“I’ll never sleep!” – Adventures with Belle

This week Janelle was reading something I’d written about what Belle was saying before her 2nd birthday.  As she read it we realized we’d both forgotten about Belle ever saying those things.  It was a reminder to me that I need to be better about jotting stuff down when she does it, so we don’t forget.  She does so many cute/impressive/wonderful things on a regular basis that it’s easy to have them slip by without writing them down.

Last night it was a serious battle trying to get Belle to go to sleep.  She asked “why do we have to go night night every day?!”  After Janelle and I read her several stories and left her to fall asleep, she started to fuss and cry and get out of bed.  We left the lights on (she has a princess Christmas tree that is really bright in and of itself, and she wanted her lamp on) but that wasn’t enough.She threw all the bedding off her bed and screamed things like:

“I really miss Mommy and Daddy!”

“Daddy!  DADDY! Come here!”

“I don’t want to go night night.”

And my favorite…

“I’ll never sleep!  Never!”

During a lull in her tantrum I came in and started to talk to her.  I don’t know exactly what I did or how I did it but I convinced Belle it would be cool if I put the stuff back on her bed (with her showing me where it all goes).  Then I laid in there and talked to Belle for probably ten minutes before leaving.  This time she let me go and fell asleep peacefully.

We talked about what she would be doing soon, and we talked about what it will be like when I take her to see The Princess and the Frog.  It’s going to be the very first movie she sees in a theater.  She asked if they had blankets and pillows at the theater in case she gets cold.  When I told her they didn’t, she asked if she could bring her own blanket.

I also told her about how you give your ticket to the man or lady and they rip it, then give it back to you.

“I will not say thank you to the lady,” she said.  When I asked why, she replied “because I will be shy.”

I love my little girl.  I went from absolute frustration and exasperation to utter amazement and thankfulness to God in the span of an hour.  Parenthood rules.


Serving God and Volunteering at Church

The phrase “serve God” is used frequently in religious and spiritual circles.  Through books, sermons, radio shows, conversations, and more we get lots of information on what it means to “serve God.”  In my years of observing, listening to, and often speaking on this topic I believe the concept of serving God is something Christians (both laypeople and clergy) misunderstand.

This will not be an exhaustive post on the topic but rather something that has occurred to me more and more over the years.  I worked at a church for several years as a youth pastor and since the beginning of 2008 have been working full-time in public school.  I attend church and volunteer.  I begin with a statement I learned to be quite true when I worked as a pastor:

Those who are not in ministry really do not know what it is like to be in ministry.  I think the pastors I know would agree with this wholeheartedly.  Almost as a rule the pastors I know personally are among the most hardworking, dedicated men and women I’ve ever met.  They are doing their best to serve God and view their work not just as work but as a calling and privilege.  I won’t go into too much detail about the kind of work and sacrifice being a vocational minister is but suffice it to say – unless you work (or worked) in ministry you really do not know what it is like.

Since I’ve been out  vocational ministry, however, something else has become just as clear to me:

Those who are working in ministry really do not know what it is like to not be working in ministry.

There are of course degrees and variations on this – but I think it is a sound statement. 

A large portion of church activity rests on volunteers, and rightly so.  Pastors are not called to do everything – rather their job is to equip the saints for doing God’s work (Ephesians 4).  Entire books have been written on what the job of a pastor really is, and I’m not going to delve into that here.  But no matter your position on how closely a pastor should resemble a CEO or how available they should be to their congregation, any healthy Biblically-based view of the role of a pastor involves their preparing the laypeople for their ministry and acts of service. 


I also believe it is not the obligation of every Christian to volunteer to serve at their church on a regular basisYou can be a completely healthy, devoted, passionate follower of Jesus and a great member of a church while volunteering only occasionally if at all.

This is almost anathema to the way I thought when I worked in ministry.  I did not understand what the deal was with people who wouldn’t be willing to give up an hour on a Sunday or Wednesday or whatever to serve God by setting up sound equipment or picking up garbage or watching kids or whatever else.  Jesus died on the cross for you and you’re going to dodge when I ask you to come every other Sunday a couple hours early to help get things ready for the church service where the gospel will be preached?  Come on, man!

This is the mindset of one who works in ministry and does not understand what it is like to not work in ministry.  It was my mindset when I was in ministry and I am absolutely not alone.  This is a very common mindset.

Sometimes pastors (and then their congregants) subtly conflate “serve God” with “volunteer at church.”  Because the pastors view their job as their calling, because building the church is what they are giving their life to, there is a tendency to assume this is what everybody’s life is to be given to.  If someone is not volunteering at the church in some capacity then they are not really serving God the way they should be.  They are holding back; they are not fully surrendered to God and are being selfish with their time.    This misunderstanding can lead to all manner of frustration on behalf of pastors and parishioners as they talk past one another. 

There is so much I could write on this topic and its corollaries.  Maybe I will one day.  Instead I will just get to my conclusion before I ramble on any more.

Serving God by volunteering at a church is a great way to serve God, but if it is the only way you are serving God you are not, I would argue, serving God the way He asks in Scripture.  I would go so far as to say that serving God by volunteering at a church should be one of the first things to go when you go through busy seasons of life and something has to be cut out. 

Unfortunately what well-meaning people usually cut out before they cut out “serving God” (when serving God = volunteering at church) are things like spending time with friends who aren’t at church, time with family (extended or immediate), being a part of the greater community, and so on.  But this is where we need passionate Jesus-lovers spending more time and energy serving God.  When someone doesn’t have time to spend with people outside of church because they are too busy volunteering at church, there is a problem.  Not only that, but, if we convince people that serving God=volunteering at church we can give them a false sense of their own Christ-likeness. 

“Am I living the gospel with my family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and community?  Heck if I know, but I am putting out cookies on Sunday morning, so I’m serving God with my life!”

Obviously that is a bit of an exaggeration to make the point, but the point stands.  Serving God is much more complex than volunteering to help out at church.  Not only that, but I know times when I assumed a degree of spiritual maturity due to a person’s steadfastness as a volunteer on a team – and I was wrong.  People need to be taught things like:

How do I serve God at work?

How do I serve God in the way I treat my family?

How do I serve God in the way I handle my wealth and possessions?

How do I serve God through being a part of the community?

How do I serve God with my neighbors?

As people learn those things, they need to know it is okay to take the necessary time to put them into practice, even if that means they don’t volunteer at church.

If our goal truly is the spread of the gospel – if our goal is truly the spread of Jesus’ love Jesus’ way – then I cannot reconcile a demand for volunteerism at the expense of community and relational involvement.  And for the majority of people who do not work in ministry, this is the cost of being a regular, committed volunteer at church. 

You have two days off if you work a full-time job.  You spend the other five days working hard away from your family, brushing up against people, maybe going to a Bible study one night a week, and living your life.  If you’re lucky you have a few hours at the end of the day to spend with your family (with whatever energy you have left).  It’s also possible you spend those weekday nights simply taking care of the house/family and getting ready for work the next day.  It is during those days that one should be considering how to serve God.  It is during those days that we earn the opportunity to build relationships with people that we could then spend time with on the weekend (actually building and maintaining a relationship), if we weren’t busy volunteering at church or going to church events. 

But even if a person could volunteer at church and maintain a healthy schedule but chooses not to because they want to spend more time with friends or family or as a part of the community – I see nothing wrong with that.  If they are serious about serving God wherever they are, then that is what they will do.  The job of the church is to encourage them to serve God wherever they spend their time.

If all of our non-work time is spent doing church things or with church people, then we have become residents of the “Christian Bubble” and convinced ourselves it is Godliness when in fact we are insulating ourselves from the very people who need to hear and see the gospel most.  Inviting people to church is not adequate gospel-love-spreading.  It is not evangelism.

