you have it…our complete list of shows. No wonder we have to keep erasing episodes!!!