June 2010

I went for a run at 3 pm over the weekend… not one of my wisest decisions.  You don’t have to be a meteorologist to know that an afternoon run in Atlanta during the summer is brutal.  While running, I learned that 3 pm is that magic time of the day when the temperatures reach about their highest point and the humidity that precedes the afternoon thunderstorms makes the air so thick you feel like you’re breathing soup through a respirator.

Stubbornly, I ran.  With about a mile left in my run, I hit the wall.  If you’re a runner, you know about the wall.  It’s that point when you feel like you can no longer continue and the idea of running while not being chased by something with claws and fangs is just ridiculous.  I almost convinced myself that I would have stop running and walk the remaining mile back to my truck, but before my legs stopped moving, I began reasoning with myself on how I could continue.  This is what runners do to justify their obsession.

How many more steps could I run before I had to give up?  Ten more?  Twenty more?  A hundred more?  I finally convinced myself that no matter how hot I was, how tired my legs were, or how much my lungs burned, I could always take one more step.  I mean, what’s one more step?  It takes less than a second and doesn’t require a ton of effort.

You guessed it, after another mile of taking “one more step”, I was back at my truck and relieved that I didn’t give up.  Instead of focusing on the daunting task of one more (mostly uphill) mile in 95-degree heat, I just focused on the next step.

Chances are, you’ve hit a wall at some point.  Whether it’s going back to school, changing careers, fixing a relationship, or making an important life change, you’ve probably faced something that just seemed too big to do.  No matter how challenging the situation, taking the next step usually isn’t too intimidating.  After enough of those “next steps” you’ll look back and be happy you took them.


I ordered a “grab bag” from Gurney’s mail order nursery a few weeks ago.  No, that does not mean they had the option of shipping me a baby of their choice – they’re the other kind of nursery.  The grab bag is leftover plants from other shipments that they have to get rid of soon.  Since you don’t know what you’re getting, they come at a steep discount.  I ended up getting about 130 plants for 20 bucks.

Elated from my bargain, I had to find a place for these plants to go.  My yard is hilly and woods surround us, so there aren’t that many sunny spots.  I finally concluded that I would that I would have to level out one of the sloped areas getting full sun and put up a retaining wall.

That’s where the irony comes in.  I ordered the plants because they were such a bargain.  After getting my $20 worth of plants, I had to put up a $200 retaining wall and spend all weekend doing backbreaking work in 95-degree heat.

I couldn’t help but remember that bit of counsel that goes something like, “before you build a tower, count the cost.”  I didn’t count the cost.  After three trips to Home Depot, I totaled up my receipts to find that I spent about ten times as much on the flowerbed as I did the flowers. 

Costs often arise in unsuspected places.  This fact is not limited to home improvement.  Everything carries a cost.  Volunteering to help with a charity may cost you time with your family, spending time with your family may cost you financially, and your job may cost you your sanity. 

The key is not to avoid the costs.  If we avoided every cost, we would never do anything.  Instead, we need to count the cost ahead of time and make sure that we are prepared for it.  You wouldn’t buy a car without adding up insurance, taxes, tag, and title fees and making sure the payments fit your budget.  So why would you take a job without counting the cost of the stress and time away from your family? 

The job is a tricky one because it is one of the few areas that we get something tangible in return for our efforts – a paycheck.  The bigger the paycheck, the more we are willing to spend in terms of time and energy.  If we are not careful, we will fail to count the costs associated with a job and only measure it by its paycheck or title.  There is also the cost of not finding significance in our work.  Just like I did when I finished my wall, one day we’ll reflect on what we did with the skills and gifts given to us.  I don’t want to feel regret by saying that I used mine primarily to make money.  I want to make a difference instead.  What can you do with your gifts and talents to make a difference?

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but in my neck of the woods we are in our second day of dealing with a 110 degree heat index.  People have different strategies for dealing with the heat.  Some go to the pool, others go to the movies, and some stay inside.  I just sweat… profusely.

From mid-June through mid-September I contribute enough moisture to the atmosphere to create my own tropical storm.  Just the other day, Sara told me to start leaving my clothes outside because she wanted to wash all of my clothes separately from the rest of the family’s.  Fortunately, Sara and I started dating in February.  Otherwise, I would still be single.

