Sunday, June 22, 2008

An exciting day of mowing

I finally got around to mowing my lawn Friday, so I wouldn't go to jail. I didn't know how my mower was going to work since I hadn't used it in so long. I put some gas in it, primed the engine, and pulled the cord. It started on the first pull, and I was in business.

I finished the front lawn and headed to the backyard. Now if I had been smart, I would have only mowed the front and not worried about the back because that's when my troubles began.

I turned the mower off temporarily to move stuff out of the way. When I tried to start it up again, I couldn't pull the cord. I called Amy's dad to get some pointers. "Try turning the mower sideways and spin the blade," he suggested. "That might loosen things up." I tried it and it worked. But in the process of turning the mower sideways, oil began to run out of several places. I cleaned it up as best I could, but when I started the mower, it smoked liked a Texas barbecue. The smoke temporarily blocked out all sunlight reaching my house. This wasn't a bad thing because it helped to cool things off a bit.

I continued mowing, feeling very manly for having fixed my mower myself and not having to pay a repairman to make a house call. But then the mower stopped on its own for some reason. Ah, no problem, out of gas. I put more gas into the tank.

Now, here's a word of caution for all of you. I do not recommend putting gas into an overheated tank. I poured the gas in, but when I was done pouring, the gas level continued to rise in the tank because it (the gas) was expanding due to the heat. O Lord, please don't let this overflow. It did. But not by much—or so I thought. At the time, the thought went through my mind, I really should wipe up this excess gas. But I convinced myself that it wasn't that much gas, and would probably just evaporate quickly anyway.

So I pulled the cord to start the engine. The good news is that it didn't smoke. The bad news is that I could distinctly see a bright, orange 5-inch-long flame coming from the engine where the gas had spilled. No problem, I reasoned. The gas will burn off in a minute. After a couple of minutes, the flame was still flaming and I was beginning to not be at peace about the whole thing.

Brrrinnggg. "Hi, Dad.....Yeah, I'm fine.....What do you do when your lawnmower is on fire?"

"Well, you get your fire extinguisher."

"Where would that be?"

"Wherever you put it when you bought one." Since I had never bought a fire extinguisher, I wasn't happy. "What do you do if you don't have a fire extinguisher?"
"You get the garden hose."

Now, in my own defense, the thought of getting the hose had crossed my mind, but I had seen too many fire safety videos where they tell you that you shouldn't use water on some types of fires. I was afraid that using the hose on my flaming lawnmower would set off a thermonuclear explosion. By now, however, the little 5-inch flame had matured into a blazing inferno which would make forest fires in California look like candles on a birthday cake.

I quickly hung up the phone, and rushed to get the hose which, as fate would have it, was attached to the opposite side of the house from where the lawnmower was. I turned on the water, grabbed the hose, ran to the other side of the house, and aimed the stream at my lawnmower. As fate would have it again, the water fell about a foot short. (No, I'm not kidding.) I went into slight panic mode and dialed 911. "Welcome to Verizon Wireless. We're sorry; we cannot complete your call as dialed." Click.


Now, I was really panicked. I told my daughter to go get a neighbor, while I prayed a half-prayer. You know that story where Jesus multiplies the fish and bread to feed the 5000 men? Well, He must have miraculously lengthened the garden hose because when I tried it again, the water hit the target. I doused it for several minutes just to be sure the fire was really extinguished.

Now, I know some of you might be thinking I made up this story. Below are a couple of pictures, including a close-up of the charred engine.

All is well now, and I get to buy a new mower. But a thought kept running through my mind as these events were taking place: The Flaming Lawnmowers would be a good name for a rock band.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

America's Most Wanted...Homeowner

I'm a lawbreaker. I've been caught red-handed. Or maybe "green-thumbed."

We just got a letter from our friendly neighborhood Homeowner's Association. It reads, in part, as follows:

Dear Homeowner:

As the managing agent for ______ we are assigned the duty of enforcing the Association's...rules and regulations....We are often contacted by owners and other residents from the community with reports of rules violations.

I am writing this letter today to inform you that it has been observed or reported that the following item(s) is (are) in need of your attention:

6/04/08 - Please mow, edge, weed and maintain the lawn. Thank you.

We thank you in advance for correcting the referenced item(s) and request that you address this matter within ten (10) days after your receipt of this letter.
"Exhibit A"

"Exhibit B"

This brings up all kinds of "issues" in my mind. First of all, who ratted us out?! I wouldn't say that I'm as friendly as Andy Taylor, Cliff Huxtable, or Mike Brady, but I think I'm a pretty good neighbor, and a darn good American. I put my trash out on the curb on a regular basis. I don't blast rap music at all hours of the night. My children are under constant adult supervision and do not roam the streets like hooligans. I pay my taxes, pledge allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags (as required by law), and support our troops.

But for some this just isn't enough.

