July 2011


I’m now one month into my P90X program so I thought I’d give an update on my progress.  So far I’ve lost 6 pounds and dropped my body fat percentage by 3%.  I can really tell a difference in how I look and I’ve been able to tighten up my belt another notch.  I’d like to tell you that I feel great, but I don’t… I hurt… all over.  Actually, I’m exaggerating –  the soreness isn’t that bad.  In fact, it’s no worse than what I get from my regular workout.

I’m going into Phase II of the program with mixed emotion.  The good thing about this phase is that I can now have three carbs a day (up from one per day).  That means I can eat cereal for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch.  I never knew a sandwich could be so good.  The bad part about this phase is that it consists of a new group of exercises that would make Jack Palance quiver in his unitard.  About 30 minutes into yesterday’s workout… after several reps of all kinds of different forms of pushups, I had to do one-arm pushups.  That is exactly what it sounds like – a pushup with one arm behind your back.  After that, I did airborne pushups.  That’s like a regular pushup, but you have to push up with enough force to go airborne – hands and feet off the ground.

While the workouts are demanding, I’m glad I’m doing this.   It’s not so much to get in better shape (although that is a nice benefit).  More than anything, I just want to prove that I can do it.  Sara thinks it’s a mid-life crisis.  Maybe so, but I can think of worse things I could be doing.  If anyone is thinking about this program and serious about committing some time and sweat, I highly recommend it. 

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There are some projects that I begin and later wonder why in the world I ever started them… only later to be glad I finished them.  We had a gorgeous weekend with temperatures in the low 80s (as opposed to the upper 90s as they have been for what seems like the better part of a year now).  The sky was blue with those big-puffy clouds that look like cotton balls floating through the air and a gentle breeze that persisted just enough to keep it comfortable. 

I decided to tackle a job I’ve been putting off for a while primarily because I knew it would be backbreaking work.  Our driveway crosses a creek and once had large stones along the bank leading down to the creek.  Heavy rains swelled the creek a few years ago and deposited mud and sediment all over the stones.  Over time, their weight caused them to sink deeper until they were out of sight.  Eventually there was enough soil on them for some weeds to take hold and … you know the rest of the story.

Inspired by the beautiful weather, I decided to get to work on this project.  First, I cleared off all the weeds (did I mention that we have rattlesnakes and copperheads in our yard?), and then I began unearthing the stones.  They were all sizes – some no bigger than a baseball and some about the size of a large watermelon.  All together, they weighed several tons.

This was grueling work.   I had to stand in mud on a very steep slope and pull with all my might to retrieve the stones from the uncooperative earth.  Not only did I have to deal with the additional weight of the mud, but also it created a suction that would not let go of the stones.  As I dug deeper, I found that there were about three layers of stones awaiting rescue.   This is the type of work only really, really bad prisoners have to do on black and white movies.

My plan was to pull out the stones, stack them up in a few strategic locations, lay down landscape fabric, and put the stones back in to place.  After a few short minutes, I forgot how nice the weather was as I wiped sweat out of my eyes with a muddy glove.  I know I’ve mentioned how sweaty I am before, but I have to comment on it again.  It’s uncanny.  If I wanted to, I am quite certain I could grow mushrooms on my body. 

After several hours of grueling work, I completed my task – and it looks great.  Of course, no one but I will fully appreciate the finished product because no one else knows how much work went into it – as I write this I feel my back preparing to launch a protest against me.

This seems like a good metaphor for leadership to me.  Whether you’re leading coworkers, friends, your spouse, children, or even your dog, you first have to know that there is something in that person (or dog) waiting to be unearthed.  There is something just below the surface that no one else can see.  Getting it out will take a lot of work.  It will be messy.  It may even come out muddy and slimy.  However, if you maintain your faith and you keep working, the payoff is a beautiful finished product for which you have full appreciation because you know what went into bringing it out for the world to see.

Don’t be afraid to sweat and get dirty.  Sweat and grime are frequently prerequisites for beauty.

