Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Are You Trying To Make Me Drop My Change ?

I understand that many people use a debit or credit card when purchasing their meals at fast food places nowadays, but there are many of us who still primarily deal in cash and coins.

I am one of those who prefers to have the bills or change in my pocket and use real money to pay for things.  This is especially true when I'm getting lunch from any number of restaurants with a drive-thru window.  But this presents the same problem every single time ...

Without fail, the employee who hands me back my change places any coins on top of any bills being returned to me.  Why?!  Why do they do this?!

I have learned to be prepared for this and twist my body sideways so I can catch my change with two hands ... but there have been at least a half dozen times in my life when the coins have just rolled off the bills and onto the ground in the dirty drive-thru lane.

And those coins are gone once that happens because I'm not digging through squished gum blobs and soil-covered fries or straw wrappers for 17 cents!

Song Of The Day:
I promise this is a true story although it will sound made up.  The song today is "Christine" by OMD and that was the name of the last drive-thru employee who actually handed me my change first and then placed the bills in my hand.  I remembered her name because I thought that would be a good blog post idea and a great excuse to use this awesome song from my favorite musical group!


Monday, April 29, 2013

Can Someone Explain This To Me ?

Two recent arguments seem to be resurfacing with some regularity on Facebook posts and in commentary around the proverbial water cooler:
tighter gun control legislation and drug testing for welfare recipients.

Here's my issue in as brief a form as I can outline it:
 - How is it logical to want to increase legislation around the procurement of firearms, etc. ... but argue against increased legislation around the receiving of support from the government?

I actually have some friends whose comments suggest that they believe the government should restrict firearms, but loudly oppose the government having the right to test for drugs from welfare recipients.  This just does not seem logical at all to me and I am seriously asking someone smart to explain it to me.

Let me explain a little bit more by asking a few more questions.

These gun owners, are they getting these guns or clips or magazines for free?  Or are they paying for them with their own money?  (Or at least the same 'borrowed' money that we ALL use when we charge items on credit)

These welfare recipients, are they paying for this welfare support in some way that I am unaware of?  Just what is so unfair about testing for illegal drugs?

It just seems odd that a person wanting to spend their own money should be restricted in that desire ... but someone who is getting "free money" has the right to be offended by the giver of the free money, when that giver requires that the receiver prove their worthiness of the gift by demonstrating that they are not using the money for things like illegal drugs.

It reminds me of some of the poor, unfortunate homeless people that I met in Los Angeles during my 2-year missionary service.  I felt (and still feel) terribly for those poor people.  Often they are just victims of rough circumstances and honestly are just down on their luck.  The way I distinguished that was to confirm what they actually were asking for in terms of a handout.  If they asked for "money for food" I would offer to buy them bread and some peanut butter and jelly.  Or sometimes a burger and fries from a nearby restaurant.  About half would say "nevermind" and walk away, while the others would gladly accept my offer.  In a small sense, that is how I felt better about helping some folks and not feel guilty about not helping those who walked away.

I'd be very interested to talk to you if you can help me see things from a different perspective.  My tone might not sound "open" but I assure you that any dialogue on the subject would be a worthwhile endeavor.

Song Of The Day:
Please do not mistake the title of today's song as being my opinion on welfare ... it is NOT.  But it does tie in with the blog post subject, so ...
"Money For Nothing" by Dire Straits is the song of the day.  I think we all dream of living an easier life where money is no object, but the reality is that hard work most often precedes monetary gain.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Are You Really That Unaware ?

Cell phone etiquette seems to be a big area of opportunity in the world today.

I refuse to believe that people are purposefully choosing to be that rude, but rather believe they must just not realize that what they are doing on or with their cell phones is completely inappropriate for their surroundings and circumstances.

Here are a few recent examples I have witnessed:
 - A woman answered her phone in the middle of an elementary school program ... and proceeded to have a not quiet at ALL conversation as the program proceeded on.  The conversation was about shoes ... I doubt it was "urgent" in any sense of the word.
 - A prospective employee received, responded to, and even chuckled out loud about text messages ... during the interview!  The laughter suggests that these were not "urgent" communications that required his immediate attention.
 - Another woman played back video she had just recorded for her grandson to watch during the next musical number being played by the band.  The grandson had been getting a drink of water and missed the recorded song.
 - A group of friends in a restaurant spent most of their mealtime together with their eyes focused on their own individual phones.  When the waiter stopped by to check in on the table he was ignored ... then a short while later one of the people at the table loudly complained that their waiter hadn't been by in like forever!
 - During a lesson at church, young men (teenagers) were playing games on their mobile devices instead of listening to the lesson ... and seemed bothered that the teacher kept asking them questions!

So consider this a gentle suggestion to think about your actions and reactions in public locations as related to your mobile devices.  If you don't catch this gentle hint, I am sure I will have your attention when I loudly and embarrasingly call you out for your inappropriate behavior the next time I see you make these mistakes.  :)

Song Of The Day:
The song "Coming Around Again" by Carly Simon is my odd choice for today's post.  The tie in may not be obvious for you, so let me explain my thought process.  In the lyrics of the song, the various characters described by the artist seem distracted or unaware of the way their actions or words are hurting those around them.  Don't be that guy or gal.  You're better than this!  :)


Saturday, April 27, 2013

What Was The Beach House Like?

