February 2012


As most of you know, I like to run.  I also like technology.  Throw in the fact that I’m a bit of a tightwad and the GPS/heart rate monitor/running watch I found online for about a third of what they usually cost was a trifecta for me. 

This watch does everything.  The built-in GPS gives me accurate distances and elevations during my run, it calculates my speed, my pace, how many calories I burn, and allows me to monitor my heart rate.  All I had to do was enter my age and weight into the watch, strap the monitor around my chest, and I was ready to pretend like I was the Six Million Dollar Man.

The watch has a ton of different screens that show various information (I think one of them even tells you what time it is – oh yeah, it’s a watch).  I settled on a screen that showed my time, distance, and my heart rate.  When you set the watch up, you enter your age and weight.  The watch uses your age to calculate your maximum heart rate then tells you whatever your heart rate is at that moment as a percentage of your maximum heart rate. 

The watch decided that my maximum rate was 183 beats per minute.  Before I set out on my run, I checked my heart rate – 65 beats per minute and 36% of my maximum heart rate.  Not far into my run, my heart rate jumped to 83% of my maximum heart rate.  A couple of minutes later, it seemed to stabilize at 90 – 92% of my maximum heart rate.  Then came a long uphill section… 93%… 94%… oh crap… 95%. 

What was about to happen to me?  It looked like I was quickly approaching 100% of my maximum heart rate at which point I would presumably tear a hole in the space/time continuum or spontaneously combust.  My escalating heart rate caused anxiety, which of course had the effect of raising my heart rate even more.  I glanced back at the watch… 96%… stupid watch.  I’ve done this exact run probably 400 times in the past four years with no problems and now this little piece of technology had me fearing for my life.

I don’t know if I ever topped 100%.  I was afraid to look back at the watch until I got into the downhill section – by which time I was back in the low 90s.  I guess this little watch will take some getting used to.  It was supposed to be a training aid, but it ended up being a quantifiable limitation.  It gave me a real number that told me I was close to giving 100% of all I had.  I don’t like that.  I’d rather believe there’s still more to give whether it’s actually there or not.  I guess that makes it a challenge.  I will reach 101%.   I’ve got to prove to that little piece technology that it can measure how fast my heart beats, but it can never measure how stubborn I am. 

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My birthday is on December 8th.  There are exactly 17 days between that day and Christmas (this would explain all of the Santa Claus and reindeer wrapping paper on my birthday gifts).  As a child, I remember those two and a half weeks between my birthday and Christmas seemed like an eternity.  That is no longer the case.  It now seems that weeks and even months go by in a flash.  I’m now 37 years-old and I’m pretty sure I was 25 just a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve always heard that time seems to speed up as you get older.  I wonder if it seems to be speeding up for everyone regardless of their age.  In other words, does one year for 37 year-old in 2012 seem to by faster than it did for a man of the same age in 1952?

My thought is that as we try to cram more and more into our lives, the time just seems to fly by more rapidly.  This rapid passage of time puts us into panic mode and we try to cram even more in because we feel we’re running out of time.  This, of course, only compounds the problem.

I think the solution to this problem is to allow some open slots in your schedule to allow life to happen.  Experts on time management call these open blocks of time “margin”.  You are probably most familiar with the term margin as it applies to your word processing software.  Who hasn’t written a Christmas letter intended to be one page in length and ended up with a few lines on page two?  What’s the first thing you do when this happens?  You reduce the margins.  Instead of 1 inch at the top and bottom, you take it down to ¾ of an inch.  When that doesn’t work, you take it down to ½ inch.

This makes sense to us because we have all this stuff we want to get on one page and the margins don’t seem important – they’re just empty spaces.  But here’s the problem: the margins don’t seem important to us because we’re focused on what we’re trying to get on the page; however, margins are very important to the reader because they give the page form.  Just imagine reading a magazine, book, or newspaper with no empty space.  If all you saw were words from left to right and top to bottom, you would conclude that the page was too busy and wouldn’t even attempt to read it.

Now, apply that thought process to your schedule.  If you feel you must remove every empty slot just to cram more in, you’ll end up with a completely covered page that has no space to add anything else.  The bad part about that is that every day presents us with opportunities that may be better than things we already have in our schedules, but if we don’t have any open slots for them, we’ll never pursue them.

Now I have to confess – my wife and I both have full time jobs, we have two young kids, we are involved at our church, and I am on the board of a non-profit.  That doesn’t leave whole lot of margin, but I’m trying.  Hey, acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step!

Valentine’s Day is here and I was actually ahead of the game.  I sent flowers last week, bought cards for Sara from me… for Sara from the girls… and for the girls from Sara and me.  I even broke down and bought Sara the Breaking Dawn Blu-Ray – that’s the latest release in the Twilight saga.  I haven’t even watched the one that came out before this one, but I committed to watching both with Sara.  Nothing expresses your love like enduring a teenage vampire movie with a script cheesier than a Chicago style pizza!

Sara actually got me to go to theater for the first movie – I had no idea what I was getting into.  The theater was filled with a bunch of girls who squealed every time a new character appeared for the first time.  It was disgusting.  Afterward, I stood outside the bathroom next to a man who brought his daughter and a bunch of her friends.  In my estimation, they were the primary source of squealing throughout the movie.  We just acknowledged each other with a look of confusion that was only equaled by my first visit to the OB/GYN when Sara was pregnant with our first child.

Ladies, here’s the truth – guys just don’t get romance.  I’m sorry to have to break this to you, but Edward is a fictional character (just look at his hair!) and Ryan Reynolds wouldn’t be half as charming without a script from a romantic comedy.  Not only are they not real, but we think they’re wusses and would never want to be like them.  If we spoke the lines from those movies and teased our hair up Edward style, it would only result in daily beatings.

You like predictable movies where the unlikely couple gets together in the end and we like movies with people getting shot.  When I watch those sappy movies where Edward expresses his eternal love for Bella, I can’t help but roll my eyes and wish that the werewolf gang would rip him to shreds.  I guess that puts me on Team Jacob. 

The point I’m trying to make is this.  We may make fun of your movies as we reluctantly watch them with you, but the fact that we’re watching them with you is sometimes the most romantic gesture we can muster.  I know it’s not much, but most of us don’t have much to work with. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Since I’m a bit of a packrat and very thrifty (ok, maybe a little cheap), I still have all of the boxes left from our previous moves.  I have tons of them:  small boxes, dish pack boxes, wardrobe boxes, picture boxes… as I dug into them, I found that I had boxes packed inside boxes packed inside boxes.  In an effort to clean up the basement a little and put some of these boxes to use, I decided it was time to build a castle.

I used to love building forts when I was a kid – I even had a book on how to build cardboard forts.  I know my girls like that sort of thing too, so Olivia and I had a project Saturday morning.  I had some of those great big wardrobe boxes that I stood upright for the turrets and connected them with a couple of horizontal wardrobe boxes.  I added a few more to add some space, cut out some windows in the towers, added a parapet on top of the towers, and built a working drawbridge. 

I earned some serious cool daddy points that day!  The girls absolutely loved it.  They both put on their princess dresses and hid in the castle from the dangerous dragons flying outside.

Here’s what is interesting about this.  I had a great time building the castle, the girls had fun playing in it, and all the materials were just sitting in my basement taking up space – all I had to do was put them to use. 

What do you have sitting around in your basement?  No, I’m not asking you what junk you have downstairs.  What skills, talents, and passions do you have that are not being utilized?  Why aren’t you using them?  They may not seem like much a first, but when you start working with them and let a little imagination take over, they can transform into something spectacular.  Who knows, you may even make some little princess’s day.