Archive for November, 2008

Thankful

Things I am thankful for this past year:

  1. God’s love and grace
  2. A beautiful, intelligent, caring and selfless wife
  3. 3 awesome and fun kids
  4. A well-paying job that allows me to do what I love for a living
  5. Working from home
  6. My brother and his wife moved back to Texas
  7. Loving parents-in-law and a loving mom
  8. Playing chess with Gavin and Bennett
  9. Garage soccer with the kids
  10. Chloe being a big helper while cooking
  11. Good health
  12. Good friends
  13. Family game nights
  14. The neighborhood swimming pool
  15. A full pantry
  16. Books
  17. Quiet times with Cori
  18. Freedom to homeschool
  19. Freedom to not go to church
  20. Starbucks with Matt and lunches with Christian
  21. Our new car
  22. my iPhone
  23. my MacBook Pro
  24. Watching shows and football games on delay via our DVR

I’m also thankful for all the good food I plan on eating tomorrow. And a victory in the 2nd Annual Mallott-Rogers Thanksgiving Day Football Game. :)

Shots

Seems like I’m constantly being remind of how many things I take for granted in this life. Last week I went to the health clinic to get some immunization shots for my trip to India.

I definitely take for granted the healthcare system we have here in the United States. Its not perfect, by any means, but looking at all the color-coded disease zoned world maps at the health clinic reminded me that the U.S. is a very safe place to live. On these maps, anything shaded in white was “safe” whereas varying shades of pink/red indicated danger areas. The only areas in the whole world that were consistently white were U.S., Canada, Australia and parts of Eastern/Northern Europe. Anywhere else in the world and you are at risk for contracting horrible diseases such as Hepatitis, Typhoid and Polio – many of which we are immunized against as babies in the U.S.

So when the doctor started reviewing all the grim and grisly ways I might contract a disease, I actually started to have a little bit of fear. I was thinking, “Load me up with whatever I need, cuz the last thing I want is go over there and get freaking Hepatitis!”

I received 5 shots &8212; Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Influenza and Polio. I also got a prescription for Malaria medication.

There are many ways we can die during a routine day here in America, but I am thankful that immunization is state-of-the-art. My heart goes out to those around the world that don’t have that luxury.

I’m going on a trip and I’m taking …

Remember the game we used to play as kids to make the time go by faster during long road trips?

Well, I’m going on a trip to Chennai, India the first 10 days of December and I thought I would make a little list of the things I’m bringing with me. I don’t want to be a pack mule, but I also want to make sure I bring “enough” for a trip half way across the world.

I’ll be flying from DFW to Dulles to meet up with my boss and two others. Then we fly from Dulles to Brussels, Belgium — a 9-hour flight. After a 3 hour layover, we fly from Brussels to Chennai — another 9-hour flight. We’ll work in the offices in Chennai for 3 days then travel to Pondicherry on the weekend. Pondicherry is some sort of resort town near the beach and is supposedly pretty nice. Then we go back to Chennai to work for two more days before coming home.

The following are things I’ll be cramming into my backpack:

Books

  • Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season
  • I am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak
  • The Elements of User Experience, by Jesse James Garrett
  • Transcending CSS, by Andy Clarke
  • Don’t Make Me Think, by Steve Krug (this one’s not for me to read, but to give to one of the guys in India trying to learn about Web Design)

I hope I’m not bringing too many books. I hate to load down my backpack with superfluous stuff, but the last thing I want is to be stranded on an airplane with nothing to read.

DVDs

  • Minority Report
  • Matrix Reloaded
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Office Space

I am borrowing these movies from my brother. I haven’t seen any of them. Hopefully they’ll provide a nice mental reprieve when I need a break from reading.

Electronics

Of course, I’m bringing my MacBook Pro, my extra mouse and battery charger. Also bringing my iPhone and charger. I plan on taking some good pictures with our digital camera. I’ve never taken it on any of my trips, so I’m a little nervous that I’ll forget I have it and miss some good photo ops. i also don’t want to lose or break it.

Miscellaneous

Passport, sunglasses, business cards, gum. Maybe a couple of good articles printed off the internet and maybe a Sports Illustrated or two.

I’ll probably bring a full size suitcase, but haven’t even thought about packing it yet. I think its relatively warm, but not hot, over there this time of year, so hopefully I won’t need to worry about a jacket. The typical jeans, t-shirt and running shoes outfit will probably be standard for me over there.

