Come Sail Away

Exciting weekend ahead.

Two nights ago, my phone rang. It was Rose, a girl in my youth group. She graciously offered My Intended and I two free tickets to see a concert with her and some other church friends. And so tonight, I am attending my first ever STYX concert. I'm awfully proud to say that. I think maybe I did my 30 Greatest Concert Moments list too soon.

Saturday and Sunday will be filled with much anxiety and ranting. I've been asked to preach at all three services at church. I am not sure they know what they've gotten themselves into. I was thinking about doing an interpretive dance as my sermon. But I guess I will fall back on Plan B: Fire and Brimstone.

New Year's Eve will be relaxing and informal with the Intended and some friends. And hopefully several movies. New Year's Day will also be laid back. The only plans I have are to help Doug V. pack up his last remaining possessions in Illinois to complete the move to Ohio. I considered stowing away in the truck. But that'd be a long drive without a potty.

For the most part, it should be a pretty relaxing weekend. I hope to get some down time. I've been cutting way back on committments and freelance lately. Partly because of upcoming things like wedding stuff and needing to sell my condo soon and other changes like that.

But I'm also just kinda done with the busyness. I'm sick of having commitments every night and every hour of the weekend. I'm tired of nagging assignments hanging over my head. And also, I just have this drive again to do some creative writing for the first time in a long time. I have these stories in my head that I want to get out. I've felt that way for a long time, but now it's at a fever pitch. I mean, I have no grand allusions. It's not like "The world must hear these stories before I am gone!" but, I just need that outlet. Come to think of it, I haven't done freetime, just-for-myself, fiction writing in about 4 years. I have a finished but only half-revised screenplay sitting around. I might reawaken that.

I just need to write. And dream. And imagine.

Quotes of the Week
"I think that's up near Schaumburg, right?" -My Uncle Bill after seeing my new "Mayor of Awesomeville" shirt.

"I'm fine. My nose is just overflowing with awesome and I had to get some of it out."-Barney on How I Met Your Mother trying to prove he didn't have a cold.

Christmas Top 6

I'm back from all the Egg Nog, chocolate and gifts of my Christmas holiday. I had a truly blessed long weekend with My Intended and our families. We got to spend time with her maid of honor, the future in-laws, my whole family and more. Here's some assorted highlights:

-The Coolest Gift Received: This is a toss up, because my loved ones were very generous. I got the first seasons of TV shows The Muppet Show and Mission:Impossible . I got M:I 3! I got a golf bag. I got what may be the coolest hoodie I've ever owned (and I am a connoisseur in fine hoodies). But when all the chips are down, I think the coolest gift was a T-shirt that my sister actually made just for me with iron-on letters. It says, "Mayor of Awesomeville." It's just amazing.

-Coolest Gift Given: I gave my brother a retro jersey of his favorite Sox: Carlton Fisk. Having him open it was actually better than getting anything.

-Most Sentimental Moment: Both families gave My Intended and I some neat Wedding-oriented stuff. My mom got us our toasting flutes and something special that will serve as a cookie-cake topper. But I knew those were coming, what floored me was a gift from the Mother-in-Law. She gave me a crystal mug that she'd bought for her now departed husband as a wedding gift. She handed it down as I am now "the man of the family." Wow. It's really a very special thing to me.

-Best Lesson: In a game of Scrabble with My Intended, I learned the painful lesson that "Beap" is not a word.

-Funniest moment: So my brother was leaving my parents' house. He said, "Hey thanks for the Fisk jersey." By instinct, I replied, "And thank YOU for the...." That's when I realized I had no idea what he and his wife had given me. I think I ended the sentence with mumbling and something like, "For being here..." After about 15 minutes of going through my gifts and interveiwing all of those present about what gift was form my brother, we all realized that it was still hidden from me in my parents' room. With Chad guiding me on the phone as if I was Jack Bauer being instructed by CTU to find a bomb, I walked back to find my new golf bag. Score.

-Most Surprising Gift: At my Parents' House, I got a small wrapped box that wasn't labeled. Inside was a note: "Dear Todd, I am sorry that I made you worry! I actually was NOT kidnapped. I went on to better my career. Not that I dond't like being with you, I actually miss you a lot. However, with my dream has always been to model. And I hope you can see from the included picture that I have a lot of talent! Miss you, Red Fez Monkey"

Whoa. That was a shock. After all this time spent searching for him and even sending his brother, Purple Fez Monkey, on an epic quest to find him, it turns out Red Fez is just starting a modeling career! Here's the framed pciture that was in the package from Red Fez. As you can see, he's stumbled into the high-pressure world of Cross-Stitch Modeling. Don't laugh. That's a hard job to stand still while someone knits your likeness. I'm proud of you, Red Fez. Wherever you are...