The History Channel recently showed some specials about the Civil War.  After watching those documentaries and finishing a book called Radical, I started thinking about blind spots. 

We all have blind spots.  Some of us are fortunate enough to have people who care enough about us to point them out.  Others just keep chugging through life without ever acknowledging they exist.  The Civil War programs made me think about what a huge blind spot slavery was.  It’s hard to believe that just a 150 years ago the ownership of another human being was an acceptable practice.  Looking back on it today, we wonder how we as a society could have ever endorsed such an abhorrent practice.

It makes me wonder – 150 years from today, what blind spot of ours will be revealed?  I agree with David Platt – the author of Radical – that our blind spot may be poverty.  We live a nice, comfortable life while two billion people on the earth live on less than two dollars a day.  Sure we know the facts – people lack food, water, medicine, and decent shelter, but to us it almost like those people aren’t real.

I’ve been to a third world country and I’ve seen real poverty firsthand.  I can tell you those people are real.  They live, breathe, laugh, and cry just as we do.  They have tremendous need while we throw away a quarter of the gluttonous meal we couldn’t finish. 

One piece of data from the book really struck me – twenty-six thousand children will die today due to starvation or preventable disease.  That’s right, twenty-six thousand today, twenty-six thousand tomorrow, twenty-six thousand the day after that, etc.  If you do the math, that’s 182,000 children every week… 782,000 every month… 9.5 million every year. That’s hard to comprehend.  Each one of those twenty-six thousand kids is or was somebody’s son or daughter.  How can the fact that so many children die every day due to preventable causes not motivate us to action?  My only answer is that we are so caught up in our small little world that we shelter our minds from the discomfort of knowledge of the reality of the suffering around us.

I would do anything to ensure the health and safety of my little girls.  Many of those twenty-six thousand children who will die today have no parents to look after them.  You and I may be the only hope some of those children have.  I encourage you to spend some time looking into ways that you can help.  If you can actually go somewhere and put your feet on the ground where this need exists, that’s even better.  Whatever you do, don’t ignore this problem.  Don’t ignore the twenty-six thousand children who will die today because they lack the very things we have in excess.

Some things are only comical in retrospect.  The incident I had a couple of weekends ago was one of those things.  I was out trimming the shrubs in front of my house in the middle of the day on Father’s Day.  First of all, I shouldn’t be trimming shrubs on Father’s Day.  Secondly, it was about a gazillion degrees outside and I was sweating so profusely my body had its own atmosphere.

I was almost done fulfilling my fatherly duties when I felt a sharp pain on my upper leg.  As I looked down to see what was going on, another sharp pain hit my ankle.  I didn’t have my glasses on, but through the astigmatic sweat I could make out some kind of insect stinging me… but it wasn’t just stinging me.  To use a Tennessee term, it appeared to be moving its rear back and forth as it “wallered” its stinger in my ankle.

As I jumped back to get away from my attackers, I cut my extension cord with the hedge trimmer sending sparks through the air as I screamed like a 10 year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  Actually, I don’t know if I screamed or not.  I don’t remember screaming, per se, but I do vaguely recall some sort of unintelligible noises coming from somewhere.

At this point, I thought I got into a wasp’s nest.  I went inside to tell Sara what happened and suddenly realized that my stings were starting to bleed!  In addition, the one on my upper thigh was causing just about my entire leg from the knee up to turn splotchy and swollen. 

Sara gave me some cream and a Claritin and sent me back out to finish my work.  On further inspection, I realized that I had just cut open a hornet’s nest and, given its proximity to my body when I cut it, I was actually quite fortunate.

Who knows what I was thinking in those moments before I nearly went into anaphylactic shock.  I was probably zoned out, not paying a whole lot of attention to what was going on, and thinking about what else I needed to do before I went in.  When those stings hit, I suddenly focused all of my attention on what was going on around me.  It’s too bad it often takes pain to grab our attention away from the mundane.