Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Words of Thanksgiving


Coffee with swirling cream

Rotary Turkey Trot

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade
Oh You Turkey coloring contest
Patrick Reuesse's Turkey of the year

Road trip to the relatives
Grandmas, Aunts, Uncles, In-Laws
Overstuffed Couch

Wafting thanksgiving dinner kitchen air
Stomach growls


Lumpy mashed potatoes with gravy
Sliced Cranberry jell out of the can
Sweet Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Buttered corn
Fresh warm baked rolls
Cold milk

Going back for seconds

Overstuffed belly

Pumpkin Pie
Flavored Coffee

More Football
Food Coma, couch

Brisk walk

Cards and Conversation
Hot tub

Autumn Lovin'

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The difference between poor and broke.

Recently I've fielded several calls inquiring about scholarships for behind the wheel instruction.  Here at community education we offer behind the wheel at a cost of $250 for six hours of instruction.  I'll admit $250 is expensive.  But the cost covers the instructors pay, insurance (which is high) gas, and maintenance of the vehicle.

In one particular case a mother and her daughter asked if we could set-up a payment plan so that they could tackle the cost in chunks.  They agreed to pay $50 a month.  Once we received $150 we went ahead and gave the behind the wheel instruction, but we kept the daughters form that allows her to take the drivers test until we received the final $100 in payment.  Once we received the $100, she would get her form and be able to take the drivers test.

A month after she had finished behind the wheel, the mother and daughter failed to make any payments on the rest of the $100 that was owed.  Then the mother called and asked for a scholarship for the remaining $100.  I said no.  Then she told me that they weren't in a position to come up with $100 and wouldn't be able anytime soon be able to come up with $100.  I simply said, "as soon as you come up with the $100 we'd be happy to give you the form to allow your daughter to take her drivers test."

I wanted to help, I wanted to bring her into my office and figure out how she could come up with $100.  But I didn't.  I didn't because I knew this woman was not only broke, but poor.

There is a big difference between being poor and being broke.
When you're poor you have no money, and no hope of ever getting money
When you're broke you have no money, but you have hope.
When you're poor, you focus on all the problems
When you're broke, money is only a short-term problem.

Instead of looking for work, she was looking for a hand out.
Instead of teaching her daughter how money works, she was teaching her how unemployment works.
Instead of focusing on ways to come up with $100, she focused and worried about lack of money.
Instead of taking action and making a decision to do anything, she decided to take no action.  

This is how mom was raised and is raising her daughter.  And so the cycle continues.

Reminds me about the quote, It's not where you've been that's important, it's where you are going.

In the past 12 months our house has been hit with an usual amount of household problems.  Not one but two cars needed to be replaced.  Bought used cars.  Used cars ran well - for about a week.  Made numerous trips to the mechanic.  Dryer went out.  Vacuum died.  Needed beer. 

Then we made some tough choices with money.  Instead of having a stay-cation, we went to Colorado for a family reunion (we committed to go and paid for half the trip).  We also decided to send our kids to private school, which is not cheap.

Throw in all those financial obligations and we spent close to $15k in expenses that we normally don't have.  I don't know about you, but an extra $15,000 added extra stress to my life.   It's enough to freak you out.  Especially when the bill from the mechanic has an extra zero that you weren't planning on.  We couldn't pay the bill.   Because we didn't have all of the money to pay for the repair, the mechanic kept the car.  Don't worry, it worked out.  We got creative with transportation and eventually paid, and got the car back

If you're poor and you have a flat tire... your whole world gets turned upside down.  Poor people operate on a thin margin of error.  Luckily for us, we are not poor, just broke.  When misfortune hits, we work extra hours, we slash our expenses, and eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches.  It may take a while for us to get on track, but at least for us there is hope.  Which above all is the main difference between being poor and being broke.  We know this is just bad-luck and is only short-term.

So I say to all my readers... hang in there.  "Out of suffering comes perseverance.  With perseverance comes character.  Out of character hope.  And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured his love into our hearts by the holy spirit, whom he has given us"  -Romans 5: 3-8.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Time, I want more.

Let’s face it.  We all want have multiple areas in life that we want to do well in.  Things that matter to us.  Without a doubt these things, if done right, require time from us.  Time is a finite resource, and we only get so much of it before we leave this world.  Question is, can we some how have enough focus on the things that matter to us without sacrificing one or more of them?