It has now been a full month since we left our rented Beach House vacation spot in Fort Morgan, AL.  We spent a very fun week in that house with our friends the Amsdens, but I never got around to posting pictures of the house itself, or the surrounding area.

This post is very self-serving, so I'll understand if you don't read any further, as it was not your vacation and these photos / comments will not bring back any memories for you.  But they will serve a very good purpose for me, in reminding me about what we liked (and a little of what we didn't like) about the location and experience of having 20 people (16 kids, age 4 months up to 15 years old, and 4 adults, ages unnecessary to divulge) under one roof.

The house itself was located almost at the very west end of the Fort Morgan peninsula.  This meant that we had a long drive back to "civilization" as we had to go east for 25 minutes down a very narrow stretch of road with lots of trees and shrubs cluttering the area typically reserved for pulling off the road.  The house was about 200 yards from the ocean (the Gulf of Mexico), but it was more like a half-mile walk or three-quarter mile drive to the beach.

The house had four levels, and did have an elevator (which I never rode in because it was the slowest ride known to man), but the stairs (and floors) were all hard wood.  This is good in a lot of ways, but is not the most comfortable or sound proof.

The lowest level was reserved for all the beach stuff (floating toys, towels, sandals, etc.) and had a pass code entry system (I also never learned the code to get in, but some of my kids knew it so we were okay).

The second level had two bedrooms, both with connecting bathrooms, but only the far room could be considered a "master" suite because it also had a small walk out deck.  Between these two rooms was a full laundry room (which came in VERY handy!)  The adult Amsdens (and their three youngest kiddos) stayed in that Master Suite and the teenage girls stayed in the other room.

The third level had one bedroom (which the teen and pre-teen boys stayed in) and the rest of the "living area" for the house.  This included a bathroom, with shower/tub, the kitchen, the dining room, and family room area.  There was also a small walk-out deck, which was always coveted as an eating area by various groups of kids who staked their claim around meal times.  The living area was a little cramped with 20 people in it at some times, but most of the time it was filled with any combination of about 5-10 people.

The top level had two bedrooms with a shared master bathroom area.  The "middle" girls from both families stayed in the west bedroom, which had four beds and seemed pretty spacious for being in the "attic" as it were.  The other "master" bedroom was occupied by Karen and I (and little Spencer).  It also had a small outside deck, which was nice to sit out on in the early morning or late at night (if the wind wasn't blowing too much).

Top Strengths of the Beach House:
 - having a kitchen is very nice (especially with that long drive to "civilization")
 - the laundry room was used much more often than I thought it would be
 - it's nice to know where everyone is ... and have them just a loud shout or whistle away
 - wifi was good to have access to and generally powered numerous devices at reasonably quick speeds

Top Opportunities of the Beach House:
 - too far from the beach to make it worth being "at the beach"
 - those stairs got very tiring day after day
 - sharing our "master bath" with litle girls was not fun after about an hour
 - too far from "civilization" considering how often we ended up needing to go into town for shopping trips

All in all, it was very fun and I can say we would easily agree to doing this again ... but I think we all (adults anyway) agree we would want a house that actually sits on the beach directly.  Whatever extra money it might cost would have been worth it for sure!

Song Of The Day:
For the title and for the tongue-in-cheek lyrics, "Some Beach" by Blake Shelton is the song for today's post.  This house was nearthebeach but really onthebeach would have been much better.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Why Do People Tailgate ?

Let me clarify right up front that I am not talking about tailgating as it relates to "hanging out in the parking lot at a sporting event, while cooking, chatting, and in general getting pumped up for the game" ... that kind of tailgating is very cool and I totally understand why people do that.

I mean tailgating in the "driving so close to my back bumper that you can see what radio station I am listening to" sense.

Seriously, why do people think this is a good idea?  What are they hoping to accomplish with this behavior?  Are you hoping there is an invisible air cushion that is going to force me to move forward faster than I'm already travelling?

Two things to keep in mind here: First, I generally do not drive the speed limit.  I look at it more as a guideline ... but I'm usually around 4-7 MPH over whatever the speed limit is on the road I'm travelling down.  Second, I am very conscious of traffic around me and will generally move to the right lane and allow people who are travelling faster to pass me.

That said, I will change both of those driving behaviors if I get one of you aggressive drivers behind me that is acting stupid with a 2-ton machine under their control.  If you tailgate me, you can expect that I will match the speed of the car next to me.  You can expect that I will not move over, even if there is no one in the other lane for a long time.  You can expect that I will tap my brakes ... gently at first and then very assertively if you don't take the hint.  You can also expect that I will smile and wave as though I have no idea why you're mad when you speed up and pass me on the right.