Merry Christmas.

For our magazine, LaTonya once wrote this story about how her Mom used to always let her drink only a little Egg Nog at a time. This always bothered her and so when she got to college, she got some Egg Nog and drank as much as she wanted. And then got sick.

I kinda thought the story was a little silly. I mean, it's just Egg Nog. But then today happened. I love Egg Nog. So, in an attempt to get into the Christmas spirit, I bought a carton last night. This morning, I had two big glasses on an empty stomach. And I'm feeling it. Ugh. You know how bad it is? Designer Alecia brought in big Christmas cookies and I can't eat one. Yah, you know it's bad when i turn down cookies. (But one is going into the Nativity Jar...)

But hey, tis the season.

I think that I'm just now starting to feel any degree of Christmasy (no thanks to that Egg Nog). I sat in my apartment yesterday morning with a blanket on, the tree lights on and sipping hot chocolate. It was quite quaint. I've been wrapping gifts like it's my job (it isn't.) And I've been spending a lot of time trying to guess what people have gotten me. I need to spend some time reading the biblical story of Christ's birth, too. That is what I really need to keep me in the right mindest. I've been thinking about watching The Passion of the Christ, actually. I know, I know: wrong season. But I watched it last year and it was really poignant for me as a real reminder of WHY Christmas matters.

As I've been thinking about Christmas this year, one of my favorite Christmas memories has kept surfacing. Being with my family has always been the real blessing of Christmas. The house is all decorated. Family is all together and a buzz. There's just this etheral quality about my memories of Christmas at home. There's just this closeness and love. I'm lucky in that way. But all through the first 20 or so years of my life, even the week leading up to the Christmas Eve and Day was always neat as all three kids would be home and excited. (And telling each other what we saw Mom hiding in the closet....)

Well, in the senior year of college, I took a trip to England that week before Christmas with my college roommate Gene. It was awesome to be walking down Cobblestone roads in Canterbury eating roasted chestnuts just days before Christmas. It was all so Dickens. But the neat part was that I arrived home on Christmas Eve. I got a limo home and walked intot he house as guests were arriving for our annual Christmas Eve meal. I felt like I was just dropped into the Christmas season--and it was great.

Well, Merry Christmas.

So, today I was reading the critical response to The Good Shepherd at RottenTomatoes.com. And I discovered my name there! I've gotten a review listed on RottenTomatoes.com! This seriously is a huge deal for me. I've been looking at RT reviews for YEARS. What a cool thing to see.

Well, it turns out that not only was I added to the RT.com stable but they've archived all of my reviews. It's funny to see them all here--and remember some I forgot about. Some star ratings I really regret (The Legend of Zorro didn't deserve 2 stars, it should have been like 1. And Sky Captain shouldn't have been 3.5. It should have been 2.5. Oh well.) And I'd completely forgotten about some reviews that I'm pretty proud of.


"You look like a russian girl." --An office lady here to a woman wearing a nice new outfit for the first time.

"I just hope I don't end up hating christmas because of this. And then like, turning from the faith." -Jill, about her office being filled with pine air fresheners.


Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

It is finished.

Early this morning, when it was still dark and rain fell into puddles, I hauled my ficas tree down the stairs, across the parking lot and then, unremorsefully, I tossed him into the dumpster. I then went behind the dumpster in the mud and dumped dirt out of the pot.

As I stepped through the mud in my shiny dress shoes, I realized how mob-like the scene was: It's dark, rainy, muddy. I was dressed up. And I was throwing a deceased foe in a dumpster.

The ficas sleeps with the fishes. Or the old garbage.

Something To Do To Avoid Work This Week:
Rollingstone.com has posted four days (so far) worth of this year's best re-cut movie trailers floating around the Internet. Thanks to the Gat for alerting me to this collection. I fell in love with this concept earlier in the year when I heard some film class' final project was to take a film and re-cut a trailer making it look like a totally different genre.

The first one I saw was The Shining re-spun as a touching feel-good film about a foster dad (posted here on Day 1) . That's up here, as is my new fave: "10 Things I Hate About Commandments (Day 3)." Man, I could watch this 10 Commandments parody over and over. "Now, the battle is on to see who can win the girl and rule the school!" It's the best one of these screwed-up trailers I've seen so far. Which are your favorites?