Here is my list of things I want to spend time on.

My faith
My wife
My daughter
My son
My Friends
Family (brothers, parents, aunts, uncles, grandmas, cousins, nephews, in-laws)
Church and church activities (Small group, connectors, fundraisers)  
House and household duties (Cleaning, Repairs, Cooking – eating better than box dinners)
Coaching Cross Country
Career and continuing with my part-time job, attending 1-3 nightly meetings a week.
Finances – spending time going over the family budget.
Volunteering – all pro dad/school activities/Rotary/volunteering at school
Reading and learning
Rest – getting 8 hours of sleep a night, keeping Sunday afternoons activity free.
Attending local sporting events, and the occasionally Gopher basketball game.

I asked my wife can we do it all?  We concluded, if we do, we have to be intentional, and put everything in the calendar in writing and then stick to the calendar.  Undoubtedly this would leave us with a rigid schedule for each day almost everyday.  Which as I type it, sounds constraining and leaves little room for spontaneity.  That doesn’t sound too appealing either.

Can you prioritize the most important areas of focus and then align your actions with those priorities?    Can you be congruent with your priorities and how you spend your time?

Keep in mind that emergencies will pop-up and require us to temporarily re-allocate our time. 

It’s making a decision on where to spend your time, and then being ok with not spending time on something else.  What will we sacrifice?  Will I be ok with that sacrifice?

Do you know anyone that's figured this out yet?


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dark reflections of my past

I saw him today.  I was in the park playing hide and seek with my two young kids.  My two, innocent, living life to the fullest, kids.  I happened to look over at the house next the park, and there he was in the backyard watering flowers like nothing ever happened.  I haven't seen him for 17 years.  His hair once black is now completely grey and time hasn't been good to him.  

Before he was the boisterous teacher with the loud laugh that pushed you to think creatively.  You didn't admit it, you hated the work, but you liked the results that came and you appreciated it.   Not anymore.  Any respect you had for him has turned into disgust.  Everything in me wants to go back 17 years ago and expose to the world the fraud that he was.  To give back the innocence of those he hurt and to open the eyes of those who supervised him. 

Reflection of your school years was supposed to be one of glory days, of Friday night football triumphs, high school crushes, and innocence.   I look back now and think, "What if..."

What if I confronted him, what would I have said?  What if I had told the police, what if I had warned the victims, what if he decided to prey upon me? 

I wasn't a victim, but if he truly hurt 100 or more kids I should have known.  To know now, that while most of us were experiencing a normal life, some of my classmates were going through a nightmare.   How did I not see?  How could I be so self-absorbed that I didn't have any idea?  

I played the what if game when I saw his name in the paper again last week.  The feelings rushed back.  I'm still angry.  It's still right there.   Writing this post today helps give me closure.  But writing isn't enough.

I haven't completely forgiven him, and I will not receive peace until I do.  Forgiveness doesn't mean what he did was right.  I'm starting to learn the difference.

My life is good.  I've been blessed to have been born in the best country in the world, to have won the "parent lottery" with two parents that loved me and raised me right.  I have a loving wife and two beautiful innocent children and a meaningful job that gives me financial peace.  At the center of it all is God.  I truly believe that my life (and yours) is better with God in the middle of it.  The more I forgive the more peace I receive.  That's a wonderful gift.   I don't think this happens by yourself, you have to ask Him to give you strength. 

I will learn to fully forgive him one day.  I ask you to do the same of that someone who hurt you.  This does not mean you accept what he/she did was right, forgiveness means letting go of your hatred and sorrow. 

To any of my classmates that haven't come forward yet, I am sorry for not noticing and helping.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Why I Run

I've always enjoyed running.  Not in the need to compete in races kind of way, but as a kid I liked to play tag or run the bases in kickball.  My favorite type of drills in basketball were the full court fast break run as quickly as you can drills.  When I was new I wanted to skip the learning to walk thing and go right to running.  As kids, didn't we all prefer running to walking?  We had places to go and new things to discover, why waste time walking?!  I think intrinsically we all want to run.  

In college I knew a few cross country athletes on the Saint Mary's team.  One of the runners on the team was getting ready to graduate and at the same time was training to run a marathon a few weeks after graduation.  A very bold way to celebrate I thought.  Running 26.2 miles is a huge audacious goal.  I was impressed to say the least.