Song Of The Day:
Maybe I'm misunderstanding these tailgaters.  Maybe they just need more connection with people around them and long for that closeness.  (Insert sarcastic face here).  With that in mind, here is Jewel's "Near You Always" ... which is perfect here because Jewel sounds like she loves this guy but her words are actually asking him not to be in love with her (to begin with anyway).


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Could It Be ?

Today's post is just totally based on the Song Of The Day ... because every once in a while I will find myself driving somewhere and no matter what station I turn the radio to, the tunes just seem to all be perfectly suited for my current mood and situation.

"Could It Be" is a new song by Charlie Worsham.  I have no idea who he is, but apparently he is trying to get a career in country music going.  If this song is any indication, he sure has as good a chance at success as any artists out there.

There were actually several songs I heard (while driving to pick up Brooklyn's friend for a sleepover at our house ... and then later while driving Ben to his friend's house for a sleepover) that could have been my choice for today's post.  But this song stuck out because the title seemed perfect for my mood and situation lately.

Sometimes, doesn't it just feel like things are all just coming into alignment?

Occasionally, does life seem to be giving you all green lights and right turns?

After some ups and downs, isn't it nice when you find yourself on a bit of a plateau where the grass looks greener and the day is sunny and there is just a slight breeze that perfectly cools you off on a nice warm day?

In that vein, I find myself wondering could it be that I'm in one of those plateau moments?  And if so, how long can I enjoy the awesome life around me?

I hope for a long, long while.  But I'll enjoy it as long as I can.  :)


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How Much Am I Going To Regret This ?

This evening I followed through on a commitment I made, which was to play volleyball with some friends from church.  Truth be told, I have halfway committed to going to play for the past year now ... so it was long overdue for me to do this.

I was surprised at how quickly my (limited) skills came back.  My serve was pretty solid.  It's never been overpowering or anything, but I had several aces so that was nice.  We were only playing 3 on 3 so there was limited opportunity for spikes or blocks, but I had a few of each and that was nice too.  My mobility was much better than I hoped for, but that leads me to my blog post title question ... how bad am I going to hurt tomorrow because of this?  Two hours of volleyball isn't a ridiculous amount ... unless you haven't played for 2 years (like me).

Worse yet, I came home tired but not sleepy.  Compounding this by indulging in a large bowl of Mint Chocolate Cookie ice cream (it's my favorite flavor by Blue Bell) as I checked Facebook and read some articles on USA Today.

So I write this blog post thinking about the ...

Song Of The Day:
I've always liked the music of the Plain White T's (since I first heard of them anyway).  They have many songs that are in my Top 100 most played ("1, 2, 3, 4" ... "Rhythm Of Love" ... etc.) so when I heard "Should've Gone To Bed" on the radio tonight, I was very pleased to find out that they are the ones who sing it.  That song is fitting for me almost every night.  I'm such a night owl and most of the time should just go to bed (even if I can't sleep for a while I would at least let my tired body rest).

Tell me the truth though ... can't you just hear a mash-up of this song and "22" by Taylor Swift?!  Here's the BEST version of that song by my cousin's group Eclipse.  A capella of course!


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What Took Us So Long ?

I have no idea why we haven't bought new towels for us (Karen and I) for several years now ... but these new ones are soooooooo nice!

Our new towels.  They're PURPLE !!!

What I think I am most excited about is that we are going to actually update our color scheme and bedding and drapes, etc. in our master bedroom.  After some discussion on the topic, Karen and I agreed that we deserve to actually have a sort of theme for our master suite (bedroom, bathroom, etc.)  It is fitting that (with our 15th anniversary coming up) we have finally agreed to turn our master suite into a real sanctuary from the rest of our living space in our home.  We've decided on paint colors and Karen is planning to customer make our window coverings.  We'll search online and in stores for the right tint of purple for our bedset and hopefully have it all done by the end of the year (that might seem like a long time but that's pretty quick turnaround for us on this kind of thing).

Song Of The Day:
The artist formerly known as Prince (and now known by that name again I think) is NOT the inspiration for our color scheme decision ... but ... it would seem like sacriledge not to make his tune "Purple Rain" the song for this post.  :)


Monday, April 22, 2013

Golfing In The Snow ?!

A few Saturdays ago, my buddy Bill from work, instant messaged me to see when we might get out golfing this year.  I love to golf, but rarely actually get out on the links ... so I jumped at the chance and committed him to golfing today.

As the date drew nearer, the weather patterns began to call for wind and snow!  This is "par for the course" for Bill and I.  The last time we golfed together (which was two seasons ago), the round ended on the 11th hole because the freezing rain and sleet was too much "weather" to enjoy playing any more.

So this morning, right at 11:00am we teed off on the Plains course at Patty Jewett.  The weather was gorgeous!  Hardly any wind, but plenty of cloud cover (no sunburn = yay!)  Another of our co-workers, Nick, joined us (our 4th had to back out because the tee time was too late).  Through the first 9 holes, the weather got worse, but it was mostly just windy with about a 5 degree temperature drop.  I shot an honest 45, which is superb for me (especially considering this was my first round of the year), with one par and only one double bogey.

