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Slice of life: October, November, December

When I started the “slice of life” thing in September, my plan was to make it a periodically recurring motif, something to force me to blog at least once a month about what the normal day-to-day has been serving up. But it’s now clear that even that was too lofty a goal for me, as the 48-day hiatus since my last blog entry will attest.

Sorry, folks. I could probably come up with some B.S. excuse about how I haven’t had time to blog on account of how busy we’ve been, blah, blah, whine, whine, etc. But when you think about it, the craziness of everyday life should be a reason to blog, not an excuse not to, right? So in that vein, I give you not one, not two, but three months’ worth of “slices of life”. Instead of breaking it down month by month, I’m just going to make it one big, gluttonous “slice”, so to speak. Imagine the year 2009 is one large apple pie, and you’re about to inhale an entire quarter of that thing in one sitting. Are you ready for this?

•••

Our house is feeling more like home every day. We ditched the mealtime practice of cramming our six bodies around our tiny kitchen table, in favor of a nice big 10-seater with sleeve extensions from Ikea. It’s long and narrow, so sitting at the head seat makes me feel kind of like a family patriarch about to pray the blessing over Thanksgiving dinner, and Drea and Tom and Renata and Hayden and Jack are all my grandkids. Come children, let’s join hands…

Renata’s dad Charlie has generously agreed to help us convert half our garage into a bedroom for Jolie. The work is still in progress, but we’ve managed to install a door, wall, and most of the floor so far. It’s fun seeing her little room come together, and Drea is especially anxious to start the “nesting” process (which, I’m sorry to report, will include a light pink shade on one or more of the walls. I tried, people.)

•••

We’ve spent quite a bit of time on the road recently, which I of course am quite keen on. Drea and I embarked on a “babymoon” to Florida — a last hurrah of sorts before the little whippersnapper’s grand arrival. We had a fantastic (albeit uncharacteristically ad-libbed) time celebrating the end of life as we know it! You can get the whole scoop here on our family blog.

Over Thanksgiving, my whole family piled into my aunt’s 8-passenger van and headed up to the Poconos for a long weekend of goofing off, playing games and hanging around northeast PA, including Scranton! (Fans of The Office might be interested to know that there is a real Steamtown Mall in Scranton, although it’s incredibly lame except for an out-of-this-world crêpe stand in the food court.) We toured a coal mine (more entertaining than it sounds) and spent some time in the charming town of Jim Thorpe.

Drea and I are excited to take yet another mini-getaway (I’m addicted to these things!) this weekend to New York to see the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular at Radio City. It was supposed to be my surprise Christmas gift to her, but I blew it! She asked me to give her a hint that she wouldn’t be able to figure out, but that would temporarily satiate her curiosity. The hint I gave her was “R.C.M.H.” and she guessed “Radio City Music Hall” immediately. We both kicked ourselves and sulked for a little bit, but we soon got over it. However, after underestimating both Drea’s clue-decoding talent and my own overwhelming stupidity for giving her such an easy clue, we both vowed to keep all future surprises for each other under stealth secrecy, no exceptions. 🙂

•••

Holiday music-wise, I’ve been enjoying Sufjan Stevens’ Songs for Christmas this year. Recorded over the course of five Christmases as five separate EPs and now available as a box set, it’s full of innovative, folksy takes on both well-known and obscure Christmas carols, as well as some colorful original tracks, including “What Child Is This, Anyway?”, “That Was the Worst Christmas Ever!”, “Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? (Well, You Deserved It!)”, and “Get Behind Me, Santa!”.

I also feel compelled to mention that Bob Dylan released a Christmas album this year. I’m a big Dylan fan, but am quite unsure how to feel about this. I haven’t heard the album (besides the samples on Amazon), but something tells me Christmas music might not be his forte. And that something is Washington Post staff writer Chris Richards, who offers this observation in his review: “[Dylan’s version of] ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ sounds like a reason to bolt the doors…As ever, chestnuts are roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost is nipping at your nose — but this time, the man behind the microphone sounds as if he’s trying to dislodge a piece of tinsel from his throat.” My curiosity is piqued, to say the least.

Christmas at the AckerJanes is fun this year — devouring gargantuan waffle breakfasts on the weekends, watching Elf, making fun of Renata’s affinity for the Hanson Christmas album, and pooling both families’ Christmas ornaments together on one tree. As I type, Drea is stuffing our Christmas cards into envelopes as Sara Groves sings “Gloria in excelsis Deo” in the background. It’s a good moment, and “Glory to God in the highest” seems a fitting expression of gratitude — for the friends and family we send cards to, for the little Ackermann kicking away, for peace and good will to men.

Merry Christmas to all!

Filed under: Blogging, Family, Funny, Music, Slice of life, Travel

It’s okay to be jealous.