Wedding Wednesday

So, My Intended and I have spoken casually to a co-worker of mine about our cookie cake because her family has a bakery. Today, I got an e-mail from her about it and it is one of the funniest e-mails I perhaps have ever received. I love how randomly thoughts flitter into our heads. Here's how the e-mail went:

"Hi Todd.

While I was walking down the stairs I smelled french fries...which led me to thinking about how last night my mom wanted french fries (she usually despises them)...and she wanted them while at the bakery...while I was decorating cookies...which led me to thinking about the cookie cake for your wedding. :) "


Awesome Blog Entry

Was I ever in for a surprise this week at Aldi! They've changed the look of my Sweet Valley soda. Now, the Diet Cola is all blue and snazzy. No more white generic look. No, now it's gone all big time.

As I stood in the aisle and looked at this old friend now in an unfamiliar appearance, I went through a lot of emotions. And had many thoughts and realizations wash over me.

Thefirst thing I noticed with great displeasure was that I the cans no longer have the unattributed testimonial, "Great Tasting" on them. That was sad.

And then I realized that not only was the packaging different, so was the name. It wasn't just DIET COLA anymore. It is now Diet GT Cola.

After I realized the name was changed, I began to think, Hmm, what's the GT stand for?

And then it hit me. Yah, they named it Great Tasting Cola. This is priceless. I thought it was funny before when the box said the soda was great tasting, but now they've named it that? That's great.

I think all products should be named adjectives, like Cool shoes, Economic car, and Sharp-But-Not-Too-Sharp razors.

Sign #456 I Am Losing It
I actually apologized to my computer today. I hit the button to open the CD tray instead of eject the floppy disk like I meant to. Before I knew what I was doing, I said, "Sorry, I hit the wrong button."

Tis the Season to Sumo

After months of waiting, the gift giving is here! I love to give at Christmas, but I also love presents. I love to shake them. I love to try and figure out what they are. I just enjoy the unknown and the unwrapping. And I love to see what people give me--not in a materialistic way but to see what they think I'd enjoy. I love to find out what says, "Todd needs this" to my loved ones.

Well, the gift giving this Christmas started off with a bang. My friend Camerin definitely has a finely-tuned "Todd needs this" radar as she was at Barnes & Noble and found this: Sumo Smash! This is a re-packeaged toy from the 1980s that was in the same line as that wind-up bowling game where the ball would walk down the alley. In the Sumo edition, you set up the little ring, wind up the wrestlers and them go! The first to fall down or be knocked from the ring loses. This is one of the best gifts ever. It's portable (so when I travel I can have my sumo ring in one hand and my portable blankey in the other). It's fun. And it's sumo. What could be better?

Actually, Christmas is my favorite time of year for reasons that go far beyond presents (tho they are cool). There's Jesus, of course. And, I have two other favorite things: 1) Work at Christmas and 2) Family at Christmas.

Work at Christmas is my favorite 2 weeks of the year. There's lots of parties and food. But really what I like is that no one is here. That sounds rude. And maybe it is a little. But I like that there's only a few people in the office--especially between Christmas and New Year's--because I feel like I can get so much done. This year, I am concentrating on cleaning the office. Jill walked up today and caught me just standing in the middle of my office staring around at the walls. It may have looked like I wasn't working...but actually, I was planning a major attack on the clutter and a launch of a new look. Let's face it, when you have an office as cool as mine, a lot of work goes into it. I have a rep to maintain.

And like everyone, Christmastime is also special because the family gets together. This last weekend, I got to see my family and The Intended and I got a lot of time to just relax and bond with the fam. Most of all, I got some needed Nephew Time in. You see, he's almost 3 months old now, and it was time to start his lessons on the history of the White Sox. So, at my Grandma's 85th Birthday party, I walked him around because he was fussy. As we walked I told him all about the 2005 White Sox--who are lineup was, how we used no bullpen help in four games of the ALCS, and how we won the Series. He really learned a lot. And was very soothed.

Later that day, he was again fussy. I was holding him and I don't know too much about babies. But I knew his dad told me that he really likes music. He listens to Baby Bach all the time (as opposed to Baby Got Back), so I thought he needed some music to soothe him. I decided to hum. But I didn't know what to hum. So I fell back on what I know. I hummed, "Go Go Go White Sox." He quickly settled down.