Many people waste their time, or are selfish with their time, and it is important for the church to challenge that in Christ-followers.  There is a lot to be gained by volunteering and being part of the team at a church.  I did so before I worked in the ministry and continued to do it after leaving vocational ministry.  I plan on doing so moving forward.  But it is not the measuring stick of a devoted follower of Christ, and we make it one to the detriment of not only those who are seeking to know more about and follow Jesus better but also to the detriment of the broader community that is deprived of the time and energy of these people.


Ode to my Wife

I’m occasionally struck by the notion that I am living through a movie scene.  In my particularly self-pitying days of singlehood I imagined I was living through some insipid romance movie where the nice guy has to wade through years of loneliness to find the right woman.  Thank God that’s over. 

It still sometimes occurs to me, however, that a moment in my life could be taken straight from a movie.

This has happened more often since we had children.  It’s less that I feel my life in particular is entertaining enough to watch and more that the circumstances seem so ridiculous as to be almost contrived.  Last night was one of those moments.

Juliette, our five-week old daughter, wakes up frequently during the night.  Some are better than others of course but last night was not a good one.  Janelle and I went to bed around 9:30 and Juliette woke up every 60-90 minutes.  During one feeding Janelle went into the kitchen to start up the dishwasher to wash the bottles.  Around 1:30 Juliette woke up screaming again and Janelle went out to get the bottles out of the dishwasher and prepare one. 

While holding Juliette in the bedroom I heard Janelle say something – I can’t quite remember what it was – but I remember knowing it wasn’t good.  It sounded like she had seen something disgusting, or perhaps she’d hurt herself.  I called out a few times and got no response.  Finally she responded.

“Our dishwasher flooded the kitchen.”

imageAs it turned out, the detergent Janelle purchased last week, which was labeled “Dish Detergent” and was in the same section as the dishwasher detergent was in fact not meant for use in a dishwasher.  As we took turns cleaning the kitchen (including moving the refrigerator so we could get the water under it) Janelle berated herself and said “I even thought it seemed a little runny but I just figured it was because it was cheap.” 

At 1-something in the morning I am more than happy to find fault with others and find a way to blame them for things that inconvenience me.  But try as I might I couldn’t fault Janelle for being foolish with the dish soap – there are hints on the labeling, such as “easy on your hands!” and whatnot but I certainly would have assumed it was detergent for the dishwasher based on its name and its placement in the store – away from all the handwashing dish soap and with the detergent.  In retrospect obviously it was a mistake but it’s completely understandable.

So as I wiggled the fridge out of its spot in the kitchen it occurred to me that this could be a scene from a comedy wherein the couple is simply overwhelmed at life with a new baby and a 3 year-old.  Already not sleeping regularly we have the dishwasher flood the kitchen in the middle of the night.  As I thought more about it I realized how fortunate I am, for two reasons.

First, I am fortunate that the movie would be a comedy rather than a tragedy.  So many parents are faced with awful difficulties with their children.  Illnesses, complications, diseases rare or common, inability to feed the family or pay the bills – these are all problems we are thankfully and by God’s grace not faced with.  Whatever difficulties we do have, Janelle and I try to remind one another that we really are blessed beyond any measure and far beyond anything we could ever deserve.  Which leads me to the second reason I am so fortunate.

I’m fortunate to be able to go through all of this with a woman as awesome as Janelle is.  I use the word “awesome” to describe a lot of things but it is rarely as appropriate as it is when I use it to refer to my wife.  She has not had a good night’s sleep in at least 5 weeks; to be honest probably not since Belle has been born but we may have snuck one in here or there.  Every day (after a night of waking up and taking care of Juliette several times) she takes care of a newborn and a three year-old, she manages the house, plans meals, keeps the place clean, usually has dinner ready for me when I get home, encourages me to work out even though it takes a little extra time, lets me watch football…the list goes on.  She is awesome in a very real sense of the word.

Faced with the situation last night I think many people in Janelle’s situation would have resorted to some kind of something – be it passive-aggressive comments about how I should have done this or that, or just frustrated angry comments about the situation, or just shutting down with exhaustion.  But she did none of that.  Janelle kept her cool and we worked well together getting everything sorted and cleaned up without fighting or arguing or bickering.  As we went back to bed and lay down about 45 minutes after beginning the cleanup, I was struck with how gracefully Janelle had handled the whole situation.  I told her as much but this morning as I think more about it I really am struck by how truly blessed I am to have this woman as my wife. 

It’s sort of a cliche among Christians that men want to find and women want to be a “Proverbs 31 woman” but I really do think I have one in Janelle.  If I made a checklist out of the passage and measured Janelle against it, there would be a check in every box.  She is great with money, organizes our home wonderfully, works hard through trouble and difficulty to make life better for me and our daughters (and others), and more. 

When Janelle and I first started dating I was surprised to find out many of my friends knew her from high school.  When I told them I was with Janelle Cornelio they could not stop talking about how great she was and how lucky I was.  I had no clue how right they were.  I often joke that I view the fact that Janelle married me as proof there is a God.  Truth be told it’s only half of a joke.  Every day Janelle is a living, breathing example of the grace and love God has for me.  I know I don’t deserve her and I am so grateful for every day I get to spend with her.


I have a jorb

Cobwebs around here.  For those wondering why I haven’t been posting lately, it’s because I got a job.  Something I didn’t expect to happen the way it did, but I’m glad it did.

I worked at Ohlone over the summer as a site supervisor for their kids program.  That job ended on a Thursday.  I had an interview for a teaching position in Mountain View that Friday, and on the following Monday they offered me the job, which I began that Tuesday.  From that point on it’s been a whirlwind.

There is a lot I could say about the job but I will simply focus on one thing right now: it is a huge blessing.  I know people through the word “blessing” around a lot but I seriously mean it.  There were 200 applicants to this job, they interviewed 12, and they hired me.  I was just one person on a big list and figured because of that I would not end up with a job.  But somehow I’ve ended up at an exceptional school with very exceptional people.  Every staff member I’ve run into from the district and at the other schools has been awesome.  The teachers at this school are very supportive and helping me out any way they can.  And lastly – this district pays better than any district I’ve heard of and they offer full benefits for the family.  That is unheard of.  Until now, I guess.

The budget crunch in California means teaching jobs are very difficult to come by.  Janelle did not get a job this year.  Because of that, and the fact that we have lots of student loans coming due, I was in the “I know God will provide but I don’t know what the heck that looks like” camp over the summer.  Here I see – this job is such that we can put Janelle’s loans on forebearance and pay all our other bills.  If I’d gotten a job in any other district I don’t think that would have been possible.  I know God has provided for me in all kinds of ways throughout my life.  But this is one of the times when I’ve felt the most like He is providing.  Freakin’ awesome.


Salting Meat

grilling One of my aspirations is to become as good a cook with meat as my Dad is.  His tri-tip is just about the best thing I’ve ever eaten.  (Though those Ollalieberries I had yesterday from my neighbor’s yard are up there too.)  I admire those who can just take a steak, throw it on the grill, and end up with something tasty rather than tough.  The people who seem to produce the best meat are those who are able to do very little to it.  Some of my best results with chicken have been when I just put a bit of salt/pepper and oil on it right before baking it. 

Here’s an article on someone who experimented with salting different kinds of meat at different times.  He invited some friends over and did some blind taste tests.  Apparently this guy found it’s best to salt chicken a day before cooking it, and steak/pork does well if you put some salt on right before searing it.  I’d be interested in any grilling/meat cooking tips you have to offer.

