18 Mar 2009

A Lesson in Parenting

Submitted by Paul Brown

Last Tuesday Holly and I were getting ready to lay down in bed (two twin mattresses on the floor, at the time), and we noticed that there was a wet spot on the sheets in the middle of the bed. Then we pulled back the covers to find several more wet spots. Not just wet, but also smelly—smelly like cat pee. We were thoroughly tired from a few busy days after getting back from the honeymoon, and having to spend half and hour changing sheets and blankets just as we were ready to go to sleep was really frustrating. At least one of our two cute cats had decided that the bed was a nice place to relieve herself.

What to do?! Holly said that the cats would not learn from any discipline since they weren't caught in the act and wouldn't remember what they had done, but I was frustrated and tired, and what would keep the offending cat from doing it again if they didn't learn something from it? So I spanked the cats. Both of them. It was not nearly as satisfying as one might think it would be. Aspen and Derby just ran off and shied away from me for the rest of the night and into the next day.

When we went to bed the following night, we again noticed that there was a wet spot on the blanket. Ugh! This time I didn't spank them, but I did kick them out of the bedroom and didn't let them on the bed. I'm sure they were able to pick up that I was upset with them, no doubt about it. Since then, we have been keeping the bedroom door shut and not allowing the cats in unless one of us is available to supervise them.

I did some research the latter part of last week about "inappropriate elimination" in cats—just a fancy way of saying "peeing where they aren't supposed to"—and found that almost every time a cat pees where she isn't supposed to, there is something wrong. They are naturally clean creatures and will only do something like that if they have a urinary tract infection that makes it painful to pee or they are stressed out and out of sorts or something similar. Experts in cat behavior said that punishment like what I had done is almost always actually counter-productive since it tends to make the cats fearful of you and exacerbate the problem that is causing the inappropriate elimination.

After learning more about what might be going on, Holly and I have been careful to give the cats plenty of attention and affection, and I have found ways to move them when they are getting into somewhere that I don't want them to be that demonstrate care rather than frustration. The cats are easier than toddlers, I think; I can just pick them up and pet them and move them somewhere else and they quickly find something else that catches their attention—no kicking and screaming.

This experience with the cats has provided some lessons that I think will be valuable as I look to becoming a daddy in the future. I learned that sometimes there is something going on behind misbehavior besides just plain disobedience. Doing something besides punishment might work better to correct the bad behavior. And getting angry is easy but won't help. (Thanks to my sister Sarah and her two cute kids, I have some idea of what could be coming with children!)

Praise God for these little frustrations that help me grow to be more of the man that God calls me to be!

17 Mar 2009

Just Married: Honeymoon Pt. 3

Submitted by Paul Brown

To record some of our memories from our honeymoon last week and to let some of our friends and family share in the experience, Holly and I wrote up some of what we did and saw. If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, follow the links to go back and catch up. All our photos from the honeymoon that were fit to publish are now posted, and photos from the wedding itself are quickly hitting the gallery.


Paul: On Wednesday, we started the day with a walk over to the west side of Stanley Park along the sea wall. At first the idea was to just find a nice place to sit and watch people, but I wanted to see the big 100' diameter tree that I had heard was in the park somewhere. There was a location called "Hollow Tree" on the map, so we thought maybe that was it and headed up that direction. After a somewhat lengthy walk to arrive there, we found it to be less than we expected.

Holly: BIG Disappointment Number One: Hollow Tree!

Paul: Apparently it was a big tourist attraction seventy years ago, but dead trees just don't last like they used to.

We hoped to catch a free bus back to the park entrance, but we never saw one as we walked all the way back down. Poor Holly's feet were killing her from so much walking the previous days, but as it would turn out, Wednesday would be our biggest walking day yet. Once we got out of the park, we ate some lunch and then caught a bus toward the Space Center and Planetarium.

Holly: BIG Disappointment Number Two: Planetarium!

