March 2013


Our girls are now seven and four years old.  We were pretty sure when we had our last child that we were done.  Four and half years later, the thought of diapers, midnight feedings, and more diapers has gained absolutely no luster.  In light of that, we (Sara) decided it is time to make our decision permanent.

That’s right – I’m having what medical people like to refer to as a “procedure”.  I’m not a medical person – I’m an engineer.  In my world, a procedure is a document that explains how to perform a task and has nothing to do sticking a knife somewhere unthinkable.  The term “procedure” just seems to trivialize the whole thing.

Of course, Sara tells me it’s not a big deal – easy for her to say.  According to her, it will be over before I know it and I’ll enjoy my weekend in the recliner cradling a bag of frozen peas in my lap.  That reminds me, we need to clearly mark that bag of peas before they end up as part of dinner in a month.

Honestly, I’m not that anxious about it.  In fact, the prospect of starting all over with a crying baby is more terrifying than the thought of a weekend of pain – however excruciating it may be.  Don’t get me wrong – I love being a dad.  I just don’t want to be more of a dad that I already am.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, so I guess I’ll wrap it up.  Besides, I need to practice my banjo.  I’ll try to get video of the performance (my banjo playing, not the medical procedure) and post it here for you next week.

BanjoMaybe it’s just my personality, but if I want to get better at something then I need a challenge… some sort of line drawn in the sand that I will either overcome or surrender to.  For example, I wanted to get back into running a few years ago.  I would periodically go out for a jog with no real goal, without timing myself, and generally hate the entire process. 

Then I entered a race.  Knowing that I didn’t want to look ridiculous at my race, I put together a training plan… and stuck to it.  I started timing myself and created goals, which I gradually met.  I had a respectable showing at my first race, so I entered more.  My times kept improving, I kept challenging myself with more difficult goals, and I enjoyed running more.  As of now, I’ve won first place in my age group in each of the last five races I’ve run.

I don’t enter as many races as I used to, but now almost five years have passed since my first race and I still run regularly, I run at pace I wouldn’t have dreamed of when I started, and I actually enjoy doing it.  Why?  It is all because I faced a challenge.

I’ve been plucking around on the banjo for a little over a year now.  The music of Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers were my main inspiration for getting a banjo.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, this is really good music… not the twangy stuff you may associate with banjos.  I started learning some of the basics and played around with a few Mumford and Sons songs.  I got better, but kind of reached a plateau… I needed a challenge.

That challenge came last week when our church’s worship leader called to tell me that we were going to open the service Easter morning with Mumford and Son’s Awake My Soul… and since I’m probably the only person he knows who even owns a banjo, he asked me to play.  Challenge accepted.

Now I’m not a great banjo player… but then again, I wasn’t that great of a runner when I first started training either.  I’ve put in some time practicing my banjo.  As a side note, I’m also reviewing my old calculus textbook as I prepare to go to grad school again – I think Saturday was the first time in human history someone went directly from playing a banjo to studying a calculus textbook.

I don’t know how it will turn out, but I do know that this challenge will make me better… maybe not great, maybe not even that good, but better than I am now.  So I encourage you to accept some sort of challenge and start paying your dues.  You will never be great at anything if you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone.

tooth

We have had a difficult relationship with the Tooth Fairy.  Olivia lost yet another tooth over the weekend.  I’ve lost count, but I think that is about the 9th one that is gone.  In the time that she has lost those nine, only three have come in to replace them.  It’s quite amusing watching her trying to eat – I almost had her convinced that I was going make her a catfish smoothie for dinner.

She lost her tooth on Sunday while we were at the cabin.  She decided to store the tooth in a bloody tissue for safe keeping until she could put it next to her bed for the Tooth Fairy.  Like any seven year-old that ever puts anything down, she forgot where she put it.  While cleaning out her car, Sara found said bloody tissue.  Not recognizing the bloody tissue for the treasure that it was, she threw it away. 

This, of course, led to Sara having to dig through the garbage to find a bloody tissue.  With the bloody tissue retrieved, Olivia, removed the tooth and placed in on the counter.  Remember what I said about seven year-olds laying things down?  At bedtime, we began another search for the missing tooth.

After a while, we decided that the tooth was lost for good and I wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy explaining our situation and assuring her that Olivia had indeed lost a tooth and was deserving of her reward.  Later that night, I came to the realization that I didn’t have any one dollar bills.  The thought did cross my mind to raid Olivia’s cash reserves and remove two $1 bills only to give them right back to her, but I couldn’t do it (not because of my moral compass but because I couldn’t find her cash reserves).  So I went back downstairs to look for change.  After finding eight quarters and placing them on the note I left next to Olivia’s bed, I considered the task complete.

The next morning, I asked Olivia if the Tooth Fairy came.  She quickly replied, “No, the Tooth Fairy doesn’t work on Sundays.   I only have the quarters you left me.”

Now I’m just glad she didn’t catch me stealing her money.

Back to SchoolThose of you who have been following me for a little while know I finished my MBA two years ago.  I just found out that I was accepted into Clemson University for another graduate program.  This time, it is a Masters in Engineering.  No, I’m not a professional student – I still work full time.  This program, coupled with my MBA is very closely related to what I do at work every day… and what I hope to do in the future. 

It’s a three and a half year program, so I’ll be in my early forties by the time I graduate.  Plus, by the time I’m done, I will have had over 11 years of college.  Those two facts are a little unsettling.  I guess I could have been a surgeon by now… but that’s not what I want.  I enjoy engineering and business, so this makes sense for me.  Plus I love structured education and learning.

The purpose of this post is twofold – I start school this May and will have quite a few demands on my time.  Because of that, most of my postings will be very succinct.  Secondly, I encourage you to look at your educational options.  If you work for a large employer (like me) you could get a degree for free!  If your employer does not reimburse tuition or if you don’t even have an employer, it’s never a bad idea to invest in yourself and get more educated.  If you’re a retiree, take a look at the offerings of a local community college.  You’ll be surprised at what’s available.  If you think time is an issue, try this:  keep track of the amount of time you spend watching TV or surfing the web each week.  Most of you could literally earn a degree in the time you currently spend watching TV.

…and for the record, I don’t think I will ever become a Clemson Tiger fan.  My blood runs orange, but it is a different orange.