2.27.2012

1985 in Flux: There’s a DeLorean in My Town

What do your friends keep in their garages that they don’t tell you about?
Tacky nic-nacs? Ugly furniture? Hoards of clutter? Random rodent tenants? Those are the kinds of things that your friends are justified in keeping under wraps.
back-to-the-future-delorean But what about a rare sports car that achieved worldwide fame in 1985 for its role as a time machine in Back to the Future, one of my all-time favorite movies? Do any of your friends have a DeLorean squirreled away in their garages?
Mine do!
And even though they know I am an unashamed, self-proclaimed child of the 80’s, as any regular Farris Wheel reader knows, they never name-dropped to me that they owned a time machine because they didn’t want to sound braggadocious. (I guess it’s not really a time machine, but I forgot to ask them if they had ever floored that baby up to 88 miles per hour or checked to see if there was a flux capacitor somewhere in there. Because you never know!) So they shall remain nameless in my reporting, upon their humble request for anonymity.
On Saturday morning, my friend invited me to drop by her house. I was on my way to take the kids to pick out a new feathered companion from PetSmart (more to come later on that experience), so we made a little detour. It was our first time to visit, and we were happy to be given the full tour of the premises. My friend told my 5-year-old son she had something cool to show him in the garage.
The three of us accompanied my friend and her husband and their son through the doorway, and there before us was some kind of vehicle under a drop cloth. I could tell it was going to be some old car, but I’ve never really been a car person, so I was prepared to be unimpressed. Cars get me from point A to point B, regardless of their coolness…or lack thereof. But what 5-year-old boy is not into cars? So of course, my son’s reaction was the focus of everyone there.
Slowly the drop cloth was removed, and the air got sucked out of the room. At least, it did to me.
Underneath was THIS.
I stood there slack-jawed, looking at this DeLorean with stainless steel exterior and gull wing doors, as if 1985 had just reached out and tapped me on the shoulder to say hi. Totally rad! I think I did a little jumpy-dance. “It’s the Back to the Future car!!!” And that was probably the moment that the attention shifted from my son’s lackluster reaction to my…exuberant one.
I knew DeLoreans were rare, but later I found out how rare. Wikipedia says: “A large number of the original cars are still on the road after over 25 years; most estimates put it at 6,500 cars surviving out of just over 9,000 built.” The DeLorean Motor Company was founded in 1975 but did not begin producing the cars on assembly lines until 1981, then closed in 1982.
bttf car And that is why I have never seen one on the roads before. I have only seen the one driven by Marty McFly in his yellow plutonium suit. Have you ever seen one in real life? (10 points for you, if you have.)
But the most totally radical part of this 80’s overload was that I was invited to sit in the driver’s seat. That’s when I geeked out a little bit and looked at the console area, hoping to see the digital readout screen that would display November 5, 1955. Thankfully, no Libyans were in sight, since I would not have had time to ask my friends if their plutonium supply was well-stocked before blazing a fire-trail outta there. And I would not have had the luxury of a flyer telling me the exact date and time that lightning would strike the town courthouse here, God forbid.
This couple expressed to me what a treasure the car is to them…both of their fathers, now deceased, were very much into DeLoreans. My friend’s husband, who has only driven the car once in his life, told me that this particular car was his dad’s. So it is a great remembrance for both of them to have.
Not only that, but their crazy little 80’s friend, who may have gone home that night to watch her DVR’d version of Back to the Future, appreciates it way more than they thought she would.
And now, back to 2012.