Also, here’s a link to a summer grilling guide on the same website.  I haven’t read through it yet but it looks to have some useful info.


A few thoughts on friendship

This picture is the only one I had readily available of my groomsmen and I from the wedding.  It is a bad ripoff of a ska cover but it will have to do.

By some strange coincidence both of my parents are moving in the span of a week this month.  This weekend we’re moving most of my Dad’s stuff and next weekend my brother and I are flying out to Vegas to meet my sister and her husband to help out Mom move from Vegas to Sacramento.  In about an hour I’ll be at my Dad’s helping him move, and three of my friends will be there helping.  Of all the family members involved in the move, I am the only one with friends that will be helping (with the possible exception of my niece’s boyfriend when we get to Sacramento).

This could turn into a very long-winded post so I’ll just keep it short.  I’ve seen a lot of people who, as the years go by, have less and less close friends.  Responsibilities increase, free time and the ability to just hang out decreases.  I think this is “natural” given the kinds of lifestyles we live.  I know I don’t spend very much time with my friends during this stage of my life, and unless I am intentional about it that won’t really change.  I don’t want it to be that way. 

Even at the height of a friendship, when you’re able to hang out all the time, I think it is the rare individual who will show up at his friend’s Dad’s place at 9am to help him move.  The fact that I have multiple friends that are willing to do this speaks volumes about the kind of men they are.  While I will not have particular fun during the task of helping my Dad move, I think I will actually enjoy it because I will be spending time with several of the greatest guys I know.  This goes for my friends as well as my brother and my Dad. 

I know the word “blessing” gets thrown around a lot but I really am genuinely blessed to have these guys in my life.  I’m happy I can look at my wedding pictures and see all those men standing next to me, five years later, are still a big part of my life.  They’re still the kind of friends I know I can call for anything, anytime.  The kind of friends that wouldn’t just help me move but would come to help a family member move.  Not everybody has friends like that at this point in their life and I am very grateful to have them, even as our lives change.  I hope I can say the same thing five, ten, twenty years from now.


Tales of Brotherly Cruelty 2: Action Figures

Cruelty is too strong a word for this story but it wasn’t exactly nice.  Action figures and toy lines generally came with two teams.  Transformers had their Autobots and Decepticons, Go-Bots had Guardians and Renegades, Barnyard Commandos had R.A.M.S. and P.O.R.K.S., MASK had…well…MASK and VENOM…  There were so many awesome toys to be had, but I usually thought one side was better than the other.  Of course Dave and I could not both collect the same team.  So once I decided which team I wanted to collect I made sure Dave collected the other.

I do remember having to sell him on the toys I didn’t want.  With TMNT stuff I had him collect the turtles and secondary characters I didn’t want, but we both had goodguys and badguys.  Dave never really got to choose which toys he would collect.  I made the choices for him.  I would try to convince him that the team I wanted him to collect was good or cool or better.  I don’t know how many time I cajoled him into getting a toy he didn’t really want with his allowance, or to put stuff on his Christmas list that complemented the stuff on my own.

I don’t think he was ever really convinced by my salesmanship, but I think he just decided it would be easier to go along with me so we could just play already.  I made sure I got my way and I would not relent until he gave in and accepted the role I gave him.  If he refused, there was always my favorite punishment/enforcement method: punching him in the shoulder until he gave in.


One Way Ticket to Mars

Here’s the text of a presentation by physicist Paul Davies about one solution to the cost of a human trip to Mars – make it a one way trip.  I’ve always been a science fiction fan, so the concept of humans colonizing other planets is pretty cool for me.  This guys is basically advocating a small group of astronauts head to Mars with no expectation of returning, but with the expectation that they will eventually be joined by other humans who will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars.

The idea sounds intriguing and possibly promising – but all I keep thinking is that the people on Mars will come to see themselves as Martians rather than Earthers and then we’ll have some sort of rebellion on our hands.  When times get tough Economically here we’ll debate cutting funding to the Martian colony, or perhaps giving them less supplies, and they’ll get resentful.  Then they will engineer some kind of Martian super-virus secretly, create some kind of one-way Mars-to-Earth vessel, and unleash biological armageddon on Earth in preparation for a re-conquest.

Alternatively, they will discover the ruins of an ancient civilization and return as our overlords with vastly superior technology.

Or possibly they will be wiped out by aliens on their way to Earth, but their sacrifice will serve as an early warning for us.  But that really would only work if the aliens weren’t too smart and went for the little colony before Earth.

In one possible scenario, the colony will be overtaken by a psychotic who forms a cult and turns it into his or her own kingdom where they kill the heretics and then demand recognition as a sovereign nation.

Perhaps after the colony is established they will be mutated by the sun’s rays in heretofore unknown ways and become a kind of super-race.

The possibilities are endless.  Spaceward ho!


Tales of Brotherly Cruelty 1 : Video Games

The other day I randomly remembered something I did to my brother Dave years ago.  It just popped into my mind, and I thought about what a jerk I was.  I’ve often remarked “I’m glad Dave still likes me” because I did some mean things to him when we were younger.  If I were to psychoanalyze things I could probably find a few things to blame for my actions: stress from our parents’ divorce, being a dork and needing to have dominance over someone, personal insecurity, the fact that we were often stuck together for extended periods of time, etc.  Really though, that’s not very entertaining and those are basically excuses. 

In case you didn’t know, my brother Dave and I are 17 months apart.  I’m a little older than him, though in school I was two grades ahead because of where our birthdays fall.  We have one sister, who is seven years older than me.  This made the two of us de fact best friends and we played together a lot.  In many ways we played out the archetypal roles of big and little brother.

I’m going to do some posts on thing I did to my brother that were pretty messed up.  Some are more messed up than others of course, but hopefully they will entertain you to some degree.

First up – Video Games. 

Dave and I grew up loving to play video games.  We had an Atari as little kids, a Nintendo a bit later (we got that late), a Super Nintendo, and eventually an N64.  We were never really at the cutting edge of video games growing up because we never really had the money to pay exorbitant prices for games.  Still, our parents often stretched their finances too far to get us those video games we wanted on holidays.  While we were often partners in crime in the video game world, both lobbying our parents for favor and games, I definitely found ways to be a jerk to Dave:


1. I always got Player One.  Dave wanted to be Player One, but I insisted upon being Player One at all times.  I wanted control of the menu, I wanted to set the options, I wanted to hit “continue” at the end, I wanted the left side of the screen.  I demanded the P1 controller and if I didn’t get it, Dave felt the pain.  This rarely came up because I established my place as P1 early and he usually didn’t fight me on it.


image1a. I got first pick of characters.  Occasionally we’d play a game,  like TMNT, where you had a choice of more than two characters.  If this were the case, I would always demand first choice.  If I wanted to play as Michaelangelo, Dave could not.  Ever.  I always got first choice.  If he got used to playing a different character and I changed my mind – then he had to get used to playing a different character.  I usually picked my favorites and stuck with them – and I often tried to convince Dave that his guy really was cool so he thought it was his decision and not mine – but if a conflict ever arose I made sure I got to play who I wanted.

