Last Day of 2009

It’s the end of 2009 already? Sheesh. I’m old.

I love the holidays for the chance to do a lot of nothing. This year’s nothing seemed like it came and went faster than normal. And I don’t feel like I did enough nothing.

Christmas always feels like a month-long blur, and this year was no different. Our Thanksgiving in Kansas plans changed at the last minute and we spent Thanksgiving in Green Bay and then Christmas in Kansas. And our Christmas in Kansas plans were moved up at the last minute and we ended up taking the dogs with us, which is always one extra thing to worry about. But it’s probably good we left a day earlier and avoided becoming one of the many cars I saw in the ditch (and especially glad I didn’t become one of the three rollovers I saw in the ditch). And our lack of New Year’s plans turned into a last minute pizza party in the backage claim with our good friends during their three hour layover.

I’m sensing a last minute theme to the 2009 holiday-palooza. I guess that’s how we roll.

Milo Goes Mobile

Milo has very quickly become mobile. Nothing in the house is safe. Not even the Christmas tree, which has very nearly come down.

Lately he’s been counter cruising and extending his reach even higher as he comes closer and closer to walking. The other day we redirected those energies toward something less destructive with some walkers and riding toys.

So today Milo was pushing Lexi on the riding trike. Pushing her right into the kitchen table. And yes, the camera was rolling:

The Yo-yo Anniversary

Monkey Outta Nowhere Yo-Yo'sThis year my company, Monkey Outta Nowhere, celebrated five years in business. It’s humbling and amazing to realize I’ve been able to work at home, doing what I love for more than five years now. To celebrate, I sent my clients Monkey Outta Nowhere yo-yo’s.

For those who don’t know, I have a long history with yo-yo’s, going back to a high school yo-yo ministry. I also spent a summer as a yo-yoing street performer, which paid the bills (sort of) while I worked the unpaid internship that really started my career (a story explained on the little cards I included with the yo-yo’s). We even gave away yo-yo’s at our wedding. Needless to say, I’ve wanted to get Monkey Outta Nowhere yo-yo’s since I started the company. It’s a testament to my frugality that I waited this long.

Check out my video thank you:

Most of my clients began receiving their yo-yo’s this week and the best part has been seeing the photos and videos come in:

  • The crew at iThemes responded immediately with a picture and a video.
  • The Foursquare Communications team took a yo-yo break.
  • Holy Cow Creative added it to his collection of desk toys (surprisingly few cows in that photo).
  • The yo-yo looks at home next to Pam Parish’s barrel of monkeys.
  • Jonathan gives us the package shot that I even I forgot to take.
  • I hand-delivered a yo-yo to Cleve Persinger and he gave it some Twitter love.

Seeing a few folks get up and yo-yo inspired me, so now you can watch me in action. I’m a little rusty, but it’s not too shabby:

I do have a few leftover yo-yo’s, so if you didn’t get one and you want one, post a comment and I’ll see what I can do.

An Awesome Book

An Awesome Book by Dallas ClaytonBarney Stinson would be proud. An Awesome Book by Dallas Clayton is, well, awesome. It’s beautifully illustrated, clever and fun. If you don’t believe me, go read it for yourself. Seriously. You can read the entire book, cover to cover, online. From rocket-powered unicorns to musical baboons.

It’s a book about dreaming. About big ideas. It has pictures and is short, so we call it a children’s book, but it’s really for anybody. I think it might be better suited for adults.

Not only that, but for every copy of the book they sell, they give one away. That’s a pretty sweet set up. The video below gives the full story.

What is perhaps most awesome about this book is that it’s not just a good book, but it has an incredible story. The author has traveled the country giving away copies. He’s set up a nonprofit foundation to enable this vision of giving away one copy for every copy sold. It’s also an example of a successful self-publishing venture. I love that you can read the entire book online—another example of how we win by giving it away.

All around awesome. Just watch:

11 Years Ago Today

Eleven years ago today on Dec. 5, 1998 I started blogging. Last year I celebrated the one-decade milestone by releasing the first book I ever wrote: Mike, The Cat. Seems worth pointing to again. Check it out.

It’s always fun reminiscing about the years I’ve put into this blog. It’s kind of crazy to think about how long it’s been going. It’s changed quite a bit throughout the years, from incoherent to self-involved to whatever it is now. Though from the very beginning I started doing this for me. So if you don’t like it, too bad.

That’s probably the best part about blogging. If you have the right motivation, it can last 11 years. And counting.

And clearly this isn’t going to be one of those top 5 posts, so go ahead and check out Mike, The Cat. It at least has pictures.

Free Christmas Music

Last year I explored my top 5 Christmas songs. Those recommendations still stand this year, though I keep coming across a number of free Christmas songs and they’re worth sharing.