Graduating from high school meant an end to team sports like football and baseball for me.  Graduation from college meant the end of basketball.  Sure I went on to play a little bit of town team baseball after college, but I didn't have the same enthusiasm for baseball like I did when I was in high school.  My favorite thing about sports is shooting for a goal and the journey you take to accomplish that goal.  I no longer could be a high school state champion, but I still wanted to accomplish something big.

I decided to run a marathon.  About as big of a goal that I've ever tried to tackle.

And the seven month marathon training was quite a journey.  I had my share of struggles.  Most of which were in my head.  I struggled to get out of the air conditioning and run in 90 degree heat.  I struggled to get out of bed on Saturday morning to go for a long run when I'd rather sleep in.  I struggled to go on a run after a long day of work.

But along the way came successes and a discovery of what I could do.  My first huge success was the first time running 10 miles.  This was a huge accomplishment for me because at this point I knew finishing a marathon was possible.  Then I surprised myself when I finished a half-marathon in under 2 hours.  

Towards the end of the training, you run for long distances - and that takes time.  Meaning you spend less time with your new bride while you run for four straight hours.  But race day is close and you've put in too much work to quit now.

The marathon day and the actual race will always remain one of the biggest memories I'll ever have.  The weather was perfect.  Cool and sunny.  I crossed the finish line in the time that I had hoped for and then it was over.  I, like 10,000 other marathon finishers, competed in the same course following the same footsteps as world class professional athletes.   I can share more about the race, but blogs are supposed to be short.

Something unexpected happened during the marathon training.  Running changed me.  Running was now a part of me.  Even though the marathon was over- I felt a craving to keep running.  If I didn't go on a run, my day wasn't complete.  If I failed to hit the road for more than 2-3 days I started to feel depressed.  Even stranger yet, I grew to love running in extreme conditions.  I now absolutely love running in the rain, the heat, and extreme cold.  No longer is there a desire to run a marathon, but just a desire to lace up my sneakers and run for 30-40 minutes.  It's not easily understood but -

That is why I run.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lizard Brain

In my mind there has always been one thing holding me back from doing great work, one thing preventing me from doing work that matters, one thing that prevents me from starting a new business venture or applying for a new job.  That one thing has plagued me practically my whole life.  What is it?

Author Seth Godin and I call it the Lizard Brain

What exactly is this monster?

Dinosaurs had a lizard brain.  Their brains told them to:
Be selfish
Figure out how they are gonna eat.
To run and hide from predators.
To stay safe and comfortable.
All animals, chickens, squirrels have a lizard brain.  Including humans.  It's the oldest part of our brain.

95% of teenagers are controlled by the lizard brain.

What are characteristics of the Lizard Brain?

It’s invisible

It’s insidious… it will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work.

Lizard Brain is always full of B.S.

Lizard Brain is Impersonal

Lizard Brain never sleeps

Lizard Brain is universal – we all have it, it never goes away

Lizard Brain plays for keeps

The Lizard Brain Says:

They are gonna laugh at me.
I’m too tired to go for a run today.
Nobody else is doing it.
It hurts to run hard – its not worth the pain
I’m not good enough.
I'm not smart enough.
The teacher has it in for me.
I’m too busy.
The list of excuses is long.
The lizard brain loves excuses.

As we get closer to competition or commitment the louder the lizard brain gets, and before you know it, its screaming at the top of its lungs!  What happens is we listen to the lizard brain,… and hit the repeat button  - then we don’t do the work, we won't ask the hot girl out, we don't raise our hand, we lay low in the background.  And we sabotage our goals and never take a chance on success.

Following the crowd makes the lizard brain happy because then you don’t stand out… you don’t rock the boat and everything stays the same… and when you listen to the lizard brain you become a “pretender”.  You aren’t your true self.   

What if you quieted the lizard brain, what if you took a chance?  What if you decided that discipline was worth it?  What if you didn't care if you failed?  What would be the worse thing that could happen if you did fail?  

What happens if you do nothing?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Father's Day

This week I've noticed a lot of great dads.  Maybe I'm paying attention more because it's the week of Father's day.  I've seen dads playing with their young kids at the park.  I've seen numerous kids skipping behind their father while he walks into the store with a big smile on their face - it's a look that says, "I'm with my Dad and he is cool!"  These dads aren't your stereotypical dads.  

