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Steven S. Billings

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006


The sign on her door read something like this:

She was only 10 ("going on 11") at the time, and the space she was so vehemently guarding was her bedroom, a diminutive domain of perpetual disarray, but it was, apparently, the only thing in this world over which she felt she had any control.

I counseled her father to speak to her along these lines:

"I know you're getting to the age where you want to have more control over your life, and, since you can't control much, you want to have absolute control of your space.  Believe me, I understand.  And your mother and I are willing to grant you as much control as we feel is appropriate.  So, for the most part, we won't intrude.  It's important to learn how to manage your property, and this is a good place to start.

"However, you need to know that there will be times when, for your own benefit, and for the good of the family, we will inspect your room.  Your mother, who does your laundry, will enter your room to put your clothes away.  Please understand that she will take a casual assessment of your room as she does this.  You will be expected to clean your room at least once a week.  Either your mother or I will check to see that this is being done.  And if you, by your behavior, give us any cause to be concerned, we will make a closer inspection, with you, so that you know we aren't just 'snooping' through your things.  We love you and we take our responsibility of caring for you very seriously.

"And you know what?  You need to realize that you'll never have total control over your life.  Nobody does.  At your age, you're accountable to your parents and teachers.  When you get older, you'll be accountable to the boss at your job.  And someday you may be a parent, and you'll have responsibility for your children.

"But beyond that, we are all accountable to God for everything we do.  There's nothing that you can keep secret from Him.  There's no place you can go to hide from Him.  He can see all the way into your heart, and He knows everything you think, do and say.  The bad part of that is, there are things we wish He didn't see, hear or know about us, because we're ashamed of them.  But the good news is that even though He knows all that, He still loves us.  Just like when we find out you've done something bad.  We punish you, because you need to learn not to do things that are harmul to yourself or others.  But we still love you.  We love you very much.  That's why we make rules.  Because rules help to keep you from doing things that are hurtful.  Your mom and I have to follow rules, too.  We don't always like it either, but we know that in the end, rules help keep us out of trouble too.

"The best thing is, even though we don't always do things the way we're supposed to, God is always willing to forgive us.  It's why He sent Jesus to die for us.  Let's pray and thank God for loving us and forgiving us, and ask Him to help us live more like we should.  Because, you know, when somebody loves you like that, it's hard to not love them back.  And when you realize that they want what's best for you, it's a lot easier to follow the rules.  Especially with God!  I mean, who knows what's best for us better than Him?"

From what I'm told, there were tears and hugs and -- eventually -- smiles.  Mom and Dad never asked for the sign to come down.

They didn't need to.

11:11 am edt

Monday, September 11, 2006


The week started out, of course, with the Labor Day holiday, which I spent at Greenfield Village with a new friend.  We met in front of the Wright Brothers' Bicycle Shop and had lunch at the Eagle Tavern.  Then we just walked and talked and spent the afternoon getting to know one another.  Tea at 2:00 in the tea garden amidst a swarm of overly-friendly bees.  Beautiful strolling weather.  Good conversation.  Before we knew it, it was time for the park to close.  A very pleasant afternoon.

Tuesday was busy with health-related stuff -- HoH with V in the morning, T@2 in the afternoon with Luke.  Interspersed was my usual Monday church stuff -- work on sermon, propers, etc.  Council meeting in the evening (oh joy).

Wednesday we re-started our Family Night.  Not well attended, sad to say.  Only a handful come out for this, and even fewer of them are adamant about having it.  Seems a bit of a waste.  I wish more would attend; I find it really enjoyable.

Thursday was "shot" day.  Yay.  I've missed a few weeks, so I really needed it.  Worked at home the rest of the day.  Got a lot done.  Whoopee!

Friday was back down to Fort Wayne for work in the studio.  We worked some more on "Where Is the Love?"; I re-sang some of the leads, as I just wasn't happy with them the way they were.  I stepped a bit out of my comfort zone to arrive at something that I like a lot more.  It's not my normal way of singing, but I think it sounds pretty cool.  Then we went on to record "Massimo."  We haven't worked on "Massimo" at all to this point, so it was starting from scratch on this one.  We listened to the demo and talked about sounds and how we wanted to approach the overall feel of the accompaniment.  I wanted it to sound a bit like a music box, but not necessarily that mechanical.  We even considered just dumping the MIDI file from my demo over to the studio's hard drive, but I didn't want that, because the demo's track is very stiff and artificial.  So Chet played a number of sounds on the Kurzweil, and we picked a few that we liked, and then Chet played a very tasteful accompaniment that he then arranged in an interesting way, so that the various instruments flow in and out, creating a pleasing blend that doesn't remain too static.  Then he put on a synth pad in a few places, along with real grand piano.  This made a nice bed for me to sing to.  Chris helped a bit with the highest voices in the "choir," and we pretty much finished all the primary recording by the end of the day.  Still to come will be our orchestra, which we'll do later, as I want to put that on "The Spirit In You" and "Already Gone" as well.