So now, I should go. I have a busy day of hanging posters, figuring out where to put my pirate ship and staring at Landon's Christmas photo.


Master Detective, Part II

Yesterday, a friend of mine IMed me with a problem that I believe only I could solve. His one contact fell out and was lost. Working on his PC with only one contact was giving him a headache. "I need an eyepatch," he wrote. "And you're the only one I know who may have one here at the office."

The funny thing is: I do have an eye patch here at the office. And I love that he turned to me for such an odd request. That's faith in a friend, right there. And so, my friend worked until noon wearing a plastic eye patch with a skull and crossbones on it.

Everyone makes fun of my toystore office, but when people need somthing like an eye patch or turkey baster or a terribly out-of-date globe, where do they go? All eyes turn to me.


Master Detective, Part II

There I lay on the cement, in a pool of water, oil and blood. (The blood was mine. The water and oil weren't). I rolled over and looked at the warehouse in a blaze. I noticed that the landscaping was now burning.

"You ruined some perfectly good shrubs, you know," I reported to the vile man.

"You are a silly man," Will told me. He walked closer with his gun aimed at my scorched scalp.

"I'm sorry," I said. "It's not my fault though, you know. I'm just a character in a story."

"Indeed? Am I also?" Will questioned.

"Oh, yes."

"What kind of story is it?"

"A silly one," I said.

"Ah, of course," Will said while waving around that gun of his. "Well, anyway. Prepare to die."

"Okay," I said. And I started thinking about what I needed to do to adequately prepare.

But Will interrupted me. "It's funny," He blurted out.

"What is?"

"I can't bring myself to kill you now."

"Why not?" I asked, chewing on my fingernails.

"What if there are kids reading this?" He said. "Their parents wouldn't take kind to that."

"Good point."

"I'm sorry I shot you," Will apologized.

"Oh, that's okay. Happens all the time," I said as I stood up.

"What do you say we get out of here," Will said, tucking the gun in his belt. "And go for some tea and biscuits?"

"A simply wonderful idea, I do say!" I cringed as my leg ached. "I know this wonderful little cafe down the street."

"Superb," Will said pulling out his keys. "Oh. But let's take your car, mine is not in good condition, it seems."

"Sorry about that."

Will and I had a wonderful time at that café. I felt bad when I had to arrest him. THE END

Quotes of the Week
"I don't know. Those cookies kinda taste like that jar now." -Ted, after lamenting the retirement of The Cookie Drawer.

"I feel so much pressue. I feel like on Sunday I just have to sparkle." -Camerin

"We might be eating an ornament." -Matt, another youth group counselor, when we shared a processed cookie at a Christmas party.

"If I am starting a team, I want Reggie Bush. And I don't even know what game we're playing. I still want him." -John Madden

"I need a radio station that doesn't play the same songs over and over. I've been riding dirty and bringing sexy back for about an hour." -My sister

Master Detective, Part I

When I cleaned out that closet at home a few months ago, one of the old writings I found was a very self-referencial, Monty Python-esque short story called "Master Detective." This was not written in the "I Feed the Dog" era but probably when I was in high school or college--and obviously very very into Monty Python. I honestly do not recall writing this story at all. But it has my name on it. So at any rate, today I share Part One of "Master Detective." Come back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion.


I leapt off the staircase onto the cracked cement floor. I pulled my gun from the holster on my side and began running toward the open bay doors of the warehouse.

With my partner dead, and my cover blown, I knew I was in trouble. As I ran, oil and dirt splashed against my shoes. I heard gunshots, hit the ground and rolled to the outside of the warehouse. This was not a good day.

A bullet ricocheted off of the inside of warehouse. I returned fire and struck the drug dealer dead. That was good. A shot came from behind me. This was not good. Being the agile man that I am, I pivoted, shot and dove—all at the same time--back into the warehouse for cover.

I sized up that the buyer was crouching behind his black car about 30 yards from the warehouse. Drug dealers and their buyers always have black cars. I don't know why, but they do. All undercover detectives have red cars. But not me. Mine is orange.

I fired toward the car. I took out the tires and the windows. Then I reloaded. No one ever reloads in the movies, but this wasn't a movie. So I did.

Then a very bad thing happened.

The buyer, whose name is Will, threw a lighted stick at the warehouse. I don’t know where that came from. But he had it and he threw it. Something in the warehouse caught on fire. I remained where I was, all the time firing on the man. Soon, the warehouse itself was on fire. I noticed a beam of wood above my head was on fire.

