Tag Archives: Texas

“Sit On It”

“SIT ON IT” (CaD Ps 39) Wayfarer

“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
    in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
    without knowing whose it will finally be.”

Psalm 39:6 (NIV)

Wendy and I are in Austin, Texas this week with some friends. It’s a getaway we had planned well over a year ago. We’re spending part of the day working and then enjoying the rest of our time together going out for meals in Austin’s amazing diversity of dining options.

Last night we went to a wonderful restaurant. It’s a popular spot for which reservations are required well in advance and they serve a crowd every night. Thus, we found ourselves looking around the lobby while we waited for our table. It doubled as a gift shop selling mostly jewelry. The hostess informed us that the jewelry came mostly from estate sales. As I browsed through the rings and the necklaces I wondered to myself about their original owners. Where were they from? What was it that attracted them to this strange-looking ring? Or, was it a gift they would never wear in a million years, but they never felt right getting rid of it?

There were few rings for men as I let my eyes wander through the table full of jewelry. I finally spied one large silver ring and lifted it up to look at it. It was definitely a men’s ring. It was flat on top and hand-stamped on it was the phrase “SIT ON IT,” a kitschy fad phrase made popular in my childhood by the character Fonzie in the television series Happy Days. It made me laugh. For the record, I chose not to spend the $95 they wanted for it.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the four psalms from 38-41 were placed together in the compilation of ancient song lyrics because they had a common theme of confession, contrition, and lament. In today’s chapter, Psalm 39, David is waxing introspective in light of his physical ailments. He’s thinking about his own death. As with yesterday’s song, David clearly believes that his troubles are some form of divine discipline so he is crying out for mercy, healing, and deliverance. In the time of David, the Hebrew people had no developed understanding of eternity or life after death, so there is a brooding undertone as David considers his life journey’s brevity and the finality.

David’s song was structured symmetrically. The central theme of his song is placed in the center, with two verses on either side of it each with five lines in one and three lines in the other. The crux of what David is getting at is that central verse which I pasted at the top of the post:

“Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
    in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
    without knowing whose it will finally be.”

In the quiet this morning I couldn’t help but think about that stupid “SIT ON IT” ring I looked at last night. When I was a child, Happy Days was a cultural phenomenon and anything Fonzie said was repeated endlessly on the playground, including the shouting “Sit on it!” when telling a friend to piss off (which was actually a good thing because “piss off” would have gotten me in big trouble!).

Someone back in the 1970s bowed to popular culture and a viral fad. They bought a big silver ring with “SIT ON IT” hand-stamped on it. It ended up in an estate sale with who knows what other earthly possessions. One generation later it ended up on sale in the lobby of a restaurant in Austin, Texas.

It’s the same thing David was mulling over in his song. Everything I own and every possession I value will outlast me on this Earth. I couldn’t help but chuckle as I thought perhaps this morning this is an important reality, and the Spirit is telling me to “sit on it” for a few minutes and ponder.

David, as he always did, channels his brooding into a prayer. He proclaims hope in God to which he is clinging then cries out in a plea for healing and the chance to find joy in life before his number comes up and his earthly journey ends.

Today’s chapter is not a cheery pick-me-up for a day of vacation, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I can easily intoxicate myself with endless distractions to the point I am never sober-minded about significant matters of Life and Spirit. Today’s chapter is a good reminder to fully enjoy the goodness of Life on this day that lies before me. A day may come when I, like David, desperately struggle to do so.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Courtyard Fountain

I was in Texas on business this week and took a few hours to visit my favorite haunt. The courtyard at the McNay in San Antonio is such a beautiful, peaceful place. I sat in the shade amidst the serene quiet. I listened to the cry of the doves on the roof and the trickle of the fountain. Monet did a wonder with water lillies on canvas (the McNay has a lovely example in their Impressionists gallery), but there’s nothing like the genuine article of creation. I didn’t have my fancy camera with me, but my iPhone does a pretty nice job. So, for photo Friday, here you go.

The Latest 04-24-2016

The past two weeks were dominated by last weekend’s production of Almost, Maine. Wendy and I were cast before Christmas and the curtain finally rose on four performances April 14-17. The play is a series of nine vignettes that take place in on the same night, at the same time, in the mythical town of Almost, Maine. The scenes are all reflections on love and relationships.

