Wednesday, October 15, 2014

the pumpkin family

we had the fun opportunity to attend a family art project at our local ymca arts center, here in sunbury.  the project was for the whole family to do individual self-portraits as if your face was a pumpkin.  it was neat to see how the kids interpreted this, and what kinds of things came out of it.  here you can see a couple shots of us at work:

the final project was done on small rectangles of wood, strung together vertically to make a fall decoration for our home.  we had a blast doing this, and here, then, is the milinovich (pumpkin) family:

pumpkin quin

pumpkin cade

pumpkin jack

pumpkin shannon

pumpkin greg

Monday, October 13, 2014

hurts like a (really) bad tattoo

do you see how bad that ink is?  i could draw a better steelers logo with my eyes shut.  while sleeping.  and without the use of my arms.  but that's not the point.  the point is that, as bad as that tattoo is, it really isn't even as bad as the way the steelers tried to play football yesterday against the cleveland browns.  i agree with ron cook who says the biggest surprise of all this year is that the steelers are 3-3, considering just how bad they've played.  i love my black and gold, of course, but it looks like it could be a long year.  hopefully not as long-lasting as that tattoo.

in other news, happy columbus day!  once again i invite you to check out andrew dost's awesome soundtrack to columbus day, called "columbus."  you  can listen to it here.  it is so worth checking out.

Monday, October 06, 2014

out of jacksonville 3-2

well, it wasn't exactly the picture of dominance that many would have liked to see (including yours truly) against an 0-4 team, but the steelers fly out of jacksonville (pittsburgh south?  holy goodness there were a TON of steelers fans there) with a win, and that's what matters most of all.

and anyone who thought that the steelers had to go down there and stomp them in order to prove something is dead wrong.  this was a desperate team; a cornered team; and a team starting a quarterback who was desperate to prove that he could take the reins and turn things around.  this was a jaguars team who saw what tampa bay did to the steelers last week, and who was salivating at the chance to do the same thing.  this was never going to be a cake walk, no matter how bad you think the jags are.

still, steelers fans would have liked to have seen a little more lopsidedness on the scoreboard in the 4th quarter.  it is hard to believe that the only offensive touchdown was a pass to a hardly-recognized tight end, against a secondary that is one of the worst in the nfl to this point.

it was more and more apparent that the steelers were going to need something big defensively.  the defense played pretty darn well the whole game, but what was lacking was that really big play (cortez allen did have an interception, but the pass was so deep, it was almost like a punt by the jags).  enter bryce mccain, playing in the nickel now that injuries have caused some shuffling around.  from here on out, i am referring to mccain as the senator from pittsburgh.  and after the way he sat on that route and then pushed upfield to intercept the pass and take it to the house for a pick-six most certainly won my vote for him.  that was the play the steelers needed, and it came from a backup corner.  hey, whatever it takes.

in any event, the steelers got the win, and combined with the ravens and bengals both losing, it was a very good day.  next week the steelers get to play the comeback kids of cleveland, who almost won the last meeting, so the steelers have their work cut out for them.  it was good to see them respond to last week's embarrassing loss with a team win, now it will be important for them to build on a win and take some steps forward against the browns.  here we go steelers!

Saturday, October 04, 2014

saturday song: heath mcnease

heath mcnease is really talented.

i first heard about this guy when i was scanning (a great website full of music and ebooks that you can download for a donation of your choice) for some thoughtful rap music.  i stumbled upon heath mcnease, which was a fortuitous discovery, because once i started listening, i couldn't believe just how talented and interesting this young man is.

i first heard an album called thrift store jesus, full of great rhyming on interesting, layered beats, with a ton of thought put into the lyrics.  he is gifted at turning a phrase, and does so in a very interesting, engaging way.  then, i heard that he was putting out an album of songs all centered around the great Christian writer/thinker, c.s. lewis.  when i first started listening to it, i was dumbfounded.  it wasn't rap at all, but some sort of folky, modern rock, indie mashup sound that was easy on the ears, all while dealing with themes from the books and life of c.s. lewis in a cogent and literate way.  amazing.
he followed that up with a remake of the c.s. lewis album (called "the weight of glory) in a completely different way: rap.  he didn't just remix the songs, he completely reimagined them.  the artistry and creativity of this guy, not to mention the God-given talent, is impressive.

so i have kept listening.  he's got other albums out, too.  one about a difficult trip to canada on tour.  one about the season of autumn.  one really fun freestyle rap album.  and this is all available for free or for donation on, or from his own website.

now, mcnease has written, directed and produced a 43-minute film called "fort wayne," which deals with the struggles of the singer/songwriter, trying to make it in the midwestern town.  i haven't seen it all yet, but i certainly will be watching.

and since i admire the man as an artist, and for his courage in offering his art to the world without price, i wanted to take a moment just to pass along a good word about him.  i know rap isn't for everyone, but he is so diversely talented, you might find something else you like about him, too.  his soundtrack for the "fort wayne" movie, for example, is kind of bon iver-ish folk pop.

check him out on noisetrade here.

check out his own website here.

here is a song from you tube:

Thursday, October 02, 2014

that bow tie, though

our youngest's preschool picture.  he's killing me.  with cuteness.  to use his own word, he's aderbadable.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


i saw a preview for a show (or a movie?  not sure which) that asked the question, "what makes a hero?"  the question was left unanswered, suggesting that we need to watch the show to find out what makes the flash so fast, or what makes superman fly or what makes criminals cower in fear from the dark knight.  you could do that.  you could watch the show.  or the movie.  or read the comic book.

or you could come to church.

because that is what we are dealing with in this season.  we are in the middle of a 6-week sermon series in which we are specifically looking at what makes someone a real hero.  so often we think that the heroes are the exceptional ones, the ones with "super" powers, or fame or fortune.  when it comes to the life of faith, we relegate heroes either to the pantheons of patriarchs (abraham, moses, david and so forth), or to the supposed "saints" in our own churches and lives, those who have taught sunday school for 47 years, and who always seem to have an answer for any question about the Bible.
but that's just fiction.  or fantasy.  either way, it simply isn't true.  the real heroes are the sinners sitting through another sermon, trying to make sense of their lives; trying to piece together some meaning from their checkered past, and trying to come terms with the extravagant grace that has shown them love time and time again.

we've been taking a look back at the Bible to see some of the "stories between the Stories," so to speak.  we know about moses and joshua, but what about rahab?  we know about peter and john, but what about jairus?  we know about david, but what about abigail?  what about uriah?  these may not be characters from the felt board pantomimes of your youth.  they may not be characters that you know at all.  but they are heroes, all the same.  and they teach us that we, too, are called to be heroes of the faith.  not by having superpowers.  not by having the Bible memorized or by being ultra-righteous.  not by having a squeaky-clean past, or even a prim and proper present.  no, these heroes are very much flawed.  just like me.  they are prostitutes and hypocrites.  they are sometimes self-serving.  they are sometimes incredibly unremarkable.  but they demonstrate something important when the moment is ripe.  it may be generosity, when it would seem wiser to clutch your possessions tightly.  or it might be persistence when it would seem saner to just give up.  it might be authenticity and honesty when it would seem more prudent to pretend to be someone you are not.  it might be any number of things, but heroes aren't so much super as they are struck by grace.

what makes a hero?  the courage to be yourself.  the persistence to never quit.  the generosity to let go of what you think you deserve.  the hope to believe that things will be redeemed, that people will be redeemed.  a faith hero isn't any different than you.  it is you.  are you willing to be that hero?  to live boldly in the moment which you have been given?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

goodbye derek jeter

oh, i've been dreading this post.  i've been trying to write it all week, and i just keep putting it off.  i can't believe the summer has bled into fall, and we stand here now in the final throws of the 2014 regular season of major league baseball.  just the passage of time would make that remarkable enough, for me.  but there is something far more weighty on my heart.

now batting...numbah two....derek jeetah....numbah two.  

hold on a second.  i need to go get a box of tissues before i try typing anything else.

last week as i was in atlanta, i read ian o'connor's biography of jeter called "the captain."  as the number of games the yankees' captain has left to play has dwindled into single digits, it was almost too much for this fan to bear.  his life has been fascinating in many ways.  he declared at an early age that he would one day play shortstop for the new york yankees.  everyone laughed.  until he went and did it.  partly because of his skill.  partly because of his relentless drive and determination.  and partly because of pure, dumb luck.  and i would say those three characters are all the major players in the movie script that has been derek jeter's baseball career: skill, determination, and luck, and not necessarily in that order.  

skill.  the guy can play.  he was the best player in high school.  he was drafted in the first round right after graduation.  he has played starting shortstop for 20 years.  he won a world series mvp, an all star mvp, and has over 3,000 hits, way more than anyone in the history of the new york yankees.  you can get all keith olbmerman on him all you want, and tell me that his w.a.r. score is negative and that his numbers are pedestrian at best.  that is fine.  you go ahead and keep thinking that he is below average, mr. olberman.  it just shows the rest of the world how bitter, jealous, and petty you are.  no, his numbers will never be of the eye-popping variety.  but you can't argue that the guy doesn't have skill.  he is a very skilled athlete.  and here's what i love about the numbers argument:  he doesn't care.  over the course of the last 20 years, thousands (this is not an exaggeration) of journalists have asked him tens of thousands of questions about his numbers, and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again, much to the chagrin of those journalists, he has answered in a consistent and classy way: it isn't about my numbers.  it is about winning the games.  it is about helping the team win.  if i can do that by getting a hit or a walk or a sac fly, or taking a pitch to the forearm, then so be it.  here's the deal: derek jeter, as much as anyone you've ever met, just wants to win.  that brings us to the second character up for an academy award in jeter's feature-length career. 