2.20.2012

The Passing of a Parakeet

Over the weekend, our remarkable parakeet died. 
Before owning and caring for a little bird, I was slow to understand how people could get attached to them.  It’s just a bird, I would think to myself, a bit callously, when people would carry on about how great their birds were.  As if birds were somehow lower on the ladder of “real pets” than dogs or cats.
Oh, but I learned that is not the case.  The noisy green and yellow creature that sat in my kitchen for 3 years was just as much a pet as the dogs I had growing up – excited to see us when we got home, happy to do tricks for us, content to be in our company, especially from his favorite vantage point on our shoulders.  He loved our children the most, so comfortable with them that he would nuzzle their faces with his beak, never biting them.  His song, eardrum-splitting in its volume, had been missing in recent months.  But in his prime, there were times at 6:30 a.m. that I had to remove his cage from the kitchen and put him in the laundry room for a time-out.  He had to learn to chirp quietly until the rest of the family woke up.Ollie in pretty cage
We told our children the upsetting news when they woke up Saturday morning.  It is a difficult life-lesson for them.  For anybody.  Pets are not people, that is for sure, but they have a way of carving out little reserved spaces in our hearts.  Every pet-owner knows, in the back of their minds, that one day you have to say goodbye.  That’s just part of the deal.
My daughter tearfully prayed last night, “Dear God, please help Ollie to have a good day wherever he is.  And tell him we said hi.”  Of course, that pretty much broke my heart.  Even adults can get all worked up about what happens to pets when they die.  But I am content to know what Jesus said in Matthew 10:29:
“What is the price of two sparrows--one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.”
Two sparrows for a penny.  You could get them for dirt cheap back then!  A bargain. 
One parakeet for $19.99 at Petco.
There are a million of them in the birdie bin!  Seen one green parakeet, seen ‘em all.  Not much value to them.  Not at all. 
Until one realizes that no event occurs in the natural world that is too insignificant for our sovereign God to notice.  Not even a tiny bird falling to the ground.  The Father sees.  He knows.  And if He sees the little birds who drop from the sky, then surely He sees me in my distress and my need.  As that wonderful song says, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”
On a lighter note, as a little tribute to Ollie, I am re-posting the following piece (inspired by The Bachelor) that I wrote a few years back, the true story of how he came to be with us…had it been published in a tabloid.
____________________________________
After the Final Rose: Penelope Tells All
May 3, 2010
Last August, our family ventured into the waters of pet ownership. Since we were not ready to commit to a hairy animal, a bird seemed to be the most appropriate choice.

Below is the riveting story of Penelope, the dud parakeet who had to be returned to Petco...and Oliver, the far superior replacement bird.
_________________

Sadly, during the most dramatic rose ceremony yet, a rose was, in fact, NOT extended to anti-social Penelope. The Farris family traded her in today for a friendlier and more active contender named Oliver. Despite the snub, Penelope was quite glad to re-enter the communal living of her former home. At press time, she was dishing about her experiences to the rest of the Petco parakeets on "After the Final Rose," while the media were lining up to interview her for upcoming articles like, "Beyond the Birdie Bin: One Bird's Story of What Might Have Been." Reports are surfacing that a book deal is already in the works for Penelope, who will undoubtedly cash in on her rejection.

"She just wasn't working out for us," said one of the Farris children, age 5.

"She couldn't stand me," said Cade Farris. "I think she had issues with men."

Jennifer Farris had achieved limited success in breaking through to the problematic parakeeet, but agreed with the rest of the family. "The bird was simply not a good match," she said. "I never felt a connection."

To his advantage, Oliver, a bright green and strapping young specimen, does not have very big shoes to fill. If he does anything besides sitting dumbly in the corner, he stands a fighting chance to win the hearts of the apparently picky Farris family. In a statement this afternoon, Jennifer confirmed that Oliver will stay, regardless of his personality, which should be evident after the first 72 hours. "There is no plan C," she said.

Oliver Soars as Public Opinion Skyrockets

At a press conference today, Oliver went to great lengths to position himself in the minds of the Farris family as a more capable bird than his predecessor Penelope. Earlier this week, Penelope was returned to Petco, due to faltering public confidence in her abilities to carry out her duties as family pet.
Initially, the Farrises had plenty of reasons to believe that Penelope was “the one.”

“Unfortunately, the charisma she displayed in the Petco birdie bin did little to predict her future abilities as pet. She had the look. The charm. But I’m afraid it was all just a ploy to get chosen,” said Jennifer Farris. “Once we got stuck with her, we realized she was all fluff. It wasn’t long before her hidden agendas surfaced. Luckily, we were able to rectify the situation before the entire institution of family pet-hood was re-made in that bird’s image.”

