Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What, no posts for 2 months and now 2 in one day?

Yep, that's right! I've been remiss in keeping this little online diary up to date. Being tagged by Jim about the Christmas songs awoke me from my lazy stupor. I'm not saying I'll post tomorrow, but I'll at least try to get this thing back up to speed.

Let's see, the last post was at the beginning of October. At that point, I had just finished my second 100 mile bike ride. Well, my cycling has tailed a bit off since then. Cold weather and a busy schedule have been the likely excuses. One other little issue occurred when I crushed one of the front cogs (gears) when I hit a brick in the middle of the road. I was able to pop the front wheel over it, but landed right on the large chain ring. I got to spend $50 for the new part. The guys at the LBS (local bike shop) were kind enough to not charge me labor.

For Christmas, I've asked for pretty much all cycling gear. Mainly, I asked for cold weather riding clothes. This will take away my whiny excuse that, "It's too cold." Well, Mom had me order what I wanted within her budget and it's already arrived. Erin also consented to spending a bit of money before Christmas so that I can get some rides in now. Mom got me the following: a skull-cap (kind of an ultra-thin ski cap to wear under the helmet in cool weather), a balaclava (like an ultra-thin ski mask for cold weather), some really warm cycling gloves and a cycling jacket. Before we got to talking about Christmas gifts, Erin had already bought me a long-sleeved compression shirt to wear under my jersey and some tights to wear under my shorts. While we were out looking for Christmas gift ideas, we ran across a really inexpensive set of padded cycling shorts and Erin said, "Let's get 'em." After Mom's stuff arrived, the only thing lacking was some insulated, windproof shoe-covers. You see, most cycling shoes let air flow through them like a net. This is a good thing in the Texas summer. It's a distinctly bad thing in the winter. Frozen feet ain't fun. Well, my long-suffering wife didn't give me any guff about getting those either. She's just glad I've found a hobby which will get me healthier and hopefully extend my lifespan a bit. That said, I probably oughta chill on the spending.

I've ridden my bike the last 2 mornings and love it. The cold weather gear makes all the difference. Wearing simple winter clothes can keep you warm (duh, that's why they're called winter clothes), but the cycling stuff isn't nearly as bulky and binding. I did find one disheartening thing though. Just a few weeks of slacking off on my riding produced a marked effect on my speed and stamina. Oh well, I'll have plenty of time to get it all back before the spring racing season begins.

Now, my father-in-law wanted to know what I really needed to complete my riding experience. What I needed was a new saddle (seat, for the cycling uninitiated). The saddle that came on the bike is great for short (15-20 mile) rides, but becomes a torture device on really long rides. The typical bike seat puts quite a bit of pressure on the perineum (sp?) in the groin area. In short, ya get numb where folks don't really wanna be numb. My father-in-law offered to buy me whatever I thought I needed (within reason). I shopped around online and found an awesome deal on a seat that I had read a lot of good reviews about. It was designed and tested by doctors and is used by a lot of racers. It'll be here in a few days. HMMMM, the new bike was a Christmas/anniversary/birthday/Father's Day/whatever day gift from Erin. The cold weather gear and saddle are Christmas gifts from my father-in law and mom. Christmas morning will not see me opening many gifts. Oh well, I'm grateful to be able to use them all now.

I'm actually thinking about getting a racing license and compete not just in group rides but in sanctioned races. We'll see. If it's worth doing, it's worth being obsessive-compulsive about.

Now that I've rambled on about cycling, on to the really important stuff. Erin and the kids are doing great. Erin's sewing/embroidery business is going absolutely crazy. She is so busy that she currently isn't taking any more orders until after New Years. She's enjoying the ego boost of getting all the work, but is a bit overwhelmed by the scheduling issues. She truly is amazing. She does all of her work work and still has time to be an amazing wife, mother and friend. I never cease to be amazed.

Caitlin and Collin just finished up with soccer a few weeks ago. They are absolutely having a ball in school. They are at such a fun age right now. They have such amazing senses of humor and have incredible spiritual insight for kids their age. I love spending time with 'em. I pray every day that they have an enjoyable childhood and grow up to love God as much as they do right now.

My work is also pretty busy right now. That's part of the reason I haven't been blogging and haven't been cycling as much. I've gotten a few new clients and seem to be getting more calls all the time. GOD IS GOOD!!! I am so blessed and hope every one has an amazing holiday season.

Tagged For Christmas Songs

Ok, Jim Theisen ( ) tagged me. Now, I'm supposed to post my favorite Christmas songs. Like Jim, I remember listening to a lot of vinyl albums at Christmas time. For you youngsters, a vinyl album (record or LP) is kinda like a really big, black CD. They used a real metal needle to read the music instead of a laser. Weren't them old-timers clever?

I remember my mom had an Elvis Christmas album -"I'll a'have a'a'blue Chrissmus wi'i'ithout youuu." That album was played until the grooves were worn out.

