Best of 2011

Writing a reflective post was something that never crossed my mind over nine months ago when I made my initial posting.

I figured writing would end like most of my other ideas and ventures – unfulfilled.

I assumed I would write for a month or two and go on to some other task, never to return.

And I still don’t understand why I haven’t stopped.

To reflect on the last 10 months, I thought I would highlight the five posts which summarize the blog.  They range from serious to funny to odd, and all are quite random.

Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Christianity – The Ultimate Paradox?
    This post was one of my first attempts at blending all the pieces of my daily life – namely thoughts, religion, and contrasts.

    Any chance you get to lay out the Gospel is worthy of reposting.

  • Dallas & Corinthians – a Perfect Match
    This post makes me smile because of how well the idea was able to be implemented. Most of my ideas are too abstract to make a post, but this one works.

    It also generated the most site hits because of the tattoos. I can’t count the number of visits to see the ink of Tyson Chandler and Jason Terry.

  • The Courthouse Lobby & High School
    In the midst of one of the toughest stages of life Janet and I have gone through, humor found its way to the top. This was one of the quickest and easiest posts to put together as it all came together in just a few minutes.

  • It Is Finished & What Was Lost Has Now Been Found
    Two remarkable days and two great religious puns. Combined, they make two of my favorite blog posts.

  • Do You Still Run?
    This was one of the first posts where I was able to take an objective look at life and try to wring some sort of meaning out of it. And seeing life through your children presents unique glimpses and challenges me to have faith like a child.

My only New Year’s Resolution is to write the second annual best of the year posts. I would say that depends on you, my readers, but year one has proven otherwise.

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40 Before 40: 30-26

Another 10 days down and I still cannot lay claim to any of my goals, but I am undeterred as I still have 30 more to roll out. Here is the next round of five:

  • Play a round of golf at Augusta National
  • For most Southerners, the true arrival of spring is marked by the activities of Augusta, Georgia and Masters Week. My first foray to the hallowed grounds came when I was a young pup.

    For many years, tickets to the practice rounds weren’t needed, so a group of fathers & grandfathers rounded up their male heirs, and off we went. As with most other kids, the practice round ticket became the pseudo autograph collector and by days’ end I had signatures from guys like Nicklaus, Palmer, and Norman. The day also included some forgotten etiquette and laughs as the youngest of our group loudly requested assistance locating his hat – during the backswing of one of the players on the tee box.

    Since those early memories, I have wanted to walk the course with sticks in hand, just to see if, for just one moment, I could stir the echoes.

  • Take a tour of Krispy Kreme
  • Let’s be honest – we’ve all wanted to go all Laverne & Shirley on the assembly line, stuffing our faces with donut after donut. And we’ve all wanted to take a box or two and eat, just to see how many we could eat in one sitting.

    And we’ve all wanted to go behind the scenes to see how they are made. Many of the local schools take tours of Krispy Kreme, and you know damned well (see Psych) I’m going to be a chaperon that day.

    That’s what’s great about these lists. You get to lay out your dreams and go after them, regardless of how silly (or awesome) it may be.

  • Own a car still in production
  • Mercury Monterey – Killed in 2007 and doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page
    Oldsmobile Silhouette – Oldsmobile shut down in 2004
    Mazda Tribute – Nearly killed in 2004, not produced in 2007 (one of our years of ownership), and comes to end in 2011 (that would be now)
    Ford Explorer – Still kickin’
    Toyota RAV4 – Still kickin’, but we had the old-school style in a rough green color
    Chevrolet S10 – Killed in 2004, but owned in 2005

    It actually doesn’t come across as terrible, but it would be nice to one day have some decent wheels under factory warranty. But as Dave Ramsey says, live like no one else, so one day, you can live like no one else.

  • Be a sous chef for a night
  • I love to cook and it would be amazing to be able to apprentice one night for a legit chef at a legit restaurant. He’d probably kill me for my lack of speed and execution, and I’d probably end up in tears. But it would be so worth it and an incredible experience.

    Plus maybe I could figure out how to use more than one knife. I mean the set comes with four or five and the others are probably getting lonely.

  • Be in a movie, tv show, or commercial
  • This is my selfish goal. I’ve just wanted to be on tv. The camera would add at least another ten pounds on top of what I have going on, but that would be okay because I would be on tv.

    Only caveat is no reality shows. I couldn’t stand that much drama (see earlier rant).