Oliver, or “Ollie,” as he is affectionately known, was eating out of hands as soon as he reached his new home, and he happily puts on shows for everyone’s applause. Even his chirps and warbles have great potential. It’s what the Farrises want in their bird. They want one who will do what it’s supposed to do...who will serve the purposes originally intended for pet birds, as spelled out in the cornerstone document, “The Parakeet Pet-Owner’s Manual,”…without making any sweeping, or even sinister, attempts to overhaul the entire family pet system at once.

Though he does not bear Penelope’s distinction of being the first parakeet ever to enter the Farris home, Ollie is pledging to carve out his own place in history. By all indications, he is well on his way.

2.13.2012

Whitney Houston and My Hairbrush Microphone

The tragedy of Whitney Houston’s death stunned the world over the weekend.
In her prime, no one could come close to touching her talent. Her voice had a unique strength and confidence. There was something solid about it, unlike some singers who go all over the map with their overdone vocal runs that leave the listener feeling on-edge.
But listening to Whitney required no effort. Her gifted voice just poured out like pure water. No need to feel on edge. There was absolutely no question that she was always in total control.
Sadly, her life in later years was a different story – an unhappy saga of drug use, a tumultuous and failed marriage, and an attempted comeback that never gained traction. She was a shell of what she once was, but still, the world was rooting for her. On Saturday when the news of her death broke, Christian singer Nichole Nordeman tweeted, “Losing Whitney feels like someone just deleted the playlist of my adolescence. So many hairbursh microphone moments with her.”
I feel that way, too.
I was 10 in 1986 when “The Greatest Love of All” stayed at number one for three weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. I have a blurry memory of being at some pre-teen slumber party and karaoke-ing that song with the girls over and over. Someone had carefully transcribed all the lyrics on some raggedy paper torn from a notebook to serve as our cue card. We took turns busting our guts with it. If Whitney could sing like that, so could we. Because we had discovered her secret…
Volume.
There was no real concern over vocal quality. As long as you were singing from way down in your diaphragm as loud as you possibly could, Whitney-style, you were on your own personal path to stardom in your own head.
So after that slumber party, I adopted that song as my life theme, sitting beside my oversized boom box, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for it to air on the radio so that I could hit “record” and capture it, like a little fisherman reeling in my catch. Holding my hairbrush microphone, I belted it out, repeatedly, in front of the mirror in my room, as my parents would readily testify. I tried to find that deep-down vocal passion that Whitney possessed, but as a skinny 10-year-old, I am pretty sure it came out kind of…barky. I did not care. And I really didn’t care about the words, either. Only in later years would I realize that the Greatest Love of all, the love that surpasses all knowledge, really wasn’t inside of me at all. It was outside of me. In spite of me. Love, real love, comes from God. But in 1986, I was very much into singing this lovely song about self-love.
The following year, when Whitney came out with the blonde, big-haired, purple tank top-sporting version of herself in the super bubble-gummy, confetti-laden video for “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” I was ready to hit the stage in my room again. Because if there was ever a hairbrush microphone song to sing in front of a pre-teen’s mirror, that was it. And this time, look out, world. There were some dance moves going on.
In 1991, during the time of the Gulf War, Whitney sang the Star-Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl, and it was quite possibly the greatest rendition of all time. Maybe she was the first to ever go for that octave jump on “o’er the land of the free-EEEE.” She nailed it like a gymnast sticking a landing, soaring up to it, and carrying our patriotic hearts with her. I even bought the cassette single. Since then, I’ve heard other vocalists go for that same octave at major sporting events, but nobody has ever owned that pristine top note like Whitney did.
And nobody has ever owned a key change like her, either. The best moment in her signature song, “I Will Always Love You,” is that brief pause, that suspenseful rest toward the end, just before she kicks it into high gear at the key change. I was a little older then, and I had the sheet music. No more hairbrush microphones or dance moves…the belting-out happened at the piano bench instead. Whitney was still my girl. The one able to capture moments that were simultaneously dramatic and tender.
She was everybody’s girl. Our sweetheart American vocalist. The last song she sang in public was “Jesus Loves Me.” Now she’s in His arms.
I am so sad she’s gone.
whitney-houston

2.08.2012

We’ve Got a Website!