It didn't bother me. That is, it didn't bother me until I felt a pain on my skull.

My head was on fire. This was, also, not a good thing. I panicked. I ran towards the car swatting at my head.

"You stupid idiot," the buyer yelled. And then he shot me in the leg. This was not all together bad, because the force of my fall and the rushing wind as I fell put out the fire raging in my hair. But since I'd been shot, things weren't all that rosy.



The End of the Cookie Drawer

I am retiring The Cookie Drawer. (See Long Live The Cookie Drawer.)

I know, I know it seems crazy. It seems like I am giving in. It seems like I am going establishment. But after I ate that Chalupa I had in there...

Actually, I am not retiring The Cookie Drawer because of any health concern or even a sign of maturing that leads one to stop eating things out of their desk. Instead, I got myself a splendid White Elephant Gift yesterday that's changed the cookie game.

On Saturday, I went to my youth group Christmas Party and gave away a Todd Wall Decorating Kit--a Sportsmanship plaque I won in 1984 for basketball and a nice framed picture of me. I got back a '80s workout cassette, complete with a picture of a lady in leg warmers. So, I regifted it in the company White Elephant exchange yesterday and got....a beautiful nativity cookie jar. Mary, Joseph and Jesus are cartoonish figures with big balloon heads. The top is the star raining down beams of light that looks like a circus tent. And Jesus is naked save for one strategically placed blue piece of cloth. It's really a fine piece of kitsch. And to think, I basically traded a picture of me for a cookie jar. That's more than the Sox got for Freddy Garcia.

After it was originally unwrapped, the cookie jar was stolen a few times by people who chose it over opening a new gift. When I stole the jar, someone commented that my future wife may not be so keen about having it in the house. I scoffed, "House? This is screaming to be put in my office." And so it sits here on my desk, already full of cookies. I've created a nativity scene out of it by adding a stormtrooper shepherd, a dinosaur and a monkey. Just like the first Christmas.

Anyway, with this new Cookie Jar, which will not be put away during non-Christmas months, The Cookie Drawer is no longer needed. Goodbye, Cookie Drawer. Thanks for all the cookies.

The newest big development is that we purchased our wedding bands on Saturday. We found a perfect band to match the engagement ring. But then we started looking at my rings. I don't wear jewelry. I don't like it. I've never really wore a ring except for a class ring for about a year. So, I was kinda uncomfortable putting a ring on and had a hard time even figgering out what I like.

Also, I think I had one of those "moments" people talk about when getting ready for a big life change. It might be like when a woman first starts showing a pregnancy. Or when someone fills out the new address form before making a cross-country move. But as I stood in that store and slipped a ring on THAT finger, I kinda blacked out for a minute. I remember just staring at the ring on my finger. It looked weird. My Intended offered some thoughts on the particular ring and on some others in the tray--but I wasn't there yet. I wasn't even comprehending the choice of styles for mine. I was still getting over the fact that I'd be wearing one for the rest of my life.

And then I realized how cool of a day that it really was: This was a day we got to chose the symbols (and that's all they realy are) of committment and love. And so I got the least blingy ring I could find and decided that I'm gonna love having that on my finger.


The Trifecta!

Now, I don't know who did it--but, rumor has it that two handsome guys here at the office excuted an amazing prank attack this morning: A Hat Trick. Three birthdays. Three Offices. Three Pranks. One day.

Jill's birthday was a few weeks ago. Her office is near the men's restroom so it can smell pretty bad. So these pranksters helped her by bringing her the frangrance of a pine forest. There were strands of evergreen garland, a Christmas tree and about 10 pine car air fresheners. Ah, the fine smell of the pine forest... but those with offices near Jill's don't seem that impressed with the joke.

Val's birthday was last week. She got sheets and sheets of paper from the floor to ceiling forming a maze or succession of walls to impede her from getting in.

Emily's birthday was yesterday. She got over 700 Dixie cups all lined on her floor. Stapled together. And filled with water. How do you get to your computer when that happens? Beats me.

This blog (http://photos.doublem.us/v/pranks/ctipranks/), by another guy who has nothing to do with any of these mean pranks, now has pictures of all three attacks.


From Weird Al to America to Hawk Nelson

I saw this news story today. One show of the new TobyMac tour had to be cancelled. One friend asked me if it means declining popularity for Toby. I say no. I saw this show and it was packed. So I think it was the time of year and that area's weather. But also, ummm, maybe the problem was that they booked a Christian concert at a MOSQUE?

