2017: An Exercise in #Optimism

So no one reads my blog so you haven’t noticed this:  I haven’t posted in a while.  I keep thinking “I should write more” and then I don’t write.

I’ve done a bit of a reboot this year after we had a productive family strategy meeting on based January 2nd.  And it’s been going much better, but not as well as I’d like.  I did, though, set some specific goals around writing this year.  Sixty blog posts, in fact, including at least two in January.

And this is my first.

Here’s the rest of my goals so I can feel more pressure of accountability:

  • Run a 5k (repeat of a failed goal last year)
  • Be below 210 pounds or 35″ waist by the end of the year (I weighed in at a nearly obese 241# on January 1st)
  • Walk 2,000,000 steps (that’s 2 million)
  • Do 2 full body-weight chin-ups (I haven’t done one since the 80s)
  • Make 2,500 foul shots with each hand (5,000 total)
  • Finish renovating our old house so it can be rented or sold
  • Renovate 1 bathroom in our current house
  • learn basic Italian (before April 11)
  • Write 60 blog posts
  • Record 6 public speaking videos
  • Record 6 videos on other topics
  • Unplug on my next vacation for 12 consecutive days (no work email, etc.)
  • By end of March work 2 evenings or less (get the work done at the office!)
  • Visit Six Flags with the older kids at least 7 times (we have season passes!)
  • Read through the entire Bible
  • Improved consistency at Family Worship (by EOY averaging at least 5x/week)
  • Read 10 books (including no more than 4 I’ve already started reading)
  • Have 3 social events in our home with multiple families
  • Have 8 families over for dinner
  • Visit two previously unvisited MLB parks for a game

Based on recent years some of those easier looking ones are a big stretch.  I lose consistency at reading quickly (easily distracted with other things).  We’ve had health issues with the planners and cooks that make having social events harder from time to time.

I’ve already made some good progress and set intermediary goals for each month so that I can know whether I’m on track.  I may fail, but this year I’m failing forward.  Check back for results and more interesting posts than this one.

I’m Batman!

Consequences (Change takes time)

What follows is a deeply personal post with some hopeful application for some of the readers.  I’m being transparent here in admitting struggles and sins.  But my main desire is to show forth the graciousness of a Savior who helped me, and my family, survive and grow out of a difficult time where my sinful patterns set the tone for my household.

So I lost my temper the other day. It was months ago now but the memory hasn’t faded much.  Considering historical norms it was an outburst of smaller magnitude and a shorter time to repentance than most of my past. And it had been weeks or perhaps months since the last time I yelled at one of the kids. But it didn’t really matter.

I have had a temper for a long time.  Sanctification, by God’s grace, has led to improvements.  Huge improvements by comparison, but God’s still not done rooting out this particular sin.  Doug Wilson (who I don’t unequivocally endorse) had a really great post about angry men a while back:

Some of what I am going to say will seem hard or harsh to you because for years you have used anger to keep any real criticism far away from you. So while I know it will seem hard, please know that every word here is written with your best interests in mind.

Source: An Open Letter to an Angry Husband | Blog & Mablog

This is something I wish I’d had someone around who could give me the practical help I needed earlier in my marriage.  Some of my children have grown up with similar anger difficulties and struggles, bearing testimony to the Proverb:

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.

Source: Proverbs 22:24-25 ESV

God has finally been working on my temper long enough that I can see the progress.  I know that I got in the way (“don’t quench the Spirit“) quite a bit and my pride kept me from both repenting in some instances and from seeking help in other instances.  But as I said above, it doesn’t happen near as much anymore.

The older children, though, can still see when it’s close to happening.  When I’m about to “lose it.”  And sometimes, even if, by God’s grace, I am able to moderate my response I can see the look in their eyes of the reaction almost identical to when I actually did lose it.

That bothered me for a while, because it made it feel like they didn’t see progress or that it wasn’t worth changing if no one would notice.  And then I figured out that it was something to be expected.  I had a volatile, unpredictable response queued up most often when they were younger, and I lost my temper often enough that I should expect them to expect me to lose it this time.

I figured this out one day when we needed something at the dinner table and I asked if someone could grab it.  Realizing that I was just being lazy and that I could get it myself, I jumped up when no one else responded immediately.  But the reaction on some of the kids’ faces was one like I was mad, instead of joyfully doing what needed to be done.  And it hit me that too many times I’d jumped up in anger to do something, selfishly thinking that someone else should have done it first, and made self-serving comments in the process.  And it was wrong for me to expect that the kids would realize that this time I was doing it because I knew I was lazy and self-serving and I needed to get up and do it myself instead of asking them.