That's why, at the turn, we decided to go ahead and play another 9 holes.

You can barely tell, but the snow was
In hindsight, that was probably not a good idea.  But it was fun so who cares right?!  :)

The wind kicked up on the 12th hole ... and only slowed slightly when the snow started falling (around the 14th hole).  The snow wasn't that bad, but the wind was awful!  Finally, on the 18th tee box, the clouds seemed to part for a little while and we all played some terrific shots.  I birdied that last hole, while Bill and Nick each took a Par (very good for them considering their overall round scores).  I finished with a 53 on that back 9, but it included two pars and the aforementioned birdie.  Final score of 98, which I just had to remember since our scorecard blew away on the 13th hole!

All in all ... a great day of golfing, even with the snow and the wind!  I can't wait to get back out on the course again.

 Song Of The Day:
In honor of the stupidity of our happy little trio playing in the terrible weather (there was NO ONE on any of their courses when we finished) ... today's song is "I Wonder Why" by Curtis Stigers.  Although his voice does not seem to match his face at all, his inquiry about love could be translated to love of golfing.  Random thought ... his name sounds more like a WWF wrestler doesn't it?!


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Are We Doing TOO MUCH For Our Kids ?

As a parent of 7 children I feel somewhat qualified to speak on life as a father and leader of future adults.  I am very far from any sort of expert level, but I have experienced quite a few things raising these members of the next generation and I have great hope mixed with serious concerns.

There is not time now (nor do I have the energy) to go over all of these hopes and concerns in this single blog post, but today I feel impressed to write on one of these topics:  Responsibility.

I work with youth in a variety of situations (church, school, scouts, home, etc.) and one of my greatest hopes in this next generation is the strength I see in most youth to do more than we or they believe they are capable of.  I have seen many examples of a young man or woman being responsible for much more than I feel I was capable of at their tender age.  I'm not just speaking of teenagers, but even kids at 6-8 years old have impressed me with their ability to rise to the challenge laid before them.

This hope is tempered by an increasing concern over well-intentioned parents who willingly remove some (or all) responsibility from their children.  I see this in an even larger amount of scenarios and it is very alarming.  How can a child become a responsible and independent adult if you (as a parent) constantly remove challenges from their paths?!

The short answer is, they won't.

I know I am far from perfect, but I strive to either put my kids in challenging situations that they can learn and grow from, or at least allow them to find these situations themselves.  I try to offer support and encouragement, but I refuse to do it for them when I know there is a life lesson to be learned as they overcome their challenge.  This is often very difficult for me to do because:  it takes more time and it is painful (for me to watch and for my child to go through) ... but the alternative is that they will have to learn that lesson later in life under most likely much less desirable and supportive circumstances.  Better that they suffer a little embarrassment under my loving, watchful eye, than that they suffer as a social outcast or 'that guy' at work who no one wants to have on their team.

Time will tell whether or not my theory is the right one.  On the one hand, I hope these coddled and babied children from other homes turn out just fine in spite of their being overly protected from hard work and accountability.  But I doubt that will be the case.  All I know is that my children will continue to learn and grow by taking on hard things and reaching difficult goals they have set for themselves.  In this they will find joy and true satisfaction and success.  And if that happens, then my work has been true and good and well worth the effort.

Song Of The Day:
Sundays are always a great day for reflection and pondering life's mysteries.  I like to listen to instrumental music for that purpose and solo piano music is among my most favorite type.  I came across the song "Creation" by Craig Linder (I think on Spotify) and wanted to listen to the song over and over again.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

What Do You Call Those ?

I've often wondered if there is an actual name for those
wisps of snow that whip across the street
on occasion when the wind and type of snow conditions are just right.

We had some of these recently and I kept trying to come up with a name that sounded cool to describe them ... but I didn't like any of my ideas.  I honestly just wanted a cool name so that I could blog about them ... yet it looked as though I would have to give that idea up as a topic for a post (or just post about them without a cool name).

Then a tiny little miracle happened.

While driving home from scouts, *one of the scouts I was giving a ride home to, saw these wispy lines of snow on the road and just nonchalantly said "Hey, check out the cool snow snakes."

Snow snakes?

Yeah!  Snow Snakes!  That's what they are!  Boo yah!

*Shout out to Aaron (I always pronounce it Ay-Ay-Ron since watching this Key & Peele sketch called "Substitute Teacher" ) for solving my dilemma without even knowing he was doing so!

Song Of The Day:
I love it when an artist has fun with not just their song but with the music video they create to go along with it.  One of my favorites is "Call Me Al" by Paul Simon.  A simple video with a nice creative twist.  Having Chevy Chase act as the singer of the song (and play some instruments along the way) made me love the song even more.  To this day I can still picture his silly faces, not to mention the hilarity of his seemingly monstrous size as compared with the petite Paul Simon.
You can call him Al and now, you can call those wispy lines of snow ...

snow snakes!


Friday, April 19, 2013

Are You Happy ?