At St. John the Baptist school and Park Elementary we host an "All Pro Dad's Day" breakfast before school starts.  I look out into the crowd and all I see are excellent fathers who are real men.  Men who know that their greatest job is raising their children right and spending time with their kids.  Every child who attends that breakfast with dad is searing a special bond into their memory.  And dad knows it.

These dads aren't your stereotypical dads.  T.V. tells us that the stereotypical dad is a beer chugging, sports loving man whose 11 year old kid is smarter than him.  They are weak men that orbit the family.  They aren't the central figure of the family.  Society is critical of the role of fathers at home.  When it comes to parenting, you'll be hard pressed to find a story strictly related to dear old dad unless we're talking about fathers who abandon their children.  Men are at the low end of the totem pole.

Men observe these stereotypes and kind of absorb them through osmosis.  We apologize simply because of our existence.  Our kids see these stereotypes on television and in the media and assume that they are true.   Dads are sort of shrinking in the background.

This strikes a nerve with me.  Because that stereotype is the opposite of how I see myself as a father and all of the great fathers that I see around me.  

In the book, "Strong Father's Strong Daughters" author Dr. Meg Meeker explains that the 
Data shows that if you have a strong, engaged, morally centric man, there is a rock solid correlation to a confident strong successful daughter.  

As important as the data shows, it wasn't until she said the following that truly made me realize my impact as a father, "Every women takes one man to her grave.  And that's her dad.  No matter how old she is.  Even when she is 70 years old and her dad is 90.  There is a huge part of her that is her dad.  A dad has an authority in her daughter's eyes with a capital A.  It just is that way, and nobody else will ever replace that.  She is her dad's daughter always.  In a way a father's impact and effect on their daughter as they grow into adulthood is as great and profound as ever, because daughters are still shaping themselves - Who am I as a mother, who am I as a wife, how do I make this work?  They look to their father throughout their life, so the teaching goes on and on and on.   Every daughter wants more from their father." 

It's an incredibly special bond that a daughter always wants to have with their dad.

I listen to the way my own mother talks about her dad, and easily see that what Dr. Meeker says is true.   

I look at my own father with a strong fondness and thank God that I had a father who showed me the value of hard work, to be patient, the importance of humor, and the effect that confidence plays in your life.   Growing up, my father was larger than life and all I wanted was to hang out and play with him.  I still remember growing up on the millpond having my dad teach me how to play catch and throw.  Those days are etched into my memory.  Thank you dad!  

So on this Fathers day, I'd like to thank all of the great fathers and wish them a Happy Father's Day!

Friday, April 27, 2012

How NOT to buy a car.

Our 17 year Chevrolet Tahoe proved too costly to fix, so it was sold.  Now it's time to buy a new car.  In this post I explain the process of what we did to buy a car.  I spent a lot of time looking and test driving, and had some truly great revolutions and made some mistakes.  But there was one huge mistake that I don't want you to make.  Read on so that you can learn from my big blunder.

What We're looking for:
We were looking for a car we could purchase for $3,400 or less.  The car needed to be a car that would be decent on gas mileage and not be too much of an eyesore.  Types of cars we were looking for: Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic, and Ford Focus.

What We Discovered
In this economy there are a lot of cars available but very little in our price range.  We saw many beaters out there selling for $1,000 or less, and many of these vehicles were SUV's or gas guzzlers.  We also saw quite a few vehicles selling for $10,000 or more.  There wasn't much in between.  Throw in a fuel efficient vehicle and there was even less to choose from.

The Search
By far the best selection of vehicles in the $2000-$4000 range were found on craigslist.  CarSoup and AutoTrader had a decent selection, but Craigslist had everyone beat.  Most of the vehicles in this price range were coming from the small car dealership on the side of the highway and private sellers closer to the Twin Cities. 

What we did not find was any vehicle from your large name brand dealerships in our price range.  Cheapest car we found on the lot was $5000.  

We looked at least 15 vehicles from these smaller dealerships and about five from private sellers.  I will tell you that I highly prefer looking at a car from a private seller than from one of these used car salesmen.  I just didn't know when these car dealers were telling the truth.

Negotiating From a Private Seller
After looking at many cars we went to a private seller and saw a 1998 Honda Civic for sale.  The owner told us everything he knew about the car and that it would need some minor repairs.  The car had a little rust, but nothing serious.  We offered cash on the spot, but offered $300 less than what he was asking for and he declined.  So we walked away.  That night he called us back and told us he would accept our offer.  However, we wanted to look at a few more cars.  This is one of the mistakes I made.  I wish I would have purchased this car.  He was willing to take $2000 for car whose blue book value was $2500.  But I wanted something better.  So we searched some more.   Lesson learned - buy with cash and chances are they will accept your low ball offer, but be willing to walk away if they decline.