Anyway, that leads well into my latest Top 30 list to commemorate my 30th birthday in a few months. After seeing the TobyMac/Family Force 5/Hawk Nelson show last week, I thought I'd come up with my Top 30 Concert Moments. Here they are:

30. The Brick Suit. I will admit it: I went to a Chumbawamba concert. Yes, I did. And before you judge: They know how to entertain. They put on a great concert. They used a lot of costume changes and props--which is always a plus in my book. The best part was this one guy who came out in a suit that was printed like a brick wall. It was neato.

29. Sandman Drum Solo. When I was in high school I saw classic rock group America at the State Fair. I loved their set. On the song Sandman, they broke down to a really awesome drum solo that made me want to play the drums. Sure, I played them badly. But I played them.

28. Is that him? I've been to 3 or 4 Weird Al Yankovich concerts. And I am mucho proud of that fact. At one, my friend Eric and I were in the stands about an hour or more early. (We were THAT excited.) In one section of the stands there was this guy in a ballcap just sitting there alone. No one was around him AT ALL. Well, Eric and I kept commenting about how much the guy looked like Al. And then, a crowd all of a sudden started forming around him--and that's when we realized that Al goes into the seats before his shows and waits for people to notice him and signs autographs. It was a neat thing for a legend* like him to do.
*Really. Legend. Who else sings about the Amish?

27. Kevin Max's Arrogance. At one Cornerstone, former DC Talk member Kevin Max came out on stage in a purple robe, struted to the end of the long catwalk into the crowd and arrogantly handed the robe to a beautiful assistant. What made this a memorable moment was the instant exodus of people streaming from the concert. Hilarious.

26. Weird Al's costumes. In concert, the guy changes clothes about a gazillion times. He wears the pointy Madonna bra. He wears the fat suit. It's amazing and very entertaining. What adds to it is... Weird Al's incredible energy. It is shocking how crazy this man is. He puts one leg behind his head--and bounces around on the other leg. Let's see Elton John do that.

25. Hawk's Vests. At a Hawk Nelson show a couple years ago, the guys came out in pink sweater vests--and it's become a legend of fashion among my friends.

24. A Classic Backflip. Classic Crime seered itself into my mind because of a lead singer who does backflips. That is rock, man. That is rock.

23. A Chick Who Rocks. I remember first getting the CD of Benjamin Gate and being blwn away by their sound. When I saw them live, the very first song blew my mind because lead Singer Adrienne just went berserko. This little lady jumped and headbanged and threw everything she had into it. It was love at first sight...but then Jeremy Camp stole her from Benjamin Gate and me.

22. Emo Moment. I'd never really known what emo punk was before I discovered Further Seems Forever. I discovered them at about 2 a.m. at one year of Cornerstone. Jason was the lead singer then. And I walked up as he was hanging from a tent pole into the audience. The best way to describe it is to say he was emoting. Just completely and passionately leaning into his fans, belting his heart out, and singing--not to them, but with them. I saw the punk part the next day when Jason was late for a press conference because a 6-inch gash in his leg from a concert weeks before that he never had looked at was acting up.

21. Stryper. Really, that should be enough of a grand concert moment. I saw Stryper. But during the show, the guys passed out tiny Bibles to the crowd. They used to throw Bibles into the crowd at shows but now they just hand them to the first few rows to avoid injury and lawsuits no doubt. A slightly less-fortunate moment at that show was when the drummer, Robert Sweet, came onstage in the old yellow and black spandex just like they used to wear in the 80s. The only difference is that Robert is 20 years older.

20. Mosh With Love. At a punk concert a long time ago I saw my first Christian mosh pit. I loved that these guys would beat the heck out of each other...and then congratulate each other and hug. Beautiful.

19. Flags. Upon seeing all the different flags being held by their audience, Flatfoot 56 welcomed all the "Americans, Canadians, Chicagoans...and Pirates."

18. Toby Mac's Choreography. The best moment of any TobyMac show is when he and his two dancers/backup singers/acrobats join him to do some sweet dance moves. My favorite part is when they do a slow step walk toward the audience as they sing, "I'm a dead man walking..."

17. The Hill of Hands. The main stage at Cornerstone is set in a big natural bowl of a hill. At my first fest, Third Day led everyone in worship and everyone held hands and raised them high into the night. From down near the stage, I looked up to see just a massive sea of raised hands--and a ring of held hands around the hill's upper rim. This single show sold my on Christian music.