The challenge and opportunity for both Wendy and me were to play multiple characters in the show. I played five characters and Wendy played three. It is not unusual for actors to play multiple roles in a show, but the multiple characters are often bit parts or walk-on roles. It is another thing altogether to develop 3-5 fully developed, differentiated characters in one show. From an acting perspective it is an exciting challenge to walk off stage, change costume in less than 30 seconds and walk on as a completely different character. To pull it off and make it believable for the audience was a really, really fun stretch for both Wendy and me.

The show went well. Attendance was slightly above average for a spring show in our community theatre. For both of us, the fun was all about the experience of being directed by our friend Kevin McQuade who is a brilliant director and who pushed both of us to new heights in our acting experiences. In addition, we loved, loved, loved our fellow cast members who were focused, disciplined, and really fun to work with.

Production weekend was fun, but took a lot out of us. The cast socialized after every show. Opening night we had a party here at Vander Well Pub and the last guests to leave meandered out the door around 1:00 a.m. Friday night the cast and crew stopped at the Cellar Peanut Pub and then enjoyed drinks and eats at Monarch’s. Wendy and I enjoyed a nightcap at McQuade Pub and walked home somewhere around 2:00 a.m. Saturday night the cast and various friends enjoyed after show festivities at Kaldera. The closing performance on Sunday was followed by set strike and a cast party at McQuade Pub.

Oh…and I preached two services on Sunday morning in the auditorium at Third Church.

It was wonderful to have Suzanna, Taylor, my folks, Jody, and Emma join us over the weekend to see the show. It’s always a bittersweet experience having loved ones come to town to see the show, but then not having the time or space to actually spend time with them.

McNay Stags Head

We got home from the final cast party on Sunday evening about 9:00 p.m. and I immediately had to pack for a week-long business trip to Texas. I flew out first thing Monday morning and spent five days in San Antonio and Laredo. It was a long week, for sure, but on Friday I got to meet Tim and Kumi for a late lunch at BJ’s Brewhouse between San Antonio and Austin. It was fun to hear about their recent vacation in Japan to visit Kumi’s sister and to see their photos. I also got to spend a couple of hours at the McNay Art Museum before flying out for home.

This weekend has been blessedly quiet. I mowed a crop of weeds on Saturday and tried desperately to groom our pitiful lawn so that it wouldn’t completely shame the neighborhood. Though, our weed infested lawn is an admittedly nicer sight than the apocalyptic wasteland that was our lot last year. We ended Saturday with a wonderful evening on Matthew and Sarah’s deck.

ICubs Game

We headed to the early service this morning and enjoyed the message from Roger DeWaard before making the trek to Principal Park for our first Iowa Cubs game of the season. The I-Cubs sucked wind and got blown out by Oklahoma City, but Wendy and I sat in the sun and got our first sunburn of the season.

It’s a momentous week ahead. My 50th birthday is this coming Saturday. [sigh]

TBT: Two Lovebirds

Tom and Wendy Honeymoon - 2I’m in San Antonio this week on business. San Antonio is where Wendy and I honeymooned back in January of 2006. We had planned on New Orleans, but Hurricane Katrina suddenly scuttled the plan and we sort of haphazardly chose San Antonio as our backup choice.

It was a great honeymoon full of great memories, and I never visit San Antonio without a flood of memories from that week ten years ago.

For Throwback Thursday, here’s a picture of us lovebirds.

Happiest Place on Earth


Last Sunday afternoon Wendy and I had the opportunity of visiting the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio. We visited the McNay for the first time on our honeymoon  ten years ago. It’s come to hold a special, sentimental place in my heart. I posted to Facebook:

You can have Disneyland. Ever since Wendy and I visited the McNay on our honeymoon 10 years ago, this has been, for me, one of “the happiest places on Earth.”

The courtyard at the McNay is one of the most beautiful, peaceful places I’ve ever been and I could sit there for hours, especially with Wendy. On our visit last Sunday I couldn’t help but take this photo with my iPhone. There’s nothing extraordinary about the photo and I know it can’t possibly capture the true beauty of the place. Sometimes the power of shot has nothing to do with being great photography,  rather the ability of a shot to transport us back to a powerful time or place is what makes photography great.

The Latest 10-11-2015

Long week on the road this week, which began with a 5:45 a.m. flight out of Des Moines on Monday. Was on site with client in San Antonio Monday through Wednesday morning, then made the drive down to Laredo for more meetings Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday. Finished up about 7:00 p.m. on Thursday.