I love the song, "Mary, Did You Know," particularly the version done by Kathy Mattea. The song tugs on my heartstrings and Kathy's raspy voice really does the song justice.

"O Come O Come Emanuel" is great, as are "The Little Drummer Boy," "We Three Kings," "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem," and "Silent Night."

I'll confess that in recent years I've been a bit of a Scrooge about Christmas songs. So many radio stations want to start playing them so early. Like anything, repetition can wear out the welcome of even a good thing. I love hearing and singing Christmas songs for the few days before and after Christmas.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Flatland Century

This past weekend, we went to visit family in Lubbock, Texas. Erin's older sister lives in Portland, Oregon and her brother lives in Cambridge, Massachussetts. These weekend, they, Erin's younger sister, and we met at their mother's home in Lubbock. All things considered, the weekend went reasonably well. Being very diverse in ideologies, belief systems, political orientations, marital status, financial status, etc. has caused no end of discomfort and strife at some previous family getherings. This time, no one was overtly angry at the end of the trip. Still, we left feeling like everybody was at least mildly irritated with us. Is that paranoia, delusions of our own importance, fatalism, or the truth? Who knows?

One part of the weekend was an unalloyed success. While we were there, I rode my bike on a long trip. I left the house at 4:30 a.m. (that's the dark 4:30) on Sunday and headed southwest out of Lubbock. It was a little windier than I'd hoped so I didn't quite get the average speed of 22mph I'd hoped for. I rode 102.75 miles at an on the bike average speed of 19.8mph. I throw in "on the bike average speed" because I wound up making a few more stops than I would have liked.

One of those stops was when I had a flat right after my turnaround. So, I'm sitting there about to start pumping that new tube up when I looked up and saw a Godsend. A farmer who had been out early checking his irrigation was heading to pick up his kids and go to church. He saw me and asked if I needed to use the compressor in the back of his truck. That saved me wearing my arm out with that mini-pump. And those things never get the pressure up where you need it. Thank you Mr. Gomez.

I also stopped a few times to stretch my back a bit. So instead of 5 hours total time, it was closer to 6.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Cowtown Classic Bike Ride

This past weekend, I rode in the 2006 Cowtown Classic Ride. Despite the name, it does not take place in Fort Worth (also known as "Cowtown"). The ride began and ended in Crowley (just south of Fort Worth). There were several different routes, the longest of which was 65 miles. I rode that route.

The weather was perfect! There was good cloudcover. It was reasonably cool (high 70's to the low 80's). The wind was reasonably calm. It was great. The course wound over some decent hills (nothing huge, but enough to make you work through the gears some). All in all, I really enjoyed the ride.

The only downside was the course markings and a few traffic control situations. The road was marked with tiny arrows just prior to intersections to let you know which way to go. If you happened to miss them, you had to count on the peace officers at the intersections. At two intersections, the officers pointed us down the wrong road. Luckily, we figured out the mistake quickly both times and got back on course. At one intersection, the officer was getting something to drink from the rest stop and wasn't even there to direct traffic. Those issues aside, I really enjoyed the ride.

I finished the 65 mile course in 3 hours and 10 minutes with an average speed of 20.5 mph. For a while (through about mile 40), I rode in the lead group. I even took my turns pulling for a while. We averaged 23-24mph for a good ways and had some stretches where we sprinted upt to 30+mph. I was just glad to be able to keep up.

I did discover that I do NOT like chocolate Gu packs. Vanilla Gu packs are reasonably thin and go down with no problem. Chocolate Gu packs are thicker and can choke you up if you are breathing hard. I discovered this right before a set of hills. I couldn't get my breath and wound up falling out of the lead group. I never did catch back up.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

HHH 2006

Well, we did it. Keith Hollar and I proved our lack of rational thought processes by riding in the 25th annual Hotter'n Hell Hundred on August 26, 2006. The event lived up to its name it was 104-105 with a heat index of 107+. There was a wind from the south of about 25-28 mph with gusts up to 35. It was hot, windy and dry. Neither Keith nor I won any awards for speediness, but we conquered the day by crossing the finish line.

I rode the farthest ride I've ever ridden at a reasonable clip. Before the ride, the longest I'd been on the bike was 67 miles. This ride turned out to be right at 103 miles. I finished in something like 6 hours, 50 minutes. My on the bike speed (wheels moving, not counting rest stops) was 18.4 mph. My total average speed (counting rest stops, slow start and all) was right at 15 mph.

To further prove our insanity, Keith has already done his standard Tuesday workout ride and I rode 38 miles on Wednesday morning. Let me tell you, after the HHH, 38 miles in 70 degree weather felt EASY! Hopefully, I'll particiapate in a group ride every month or so from here on.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

New Bike's Here, Big Ride's Comin'

After several maintenance issues with my old bike, I finally ponied up and bought a "new" (to me) bike. It's a 2005 Trek 1200 (pretty nice aluminum-framed road bike with carbon forks and seat post) that was traded in after being ridden for about six months. The original owner decided to step up to a several thousand dollar carbon-framed bike. I reaped the fruits of his excess. Bicycles Inc. gave me a great deal on the bike, fitted it to me, and offered me 90 days worth of free maintenance and adjustments.