16. The Baby Powder. There was a hazy fog at my first Flatfoot 56 concert. Why? The band began a new "campaign on chaffing" by being well-supplied with baby powder.

15. The Solo Concert. One year, Third Day came to the area and no one else could go to the show. So I went by myself. I got a seat up in the rafters and just sat back and enjoyed. At the end of the set, they went into a worship set and I was so taken away in worship. It was a memorable experience as God met me there.

14. Buffalo Matt Theissen. At the first Relient K concert I went to, the band put a big plastic buffalo out on the catwalk in front of the stage. During the show, singer Matt Theissen rode it. And then surfed it through the crowd.

13. My First Vision of Family Force 5. Two years ago at the Gospel Music Week in Nashville, I went to the Gotee Records New Artist night. And my life would never be the same. All week, there'd been a buzz about Family Force 5--but I had no idea what to expect. Then, the band came out and completely tore the roof off the small club. I remember that I was most taken by Xanadu, the guy who is not in the band but just dances and hands instruments to the FF5 guys. Shake your tailfeather.

12. The End of Staple. This Summer I saw my final Staple concert at Cornerstone. They were amazing. I was close to the stage as they passionately played they set and said goodbye. The ultimate moment was when a guy from Cornerstone came up and said a prayer for the band as they now go on to new things. It was moving and powerful.

11. Jukebox of the Dead. My high school friend John had been trying for years to get me into this band of Wheaton College alums called the Deatholz. One Halloween, I finally listened and went to their Halloween show where they announced they appeared in zombie costumes and announced that "The Deathholz could not make it but we are The Jukebox of the Dead!" They played crazy versions of well know songs like Ring of Fire and Thriller. It was great.

10. Ouch. During a Cornerstone MxPx concert, Tom and Mike stood at opposite sides of the stage and threw their guitars high into the air to each other. They do it at every concert. But at this one, Tom's guitar smacked Mike in the head. Yowsers.

9. Puppet Show. On the Thrive Tour, The Newsboys had a projected video of a puppet show they'd play during the song John Woo. It featured a puppet of a dog and a puppet of a cat rocking out to the song. It could be the single funniest video I've ever seen.

8. "I'm Not Washing These Pants." At the MuteMath show, the lead singer left the stage to walk through the crowd. As he did, I looked back to see that he was standing right next to my friends Marc, Emily and Charissa. He even touched Charissa's leg as he leapt a wall and worked his way through the audience. Charissa hasn't washed those pants since. Ewww.

7. MC Hammer's Sound Check. In 1998, I went to my first Cornerstone and MC Hammer was playing the main stage one night. He only played his gospel stuff and not his "Hammer Don't Hurt Them" stuff. But I happened to be down by the main stage playing frisbee that afternoon while Hammer was doing his sound check. And he did "Too Legit." Oh yah.

6. Ouch II. At one concert, this young girl in front of me stood up on her boyfriend's shoulders to stage dive. The problem was that she dove forward instead of backward. Why's this a problem? Because she dove toward the backs of people's heads. They had no idea she was coming...and she fell flat to the floor. Surprisingly, she was fine. Perhaps not mentally.

5. Mosh Policing with Kutless. Every April, I go to Nashville's Gospel Music Week. One year, I went to this little basement club to see my favorite band at the time, Staple, play a show. I was toward the front of the crowd and a mosh pit started. I'm not into that so I stood on the outside edge of the craziness. I noticed behind me a scared mother and two little girls. And yet the craziness continued and the guys kept pushing into the crowd. To keep the moshing contained to a small area, I stood my ground and with two guys next to me maintained the border so that the people behind us wouldn't get trampled. After a minute or tow, I looked up to realize that the other tow guys standing on the edge pushing back the moshers were the guitarist and bassist for Kutless.

4. The unKeyboardist. The greatest moment of seeing Emery was to watch their keyboardist who does not play the keyboard. He just rocks against it repeatedly. And beats it. And yells. It takes something special to play the keyboard. It takes something more NOT to. Here's to you!

3. The Braveheart. At the very first Flatfoot 56 concert I saw, the crowd was rowdy. And the band got them rowdier. At one point, Flatfoot asked the crowd to split down the middle. The lead singer then instructed the fans to "face the crowd on the other side and pick one person out to run at. When I say, run at them and slam into them...with Christian love."