Since, she is a dermatology PA, Sara feels compelled to diagnose all of my abnormalities.  She calls this one “hyperhidrosis”.  Don’t get the wrong idea.  When I’m indoors, I’m perfectly normal, but as soon as I go out in the heat, the sweat starts to pour.  Sara brought me a prescription antiperspirant from her office.  This stuff almost took my skin off… I guess that’s one way to keep from sweating, but I prefer to keep my skin.

It’s days like this when I wonder why we look forward to summer so much.  Maybe it’s because in the middle of winter when the trees are bare, the grass is brown, and the temperatures are frigid, we only remember good parts of summer… the days on the beach, the taste of fresh tomatoes, or the singing of a whippoorwill in the evening.  

It’s a proven fact that humans process positive memories more efficiently than bad memories.  That’s why empty nesters have such fond memories of having a baby in the house.  They remember the cooing, giggling, and games of patty cake without remembering what it’s like getting up every 3 hours, smelling like spit up, and diapers toxic enough to make BP’s cleanup responsibilities seem modest.  

It’s also why some so fondly remember the “good old days”, that old relationship, a job from the past, or a long-gone pet.  Some theorize that this tendency to remember more of the positive aspects of life is a natural coping method.  It’s sort of a forced optimism for our memories.

What if we could take this tendency of our memories and apply it to our present?  What if we focused on the positive aspects of what is happening to us right now?  I’m generally optimistic, but I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to focus on the negative.  If ten good things and one bad thing happen to me tomorrow, I’ll probably beat myself up over the bad thing.  I think this is particularly engrained in men. 

We focus on what is wrong so we can fix it. While the things that aren’t wrong are nice, we don’t dwell on them because they don’t need fixing.  This is a tough one for me, but I’m going to try to spend more time paying attention to the things I don’t need to fix and maybe, just maybe, I won’t sweat so much.

I wrote about my kids staying at Nana and Granddaddy’s for week last Tuesday.  Four movies, two dinners out, and one twilight cruise later, we are no longer childfree.  As I said before, this was the first week Sara and I got to spend alone in almost five years.  It turns out that a staycation without the kids is pretty awesome!

At first, we felt a little guilty about enjoying ourselves so much without the kids.  We got over the guilt.

I love my kids, but I am not afraid to say that I treasured the time I spent alone with my wife.  That doesn’t make me a bad parent – it makes me human.  It’s not like we abandoned our kids.  They were in very good hands (I mean hey, my mom did raise me) and we checked in everyday, but we did let go as much as possible in order to enjoy our solitude.

Letting go is difficult for me.  Whether it’s not worrying about the kids, turning a project over to someone else, or just letting the guy in front of me drive the way he wants to drive, I have a hard time not being in control.  Of course, we can’t be in control of everything all the time.  In fact, it sometimes takes a loss of control to realize how good it feels not to be in control.

I may be testing this theory over the next few months.  I met with someone last week regarding an opportunity that has been on my mind a lot lately.  It involves me giving up some control.  I don’t want to say a lot right now, but I’ll keep you posted.

Now, where is that stinking bunny so I can put Olivia to bed?  No really, it actually does smell like teenage boy’s retainer that was thrown into the school cafeteria garbage on tuna salad day.

Sara and I are childless this week and are very excited about it.  We took a trip up to see my family over the weekend.  We came home, but the girls are staying with Nana and Granddaddy for a whole week!  Since we live pretty far away from all of our family, this is the first time we’ve been at home without a child in almost five years. 

I love my girls, but this is awesome!  Here’s a list of things we’ve already gotten to do in one evening that we’re excited about:

  • Picked up toys, stuffed animals, and kids clothes… once… and only once for a whole week
  • Ate dinner in our recliners while watching TV
  • Watched Avatar – yes, we were the last two people who had not seen that movie.  James Cameron’s mission is now complete.  It may not sound like much, but watching a 3-hour movie is too big of a commitment when you have to put little ones to bed and get some sleep for yourself before getting the kids ready for school the next day.
  • Cleaned the TV screen in order to watch a TV completely devoid of fingerprints for a whole week
  • Sat on the porch and watched it rain just because we could
  • Went to bed without turning on the baby monitor and knowing that we wouldn’t have to get up to get milk, console a child with a nightmare, or use monster spray
  • Took out all the dirty diapers and Fabreezed the house that will be free of diapers for a week
  • Took down the baby gate and will not have to climb over it to go upstairs for a week
  • Began missing our girls… just a little