I rode it once on Sunday morning. I really enjoyed the ride, but took it back today for some slight adjustments to the derailleurs (the thing that moves the chain between gears) and shifters. I'm planning another ride tomorrow morning before work. The short ride I took on Sunday showed me a glimpse of what I think I'll see tomorrow.

The new bike is about 10 pounds lighter than the old one. It has 27 gears where the old one had 12. It has higher high gears and lower low gears. The frame is aluminum with carbon components, so it will be a little less rough than the old steel-framed bike. The wheels and tires can hold more pressure, so the rolling resistance will be less. All in all, I expect much better performance on the new bike.

As I've posted before, I will be riding in the Hotter'n Hell Hundred this Saturday. I previously said I was only going to ride the 100k, not the 100 mile. Now, I'm wavering. I've almost decided to ride the 100 miler. Both courses share the road for about 30 miles. At that point, you have to go with one group or the other. If I'm still feeling pretty salty, I think I'll go the 100 mile route. Hopefully, this won't be a decision I'll regret. Wish me luck.

-47 - I think I'll quit posting my weight loss at this point. I'm now to the point where I'm actually trying to gain muscle and expect to gain a bit.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Personal Best

Well, I got my bike back from the shop. So, I just had to take 'er out and give it a spin. The kids are at Granny's and Erin was playing Bunko, so last night was the perfect opportunity. I drove to the "trailhead" for the Trinity Trails near Winscott in Benbrook. I was initially thinking about a 50+ mile ride, but a brutal headwind quickly convinced me otherwise. I rode 44 miles in 2 hours, 40 minutes at an average speed of 16.5 mph. Without that headwind, I think I would have gone farther and faster.

Keith Hollar and I are going to go ride in the Hotter'n Hell 100 in Wichita Falls next month. I'm pretty pumped about it. We're going to ride in the 100k (62 mile) event, not the 100 mile event. I feel like challenging myself, not killing myself. Wish me luck.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Long Time No Blog

It has been a while since I've posted. The last time was right before we went on our trip, about two months ago. Well, we had a ball on our trip. We swam, played, lazed around and had some fun. Erin worked harder than the rest of us while taking care of food and stuff, but I think she had a good time too.

I did a lot of running on the beach. Boy, that was a mistake. I messed up my knee (illiotibial band - or ITB). So, I've been slowly rehabbing it ever since. Part of that process has involved riding a bike to strengthen the muscles around the knee as well as doing cardi work without overly stressing the knee. Well, in my typical OCD manner I've jumped in with both feet. I'm now making 30 - 45 mile rides about 3 times a week. The bike is currently in the shop because I broke a spoke on the rear wheel... ...20 miles from the house. I got to call Erin at 6:00 a.m. and ask her to come pick me up. She was very sweet about it and didn't give me any grief whatsoever.

Well, I've gotta run. We're meeting my mom in Abilene for lunch. She's taking the kids to Lubbock for the week.


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Vacation... ...What's That

Out little family is about to embark on a venture that hasn't been done since our honeymoon... ... a vacation. Now yes, in the 12 years we've been married we have gone on trips. But, almost all of them have involved going to some family member's home or meeting a bunch of family somewhere. Don't get me wrong. I love our extended families: parents, siblings, cousins, et al. But, sometimes a trip either by ourselves or with non-family friends sounds very appealing.

We've done a couple of 2-day camping trips, but while those are a lot of fun, they're too short to be considered a real vacation. This particular trip involves a 5-day jaunt to South Texas to relax at the beach, swim with the kids, have fun with some friends who are also going, and just relax. I'll be ignoring the cell phone and just "unning." For those of you who are uninitiated, "unning" generally means to UNwind. Being wound fairly tightly most of the time, I need some UNwinding. We don't have any major schedule or itinerary. Sounds great to me.

I hope that in future years we are better able to take little trips like this. I don't need anything fancy like a month in Europe (though, if you wish to sponsor a Lea family trip to the other side of the Pond, checks may be made out to the Michael Lea Needs a Vacation Fund), I would just like to take our little nuclear family to someplace new and enjoy the time together. I would love to spend a week camping in Colorado. I'd love to visit D.C. and see all of the historic landmarks and the Smithsonian. A trip to Dsiney Land or World would be nice.

I am really looking forward to this little trip. Hopefully, we will all come back relaxed and "unned."


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Attacks of the Flesh

As I have written before, Erin (my wife) and I are working hard at getting in shape and losing weight. So far, we've both done pretty well at it. But, man it sometimes seems like we're under attack. It sounds melodramatic, but it seems as if the devil doesn't want us to lose the weight. I know that he tempts you and tries to get you to commit sins. Looking at how I've been built most of my adult life, it's easy to tell that my most obvious sins are gluttony and sloth. There are plenty of other sins that aren't as glaringly obvious (I hope).