2. In co-op games, I had power-up priority.  If there was ever a image chance to upgrade your weapon or get a power-up in a co-op game, I had priority.  I wouldn’t hog them all, of course. (It’s important your teammate has upgraded weapons too, after all.)  But in most games there would be some kind of upgrade tree – you could have missiles or spread shots or whatever else – and I always got to choose my tree.  If there were no trees then we would be pretty good about taking turns with the power-ups – but I always tried to make sure I had full advantage of the upgrades, and if there was anything left over for Dave that was fine.

image 3. In single-player games, Dave had to help me but I may not have helped him.  Mega Man 2 was a single-player game, but if you held down the A button on the second controller, then the person playing the game could “super jump” and would never die if they fell into a pit.  Any time I wanted to play I would make sure Dave held the button down for me.  He had to sit there and watch me play.  If he wanted to do something else he would not be allowed to do so.  Occasionally he realized he held some power because if he took his finger off the button (something he did “accidentally” quite often) my guy would die.  This led to some negotiations (if you hold the button for me I’ll hold it for you) but by and large I made sure if there was some way Dave could help me while I was playing a game I would get him to do it.

4. Dave got the crappy controller. As Big Brother (and Player One),image I saw it as my right to have the best controller.  We always seemed to have one good controller and one sub-optimal controller.  Whether it was because a button was sticky or it was some stupid “custom” controller, one was almost always inferior.  I made sure Dave used that one.  Of course I would try to convince him it was better if I could, but in the end it just came down to me demanding my way.


image 5. He could not “cheap” me.  If Dave were beating me at any competitive game I would generally accuse him of “cheaping” me.  This term comes specifically from Street Fighter 2.  He’d jump at me in the air and keep hitting the “short kick” button, which is a really fast strike.  He’d jump up as Ken (I got to play Ryu because I wanted, and he was stuck with Ken) and that freaking knee would come down on me.  I wasn’t good enough to do anything about it most of the time, so whenever he would start “cheaping” me I would warn him.  I’d say:

“Stop cheaping me!  Stop or I’m going to hit you.”

*He continues to beat me.*

“Stop or I’ll hit you!”

*He furiously hits the button, trying to kill my guy before the inevitable occurs.*

*I hit him in the shoulder until he stops.*


I’m sure there were other ways I was a jerk to Dave over video games.  I think I remember trying to convince him to ask for a video game I wanted for his birthday so I could get the game.  These are the ones that come most readily to mind.  I have some real fond memories of video games with my brother.  It was practically a tradition for the two of us to ride our bikes to Doorstep Video and rent a video game or two for the weekend on Fridays.  We had lots of fun playing games together, like Contra or Guerilla War (so much fun) or one of the countless games where you fly a plane and blow up everything on the screen.  Oh yeah, and Double Dragon, that game was awesome too.  Lots of good memories – but man, I was a jerk!


Big English Test

Things have been fairly busy of late, hence my lack of updating this blog.  I’m currently trying to expend any extra mental energy I have in preparation for the English CSET.  It’s a big several-hours-long test (or rather, collection of 4 tests) I’m taking to prove subject matter competence in English.  With that, I’ll be able to teach both English and Social Science in High School.  This should increase my employability, as I’ll be able to teach a wider variety of classes.

English has always been a strong subject for me because I’ve always enjoyed reading.  I also tend to enjoy being pedantic, so you’d think this test would be easy for me.  As it stands I’m not too worried about two of the tests.  They will require a bit of brushing up but for the most part I should be able to write my way through them.  One of the tests is entirely multiple choice and it covers grammar and linguistics.  As far as grammar is concerned I generally know what sounds right but have a hard time explaining what past perfect progressive tense is or what a participle phrase is.  Linguistics are almost completely new to me as an area of study deeper than the occasional pop science article.

So back to studying.

FYI - “past perfect progressive tense” is used when you are trying to indicate an ongoing event that was completed in the past prior to some other event.  For example, “I had been anticipating a Social Science job until I learned they were slightly less in demand than baristas.”

And yes I had to consult my notes to remind me what past perfect progressive tense is.


Stupid Things “Christian” Kids Say

Today at lunch I was sitting in class listening to the Gay Straight Alliance meeting.  They were a bit upset because the club apparently has some lack of direction so they got to discussing what they see as some of the biggest issues on campus they could try to address.  I paid extra attention to listen to what they brought up and the results were unsurprising but disappointing nonetheless.

The first girl to speak said she was having some trouble with something her best friend said.  She was vague at first about what her friend had said and just remarked that she wished her friend would have worded it differently.  The club president pushed a bit to hear what exactly her friend had said.  The girl started with “Well, she’s very religious, Christian.”  The response was a chorus of understanding “ooohhhhs” and an “enough said.”

When pressed further she revealed that her Christian friend said “why should I care about homosexuals when they’re all going to burn in hell anyway?”

Who the crap is raising their kids to talk this way?  The next thing the girl said about her friend sounded a lot more like something you’d hear out of Jesus’ mouth than what the supposedly Christian kid said:

“It’s okay if she believes something different.  I mean, I don’t like it but I need to accept that about her and be her friend.  That’s what this club is about – acceptance.  So I know I need to accept her.  I just wish she would have used different words.”

I know I butcher the message of Jesus in my daily life plenty to others and I do plenty of harm to the gospel with my actions.  I can sit in judgment of no one.  But I think the first girl is closer to the heart of Jesus than the one who wears the Christian label. 

How sad that a club trying to stand up for a group that often gets made fun of and ostracized has this experience with Christians.  How sad that we followers of Christ are not known for our love but instead for our hatreds.


Sermon / Podcast Recommendation

image This won’t be useful to many of you but some of you should appreciate it.  I’m always on the lookout for good podcasts to listen to while I’m driving or working out.  Many churches are now podcasting their sermons.  I wanted to recommend one particular sermon podcast to those of you who might benefit from such a thing – that of the Village Church in Texas.  Matt Chandler is their lead pastor and the guy who preaches most of the time, but I’ve heard one sermon from another guy and enjoyed what he had to say too.

They’re a Reformed church and I’m not Reformed (that means they believe in Predestination and are Calvinist) but I still greatly enjoy the preaching and think it is some of the best I’ve heard.  The focus on God’s grace, preaching the Gospel, and the lack of moralism is awesome.  It enriches me and if you’re looking for something worthwhile to listen to on your mp3 player give it a try. 

Following this link will take you to the Sermons page where you can download them individually, subscribe to the podcast, and even get study guides related to each of the sermons.  If you do a search in the iTunes store for “The Village Podcast” or “Matt Chandler The Village” you should find the podcast and be able to subscribe to it.


Check out this Birth Control Book

image I was just alerted to the presence of this book on birth control, available at Amazon.  The entire title is: BIRTH CONTROL IS SINFUL IN THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGES and also ROBBING GOD OF PRIESTHOOD CHILDREN!!  Yes, it is in caps.  Yes, the two exclamation points are part of the title.  And in case you are wondering: yes, this book was inspired by the Holy Spirit.  The author said so.  She uses Bible verses so you know everything she says is legit.  In addition, the book itself is written in all caps.    You need to read it.  You can get it here.


Living the Dream

I just thought I’d post a little update since Janelle and I have been pretty scarce lately in our social circles.  The second semester is in full swing now and our schedule has hit full tilt as well.  Janelle is working full-time as a 3rd grade teacher and is a full-time student finishing her Master’s.  I’m student teaching, which means I am essentially working full-time for no pay (though my master teacher is great about getting me opportunities to fill in here and there as a sub for some pay) and I am also a full-time student. 

I am taking this week off to let my body recover a bit, but have been getting up at 4:40 Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to work out.  Every morning I need to leave for work by 7 and Janelle by 8.  Most of the time I pick Belle up right after work and Janelle gets home around 5:30ish.  We eat dinner, play with Belle and put her to bed around 8ish.  Whenever we can, we cram in things like grading papers and lesson planning and getting our own schoolwork done.

It seems like we’ve all been sick the past couple of months pretty consistently, which has made us a bit more tired at the end of the day.  Yesterday and today have been the worst for me, but I think I’m starting to get better.

