Some are less and some are more : An update, of sorts.

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It seems about once a year or so I go through a phase of questioning my writing and the purpose of this blog. This past phase was a bit longer than normal, but also a bit more clarifying. That is, once I was asked to clarify why I was backing off, “Because I’m trying to be more healthy.”

“That’s pretty ambiguous,” my friend said, shaking his head, “explain.”

So I did. It went something like this:

Two maybe, but never three:

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For the past several years, I’ve been working hard on writing more consistently. “One post a day,” I promised myself. Even if it was simple and short, I had to write/publish something on my blog or work on a chapter for my book.

Then we moved (again), I started Grad classes, kids entered sports, and then, and then, and then. Somewhere in there was my marriage, social life, and gaining a few extra unneeded pounds. My life was busy and certainly productive, but it was not healthy.

So I gave up writing for a while.

“But that was really good for you,” my friend reminded me. And he was right, it is. Writing is not only therapeutic, it’s clarifying and inspiring and something I truly love. But so is my marriage, my kids, and the many other things that take up time and demand thought.

Then, my wife posted this:


Do you know the good years when you’re right in them, or do you only recognize them after your future is the past, and it’s all come and gone? 
I took a small break like I always do this time of year because it is work, heart-life-work, this bittersweet pursuit to hold on to time just so. If I get too distracted, if there is just too many things and I hold it too loosely, life slips through my fingers and falls to regret. But if there is a desperate clenched grip, it squeezes through anyways. Grip too tight? Not tight enough? These are the days, the good days. 
It is finally Spring, which means lamb kisses in barns and sports are over. It also means road trip camping season has nearly begun. 

I’m terrified. Terrified of wasting time, of missing out on opportunities, and of one day looking back with regret. But more than anything, I’m terrified my kids will grow up without great memories of their father. If they one day, many years from now, described me as hard working, loyal, and a man of character, I would be happy. But also a bit disappointed because, as much as those qualities mean to me, I also want my kids to one day look back at the life their dad lived and say, “He inspired me to live.”

Which is why, recently, I ran The Spartan Race with my son.


If you follow me on social media, you’re probably tired of this photo. But I’m not. This photo, to me, is a reminder to get out more, to try new things, to push boundaries, and to endure. It’s a reminder to prove I’m alive, to myself for sure but even more so for my kids who are watching, day in and day out. “Prove you’re alive!”, I tell them, but they don’t always listen. Because they’re kids. But when I live it, when I put the phone down, the computer away, and the books back on the shelf, when I take a weekend (with the support of my loving wife) and break out of the norm and and run a race with my oldest son, they see it, they experience it, and they want to live it too.

“Can I do it next year?” my two daughters asked.

“You bet,” I said, “And I’ll do it again with you.”

“Me too,” Judah yelled from the backseat, “And next year, I’m gonna beat my time.”

Me too.

I may not be writing as much lately, which, if I’m honest, is frustrating and sad. But because I’m writing less lately, I have more time for other things, for life things, and for the moments that are fleeting quickly. And I don’t think I’ll ever regret that.

So that’s one reason why I haven’t been writing as much lately. It’s also why I haven’t listened to or posted about podcasts either.

Because . . .

Podcasts are cool and all, but sometimes . . .

I listen to a lot of podcasts. Most of the time it’s because I enjoy them and often find inspiration from them. Sometimes, though, it’s because I like being the guy who listens to a lot of podcasts. So when the other day, while heading out for a morning run, my podcasts wouldn’t play, I was super annoyed. I even considered not running at all because, how boring would that be, running in silence? But the Spartan run was nearing and I knew I needed the training, so I headed out anyway. Soon after, I started thinking.

The night before, I didn’t sleep well because I had this thing with one of my students earlier in the day and it was bothering me. A lot. We’d been going around this misunderstanding for some time and that morning it had came to a head. We argued, yelled even, and refused to see the situation from each other’s perspectives. By the end of the conversation, he walked off and I threatened suspension. It wasn’t great and I wasn’t proud, but I was pissed. At him, myself, and the situation. It felt like all my work with him and his fellow classmates was suddenly lost because I handled the situation poorly and because I didn’t know how to fix it.

“Hard choices are often hard because they impact other people’s lives in meaningful ways,” Steven Johnson writes in Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions that Matter Most, “and so our ability to imagine that impact - to think through the emotional and material consequences from someone else’s perspective - turns out to be an essential talent” (pg 122). But because I was constantly distracted by work and kids and podcasts, I was unable to think or consider my student’s side of the story. Only mine. Until I ran without a podcast. Then and only then, I had time to think.