So, now Erin and I are trying to lose weight and be more active. In the first two weeks, Erin hurt her back while helping my sister and brother-in-law move into a new house. She has and is continuing to work through that. She didn't let it stop her or even slow her down for very long. I got a badly infected ingrown toenail, but I kept going. Erin has had some recurrent issues with her calves and Achilles tendons. My hips and knees have long-term issues which are currently flaring up. I have days where I just feel lazy, tired or unmotivated.

In many ways, my walk with Christ is marked with my failures. He knows how often I stumble on a daily basis. In this particular instance, I am currently doing better than I have in the past. I think one reason that I am doing better with this is that I have an accountability partner. Erin and I are pretty good at keeping each other on track. On days where she feels weak, she can lean on or be prodded by me, and vice versa. I also have reached a point where the age at which Dad had his first heart attack is in sight. I am 34. He was 45. That's not terrifically far in the future. I'd just as soon not followin in his health footsteps. I would like to be around to watch my kids raise their kids.

Pray that Erin and I are able to maintain our new, healthier lifestyle. While you're at it pray that we have equal or better success in dealing with the other sin in our lives.


Friday, April 28, 2006

I Done Been Tagged

I've been tagged by Keith_Hollar, so here goes:

Four jobs you have had in your life:
1. Swimming pool construction worker.
2. Shoe salesman at Meryn's
3. Research asistant (i.e. the fool that graduate students hired to climb a 160 foot tower to calibrate instrumentation every month).
4. Engineer.

Four movies you would watch over and over:
1. A Knight's Tale
2. The Shawshank Redemption
3. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
4. LOTR trilogy

Four places you have lived: (I put six)
1. Johnson, Kansas(birthplace)
2. Spring, Texas
3. Lubbock, Texas
4. Wolfforth, Texas
5. Midland, Texas
6. Fort Worth, Texas

Four TV shows you love to watch:
1. Lost
2. Invasion
3. Las Vegas (I know, I know)
4. Scrubs

Four places you have been on vacation:
1. Grand Canyon
2. Walt Disney Land
3. Cancun (Honeymoon)
4. All over the Rocky Mountains

Four websites you visit often:
1. Danny Sims Blog

Four of your favorite foods:
1. Almost any kind of good Mexican food
2. Steak (Prime Rib in particular)
3. Almost any kind of good seafood
4. Almost any kind of good Italian food

Four places you would rather be right now:
1. Camping with Erin and the kids
2. Hunting pheasant, dove, quail, rabbits, ducks, deer, or anything else that tastes good
3. 4x4 Offroading or Motorcycling
4. Swimming somewhere sunny, but not too hot

Four people who are tagged to do this:
1. Everybody whose blog I visit has already been tagged with this, so nobody.


Friday, April 14, 2006

Easter, or "He's Risen!" Weekend

You know, it's amazing. Christmas has become such an enormous holiday. It is such a cultural phenomenon that non-Christians often partake at least as heartily as Christians. The gift-giving, the food, the whole package. But Easter, Easter we don't see that kind of buy-in. From the Christian perspective, this would seem to be the more significant observance. Yes, at Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus. This is important. Without his birth, none of the rest of his life could have happened. But, God coming to earth was an event he had performed in other manners before. He had never been born of a virgin mother. But, he had been at the burning bush. He had done so many things in the Old Testament where his presence was manifest.

But, the week prior to Easter and Easter itself are the time we recognize a unique event. God, the Almighty, the Omnipotent, the Creator lets Himself be betrayed by a greedy accountant. He lets himself be physically abused in so many ways. He is beaten, spit upon, has a crown of thorns smashed onto his head, and is finally nailed to some wood, hung up to die and then stabbed with a spear. If the story ends here, the rest of his life prior to this point gets looked at in an all new perspective. This man would have been thought of as someone with some very ineresting social ideas (which were not at all en vogue) who had delusions of grandeur (He thought he was the son of God?). This had to have been what was going through people's minds on Saturday. Surely, those "miracles" that he performed weren't all that they were cracked up to be. I mean, yeah we saw them, but surely our eyes were mistaken.

However, the story doesn't end there. He comes back. Having spent his time redeeming us from our sins, He comes back to life. He rises. He seeks out his students, his followers and shares more with them. After a while, he goes back to heaven. Now this, this is different. We don't have this anywhere else. God sends a part of Himself down here, let's himself be born in a barn, lets Himself be saddled with the slings and arrows of daily life, shows us how to live, is killed for it, forgives us for that and everything else we have done or will do, and goes back home. To me this is the coolest holiday observance there could be.

But alas, it is not nearly as mass-marketable as Christmas. Toy manufacturers don't get nearly the boost from it. TV producers can't seem to come up with any programming for this holiday. Regardless of the way the rest of the world treats this time of year, don't forget to really share with your family the story and meaning of "He's Risen!" weekend.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Space... ...The Final Frontier

Every time I say, "There's no way we can fit anything else in here," I am wrong. We have a fairly small house (~1500 ft^2) and my office at work is pretty small for a self-contained business (~180 ft^2). In both cases, when they were acquired, we thought that there was no way we'd ever fill them up. A few years later... ...well we were wrong.