One of my responsibilities at work is to prepare an agenda for and facilitate over a monthly meeting for my team.  Most of the time I enjoy putting together these meetings even though the agenda is often dictated to me by outside influences (new systems or procedures to roll out, etc.)  On occasion, I find myself in the unique situation where I get to outline an agenda entirely of my own devices.  I relish these opportunities and try to use them to help my team members think more broadly and deeply on any given subject, often related to life and not just limited to something in the work environment.

Today, among other things, I shared portions of an article I came across from LinkedIn.  The article was posted/written by a Jeff Haden (giving credit where credit is due, despite no knowlegde of who this person actually is)Upon first reading the ideas he outlined, I was taken back and willingly forced into a very introspective mode.  I found myself internally asking questions regarding my level of "happiness."  I was mostly pleased with my answers, as they reaffirmed my belief that I am genuinely happy the majority of the time.  The areas where I am not as happy, are things I can change by choosing the right "trade-offs" to give up.  This took away my feelings of helplessness and gave me a feeling of power over the direction in my life.

We are told to follow after the pursuit of happiness, but this isn't the same thing for all people.  I love this concept.  It removes the need for argument with anyone else over success.  The truth is, YOU determine how successful YOU are.  If that's more money, more time, enough flexibility in work hours to engage in your favorite hobby or activity, a bigger family, stronger relationship with your spouse, or even a clearer spiritual connection with your own 'supreme being' ... it doesn't matter if that makes someone else view you as successful or not.  They are not you.  They do not live with you 24/7.  So stop worrying if they approve.

If you're happy and you know it ... good!  :)

Song Of The Day:
I've already shared the music of Bobby McFerrin in this blog, but his greatest selling popular song will always be "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and that's the perfect message to go along with this post.  Enjoy!


Thursday, April 18, 2013

How Can I Reduce My Stress ?

We all have stress in our lives.  I've heard it said that 'when we run out of stress we die' so I would argue that there is some benefit to having some stress each day.  But how much stress we have and how much stress we need to have will change over time.

To the question posed in the post title ... wouldn't it be great if we could reduce our stress by making a few small and simple changes?

I suggest that it is in very fact the small and simple decisions WE make each day that leads to our larger than preferred levels of stress.  And a simple way to change this would be to 'just say no.'  Not to drugs (although that's good advice too!) but to additional responsibilities and things to do.

Most people resist saying 'No' when asked for help, but the reasons why vary from person to person and are often situational.  Learning to say 'No' (especially to yourself) is an arguably simple task we can do which will greatly reduce our stress.

Think about it ... what stresses you most?  Completing commitments you have made at some previous point in time.  Little children don't have stress because they don't have any commitments.  You can't live like a child all the time (bills need to be paid, etc.) but you can limit your promises to complete tasks or assignments.  Pick the most important things and commit fully to those.  Then just say no to as many of the extra requests you receive.  Try it for a week.  You may be surprised how much your stress dissipates.

Song Of The Day:
Two versions of the same song here today so you have options and can listen to your favorite again and again.  "Brave" originally sung by Josh Groban has been covered in solo acapella fashion by the equally talented Peter Hollens.So my challenge to you is to be "Brave" this week and just say no to some unnecessary extra stressors this week.  You'll be glad you did!


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How Do You Feel About Pie Charts ?

Here are some of my favorite humorous pie charts (pretty much all taken from individual contributors on the iFunny app on my iPad).


Now why couldn't THIS have been the way we studied math concepts in school.  I can promise you I would have stayed awake and alert much better if we had studied these!

Song Of The Day:
When I did study math (up through college), it always seemed like we had to "show our work" which is a concept I just hate.  If I can get the right answer without showing you how I got it (as long as I'm not cheating), then why does it matter how I got there?!  To that end "Let's Go All The Way" by Sly Fox is my song for this post.  Let's just go all the way to the end instead of getting bogged down with the details in the middle!


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How Was Your High School Experience ?

Today at work, my boss' boss posed the round table "get to know you" question as this: name your favorite subject in high school.  As my peers shared their variety of preferred subject matter, it occurred to me that we all have had very different high school experiences.  Even if we went to the same school and graduated from the same class year, high school meant and means different things to each of us.

For some, high school is almost a pinnacle of life (up to that point anyway).  With lots of friends or great teachers who inspire the desire for higher learning, high school was a great experience for these folks.  Fond memories of parties or field trips or engaging classroom discussion quickly come to mind if you're one of these people.

For others, high school was more like a prison.  This could be because of bullying or challenging classwork on subjects that held no interest for you.  It could be because you felt better than these other high school "kids" and couldn't wait for the maturity of college.  Regardless as to why, high school doesn't hold many fond memories for this group of people.

And then there are ... therestofus.  This category is for everyone else, and it happens to be where I fall.  I have many fond reflections of high school, with an equal number of personally horrifying experiences that I would never wish to re-live again.  There were things I loved about the simplicity and free-spirited times of those years.  And there are memories of the boring monotony, endless homework, and awkward growing up experiences.

Overall, I think high school (and all of life too) is what you make of it.  But more on that with today's song ...

