Posts Tagged ‘friends’

Crunch Time

June 23rd, 2011 2 comments

We are down to less than month before we depart for Swaziland and things have been alternating between hectic and laid back.  One one hand we have a lot to get done before we leave, but on the other hand we have been able to enjoy some great relaxing time with friends and family.  Here is our time frame:

June 27 – We want to be out of our house and have it completely prepped for our new renter.  We are in the process of painting, cleaning, moving, etc.  Lots to do in the short term to get that ready.  On the plus side, we are very excited about the tenant who is moving in.  Seems like a very nice guy who wants to stay a while.  Great for both of us.

June 28 / 29 – Head to Somerset to spend some time with Beth’s family.  We will see them again, but this will be our last formal trip that direction.

July 1-3 – Camping with Friends in the Big South Fork.  Again, it won’t be our last time with them, but it will be the last big trip we take in the States for a while.

July 5ish – Catherine and Dave Altmaier are coming through town so we will get a chance to connect with them (Catherine was just in town for a couple days and it was great to catch up.)

July 14-17ish– Spend time with both sides of my family.  First in Western Kentucky (and perhaps elsewhere) and then at Kentucky Lake with my Chicago family.  We ended up pushing back our departure date to make sure we could see everyone.

July 18 – Casual day with friends.  Basically we are planning on just relaxing and enjoying our time with friends the day before we leave.

July 19 – Departure at 5:00 from Nashville.  We are planning on having our immediate family there for the final send off.

July 21 – Arrive is Swaziland.

As you can see, things are getting pretty tight.  In all reality, the only days we have truly free between now and when we leave is the week and a half or so between the Altmaiers coming heading to spend time with our family.  So… if you want to catch up with us before we leave, those are days to make it happen.

In other news, we were able to talk with the Sisters at Cabrini the other day and they are super excited to have us come.  Should be a great environment to be moving into.  Also, they informed us they will be upgrading our housing.  The duplex we were slated to stay in would have been fine for us.  The common areas were a bit small and it lacked a few amenities and was a bit rougher.  But, the new place is excellent.  A good bit more room (especially in the kitchen and living room), better yard / porch with great privacy and shade.  It has ceiling fans and mango trees in the front yard.  I have included a video a previous resident shot while he was staying there.


And then, totally unrelated… here is a picture of my always cute daughter:

Early June and VBS guide 018

10 Things to do before Swaziland

August 23rd, 2010 5 comments

With our move to Swaziland probably only 10 months away, Beth and I have been talking through how we should spend our remaining time stateside.  Here is a list of 10 things I want to accomplish before we leave.  If you can help me out with any of them, please give me a shout.

  1. Learn to weld – Let’s start with an easy one.  I wouldn’t consider myself a handy man, but I am willing to try and figure stuff out.  This is one skill I don’t have and would love to pick up just in case the need ever presents itself.
  2. Improve my siSwati – I learned more siSwati in the 10 days we were in the country than I did in the months before trying to teach myself.  That being said, I have yet to cross beyond the typical greetings and pleasantries.  I would love to be able to have a basic conversation before arriving in the country nest summer.
  3. Take a course on AIDS – Swaziland is a beautiful country, but it holds several dubious titles.  It has the highest AIDS rate at nearly 40%!  It also has the highest death rate and fastest declining life expectancy.  Every issue in Swaziland is impacted by the AIDS epidemic (from employment to poverty to orphan care).  I want to take the time to familiarize myself with the disease, its treatment, and its impact on society.
  4. Brush up on my Southern African history – Swaziland has a rich history.  It was largely able to avoid the strife caused by colonialism that negatively affected so much of Southern Africa.  However, much of the current climate in the area is still impacted by this chapter of history.  I want to know more about the Boers and English and tribal conflicts that shaped the area.
  5. Learn to drive a split shift – Another seemingly random skill set I would like to acquire.  I have no desire to drive a large truck, but I want to be able to do it if the need ever arises. 
  6. Become competent in PHP development – Several months ago, a good friend of mine and I began (re)teaching ourselves HTML and CSS.  I know just enough to get myself into trouble.  I would like to build on this skill set by adding PHP development so I can design websites and databases for the organizations I will work with and also as a possible secondary income stream.
  7. Sell / Give away / Downsize our stuff – We have been in this process for several years now, but still have so far to go.  I still have books to get rid of, a house to sell and plenty of household items to deal with. Most of our stuff is not going with us nor will it be saved.
  8. Visit with friends and family – This past weekend I had my 10 year reunion and also visited with college friends at a wedding.  It reminded me how many people I want to see before we leave.  If you are in the area, please take the time to give me a ring and I will treat you to a meal or coffee.
  9. Travel – This is obviously related to the prior.  I foresee many mini-road trips in the near future to visit people, but also I want to explore our own country a bit more before we leave.  I have been fortunate enough travel through most of the country, but Beth has not.  I want to be intentional about visiting places, especially in the American West.
  10.   Have a game plan for the next 10 years – This move to Swaziland has been over two years in the planning.  Beth and I have slowly, but deliberately made decisions about our future and have been willing to change them as needed.  Now that things are beginning to solidify, we need to be thinking about where we want to be in the next decade or longer.  This means working through things like expanding our family, saving for college, setting long term goals, etc.  I don’t expect to have it all figured out, but I want us to be intentional about the direction we are moving. (That is actually the key idea behind the title of my blog.)