You walk into my house or my office and you'll be amazed at how much STUFF is jammed in there. It has for years looked like there couldn't possibly be room for anything else. But then, we rearrange stuff and fit more in. I swear that if we bought a 3000 ft^2 house, we'd instantly fill it up with stuff currently filling a house half that size. And, it wouldn't look sparse or empty.

I won't discuss everything in the house because there's just too much stuff. But, I'll share with you the junk in my office. Now remember, this is a 10'x18' office and I have to leave a path to the door. I have the following stuff in there:
  • A 5' long computer desk,
  • A printer table,
  • Two 6' long work tables,
  • A huge 5'x5' flat file cabinet,
  • Two 6' tall book shelves,
  • Two 4-drawer file cabinets,
  • Two engineering plotters (printers for 36" wide drawings).

Behind the door, I've got two chairs and a card table folded, just in case I need more surface or places to sit. I also have a vacuum cleaner shoved into one corner.

Sometimes I think we've got a couple of physics projects going on. I mean, it's like we really are trying to find out if two objects can indeed occupy the same space at the same time. Call the Nobel prize people. I think we deserve something. Just think, we could end urban sprawl. We could just pack the entire population of Dallas into a couple of storage trailers. I mean, sure, work on that scale is way off into the future. But, you can see the potential, right?


Friday, March 31, 2006

Watching Lassie... ...and Other Good Times

Like most days, yesterday was pretty busy. I drove to a client's office in the morning, worked on proposals, bought and installed some new office equipment, rearranged my office to make it fit, and generally stayed busy all day long. I met Erin and the kids for supper at Pizza Hut. When we left there, Erin and the kids swung by the library to return and pick up some movies and then made a delivery to one of her customers. I, on the other hand, went to Walmart to pick up various needed items.

When we got home, Caitlin asked if I would watch Lassie with her. This is not something that would ordinarily appeal to me as an adult. I'm more an action-adventure or comedy kind of guy. But, my daughter wanted to watch a movie with me. We went and plopped down in front of the tube and watched Lassie. This wasn't the vintage flick, but a fairly recent presentation. As we sat, or sprawled, next to each other, Cailtlin kept leaning over and giving me hugs and saying, "You're the best Daddy ever!" Good stuff. These are the times I'll remember when she's all grown up.

After a while, her brother, Collin, came running into the room and piled onto my back. He bounced up and down like I was his favorite horse and he was getting a rough ride. He is such a funny kid. He's so expressive and animated.

I love my kids. I love them so much it hurts. Sometimes though, I get so busy I neglect to take the time to do simple little things like watching a movie, playing Hot Wheels, or kicking the soccer ball around the back yard. I know from my own childhood that those activities are more likely to have a lasting impact than big trips, fancy gifts or anything else. I pray that I take the time to be a good dad so that my kids enjoy their childhood and reflect as fondly on it as I do mine.


Monday, March 20, 2006

They're ba-ack

Spring Break is over and our kids are back. I love my kids. They are fun, funny, lovable and loving. That said, my wife and I just had a very nice week-long vacation without going anywhere or missing a day of work. Last Monday, Erin met my mom in Abilene to hand off the kids. They were going to spend a few days with my mom and a few days with Erin's. They both live in Lubbock and both just love getting to have our kids. The kids were ecstatic about the trip as well.

Erin made it back that day and thus began our vacation. We had lunch together almost every day last week. Some days it was just a sandwich at the house, but it was just us. We went out to dinner with friends (one set also had kids visiting grandparents for Spring Break and the other set don't yet have kids). We exercised together. We went and did things at odd hours. Erin got tons of work done. We essentially had a week-long date. We spoke with each other without interruption. The house stayed clean. We went downtown to watch the building get imploded. Although I had no doubts, it was nice to see that the two of us get along with each other just as well as we did before we had kids.

All that being said, by the time we were to pick them up on Sunday, we were really anxious to have them home. We aren't in any hurry to have them grown up and gone, but a little time here and there is nice.

-19.2 (Slow and easy wins the race.)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sanctity of Marriage

I tell you what, God's institution of marriage is under a direct frontal assault. This has really been on my heart lately. We know so many couples with serious marital troubles.

When I married my wife, I married my best friend in the world. I pledged to her and to God to hold her interests above my own. I pledged to honor her, to be faithful to her, and to stay with her through thick and thin. We had dated for nearly 4 years, and knew each other better than many couples who have been married a few years.

The thought of intentionally (or even untinentionally) hurting my wife is anathema to me. When she hurts, I hurt. I know that she feels the same.