2. Mute Math's Destruction. Just recently I saw Mute Math at the Park West. They ended the show by breaking into a percussion frenzy of playing everything. Including stools. As they finished, they tore everything up--breaking lights and, for one guy, even producing blood. It was rad.

1. Pinata Surprise. At Cornerstone many years ago, Five Iron Frenzy sent 7 pinatas into the crowd. As they were being surfed around, the lead singer informed the crowd that 4 will filled with candy. 3 with Pork & Beans. One by one, the pinatas were swallowed into the crowd and you'd hear fists whacking on them and then...either joyous yells or disgusted groans as baked beans flew everywhere.


Back to Freezing. But I Have My Portable Blankey.

North Carolina is warmer than it is here. And there's no snow. Or booger-freezing air. I walked around without a coat. I didn't need gloves.

It was like heaven.

Chris, LaTonya and I left Thursday night from O'Hare to go to the Charlotte National Youth Workers' Convention. We left just hours before the blizzard began. We didn't see one flake of snow. And it was still warm enough to walk to the parking lot tram in only a hoodie.

But when we returned, I stood at the luggage pickup and put on almost every peice of clothing in my bag. My pajama pants became a scarf. My socks became my gloves. It's cold here.

We had some plane issues--but they weren't weather related. On Sunday night, we had a 7:50 EST flight out. It got bumped back to 8:15. And then 8:30. And then 9. I sat in a little airport bar and watched the Cowboys (and my fantasy runningback Marion Barber III) beat the Giants. When the game was over, I went to the screens to see what time we were now bumped back to. But our flight wasn't there. No sign of it at all. Strange.

I went to the gate. No airline rep was there. The gate was dark and shut down. A woman who looked like she'd been crying was slumped in a chair. I asked her if she was going to Chicago. "Was," she said. "They cancelled the flight." Ruh-Roh.

About 15 minutes later, a gate rep showed up and said that we'd all been transferred to a U.S. Airways flight at 10:45. Good times. Actually, it was a blessing. The little American Eagle flight we took into Charlotte was like a flying Greyhound--both in size and sturdiness of build. The wind beat that little tube around like it was nothing. So flying in a bigger U.S. Airways jet was well-appreciated. And we got sat in an exit row so we had all the leg room we wanted. Everything was coming up roses...until we landed and discovered we'd just gone from 55 degrees to 10. And so the PJ pants went around my face.

When I got home, there was a cardboard box at my door. From the return address, I saw that it was from Revell, the company that published my book. I wasn't sure what was in it. I thought it was maybe full of all the cash my book has made. Or, more likely, shredded up copies that didn't sell.

Inside, this box was one object. No card. No letter. No anything. Except for a blanket. The blanket is bright blue and rolls up and velcros together to make it a little bundle about one foot by 6 inches. When rolled up into the little bundle, one side of it has a handle to make it a handy traveling companion. Since there was no letter to explain it's arrival, I assumed that Revell just knew how cold I'd been for the last hour and thought I'd appreciate having a Portable Blanket I can carry with me. Or maybe they know that I am often in awkward situations where people say, "Hey, you aren't carrying a blanket with a handle do ya?"

I asked Camerin if she also got a Portable Blanket. She did, but hers had a Christmas card in the box with it so it wasn't quite as mysterious. With a Christmas card, it's a thought gift. Without, it's kinda creepy. I mean, who sends you random blankets. It's kinda like two weeks ago when I got an envelope at work. All that was in it: A turkey baster. True story.

Wedding Wednesday:
I had my first wedding dream last night.

I was at my wedding. It was being held outdoors. There were lots of people all lined up in white lawn chairs. There were lots of flowers and lattice-work. My Intended and I were not the only couple getting married. There were 5 couples all geting married in one ceremony--to save costs. I was at the back of the ceremony waiting my turn. My Intended was in a tent getting ready. I wouldn't see her until we approached the pastor in front of the sea of guests. Well, the first couple--some married friends of My Intended--got married. And then the second--some teacher friends of My Intended. The pastor was talking soooo much. It was taking forever. I even wandered off and played a video game. But then I came back and the third couple was still up there. After he finished with the third couple, the pastor announced that he was out of time and he'd finish next week.

My Intended came running up the aisle to me very sad. She was wearing a pink poofy dress. We were irrate and disbelieving that we weren't getting married. All of our friends and family were there. We'd paid for everything. The reception was ready to go.

And then I thought, "Well, since I'm not going on my honeymoon, I have a whole week free of plans!"