Paul: The space center started off well with a cool physics demonstration in the Rocket Lab. There was a blowtorch and an explosion and an air gun that launched balls to demonstrate Newton's three laws. Unfortunately, this was the only science involved in any of the space center and plantetarium. The planetarium didn't really show us any stars, just a lame movie about a myth that one of the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest had about some lady being taken up into the sky to be the wife of the Sun God, Gong. The main idea of the movie seemed to be that cities were blocking the view of the night sky and thus making it difficult to recognize Mother Earth and Father Sky. Something like that.

Holly: After the stupid film, we made our way through the museum, which aside from a really cool Apollo-era space suit, consisted of kids games and aliens, mostly on computer displays with joysticks. And then the Mars Mission Simulator.... It was better than the planetarium but still totally unrealistic.

Paul: It was one of those little theaters like they have in malls where it shakes you around as the story goes so you feel like you're really there.

Holly: We flew in a spacecraft to the corona of the sun to charge some ball-looking-thing with gamma rays so we could then fly it to Mars City to start the new-fangled nuclear generator and save the city. All in ten minutes.

Paul: If escape velocity from the earth's gravitational field is 11,200 m/s, I wonder what the escape velocity is from the sun when you are in the corona? I don't think they mentioned that in the Rocket Lab. It must be pretty fast, because we got from the Sun to Mars in about ten or fifteen seconds.

From there, we walked down to Granville Island.

Holly: On the way, we passed by dealerships for Lamborghini, Aston-Martin, Bentley, Jaguar, Lexus, so we know where you should buy your cars.

Paul: Granville Island was very nice for the postmodern consumer. Everything there was free-trade, organic, local suppliers, etc.

Holly: I had the best hot chocolate I have ever had in my life at Pedro's Organic Coffee Bar. No joke! It was seriously the best.

Paul: There was a pretty good-sized market with fresh produce and meat for all types of ethnic foods. We also saw a nice rainbow ferry taking people from one side of the water to the other, from one rainbow dock to another. A number of art shops and live entertainment venues rounded out the scene.

As it was starting to get dark and "under the bridge" didn't seem like the best place to be alone after dark, we made our way toward Pacific Theatre, where we had tickets to see Holy Mo that evening. We walked several blocks up the street, stopping for a wrap and smoothie for a light dinner.

Holly: Walking into the Pacific Theatre, we were offered free coffee to complete a survey. We weren¦t much help in the survey since we hadn't been there before. The venue wasn't quite what we expected; it was in the basement of an Anglican church, and when we went in to take our seats, we saw that it was much, much smaller than we had anticipated. The stage was simply the middle part of the room, an area roughly 15' by 20' set off with props. I was skeptical as the play started, but it turned out to be the funniest play I think I've ever seen. I laughed so hard I cried, which doesn't happen very often for me.

Paul: The play was in two acts. The first act retells the story of Moses and the Exodus of Israel from Egypt. The second act tells some of the story of David. The twist is that the story is told by a trio of clowns. With no real set or costumes or even much dialog, the acting of the three actresses really carries the show. It was very engaging and brought the story to life. All the names were shortened to child-like (or clown-like) form. Moses=Mo, Pharaoh=Rambo, Yahweh=Yam/Yama, David=Davie, Philistines=Queen Phylis and the Stiners.

Holly: Redeeming Point Number One: Holy Mo!

Paul: By the end of the show, we were both quite tired, but we caught our buses back to the hotel and hit the sack. According to our best estimates from routes in Google Maps, we walked about 9 or 10 miles that day. Whew!


To be continued....

11 Mar 2009

Just Married: Honeymoon Pt. 2

Submitted by Paul Brown

To record some of our memories from our honeymoon last week and to let some of our friends and family share in the experience, Holly and I wrote up some of what we did and saw. Here is Part 2. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here. All our photos from the honeymoon that were fit to publish are now posted as well.


Paul: Our first full day in Vancouver, we set out on foot to explore the downtown area. It was interesting to see the diversity of the neighborhoods even within the downtown area. We started in the West End, where our hotel was, and went past all the fascinating ethnic restaurants we had seen the night before. Then we passed into the more trendy, upscale area near the cruise ship terminal. Eventually we ended up in a more run-down neighborhood, and finally we headed back when we got to Chinatown.

Holly: We visited the Christ Church Cathedral, a staple of the Canadian Angelican population. We also walked near the waterfront.