We had a good conversation about it that night, and I was able to let my kids know, again, that I know it was hard for them to have me as a father.  And to point them to the Father who never loses His temper, never acts sinfully, and always loves and is gracious to us in all things.  We spoke as siblings in God’s house, not as a dad to his kids.  And someday they’ll, instead of reacting with fear about what might be about to happen, be along side me, encouraging me, and rejoicing in that change that has seemed forever to take root.

Whether it’s anger or some other sinful habit pattern that you’re caught in, God has grace for you.  Grace of forgiveness, and the grace of sanctification.  Forgiveness and peace in knowing that Jesus, if you’ve trusted in His life and death and resurrection, has paid the penalty for that sin.  Grace of sanctification knowing that God is working in your heart and your life to make you more like Jesus.  He can change you, and what often starts that process is your realizing that you’re powerless to change yourself.  It’s all grace.

May God continue to purge both your and my sin from our lives, and may He use even our sin for His glory as He works out His plan in His providence.  

A Year

One year ago yesterday I graduated from college. I got all As this time around and it was a 16 month(ish) EMBA program and timehop yesterday reminded me of the event. More accurately I opened up the Timehop app so that I could see what I’d posted that day. My parents came out for it and we had a great time celebrating finally, at age 45, getting a college degree.

I had big plans for the year that we’re completing. A few of them got done, but mostly I’ve been figuring out what comes next more slowly than I’d like. I had ambitious dreams of what I could do when I wasn’t going to school, and came up horribly short on them.

It has been a good year. I’ve gotten two nice getaways with my wife: one to San Francisco and another recently to Mexico. Our kids threw us a surprise party for our 20th anniversary. I’ve started working with a team of leaders at work on bringing their skills to another level. I’ve implemented almost 25% of the ideas I thought I’d get done, which seems awful, but I probably was overambitious.

It’s been a hard year, too. Our old house is still not ready to rent. That weighs on me, but we’re not financially destitute, so we muddle through. We’ve had some rough health issues at home. Some projects have languished and needed more attention that I’m just getting around to giving them now.

As I look back there is so much to be thankful for, and I have been abundantly blessed. I have a wife who stands with me through thick and thin. I’ve realized that rest and relaxation are crucial to being on top of my game, and the phrase “post-vacation dad” has become a regular part of the family liturgy.

This past Friday we had our organization’s annual Christmas party. Most of the evening I spent in shock as I realized how much we’ve grown and how different things are than they were at my first party in 1999. And they’ll be different in huge ways again next year, too. One constant remains: God takes care of us and watches over us and always does what is best for us. And I should neither forget that nor ever cease to be grateful for it.

Weight For It….

So way back before I started school (summer 2013), I lost 25-30 pounds. I was down to 210, and couldn’t break through that mark.

School has been done for almost a year now. By the time I left for India I had put back on the entire 25 pounds, and when I got back I was up another 10. Since January I’ve bounced back and forth from 240-249 pounts.

It is enough to make me sick to think about it.

I read somewhere that when you’re behind on sleep you can tried calories for sleep and keep on top of things. Maybe that’s what I did. And I’m paying the price for it. And now that I’m back in the saddle I’ve been doing a little better on the eating and finally a week or two ago dropped back below 240#.  Hopefully to stay.

I’d still like to get to around 200. I may yet make it. But either way, I’m glad to finally be making some progress and I want to be healthy for my family for some time to come.  Having 9 children means being around for when their children are all born will take longer.  I want to be able to enjoy my grandchildren coming along, Lord willing, and be as healthy as I can to play with them.

Like Chuck

So a while back, yes while I was still in school, I discovered that Chuck is available on Netflix.*

I’d seen an episode sometime while traveling and was very interested in the synopsis/theme.  I expected I’d like it.  And I have not seen anything with Adam Baldwin that I didn’t like.

But I didn’t expect it to draw me in so quickly.  And I was a season or more in before I realized what it was that got me hooked.

It was Chuck.

Chuck reminded me of myself.  Here he was, a college dropout, classic underachiever.  And that struck a nerve with me.

I gave up on studying in high school at the end and didn’t finish well.

I dropped out of college.  Not once, or even twice but three times.  When I went to college the first time I had abysmal grades compared to what I could have done.  Especially in the two spring semesters.  I had trouble in the spring.  My three fall semesters (first undergrad experience) I had a 3.1GPA.  The two spring semesters averaged about 1.6.  One. Point. Six.  Yeah…curse that spring.