Saturday, John, Keisha and Noelle came over and listened to the work I've done on Keisha's song.  They like what we have so far.  So I gave them a copy of the MIDI file to practice with.  Now I'll finish fleshing out the drums and strings and get it upstairs onto the desktop computer to transfer to audio files.  Once that's completed, we'll bring the Pierce's back and start singing.  Whee!

Sunday was interesting.  Personally, I was feeling quite awful.  My neck was bothering me, my gout was acting up, so I was really praying that God would help me through the morning.  I knew He would, of course, and He did.  Isn't He awesome!  Church, however, was fairly poorly attended -- only about 40 people -- so we decided to cancel our scheduled voters meeting.  Several key people were absent, including one of our financial officers, whose father passed away during the night on Saturday.  It was a good decision, although RF was a bit miffed about it.  Oh well.  He needs to get a grip.  Only 4 or so turned up for Bible class, so we called it an early morning and went to lunch.  We had our scheduled elders meeting and finished that a little early, so John could go down to Cobo for the negotiations meeting (he's a DPS teacher, and they are currently on strike).  Then I went to a birthday party at the home of one of my elders.  It was a lot of fun.  We had a cookout and cake and watched Mythbusters and then the recent remake of "Poseidon."  A very good day all-in-all.

Today I'm doing my usual Monday stuff.  Feeling much better except for my tummy, which I'm convinced is queasy due to the gout meds.  Oh well.  Gotta pick which is worse.  The tummy ache will pass.  At least I can walk.

12:24 pm edt

Sunday, September 3, 2006


Comerica Park

There was some Major League baseball going down in Detroit on Friday night!

For starters, Kenny Rogers pitched seven shut-out innings, throwing just over a hundred pitches.  Joel Zumaya came in as the middle-reliever, flinging his 100 mph fast balls, followed by Jason Grilli, who closed out the 9-0 victory for the Tigers.

The Bengals' bats were really flying, punching out several homers, and peppering the field with singles and doubles.  Some amazing big-league defense was also on tap, as Curtis Granderson made a spectacular diving catch late in the game.  I've been to a lot of baseball games, and I can't recall ever seeing such a fete.  The entire evening was evidence as to why our boys have the best record in baseball this year -- and why it's been like pulling teeth to get tickets to the games!

What a thrill to be living in a town with a winning big-league baseball team!  This is something I've never had the privilege of enjoying before.

2:57 am edt

Saturday, September 2, 2006


Three Dog Night

Ok, so it wasn't that cold -- let the reader understand -- but it was waayy cool!  These guys were my favorites during my early teens.  I've seen them a few times through the years, but it's been about 20 years since the last time.  I got to see them again Wednesday night at the Michigan State Fair.  I couldn't get anyone to go with with me, so I almost didn't go, but I'm glad I did.  I was a great time!  I sat and sang along with all the songs (trying to to be too annoying to those sitting near me - ha ha).  It was a lot of fun.

As the original band members are all at, around, or above the age of sixty, it wasn't surprising that Cory Wells' voice was showing a bit of what could be "road wear."  (Though it could also have been allergies, fatigue, etc., but I don't think so.)  In the lower register it was still rich and full, but in the upper register it was throaty and strained -- certainly not the voice I remember even 20 years ago.  Danny Hutton, however, sang as good or better than he did "back in the day."  Michael Allsup, guitarist, was playing better than I've ever heard him.  And Jimmy Greenspoon provided his soulful organ backdrop, an essental element to the Three Dog Night "sound."

Pleasantly surprising were tunes that one wouldn't expect on a concert of hits, particularly "Tulsa Turnaround" and "You Can Leave Your Hat On."  These were songs I enjoyed listening to on their respective albums (Seven Separate Fools and Coming Down Your Way), but never made it onto the American pop charts.

Disappointing -- but not unexpected -- was the overall sound of the group without the powerful voice of Chuck Negron.  Chuck is still the best of the three singers, yet remains on the "outs" with the prevailing band members for various reasons.  Paul Kingery, bassist and third harmony singer, does an admirable job, but no one could replace Chuck's diverse abilities.  They may tour under the same name, but they will never be Three Dog Night without Chuck.

Chuck, on the other hand, is still performing.  He's healthier than ever and features performances with original TDN drummer Floyd Sneed, and, until his untimely death recently, original bassist, Joe Schermetzler.

Would that these parties could resolve their differences and do a "real" Three Dog Night tour, missing only the deceased Joe Schermie, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for such a day.

4:12 pm edt

Friday, September 1, 2006


Steve & the Altima 3.5 SE

Here it is -- finally -- my new car.  It's a 2006 Nissan Altima.  It is really zippy!  It has a 3.5 litre engine with 250 horsepower!  Whee!  It's really good on gas mileage, too, getting around 20 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway.  On one of my trips home from Fort Wayne, I actually averaged 32.2 mpg!  Musta had a tail-wind! (ha ha)  I do still have my Pontiac, which is a decent car, but it has high mileage (just turned over 100,000 miles!), so I'm glad to have a car that I can count on.

8:44 am edt

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For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
(Philippians 1:21)

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