Monday, November 24, 2008

Give Presence

I watched a promo video for something called Advent Conspiracy recently http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVqqj1v-ZBU . While the whole promo was really done well, there was one line that has really stuck with me – “GIVE PRESENCE!”

How often do we make the Christmas season about stuff instead of substance? In many ways Christmastime can become an anxious season where parents try to make up for our lack of being present in the lives of the ones they love by the giving presents. Yet presents are a very cheap substitute for presence. Within a few weeks the batteries in our kids new toys will run out of juice (which can’t come a moment too soon if they make annoying sounds!) and the toys that don’t have batteries will likely end up neglected in no time, but the time we actually spend together will stay with us when the gift cards are used, the clothes returned, and we begin paying back the debts we’ve accumulated in buying stuff for others.

Last Friday I took my wife and kids on a much-needed camping trip in Mississippi. After some foil dinners, smores, and hot chocolate by the campfire we headed to the tent. Friday was a particularly cold night for this part of the country and we realized pretty quickly that our sleeping bags weren’t rated for below freezing. The temperature kept dropping and we were getting colder and colder. It didn’t seem like we were very well equipped for cold-weather camping and that we might have to pack up and go find a motel somewhere or try sleeping in the car with the heater on. Finally I got an idea (likely from one of those survival shows on discovery channel) that we could share the sleeping bags with the kids. So Ezra jumped in my sleeping bag and Tevia in Dina’s. There wasn’t much room to move in the sleeping bags but we did warm up quite well (it’s amazing the amount of heat that a five-year-old can generate).

I can’t say that I actually remember sleeping more than about thirty minutes the whole night due to my face feeling like it was going to freeze off, having a crick in my neck from not having an adequate pillow under my head, not to mention the throbbing pain in my knee from a botched attempt at kung fuing a tree branch for fire wood. However, as I lay contemplating my lack of comfort at 3 a.m., I thought to myself, “There’s no place I would rather be.”

I can say that our couple of days camping and hiking may have been low on comfort, amenities, and even warmth but were very filled with presence. We returned to New Orleans a little sore and in need of a shower but feeling alive, refreshed, and closer as a family. This seemed like just the right way to kick off the holiday season and a reminder of what we need to do more of in these next few weeks – GIVE PRESENCE!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Will Vote for Coffee

I know I am a rare breed these days when it comes to ordering coffee at Starbucks. While others may take a good half-minute to place their order for a tall-nonfat-decaf-vanilla-mocha-latte-over ice, my typical order is a simple grande coffee, black.

My order is so simple, in fact, that for a while it was completely throwing off the people working the drivethru at my local Starbucks (because who really orders coffee these days from a coffee shop?)

So I would pull up to the window only to find that I had a double cappuccino or a hot chocolate which I would in turn get for free with my coffee when the barista realized that she had screwed up my order.

So imagine my joy to find out that Starbucks was offering a free tall coffee to anyone who voted today (or at least anyone who said they voted). Regretfully, I let most of the day slip by before taking Starbucks up on the offer. So it was 6 p.m. before I walked in and told the barista at my local Starbucks that I did my civic duty today and would like to be rewarded with some coffee. Sure enough, I was given a tall coffee free of charge. Sweet!

But as I was walking out sipping my black coffee and waking up a bit from my afternoon lull it occurred to me that there are at least some twenty Starbucks in the metro New Orleans area. This translates to a minimum of around forty dollars worth of free coffee if I visit each location trumpeting my good citizenship.

This could be the making of a good Sinefeld episode. Well, I must stop blogging so I can get to my caffeine binge!