Don't these concerned "owners and other residents from the community" understand that I have a higher mission than to worry about the height of my grass? I'm protecting the environment, for goodness' sake! The longer my grass is, the more greenhouse gases will be absorbed and the more oxygen will be put back into the atmosphere. (Go ask your science teacher if you doubt my word.) It's not just the rainforests in Brazil that need protecting; it's the lawns in Texas that we really should be concerned about. So while these earth-haters are persecuting me, I'm trying to save the planet. Where is Al Gore when you need him?

New Yorkers are much more sympathetic to environmental issues than Texans. No one ever criticized my gardening skills up north. In Rochester, I would let my lawn go for weeks without trimming it. My daughter went out in the front yard to play one day and we couldn't locate her for several hours.

But hey, I'm not bitter about the letter. "When in Rome..." as they say. I just bought some gas for my mower. I had to hock my wedding ring to pay for it. No, actually, my father-in-law gave me a gas can with some gas in it. He told me, "Brian, it's a good thing the Homeowners' Association is on top of things. It'll keep your property values high." Now, that I think about it, perhaps that's why our former next-door-neighbors in Rochester sold their house for so much more than what we sold ours for. They actually mowed their lawn more than once a season.

At any rate, I'm finally ready to mow my lawn. Just as soon as I find my son.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Six Flags and one headache

We went to Six Flags over Texas a couple weeks ago and had a wonderful time. It was the first time for all of us, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We wish we had had a video camera for the above ride. Sausage was laughing himself silly on this ride.

We got season passes for $60 plus tax—a great deal when you consider that one day at Disneyland is $66.

The only down side was that I got a little woozy on the Batman ride. Well...maybe it was the merry-go-round, but that horse going up and down is a killer!


Thursday, June 12, 2008

I'm surrounded by pastors

I may have mentioned that at my previous school, there were a lot of former pastors on staff, including an assistant principal and two teachers.

A couple of days ago, we got mail meant for our next-door-neighbor. The kids and I walked over there to deliver the mail.

"Hi, I'm Brian, your next-door-neighbor. We got your mail by mistake." It turned out that the neighbor to whom the mail belonged had moved out, and another family moved in.

"Oh, hello," my neighbor responded, "I'm Rev. Andrews."



Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Elmo is a 45-year-old Black man

Did you see Oprah the other day? It's true. She introduced the person who is the voice of Elmo, and it's this guy named Kevin Clash. He comes walking out with a furry red muppet on his hand. I would not have believed it if I hadn't heard "Elmo" talk.

How do you get a break like that? I mean, who says when their a kid, "When I grow up, I'm going to make millions of dollars by never showing my face and talking in a squeaky voice."

It was an inspiring story, I have to admit. Maybe five years from now, I could be preaching in a squeaky voice and hiding behind a giant pulpit.


Monday, June 9, 2008

Moving forward in teaching

School let out for the summer May 30. That was certainly a day of rejoicing for both teachers and students alike. I had to go in the following Monday to finish doing grades and check out for the year.

It had been a somewhat rough five months of teaching. I had heard that the first year of teaching is the hardest, and that many would-be teachers don't continue after that. Now I know why.

There were days I didn't know if I was going to make it. I remember one morning literally laying out on the floor weeping and crying out to God because I did not want to go into work that day. But what do you do? You get up and go anyway.

The Lord was always faithful, however, and would send other teachers my way on those days when I felt like never coming back. One day in particular stands out. I had been struggling with some things personally and related to being a teacher. Two fellow teachers came into my classroom during my prep period. Both of these men had been pastors in their former lives, as well. We had a great time sharing about personal and professional stuff. At the end of our time, they prayed for me. It was a very encouraging time, and just what I needed to get me through all the difficult things I was facing.

Thanks, Jeff and Jeremy. You guys are a blessing.

Next year, I'll be working at an Early College High School that is opening up in the new school year. The mission of an ECHS is to give motivated, at-risk students a rigorous, quality education such that after four years of high school they will have an Associates degree in college. I am looking forward to teaching students who, along with their parents, have made specific commitments to working hard to achieve high educational goals. My life's passion is still to be involved in full-time ministry, but this will suffice for now.


We've moved in!

We closed on our house Thursday, May 22 and began the moving in process that Saturday. Fortunately, we had the long Memorial Day weekend to get things sorta set up.
Our POD arrived safely with no major casualties. There was one lampshade that didn't survive, but in reality it probably never should have left Rochester.

We got our fridge set up pretty quickly (thanks to Amy's dad), but our washer and dryer and stove weren't delivered for another nine days. The house did come with an electric stove, but we wanted a gas one because electricity is more expensive. We're selling this brand new GE electric stove in case anyone out there is interested.

Dad got the gas stove hooked up—after cutting into our wall and cabinet, attaching gas pipes and valves, and hooking up other doohickeys. And we can wash our clothes now, which our neighbors and friends at church really appreciate.

But we still felt like we were in the bush until we got internet. That was a relief. Man does not live on bread alone; he must also have cable. And it got installed just in time. We were starting to pick up bad habits like reading books and talking to each other. Glad that's over.

So as I said, we're back and we'll try not to keep you in too much suspense. But in case it does take us a while to blog again, try reading a book.

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