Song Of The Day:
It is only fitting to use "High School Never Ends" by Bowling For Soup as the song for this blog post.  I think for many, many people, life seems to just be a continuation of what high school was like.  But it doesn't have to be like that.  Life is what you make it and people only treat you as you allow them to treat you.  If you feel "stuck" in high school all over again, make a change.  Start small if you like, but focus on becoming the person you always wanted to be and you'll be amazed at how soon you will get there.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Do You Believe In Evolution ?

Let me be very clear right up front ... this is NOT an argumentative post about "creationism" vs "evolution."  I am not intending in any way, shape, or form to draw any conclusion in that hot mess of a dispute.  Scientists and spiritual leaders can continue their verbal jarring on their own time.  I am sure both groups would argue that "believe" and "evolution" do not belong in the same sentence together.  I did that on purpose (if only to rile the two groups up a bit!)  :)

I am talking about the overall concept of evolution.  The process of people, the world, things in general, concepts, situations, etc. evolving and changing over time.

I believe that evolution occurs all around us.  We often call it by different names, but in my mind change that makes things more efficient, more effective, or better suited for the future qualifies as evolution.  Some things are only seen generationally, like my kids just having a more natural affinity towards technology.  While others are noticeable as you look at your own life, such as slowing down your driving speed in an area of town where you've been pulled over before.

I think evolution is a natural process and (warning for the scientists and spiritual scholars out there) it works in harmony with the theory of creationism.  As human beings we have capacity within ourselves to improve and grow and prepare future generations for greater success in their life on this earth.  Our ability to adapt is a key to successful survival (cue Darwin-ites and the "survival of the fittest" arguments), but this adaptation is often driven further forward by our internal desires to improve (cue creationist arguments over the soul and spirit and divine nature).

Bottom line from my perspective is this ... I know I am a Child of God and that, as such, I strive for improvements in who I am as a person and eternal soul.  I also know that I can evolve in this life and that evolution will help me be more successful and happy.

Song Of The Day:
I think there is just too much arguing in the world, especially around concepts that we actually generally agree on, but speak about in different ways.  "It's Alright" by 311 is my choice for a song that might encourage us to get along a bit better.  One lyric from the song states "A song, one song, could end a war, could end a war."  This concept might be a little far-fetched for some, but I actually believe we could evolve to a point where it could literally be true.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Am I The Only One Who Does This ?

Regular readers of this blog know that I often compare my own experiences with those of the world at large.  I believe myself to be unique in many ways, but I also hope that I am very similar to lots of other people out there.

Yesterday, while driving home from work, I engaged in a legal activity while driving and wondered aloud how many other people do the same sort of thing.  No, I am not talking about driving with one hand on the wheel or picking your nose or even chatting on the phone with Bluetooth.  Here's what I did:
  • I was coming up on the stop light at Dublin and Powers, needing to turn left and head East toward my home.  Instead of waiting in the long line in the left-hand turn lane(s), I turned right.  I drove west on Dublin for about 100 yards and then spun a legal u-turn, stopping once I got to the light.  That light went green and I drove past all those people who were ahead of me in the left-hand turn lane line.
I know this probably doesn't save me any real time on my drive, but there are probably a half-dozen intersections in Colorado Springs where I will follow a similar pattern because the left turn lane just takes f-o-r-e-v-e-r to go green again.  I know I can't be the only one who does this ...

Song Of The Day:
I have mentioned how I like to periodically listen to Spotify (and Songza and Pandora, etc.), if only to hear new artists and music that are rarely if ever played on the radio.  The song "The Way I Am" by artist Ingrid Michaelson is one that I liked from the first notes I heard.  I think it is appropriate for today's post because "takes-a-'u-turn'-at-certain-stoplights-instead-of-waiting-to-turn-left" is the way I am ... and I'm okay with that!  :)


Saturday, April 13, 2013

How Can I Make This More Obvious ?

I'm a talker.  Get me started and I can filibuster for hours (some say days, but let's be reasonable here people!)  It is just in my nature to have lots to say at any time.  I used to fret over this constantly.  It actually made the problem worse.  In my haste to say something with less words, I would feel the need to go back and fill in what I missed, which ended up taking even longer.

With that in mind, I am going to be blatantly hypocritical here.  I'm just mentioning that up front so no one can think I'm a talker and oblivious to my own hypocrisy.  :)

Why is it that some people just cannot take ANY hint that you try to give them when you just don't have time to listen to them right now?
I'd like to think that, while I talk a LOT, I am reasonably aware when someone doesn't have the time and I just need to go chat with someone else.  I try to pay attention to some of the more basic "I'm busy, can you come back another time" or "How long is this going to take?" signals that the average person just seems to know how to give:
 - tapping a pen or pencil
 - short or one-word responses (yeah, uh-huh, sure, hmmm)
 - multi-tasking right in front of you (checking email or the phone, etc.)
 - purposefully sounding distracted ('I'm sorry, what was that?' etc.)
 - looking at your watch or the clock on the wall
 - actually saying "Boy is it really that late already?!"