Redemption for the long week of business travel began on Thursday night about 10:30 p.m. when Wendy arrived. Last summer our friends Kevin and Becky informed us that, for Becky’s birthday, Kevin had given her tickets to see Counting Crows at Austin City Limits in Austin, TX this past Wednesday. Looking at the calendar we realized that I was going to be in San Antonio and Laredo that week. So, we conspired to have Wendy fly down and for the four of us to meet in Austin for the weekend.

Wendy and I headed north from Laredo about 10:00 a.m. on Friday, arriving at our hotel in Austin about 2:00. We grabbed a shuttle into downtown Austin where Kevin and Becky met us to being what amounted to our 24 hour Austin blitzkrieg.

We were starving so we Uber’d to South Congress for some Home Slice pizza and dessert at the Cupcake truck across the street. We then did a little shopping before Ubering it back downtown. We did Happy Hour at Malverde’s where I was introduced to El Cubico, a cocktail made with tobacco leaf infused tequila, vanilla infused brandy, grilled pineapple juice and volcanic saffron-infused salt on the rim. It was like drinking a fine cigar. Wow!

We made our way to Stay Gold, a bar with live music, a nice courtyard, and a food truck (Toaster’s) that made a mean grilled cheese. We ended up spending the rest of our evening there and were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves enjoying some foot-stomping old-timey southern gospel from the McMercy Family Band:

By the time McMercy Family ended and Meatloaf Spaceship began, we were into our third band of the night. It was late, so we called it a night and took Uber to our hotel.

Kev and Beck picked us up at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning and we high-tailed it over to Gordough’s Doughnuts, a food truck that makes speciality doughnuts. I had the Sin-a-Bomb doughnut which was topped with cream-cheese frosting and a liquid cinnamon and sugar glaze poured over the top. Wendy got the Naughty-and-Nice which was coated in sugar and cinnamon and then came with honey butter for dipping. I’ve gone entire weeks without that many calories!

We stopped by Hope Gallery Park after breakfast. It’s the shell of an old building terraced in the side of a hill. Graffiti artists have continually transformed it with their work (as well as random visitors with spray paint). It was a fascinating place. We got to watch and talk to one of the artists who’d been painting there for a short period of time after moving from California.

For lunch we’d decided on visiting a place called Bangers Sausage House and Beer Garden. The menu is nothing but different kinds of unique and gourmet sausages (they even have a Turducken sausage). What was really impressive, however, was the more than 100 beers on tap. Kevin and I each did a flight of four different beers. I did the dark and roasty stouts while Kevin did the IPAs. Of course, we all shared and enjoyed the variety. Wendy even got herself a pint of Funnel Cake Beer (I’m not kidding) which actually smells like and leaves a hint of funnel cake on the palate. Quite amazing, really. We had a good, long lunch together and really enjoyed ourselves.

Despite the fact that we were stuffed, we decided that we might as well go over the top by stopping at Amy’s Ice Cream where Wendy and I enjoyed a salted caramel fudge sundae over dark chocolate ice cream.

That’s when my stomach exploded.

Not really, but it was  touch-and-go. Time had slipped away, and it was time for Kev and Beck to catch their flight home. They dropped us off at our hotel where our car was waiting. Wendy and scooted down south to San Marcos and met my brother Tim and his girlfriend, Kumi, at Kent Black’s for a drink and a chat. Wendy and I then drove the rest of the way to San Antonio where we were scheduled to fly out on Sunday.

All of our socializing had the two of us relatively pooped, so by the time we got to the hotel we were ready for some relaxation and quiet. We watched the Cubs beat the Cardinals in game 2 of the NLDS and then got some take-out to bring back to our hotel room for supper. We had the Mets-Dodgers game on as we ate. Then I laid down on the bed and remembered no more.


We took our time getting ready this morning. Made a quick trip to Wal-Mart for a few items and got Wendy a treat from McDonalds. We checked out of the hotel and went to the McNay Art Museum. When Wendy and I honeymooned in San Antonio 10 years ago we’d made our first trip to the McNay. It’s become a special place to us and we enjoyed a gorgeous Sunday afternoon walking the grounds, sitting in the courtyard, and touring the collection.

All good things must come to an end, and after our time at the McNay we headed to the airport for our flight home. It’s been a really fun weekend, but we’re looking forward to being in our own bed tonight!