Some Saturdays I attend class for the first half of the day, and every Sunday we’re part of South Bay Church, a new church start.  I show up there at 7 to help with setup and leave around 1:30 when we’re all packed up.

Our schedules are jam-packed and we feel like we’re running in survival mode.  I think part of the reason we are sick is because we’ve sort of run ourselves into the ground.

It may sound like I’m complaining…and I may be.  This is also a world where busyness is considered by many as some kind of badge of honor.  We often try to one-up each other with how little sleep we got or how busy we are.  There’s probably some of that in this post as well.  I’d like to think, though, that I’m also posting this just to keep you updated on what’s going on with us and why you aren’t seeing too much of us lately.  We know this pace isn’t healthy but we also know it’s just for a season.

Come July we will both have finished our credential programs, Janelle will have finished her Master’s, I will have four classes left to complete mine, and we will have the summer to recover and look for work in the Fall.  The job market for teachers isn’t too hot this year but we are optimistic and know God will continue to provide one way or another.  It is a cliche thing to say but God really has provided for us in some pretty amazing ways since we’ve gotten married and He continues to do so.  We are pushing hard right now because we believe in the long run we are setting ourselves up to be able to live the kinds of lives we want and that God made us to live.

I recently made the mistake of complaining to a friend about my busy schedule and lack of time to myself and he said this to me: “you’re the one that fell in love and got married and started a family.”  Some days I have to remind myself in the midst of my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual exhaustion: I really am living the dream.  I have a great wife and daughter, awesome family and friends, a good education, good health, and live more comfortably than 99 percent of the people who have ever lived on this planet.

So who am I to complain?

I’m Jackson, that’s who!


Osteen and Pork

Yikes. At first I thought for sure he was joking but sadly it doesn't sound like it. Let this be Exhibit A that simply reading the Bible with good intentions and bad hermeneutics can lead to all sorts of whack.


Lincoln's Fart Joke

It may surprise you to learn that Abraham Lincoln, widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, Presidents in American History, was a big fan of crude humor. He was also apparently a good storyteller - it was said he "could make a cat laugh." I heard this joke of his re-told today and it brought me to tears. Apparently it's not close to the crudest he told (one contemporary referred to him as "possibly the most obscene individual ever"), but it is, in my estimation, gut-bustingly hilarious:

There was a party once, not far from Springfield, and among the crowd was one of those men who had audacity. Cheeky, quick-witted, never off guard on any occasion. The audacious man, chosen to be the carver of the turkey at the dinner table, whetted his great carving knife and got down to business carving the bird. The man of audacity expended too much force and let a fart, a loud fart, so that all the people heard it distinctly. It shocked all.

A deep silence reigned.

However, the audacious man was entirely self-possessed. He pulled off his coat, rolled up his sleeves, spat on his hands, whetted the carving knife again, never cracking a smile or moving a muscle on his face. It became a wonder in the minds of all the men and women how the fellow was to get out of his dilemma. He squared himself and said loudly and distinctly, “Now, by God, I’ll see if I can’t cut up this turkey without farting!”
If you don't think that's funny I really don't know what to tell you. And if you don't think I'm going to share this joke with every single history class I teach from now on you don't know me very well.


The Stimulus – I hope I’m Wrong

image So I figure I’ll post on the stimulus package being signed soon by President Obama (aka the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act”).  It begins at $787 billion dollars and is certain to cost over a trillion dollars once everything is taken into account.  I have a few problems with this bill and think it is going to make things worse, not better.  I hope I’m wrong, but I’m afraid I’m not. 

I don’t think government spending is the right way to get the economy out of a depression.  Keynesian Economics follows the principle that when an economy hits a downturn one of the chief ways for the Government to stimulate the economy is to increase spending.  In this way the Government is supposed to be creating demand that the consumers aren’t creating, thus keeping business in business and keeping people employed.

While FDR gets a lot of credit as one of our greatest Presidents, no serious historian or economist argues that the New Deal is what got the U.S. out of the Great Depression.  For those of you who don’t remember your U.S. History, the New Deal is the name for the unprecedented Federal spending undertaken by FDR in an attempt to get the U.S. out of the Great Depression in the 1930’s.  He started all kinds of Government agencies, instituted Social Security, and greatly expanded the role of the Federal Government.  We take it for granted today that many things are the responsibility of the Government that used to be the responsibility of individuals.  That’s a whole different post – but it appears to me that when massive Government programs have been tried in the past to rescue the U.S. from a depression, they have not worked.  In fact, a recent study led many economists to believe that the New Deal actually had the opposite effect and prolonged the Great Depression.

What makes this so difficult for people like us is that we have “expert” economists telling us opposite things.  Some say this massive stimulus package is necessary and others say it is not.  They all have lots of degrees and knowledge and whatever else that is supposed to make them know more than us…but they have totally divergent points of view on whether this will work or not.  It seems to me if you’re going to borrow and spend around a trillion dollars you should have a pretty powerful consensus that it’s going to work.  I’ve heard those in favor of this bill saying that “doing something is better than doing nothing.”

That may be true – but if that something is an unprecedented amount of spending and taxes foisted upon our children and their children – spending money we do not have – I’m not sure this something is better than nothing.  From where I stand the burden of proof is on those calling for this gargantuan spending and I don’t think they’ve met it.  Especially when you consider the historical context and the failure of the New Deal to get us out of the Depression.

There is all kinds of spending in this bill that seems to have very little with “stimulus” in the form of creating jobs and is more in line with a bunch of government programs that people have wanted to get passed and now they have the chance under the guise of “saving the economy.”  I understand there is a genuine philosophical difference – for some any government spending qualifies as “stimulus” (therefore “waste” doesn’t matter because you’re not spending for product, you’re spending just to spend because that by its very nature is supposed to be stimulative – a la this article) but I don’t think it’s controversial to question the stimulative value of much of the crap in this bill.  It’s telling that those in favor of the bill would actually argue that inefficient use of money doesn’t really matter as long as we’re spending money.

I for one would like to know that if the Government is taking my money they are spending it efficiently and not just to spend it.  Especially in this case when they are spending hundreds of billions of dollars they don’t have – that they are going to take from you and me and our children and their children.  We have to borrow this money from foreign countries like China.  It can’t be conjured up out of thin air.  If we borrow at this rate there’s no guarantee we won’t see some super inflation and see foreign investors stop loaning us money.  I see it as a massive trainwreck and I honestly have some fear about how it’s going to work out (or not work out).

Obama has recently been criticizing the opposition to the bill, saying that those in opposition are obstructionists who (and he says this repeatedly) think “tax cuts alone” will solve the problems and have a “knee jerk anti-government reaction.”  That kind of dishonest rhetoric coming from someone who talks big about being bi-partisan is pretty disheartening.  While Republicans have zero credibility in criticizing wasteful government spending because they spend like crazy, that does not mean there is no valid reason to criticize the stimulus package. 

Many who oppose the bill are like myself – believe some Government spending may be a good idea, in combination with tax cuts – but don’t want to spend such a massive amount of money or spend it on so many questionable and wasteful programs.  Especially after the TARP (bank bailout) has seen us throw hundreds of billions away with nobody having any real clue what happened to the money (other than executives giving themselves large bonuses at our expense).

I hope this stimulus package succeeds.  I hope I am wrong and this spending really does get the economy back on track.  History gives me very little reason to believe this will be the case, but I’ll hope for it anyway.  That’s all I can do.  But mark me down as someone opposed to this stimulus package and someone who is looking at the future of the U.S. with less optimism than I used to.


Stay Motivated 8: Stop making excuses.