I have a few co-workers who just seem oblivious to these signals.  They are all great people and most of the time I enjoy spending 30-45 minutes conversing with them.  But sometimes, I only have so much time in that given day and it does not include any leeway for chit-chat.

Is there a better way, without being rude, to let someone know you just don't have time right now?  I could try to just say that very politely, but it never feels good.

Song Of The Day:
The often repeated line 'how am I going to get through?' is the reason I have chosen "What Have I Done To Deserve This?" by the Pet Shop Boys as the song for today.  I do NOT think I am being punished or anything by these non-readers of signals.  I just don't know how to get my message through to these individuals when I need to end our chit-chats.


Friday, April 12, 2013

How Do You Improvise ?

I am terrible about waking up early enough to eat breakfast before my work day begins.  This used to be a big deal to me because I'm not as effective when I'm hungry.

               So I improvised ...

I keep a bowl and spoon, as well as a few different boxes of cereal at my desk.  I also keep a supply of granola bars, and on occasion, cereal bars.  These make for good snacks during the day, as needed, too.

This morning ... I realized that my bowl was missing.  I remembered that I had brought it home to be washed (I wash it every day in the office, but try to bring it home often to run through the dishwasher) .  Sadly I was super hungry this morning but now I had no way to effectively eat my cereal (since I'm all out of granola and cereal bars).

               So I improvised ...


I think this was reasonably creative on my part ... and truth be told, it worked pretty well.  I'll still go the "bowl" route for the normal routine, but now I know I have 'options' if ever needed.  :)

Song Of The Day:
My older brother is a big fan of jazz music, as I am.  He does not, however, enjoy the scatting style of some jazz music.  I will agree that sometimes this improvisation can be annoying, but most of the time I just love to hear the freestyling that happens when singers or musicians just have fun with the music.  This clip of Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins from 1950 is my video-song of the day.  Just two great sax players 'improvising' together.  I hope you like it.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

So Now What ?

As promised back in January in this blog post, at the bottom of this post are my BEFORE and AFTER pictures from my P90X experiment.  I finished the workouts last week, but with my friend's wedding that weekend I simply did not have time to take and post "after" pics until just now.
A few reflections about this journey I was on:
 - It.  Was.  Hard.
 - The results don't always manifest themselves in the ways you hoped or anticipated, but you can see success in many ways.
 - I found that I enjoy the energy boost I earned through regular workouts.
 - I also found that I missed playing basketball.
 - I love not getting as 'winded' walking up 3 flights of stairs at work or playing a few hours of basketball.
 - Working out with a partner (except with yoga) was more fun.
 - Some routines were naturally easier for me.  Others never seemed to go well.
 - I have severly underestimated the value of flexibility (thanks Yoga X!)
 - It is amazing how much more soundly I slept when I consistently worked out.
 - Skipping a workout here and there (for minor soreness or injuries) never made me feel better ... but they surely kept me from feeling worse and quitting entirely!
 - People are generally supportive of your health goals.  Thanks to everyone who cheered me on and even joined in some of the workouts!
 - Cardio workouts didn't provide me with any immediate results, but over time, those probably had the biggest affect on my overall health.
 - I don't actually hate working out as much as I thought I would.
 - It helped to have my supportive wife tell me I was looking ever sexier.  :)
 - We are capable of doing more than we think we are!

A few assorted numbers I've "crunched" for this post:
2 - inches 'lost' off my waist
49 - total P90X workouts completed
16 - total P90X workouts skipped or missed
      (missing 8 of the last 10 was not a smart way to end)
9 - different people who joined me for at least part of one workout
3 - total number of standard pull ups I could do in the first week
25 - total number of standard pull ups I can do now
20 - heaviest dumbbell I had available during these workouts
40 - weight of heaviest dumbbell I estimate I actually need for some reps
1000+ - number of push-ups done throughout the workouts
      (I stopped counting after 1000)
90 - minutes in length of the Yoga X workout
80 - minutes in length of most of the other workouts
15 - grueling minutes for each Ab Ripper X workout

And finally, the pictures themselves (which don't really do justice for the changes I feel have happened during this experience):

(The left side -with crazy beard - are the BEFORE, the right side are the AFTER)


Song Of The Day:
An old country song that has nothing at all to do with a workout program but IS relevant to my blog post title, "Then What" by Clay Walker, is actually about cheating on your spouse (which I do not support nor endorse!)  But in this case, I'm just wondering then what after having worked myself into the shape I'm in.  Do I keep at it?  Take a break?  Never do that again?  What's going to happen to the new me?  I guess we'll see.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

That All Just Happened TODAY ?!

I don't normally brag on my awesome kiddos, but just this afternoon I learned the following about four of my seven kids ...
  • Ben was first in his grade at school for reading during the quarter.
    • AND ... was selected (one of 12 from his elementary school) to attend a space mission practice event.
    • AND ... competes in the school district's Battle of the Books tomorrow. 
  • Brooklyn was second in her grade at school for reading during the last quarter.
    • AND ... is going to audition for the school talent show by singing "The Star Spangled Banner" (which is really a tough song!)
  • Savannah moved on to the semifinals of the school talent show (singing "Trouble" by Taylor Swift).
  • Catalina got the BIGGEST part in her kindergarten play for school (Blue Shark, with about 7 lines of dialogue ... out of maybe 20 lines for the whole class).