An Open Letter to Buffalo Wild Wings

source: mike mozart via flickr
source: mike mozart via flickr

Note: I tried to send this to you privately via your website but 1) the location I visited wasn’t listed on your website and 2) you didn’t give me enough room on your contact form to share my experience.

I am a loyal BWW customer. I travel around the country on business and always seek out BWW because 1) your naked tenders are [relatively] healthy 2) I’m usually alone and your Trivia is a fun way to waste an evening, and 3) I can watch my beloved Cubbies wherever I happen to be in the country.

I’m in San Antonio, Texas tonight and went into your Windcrest location at I-35 and I-410.

Disclaimer: I’m a 20+ year Customer Service consultant, which gives me a lot of empathy for companies and their Customer Service challenges. It also means that I’m very sensitive to customer expectation, customer experience, and customer satisfaction. I also sought out your BWW location and drove 20 minutes in rush hour traffic to get there rather than eating at the Chili’s across the street from my hotel.

I entered about 6:10 p.m. It seems to be a new location for you. The crowd was light. There were more staff members than customers. A manager was parked at a table with a stack of applications or some kind of “new hire” sheets. Cool. Spacious. Clean. I’m impressed.

For the record, I’m a creature of habit. My routine when I’m by myself on the road is to go straight to the bar and order 1) a tall, cold Miller Lite 2) four naked tenders, hot bbq, and fries 3) the Cubs game on just one of the 3 million screens before me. Tonight, I stuck to my routine.

The nice bartender immediately asks for my I.D. I turn 50 next April, and am almost completely gray, but I appreciate the law, am respectful of the request, and am always happy to pull out my I.D. The bartender asks if she can take my Drivers License to show her manager. My immediate reaction was to laugh and think, “Sure! I don’t care. I’ve got nothing to hide.” As she disappeared through the kitchen door, however, I thought to myself: “Wait a minute. I’m in Texas, which is a border state. What if she’s making a photo copy of my license? What if she’s scanning it? Have I suddenly become the victim of identity theft?!” (Disclaimer: My hotel room in Texas was robbed in January, making me a little sensitive and a wee bit cynical.)

The bartender returned a few minutes later, a manger behind her, and gave me back my license. I asked her what the problem was and she told me that she had to have it approved since it was an out of state license. I get it. In retrospect I would have appreciated her asking the manager to come and take a look at it rather than disappearing in the back with my license, but okay.

I settled in. I thought my request for the Cubs on a screen was fulfilled when FoxSports1 did a live look in, but then realized it was just a cameo. I asked again. This time it was a different bartender (the one who took my license seemed to have gone off shift). A few minutes later he asked if the game was up yet. I told him it wasn’t. He asked again.

As at Sam’s Cafe American in Casablanca, “Time Goes By.”

My food arrives. “Is there anything else?” the bartender asks.

Yes, I still don’t have the Cubs on any of these screens.”

He apologizes and leaves to get a manager who comes and says they’ll take care of it. Still no Cubs. Manager comes to check a few minutes later. Nope. No Cubs. They start asking each other what channel.

It’s 665,” I tell them. I’m a fan. I have DirecTV. I’ve been in countless BWWs and I know you all have DirecTV too. They are impressed. Me, less so.

I’m eating. I’m waiting. Into my fourth naked tender the Cubs game appears on three screens.

There you go! Three screens!” I’m told.

Thanks,” I think to myself as I sink my teeth into my final bite of naked tender. It’s 6:45. I’ve been there over a half-hour, and am almost done with my meal.

As a loyal BWW customer, I’m telling you that this experience fell below expectation. However, I feel better having gotten it off my chest. Thanks for listening.

Keeping Tragedy in Perspective

From musaeum via Flickr. A wall containing the names of 5000 children who died in collapsed schoolhouses.
From musaeum via Flickr. A wall containing the names of over 5000 children who died in collapsed schoolhouses, the victims of an earthquake.

Laughter can conceal a heavy heart,
    but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.
Proverbs 14:13 (NLT)

We witnessed a lot of tragedy in the past week. In the U.S., we were bombarded with non-stop coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three and injured over a hundred victims. I found it interesting (and sad) that a factory explosion in West Texas received far less news coverage given that it killed and injured more people (many of them valiant first responders), and displaced many people out of their homes. I wonder if it won’t have far more devastating effect on the a small town than what will ultimately be experienced by the city of Boston. Of course, these two events hit close to home which is why they were on our televisions non-stop, but I couldn’t help putting these two events into perspective with a whole series of bombings that killed and injured far more people in Iraq last week. There was also an earthquake in China that killed two hundred and left 11,000 people without homes.