I’m very curious about what I’ll be bringing back with me. I plan on getting souvenirs of some sort for Cori and the kids but no idea yet. I joked earlier that I’d bring a King Cobra back for Bennett. :)

Am I forgetting anything important? Any recommendations?

Faith

The Bible defines faith as this:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1

So what happens when the things that are hoped for never materialize? Why is that your “faith level” is usually determined by the number of things hoped for that actually do come to pass?

Are you a more “successful” or “spiritual” Christian if most of the things you pray for actually happen? What if you pray for something for a long time and earnestly believe that it will happen and then it never does? Do you not have enough faith? Do you need more practice praying?

I don’t know. But I do know there have been at least two times in my life where I have earnestly believed that something would happen and it never did. I prayed and prayed. I even rested. But the things I was believing for God didn’t happen.

The first time was when I was in 7th grade. Financially, were not very well off. My mom never had enough money and she was driving my late step-father’s old paint truck. Somehow she was entered into this contest at a dealership to win a new Dodge Caravan. I wanted her to win that van so bad. I can’t remember how long it all took, but it seemed like I spent a couple of weeks of fervent praying and believing and trusting in God that he would allow mom to win that new van.

Well, long story short she didn’t win it. And I really had a hard time with that. I just couldn’t understand why not. Would it really be that hard for God to just grant this request? I mean, He’s God, right? This should be easy for Him. And, its not like we were asking for something that we didn’t really need. Seems pretty petty now, but, for some reason, it really effected me and I was very dismayed that God wouldn’t go ahead and give us that van.

The other time was not too long ago. In May 2006, I took a job at Rosetta Stone in Harrisonburg, Virginia. We believed this was God’s plan for us to move. We put our house on the market and a couple weeks later packed up all of our stuff and moved to Harrisonburg. We figured the house here in McKinney would sell shortly and we could then buy a house in Virginia and move to the next phase of our lives. Until the house sold, we stayed at Cori’s parents house (I commuted back and forth on weekends) for 2 months and then rented a house for 4 months.

Throughout this whole time, we had 55 showings at our house, which was sitting empty in Texas, but not one single offer. After a couple months, we lowered the price. A couple weeks later, at the recommendation of our realtor, we lowered the price again. Then again. Then our 4 month listing agreement expired and we signed a different realtor to market the house hoping that a change of pace would make the difference. Since we were already at our lowest list price, we just waited. And prayed and waited. And prayed some more.

We were in Virginia for 6 months. At long last, we could no longer afford to make a mortgage payment in Texas and a rent payment in Virginia as well as utilities and all that nonsense. So we packed everything up (again) and moved back to Texas in November. The day we arrived back in Texas was exactly 6 months to the day that we left.

During that whole time, we were very patient. We never really doubted that we made the right decision to move there, even when things looked bleak. But that didn’t change the fact that we had to move back. The whole time we were plagued with questions of why the house wasn’t selling? Maybe we did make a mistake. Maybe we weren’t supposed to move after all. What the heck is the point of all this? There just has to be a reason, right, God?

That was almost exactly 2 years ago and I am still trying to figure out the why’s of it all. People have asked me, “So why do you think God allowed you to go through all that?” I wish I could say I knew. I have no idea why it worked out the way it did. Did it grow our faith? I suppose it did. I still feel like it was the right thing to do at the time. Although it wasn’t a fun experience going through many of the emotional ups and downs that went along with that, I will say we had a good time in Virginia.

As a family, we look back on those 6 months with fondness. If I had it to do over again, I would. Maybe the point of it all was the process we went through rather than the end result. We joke about that being a really fun 6-month vacation … and next time, let’s not bring EVERY household belonging on vacation with us! :)

Regardless, those are two times in my life (there could be more, not sure) where I have tried to exercise faith to believe God for something and it didn’t happen. At least not the way I wanted or expected it to.

I admit, those are 2 very innocuous examples. There are people out there praying and believing for much more important things than that. There are people with cancer praying for healing. There are people with failed marriages praying for reconciliation. There are mothers of dead children crying out to God, “Why?”.

So what if we have faith but what we’re believing for doesn’t come to pass? Not enough faith? Is our faith misguided?

I don’t know. But I do know this: Faith is not getting what you ask for. The people with the strongest faith are the ones who ask and pray and don’t receive, but still believe! The Bible says the world is not worthy of them (Hebrews 11:38).

I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned through all of this is – its not about the destination, its about the journey. God is not a magic genie that does our bidding. Most of the time we think we know what we want, but God knows the desires of our hearts and his plan is better than ours. God is interested in our souls, our relationship with him, not our comfort.

If faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, then that’s where God wants us. Not seeing, just believing and letting Him see. He sees the big picture – the infinite, spiritual realm while we never can and that’s where our hope is, not here, not now.

I Love Books

I read a lot of books. Seriously. I haven’t always liked reading, but the older I get the more I love to read.

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I Love Books

I read a lot of books. Seriously. I haven’t always liked reading, but the older I get the more I love to read.

My goal for this year has been to read 25 books. I’m almost there, but still have quite a few pages to flip before the end of the year. To date, I’ve completed 18 books, I’m in currently in the process of reading 3 more and have 4 waiting on deck. I think I have a pretty good chance to reach 25 because I have a trip to India coming up in early December, so I’ll have plenty of time on the plane to read.

I have read more books this year than ever before. I usually read a handful of books each year, so I’m not sure what the reason for the spike has been this year. About mid-year, I realized I had already read quite a few and decided to see if I could set a goal and reach 20. I’ve since upped that goal to 25.

The more I read, the more it makes me want to read. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t ever want to be without a book or a stack of books that I’m currently reading. Some of the books I read are for keeping up with design industry trends like Don’t Make Me Think and Transcending CSS. I also like to read books about war like The Shark Mutiny and Warrior Soul. The type of book I like to read the most, I’ve found out recently, are the books that change the way I think about the world — The Kite Runner, Same Kind of Different As Me, and Divine Nobodies.

The amazing thing is that I used to really not enjoy reading. As a kid and in high school and in college, I didn’t like to read at all. Maybe I was too busy playing Pacman, Tecmo Bowl and EA Sports NHL Hockey ’94 (best ever). Now I read for pure enjoyment &#8212 and not just magazines and books about sports.

Who knew reading could be so fun?

What good books are you reading? I’m open to suggestions for what I should put on my list for 2009.

Working Smarter

This morning I read a great article on A List Apart titled, The Four-Day Work Week Challenge, by Ryan Carson.

The basic idea is that most people spread their work out over whatever time period they have to work with.  So if you have all week to get done your list of things, you’ll take all week to do it.  But if you have only 4 days to get everything done, you’ll be able to do it in 4 days because you’ll be forced to work smarter and more efficiently.

Ryan admits:

I thought the idea was ridiculous. How in the sam hill would we be able to get everything done? We have way too much to do in five days a week, let alone four.

I would love to be able to do this. Not only do you get a 3 day weekend every week, you’re forced to cut out unnecessary distractions like meetings.  In my book, meetings are poison for productivity.  I don’t think Rosetta Stone would ever be kosher with only working 4 days, but one day I’d really like to do this.

However, you can take the challenge in many different ways. Instead of getting into work early and finishing late, tell yourself that you have exactly eight hours to finish all your work for the day. Set a mental barrier at the end of the day and know that you will shut down your computer and pack your bags exactly at five o’clock.

Even though I can’t reduce the work week by a day, I can and do timebox my workdays.  I usually make a point to stop working by a certain time and plan my work around the end of my day rather than letting the work dictate when I stop.

Even if you love what you do – and I do – you should still be vigilant about keeping a good life-work balance.

Ryan echos one of my favorite sentiments:

Will we lie on our death bed and say “Damn, I wish I would’ve got more done at work?” I doubt it.

I know I won’t be saying that.

Double Standard

On Erik Young’s blog, Soap and Education, he cautions that Obama is Not a Baby Killer.

Erik makes a good point, and it reminds me of something I’ve been thinking about but have never said out loud or written down.

For the record, I hate abortion. I hate that even one little baby ever had to be killed. I’m against abortion and I definitely consider myself a Pro Life person.

But what does it mean to be Pro Life? To me, it means being against the destruction of any and all innocent life. I think most people Christians would be in agreement with that, right?

So why is it then that people that are concerned about killing innocent babies are pretty much indifferent to the killing of innocent lives during war? Most people just assume that its just one of those unfortunate aspects of war. Well, I don’t think we should be so ambivalent about it like that.

Conservative American Christians won’t even discuss sacred cow of abortion – there is no room for compromise. In truth, I agree with them on that. But how can those same people not also be outraged by the senseless murder – not only of soldiers (ours and theirs) – but of the innocent bystanders in villages and towns that “get in the way” of war?

As Christians, I believe we should make no distinction. Loss of life is loss of life, right? Does it matter if those lives were babies’ or adults or American or Iraqi, Somalian or Bosnian?