8. Stop making excuses.  The main gist of all these suggestions I’ve offered is to remove any kind of excuse you can make to yourself that will keep you from persevering.  Excuses are the real enemy, and they come up all the time.  Excuses got me to be a big fatty most of my life that was unhappy with how he looked but did nothing about it anyway.  Each of the suggestions on staying motivated I’ve offered have been linked to excuses that I’ve had to deal with.  You probably have your own set.  If you’re going to get healthy, eat right, and exercise – you have to stop making whatever excuses you make.

image If you allow yourself to make excuses then you’re going to fail, and it will be your fault.  If you’ve decided you want to make a change, then make it.  If you’re not ready and you’re going to listen to your own excuses, then don’t make it.  But don’t blame anyone or anything other than yourself.  Your health is your own responsibility.  We all have different obstacles to overcome when it comes to our health.  Some have medical conditions that make some stuff harder than others.  Healthy looks different for all of us (remember number 7).  But you’re not helpless.  You have the strength and power to make the change you want – if you will let yourself succeed, and if you will stop making excuses. 

You are not too busy to eat right and exercise.  I’ll compare my schedule with yours over the past year any day of the week and I can just about guarantee I’ve got as much going on in my life as you do.  You have the time.  The question is whether or not you will make the time.  Saying you “don’t have time” is the lamest thing ever.

Do you want to spend the rest of your life whining and feeling bad about your health or how you look?  Then by all means give in to the excuses that keep you in bed in the morning, or the rationalizations that allow you to eat those extra five cookies at the end of the day.  But if you really want to change and if you really want to succeed – you have to stop making excuses.  Stop selling yourself short.  You really can do it.  Trust me.  If I can do it, you absolutely can do it.


Stay Motivated 7: Don’t compare yourself to others.

dolphin cow jump 7. Don’t compare yourself to others.  Sometimes I look at someone else and think “you know, no matter how hard I work out I am never going to look like that.”  That’s not always a bad thing – I don’t want to be as swole as some dudes, so it’s not particularly de-motivating.  Other times, it is.  Sometimes I look at all the fit, good-looking people and think that I will never look as good as they do.  “So why bother at all?” comes the little voice in my head.  “You’ll never look as good as they do so why bother trying?  Just enjoy eating whatever you want and sleeping instead of getting up to work out.  It’s pointless anyway.”

If and when you find yourself thinking that way – ignore it.  You’re trying to get fit because you want a change in your own life.  You’re not happy with your situation.  You need to be happy with yourself in relation to yourself – not in relation to others. It goes back to the reasons you’re doing this – are you working out to look better than anyone else?  Or are you working out to look better than you currently do?  Are you working out to have bigger broceps than that guy curling 150lb dumbbells, or are you working out to be healthy and live longer?  You’ve got to know why you’re doing what you’re doing so you can stop the comparison game.  Just worry about yourself.


Stay Motivated 6: Eat and exercise efficiently.

6. Eat and exercise efficiently.  I don’t know about you but I want to know if I am inconveniencing myself I want to know it’s for something that’s going to work.  When I changed my eating and exercise habits I did some homework to make sure I wouldn’t just be spinning my wheels.  If you’re on some diet or doing some kind of exercise that you’re not absolutely convinced will work – you’re not going to stick with it.  You need to have the confidence that you will benefit from the sacrifices you are making. 

mmmmmham Do whatever you need to do to learn about and convince yourself that what you’re doing is going to work.  If you think you’re just doing another gimmick diet or workout that will not help you succeed in the end, then you’re probably going to give up.  You need to be able to shut that voice up inside of you that says “what’s the point, this isn’t going to work” when you’re pushing yourself during a workout or choosing to eat healthy instead of crappy.  Be confident that the way you’re eating is going to be effective.  Be confident that the exercise you’re doing is actually helping you.  Do some homework and be smart about it – it will give you an extra boost when you’re looking for excuses to give up.

Note: this means you do actually have to do homework.  I don’t mean you should just pick some diet and then tell yourself over and over that it will work until you believe it completely.  There are bad diets out there, there is bad information, there are bad fads.  It’s possible to bust your butt working out and eating a certain way and end up wasting your time.  So do your homework and make sure that’s not you.  Decide what you want and then figure out the best way to make it happen.


Stay Motivated 5: Buy new clothes.

5. Buy new clothes.  If you drop weight and can therefore fit into new clothes – go buy some.  It may sound dumb but when I bought a pair of 36” waist jeans (instead of the 38/40 I was wearing before) it was a huge encouragement to me.  If money’s a problem just go to the thrift store – you can find at least one article of clothing there that will do you justice.  And if not you can at least laugh at how you can wear ugly clothes that are smaller than the ones you wore before.

image It is so awesomely motivating to wear clothes you did not wear before because you looked bad in them, and now you look better.  Or to wear something smaller than you wore before.  Every time I put on a pair of 34” pants I feel motivated.  You might also try out new kinds of clothes you didn’t bother with before.  Today I am wearing a button-up shirt, tucked into a pair of NON-JEANS (gasp) – and you can see my belt.  When I looked in the mirror and actually saw my belt – it made me excited to wake up early tomorrow morning and get to the gym.  So you may not think about it – but if you’ve lost some weight go try on some clothes that are smaller than the ones you currently wear – you may surprise yourself. 


Stay Motivated 4: Talk to others about it.

image 4. Talk to others about it!  If you keep your goals or desire for change a secret it’s easier to give up on it.  We all know you shouldn’t care what other people think – but we all do to an extent.  So tell somebody, or lots of somebodies, about what you want to do. That way you can be shamed into continuing when you need to.  Sure, you could give up, but then those people you told are going to realize you’re just another one of those people that talks about wanting to get healthy but never does anything about it.  Do you want to be that guy?  I sure don’t.

Me blogging about this is another way of talking about it.  Look at me talking all big – I better live up to it.  Or I’m going to have a bunch of friends thinking “Jackson is so lame.”  Come to think of it, I probably already have a bunch of friends that think that.  But I want it to be for other reasons.  Share your intentions to change with at least one other person and it will increase your chances of sticking with it.


Stay Motivated 3: Know why you are doing this.

 image 3. Know why you are doing this.  Why are you making this change?  Why are you trying to get in shape?  Why are you trying to eat better?  Why are you passing on that glorious piece of cheesecake?  Why are you dragging yourself out of bed and getting in your car to go work out when you could get another hour of sleep?  If you don’t know the answers to these questions, and if your answers aren’t sufficient for you – you will fail.

When I first lost weight before meeting Janelle my primary motivation was to get thinner so girls would like me.  As I ran around Lake Elizabeth or ate my chicken breast at Outback while my buddies savored the garlic mashed potatoes I would remember why I was doing this: for the ladies.  Yes, it’s shallow as heck, but it was my motivation.  I dropped weight throughout the year, met Janelle, got engaged, and lost my motivation.  My habits also took a hit; I wanted to spend lots of time with her, which meant I’d eat with her and her family or hang out instead of working out.  I no longer had a good answer to those questions – at least not one I really believed.  I knew working out would make me healthier and feel better but I didn’t really care.

Over the next couple of years I developed new motivation and now the answers to those questions keep me motivated.  When my alarm goes off at 4:45am and I’m tired because I didn’t sleep well and I don’t want to get up, I can answer the question I ask myself: “why am I doing this?”  Make sure you can do the same.  If you don’t answer the question before your alarm goes off, and answer it in a way that means something to you, then you’ll have a hard time sticking with it.


Stay Motivated 2: Don’t give up when you hit roadblocks.