Paul: Then we stopped by the Vancouver Art Gallery where we decided we didn't want to pay $20 each to look at upside-down black-and-white photographs of trees or litte replica trees constructed of twigs tacked together.

Holly: From there, we walked to the Vancouver Lookout, which gives a 360-degree view of Vancouver, serviced by an elevator that lets you look out (and down) as you are lifted 258 feet into the air. Paul was a little squeamish.

Paul: What?!

Holly: You were a little squeamish!

Paul: *sigh*

Holly: When we had taken in all there was to see from the Lookout, we went to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. It was closed. So we walked in the park next door.

Paul: By then we were a bit tired from all the walking, so we thought we would catch a bus back toward our hotel. The first bus stop we went by indicated that the bus I wanted only stopped there during peak hours, which we weren't in. I figured we could just walk another block or two down the route and see if the bus would stop there. As it turned out, the next stop was probably at least a mile or two down the road, and the route to get there took us basically underneath the stadium and a couple of bridges—not exactly the cleanest, most scenic place in Vancouver.

Eventually we did get to another bus stop, and by good fortune another bus was coming that way. This bus took us along a route that followed the coast of the English Bay, hardly a bad way to go. When we got back to the hotel we took a nap before going out for some scrumptious moussaka and souvlaki. On our way back, we swung by Safeway to pick up some food for breakfast. It was kind of fun to get to use my Safeway card in a foreign country!

Holly: On our second full day in Vancouver, we had a nice breakfast in the suite—a nice way to wake up. After breakfast, we walked down to Stanley Park. Unfortunately, it was raining, so we were a little cold. Because of the rain, we made our way to the Vancouver Aquarium first. My favorite, as usual, was the sea otters. But I also like the turtles. And the frogs.

Paul: I was rather partial to the beluga whales.

Holly: Grandma (beluga whale) is pregnant! When we left the aquarium, I was hungry, but the weather was nice, so we walked to the totem poles in the park. On the way back to the city, we walked along the seawall and took some pictures. We had lunch at a YUMMY fish and chips place called Mr. Pickwick's.

Paul: Fish and chips were redeemed for me after several less-than-delicious experiences in the past.

Holly: We had fun making fun of the server's accent. "Sit wherever ye' liyke..."

Paul: Back at the hotel, we played cards for the afternoon before reheating some leftover pizza for dinner and exploring the hotel in search of sugar for Holly's morning coffee fix and a night-time tea.


To be continued....
Part 3

Stories: 
10 Mar 2009

Just Married: Honeymoon Pt. 1

Submitted by Paul Brown

To record some of our memories from our honeymoon last week and to let some of our friends and family share in the experience, Holly and I wrote up some of what we did and saw. Here is Part 1. I am also working on uploading photos.


Paul: After leaving the reception and stopping by our condo (yes, now it is ours since we can live together now!) to get changed and pick up our suitcase, we drove over to our hotel near the airport. I had reserved a studio suite at the Residence Inn, and it was great! The room was very comfortable and had plenty of space to unwind. We were close enough to walk to a restaurant for dinner, where the manager decided to give us free dessert for our honeymoon.

Holly: Mmmm... that's making me hungry.

Paul: After that we went back to the hotel and pretty much went right to bed. For some reason it wasn't the most restful sleep I've ever had.

Holly: I think the pillows were too soft. *wink*

Paul: Right. After a good breakfast and coffee barely stronger than discolored water (even I could see that), we headed to the airport.

Holly: It was downright crappy coffee.

Paul: Our flight to Vancouver was the first time both Holly and I had traveled in first class. It was nice but not as great as I might have expected. I guess I'm not sure what I expected, but the main perks were more leg room and a tasty complimentary lunch. But the armrest between Holly and I didn't go up, which was kind of a bummer.

Holly: The sound didn't work for the movie, so we had to make up our own dialogue.

Paul: That was probably better than the actual dialogue for that movie. I would have taken a nap for sure. What was that movie, honey?

