Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Innocence Lost? Not Yet...

Among the most priceless artifacts of this world, the one I treasure most is my son's innocence.

I'm fiercely protective of it.

It's more pure than any spring-fed stream. It hasn't been dragged through chaos, spray-painted by terror, or held hostage by the anger of others. His spirit is full of love, compassion and an over-riding desire to have his friends come over and share his toys.

We've been cleaning out houses and attics and basements over the past few months. I got back my 80's era Fort Apache play set. Its plastic figurines depict some of the history we Americans aren't proud to rehearse. Indian braves attack US Cavalry troops. Some hold scalps. One coon-skin capped defender holds his musket in a sweeping arc to knock down climbing invaders.

It's a violent, hands-on game that arrived long before the Grand Theft Auto coders were even born.

"Let's play Cowboys and Indians!"

It didn't usually end well for the Indians. It wasn't like the cowboys revoked their library cards or drained the camp swimming pool.

Cooper quickly spotted the box in the growing pile of inherited flotsam in our basement. It had horses and buildings... all new toys to him.

We pulled out the whole mess in the living room; the carpet becoming a vast, creamy, grassy plain. Somewhere along the way, I'd picked up some Green Army Guys. We added those to mix and, for an ironic twist, I gave the Native American braves the superior firepower of WWII infantry. I'm sure the blue cavalry boys were shocked to see a flame-thrower toting man-o-the-1940s future at the door of the stockade.

Cooper didn't have a clue what massacre was laid out before him. They were having picnics and sharing cookie recipes for all he knew. And that's the way we left it. I acted out no aggression and he was content to move the plastic monuments of bygone wars around like checkers.

Don't call me naive. I know this innocence will be lost one day. He will learn fear from some older kids chasing him down the alley. He will feel the rawness of revenge and the emptiness of its success. The world will open its box of evil and pour out the contents before his pure, bright eyes.

But with God's help I will stand guard in front of him as long as possible; censoring, shielding, unyielding to the onslaught of what I've come to realize is resident in the core of all of humanity. To keep that light glowing unburdened in his eyes. I would hope to introduce Reality to him gently, to lead him slowly, methodically. But I know it's not in my control... Life will bring it much too quickly.

Until then, the Green Army Guys have Lightning McQueen stickers to share with the Indians. And the Cavalry is just here to race their horses around the dining room, through the kitchen, and into the sunset of Innocence.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

There's a Place for You...

Earlier this year, I was commissioned to build a promo for an overseas ministry. At its core, the clip is a call for workers in the Middle East... more broadly, it's promoting the Associates In Missions (AIM) program; one that Suzi and I have participated in over the years. AIM gives folks of all ages a chance to do ministry work outside of their natural habitat for one to twelve months at a time. This can mean everything from teaching and pulpit ministry to caring for onsite workers' children (no kidding... that's a ministry, too!).

Sometimes folks go on to work full-time overseas. Sometimes, like us, they hang out for a season of their lives and then go back home. You do have to be self-funded, so the finance aspect can be a little daunting for some, but we can certainly testify of God's provision every time we left home.

I hope the piece does what it's built to do... to reach someone who hasn't quite found their spot. Whether foreign or domestic, there's a place waiting for you...

Here are two versions... a long-form and a quickie piece... Enjoy!

ME AIM Short Form from The Carpenter's Studio on Vimeo.

ME AIM Long Form from The Carpenter's Studio on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cooper Goes to Preschool

In what became a major turning point in my parental education, we've chosen a preschool, enrolled our son and have successfully gotten him there, on time, for several weeks. This is big.

I used to hear parents discussing moving into a community or across the city and having that wow-moment as they discussed pros/cons of different schools.  No one wanted X Teacher in X grade or there was some problem with testing at the feeder high school... it went on and my eyes glazed over. I didn't have kids and that process was totally foreign to me. Like changing a diaper.

Then Suz said it was time for Cooper to go to preschool and I said, "Great, where?" And the shopping began... how many times per week/hours per day, absence policies, curriculum, ad nauseum. She narrowed it down, did site visits, we went to an open house and then... it was first day.

The staff at Timber Lake Christian Preschool are just fabulous; from the first day when they met Cooper in the hall and called him by name. He's coming home with all kinds of skills and having great experiences.

So, here's a couple of shots from his first day going to school... he's so proud of his Spiderman backpack and the songs he learns... and the "Q" he can write and... the list goes on. We're pretty proud too...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

United Way

Last year I was invited to join the board of the Randolph county United Way. I'm quite proud of what the UW does for our community and love the insight I receive into our agencies and partners.  In a world full of bad news, these folks are doing truly great work and I'm glad to be part of their support. Our board is full of wonderful people who are a blast to work with; who really believe in the difference we're making.