I didn’t go to class.  About halfway through the semester in the spring I’d stop going to class.  Spring semester 1989 was so bad that I didn’t take one of my finals…a 100% on the final wouldn’t have given me a D.  I got an F in Physics 2, perhaps the only F I’ve ever gotten in anything, and there wasn’t anything I could have done about it.  A 1.77 GPA that semester.

I’m kind of surprised sometimes that I was able to be good at school again.  But I knew what I wanted, and the classes were all relevant to my life…right away.  And when I went from high school to college it wasn’t at all.

Back to Chuck.  He got kicked out of college and yet was brilliant.  And the thing of the show is that success found him when he’d given up on doing anything worthy of his intellect.  And sometimes that’s the way it goes:  success finds you when you’re running from it.  And I suppose that’s what happened to me.


* I think I’d skip season 5…and just let it go.  Sorta jumped the shark there.

It’s Time

So I woke up the other morning and had decided I wasn’t going to the gym today but I didn’t get back to sleep. A lot on my mind, for sure.

February 5. Over 8 months ago. That’s the last time I posted on this blog.

I had grandiose plans of the rebranding of the blog I’d do when I was done with school with all the new time I’d have. By “grandiose plans” I mean I had an item in my Trello board that said “Come up with post EMBA blogging strategy” with 3 comments and two topics listed on the card. Since January I’ve had two conversations with my wife wherein my only title suggestion was discarded and we briefly talked about what I’d like to accomplish.

And now it’s October. Nothing has happened. None of the “great ideas” have turned into any implementation.

I could make excuses or tell stories about how I’ve squandered time over the past 8 months, but none of it is very interesting. I’ve also learned that dwelling on “should have”s “could have”s and “didn’t”s is terribly unproductive and just makes me depressed. Better to focus on “can do”s “am doing”s and “next up”s. There’s always going to be failings in my life: I’m a fallen person with selfish desires and prone to laziness.

So I don’t have any grandiose plans. Nothing concrete to be sure. If you’re still reading and still subscribed you may be #smh’ing at me and wondering whether it’s worth it. Yet to be seen. What I do have is a decision…I’m starting to write again. The plans, like they always do for this off-the-charts extrovert, will develop over time as I write. I have some broad ideas of where I’ll go and what I want to write about and share with you…and those will become more defined as we go.

So it’s time. Time to start again. Today I go back to posting 3-4 times per week, building discipline on my writing and creativity. It’s time to get to work.

House Update

I mentioned late last month that we had found a house.  Things are progressing nicely so far.  We have bank approval.  We have the down payment ready. The slow-moving part is the seller…it’s a Freddie Mac repo and so there are ducks to line up.  We’re told we’ll be able to close by mid-November which is fine since we really can’t move until I’m done with school.  We have a crazy plan (subject to change) to try to move the weekend between school ending and graduation, December 13th.  We have the budget for both mortgages, though, so if we need to push that back we can.

We love the house.  It is not in our target location (Peoria, south of War Memorial drive, preferably south of Nebraska Ave.) but we’ve dealt with that.  We really needed the space.  Other than location, this house had everything on our “wish list”:  over 3000 sq. ft., master bathroom, at least 6 usable bedrooms, mostly hardwood floors, updated kitchen that my wife likes, pantry, enough usable non-bedrooms to have a formal dining room and a music room in addition to a living room, under $175,000.

But it’s in a nice, north Peoria neighborhood, with a walk-out basement overlooking two acres of ravine property.  It’s nice, but not our urban living sweet spot.

Don’t get me wrong, it still has some of what we like about living in the city:  things are close.  We’ll be closer than we are now to a Kroger, a Big Lots (my wife’s favorite), our bank, and my workplace (just a few minutes shorter commute).  We’ll be pretty close to the best Indian restaurant in Peoria (which I’m excited about…I loved the food over there) and there is a lot that we like about what’s out there in north Peoria.  It’ll be further from church, which we’re not excited about, but not so far that it’ll be a burden to get there.

house arial screenshotIt’s got a little work we need to do before moving in, including some new flooring in the master bedroom (carpet + dust mite allergies are a bad mix) and we’ll have to move from an electric dryer to gas, but the house has a beautiful amount of living space and bedroom space while feeling more connected than our current house (4 of the bedrooms are on main floor, including the master, and the stairs to the basement are central making everything feel closer while more than doubling our space).

So needless to say we’re excited.  And here’s a satellite pic of the roof captured via google maps on my phone.  🙂