The Big Mistake
Not having a lot to choose from we went to BEST BUY MOTORS located in Shakopee by Burger King.  They seemed to have large number of cars for under $5000.  In particular they had a 2002 Ford Focus for under $3000.  That car really caught my eye.  I took my dad along to get his opinion and support.  We test drove a few cars, and the Focus still was my favorite.  I asked the Dealer what he could tell me about the car.  He said that it had gone through a 33 point inspection and it was good to go.

I asked my dad what he thought and he was not impressed.  He pointed out a few flaws and told me to think about it before buying it.  I was anxious thinking that this was the best car that we had seen so far.  Plus the car salesman had told me that several people were "On their way to test drive the Focus".  So I didn't want to lose my chance.

I bought the car for the asking price on the spot.  I bought it "As Is" with no warranty.

I take the car home and already there seem to be a few things wrong with it.  The battery light went on and the brakes all of a sudden started to make a grinding noise (one of my least favorite noises).  So I take in the car to my favorite mechanic - Moske's in Le Sueur.  And they found the following: Car needs a new serpentine belt, front rotors, rear suspension, and CV joint.  Not horrible, but still around $500 worth of repairs.  So I go ahead and fix them.

Two days after that the check engine light goes on.  And my blood pressure shoots up.  I take it back to Moske's and he tells me that the alternator is bad and the Catalytic Converter is bad too.  Totally nearly $1400 in repairs.  Both will need to be replaced in the next month.

I'm Livid.  I realize I had been duped by Best Buy Motors.  So I contacted them as it had not even been a week since I bought the car and now it has almost $2,000 worth of repairs.  They did nothing, offered nothing and played dumb.

Lessons Learned
  1. Do Not But a vehicle from the small dealer on the side of the highway - especially do not ever buy a vehicle from Best Buy Motors in Shakopee.  I've never been lied to and taken advantage like I have from them.  I gave them a chance to win back my business even after the obvious lies and still they did nothing.  Don't even step on their parking lot.  They are devious.
    1. Another red flag - Through this experience I learned that most of these small dealerships purchase their vehicles at auction.  They do not do a carfax report on them so they themselves know nothing about the history of the vehicle or if the vehicle has been in an accident or not.   
  2. Listen to your old man.  He has experience and has been in this situation more than you.
  3. Buy from a private seller - offer cash on hand to help bring the cost down.  People do weird things when you have thousands of dollars in cash in your hand.
  4. Always - Always - Always have your vehicle thoroughly inspected by a mechanic before buying.  Might cost you $70 to have a used car inspection.  But believe me, it's money well spent.  
  5. Most importantly - stay away from Best Buy Motors in Shakopee.  Did I mention that? 
I will make the repairs on this Focus, and hopefully it will become reliable.  Talk about an expensive mistake.  Any of you have any car buying stories (good or bad) to share?  I'd love to hear them. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tips on How Not to Sell a Car

Recently, a costly repair to our 17 year old Chevy Tahoe gave us a decision to either make a repair that is more than is worth the value of the beastly vehicle or to sell the gas guzzler for a fuel efficient car.

Here's the challenge:  Buy a good running vehicle for $2400 (as much cash as I have on hand) plus whatever money I make from selling the Tahoe.  We want to sell the Tahoe for as much as possible as there are very few, if any, reliable vehicles out there for $2400 - and we are refusing to take out a loan to buy a car.

The Tahoe - our blue beast.
Problem - SUV's don't really get good gas mileage and are not selling for their Kelly Blue Book value.  2nd problem - This 167,000 mile vehicle has many repairs that need to be made for safe, comfortable riding.  Repairs such as brakes, transfer case, air-conditioning, muffler, tires, and a new radio add up to about $2,800+.  The engine runs like a top, and there is very little rust on it.  Our hope is to get $1000 from the sale.