Isn’t it interesting what media chooses to report, what we choose to watch and feel, and what we choose to ignore. I’m not making judgements. I’m just pondering the facts and trying to figure out what they mean for me.

I have come to realize, and over the past few years I’ve come to appreciate, that most people’s smiling faces conceal heavy hearts. The heaviness could be the result of lost loved ones, broken relationships, miscarriages, the invisible scars of various kinds of abuse, personal tragedies, and grave injustices. In each case, a person will get on with life, or at least make an attempt of doing so. We eventually get back to the daily grind. We will go out on the weekend, have a good time, and laugh with our friends. Still, the grief does not disappear.

God’s message reminds us again and again that life will be full of tragedy. We shouldn’t be surprised by this, nor should we expect anything different. We live in a fallen world and it is ludicrous to expect that we will escape without experiencing trials and tragedies of many kinds. The question is not “if” we will experience grief, but when we will experience it and how we will respond. When we respond well, the process of working through the pain and grief generally results in depths of character, wisdom and perspective we would not otherwise achieve. God even tells us that He will use these tragic experiences to mature us and complete us. If we don’t respond well, it may bring our journey to a virtual stand still and throw us into a perpetual loop in which we are constantly moving but never advancing.

I do not want to make light of the tragedies we’ve witnessed in the past week, but I also don’t feel it important for me to go overboard in my reaction and response. I’m simply trying to keep things in perspective as I cover my own heavy heart with a joyful face and advance into another day, and another work week of the journey.

Texas Weekend

I think my brother is taking the looking like Jesus thing a bit too far 🙂

Wendy and I spent last weekend in Texas. Some of have commented as they followed my Foursquare and Facebook posts that it was obvious we had a host of travel problems, and that is true. The weekend was originally a two-client business trip. We had a two day project scheduled in the Dallas area followed by a Sunday morning presentation for another client in San Antonio. When the Dallas project was scuttled at the last minute, we were stuck with the flights we’d purchased and had little choice but to make the trip and enjoy a few days in Texas.

My new chapeaux from The Hat Box in Austin

Friday we drove down to Austin to visit with my brother, Tim, who is living and working nearby. We arrived in the afternoon and went down to Austin’s famed 6th Street where we enjoyed a leisurely stroll. Even in the late afternoon the strip of pubs and bars was buzzing with activity. Texas’ roadhouse blues was pouring out of different establishments as we walked by. Wendy and I happened upon a great haberdashery called The Hatbox, and I felt compelled to support my desire to bring the hat back by purchasing a nice little brown pork pie to add to my small collection. We also found a little hole-in-the-wall cigar and coffee shop which hand rolled their own cigars, which was fun to watch (and I opted to support them as well). We also couldn’t pass “Shakespeare’s Pub” (Their motto: “Two beers? Or not Two Beers? That is the Question!” without stopping to enjoy some cold refreshment.

Wendy on the balcony of Shakespeare’s Pub in Austin, TX

We met Tim at a great Tex-Mex place called Chuy’s and feasted while enjoying some catch up and great conversation. The food was gone but the conversation felt like it was just getting started, so we went next door to a mirco-brew called Uncle Billy’s. We sat out on the porch there and talked late into the night.

It was a pleasurable evening, but after that the trip quickly descended into travel hell. In Austin we were only an hour drive from Saturday’s destination in San Antonio, but we had plane tickets from Dallas to the Riverwalk city so we made the three hour drive back to Dallas in emerging thunderstorms. The storms wreaked havoc on all air travel in Texas and the DFW airport was shut down for periods of time that afternoon and evening. Long story short is that our 5 p.m. flight to San Antonio on United turned into a midnight flight to San Antonio on American. We got to bed about 2:00 a.m. before my 8:00 a.m. client presentation. Our trip home through Houston Intercontinental Airport was also delayed because of weather and in stead of getting home at 6:00 on Sunday evening it was after midnight.

Gate B84 in Houston is the armpit of air travel. Flight crews call it “the litterbox.” I’ve been in nicer Greyhound stations. Wendy and I spent a week at this gate on Sunday evening.

Despite the time in travel purgatory, Wendy and I loved the time in Austin with Tim and look forward to a return trip when we can spend more time exploring all the town has to offer.