“When we are left to our own mental devices,” Johnson continues, “the mind drifts into a state where it swirls together memories and projections, mulls problems, and concocts strategies for the future” (pg 79). It solves problems. But only when it has time to do so. Listening to podcasts every chance I had never allowed my mind to sit and rest, to mull problems, or concoct strategies. It was always busy.

Just like my students.

Recently, after watching and talking and listening to staff and students around my school, we’ve made a few changes for next year: no cell phones during class time and block scheduling. When asked by a few students, parents, and board members, “What is the genesis of these changes?” I answered with, “Because life for our students is too busy, too distracted. We want them to slow down, to dig deeper into their classes and content, and to be more cognizant of their thoughts, emotions, and surroundings.” (Okay, I didn’t say it exactly like that, but more or less the message was the same). The morning my podcast didn’t work and I had to run in silence, I was convicted of this for myself as well because, for me at least, I can get a bit snooty about kids (and adults) playing video games or wasting time watching television. “They’re a waste of time, a distraction,” I find myself thinking and often times saying.

Yet, how often do I allow myself - my brain - to sit in silence and think, consider, and drift? How often do I play with memories and projections, mull problems, and concoct strategies for the future?

In the same way I want my students to slow down, to rid themselves of distractions and to wrestle with the intricacies and complexities of life, I must be willing and able to do the same. Podcasts, although better then gaming, can still be a distraction that quickly pulls me across the surface of thoughts and ideas, preventing me the opportunity to stop, sink, and struggle.

So that’s why, along with writing, I haven’t listened to as many podcasts lately.

But also, I don’t have time. Or perhaps energy is a better way to say it because of course I have time - we all do, if we really want something. We just need to make time for it. But energy? Yeah, I’m pretty low on that.

Here’s why.

For the Eulogy, not my Resume:

I’ve written a few times about the difference between eulogy virtues and resume virtues. It comes from David Brooks and his book, Road to Character, and it is something I think about quite often.

Resume virtues, Brooks explains, “are the {virtues} you list on your resume, the skills you bring to the job market and that contribute to external success.” Eulogy virtues, on the other hand, are the virtues that people talk about at your funeral, “the ones that exist at the core of your being - whether you are kind, brave, honest or faithful; what kind of relationships you formed.” They describe how you used your resume.

Recently, this concept has challenged me more so than ever because, for various reasons, I have been presented with the possibility of pursuing a doctorate, and for many reasons my answer would have been and very easily could have been “no.” But then my wife got involved in the decision making process and her simple reasoning stuck, “because it will open doors”, which, on the surface is pretty common and not all that groundbreaking. Because that’s what resumes do. They open doors. But my wife didn’t end there.

“Because it will open doors, which will potentially allow you greater opportunities to serve.” And she’s right! Not only will furthering my education (ideally) allow me to better serve my here-and-now local community, it will provide me the opportunity to help others too, if the moment or opportunity should arise.

Or, as Chef José Ramón Andrés Puerta would say, “an opportunity” to help.

José Ramón Andrés Puerta is “a Spanish-American chef often credited with bringing the small plates dining concept to America. He owns restaurants in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Las Vegas, South Beach, Florida; Frisco, Texas; Mexico City, and Dorado, Puerto Rico” (via). He is also credited with dreaming up and creating World Central Kitchen which travels the world and serving 150,000 meals daily to those in need.

Every time you have a disaster, you bring the different experts into different areas for the reconstruction, for the relief process. So you need to understand that if you have to rebuild homes that you'll bring architects. If you need to take care of people in the hospitals, you bring more help with doctors. If you have to feed people, it's only very normal and logical to me that you will bring cooks. And that's what we do. Kitchens, restaurants are chaos. And chefs, restaurant people - we manage chaos very well. After a hurricane, it's a lot of chaos. And people go hungry, and people go thirsty. And what we are very good at is understanding the problem and adapting. And so a problem becomes an opportunity. That's why I think chefs more and more - you're going to be seeing more of us in these situations. We're practical. We're efficient. We can do it quicker, faster and better than anybody (via)

Because of his resume and his intense training, Chef José Ramón Andrés Puerta not only gains access to kitchens around the world, he gains access to people in need around the world. He uses his resume as a foundation to live his eulogy virtues.

And that has been continually convicting to me.

I want to learn and grow and develop my resume as much as possible so I can be as helpful as possible, here in my current job, but also anywhere at any time. When there is a crisis or a need, I want to be ready and available and not stuck behind some bureaucratic red tape. I want access, a seat at the table, so I may best be able to serve and remember the poor.

That is why I’m writing less, listening to podcasts less, and working more on my resume.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Open Thoughts  :  On Parenting