This is where Drea and I are headed next week!

Untitled

Filed under: Travel

Slice of life: September

Brief reflections on life right now…

Drea and I have gone public with the pregnancy, ushering in a season of “whoa” for me. For some reason, having people know about it and asking questions has made me aware (as if for the first time) that we’re actually having a kid. Hoooooly crap. We can’t wait to find out the gender in a few weeks. If we have a girl, Drea wants to paint her room light pink. I’m more partial towards a “gender-neutral” tone. Maybe a poll can settle our debate once and for all. What do you think?

•••

In other news, we finally moved into our new house with the Janes a few weeks ago. So far it’s been great, but it also means I’ve had to step up my handyman skills a little bit. We bought a power drill from Home Depot, which Tom and I have been using to install blinds. Turns out installing blinds is a fairly meticulous process requiring a degree of measuring accuracy that surpasses — as I learned the hard way — “eyeballing it”.

We’ve enjoyed making our new place our own, as suggested by the photos Drea uploaded to our family blog yesterday. After a year of not having our own kitchen, this is actually one of my favorite things about our house. Gall-darnit, I even like doing the dishes at night. (We’ll see how long this lasts.)

•••

We joined a few of our life group pals on Sunday night to see a Derek Webb/Sandra McCracken show at Jammin’ Java. We learned upon arriving that it was a standing show, but we got in early enough to snag some dining area seats. Sandra McCracken’s opening segment was pitch-perfect. (We actually ran into her and her kids at Starbucks before the show, which was fun.) Derek Webb was outstanding as well, playing through his entire new record — the gutsy marriage of folk-rock and trippy electronica that is Stockholm Syndrome. Particularly enjoyable was when technical difficulties on stage forced him to scale back to just an acoustic guitar, playing old Caedmon’s Call tunes and one unexpected treat — Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are a-Changin”.

•••

So, that’s life right now. In the absence of a decent closing remark, I’ll leave you to marvel at the fast food order-taking skills of a certain King Burger employee…

Filed under: Family, Funny, Marriage, Music, Slice of life, , , ,

End, begin.

This day is one of significant endings and beginnings.

First, the ending: A few of us are meeting tonight for a “last cup of coffee” at Starbucks in Upper Marlboro, which is closing today after ten years in business. It’s probably the most sad I’ll ever be about the closing of a retail establishment. I still remember having my first Starbucks experience at this location after a Young Life meeting back in high school. Since then, it’s become a staple of my life around Upper Marlboro – skipping school during senior year, grabbing a vanilla misto on my way to work, meeting up with friends. Yeah, it wasn’t the best Starbucks ever – certainly not the cleanest or most efficient, but it will be sad to see the place go.

But now, the beginning: Survivor and The Office start up again tonight, which also means that regular family nights are back in swing. Booya!

Filed under: Slice of life, , ,

Trojan horse?

In trying to get a read on the controversy surrounding President Obama’s scheduled speech to public school kids next Tuesday, I’m left more than a little confused. From what I gather, the speech is supposed to be about the importance of education and staying in school — seemingly pretty innocuous stuff, right? But we’re hearing all these reports of people fearing that Obama has an underlying intent to “brainwash” kids with a “socialist message”.

Granted, I generally support Obama and I also don’t have kids, so thinking about this requires an extra degree of objectivity for me. But I think if I had school-aged kids and George W. Bush, for argument’s sake, was still in office and planning to give a speech to my kids about education (and assuming he hadn’t announced plans to also discuss the merits of, say, torture or preemptive war doctrine in his speech), I really think I’d be okay with it. Although I disagreed with many of Bush’s policies, I don’t believe he was, or is, an evil man. Similarly, I assume that most conservatives employ sufficient acumen to disagree with Barack Obama — even passionately — without assigning him the title of “evil”, “antichrist”, “socialist”, etc.

Barring some sort of dark, elaborate conspiracy by the White House to use a speech on education as a trojan horse to convert American kids into Nazis, I think when Tuesday comes, most of us will be wondering why such a big deal was made of this.

Filed under: Current issues, ,

Step aside, “Hotel California”

“Long Road Out of Eden”, the title track from the Eagles’ latest album might be the best song I’ve heard from them. Don Henley’s imagery is potent, makes you ponder the price of our excesses.

Special thanks to my dad, who printed the lyrics and played this song for all of us at family night a few months ago.