This year's fundraising goal is $290,000 and our theme is Find Your Inner Hero. I got the opportunity to collaborate on the scripting & shooting of the campaign's promo video with our executive director, Gina Fowler, and Shawn Ames, a local creative consultant. We set up at the College to do some headshots and then Gina & Shawn did some really nice location work with Gina's grandson. I think Shawn really captured the vision we developed in the final edit. Cooper's got a cameo and I think he did just fantastic... cape, mask and all!

Our kick-off party featured our board in red capes, all swooping around the conference facility; superhero theme music greeted arriving guests... it was all super fun. Here's the obligatory newspaper shot to prove it!

So, if you're local to Randolph county, find your inner hero and help us reach our goal to make a difference. If you're somewhere else, find your local UW chapter at www.unitedway.org and get involved.  Watch our video below...

Randolph County United Way 2013 from Corban Artist Studio on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Trading an Old Friend

In 2003, I was driving a 2-door Accord and trying to haul popcorn machines and giant inflatable cell phones in the back seat to area US Cellular stores.

Leather seats.

It wasn't working.

I was driving through Kirksville one day and noticed a yellow 2001 Ford Escape. The popcorn machine fit perfectly in the back and that began a 10 year affair with a truck that has been a wonderful friend to our family. It's literally traveled across the States, hauled any number of supplies, pulled plenty of folks from ditches and snow banks, and been incredibly reliable.

But after 180,000 miles, the maintenance list of need-to-do got long, and it was wearing thin in too many places.  It was time to trade.

I was determined to buy a vehicle locally and went to work with Moberly Motors to find exactly what we needed.  There aren't a lot of all-wheel-drive Escapes with less than 50K with dark interiors floating around, but they found a 2011 in Chicago.  

So, here are a few shots of the Yellow Escape in action and our last time in the driveway, before bringing the new guy home... Greg at Ford took an obligatory new car shot for us (Notice how he got both trucks in the frame).

We love the Grey Escape just the same. I added roof rails, painted the old rack and put it back in place; I (proudly) installed a new trailer hitch and wiring harness. It's not missed a beat and pulled our trailer with ease last weekend.  We're pretty grateful for the years of the old and the promise of the new... here's to more road trips!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Slide is Born

I'd like to say I documented every nut and bolt of this endeavor, but there's a few short of 500 of 'em... so I didn't.

To start, we go back a few years. Cooper was a li'l tike and we headed out to the Rothwell park for some family fun on the playground. He hiked himself to the top of the tallest slide at Candyland and, as I was sitting down to slide with him, tumbled down it alone. He landed, unharmed, at the bottom, head first, wailing like nuts.

He's never gone down it again. Or any twisty slide for that matter. Straight slides? Maybe. Wavy slides? Nope. Slides longer than Mom's arm? Nope. Slides just aren't this man's cup of tea.

Our narrative takes us to the Backyard Project in Question... the Pirate Ship. Since Jake and the Neverland Pirates have a slide on their ship, shouldn't we? And since we don't have enough room for a straight slide... we need a (cue dramatic music): 


A full, 360 degree rotation from a 5' deck height!

Yep, it comes in a box that dwarfs large appliances.

And then you have to put it together. 

And don't be put off by those whose reviews claim to have installed it in only four hours! They're clearly amateurs. 

I spent Saturday afternoon bolting together all the individual pieces.  Then Suz came out and we wrestle each section until they mated into one hot, twisted mess of green polypropylene.  I built a frame on the side of the boat and called it a night. It was more than four hours, but who's counting?  

We're clearly amateurs.

Sunday afternoon, we hoisted the thing aloft and quickly realized that when the instructions said, "You will need two people to help balance the slide" it clearly meant THREE. As in two to balance and one to screw the thing in place. See, once together the slide felt like a wino hippo with hip dysplasia on a week-long bender, slowly tumbling right as you tried to pull it left... moaning about the yard and always landing just short of where you intended.

Thankfully, our dear neighbor, Phil, could be bothered to come help wrangle the incalcitrant structure into place. Once I got some screws in its hide, its will was broken and it stood proudly at attention along the ship's starboard side. 

Throughout this whole ordeal, Cooper's been running amok calling out for duties to be assigned in his name... Daaad, he wanted to help, too!  Once the last bolt was ratcheted tight and every screw was reviewed by a responsible adult, we opened the newest addition for a test run.

And he refused.

Yep, I had to lower him down the curve to Suz waiting at the bottom. Over and over. We threw cars, tape measures and swords down its gaping maw, trying to establish a sense of safety, of normalcy (!), of tacit understanding that this was FUN! To no avail.

I now have a recovering alcoholic hippopotamus strapped to the side of a Pirate Ship in my backyard. My son's response at the end of the day?  

"When are we going to get a sail for my boat? Huh, Dad? We need a sail!"

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Proper Gangplank

I'd never built stairs before, so I created these tiny steps to get to the gangplank.