Of Authenticity and Friendship

March 16th, 2010 2 comments

no plans, left-overs for dinner, pajamas until noon, marathon board game sessions, 6 hours of Lonsome Dove, dirty diapers, cooking and washing dishes, minor plumbing work, disc golf…

This is how Beth and I spent last weekend.  Pretty mundane and typical.  At first glance seems no different than most free weekends we have.  But, last weekend was incredible as we spent it in Tallahassee with two of our closest and oldest friends Catherine and Dave* and our daughters.

Catherine, Beth, Molly and Mikayla


What was so incredible about the weekend is just how ordinary it was.  There was no evidence of the 5 months that had elapsed since we were last together.  There were no expectations and there was not a need “to be doing something.”  Instead, we just hung out… exactly like we did in high school, and in college, and in our early married lives.

Everytime we get together, it always strikes me how natural things are.  In fact both this weekend and the last time we were together in the Smokies, I had a hard time finding pictures.  I think that’s because there has never been the feeling that what we were doing was “special” as much as it was just a regular weekend together.

Beth and I have many close friends, some of whom we have known for decades, but there is something special about our relationship with the Altmaiers as it epitomizes authenticity and friendship.

*Dave has “retired” his blog, but we are trying to encourage him to start it back.

Character Flaws

August 1st, 2009 3 comments

What would happen if we were honest about character flaws?

How would things look different if we were willing to admit our shortcomings and if we were able to have honest conversations with those we love about theirs.

I know I have my issues.  I can be arrogant and self-centered.  I am over critical of others ideas and too often insist things go my way.  I am better at coming up with ideas than I am with implementing them.  I can be too goals-oriented and overlook the people involved.  I don’t always give people the benefit of the doubt and am impatient.  I procrastinate and sometimes don’t follow through with the things I commit to…. (I really could go on much longer, but that is the point of this post).

Since Mikayla was born, I have been much more introspective about who I am versus who I want to be.  I am idealistic by nature and want things to be the best they can be (which probably is as much a contributing factor to many of my flaws as it is a solution).  The problem is I don’t always know when I am exibihiting these behaviors.  What is worse is I am sure there are others I have not listed that I don’t even know about.

I want to work on these issues, but I also know that owning up to them is painful.  Towards the end of my high school years, I began realizing areas where I had been a jerk (and by jerk, I don’t mean just saying something hurtful… I am talking about being a real asshole).  I tried to make apologies where possible, but I know I was never able to right the wrongs.  Even now, I will be telling a story a cringe when I think back to some of my choices, or how I treated people.  It is painful for me to realize these flaws, but it is worse to not acknowledge them.

I not only want to be willing and able to examine my own life, but I want to have the kind of friends who are comfortable telling me when I am being an ass, or when I have stepped over the line, or when I need to buck up and apologize, or admit I was wrong.  I want to be a better person even if that means having some painful conversations, or having my pride hurt.

On the other side, I wish I was better at being honest with those I care about about things I see in their lives that concern me.  I have always been a direct person and rarely shy away from conflict.  But, if I am honest, most times I am direct it is for my own selfish reasons.  I have been hurt, and I want them to know.  Well, I want to be direct because I love my friends and family and want them to be better people — whether or not it affects me directly.

I have never really been one to gossip and talk about others, but I do find myself judging others actions much more frequently than I would like.  I assume people’s motives when I really have no idea.  Often when I have had difficult conversations with friends about why they do things that they do, I have realized my perspective was wrong in the first place.

If I were most honest with those I care about things that concern me, I believe one of two things is most likely to happen.  Either I will gain a deeper respect for them by understanding their perspective, or, they will hopefully take to heart my concerns and in the end be better people.

All too often we are not cognizant of our flaws in the same way those around us are.  We may not even realize we are hurting people with our words or actions.  Equally, when we think we understand someone else and wish their behavior was different, the fact of the matter is we simply may not understand the larger picture.