Well done my awesome offspring, well done!

Song Of The Day:
Looks like I finally have a reason to use "Lovely Day" by Bill Withers.  This is an oldie but a goodie and contains my favorite it-is-being-held-out-so-long-you-think-the-singer-will-pass-out note in the history of music!
A Lovely Da-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-ayyyy!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

When Do You Think They Will Notice ?

I am sure this will disappoint some readers, but my family is one of those families that has the "family stickers" on the back of our vehicles.

I know many people who think this is the opposite of cool or have even stronger negative comments that I will not repeat here.  That's okay.  You have your right to your opinion and I'm not judging you for it.  To each their own.  Regardless of which category you fall into, I think everyone can enjoy a little humor here as related to these family stickers.  The following are a few pictures of some stickers I once added to my wife's car and the suburban of our friends in Alabama.

Of course I removed these fairly quickly afterward, but I have decided that it might be fun to add an occasional sticker to random cars and families.  And then see how long it takes them to notice the add-on.  :)

Song Of The Day:
When I think of families and funny I think Weird Al Yankovic.  I can still recall long drives in our car when I would pop in one of my Weird Al cassette tapes and listen to some silly music to pass the time.  "The Brady Bunch" parodies the popular Men Without Hats song "Safety Dance" and feels just right for this post.


Monday, April 8, 2013

When Are They Due Back ?

In life you should always return what you've borrowed.  This can be very rewarding, especially if you happen to do it on time or early.

Our house sometimes becomes cluttered with things we have 'borrowed' from family and friends too.  There are DVDs for the kids (and sometimes for us parents).  There are clothes, workout programs, dishes, tools, games, books, and even furniture.  It can become an overwhelming eyesore, which is odd considering these are almost always things we've asked to borrow.
The payoff of more living space that appears out of nowhere from the chaos of clutter is always worth it.

To that end, I returned my tuxedo today.  I also returned several audiobooks to the library (without knowing they were actually due today). That was a great feeling! :)

Song Of The Day:
Although often short lived, I always get the feeling of being "Free" when I return items that I have borrowed.  I also get a good feeling listening to this song by the Zac Brown Band.  :)


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Why Does Wearing A Tuxedo Make You Feel ... ?

More mature.



They say the clothes don't make the man, but as one of my fellow groomsmen so eloquently stated "the tuxedo can sure make the man feel more confident!"

Today my best friend from my 15 years at Progressive, Greg Lofthus, wedded his awesome wife, Erin Logan (now Erin Lofthus).  The wedding was held at The Briarhurst Manor and was equal parts spiritual, raucous, and just plain fun.
I wish these "kids" (I can say that even though Greg is technically older than me!) a lifetime of happiness together.

Being priviledged to be one of Greg's groomsmen, I had the opportunity to rent a tuxedo for the wedding.  This is the first time wearing a tux in almost 15 years.  I must say, it was quite nice!  :)

I have no idea why, but wearing the whole get-up for the whole day was not an annoyance or bother, but was rather enjoyable and made me feel all of the adjectives listed above.  I cannot even try to explain it, but there's just something about being decked out to the nines that changes your whole approach to any situation.  People treat you differently.  You act differently.  I liked that, a lot!

Song(s) Of The Day:
In honor of this special day, here is a two-fer song of the day.  Of course the classic default song here is "Sharp Dressed Man" by ZZ Top.  And jumping forward three decades, here is a small tip of the proverbial top hat to Justin Timberlake's "Suit And Tie"  Enjoy!  :)


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Why Am I Not Surprised ?

I know it's very cliche, and you can go ahead and call me sexist for it.  I don't care.  I'll own it.  But the facts are the facts (from my perspective anyway) and this is a pretty universal truth.

Women (especially as related to weddings) just take LONGER.

This morning was the rehearsal for my buddy Greg's wedding to his beautiful bride Erin.  They are both awesome people and come from pretty darn good families too.  In point of fact, the bride (and groom, but they came together) and most of the bridesmaids were the last to arrive at the rehearsal, some as much as an hour later than we were supposed to be there.  **To be fair, we men do seem to put pressure on women to get all "gussied up" and so on, which does justify some of their excessive primping time ... but I think they play that card a little too often.  Just sayin'.  :)

On the other hand, myself and one other groomsman (with kids in the wedding!) were the first to be there.

This shouldn't have surprised me as much as it did.

Song Of The Day:
There's a song called "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" sang by the great Aretha Franklin and George Michael (an odd pairing considering the lyrics and message of the song).  This song has two meaning for the blog post today.  The first should be obvious to you (men waiting for women).  The second is a tribute to my friends Greg and Erin, who have been waiting for each other ... and I'm so glad they found each other!  What a great couple!