Mustard Man 2. Don’t give up when you hit roadblocks.  You will mess up and you will fail from time to time.  You won’t push yourself as hard as you could have on a workout, you’ll give in and have that crappy food – deal with it and move on.  Do not tell yourself “well I messed up that one time so what’s the point, I’ll just eat like crap the rest of this day/week/month/year and start over again.”  That is the road to failure and a downward spiral that will ensure your continued dissatisfaction with yourself.  You’ll screw up – so keep going!

There will also be days or weeks where you don’t see or feel any progress.  You might start off great and then not lose any weight for a couple of weeks.  Don’t give up.  Keep going.  It happens.  If you’re really in this for the long term – and you are really changing your eating habits and exercising regularly – you will get healthier.  It’s science!


Stay Motivated to Get Healthy: Part 1 – Set Small Goals.

image  Losing a bit of weight isn’t that difficult in the short term.  Just about anybody can adhere to a diet for a week or two and lose a few pounds.  Gyms make all their money on the huge percentage of people who purchase memberships, go for two weeks, and then never return.  We all know what it’s like to do something for a while and then give up.  It’s really hard to develop new habits, and when it comes to eating and exercise I think this is doubly true.  When you live a busy life it’s tough to eat right and find the time to exercise.  Unless you’ve grown up eating right you will likely have to work hard to change many of the bad habits you have related to food and activity.  So how do you keep going?

I don’t know how you keep going.  I can share what has kept me going so far, though.  February 2008 was about the time I got serious with my own health, and that was a year ago.  There have been a couple times over the course of that year where I slacked off a bit but overall I have been pretty consistent with my good health habits and they are becoming more and more internalized, and less and less of a struggle to maintain.

This is the first of a several-part series of short posts on staying motivated to become healthy.  I decided to split it into short posts because that increases the likelihood you’ll read them.  I am of course as always interested in hearing your thoughts on each of these posts, and also different ways you stay motivated.  Up first…

image1. Set Small Goals.  This is pretty basic stuff – but set small, attainable goals.  I weighed around 245 when I first got started.  My first goal was to get to 225 lbs.  Ultimately I knew I’d want to lose more weight than that, but even for a merciless cynic like myself setting a smaller goal was helpful.  If my first goal was 170 lbs it would be a long time before I could celebrate any kind of victory.  My current goal is to get down to 180, though I’m more focused on body fat than weight right now.  I’m going to lose weight slower this way but it’s fine.  It’s important to set goals in areas besides weight as well.

Set goals for whatever you want to change.  When you’re trying to change the way you eat, tell yourself you’ll eat that way 5 days a week, or 6, or whatever.  Instead of going from eating 5000 calories a day on Tuesday moving down to 2000 a day on Wednesday – ramp yourself down.  The goal needs to be meaningful to keep you motivated and help you see results, but it also needs to be attainable.  Do this with your days of exercise, the weights you lift, whatever.  When you succeed, set a new goal.  I am first to roll my eyes and say “shut up playing stupid tricks on yourself doesn’t work” but I know short terms goals help. 


Student Teaching Has Begun

This is my first week doing student teaching.  I’m at Irvington every day and in a number of different classrooms.  I’m going to be teaching mostly Economics and World History, with some forays into AP U.S. History.  Right now things are busy at the school as students clamor to get teachers to give them breaks to make up for an entire semester of slacking off, and teachers are grading finals and turning in their semester grades.  Things still aren’t particularly clear regarding what my responsibilities will be and what the rhythm is going to be…that makes me a little uneasy but I know it’ll get sorted out soon enough.  I’m eager to get teaching again and have already learned how to avoid getting “owned.”

Apparently if someone says your first name and you respond with “what?” they can “own” you by then saying your last name.  The Sophomores in my World History class tried it on me and I’ve been owned once, but now I’m wise to their little game.  You’ve gotta keep your guard up.  Yesterday I tried to own a couple of them but they are ever vigilant.

This has led to a more packed schedule for Janelle and I.  During the week we have almost no free time…we get home, cook dinner, get stuff ready for the next day, get Belle to bed, and then need to get to bed pretty soon after that in order to get up the next day.  Most evenings there’s some school work to be done.  We alternate workout days, where we get to the gym at 5am.  I know that’s early but if we don’t get up then, we won’t be able to do it at all.  We will be cherishing our weekends for the next several months.


100 Often Mispronounced Words

image It’s no secret to those who know me that I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to spelling, grammar, and pronouncing words correctly.  I tend to think my reputation as a “corrector” exceeds my actions, but as my sociology professor told me, “things that are perceived as real are very real in their consequences.”  Whether I am as much of a Grammar Nazi as people perceive me to be is irrelevant.

My friend Adam is pretty similar to me when it comes to pronouncing words properly and I love it when he and I get to talk about words.  We both understand that when you correct someone else’s pronunciation of a word, it is an act of love and consideration for the other person.  It’s not a matter of trying to show off what you know, it’s trying to help the other person out.

This past week I came across this list of 100 often mispronounced words.  Here are some of the highlights for me:

Irregardless is not a word.  The word is “regardless.”

Alzheimere’s Disease is not “Old Timer’s Disease.”

You escape from a bad situation…you do not excape.

I especially hate it when people say exspecially, but find it much more annoying when people say supposably instead of supposedly.


Go read through the list to help yourself out and see what you did or didn’t already know.  I was actually surprised to find “spitting image” should be “spit and image.”


Useful Exercise

Aside from eating right if you want to get healthy you’re going to have to exercise.  This can take different forms but I’m just going to share a little bit about the things that have worked for me.  The first time I lost some weight in 2003 the only exercise I did was run around Lake Elizabeth.  I started walking of course and built up running bit by bit until one day I made it all the way around the lake.  The next day I met Janelle and never did it again.  That time I got down to 190 but right now I weight about 190 but am way healthier than I was in 2003.  That’s because running isn’t the only thing I’m doing. 

If you just lose fat that isn’t going to necessarily make you optimally healthy.  It just means you have less fat, and are healthier than you were.  An important thing to consider is your body fat percentage.  When you lose weight you’re not always necessarily losing fat – you can also lose muscle.  I wanted to lose fat and gain muscle; I’ve succeeded so far and this is how I did it:

image First, I started running with the Couch to 5k ProgramThis is an incredibly simple program that’s designed to get you from the couch to being able to run a 5k (or 30 minutes solid) in 9 weeks by walking/jogging/running 3 days a week.  I started it when I was still above 230 pounds.  I was almost insulted by the first day – it said something like “walk for 3 minutes, jog for 1 minute, walk for 3 minutes, jog for 1 minute” up to 30 minutes.  As I stepped out my door I thought “this will be too easy, but maybe next week I’ll get some real exercise.”  I was wheezing and my heart was pounding at 30 seconds of jogging.  Sweet mother of pearl.  I stuck with the program though and improved greatly.  This really helped me lose some significant weight and get into some better cardiovascular shape.  I didn’t stick with it, though.  In July of 2008 I switched to something that is even better for losing weight.


Lifting weights.  I was surprised to learn this, but if you spend 30 minutes lifting weights or 30 minutes running, over the course of a 24 hour period you will burn more calories from the weights (provided you’re working hard).  Running does not build any muscle, but lifting weights obviously does.  Muscle tissue burns calories at a greater rate than fat; so as you build muscle your body becomes better at burning calories throughout the day.  You build your body into a more efficient machine as you build up your muscle.  You actually get stronger and feel much better. 

image It can be hard to figure out what to do when it comes to lifting weights.  The gym can be intimidating and the free weight room, full of bros working on their broceps, can be a strange and frightening land.  After looking into different routines, I decided on a modified version of the Starting Strength workout.  Follow this link for the information on that workout.  (That link is to a forum that is not for the easily offended.  If you stay just in that thread you should be okay, but venture out of there at your own risk.  There is profanity in there if that bugs you too.)  If you want to lose weight and not be skinny-fat, I really encourage you to look into lifting weights.  It is way more fun than cardio and more effective.  It will also help you look and feel better as you lose weight.