If you’d like to see the previous entries showing the first ten goals, click here or here.

Or if you’d like to learn more about what “40 Before 40” is, click here.

40 Before 40: 35-31

Unfortunately, I was unable to complete any of the first five goals on my “40 Before 40” list. There was a chance to potentially play Santa, but it fell through. Maybe next year.

On a different front, I may have the opportunity to present at an engineering conference. That would count as teaching a class, wouldn’t it?

I’ll continue to keep you informed, but in the meantime, here is the next group of 5:

  • Wear a tuxedo

    I’ve only worn a tuxedo three times: Senior Prom, Wedding, & Buddy’s Wedding. I’ll never do the prom thing again and no need to marry again when you nailed it the first time. Maybe another buddy’s wedding? (Big Al, I may need you!) Or, it could be Janet and I go through a re-dedication ceremony, and we go all out to the point where I wear a tux and she dons her actual wedding dress.

    The ideal situation (outside of Big Al) would be a black-tie gala, where Janet and I both get to be dressed to the nines, and the food is flowing like milk and honey (see Promised Land). Maybe I could have my name on a big check, since I’m there anyway.

  • Attend the Army-Navy game

    This game brings tears to my eyes just watching it on TV – from the pregame festivities to the exuberance of the cadets to the sportsmanship of the players to the respect and honor shown during the fight songs after the game. Usually I get ribbed pretty good by Janet when I get a lump in the throat, but for this game, I get a pass. She knows there’s nothing silly about wet eyes on this day.

    In addition, this game has further meaning. Both my father and grandfather have fought on behalf of this country, on foreign soil, under the head of the Army. Gramps in WWII as part of the Army Air Forces and Dad in Vietnam. Both were drafted into the Army during wartime and courageously agreed to serve their country. Similarly, the cadets at each of the academies know that upon graduation, they too will serve their country – most probably in combat on foreign soil.

  • Get someone to say “Amen” while I’m in the middle of speaking

    It’s rare I am able to score a point verbally. Usually my explanation is followed by “Does that make sense?” This probably explains my desire to write. However, if I were to be speaking and someone dropped an “Amen”, it would mean I was actually able to convey my message in a manner in which it was intended, and understood.

    Only thing I am unsure of is how I would respond. It would probably throw me completely off and I would never regain that momentum. That would be okay though, because I’ll always have that “Amen” to let me know I nailed it.

  • Ride in a hot air balloon that’s not tethered to the ground

    Being tethered to the ground – where’s the fun and excitement and adventure in that? Plus, I may have been in a tethered hot air balloon during one of the festivals growing up and I really want to ride in one.

  • Use my engineering expertise to help a community solve a problem

    God has gifted me with special skills and abilities and knowledge and I want to ensure I am using them to the fullest. However, I don’t feel the permanent call to go somewhere to use them. Like God is allowing me to stay here, but still knows of ways I can use my skill set, just from afar. I imagine helping a community find a clean water source or getting proper sanitation or opening up legitimate transportation routes.

    Why couldn’t I answer questions, review plans, design, inspect, and oversee the problems of communities around the globe – from my own desk or home. You could support many and reach even more through an established network of volunteers, all ready, able, and willing to serve by sharing their skills

Let me know your thoughts and feel free to shoot me any advice. If it helps accomplish a goal, I’m in!

Also, let me know your goals. If I can help, I certainly will.

If you’d like to see the previous entry with the first five goals, click here.

Or if you’d like to learn more about what “40 Before 40” is, click here.

I’m an Amateur

If “pro” is opposite of amateur, then call me Miles Davis (see Billy Madison).

I’m come to realize there are a few things I am definitely not “pro” about, like shaving daily or driving to work in the dark.

In fact, there may be more than a few things I am not “pro” about and having a blog gives me the chance to get them off my chest:

  • Coffee
  • Hate the stuff and am actively researching the production of coffee and the coffee bean to show it is actually more harmful than McDonald’s or Hummers. Plus, grown men who fawn over venti this and grande that are the downfall of the American male.

  • Inefficiencies
  • I’m lazy, but not inefficient, which is totally different than being fat, but calling yourself “big-boned”. Doing things the way momma or daddy did them does not cut it for me. Find the most optimal approach and go for it, regardless of how unorthodox it sounds or looks. I will actually like you more the if you think outside of the box.