Being open and honest is almost always awkward and it is often painful, but I feel it makes us better people and allows us to understand and care for those around us in a deeper way.  I have seen friendships fail because people were unwilling to be honest about concerns or hurts and assumed the worst.

So, what would happen if we were open about our character flaws and receptive to others criticism and honest with those we care about about our concerns?

I can’t answer that globally, but I can say that those are the types of relationships I want to have.  I want to acknowledge my flaws and be aware of when they are showing through.  I want to know when I cross the line and when I hurt people so I can be a better person and so I can try and make things right.  I don’t want to judge and be critical of others actions and motives if I am not willing to have a straight forward conversation with them.    I want to be a better  person…. and… I want the same for you.

10 Activities

July 23rd, 2009 No comments

So far Beth and I have discussed what we like, what we want to accomplish, and a bit about who we are.  Today our list of 10 will look at what we like to do.  Here are my top 10 favorite activities:

  1. Disc Golfing – I was introduced to disc golfing while I was in college.  I love it because it offers an easy escape outdoors, even if only for an hour or two.  You can play by yourself or in groups.  Best yet… is relatively cheap.  You could play ’til your heart was content for $2 if you buy a used disc.  For $20-30 you would be well on your way.  Compared to my other outdoor activities, this one is by far the cheapest.

    Discgolfing with some of Beth's students.

    Discgolfing with some of Beth's students.

  2. Gardening – Beth and I are on our third year of gardening, and the first in our own backyard.  I just got in from harvesting okra, tomatoes, corn and peppers.  Here is link to post I wrote earlier, and some pictures of the garden from today.
    2009-07-22 Pouty Face 039

    Asparagus, corn, zucchini, okra, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, onions.

    Tomatoes, basil, okra, corn.

    Tomatoes, basil, okra, corn.

  3. Rock Climbing – My first experience climbing was in high school at an indoor gym.  I ended up buying my own equipment and then getting involved in an outdoors group my Freshman year in college where I got into real rock climbing.  In the four years fighting fire in Idaho I expanded my experience.  Now I only climb a couple times a year, but I treasure each one.  It is not just the activity, but the comradery found sitting around at the bottom of the rocks too.

    Climbing in the Bitterroots, circa 2001

    Climbing in the Bitterroots, circa 2001

  4. Backpacking – I was backpacking before I even knew what it was.  I was lucky enough to have parents that valued the outdoors and introduced them to me early.  In fact, my first camping trip was before I was a month old (at least that is what Dad says… but his memory is not what it used to be.)  I try to have one big trip every couple years, but is has been a few years since I have been out.  Just this week I went back through my pictures from a trip to Colorado.  Backpacking is one of those things that is fun to prepare for, to do, and to talk about later.

    Purifying water while backpacking in Colorado.  (The day before we found an outfitter's stash of beer).

    Purifying water while backpacking in Colorado. (The day before we found an outfitter's stash of beer).

  5. Traveling – I have been very fortunate to be able to travel quite a bit in my life.  I visited over 30 states in 18 months when I was in college and currently have visited all of the lower 48.  I have been to Mexico (kinda), Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, Austria and Italy.  I enjoy traveling not only for the experiance, but also because it often forces me to reassess my own understandings of the world.
  6. Conversing with friends over beverages – I enjoy good conversations in relaxed settings.  Like the activity above, this includes lots of things.  I enjoy talking theology, philosophy, politics, and anything in between.  I enjoy good drinks and people who enjoy good drinks.
  7. Being with my family – One of my favorite activities is simply being with my family.  Not doing anything in particular… just being.  I love a lazy Sunday in a cozy bed, or a evening of talking with my extended family.  I feel very natural with my family and am comfortable just hanging out.


    Family picture at Kentucky Lake.

  8. Working with my hands – Most of my work is cerebral, whether it is grant writing, or studying, or planning.  After 20 years of schooling, and 5 years of jobs mostly made up of life behind a computer, I find great relief in working with my hands.  If I get stressed out, I will work in the garage; if I have spent too much time writing grants, I get respite from mowing the lawn.  I love my current job at Corsair Artisan Distillery because it includes science, craft, mundane tasks and grunt labor.  My time fighting fire was probably my most fulfilling job at the end of the day (but not in terms of long range impact).

    Practice Rappells at Moyer in Idaho, circa 2003.

    Practice Rappells at Moyer in Idaho, circa 2003.