An important note: make sure you get proper form down for the exercises.  I hurt my knee in October because my squat form was bad and my knee still isn’t back to the way it should be.  You can hurt yourself if you do weights incorrectly but really it’s not that hard to get proper form down and it feels so good to get it done.  Don’t let a fear of bad form prevent you from doing weights, but don’t neglect good form either.

Women should lift weights too.  Here’s a website specifically talking to women about lifting weights, and letting you know you won’t become mannish and disgusting by lifting.  It gives good info on how to do lifts and gives you a workout plan to follow.

This doesn’t mean cardio is worthless – it’s good for building endurance.  But lifting weights has been a revelation for me and it will help you in so many ways.  Just find a legit workout plan (like the one I linked above, it’s a great beginner workout) and get going.  Do not just go in and do curls or randomly do stuff.  Get a workout plan and make your time in the gym efficient.  Few things are more discouraging than putzing around in the gym feeling like you’re wasting your time and not getting any results.  Few things are cooler than seeing yourself get stronger and feeling more vital.

Finally, read this long post here about diet, nutrition, and exerciseDon’t follow that link if you can’t handle  profanity and vulgarity (there’s a lot of it there).  But it gives some great information on a lot of topics related to what I’m talking about and has helped me tremendously.  If you are serious about getting healthy you should read and re-read that post.  It is pure gold.  Really.  I credit the information and resources in that link with my success up to this point.


Book Recommendation: Made to Stick

I just finished reading Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip & Dan Heath.image  If you’ve read Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point then you should find this interesting too.  In it the authors look at why some ideas/concepts/stories “stick” and others don’t.  They tie it to a lot of things, from urban legends (waking up in a tub of ice with your kidneys gone) to marketing campaigns (Subway’s Jared) to proverbs (a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush).  That bird proverb has been around for thousands of years – like into the thousands B.C.  Why do ideas like that work?  The authors identify a few things that make for good communication of ideas/concepts, and they boil it down to this acronym:


Yes, I know it’s spelled wrong.  But it works okay.  I remember it.  They stay that for ideas to stick they should incorporate as many of these elements as possible: Simplicity, Unexpectedness, Concreteness, Credibility, Emotion, and Stories.  Each element gets its own chapter as they authors expand on the usefulness of each of them and ways to use it. 

I’ve read a lot of books that I found interesting but not terribly practical.  This book is not like that.  The authors offer all sorts of ways to help you incorporate the ideas into your own endeavors.  As someone who does a lot of communicating I found the book intensely useful and will certainly be looking to use its ideas throughout my career.  It will seriously help you out.  Read it and consider it an investment in yourself, no matter what your career is.  It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read re: communication of ideas, and I’ve read a lot.


How to Eat Better

The most important element of your weight and health is what you eat.  This is also referred to as your diet.  I use the word diet to refer to what you eat, not some special plan you follow for three weeks and then give up.  I’ve changed my eating habits and seen some success doing so.  Most of you aren’t fat like I was, but you can still be “skinny fat,” meaning you’re skinny but your body fat percentage is high and you’re not particularly healthy.  Here are some tips/suggestions for you if you want to eat healthier:


Remember: food is fuel.  Part of the problem is how we look at food.  If you look at food as fuel for your body it can help you eat better.  In order to eat differently you must not look at food as an escape or a way to cope or a reward – you need to realize that the food you put into your mouth is used by your body to keep it running and build stuff – be it muscle or fat. 


imageEat Enough Food!  Too often when people want to lose weight they cut way down and end up with a big caloric deficit.  This can cause your body to shut down and stop working right; you may lose some weight for a bit but it’s your body cannibalizing your muscle rather than burning up your fat.  Don’t just guess at numbers.  Use these resources to figure out how much you should be eating:

Determine your Basal Metabolic Rate with this calculator.  Your BMR is the amount of calories your body would burn if you stayed in bed all day.

Next, use this very simple multiplier to figure out how many calories you need to eat to maintain your current weight.

I recommend you first get used to eating that amount of calories, because chances are you’re not.  Once you’re eating that amount try to cut down a bit, by 10% or so.  See how that works for a while and go from there.  Don’t cut down too much or you’ll shoot yourself in the foot.  Click here for a little more info on changing up the calories to lose weight.  If you want to gain weight, go here.


Eat Early and Eat Often!  Don’t skip breakfast.  Eat a couple hundred calories every 2-3 hours.  It will get your metabolism going and prevent you from overeating.  Sometimes I hear people say “wow it’s 3pm and I haven’t eaten since breakfast” as if it’s a point of pride.  It’s not going to help you lose weight.  Eating smaller portions of food more frequently will help keep your blood sugar regular and keep you from eating a bunch of crap because you got real hungry.


image Eat the right stuff!  There are a lot of different people out there saying a lot of different things about what you should eat.  I can only go by experience and what I’ve read.  I’m currently reading a book called Good Calories, Bad Calories that I’ll post on later.  But for now, aim for 40% of your calories to come from carbohydrates, 40% from protein, and 20% from fat.  This will be tough to get used to but it’s good.  The biggest problem I’ve had is reducing my carb intake.  I still don’t have this down just right but it’s a good goal to shoot for.  This is called your “macronutrient breakdown” and the 40/40/20 ratio is a good starting goal.  Most of us eat almost all carbs and fat with very little protein.  We’ve been taught to avoid fat like it’s the plague, but we load up on carbs in ridiculous amounts and get fat. 

Yesterday for breakfast I had 2 eggs, 3 strips of turkey bacon, and 2 pieces of chicken sausage.  It was delicious, and more healthy than one bagel.  A better nutrient breakdown and less calories. 

Eating the right stuff also means you will likely have to do some cooking for yourself.  You can do so very quickly and easily.  It takes less than 10 minutes to cook up the stuff I had for breakfast.  Make yourself a lunch so you don’t eat crap like fast food.  Plan what you’re going to eat ahead of time so you don’t just eat out.  If you don’t have a slow cooker, get one, because they are awesome.  Failing to plan what you’re going to eat ahead of time will almost certainly result in you being frustrated and staying unhealthy.


Track what you eat!  This was the biggest change for me.  Making the above changes is only possible if you actually pay attention to and track what you eat.  Most people horribly underestimate the amount of calories they eat in a day.  You eat more than you think you do.  My stock answer when people ask me “how are you doing it?” has been “I pay attention to what I eat.”  We eat so mindlessly, snack on little things here and there, and it all adds up.  So track what you eat.  I’ve found the easiest way to do this is on The Daily Plate.  Sign up for a free account and start tracking your food.  The site has a large database of foods and in several months I’ve only had to manually add one thing myself.  They also track your macronutrients so you can easily track the 40/40/20 with a neato pie chart right on the front page.  DO IT NOW!


image If you screw up, don’t stop.  There will be meals or days where you just totally blow it and eat like garbage.  Sometimes for sanity you just need to have a gigantic piece of cheesecake.  You want to change your view of food for the long term, and unless you are some kind of weirdo you are not going to go through life never having another cheesecake or ice cream sundae.  It also might be useful for you to not indulge in these things until you get a grip on your food situation – but whether intentionally or not, don’t stop eating right when you mess up once.  Keep going and remember you have your whole life to drop the weight and get healthy.  Think long term and you’ll be good to go.

If you have any thoughts or feedback I’d love to hear it.  Up next, I’ll write a bit about exercise and activity – another important element of being healthy.