And yet, we know several couples where one or both of the individuals seem hell-bent on sending the marriage to the junk-heap. At best, they are unconscionably rude to one another. In the worst instance, one is blatantly flaunting an extramarital affair. In a third case, one has just moved out and refuses to consider a reconciliation. The fact that these people are willing to trash a relationship which is supposed to be second only to their relationship with God is sad enough. But, in all of these cases, there are small children involved. The offenders either pretend it won't affect the kids, or outright don't care. So, these people are ruining not just their lives, but those of innocent kids as well.

I believe that your relationship with your spouse is often a pretty good reflection of your relationship with God. This seems to be true in the cases of all of these marriages. One or both of the spouses have either quit coming to church altogether or quit interacting with Christian friends. This is almost as sad as the destruction of the marriage.

Please join me in praying for all of our marriages, families, and our relationships with God. Pray for our kids and their future marriages.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Accountability is an interesting concept. We use it to help get through things we wouldn't otherwise do. I am currently using several people to help keep me accountable as I am exercising and trying to get in shape. My wife and I made a pact that we would exercise together as often as possible and help each other watch those infernal calories. So far, we are doing pretty durned good with it. I have also started meeting 3 guys from church to run three times a week. That too is working pretty well.

We (the collective "We," not just me and mine) use accountability to maintain law and order. Why do most crimes happen in back alleys, or in dark or private places? The criminals know that someone is going to censure them in some way or another. This may come as a verbal retort. It may come as physical restraint. It may be through shame. We don't want other folks to know when we are doing something wrong.

We use accountability in our Christian walk through life. Sometimes we even over-do it. It's good when the accountability comes in the form of someone gently pointing out the error of your ways, or your not doing something so that someone will not have to do so (run-on sentence?). But, sometimes we simply put up a front so that nobody knows what's really going on in our lives.

Accountability is, to some extent, a manifestation of our competitive natures. Seriously, the reason that we show up to run is that we can't let the other guys think that we can't handle it. My wife and I are neither one wanting to "fall off the wagon" when it comes to getting in shape because we don't want the other to think poorly of us. We both know in our heart of hearts that the other wouldn't think ill of us regardless, but that's part of what drives us. The same thing is true with respect to law and order. We don't want other folks to know that we've had to resort to something underhanded to get by. Everyone wants to show that they can do it on their own.

I think that may be why God gave us a competitive nature, a consciense, and an innate sense of shame when we've done something wrong. Have you ever caught a little kid red-handed doing something he shouldn't be doing? What's their first instinct? They lie about it. You could show them photographic evidence, and they'd still lie. You might say that it's because they don't want whatever version of discipline that you're going to provide them after this event. That may be part of it. I honestly think it's because they are ashamed of themselves. They think that maybe if they deny it hard enough, you'll forget about it and they won't have to be ashamed.

I think this should be more of a factor in penalties for crimes. What do we do now with someone who has broken the law. Depending on what they've done, it ranges from a simple citation with a fine up to incarceration. I don't know about you, but if I knew that they were going to publish my name and picture on a web site if I'd been caught speeding, I might slow down. Jail, admittedly, scares the tar out of me. The rumors of physical abuse, sodomy, and other vile acts in prisons scares me to death. But, that doesn't seem to slow some folks down. They just keep going and committing crimes after they get out. I wonder if a little shame might be introduced back into the system.

Way back when, if folks got caught committing a really heinous crime, they were tried (if they were lucky) and executed with little delay. Accountability and shame had little to do with this. They thought that by removing that person from society, they were making things safer for everybody else. For lesser, but still serious crimes, they were either put in the stocks in a public area, or publically flogged. This brings up the shame and accountability discussed earlier. Who would want to have to have their neighbors walk by and say, "Oh, there's Michael. I just knew he was no good." Come on.

Well, I've wandered rather far afield from my initial scope, and I need to get back to work.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

A day for the kids

Yesterday was a day I spent mostly for my kids. The one thing I did pretty much for myself was my morning workout. Shortly thereafter, I left the house to attend a coaching seminar for Upward Soccer.

As I've previously mentioned, I'm going to be the coach for my son's team. This goes a bit outside of my comfort zone. But, they were short of volunteers, and I want my boy to enjoy his soccer experience. The pastor for Hulen Street Baptist was there to thank us for our participation and remind us that this is not just a sport season, it's a ministry to the kids and their parents. A former pro soccer player was there. He spent a good bit of the day teaching us methods to teach the kids, keep it interesting, mentor them, and exhibit the Lord to them. Although this was something done for my son, I felt blessed myself by the end of the 5 hour session.

I got home from this just in time to take my son to the birthday party of a friend. The party was at the TCU baseball game. In times past, taking Collin to a full-length sporting event has been... ...less than pleasant. But, he really behaved well. He got into the game. He played sweetly with the other kids. He followed instructions. He genuinely seemed to enjoy himself. And so, I really enjoyed myself. Again, an event that I wasn't necessarily excited about turned into a blessing.