Holly: The Secret Life of Bees

Paul: Right, a total chick drama. When we got to the Vancouver airport, I had a pressing need to find a little boys' room, but you would not believe how far it was until the first one. Seriously, I'll bet we had to walk a mile over these walkways directing us to the customs checkpoint. Naturally, Vancouver is proud of their Pacific coast rainforests and Native Pacific coast heritage, so they had several displays with flowing water, the sound of rain, fountains, and so forth. Very helpful.

We finally got through the line at customs and retrieved our bag (Holly: they pronounced it "bayg"; Shannon would fit right in here!) and went through a labyrinth of construction zones and parking garages to arrive at the public transportation terminal at the airport. We fought our way through three different bus lines to arrive downtown at our hotel.

Holly: That makes me miss Shannon. You forgot to mention that we got to go by a lot of rainbow signs on Davies Street. The condom emporium (see photo) made me laugh.

Paul: Our hotel in Vancouver was not quite as nice as their marketing materials make it look. Although it has been updated well, it still feels like it was probably built sometime in the 1970's.

Holly: I like the bed. And I like you in the bed. Oh, wait, erase that.

Paul: The pillows are nice and firm. Good for side-sleepers.

Holly: heheheheheeee. We had the best pizza for dinner. That guy should start a pizzaria in Denver. I'm really hungry....

Paul: My first impression from walking around the West End of Vancouver was just how many ethnic restaurants there are. I don't think I have ever seen so many diverse eateries anywhere else that I have ever been. Greek, African, Korean, Ukrainian, Italian, Japanese, Vietnamese, German, Middle-Eastern, Brazilian—all side-by-side up and down the street.

From the time we arrived, I tried to figure out what the "Vancouver accent" was, but I'm not sure there is one. It seemed that almost everyone in Vancouver was from somewhere else. We had pizza served by a guy who looked and sounded like he was from Greece, and a team of Asians served us a traditional American breakfast at a small diner called Teresa's.

Holly: The coffee in the hotel in Vancouver was exquisite.


To be continued....
Part 2
Part 3

Stories: 
26 Feb 2009

This week at youth, Bob talked about how important it is to have a vision for relationships. In order to navigate those turbulent emotional waters, a young person needs to have his or her compass clearly set on the direction that he or she wants to go. That means, according to Bob, knowing the purpose of dating as well as knowing oneself. One of the ways that I tried to guard my heart from being interested in the wrong sorts of young ladies was in setting in my mind a clear picture of the kind of godly young woman that I hoped to marry someday. I found this entry in one of my old journals:

10 August 2004

One thing I was thinking about tonight was what sort of person I would need to meet to be able to marry her given my current life trajectory. Here's what I think (not serious, just off the top of my head):

  • Christian, sold out for God, conservative Baptist
  • lover of people (even if introverted like me)
  • of a positive attitude, one that assumes the best
  • motivated for evangelism and missions
  • willing to travel, not bound to people, places, or things
  • flexible, able to take things as they come
  • not needy for personal comfort, happy poor
  • able and accustomed to taking pleasure in work
  • quick with a smile and a kind word
  • sympathetic and understanding when bad things happen
  • realistic about limited resources
  • humble and forgiving
  • growing in her awareness of God's holiness, her own sinfulness, and her need for Christ

Bonus:

  • loves music, listening to it and making it
  • good conversationalist, articulate
  • beautiful and intelligent
  • good with kids
  • enjoys walking and being outside, in parks, in creation

Of course, this is a rough sketch of perfection, no one will ever fully meet all these.... ?

Holly scores off the charts in every one of those areas and is an immense blessing to me. However, I know that making a list doesn't magically make a person matching those characteristics waltz into one's life. In fact, it seems to me that it is wholly by the grace of God that I'm marrying Holly this weekend; God condescended to answer my prayers and desires not because I in any way deserved it, but because he is a good and gracious Father to those who trust him. I am honored that the Lord has entrusted Holly to me and that Holly herself has chosen to trust herself to me. Still, I think that some credit for finding a good wife must be given to the clear vision that I had of who I was waiting for and what dating was for.

I hope that the students in the youth group will take Bob's message to heart. I pray that they will get a clear enough vision of what can be and what ought to be in the area of relationships that they will have the discernment to say "no" to the wrong things and "yes" to the things that will please and honor the Lord—and be good for them.

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