Here's what NOT to do when selling your car or truck.
We called around to area dealerships to see what they would give us for a Tahoe with plenty of fix-ups.  All the dealerships were willing to trade it in for a new car.  Most would give us $500-$600 only if we bought a car with them.  However, one dealership's website (located in Faribault) advertised that they will buy your vehicle for you and write you a check.  We decided to drive down to see what they would give us.  Upon arriving at the dealership we are greeted right away.  To make a long story short, they really pushed us into trading our vehicle and were not interested in buying the Tahoe outright.  This was disappointing as I took the morning off, drove 50 minutes to this dealership, and they did NOT want the vehicle.  So lesson learned, do NOT bring your vehicle to a dealership unless you plan on trading it in.

What you SHOULD do when selling a vehicle.
After spending drive time to and back from Faribault, we parked the car in front of the house, decided to post the Tahoe on Craigslist and put a large "For Sale" sign along with the price in the windshield.  In about 10 minutes we received at least 20 email messages from the Craigslist posting and 2 people pulled their car over when they noticed the price in the window.

Obviously, this proved to be a winning strategy.

Negotiating the sale
We still had the dealer's voice in our heads saying that he wouldn't buy our vehicle from us because of low demand for SUVs.  When the first offer was thrown our way, we were so excited to get any money that we accepted it.  We posted the Tahoe for $1000, and this first offer was for $400.

Minutes after we accepted the offer we received a call from a guy offering us $1200.   He told us he wasn't available for a few days to pick up the Tahoe, but he would pay us with cash.  Realizing that we shouldn't have taken the low $400 offer, we informed the guy who offered us $400 of this much larger offer and said we could no longer sell for $400.  Fortunately for us, he was very understanding and walked away.

Two days later they guy who offered us $1200 isn't returning our phone calls and isn't showing up.  This isn't a good sign, so we post the Tahoe again on Craigslist.  Again within minutes we get many emails asking about the Tahoe.  This time we post the Tahoe for $1200 realizing that people will low ball us on their offer.  I sort through all the Craigslist emails and call the person whose email seems most likely to buy the Tahoe right away.  We end up selling the SUV within two hours of posting on Craigslist to a mechanic who gave us $1000 in cash. 

Here's a short Recap
  • To get the most for your money for an SUV, do not sell or trade in your vehicle to a dealer.
  • Don't be so anxious to sell your vehicle if the first offer is below what you want.
  • Craigslist is a free and effective way to advertise your car.
  • Post your vehicle for $200 more that you hope to receive.
  • Accept only cash or a cashier's check made out to you for payment.
  • Upon selling the vehicle, both the seller and the buyer should go to the nearest government center and transfer the title to the buyer, that way, if anything happens to the vehicle the buyer is liable and not you.
Stay tuned, in the next blog post, I will share the mistakes I made when purchasing a car.   Have any other good tips?  Leave them in the comments section - I have a feeling I may be selling a car in the not too distant future.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Your Heart

Christina is 40 years old.  She's been happily married for 15 years, has three beautiful children and a husband that cherishes her.  In high school she dated a handsome shy boy named Tom, which before long turned into a serious relationship.  This was Christina's first love, and first loves are often intense, and this one was no different.  Christina dated Tom into their college years where talks of marriage weren't just dreams, but an inevitability - and not just for Christina and Tom, but for their friends and parents.  In fact their parents were so sure that these two would marry, that they had no problems with the college sophomores driving to Colorado from Wisconsin to spend a week of vacation alone in the mountains.  A few years into this courtship Christina took the opportunity to study abroad in Spain while Tom stayed back home.  During Christina's time out of the country, Tom found another girl and broke up with Christina.  Christina was so devastated that it took two years before she would date again. 

Over 20 years later, Christina's heart, still holds feelings for Tom.  20 years past the heartache - the feelings still remains.  She wakes up in the middle of the night dreaming of Tom.  Her heart will not extinguish the flame.   The heart has found new love, a deeper love with her husband and children... but Tom is still there.

Two years ago Tammy lost her brother in a hunting accident.  He drove a grey Jeep Cherokee.  Every time a grey Jeep drives past, her heart races thinking it might be him.   A month ago she walked passed a grey jeep in the parking lot.  It sounds odd, but she couldn't refrain herself to look in the vehicle to see if maybe if it was her brother's.

Michael Jordan was made to play basketball.  He was the best player during his era, and is arguably the best player of all time.  He has failed in every other endeavor.  He tried baseball, failed.  His marriage - ended in divorce, His NBA Washington Wizards team - worst team in the league.  Gambling = major fail.  All this failure and I can see why M.J. kept coming back to play after all those retirements.   