To be clear – I support our troops. I’ve got a brother and a brother-in-law in the Air Force, so I support them. But what I can no longer support is the double standard that most Christians have when it comes to picking and choosing which lives matter most.

I’m quite sure God sees all of us humans the same. We are ALL his children and he loves ALL of us the same. Shouldn’t we do the same and abhor the killing of innocent life, regardless of age or method?

Indeed we should.

Revolution

So today we found out Barack Obama will become the first black President of the United States. Obama always talks about change, but we really have is a revolution – a social revolution.

Does that mean things are magically going to get better overnight? No. Does it mean racism has been eradicated? Nope. Does that mean that every decision Obama makes will be right? Surely not. Does that mean that we’re a better country today than we were yesterday? Not at all.

But we as a country are different now. We may not feel that much different. Nor may we really even act that much different going forward. And the change may not be measurable for years. That’s because the people that this is going to impact the most are our children.

I am fortunate to have been raised to think that all men are created equal and I always treated black people the same as I treated white people growing up. But I have read much about the segregation, unfairness and even atrocities that happened as early as just a few years before I was born. I understand the significance of what happened yesterday.

However, our kids don’t appreciate what a big deal it is that we just elected a black president. They can’t fully grasp or understand the significance of it. This is good in that it shows that they don’t think of people in terms of race or color. I think its awesome that their earliest memories of The President will be a black man. They will grow up differently in part because of that, I think.

I still think we have a significant job ahead of us, one we’ve already started, but definitely have not finished. We as parents need to continue to teach them about racism and remind them of the way it used to be. I’d like to teach our kids not only about the evils of racism, but of also of treating people different for any reason. I’d like them to grow to respect people from other religions and points of view.

The United States has been carrying around the burden of racism for a long time. Its a burden that we are characterized by in the view of the rest of the world. Its been a struggle pretty unique to our country. But today I think was the beginning of a quiet, unseen revolution that is only a small step toward shedding that burden for good.

Socialization

One of the biggest lightning rod topics about homeschooling is the socialization aspect.

When you list out all the great advantages there are to homeschooling, inevitably you’ll hear, “Yes, but what about socialization? Aren’t you concerned about that?”

No parent wants their kid to be socially awkward or isolated. Every parent wants their kids to be smart, funny, popular, responsible, etc. Who wouldn’t, right?

Homeschooling and socialization have absolutely nothing to do with one another. Nothing. Homeschooling has a bad reputation regarding socialization, but the cause for that is actually parenting. Its the parent’s responsibility – whether homeschooling or not – to teach your kids how to relate to the rest of the world.

I definitely want my kids to know how to act in public and how to speak rationally to other people – other children and adults. I want my kids to have a positive, but realistic, worldview. As parents, we should be teaching these things to our kids if we homeschool and even if we send them to public school.

It is our responsibility to raise our kids, not the state’s. Sadly, too often parents forfeit that right – no, privilege – and let the state teach our kids. And we’re not just letting them teach our kids math and science and history. We’re letting them teach our kids how to think, how to behave, how to relate to others and how to view the world around them.

So, how successful are public schools (or private for that matter) in terms of socializing our children? Watch the news each evening and you’ll see that its not going very well.

Cori recently picked up this book on homeschooling at the library. Its actually a pros/cons type of book and she knew there would be things in it that she disagreed with, but wanted to read all it had to say anyway. The book is titled, Home Schooling, edited by Cindy Mur.

In the introduction, there’s a bit about socialization:

Without the chance to interact with those of diverse backgrounds, critics are concerned that home-schooled student will fail to appreciate and understand one of the core values of American life: to tolerate and appreciate the differences between cultures or groups and among individuals. They fear isolation breeds intolerance, prejudice and even fanaticism.

Are you kidding me? That is laughable. That is seriously funny! Does the person who wrote that actually believe that going to public schools helps a child “tolerate and appreciate the differences between cultures”? That’s not what I experienced when I went to public school growing up. And I guarantee you that is not happening today.

Don’t get me wrong – that is a great ideal. One that we actively strive for. But that is so not realistic. Spend a day at Plano East Senior High School and tell me if that’s what you see.

Just in my neighborhood, I’ve seen kids that don’t respect property, they make fun of other kids that are different than them, they’re irresponsible, mean-spirited and have no idea how to listen or respect adults.

I’m sorry, that’s not the type of socialization that I’d like my kids to learn.