Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Free Music is Best

An excellent, well-written piece by Derek Webb as to why free music is better for all parties involved than iTunes, Spotify, or any other money or ad-driven service.

Giving it Away: How Free Music Makes More Than Sense

And if you don't yet frequent Noisetrade, you need to. Lots of free music, all the time. Read the bios, the "for fans of", search by genre, or stick with the top downloads and find something new to enjoy. And right now, there's plenty of Christmas music floating around. Can't go wrong with free new Christmas music, right?

Monday, November 28, 2011


A couple months ago I was talking with a good friend, a Frenchman who was about to make a move to the United States. He was excited but nervous about his upcoming life change. Not a sports guy himself, he asked me this question:

“Is it necessary to learn sports in order to integrate into American society as a man?”

I pondered. I think I responded something to the effect of “it’s not 100% necessary, but if would make integration and understanding of society go a lot faster if you did.”

Since then, I’ve though a lot about that question. I’ve thought about it from both sides of my experience. What does it take to integrate into American society? What does it take to integrate into French society? And more generally, what’s important/necessary for integration into any society? I’d love to know your thoughts.

Last night I had an experience that showed me how far I’ve come and how far I have to go, as it relates to integrating.

An American friend and I went to see a movie. Usually we’d take public transportation, but knowing I had a few other stops to make I offered to drive. Two turns away from my apartment I regretted that decision. We hit stopped traffic and I immediately remembered that Marseille’s soccer team had a game that night. And not just any game; Marseille vs Paris. The two biggest cities in France. The two biggest egos in France. Probably the two most popular teams in France. Think Red Sox - Yankees, UNC - Duke, Ohio State - Michigan (as it relates to French soccer). And I live a few blocks from the stadium.

Once reminded of the game, I knew the traffic pattern and was eventually able to break free and get to our movie theater. During the movie I received a text from a friend at a restaurant by the port. It seemed a cruise ship had docked and the port was overrun by Americans and other foreigners generally making a fool of themselves. My friends there were people watching. Clearly I was far more integrated than those tourists.

After the movie I went to visit a friend (who’s not a huge soccer fan... prefers American football actually). We tracked the soccer match online, and about an hour after it ended I thought the roads would be clear enough to get home. I drove home and was successful in avoiding jams. Again, I knew the traffic patterns, I knew the timing of the game, I knew what to expect. Driving home I rolled down my window to watch and listen to the jubilant displays of fandom around me. Marseille had won. Horns were honking, fans with flags and scarves and team jackets and jerseys were dancing down the sidewalks. I understood it all.

Yet, I didn’t feel it. I was happy for Marseille. It’s my city, my local soccer team now too. But I didn’t feel the pride, the joy, the need to dance in the streets like most of my neighbors did. I understood it all, which was far more than the oblivious tourists in pubs and bars, who may have wondered why the city had no French people before midnight. But I didn’t feel it like they did.

I’m learning there’s a difference between understanding and fully integrating. I understand my new city, my new society. I really like it here now. I do feel like home. But I’m not truly local. Not yet. May never be. But I want to.

What do you think? What does it take to integrate? A new city, a new country, a new society... Have you ever moved?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Family of 4 photos

Family photos, taken at 2yr9mo, 7 months, and, uh... late 20's. These are a select few out of many taken while Stateside.

Thanks Tracy for capturing some excellent photos!

Monday, November 21, 2011

What’s new chez nous?

Been away awhile, been busy awhile, I think I’ll update with randomness on what’s been going on and what’s coming in our lives.

October was a wonderfully fun and busy month in which we celebrated my sister's marriage, trick-or-treated, and watched our kids grow out of a clothing size. We did all of these things from US soil, observing and eating our way through an exhausting but blessed vacation. Another US observation, where are all the motorcycles? There are tons in France. Like maybe a 1-to-1 ratio with cars in urban settings. US roads are quite different.

While in the States, Sawyer started somersaulting one night, out of nowhere. Not sure how nor why he decided to flip, but it has provided much entertainment for all of us.

Leaving the US was really tough, goodbyes have become a normal part of our lives, but they never get easier. We learn to enjoy every minute we have with family on one side of the world, friends on another, and realize that everything can be taken away in an instant. Coming back to France was better than expected. It did feel like coming home, and getting back into the swing of our jobs and friendships has been natural and encouraging.

The day we arrived back, I stopped into a nearby grocery store for some bread and formula. As I rounded the aisle heading toward checkout, a corner of shiny maroon cans caught my eye. Is that Dr Pepper? It couldn’t be. But it is! Two blocks from my house. And the cheapest price I’ve seen yet in France (about $1.20). My first thought was that it was a one-time shipment, and I should buy all 30 cans on the shelf. But I restrained, bought a few, and returned a few days later. Since then, I’ve been going in every 2-4 days to buy a handful of cans of Dr Pepper. I think I may be the store’s only customer buying it, but my plan is that they'll think there’s a steady demand and thus it’s worth restocking. By my count, my plan is still working :).

November in Marseille has been really nice. Cool and rainy at first, it’s now brisk yet warm during the day, cool and dark at night. The city is beginning to gear up for Christmas, and it’s exciting! Lights are being hung from poles, storefronts are full of Christmas trees and toys, and chocolate advent calendars are everywhere. Speaking of Christmas, here comes Santa Claus:

As if the Dr Pepper story above wasn’t enough of a ‘welcome home’ gift, a week ago my buddy Ryan and I stumbled across Mountain Dew! This is big. Dr Pepper pops up occasionally, but not Mt Dew. This is the first time myself or anyone I’ve spoken to has seen Mountain Dew in France outside of Paris. And not just Mountain Dew. This little random coffee and pastry shop had Mountain Dew, Code Red, and Throwback Mountain Dew. I had one, but at $4.13 a can I won’t be a regular customer. Some other American imports I’ve stumbled across recently:
-A single bag of Nestle Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips sat on a shelf for $7.99.
-A bottle of Nestle Chocolate syrup runs $9.46.
-A liter (maybe it was 2?) of real Canadian Maple Syrup can be purchased for $29.17.
-3 Reese’s cups for $4.06.
-A small bag of M&M’s that’s not peanut (I saw coconut and pretzel): $3.72.
I passed on all of those items. But 3 months ago I didn’t know they existed in Marseille, so seeing them is a nice little reminder of home.