  • Fan Boys (and girls)
  • Here’s to you Apple, North Face, Justin Bieber, and Twilight fans. Way to think for yourself and spend your money on what you want. What’s that? You didn’t? You bought what everyone else bought? Why? Because you have no sense of yourself and, ultimately, no self-confidence. Enjoy living your life so someone else can hopefully one day like you.

    Sorry – maybe that was the actual reason behind this post. I feel better – don’t you.

  • Peanuts in Candy
  • Snickers could have been the indisputable greatest – like Ali, but they decided to add the peanuts. What could have been. What could have been. Thankfully Twix stepped in and became the greatest ever. Don’t agree? Blame Snickers – it could have been them.

  • Drama
  • Irrational, unfounded, maniacal, elevated. These are the things I could do without. Come on, I’m talking to you, Come on (see Tears for Fears). I’m talking to you, embarrassed teenager (you won’t even be friends with these people in 2-3 years). I’m talking to you, morning coffee drinker, you who are somehow able to get ready for work, drive 30 minutes, but as soon as you walk in the door, forget how to function. Really? Drama! I’m talking to you Mr. rich man having to wait in line. That’s right. You have more money than me, but you are still behind me. Whoops, I dropped something. This may take a while to pick up. Debit/Credit/Cash? No, I think I’ll pay with check today. Take that money drama!

I’ve said before one of the benefits of having a blog is to think through things and process them. while this post may seem like it was written by a petulant little man (I’m not all that small), it actually serves a therapeutic purpose, so Ms. Drama caused by judgment, SORRY!

So – are you an amateur about anything? Let me know, because misery loves company (see Soul Asylum)

Christmas Happens

Christmas has that unique ability to take us back to a special memory or moment in time, which we only think of during the Christmas season.

And as my girls get more and more into the Christmas spirit, I am reminded of many great Christmas memories.  Memories that are probably only be special to me, but that is exactly what makes them so special – the fact they’re mine.

However, what good is a good memory if it can’t be recalled.  About the same as a good story that can’t be retold.  So, here are a few of my favorite, or most unique, memories of Christmas:

  • Night before Christmas
  • Not so much the evening before Christmas as much as the time between evening and morning.  I could never sleep Christmas Eve.  I would fight going to sleep until I finally gave in to exhaustion only to wake up at 4:00 am. Only problem was I was not allowed to leave the room to see if Santa came until 6:00 am. This meant 2-3 hours of Nintendo, reading, movies, etc… By lunch on Christmas Day, I was shot. And to be honest, I still get excited and don’t sleep very well.

  • Complete football uniform complete with helmet and shoulder pads
  • After seeing the complete football uniform, I opened it right of way and put it on. I then marched into my parents room slapping the helmet and pads thinking I was ready to play some ball. After getting into a three point stance and yelling “Hut, Hut” a few times, I was quickly reminded it was only 6:05 and everyone else in the house was still asleep.

    The uniform set got much play as we used it for every game. To make it fair, we would separate the set so one person got the helmet and the other got the pads.  Didn’t take long to figure out you wanted the helmet.

  • My first bottle of cologne – Stetson
  • The cologne didn’t last long as I tried to put it on that evening for dinner and it spilled. I didn’t care as I figured I was just being covered in more awesome. I no longer wear nor own cologne, but every once in a while I’ll get a smell of some good stuff and want to bathe in it.

  • My first Walkman
  • The very first “Music Monday” occurred on a Christmas morning as I received a Walkman and two full length cassettes. My introduction – Vanilla Ice’s “To the Extreme”, with smash hit Ice, Ice, Baby and my favorite Stop that Train, and MC Hammer’s “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em”. It’s been downhill from there.

  • Alan Kulwicki remote control race car
  • Complete posthumous replica of Kulwicki’s championship car. This was the fastest remote control car I’ve ever driven (from what I remember) and Dad and I enjoyed racing and playing with this thing. However, the car didn’t last long though as it met a brick wall and rolled a few times on the driveway/street. The debate still rages as to who really finished it off, but this is my blog, so I’m laying the blame on Dad (even though he could literally drive circles around me).

  • The scooter
  • My favorite memory of all. Some of the details are fuzzy, but I remember coming upstairs (my room was on the bottom floor) for Christmas and everyone was already awake. And as I came to the top step, I was able to look into the living room where Santa leaves the gifts. However, it wasn’t Santa’s gift area I noticed first, but my grandmother, Memaw, riding one of my gifts around the living room.

