The Masons

One of the families that has had the most impact on my adult life deserves a Thursday post. Thursday, over on, is “Thankful Thursday” – and it has been so for quite some time. Our whole family is thankful for their whole family – every day of the week.

Louanne and Jessica became fast friends when we met at the seminary church. Her husband Mike was the one who introduced me to Alt-N, my employer for over 12 years now – it’s good to be friends and co-workers.  Their friendship is precious and has blessed many, but their generosity and labors towards spreading the gospel, loving others and reaching out to the world in kindness have blessed so, so many more.

If you don’t subscribe to their blog you should, it’s a regular light in my day. Also: foodies!

Sean Franzen

I’m not in contact with Sean as much as I’d like to be.  This is my fault.  I’m going to fix that – but not as a new years resolution.  Sean was my best friend growing up and his family is super special to me.  They’re the kind of family that you make ‘security’ questions about on websites to confirm who you are because you instantly remember details like phone number and address [all which have changed] because you nearly lived there [disclosure: I have none with their information, so this is not useful to hackers].

Sean and I met at a community play when we were in the 4th grade.  I had somewhat recently moved to Carson City, NV as my dad had taken on a job in the area.  We were in a one week production of Jack and the Beanstalk.  And by one week I mean we were cast on one Friday and did our first public production the following Friday.  We were in the play’s circus together (I believe as clowns) and each only had one line.  We were already doing one-liners together in the 4th grade. [I know you didn’t even laugh at that, but I am writing it anyways]

Sean had [and still has, but I’m writing about my childhood here] a great knack for creative things like art, music, writing, photography and even children names.  He had a running list of weird, creative and interesting names for children.  The one I remember to this day is Jervrarvry.  It sounds just like you’re thinking, I promise.  Sean (primarily) and I came up with a code alphabet to use in Math class.  We would pass notes in an alphabet so obscure and awkward to write that note passing was a very tedious process.  We were good at tedious.

Sean and I would listen to music from his parent’s amazingly broad music collection.  He’d jump up and play a cut from a jazz record – say Stan Getz – and then we’d switch to a CD of funk-punk [Primus is Funk-Punk, right?] followed by Garth Brooks.  That would of course need to be followed by the Hallelujah Chorus to help cause mental chaos.  And emotional chaos.  Music does that.  It’s like emotions thrown into a blender when you switch genres that disjointedly.

Sean got a scholarship to go to the Hallmark School of Photography because they realized how brilliant he was (and still is).  You’ve seen his work in photography and photoshop whether you realize it or not.  He’s worked on high-profile projects that were sent internationally for advertising campaigns.  He’s just that good.

I’m thankful for the years of laughter we had together, the weeks of fear we had together doing things like staying alone at our homes while our parents were out of town and camping together in the wilderness.  The hours of tears [some of which I caused].  I’m thankful for listening to “Love Shack” by the B-52’s over and over and over and over again with his parents and John Franklin, one of our friends, on the way to a ghost town in California for his birthday one year.

I’m thankful that while we’re not as close as we used to be that we can jump onto each other’s radar with the Internet and catch up on life, liberty, jazz and the pursuit of rappiness.  I love you, man!

Thankful Thirteen

This is the first of many posts I plan on posting this year for 2013.  I’m going to try to make a few rules about this so that I can try to setup safe, but useful constraints to what I post.  I’m sharing them here so you can lower your standards 😉

  1. Doesn’t have to be every day
  2. Don’t just be thankful for a person – be specific
  3. “Funny be – there is no try” – Master Yoda

I’m going to start in an interesting place: I’m thankful for Tony Nuzzi.  He’s my friend, he’s a brother-in-Christ, and he’s got a great sense of humor.  The stuff that he has been through has not defined who he is, he’s grown from it.  He has dyslexia and he pushed through that to become one of the more accomplished writers I know.  You won’t read most of his writing, though, because he’s a coder and has written numerous patents. Those aren’t “sit down and read” material, sorry 🙂

Tony and I met because his dear wife (whom I will be thankful for on another day to be fair) and I worked together at the Manger Christian bookstore in Carson City, NV.  Tony came by on his lunch break and immediately I wasn’t sure what to think of this guy.  I hoped he was good enough for my friend Erin.  As it turns out I’ve learned quite a few things from him about being a dad and husband and I think he’s perfect for her 😀  He still married up.

Tony has not been afraid to lovingly confront me in my shortcomings and he’s also not been afraid to run out of a grocery store next to me laughing hysterically because one or two of us may or may not have farted and left a smell so rank in the magazine aisle that our wives were embarrassed enough for all four of us.

I’m thankful for the friendship that has endured for almost a decade and a half. I’m thankful for the laughter, some tears, some guitar time, computer time, Bible time, and of course taking our families to Disney World two years ago.  He’s one of my best friends and I hope you get to meet him some day if you have not met him (yet).  Ask him about a Rolls-K’nardly.

Time as a Value Indicator

My friend Dave talked with me about something that I’d like to blog about.  Something I’ve been wrestling with – but not because it’s bad, but because it is so revealing.  He asked me to list of my priorities, which I did, and then he asked me to tell him how much time I spent on each one of those priorities.  He said, “If your relationship with God [in my case] is your first priority, how much time are you spending on that relationship?” Humbly I confess to you: not enough.  There’s a really big difference between my priority list and my time management.  I need to do some shifting.

As my girls get older I’m trying to spend more personal time with them.  It’s hard with all of the demands on my life, but I want that time to reflect their value and their priority.  Because I work from home Jessica sees me a lot more than many wives may see their husbands.  I get to go on lunch dates with her.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays we often drive the girls to school together and then drive home just the two of us.  I think Jessica knows I’ve got her as a priority and that she’s invaluable to me.