Tammy will never get her brother back, Christina will never get Tom back, and Michael Jordan will never play in the NBA again.  But this is where their hearts ache and remain.     

The pain hurts and may never go away.  We ask ourselves why?  Why did I lose the job I loved?  Why hasn't the girl called me back?  Why hasn't my prayer been answered?  I don't know.  Sometimes we get clarity, but often we don't. 

In the book Desire, author John Eldredge writes, "God has something in mind.  He is deeply and personally committed in restoring humanity.  Restoring you.  There was a man or woman in mind when He made you... And now what He is up to is restoring you.  The way that happens is to shape your life along the same lines as the life of His Son.  To shape you in the image of His Son.  Whatever else might be going on in your life, God always has an eye on your transformation."

Through the struggles and broken heart God is shaping you so that you can grow and have a stronger relationship with others and Him.  You can't trust unless you learn forgiveness.  You can't be a good friend if you are selfish.  You can't find peace if you are ruled by worry.  You can't be truly elevated unless you are humble (insert Denny Hecker example).  It's the ultimate paradox.  And yet, for me and for most of us, it is a difficult pill to swallow.

If God is in control and if you are still walking on this spinning rock, then your life has a purpose.  God has plans for you.  You have unfinished work to do.    God is shaping you to do remarkable things in this world and in the next. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Easy vs. difficult

  • McDonald's = easy.   Cooking at home = difficult.
  • Spending money = easy.  Saving money = difficult.
  • Eating your favorite food = easy.  Eating healthy = difficult.
  • Following directions at work = easy.  Finding creative solutions on your own at work = difficult.
  • Judging others negatively = easy.  Treating others with respect when they don't do the same = difficult
  • Threatening your kids with discipline = easy.   Enforcing discipline = difficult.
  • Not talking to your spouse after an argument = easy.  Apologizing and admitting you're wrong = difficult.
  • Sleeping in = easy.  Getting up early for a 30 minute run = difficult.
  • Letting your kids watch a movie while you take a nap = easy.  Actively engaging in fun family activities when your tired= difficult.
And the list goes on.  We all know that when you consistently sacrifice and actively do the difficult things in life you have a stronger marriage, finances, health, family, career, etc.   What we end up doing when we choose easy - when we do something we know we shouldn't - we beat ourselves up for it.  We say we aren't good enough to do the difficult and we give up and go back to easy.  That's where we fail.

Sometimes easy is downright foul, but not every time for every circumstance.
The problem for me is when I always choose easy.  When I consistently eat out or when I frequently talk negatively about others, that's when I get stuck in a rut and find it very hard to get out.   If I go too long without exercising, it becomes very hard to get back into the shape I want.

Easy isn't always bad
Once in while - go ahead and eat whatever you want, let the kids watch tv, sleep in.  Nothing wrong with that.   Starving yourself completely from that warm brownie with hot fudge, whip cream, and ice cream on top won't work.   It's just too damn good.  Going cold turkey for most of us is practically impossible.  It might even be unhealthy.  But if you choose difficult regularly, you find it is easier to choose the difficult in the long run.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Top 10 list of weird things I've done for love

I've done some weird things in my life.  Embarrassing things.  Things that in any normal situation I would avoid like the plague.  Things that I hate to admit I've done for love.  I created this list, not to promote my weirdness, but for all of you to embrace your inner weirdness so that you too can feel free to be weird and be loved.

Hopefully you won't judge me.

In looking back at the last 9 years, here are the top weird things that I never thought would happen because of love.
  1. Gone shopping for feminine products.  (It's hard to even write this one)
  2. Choreographed and performed a dance to Michael Jackson's, "Smooth Criminal"
  3. I've written poems.
  4. I've carried a woman's purse. (Hence the picture)
  5. Driven all day so that I can be with loved ones for just a few hours.
  6. Held hands in public (this is still very hard for me)
  7. Went along for dress and shoe shopping.
  8. Went to a couple's spa party.  Can you say uncomfortable?
  9. Became the designated "puke cleaner" for the family.  Nothing says I love you more than cleaning up your loved one's vomit.
  10. Said yes to having a dog (twice).  Which means picking up dog crap and lack of freedom to get out of dodge in a moment's notice.
Embarassing list?  For me, yes.  Worth it?  Absolutely.  As a father of a little girl, I see myself taking part in future activities that will get me outside of my comfort zone.  Be it playing with dolls, or actually dancing with her at weddings receptions.  To me, I hope my wife and my daughter will look back on those embarrassing days and say, "Jeesh, he must have really loved me to do THAT".