    This was the year of the scooter and its first foray came not from me, but from Memaw. I’ll never forget her trying to figure that scooter out and having the worst time trying to stay up. Not because it was hard to ride, but because she was laughing too hard to keep her balance.

We try hard to make Christmas special for those around us, and we have good intentions. However, it isn’t the parties or the gifts or the sweaters we remember the most, but the moments. And these moments can’t be bought or planned. They just happen.

And they are better than any gift I’ve ever received – outside of Vanilla Ice, of course.

And my goal is to create memories and moments for our girls to have, because they’ll soon forget about the tea set and the dollhouse and the dress up clothes, but hopefully they’ll remember me the way I remember my youth.

40 Before 40: 40-36

Okay – it’s Monday, which means it’s time for the first installment of “40 Before 40”. Check out “40 Before 40: Intro” for some background and a few rules. Also, once all the goals have been rolled out, I will begin to log my progress, so sign up to follow or keep checking back in.

The first five:

  • Eat my way through Italy
  • There is something romantic and magical about Italy, and something so very diverse.  Janet and I have long stated our desire to go, but we could never settle on a location, so we thought it a good idea to start at the top and eat our way south – or vice versa.  This would give us a great feel for the people, land, beauty, and cuisine.

  • Have my name on one of those huge checks they give out at charity events or golf tournaments
  • Don’t know if there is any real reason other than I’ve always wanted to have my name on one. However, buying one and signing it with a dry-erase marker doesn’t count (hopefully). Maybe it will even be for a legitimate reason – like a donation to a charitable organization or 1st Place in a BBQ competition.

  • Anonymously leave a $100 tip for someone
  • There’s something extremely gratifying about being able to help someone, especially at a time when they are in need; however, many people are very prideful (yours truly included) and would never accept help from anyone. But if you found out about a need and anonymously left a $100, then they would be forced to accept it – and you would receive no instant gratification. I want to be able to help a real person meet a real need, but also make sure it is not about me at all.

  • Play Santa Claus at a real event with real kids
  • After being on this side of the Santa magic and seeing my own girls get really excited about meeting him, I think it would be amazing to see their fascination up close. I’d also love hear them make their requests. Some are sure to be quite funny, and random. Also, I promise not to sit on a throne of lies nor smell like beef and cheese.

  • Teach a class
  • Children don’t count. I mean they do, but not to qualify for this goal. I want to teach a college class on math or engineering or how not to use social media. Or maybe it’s a engineering class on how to use a software or Engineering 101 for new hires. The content doesn’t matter as much as the chance to have a group of students I can work with on a regular basis to help them find their feet in this world.

40 Before 40: Intro (UPDATED)

That would be fun…
I’d love to do that…
I’ve always wanted to go there…
That is a passion of mine…
That would be awesome…

Things that make me go Hmmm…

Instead of just thinking or dreaming these things, it is time to quantify them and put them on paper (or the screen)…

As such, I am introducing a new segment to the blog entitled “40 Before 40″…

“40 Before 40” represents a list of 40 things I would like to do/accomplish before turning 40…

I am currently 32.9, so I have just over 7 years to knock them out…

Some are funny, some creative, some adventuresome, and others compassionate, but all are attainable…

My goal is to introduce them in groups of 5 over the next 8 weeks, starting Monday. This will allow me to explain each item, why it made it on the list, and potential ways I might go about completing it…

Also – I will be adding a new page to the blog where, together, we can track the goals and my progress…

You ready?

I am – hopefully…

If not, I’ll just delete these posts and act like nothing ever happened. I have that power. It rocks. It also scares me…

UPDATED – 12/11/11

As I begin to introduce the 40 things I’d like to do before turning 40, there are a few base rules we need to establish:

  • I am NOT going through a mid-life crisis
  • I love me some me and am a big baby, which means I would never do anything to hurt myself
  • These are not intended to be performed alone, even if a companion is not explicitly mentioned
  • Completion of a goal does not have to follow the exact parameters of the goal itself.  I may consider a similar experience “close enough” to an actual goal and call it complete
  • While I have taken care to create the list, it may still be fluid. For example, my desire to eat my way through Italy may take a hit if I suddenly become diabetic
  • Finally – I understand I could take a day off work and complete a good number of these, but that is not the issue.  I want these to feel natural and special, not cheap.  Take the $100 top as an example.  I want the person receiving the $100 tip to be someone in need and who I could help in a very direct and immediate way, not be just anybody