August 2011


While driving to work, I saw one of those signs that drive me crazy.  You’ve seen them:  the ones on the back of dump trucks that say, “Not responsible for windshield damage.”  Really?  So if the truck going down I-85 north of Atlanta… during rush hour… throwing rocks all over the interstate and the hundreds of cars behind it isn’t responsible for windshield damage, who is?  That’s like a rabid squirrel in a park wearing a sign around its neck stating, “Not responsible for infecting humans.”

That seems to be our position these days:  Not responsible for outstanding debt… not responsible for the actions of my children… not responsible for my health… not responsible for making my life count.  In fact, if you look to the people who really have it together you may notice a common trend.  They’re not necessarily smarter or blessed with better genes; they simply take responsibility for who they are, who they should be, and what they need to do to get there.

I’m in week 10 of P90X and at almost 37 years old, I think I’m in the best shape of my life.  The other day I was in the break room at work filling up my water bottle and a co-worker asked me about how it was going.  We talked about fitness in general for a moment and they complimented me on my commitment.  Their closing I’m not responsible comment was, “I just don’t think I could find the time to get in shape.”  They made this declaration while chewing on a donut.  I’m thinking, “How much time does it take to not eat a donut?”  Well if they can’t find the time to get in shape, I guess they’ll just have to find the time to get sick and be lethargic because that’s what happens when you don’t tend to your health.

Then there are finances.  People complain about bills piling up.  Did they not know they spent the money?  I have no sympathy for people who suffer with consumer debt.  If you spend more than you make, you can’t pay your bills – it’s that simple.  I know there are some unexpected expenses that come up, but that’s why you save and have a buffer for such occasions – you take responsibility.  “But what about the unexpected medical bills?” you ask.   See the paragraph above.

I know, I know… I’m on another rant.  I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I do take responsibility for what I do, what I say, and who I am.  I challenge you to consider that area of life where you are struggling.  Are you really taking responsibility?  Do you own that struggle or are you playing the victim role?  If you aren’t actively doing something about it, then you may as well be running down the interstate with a sign on your car that says, “Not responsible for failures of the driver.”

I ran in my church’s 5K last weekend and had a decent time (23:26).  That was good enough to win my age group… I’m not sure how many people were in my age group, but I know there were at least three because a friend of mine won 3rd

I started running with regularity four years ago.  During the first two years, my times improved in each race.  I thought this running thing was easy – you just keep running and you get faster.  I was essentially following the Forrest Gump training regimen.  My times kept getting better until this very same race two years ago, when I ran a 21:52… and I haven’t broken 23 minutes since.

I was a little frustrated last year when my time took a u-turn and I got slower.  What’s this?  I didn’t get faster!  How can this be?  So even though I wasn’t anywhere near my personal best, at least I didn’t get slower this year and for some reason I was content with that.  Is that what I’ve come to – damage control?  Am I resigning to look back on my past as my glory years and be content with getting older and slower?

Since I started running, I had a goal of running a sub-20 minute 5K.  With each passing year, the probability of me doing so diminishes.  As I age, I’m starting to accept that there are some things that I may never accomplish.  That’s hard for me to admit.  Maybe with age I’m getting wiser… or more lethargic.

I know this isn’t very motivating so far.  What I’m basically saying is give up on your dreams because you might not be able achieve them… well, not exactly.  Instead, what I want to say is rather than give up on your goals, you need to have the right ones.  When we’re young, we’re invincible and can do anything (or at least that’s what we think).  Add a healthy dose of realty in the form of kids, taxes, bills, a career, and aching joints and we start to realize a few limitations.  Sometimes those limitations are just mental barriers that we have to break through, but at other times they are wakeup calls reminding us to train our focus on the right thing.  If you try to do everything, you probably won’t achieve anything.

Could I run a sub-20 minute 5K?  Probably, but that would require several more hours of training per week, which would take away from time at home, limit my availability for helping with homework,  interfere with responsibilities outside the home, and leave me even more exhausted each night than I already am.  Would it be worth it?  I guess I’ll never find out because I’m not willing to sacrifice the important stuff just so I can run a little faster.

What if the private sector acted in the same manner as our government?  Could you imagine a board room where the meeting participants with one opinion sat on one side of the room and the people with another opinion sat on the other side of the room and the two sides made little if any effort to work together for the good of the company?  Now let’s say that the company had not turned a profit in 11 years and was in debt to the tune of about $55 trillion?  Would you invest in that company?  Guess what… you already do! 

I’m not going to get political here.  If you want a political blog, I’m sure you can find one with ease.  In fact, I’m being anti-political.  I think it’s time the American people stop being political and start being practical.  We can start with our elected officials.  The problem with politics today is not a product of the Republicans, the Democrats, the Libertarians, the Tea Party, the Whips, Team Jacob, or Team Edward.  The problem with politics is politics!