Last week I waded into website creation.  (Oh, wait.  This is a website, isn’t it?  I’m not counting this one.)
It used to be that if your entity, commercial or otherwise, did not have a website, people would overlook it, but these days, it is a requirement.  If you don’t have one, people will cluck their tongues and shake their heads and whisper, “They don’t even have a website!”  Horrors!
Our new church needed one, but so often, the website ranks low on the priority list in these situations.  It is not anyone’s fault.  It’s just that there are so many other pressing matters, so many other needs, that we’ll get to it one day, maybe.  But when you’re the one who realizes that you have the time, you have the (sort-of) know-how, and you have the will do something, then it could be that you should be the one doing it.  I thought there was a chance that it could be me, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t.  Because I was still sort of intimidated.  I did not know that I could build on a foundation that had already been laid by someone who had blazed the cyber-trail ahead of me, and who graciously gave me his blessing to do so.  I also did not know that if you are even semi-computer literate, you can make a website.  It’s not rocket science. 
Especially when you find a good, ready-made theme to use!
I was very happy to stumble upon the Church Themes website, which offered really nice-looking pages and a special widget for displaying sermons.  (Don’t you like that word?  Widget?  It’s just fun to say!  I think Buddy the Elf would agree.  It sounds like a magic tool.  Actually, it kind of is!)  Anyway, the people at Church Themes provided lots of help and support anytime I had a question.  They’re not even paying me to say that.
So we are proud to announce that have recently launched our website, for the first time, at fbcwedowee.com. Have a look around.  Yes, we’ve still got some blank spots, but we will be filling those in soon.  And we are now on Facebook and Twitter too!  Follow us if you’d like to keep up with us.  Better yet, come visit our church sometime.  We would love to see you there. 
One last thing…if you’re a member of FBCW and you’re reading this, we would very much appreciate if you would help us spread the word by posting a link to fbcwedowee.com on your social media pages and inviting your FBCW friends to do the same.  Doesn’t it feel good to finally be in cyberspace?
screencap2

2.02.2012

Letter to a Groundhog

punxsutawney-phil Dear Punxsutawney Phil,

You’re sort of cute. For a groundhog.  Your little paws and twitching whiskers and chubby cheeks have captivated Americans all the way from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to the west coast.  But it’s not your cuteness that matters to us.  Not really.  It’s your seasonal forecasting ability.  No other member of the animal kingdom claims your unique talent. 

You have carried out your duty with dignity over the years, reacting in one of two ways on the day that bears your name.  Seeing your shadow means six more weeks of winter.  No shadow in sight is a sure bet that spring is coming soon.  We place a lot of stock in you, Phil.

But Phil, let’s get real.  Today, you made the statement, in so many words, that we’ve got more winter ahead of us.  And to that, I say…

Really?  REALLY?!?

No, I don’t think so.

Why, you may ask?  Why do I doubt your rodent wisdom, O great one?  Because it’s already spring.  Yes!  It’s already spring in the state of Alabama, where daffodils are prematurely peeking through their winter blanket of leaves, and where the temperature is an unseasonably warm 70 degrees, and where wicked tornadoes have already ripped through several of our beloved communities way ahead of schedule.  If we don’t get a real winter here soon to kill all the bugs, the mosquitoes are going to show up with a vengeance this summer.

Do you think you might be slipping a little bit, Phil?  You might need to ask your upper management team for some career enrichment courses.  You know, the kind that sharpen your skills and keep you marketable.  Otherwise, I fear that your credibility as a seasonal forecaster will be lost forever.  Today was a risky and potentially career-destroying move.

I hope you know what you’re doing.  I hope you prove us all wrong, and we get a sufficient cold snap here soon.  Good luck in your future endeavors, Phil.  And we’ll give you another chance next February.  Just don’t mess up.

Warmly (REALLY warmly),

Jennifer Farris

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