So, a day spent in the service of others (mostly my son) turned out to have been a blesing to me. That vaguely seems like something I might have read in the Bible somewhere. Hmmm!!! That God fellow must be pretty bright. God, thank you for the many blessings you have showered upon an undeserving sinner. I love my wife, my kids, and my station in life.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Upward Soccer

Both of our kids are signed up to play soccer this season. The league is part of Upward Soccer and is sponsored by Hulen Street Baptist Church. This league is very different from the competitive sports leagues I remember from my childhood. The differences are good. Each child gets to play in every game. Coaches are expected to give a Christian devotional after practice every week and players are expected to memorize a Bible verse each week. At halftime of the Saturday games, a speaker presents a devotional to the entire soccer complex. Awards are given after each game to the best offensive player, best defensive player, player with the most hustle and the most Christ-like player on each team.

This is a very different experience from even the ones I had as a kid. Back then, parents didn't seem to cuss the officials, coaches and other players as is so often reported on the news these days. But, there also wasn't a direct effort at teaching or modelling Christ for the kids. And, even at an early age, it was obvious that if you weren't very good, you wouldn't get much game time. I was good enough that I played quite a bit, so I stuck with it. But, I knew a lot of kids who didn't get much playing time and quit after a few years. These kids missed some of the positive lessons learned from participating in team sports.

I know that if the kids stick with sports, as they get older they will want to play in a more competitive league. As a matter of fact, this league only goes through 3rd or 4th grade. But until that point, I am glad that they will get to be in this league.

My little girl is in second grade and played in this league last season. She had a very good experience. She enjoyed the game, learned a lot and made some friends. She surprised us by exhibiting a fair amount of athletic skill we hadn't seen. What didn't surprise us was her heart. She has always had a big heart and amazing understanding of Christ's intentions. She showed that all season long.

I have been asked to coach my son's soccer team this season. As a matter of fact, I am attending a soccer coaching seminar tomorrow morning. I am not worried about getting the rules of the game right. Those I know pretty well, certainly enough to fool a bunch of 4-year olds. What I am most worried about is my ability to keep my cool and provide positive reinforcement to a gaggle of 4-year old boys. I mean, my son can be the sweetest little guy you ever saw, but he can also be a little tyrant when he wants to be. Imagine a team of kids deciding to mutiny all at once. I need prayers that God will grant me calmness and let me know when to shut my trap. I want to make this a postivive experience for my boy and all the others.

-11.2 (Yes, I am keeping track that closely. If my scale measured 100ths of a pound, I'd post that.)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Being "Dad"

It is a state of being you obtain as soon as you have a child. You become a parent. In the case of the male gender, you become a father. To some (to way too many), this is no big distinction. Many men either leave a trail of "fatherless" children behind them as a result of philandering, or simply don't appreciate the joy of the children in their home.

I was and am immensely blessed. I had as my example a great dad. He wasn't perfect and he didn't pretend to be. But he was a good man, a good husband, and a good dad. I had a pretty good role model. I miss him immensely and wish he could be here to see me being "Dad." He got to see me in that state until my oldest was only three, when he was taken from us by metastatic melanoma.

Being "Dad" is both very cool and a large responsibility. The responsibilities are (or should be) pretty obvious. You provide the means to feed, clothe, and shelter your child. You are (or should be) responsible for disciplining them and showing them the right path. You should be modelling what a child of God should be. You assist in their education. You worry about them.

A lot of fathers get many of the responsibilities right. Sadly, a lot of them forget the cool things. I do too at times. But the cool things are what make being "Dad" so rewarding. The first time you hear, "I love you Daddy," you are filled with a great feeling. The hugs and kisses at bedtime, the evening ritual of brushing teeth and saying prayers is great. The first time your kid bounds into your arms when you get home from work, it's amazing. Watching your kid with other kids and adults can be pretty funny. Watching them figure things out is intriguing. Sweet little pictures colored for you while they are at school or waiting for you to get home are treasured items and come to decorate your office. I baptized my daughter when she turned seven. The tears, joy, relief and pride just about made me burst. Knowing she had accepted Christ as her
Saviour was one of the best moments of my life. Watching Collin tell his sister, "I love you Sissy," melts my heart.

My kids are now only 8 (Caitlin) and 4 (Collin). I know I still have a lot to learn about being a dad. I know a lot of very pleasant and some unpleasant experiences await me. I am not yet anything like an expert on "Dad-ness," but I must say it is a great place to be.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my 34th birthday. I can no longer consider myself in my "early" 30's. I am pretty much in my "mid" 30's now. And you know, that's okay. I am pretty happy with my life right now.

By many measures promulgated by the world at large, I would not be considered an outstanding success. I do not make a tremendous amount of money. I do no live in an enormous, posh home. I don't drive a fancy, new automobile. I don't take luxurious trips to exotic locations. I haven't invented a cure for anything. I don't control a government or a major international corporation. I am not dashingly handsome. I cannot sing at the Met. I am not a pofessionl athlete. I don't run a charity.