determination.  the man is relentless.  he is dedicated to his craft in a way that would embarrass most of us.  he works harder than you.  now, i need to say that he is so blessed because his work is playing baseball.  he gets to play a game, trying to hit and chase a little white ball around a magically-green field.  you might think that is too easy.  but don't forget that the "playing" part, the part that gets televised and talked about ad nauseum, is only a portion.  it is also hours in the batting cages.  it is studying pitchers.  it is watching film on outfielders and their arm strength so you know who you can go first to third on.  it is off seasons without any break, because you have to get better.  and beyond all of that, it is an unending line of reporters, begging you to answer their questions and give them something - anything - to get their bosses of their back.  it is beat reporters, looking for some new angle, and it is scoundrels looking to manufacture any kind of dirt they can turn into a TMZ story.  and it is the keith olbermans who have felt compelled over the years to keep writing baloney about how he isn't good enough, fast enough, agile enough, powerful enough.  the bottom line is that he was never juicy enough for most writers.  he just did his job.  too well for some, it would seem.  no, he never had the numbers of some of his teammates, but they have come and gone, some falling prey to injuries that could only be the result of chemicals doing things to their bodies than were unnatural in every way.  others falling prey to not only taking those chemicals, but lying about it until they couldn't hide it anymore (we're looking at you, a-rod).  and through all of that, jeter still stands.  he still gets into position at shortstop, holding his glove out over his sharply bent knees before every pitch of every game.  if the skipper suggests he get a day off, jeter complains loudly.  he wants to play.  he wants to compete.  he wants to have a chance to get the hit, or the pop-up floating towards the stands.  he wants to win.  and he wants it way more than most.  he just isn't willing to cheat to get it.  he is only willing to work harder than you.  whatever it takes.

luck.  oh, don't be deceived, luck has been a major character in jeter's story.  how in the world he didn't get drafted by another team in that first round, before he fell to the yankees, can only really be attributed to luck (we see you, cincinnati reds).  how he got to be surrounded by great players who helped him get to the post season year after year, rather than play on some other team, the pirates for example, whom he would have had to try and carry by himself, can be credited to luck, too.  but they say something important about luck, and it is important because it is true.

you make your own luck.

if jeter hadn't carried himself with class, what then?  if he hadn't, even as a rookie, willed other teammates to play better, to be better, what then?  if he hadn't lit into some teammates when they demonstrated a less-than-absolute commitment to playing hard and winning, what then?  if he hadn't treated his manager and his owner (the volcanic george steinbrenner) and his gm with respect, what then?  would he have stayed a yankee at contract time?  if he hadn't treated the media with class and respect while really only giving them answers that wouldn't serve as a distraction to his teammates, what then?  would he have had the same luck?  or would some of his teammates have quit on him?  would his manager had lost some trust in him?  would his gm have shopped him somewhere else?  would players on other teams have singled him out?  would beat writers have found ways to take out personal vendettas in black and white ink?  any or all of that could have happened.  but it didn't.  why?  luck, you might say.  luck that was forged in the way derek jeter has always carried himself, behaving as if his mom and dad were sitting right there in the stands watching, because, for the most part, they were!

i've written before about how he is not perfect and i am under no illusion about this.  i know he has had some problems with some individuals, and i am certain that as an entitled, sickeningly rich young man, his life is full of ugly excesses.  i know his personal life has been somewhat cloudy, and could be much worse than most of us know.  i get all of that.  i am simply talking about the way he has played the game.

i have never seen anyone do it better.


i have had several players that i've loved.  mattingly.  van slyke.  melky.  mariano.  mccutcheon.  but none of them have done it better than jeter.  none of them have played that way, acted that way, behaved that way, and rose to the occasion that way.  which leads me to one final actor in the film-story of derek jeter's career.

and the oscar goes to:  clutch.  derek jeter is clutch.  he rises to the occasion.  he plays big.  when the lights are the brightest, and the knuckles are the whitest, derek wants a bat in his hand.  and time after time he has delivered.  not just with that signature inside-out swing to right field, but also with a foundation that has helped thousands of kids make good decisions for their own lives and careers.  not just with that jump throw, ranging far to his right and throwing across his body like ballet, but with tens of thousands of little-leaguers who have had the chance to watch a guy who isn't playing the "me-first" brand of baseball that has become the most popular kind.  he has come up big, with world series home runs, with selfless dives into the stands, and with one unthinkable shovel pass to the plate that will never ever be forgotten.  but he has come up big in a million smaller ways, too.  by giving the same interview to the Middletown Reporter as he has to the Post or the Times.  by shaking a rookie's hand, some guy on the other team, and knowing his name and asking him about his family.  by not showboating when he comes up with a big hit.  by not dragging down teammates in the papers, even when they deserved it.  by being himself, with honesty and integrity, determination and grit, class and conviction.

i want to play games and work at my career and deal with colleagues and competitors like derek jeter. i don't care what his o.p.s. is.  i know what his character is.

congrats on a great career, derek jeter.  i am watching these last four games with a deep sadness for all of us who will not get to watch you anymore.  i am watching with a kind of sadness for the game, because i don't know who will carry your torch.  i am watching with joy, for all that you've done, for all i've been a witness to, and for what you've taught me and my children.  and i am watching with a box of tissues in my lap.  it has been an honor to watch the film that has been your career.  thanks for making it the best i've ever seen.