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Problem With Goals, And How I Am Approaching The New Year.

2011 was a year without any goals.  Instead I created a theme for the year.  The theme: Intentional.   With the sudden passing of my grandmother, a young co-worker, and my former high school algebra teacher all within the span of a couple of months,  I was going to make sure that I was intentional with my relationships.  I regretted not spending enough time with those I love and needed to make a change.

I vowed to learn more about the only grandparent I have left.  I had a bunch of questions that I have always wanted to ask my grandma, but felt they were too personal and maybe too uncomfortable for her to talk about.  I wanted to know about her childhood, what she was like as a youngster, how she met her husband, and some of the secrets of her happiness.  I knew my grandma lost her mother when she was eight years old and wanted to know how that has shaped her.  But again, maybe that was too uncomfortable of a subject to talk about.

I wavered 11 months before I summoned up the courage to ask her about her childhood and her life.  I went over to her apartment on a November night and simply asked if she would consider giving me a Christmas gift of writing an essay about her life instead of a store purchased gift.  I said that there are life lessons in her experiences that I'd like to pass on to my kids.

I left her apartment feeling good that I at least asked the question.  If she decided not to write anything, then I'd be ok with that.

On December 26, exactly one year from losing my grandma, my only remaining grandparent wrote me and her children a 22 page life story that she titled, "Reflections".  It is a work of art that brought tears to my eyes.  It was the best Christmas present.

Overall if you asked me how I did on my "Intentional" theme for the year, I'd give myself a "B".  There were relationships that I didn't do so well in - but creating a theme for the year was really beneficial.  I liked it so much I've created a theme for 2012.  If you'd like to know my theme, email me at and I'll share it with you, as its a little too personal to share publicly.

Now about goals.
The problem with writing down your goals is that you have a high probability of accomplishing them.  All of sudden picking goals became a whole lot more important.  Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me writing down your goals falls under the category of: "Good idea, but very few people try it". 

Not having any goals for 2011, I found myself with a lack of direction in my career and in some aspects, with my family.  This year, I brought back goal setting and I spent a good chunk of time reflecting on two questions.

1) What went well in 2011?

2) What did not go well in 2011?

I asked those two questions for my job, my family, my finances, my faith and tried to come up with 6-8 answers for each category.  I then came up with several goals for each category.  The goals that I created are "S.M.A.R.T." goals.  Meaning they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely.   Most importantly, each goal has to have a big "Why" behind it.  Why do I want to achieve this goal?  If the reason why isn't big enough, I scrap it from the goal list.  Not having a big why behind a goal leads to an unaccomplished goal.  If its not important enough, don't waste your time and effort.

One of my S.M.A.R.T. goals this year is to go on a date with my daughter once a month.  The reason why - my biggest legacy will be my children, if I'm not spending quality time with them, then I'm placing my efforts in areas that don't matter.  It's my hope that she'll look back on these dates with fondness and remember her old man in a positive way.  And in some way I hope she develops good character because of how I modeled it to her.

Once you have your goals written on paper, put them in a place where you will see them often.  Like next to your work computer, or on your bedroom door.

Then if you really want to make sure you accomplish your goals, share them with a friend or co-worker.  Telling someone else your goals gives you some accountability and hopefully, a source of support.

The summer before heading off to college I worked at the soft soap assembly line.  During a break I had told a co-worker I was planning on playing college basketball.  He replied, I hope you do - I'll make sure to look up your name in the box scores this winter.   When it came time to try-out for the team, I wasn't sure if I should play, but then I remembered my soft soap co-worker and if I didn't play, he wouldn't see my name in the paper.  He'd think I was a quitter if my name wasn't in the box score.  I did try out, and made the team.  Had I not said anything, had I not had the tiny bit of accountability, I probably wouldn't have tried out, and missed out on one the best experiences of my life.

Ex claimer:  I'm not an expert on goal setting, in fact - I can't give you hard nosed facts that this process will work.  Only thing I can give is hope.  It is my hope that this process will lead to the best year of my life.  If you use it, who knows - maybe you'll have the best year ever too.  Remember - we tend to underestimate what we can accomplish in a year, so set your goals high and see what happens.

I think it will be worth your time.  Have a great year everybody!