We have career politicians who have spent most of their lives in a fantasy land of “public service” where they have never experienced the repercussions of the very laws they conceive and vote on.  I say get them out, establish term limits for Congress, and fill the vacant seats with people who understand what it’s like to be unemployed, taxed to the brink of bankruptcy, accountable for their decisions, and frustrated with political rhetoric.  Of course that will never happen because Congress would have to vote on giving themselves term limits, but I think it would be one of the best things to happen to US politics since we signed that piece of paper back in 1776.

The primaries will be heating up soon and the propaganda machines of both parties will really get cranked up with the presidential election next year.  I just wish the parties would put as much effort into responsibly governing the American people as they do into trying to win elections and make the other person look bad.

During the last election, there was much discussion about how important that election was and the need for unifying the parties.  Well, the chasm between the parties has only grown deeper and wider, the economy is on shaky ground, and people are even more frustrated than they were three years ago.  Some blame the President, some blame the Tea Party, some blame El Nino, but I put the blame squarely on the political system.  We’re getting further away from the ideals of our founding fathers and there is no indication that we will change direction soon.  I have disagreements with people at work.  I disagree with people in my church.  I disagree with people in my family.  I even disagree with myself sometimes.  But we make it work – those disagreements do not lead to stalemates of ideology.  We have to find common ground.  We sometimes even have to compromise for the greater good.  I know those aren’t always the best tactics for maintaining constituents, but leadership is not a popularity contest.

My little girl is growing up!  Olivia got her first loose tooth Sunday and Monday was her first day of kindergarten.  We walked her into her classroom and took pictures all along the way.  She’s already embarrassed of us!  Instead of doing her cute little “cheese face” of yesteryear, she begrudgingly gave a tolerant look while I snapped photos.

Now our parenting is really being put to the test.  It’s one thing to get a child to do the right thing when you’re around – quite another to rely on the lessons you’ve taught them to guide their conscious when you’re absent.  I’m sure she will be exposed to new people, circumstances, and languages.  I just hope we’ve instilled in her the character to make the right decisions.

This is a difficult age for parents.  The older she gets, the less we can shelter her, and the more we have to trust her – yikes!  Fortunately she is a good kid and has a very good heart.  She’s always concerned about the wellbeing of others and rarely takes any unnecessary risks.  My two year-old on the other hand is a different story – just a few nights ago, I went into her room after she went to bed to turn out her light only to find her dancing on her bed naked.  I dread the day she begins to date.

We did have one hiccup on her first day.  We were encouraged to use the online payment system to pay for lunch – which we did the weekend before school started.  We followed the instructions and put a starting balance on her lunch account. Apparently the online payment system was experiencing a lot of traffic (who would have thought it would be busy on the first week of school?) and was slow processing the payments.  When Olivia went to the lunchroom on her first day of kindergarten, she was told that she didn’t have any money in her account and was not allowed to eat.  An adult told this to a five year-old!  Of course, this also meant that some of the other kids made fun of her as she sat there unable to eat next to them.   Needless to say, we had some damage control to perform that night and Papa Barr is had a conversation with the lunch authorities the next day.

Enough of that.  Here are some pictures of her first day.

 

If you’ve ever had small children you know that approximately a quarter of your existence is spent looking for stuff.  Some of it is insignificant, but some of it is serious business.  Amelia has her blankie that our friend Amy Evans made for her at birth (see the “Meet Wiggle” post).  Three years later, it still goes everywhere with her.  Olivia has Bunny – a six year-old stuffed animal that was once pink but is now an indiscriminate color somewhere between pink and gray.  There is no stuffing left in it and smells like morning breath mixed with sweat.

Disgusting as it may sound, Bunny is Olivia’s most beloved possession.  She’s grown out of taking him with us everywhere, but she still takes Bunny to bed every night… except last night.  Bedtime rolled around and Bunny was nowhere to be found.  Sara searched while I brushed Olivia’s teeth and got her ready for bed.  I searched while Sara read Olivia her bedtime story.  Sara searched again while I tucked Olivia in and we said her prayers.  No luck.

We turned the house upside down and retraced our steps from the entire day.  Finally, we decided to break the news to Olivia – she was going to have to go to bed without Bunny.  She took it surprisingly well.  I continued searching because I can’t stand to have an unresolved problem hanging over my head. 

After an hour of searching, I finally found it.  It was in the guest room closet… behind the door… in the bottom of a sleeping bag… that was zipped and rolled up.  It had to be divine intervention that led me to Bunny.  I was just happy to finally stop looking for that stupid Bunny.

After I found it, I took it to Olivia’s room.  She was in bed, but still awake.  Here was our exchange:

Me:  “I found Bunny.”

Olivia:  “Where was he?”

Me:  “Rolled up inside a sleeping bag in the guest bedroom closet!”

Olivia: “Why didn’t you look there first?”