  9. Driving long distances in the car alone – Everyone needs a way to relax and collect their thoughts.  Some people golf, some people go for walks, some people journal.  For me, the most calming time is driving alone in the car.  Often I do this with the windows down and the radio off.  When I was in Seminary, I would often leave at 4:30 in the morning and drive 2.5 hours.  I would have loved my sleep, but seeing the sun come up while I processed my thoughts was the most therapeutic thing I could do.
  10. Researching – In all honesty, this is probably my favorite activity because it includes so much.  I enjoy spending time in the Library combing through old journals and abstracts to find a hidden gem of information for a paper.  I love pouring over a map trying to find the best route.  I love browsing wikipedia to learn about random things like historic natural disasters, or the standard model of particle physics.  I often get into a topic and try to read everything I can about it.  I spend hours trying to understand things like PHP so I can edit a blog.  And, if I am honest, much of the time I waste tinkering around on the internet is linked to this activity.

10 Places

July 18th, 2009 1 comment

With the publishing of this post, Beth and I are half way through our 10 lists of 10.  Today we are listing our 10 favorite places.  I intended this to be more specific, but I realized there were specific types of places where I felt most comfortable at and ease and I have mostly listed those.

  1. Around a campfire – For most families, the TV is the thing which people gather around.  That was not the case for me — we gathered around the fire.  In fact, there was only 1 seat facing the TV at my childhood home, and 4 facing the wood stove.  There is something mesmerizing about flickering flames.  They hold the power to sustain life and the power to take it.  It doesn’t matter if it is a small warming fire on a wilderness hike, or the fire ring in our back yard where we watch movies on the side of the house, I feel at peace with the crackling wood and the dimly illuminated faces of close friends.
  2. 127 Yellowstone Ct – My current address.  I like being at home.  I like curling up on my ratty couch with my dog and surfing the internet.  I love laying in bed with my wife on a lazy morning.  I love walking into the backyard to get something out of the garden.  I love our neighbors, especially the kids who always greet us when we get home.  Our home is not elaborate or large.  We have all used furniture and the house is never all the way picked up, but that doesn’t matter.  I like being here.
  3. Coffee Shop with friends – There is something about sitting around a table with a hot cup of coffee and friends you love.  Some of my most meaningful conversations have happened in these settings.  Right now the place I frequent the most is Spencer’s (especially since it is a half block from the distillery where I work).  Great people, great coffee, and a kick-ass chicken salad sandwich.  I also enjoy Greener Grounds (formerly Bread n Bagel).
  4. University Libraries – I know people who never set foot inside the library while in college.  That was not me.  Not only did I frequent the library, but I had places I considered my own and would get pissed is someone was sitting there.  There is something about being surrounded by such a wealth of knowledge.  Books are calming to me.  When I visit another campus, I always go into the library and browse the stacks.  I find comfort in book stores for the same reason.
  5. Missoula, MT – I haven’t been there in a while, but this is my favorite city in America.  It has a great atmosphere and vibe.  It is a university town nestled in the foothills of the Bitterroot mountains.  Great micro-breweries, great gear shops and a great cultural scene.  It is also the city I most closely associate with my time fighting fire.  My first two years we had to drive an hour into Missoula to get our groceries.
  6. Mountain Lakes -This is more of a western phenomina than an eastern one.  I love sitting in a wilderness area staring off across a crystal clear lake with vast mountains around me.  I have experienced this in Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Oregon (Austria as well) and each time I find the setting to epitomize the beauty of creation.  (Give me a campfire and some coffee and things could be perfect).


    Mountain Lake in the Weminuche Wilderness Area

  7. On the road – Some people hate being in the car, but that is not me.  For 4 years I traveled out to Idaho by myself.  It was about 32 hours each way, and believe it or not I looked forward to that time.  Even when I was commuting to Asbury, I loved the time in the car (even when it meant leaving at 4:30 in the morning).  For me, it is a time to think and process ideas and let my mind wander.  I often drive in silence and enjoy taking in the passing scenery.  I also love listening to some NPR while driving.
  8. In the air – Growing up I had several opportunities to fly in single engine planes.  In college I worked on helicopters.  And while it has been a while since I have been off terra-firma, I love the experience of soaring over the world.  I think it is because of the way it alters your perception.  You see the world in a new way from hundreds of feet above it (I also love looking at satellite imagery on google earth, and Microsoft’s new “Birds Eye” view for the same reason).
  9. Gear shops – I don’t consider myself materialist, but if I am ever going to be drawn in to the “things of this world” it will be in a good gear shop.  I love the small local shops where the employees know all the best routes and trips, but at the same time I enjoy purusing all the high end gear at a place like REI.  If I have a weakness… it is gear.  I have piles of climbing gear, backpacking gear, mountain biking gear….
  10. In the garden – This is a (relatively) recent addition to my list of favorite places.  This is our third year of gardening and our first year to do it at our home (see this post about it).  I love growing our own food and being able to eat it fresh.  I love the way gardening forces you to slow down and spend time outdoors.  I love the mix of hard labor (tilling) and monotonous tasks (weeding).