Elsie’s not big on American foods. She just likes Franco-American Toes.

This week is Thanksgiving! Thanks to the wonderful generosity and help from some friends and donors back in the States, we’ll be doing it right. Our association teaches English, but our French friends love it when we share our culture as well. Our desire is never to change the culture we’re in, but only to enjoy and appreciate one another. So this week we’ll be throwing two parties with about 20 people at each. Turkey, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, pies... a lot of it from home. Can’t wait!

Did you know that Icy Hot and Wint-o-green lifesavers smell almost identical? Why do I know this? They say memory is tied to smell, right? Well in college, my sophomore/junior roommate and pal Eric always had a stocked bowl of Wint-O-Green Lifesavers by the door. I would steal them often, and ate a few nearly everyday. That’s also when Joe Joe and I started dating. So a smell she associates with our earliest days together is that of Wint-O-Green lifesavers. Well this week, some back pain sent me to the medicine cabinet, and immediately my wife’s memory went back to college. “You smell like those Lifesavers you used to eat in college!” she exclaimed, enjoying the memory and thinking I’d smuggled some American candy back. Probably disappointed to find out that I’m simply getting old. But I’m glad that my aches and pains can bring back youthful memories!

Sawyer loves his new tool set. Whenever something of his breaks (i.e. the batteries run out) he breaks out his tools and goes to work.

Our sensational friend Tracy B took some lovely family photos of us (like the one up top) recently. I'll try and post a few favorites in a day or two.

Our little ones love each other, and we love that about them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Get in the Game

Remember playing youth soccer? Did you ever sit down and start picking dandelions in the field while the rest of the team chased the ball? I’m pretty sure I did during tee-ball playing outfield. I mean, no kid ever hit the ball over the infield, and my early childhood was before the days of sunflower seeds as a dugout staple, so I had to do something to pass the time!

I think God likes sports, and competition. At least a little. We are made in His image, right? And everywhere I’ve been in the world, people love sport. It’s somewhere inside us: to run and compete. Not only the innateness of sports in our being leads me to this little theory, but God’s Word is replete with sporty examples too. Paul talks about running the race, working out, and winning a prize. Joshua meets the Captain of the Host of the Lord and his first question is “whose side are you on?” (God’s on no team’s side, by the way). And Jesus, he loooooves to talk about victory. We love to sing about it. “Oh victory, in Jesus, my savior forever!” That’s best sung while swinging arms in a jovial march-like-fashion, in case you didn’t know... digression.

Jesus perhaps sums up victory best in this simple statement: “Be brave! I have defeated the world!” (John 16:33)

Let’s put it into a sports metaphor. And then insert ourselves. I’m in Europe, so I’ll use soccer. You can use whatever sport you like to play. If you don’t like sports, stop reading and check back next week.

Imagine you’re in a massive, galactic game of soccer. And you’re on the Jesus team. During the game, you huddle up and Jesus says this: “ok guys, here’s the deal: we win. I have it covered. When the final whistle blows, I guarantee a victory. I’ve already won it. Now let’s go!”

Coming out of the timeout, you’re struck with a perplexing choice: what do you do? The victory is guaranteed. Jesus said he already took care of it. So you could sit in the corner of the field picking dandelions and counting grass blades. At some point you’d get a crazy show of Jesus whipping around the field scoring goals. But what fun would that be, sitting? And Jesus didn’t say “go wait over there while I kick butt.” He said, “let’s go!” Wouldn’t it be a lot more fun to go out and play your part, catching a mid-field pass and booting it down the field? Slide tackling the bad guys for a shocking takeaway? You’re guaranteed the victory, so what is there to lose? Yeah, you may get hurt. Sure, the other team may score on you. But who’s on your team and there to encourage when that stuff happens? Jesus is.

I’ve begun to stretch my metaphor. I need to get back to the point.

Go. Play in the game. It doesn’t matter whether we kick the goals in or Jesus does, the results will be the same (hear that Calvinists? Armenians? silly squabbles over nothing... I’m stretching again, sorry). So go be a part of the victory. It’s more than worth it.

“Be brave! I have defeated the world!” -Jesus

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Mercy with the Morning

"With every new morning nature offers a tribute of praise to God's mercy. The sun rises; the birds sing; the trees sway in the breeze. Shall we alone be silent and ungrateful? Shall the Christian, who has the most reasons to praise God for His mercy, be slow to acknowledge that God's mercy is renewed to him each day? Will we allow the natural creation of God alone to praise its Creator?

No matter how dark our day may appear to be, let us remember this with Jeremiah, "It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning, great is Thy faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23)."
-Woodrow Kroll

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween 2011

Here's the obligatory Trick-or-Treat post!

Somehow, in less than 3 years of life, Sawyer has experienced 2 Halloweens in the States. Not a bad deal for a little guy. Except that he doesn't really like candy yet.

Sawyer and Elsie went as big little bugs this year, a bumblebee and caterpillar.

Our warm and cozy caterpillar:

Hitting the neighborhood:

Sawyer loves his glow-in-the-dark skeleton jammies!