If you think of me, pray for me, I’ve got a lot I’m juggling, but I want to make sure there’s time for the things that matter – I want my friends and family to know they’re valuable to me.

So: what are your priorities?  Do your activities reflect that?  Do your activities reflect value to the outside observer or the recipient of the time?

35 and 14

So I turned 35 last week.  This week Jessica and I will be having our 14th wedding anniversary.  I don’t feel a day older than 21 (most days) and yet it feels like I have always been married to Jessica.  When I turned 21 it was 8 days before I got married and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It’s been the best kind of trouble, the best kind of fun, and the best kind of love.

I can’t wait to see what 46 and 25 looks like, not to mention 71 and 50.

I love you, Jessica!

I Love Helping People Move

Today I helped some friends from church move.  Why did I want to do that?  Because I sure love people.  I love the time of grunt work because the fellowship, the labor, the sweat and the accomplishment all bring us closer together.  They create history.  They create a bond.  And that’s awesome.  I know that’s weird, but I love helping people move.

Thanks for inviting me, friends!

Talk About Rights and Responsibilities Before You Talk About Guns

That title is pretty straight forward and is sure to draw fire (no pun intended) from various folks, but let’s be frank: you can’t jump into an argument about gun control (or the second amendment) unless you recognize that rights come with responsibilities.  If you’re not going to carefully, thoughtfully, deliberately execute your rights with responsibility, then you don’t get to keep the right.  Let me explain:

You have the right to drive a car in the United States starting at about 16 years of age all the way until (depending on the state) they take that license, and right, away from you.  You could lose the right for getting DUI’s too many times (I’m all for 1, but let’s say 3 is a safe number to let drunk driving happen on accident the first two times).  You can lose the right because you’re too old and you’re dangerous to other drivers.  You can lose the right if you speed excessively.  In other words, you have the right, but you can lose it if you don’t take responsibility.

I want US citizens to be able to have various weapons for various sorts of safety, target shooting, hunting and of course looking like Chuck Norris:

But after we get over looking like Chuck Norris if you’re not a safe, responsible, rights-aware citizen, then you probably shouldn’t be having a gun.  You probably lost that right.  As a civilization I’m actually for more citizens having guns.  But with training.  I really do think every healthy US citizen should be required to go through 2 years in the military and serve the country.  I didn’t do this.  i was chicken.  But I also think that even if you’re cleaning latrines you should know how to handle a weapon, deal with intense situations, and generally be aware.  Not that I’m obsessed with war, but that I’m concerned that rights like gun ownership need training, and making it mandatory (like drivers ed) except for those who are really, really fringe, makes more sense than removing the rights.

Now: let the flaming begin!

Drive Me Crazy: Email That is Only a Subject

If you want to drive me bonkers send me an email that is only a subject.  It will make me crazy because most of these emails come in like an awkward text message, but instead of using the body of the message to tell me more information I get nothing.  Blankness is not boldness in this case.  Send me an email with a subject that means something (hopefully within the vein of content that your message body contains) and then a message body that contains full, complete, clear thoughts.  I even prefer paragraphs rather than a stream of consciousness email that is about 6 topics, but has no way for them to be found due to a lack of break in contents.

Yeah, if you send me emails with just subjects I’ll be bothered.  I won’t tell you, but I will tell the Internet.

Five Whys

In problem solving you will find some business leaders suggesting a technique called “The Five Whys”.  When you find that you have a problem you’ll be inclined to ask why the problem is there.  You’ll see an answer to that question.  But don’t stop there.  Ask why (up to) five times.  It often leads to the real problem.  If you stop early you’ll get to a problem source, but you need to dig deep and be honest.

This works for business, sure, but it also has real-life, personal implications.  If adulthood is (in part) about honestly looking at what’s around you and facing it honestly, then asking an honest series of why’s is important.  I’ve been dealing with various stresses this year (and every year prior) but it wasn’t until recently that I started to consider the five whys and looking at their implications on my own needs and opportunities.

Why not ask why more often, more deeply, and more honestly?

On Grandness of Vision

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, but one of those things is having a personal vision, having a vision for my family, as well as a vision in my job.  The theme has come up over and over again since October when I talked to my friend Dave O’Hara who started the dominoes tipping.  I’m not talking about simple goals like, “don’t worry, be happy,” but instead I’m referring to the massively grand vision.  Let me explain a bit.

My grandfather, on my dad’s side, created multi-track recording equipment that is rumored to have been used by the Beatles because it was so innovative.  He’s created special instruments for all sorts of technological needs.  He’s an inventor (still, even in his 80’s).  In his lifetime he’s done some pretty amazing things that outstrip most lives in stories and impact.  He still has a 5 year plan that involves working on projects as well as ministry and evangelism.

My dad has so far turned around two businesses of two different kinds in ways that were unconventional, but really impacted lives by enabling employees and letting them know their ability to contribute to a grand vision.  He saved hundreds if not thousands of jobs.  He’s still impacting lives with an even grander vision as an elder at Holly HIlls Bible Church.

I write software for a living.  I want to create the equivalent to “something the Beatles used,” or turning an entire company around.  My vision for my life needs to be bigger, longer term, and most definitely grand.  Personally I need to have areas I know I’m growing.  As a husband and leader of a family my direction for my family needs vision so I can make better decisions about our stewardship of finances.  As an employee I need to have a vision for the projects I’m given that is bigger than everyone else’s vision for the project because I want to exceed expectations.

Do you have a grand vision?  Can you set goals and make plans without one?  I would contend you cannot push out into deeper waters without a plan, but you can’t have a good plan without a better vision.

Of course vision requires context, but that’s probably better for another post.