That is a very incomplete list of the many things I am not. But, I am okay with that list. I am very happy with what I am and what I do have. I belong to a God who thought I was worth the ultimate sacrifice. I have an amazing, talented, beautiful wife who loves God, me and our kids, in that order. A few years back, my wife and I started our own bsinesses. I am not Nelson Rockefeller, but we manage to pay the bills. We live in a cute house which is small by contemporary American standards, but is luxurious beyond the imaginings of a large portion of the world's population. We own two cars. We own them outright, as in no payments. That is the world's best option. Although they aren't new, they do exactly what we need them to, and they still look nice and are in good shape. I have two beautiful kids who are amazing to watch, teach, and learn from. So, by a number of standards, my life is very full and successful. I am richly blessed.


Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The whole getting in shape thing

Wow, now I've had my blog for like... ...20 minutes and I'm already posting my second blog. I'll probably go months before I post another. We'll see.

Anyway, "The whole getting in shape thing." I've decided once again to get in shape. Over the years, I've lost hundreds of pounds. And, then I always seem to find them again. Too bad I don't have that track record with mismatched socks.

About five years back, I got an itch to lose some weight. So, I started running. Before I knew it, I was running 2 miles a day. I lost 40 pounds in something insane like 2 months. Then, I decided to really step it up and go to to 4 miles a day. I lost another 20 pounds in very short order. Wow, I was in shape! I didn't really change my diet. I still ate like a high school athlete. Never mind the fact that I was then rapidly approaching 30 and a slower metabolism. Then, something in my hip started bothering me. Then, my knees started hurting. Then, I stopped exercise all together. I didn't seek physical therapy. I didn't try to find something slightly less strenuous while my knees and hip healed. I just quit. But, I kept right on eating. Smart, huh?

Needless to say, I started gaining weight after not too long. So, about 2 years ago, I decided to get in shape again. I got a membership at the YMCA. I decided to both run and lift weights. I thought that maybe if I ran on a treadmill instead of a concrete road, it wouldn't be so jarring to my apparently delicate physical condition. I had also decided I was going to be a manly man and get beeg und stronk like Ahnalt! So, with my standard lack of a plan or any semblance of moderation, I piled in. I lifted like crazy. I ran like crazy. I almost immediately injured my rotator cuff, but I worked through the pain. Ohh, ohh, ohhh!!! (Tim Allen grunt)

After a few months, I decided to save a little money and bought a home gym to avoid the monthly gym fees. My gut got smaller. My arms and chest got bigger. I started thinking I was He-Man and started lifting way too much weight. One night I even had to holler into the house to get my wife to come out and start taking weight plates off the bar. I had lifted more weight than I could get off my chest. And I'm a self-styled intellectual, folks! You'd think I mght have known better. Anyway, shortly thereafter, my intelligent workout routine caused a herniated disk in my back. And, as before, I simply stopped all forms of exercise. I didn't wait for my back to heal and begin a saner workout regimen. No, I just quit. And, since I had never slowed down my eating, I started gaining weight again.

Now, we come to the grand year of 2006. Around Christmas time last year, I noticed that I was within 5 pounds of reaching the heaviest weight I'd gotten to right before I started running 5 years ago. But, shameful as this was, I wasn't terrifically motivated. Then, my wife provided me with a great sense of motivation. She told me that she wanted to start working out as well. I would have someone to help keep me accoutable. I would have someone to go out and do this stuff with me. It would no longer be something I decided to do for my own vanity. It would be something we were doing as a team. She also insisted that we pray about it and ask for God's blessing and strength. (She has always been amazing with her commitment to God) Now, it wasn't going to be solely about me or even us, but a decision and action which included Him.

This time around, we're approaching this thing a little more intelligently. We are watching our diet. Not like I used too, where I would watch myself eat a bag of chips or a whole pizza, but actually measuring calories, reducing serving sizes and trying to eat balanced meals like all of the professionals suggest. They must know something, right?!? I mean they have all of those impressive intials after their names. Anyway, we're lifting weights and working out pretty strenuously on an exercise bike. I'm running as well. I hope that this time, we'll be able to stick it out and maintain an intelligent exercise and eating routine. We're going to keep praying for strength and guidance while we do it.

I am also going to do something ispired by Danny Sims a few months ago. He was working at losing weight then and posted his pounds lost each day. So, in the last month, I have lost 9 pounds. So, I will put a -9 at the bottom of the post. I will put a number symbolizing pounds lost at the bottom of each post and see how I do.


Well, This is a first.

I had heard of blogs, but never really gone looking for them. I mean, I'm on a computer all day at work. Why would I want to tinker around on one if I didn't have to.

One day, Andrew Zoota asked if I had seen something Danny Sims had written in his blog. I hadn't. It sounded interesting, so I thought I'd go look it up. Well, then I was hooked. I've now got Danny's blog in my "Favorites" list in my web browser. I check it out pretty much every day.

Several times, I've thought about commenting on his blogs, but didn't. Well, today the perfect storm of a little free time and an interesting blog of his came together. So, I thought I'd register and see if I liked doing this blog thing.