Cooper had to stop, turn sideways and then slowly climb down.  It was pitiful.  I went out to Lowes, picked up some runners and whacked out a new set.  I also added in some security in the form of rope handrails.  

It helps.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


For the first quarter of 2013, I joined an intrepid group of leaders from Randoplh County for EXCEL 13. This EXperience in Community Enterprise and Leadship Development is a 90-day journey through city, county & state gov't, local businesses and non-profits.  Imagine peeking behind the curtain to see the engines that run your community. All those questions get answered about tax incentives, municipal bonds, education bills... oh, not your questions?

What about the one that goes like this, "What happens if I flush Buzz Lightyear down the toilet?" 

On that note, did you know it takes approximately 20 minutes for your poo to travel downhill to the water treatment plant and that they just might be able to find that diamond ring you washed down the sink?

Did you know if you have the right Legislative Assistant, you can trek to the top of the Capital Rotunda... and go outside?

For three months, I grumbled and groused about having to carve out another two hours, four hours, two days from my already crazed schedule to visit ____________________ . Only to get to the appointment and find myself completely enraptured by whatever topic we were covering that week. It's a true time commitment; one that, having just started a new job, I probably should have thought through a bit more... but I made it and I'm glad I did.

Seriously, in the paragraph above... fill in the blank. What in Randolph county do you want to see? Who do you want to talk to? At the state level? How about unfettered access to a State Supreme Court Judge for the morning? Who also throws in a tour of his private apartment above the Courtroom and pulls out his brand-new, official portrait... that he hadn't even shown his wife!

I don't have time to go into the details of the 36-hour tour that Ralph Boots, the Community Development Director in Trenton, MO, put together for us. Or all the details of the 48 hours of Capital time that Sam Richardson created in Jeff City.

I was just amazed at the unparalleled access to decision-makers at all levels, at the candor that area school superintendents described their challenges, at the way hidden heros of our public sectors describe their jobs with deep-seated passion. Every week was another opened present of coolness, linking us deeper into bowels of our local economy, education or... well, check out the schedule below. It's a lot to take in.

EXCEL is an MU Extension sponsored program that reaches into 40 communities around Missouri. Each program has a local board that prepares the series and plots the course of events. Our group had 14 participants from every section... from a MODOT engineer to bankers and business leaders.  We spent hours together every week, learning about each other, making connections and drawing correlations. I have a much greater respect for the efforts of public servants and why it takes so blasted long to get anything done.


There are plenty of pix from my experience over here.

Serious shout-outs to all the EXCEL Board members and Dr. Johanna Adams for all their immense work.  I'm still chewin' on stuff we got into.

Visit www.randolphcoexcel.org for more details or to join up in 2015!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

And there was Lumber...

Since the delivery that surprised even my contractor-friends ("Man, Scott... that's an awful lot of lumber"), I've been learning the fine art of shipbuilding.

Pirate-ship Building, to be exact.

I started with the base over Memorial Day weekend, but that was quickly rained out.  I had the deck spars in place, but then had to get the hull wrapped or it would be too dangerous to leave alone. That led to the upper decking and railing... which opened up a whole can of worms with the gang plank.  
And that can still hasn't been emptied.

Plus, (oh, there's more!) I had to rip out chain link fence across mine AND my neighbor's alley; and rebuild a new fence in its place. 

And get poison ivy in the process.

I've learned to cut 68 degree angles (those don't exist on a 45 degree chop saw). I've hurled planks across the yard while unleashing very sailor-like tirades on everything from bent saw blades to mis-measured railings. I've learned a lot about splinters and where they can go... and a lot about myself. And where my ego should go.

Anyway... My son has a ship in the backyard. Some day, once I get all my real projects (re: paying) completed, we'll add in the slide, swings... and the rope swing.

Ah... the rope swing. 

"But I neeeed a rope, Dad," he pleads, "so I can knock guys into the water!"

"I need water, too!"

It won't end anytime soon.

And I'm pretty pleased about that.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Building the Port

Capt'n Cooper's boat hasn't come in yet, but we've started making room in the port!

Our concept will be a harbor and wharf that the Pirate Ship is approaching. Eventually there will be gangplanks and slides.

Today, Nathan from NCS Stump Grinding came in to relocate the play house.  I removed the front porch, pulled out the back fence and leveled out a space beneath two trees.

In one night.

I was beat.

Nathan came in and moved the house.

In five minutes.

Pulling that Bobcat in was the best decision I've made so far on this project.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Summer of the YARD

Last year we spent most of our time working on the interior of our house.  It's come a long way and it feels like our own. For 2013, we're going outside.

Late last year, just before snow started blowing, we ripped down the fence on east side of our house. It was falling over so badly that previous residents had chained it to a tree. I enlisted the brawn of our friend John and a bit of help from my li'l guy. Cooper LOVES to get in the middle of whatever we're doing. Especially if it's Dad and power tools, a rake, a shovel, the list goes on.