Moon shining down through the palms
Shadows moving on the sand
Somebody whispering the twenty-third Psalm
Dusty rifle in his trembling hands

Somebody trying just to stay alive
He got promises to keep
Over the ocean in America
Far away and fast asleep

Silent stars blinking in the blackness of an endless sky
Cold silver satellites, ghostly caravans passing by
Galaxies unfolding, new worlds being born
Pilgrims and prodigals creeping toward the dawn
But it’s a long road out of Eden

Music blasting from an SUV
On a bright and sunny day
Rolling down the interstate
In the good ol’ USA

Having lunch at the petroleum club
Smokin’ fine cigars and swappin’ lives
He said, gimme ‘nother slice o’ that barbecued brisket
Gimme ‘nother piece o’ that pecan pie

Freeways flickering, cell phones chiming a tune
We’re riding to utopia, road map says we’ll be arriving soon
Captains of the old order clinging to the reins
Assuring us these aches inside are only growing pains
But it’s a long road out of Eden

Back home I was so certain, the path was very clear
But now I have to wonder, what are we doing here?
I’m not counting on tomorrow
And I can’t tell wrong from right
But I’d give anything to be there in your arms tonight

Weaving down the American highway
Through the litter and the wreckage and the cultural junk
Bloated with entitlement, loaded on propaganda
And now we’re driving dazed and drunk

Been down the road to Damascus, the road to Mandalay
Met the ghost of Caesar on the Appian Way
He said it’s hard to stop this bingeing once you get a taste
But the road to empire is a bloody stupid waste

Behold the bitten apple, the power of the tools
But all the knowledge in the world is of no use to fools
And it’s a long road out of Eden

Filed under: Music

Baby Ack

baby

babylegs

babyarms

Yep, Drea and I are expecting a kiddo in March! We’re thrilled to be welcoming another Ackermann into the world. Check for regular gestation updates by Drea on our old blog!

Filed under: Family,

“Let’s Disagree Over Things that are Real.”

So we all don’t agree on health-care, or “Obamacare” as it’s become pejoratively known. That’s fine. But it is too much to ask for those who dissent to do so peaceably and legitimately? Over the past several weeks, my RSS has been barraged with reports of some of the more desperate measures being taken by conservative activists to thwart progress on the health-care front — ranging from Sarah Palin’s ludicrous insinuation of an Obama “death panel” denying coverage to seniors and mentally disabled children, to the “regular Americans” protesting violently at town hall meetings who turned out to be a part of a Republican PR campaign. There have been claims that health-care reform will include abortion funding, kill grandmothers, and place us on a highway to socialism. Some have gone so far as to compare Obama to Hitler.

It’s a shame because there’s potential for some really productive dialogue here, but every half-truth and intentional distortion propagated by those like Sarah Palin, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, etc. is a self-inflicted blow to the credibility of the conservative perspective of this discussion (which does in fact have some legitimate points to consider). Their argument that health-care reform needs to be considered more carefully is lent a distinct irony by these decidedly careless statements.

President Obama seemed to clear the air a bit in his town hall meeting in Portsmouth yesterday, in which he seemed specifically intent on fielding questions from skeptics. This is the kind of dialogue we need — legitimate concerns being raised, an acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the concerns, and clear, straightforward answers.

Yes, health-care reform is a weighty proposition with major implications; it should be considered with utmost discretion and thoroughness of consideration. It is for this reason that we should be vigilant in making sure we’re receiving news and commentary from legitimate sources, and keeping any arguments within the realm of reality. As the President said yesterday, “Where we do disagree, let’s disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that’s actually been proposed.”

Filed under: Current issues, ,

Questions for Taylor Swift

  1. How is it that I don’t listen to the radio and yet I know every word of your song “Love Story” thanks to its ubiquity in every public place?
  2. Why is my wife, whose musical tastes I normally hold in great esteem, so fond of this artistically bankrupt song of yours?
  3. Why the Romeo and Juliet motif? Or, more specifically, why leave out the end of the story — you know, where they both commit suicide?

Filed under: Music,

If you made an album, what would it sound like?

Funny how something as insignificant as Billy Joel’s “The Longest Time” coming on my Pandora is enough to spark a blog post, but it reminded me of a conversation Drea and I had yesterday, so here goes.

Also, this takes place as I’m inhaling a double cheeseburger and 25¢ Frosty at Wendy’s in Upper Marlboro…

Her question: If you wrote/produced an album, what would it sound like?

I think it’d be fun to make a really avant-garde, genre-eluding album — a mosaic of bluegrass, hip-hop, jazz, and styles from the global East and South, all thrown together. But I feel like that’s almost a cop-out answer. (“My album? It would sound like everything.”)

For the sake of my imaginary album being tied together with at least a dental floss-sized strand of musical cohesion, I think I’d pick the folk genre. As far as artist comparisons, my ideal “feel” would be a Bob Dylan/Billy Joel/Elton John/James Taylor/Derek Webb/Andrew Osenga smorgasbord. Simple but robust melodies, lyrics that tell stories and invite reflection. (This of course postulates that I could write half as good as song as these guys — a ridiculous assumption.)

What about you? If you made an album, what would it sound like?

Filed under: Music