  • Christmas for Kenya – University Baptist Church (David Crowder’s church) has put together their second Christmas album raising money for a water well in Kenya. You can download the album for free and then donate whatever you like (but please donate something).
  • Holiday Sampler – Vanguard Records has a free holiday sampler. All it will cost you is your e-mail address. It’s more country/folk oriented then I’d prefer, but I did like the tracks by Joshua Radin, Dar Williams and the Watson Twins.
  • Christmas Songs Vol. 2 – Folk rocker Justin McRoberts has made his EP of Christmas songs available through Noise Trade, which means you can have it if you spam five of your friends. I’m not a big fan of that method, but the price is right.
  • 25 Days of Free – Like they did last year, Amazon is offering 25 days of free Christmas song downloads. It’s not all quality stuff, but you might find a few gems.

Christians Demand Retailer Lip Service

Happy Eid al-Adha from Best BuyJust what you always needed—a web site to show you which retailers will wish you a hearty “Merry Christmas” while taking your money and which ones are heathen bastards and say something sinful like “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays”. It’s the lastest effort from Focus on the Family: Stand for Christmas. The site guages how “Christmas-friendly” retailers are with a user-generated rating and comment system.

For example, you know those heathens at Best Buy are hell-bound with their 9% friendly rating and devilish 77% offensive rating. That’s what they get for wishing Muslims a happy Eid al-Adha. And you can take comfort in WalMart’s 63% friendly rating and low 13% offensive rating (nevermind the continual questions about WalMart’s human rights abuses—another issue for another day).

I’m not even sure where to start. I think what disappoints me the most is that this is perhaps the least Christ-like way to celebrate Christmas. I don’t think brow-beating and threatening retailers with my dollars unless they pay lip service to my religion is a very Christ-like approach. It seems like Jesus would have intentionally shopped with the heathens.

Assuming Jesus would have shopped. The consumer-centric approach is even more baffling. One of their news reports even notes that promoting Christmas by name is good for business (PDF). Seems like we need an Advent Conspiracy. Instead of letting retailers feel our righteous wrath by spending our dollars elsewhere, maybe we should stop the spending entirely. Maybe we should focus on spreading the message that Christmas isn’t about shopping. Maybe we should find more productive ways to focus our energy at Christmas. After all, 76% of adults who rather receive a Christmas gift that helps someone else instead of another sweater or DVD player. Our culture doesn’t care so much about the lip service of saying “Merry Christmas”—instead they’re yearning for some actual meaning in Christmas.

God forbid a business seeks to acknowledge the many faiths and beliefs represented among its customers, whether we’re talking a specific “Happy Christmas/Hanukkah/Eid/what-have-you,” or a generic “Happy Holidays.” Is that really worth getting worked up about? Should I really be holding it against my Muslim/Jewish/atheist friends for not saying “Merry Christmas”? That seems kind of petty. Especially when they pitch it as being “more inclusive and respectful” (read the comments on Best Buy and tell me that’s an inclusive and respectful tone).

I’m not alone. One columnist said this kind of effort gives Christmas a bad name, and as if to prove it Wonkette weighs in with easy swipes at “wingnut” Christians. Then again, there’s also the folks putting words in Jesus’ mouth—and then putting them on a billboard. Ug. It doesn’t end.

Being obsessed with retailer lip service is not what Christmas is about. There are better ways to put the ‘Christ’ back in ‘Christmas,’ and they don’t start with shopping.

Update: Pocket Guider Jason Boyett writes a similar piece that says much the same thing in more detail and better. Plus he’s got 35 comments and counting.

Mark Horvath on's Mark Horvath on CNN.comMy day started by seeing the face of my friend Mark Horvath on the front page of Mark Horvath is a tireless advocate for the homeless and founder of Earlier this year Mark did a national road trip and spent a day in the Twin Cities, giving us a chance to hang out. CNN did an in-depth feature on his work, including a video and a lengthy article.

It’s a pretty great feature and hopefully a boost to Mark’s efforts to help the homeless. As the article notes, “He isn’t making money from this, but he’s doing this to make a difference,” says Heather Meeker. “You can’t say that about many people.”

Mark has been living on the ragged edge just shy of homelessness himself (again) for more than a year now. He barely pays his bills. He doesn’t have health insurance. His ghetto apartment sounds kind of scary. And yet he treated my wife and I to dinner when he was in town. That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s an inspiration.

And he’s not just a jolly do-gooder. He’s fiercely passionate about his cause and will get worked up at injustice, the way we all should. I think he actually allows the things he sees to wreck him, to bowl over his walls and break his heart. Most of us (myself included) can only take so much and we turn away. I’ll admit I’ve only watched a fraction of the videos on They’re just too brutal. But any time I need that shot of reality, I know where to find it. Mark is a constant challenge to my own life of comfort and ease.

It’s cool to see him featured on CNN (getting higher billing than Obama’s announcement that 30,000 troops are going to Afghanistan) and I hope it translates to more support. Right now he runs the site on donations and pays rent with a temp job at a homeless shelter. I’ve actually been shocked that some homeless organization hasn’t just started paying him to run and keep it going. It’d be an incredible investment and a no-brainer marketing move, even if the organization was an invisible partner—I think Mark does that much good for telling the real story of homelessness.