He'll get his tools (for a while it constituted a stack of hammers) and get right down in the middle of everything. It makes getting stuff done next to impossible. This afternoon we worked in the yard and I nearly took off his foot with a shovel or smacked him with a hammer a few times. It's nerve-wracking, darling, terrifying and endearing all in the same instant. Hopefully, he's learning something... at least not to bonk yourself in the head with a rubber mallet. 

So, back to my original point... We've declared it, "The Summer of the Yard."

First on the list is Cooper's Pirate Ship.

Yes... One of these:

It may not sail the Spanish Coast, but it'll do fine plying the alleys near Lee Street. I'd like to say I'm not encouraging this, but I am... I'm just about as desperate as he is.  And every time he calls out, "Raise the sail, matey!" it only concretes my resolve.

The plans are on order, but first we have to move a playhouse, level the yard... and the list goes on.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, February 8, 2013

A li'l drum solo

We bought Cooper a drum kit.

He's been practicing.

I'm pretty proud.

Of my two-year-old son.

BTW... Cooper hates to be recorded, but he loves to watch himself after the fact.  It's a little hard to get anything on tape.  He wants to watch before he's done anything; hence, the anxious, "OK, I'm done!"

He wants to see the results!

Monday, January 21, 2013

10 Tactics to Prevent Colds & Flu

It's flu season and in Higher Ed, that means keeping bodies in seats through awareness, prevention.  It's your call whether you get vaccinated (I didn't this year), but everyone can wash a little longer and more frequently.  These posters went up around our locations last week... I thought I'd share the love... and a tip sheet for ya'.

Gross Sickness Avoidance Tip Sheet

1.    Wash Your Hands and Avoid Touching your Face –
Most cold and flu viruses are spread by direct contact and the germs can live for hours on keyboards, phones, etc., only to be picked up by the next person. These viruses enter the body through the nose, mouth and eyes. This is a key way that children pick up germs and pass them on to parents, siblings and friends.

2.    Use Clean Towels and Cups – Change or wash your hand towels every three or four days during cold and flu season. When washing, use hot water to kill the germs. Also, keep a supply of clean cups in each restroom.

3.    Keep Surfaces Clean –
Keep a regular cleaning schedule and thoroughly sanitize those areas that a lot of people are in contact with.

4.    Drink Plenty of Fluids –
Water flushes the toxins from your body and prevents dehydration. The typical adult needs eight 8-ounce glasses of fluids a day.

5.    Go Outside – Regular exposure to fresh air is important, especially in cold weather when indoor heating can dry you out and make your body more susceptible to colds and flu viruses. Open your windows a crack every now and then to circulate the air.

6.    Stay Physically Fit – Aerobic exercise helps increase the body's natural defense cells so join the local gym with a friend, or jump on a treadmill and walk while you watch your favorite show. A fit body is better equipped to fight off germs.

7.    Eat Plenty of Fruits and Veggies – Colorful fruits and vegetables are natural disease-fighting foods that contain high amounts of phytonutrients. Consume at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and choose from those that are fresh, canned, dried, frozen, or in juice form.

8.    Don't Smoke – Smoking zaps your immune system and dries your nasal passages. Studies have also shown that smoke paralyzes cilia, the delicate hairs that line the mucous membranes in your nose and lungs. Cilia play a key role in sweeping viruses out of your body.

9.    Rest and Relax – Studies have shown that stressed individuals have up to twice as many colds as non-stressed people. Meditating and relaxing daily can strengthen your immune system by increasing interleukins (important for immune system response) in your bloodstream.

10.    Keep Tissues in All Rooms – Starting in October, make sure you have a box of tissues in every main room of your home, your car, and at your workplace. You need tissues widely available so that anyone who has to sneeze, cough or blow their nose can easily grab one and reduce the spread of germs.

Winterize Your Medicine Cabinet
A survey on medicine cabinets found that cold and flu medicines are the number one item missing when they are needed. When cold and flu medicines are found in the medicine cabinet, they are likely to be expired. Since it's important to have the proper medicine on hand when you need it, take some time this month to give your medicine cabinet a much-needed clean out and make it ready for cold and flu season. What every medicine cabinet should have:
  • A thermometer
  • A first aid tip sheet for quick medical reference
  • A cough suppressant
  • A cough expectorant
  • A supply of lozenges and throat spray
  • A daytime, non-drowsy cold remedy
  • A multi-symptom, nighttime cold remedy
  • Pain reliever (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin)
  • Allergy and sinus relief (antihistamine, decongestant)
  • Digestive health (anti-diarrheal, anti-gas, antacid)
  • Any updated prescription medications
Source: Cheryl Bell, MS RD CDE