Friday, November 30, 2007

I'm Self-Employed

Every now and then I need to take a break from Steve Pavlina's blog, it just opens too many questions and challenges me so much professionally that I need to take a step back and simply exist for a while.  When I come back though, as I recently have, I find so many things which resonate and make me want to just be better.

I just came across his You Are Self-Employed post.  In a nutshell:

everyone is essentially self-employed and that even if you’re an employee, you should think of yourself as the President of your own personal services corporation.  Call it Your Name, Inc.

 

This mindset makes a lot of sense.  Even if you seemingly work for someone else, you still work primarily for yourself.  You have your own company with one employee — you — and you’re in the business of selling your employee’s labor for profit.

Definitely check out the rest of the article, there are some pretty compelling reasons showing that we are self-employed, and why we need to see ourselves that way.  Making that click for me is going to change the way I approach and view my job and my future career choices.

So, are you self-employed, or "do you fall prey to the illusion that you aren’t self-employed and you yield control of your career to your employer or boss?"

Peace,
+Tom

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Getting to Sleep

Up until about a year ago I always had a hard time getting to sleep.  I'd sometimes lay in bed for hours with my mind running on things I need to do.  A couple of things recently have changed which finally fixed this, and I wanted to share.

First, I started getting up at 5 a.m. last December and going to bed when I was tired.  It was hard for the first month, but then I got into the groove, and it was great having an extra 2 hours of free time each morning.  Then I had surgery and haven't gotten back into the swing after recovery.  I wake up at 5:30 or 6, so I have some free time, but nothing like I did.  A benefit though was that I'd head up to bed around 10 or 11, close my eyes, and be out immediately.  It was great, and if you're interested in more details check out Steve Pavlina's How to Become an Early Riser blog entry (also good is How to Wake Up Feeling Totally Alert), this is the process I followed and it was great.

If only other people would be up and available for meetings at 5:30.  Lazy bums.

Second, I began using Getting Things Done.  I can't explain just how useful this has been for my life.  I've set-up a couple to-do lists in RememberTheMilk, and my entire life is on those to-do lists.  My inbox is empty 90% of the time, and everything that comes along gets written on my 1/2 size note card, and then filed in my to-do list.  I feel completely in control of projects (school, church, work and family).  The only step I'm missing there is the weekly review.  But, getting everything in there gets it out of my head.  No more thinking about tomorrow for hours on end each night.

Third, I had a son.  Now that we have two kids my selfish wife wants me to get up with Colin sometimes at night (like the times she's in Rachel's room helping her sleep).  So I'm a bit more tired come 9 p.m., and by 10 it's easy to to just head right off to dreamland.

I came across Scott Adams' way of getting to sleep, and I'm intrigued enough to try it myself.  Here's a snippet of what he does:

I always start by creating a simple story in my head where something good, and highly unlikely, happens to me. The trick is to focus on something that is more fascinating than your real life. . . . The images should be more attractive than whatever bothersome thoughts would float into your head if you weren’t so busy fantasizing.

 

After a minute or two of that, I release all controlled thoughts and simply watch what floats by. When my eyes are closed, the part of my brain that interprets vision is apparently still active, because I can see all sorts of random objects drifting by, as if a mall exploded in space. I try to identify and name them as I see them.

 

Toaster…car…pencil…couch…snow blower, mitten, etc.

 

The next thing I know, I wake up.

Anyway, I wanted to share.  I can't imagine I'm the only one who's fought their brain in going to sleep for their entire lives.

In short, it's about emptying my brain, being tired when I go to bed, and (for Scott) imagination.

Peace,
+Tom

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blithering Idiots

I'm watching Grey's Anatomy, where one of the characters ran into a guy she was interested in in high school.  She becomes a different person, really bubbly and willing to do whatever the guy asks.  Essentially, she realized that she became a blithering idiot.

That got me wondering about my own life.  Who could I run into that would make me a blithering idiot?

There was a girl I knew who asked me to take her to her prom.  We went there, then to a party at her friends house.  I become so enamored that I'd do almost anything.  I ended up letting her sleep in my lap all night, while I sat there, feeling exhausted but unable to sleep for being so uncomfortable, listening to crummy R&B music.  In college I ran into the same girl and I tell you, that day, I pretty much dropped everything and doted on her all day.

There just seem to be people we come across in life that make us forget all our common sense and become blithering idiots.

When I met my wife, I definitely had times when I was a bit of an idiot.  I'd make jokes that weren't all that funny and bend over backward so that she wouldn't feel inconvenienced by things I do.  Come to think of it, I still do that a bit.

What's my point?  What would you do for a stranger?  Would you become a blithering idiot for anyone, or just those certain people that trip a switch in you?  Why not try being a bit more of an idiot and giving of ourselves to anyone in need, not just the ones we like?

Peace,
+Tom

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The God's Aren't Angry

Last Friday a few people from church and I went to see Rob Bell speak during his "The God's Aren't Angry" Tour.  Here's how I saw the event.

The short answer is that this is an hour and a half long sermon.  An incredibly dynamic sermon.  It was Rob Bell at his finest.

The longer answer is that he described where we, as cave men, began to recognize God's for different events, such as a God for the Sun and one for the rain.  That moved into describing the altar and sacrifices.  The inherent problems with sacrifice, when things go well you give more for thanks.  when things go badly, you give more hoping your god will finally be satisfied.

That led into a discussion of Christ's sacrifice for us.  That the altar is no longer for sacrifices of dead things, but instead one for us to make a living sacrifice.  He described how that was received in the community.

He then went into descriptions of some of the hard problems people have faced that he worked with over the past few weeks.  That Christ's sacrifice and pain was so much more than we have gone through, and that the stresses in our lives need to be reframed.

I actually don't remember the final punchline.  What I grabbed from it was simply "Let it go."  Keep things into perspective, and recognize God's saving grace in our own lives.

It was really good, and a couple of the kids were in silence for a while at the end.  I know it affected everyone in our group.

While it's moved on, I'd definitely recommend seeing him in concert whenever you have the chance.

Peace,
+Tom

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Portions

Prime Rib from Fleming's In case you noticed the picture of a steak from my post on eating well, that was a prime rib I purchased at Fleming's, a pretty nice steak place.  In my opinion it's nicer than Morton's, but not as good as Ruth's Chris.  Essentially it's expensive steak, and you pay for the sides.

I decided to have the special that night, the 22 ounce prime rib.  To put that into perspective, there's 16 ounces in a pound.  In more perspective, a big hamburger is 1/3 to 1/2 of a pound, 8 ounces.  So, if the picture doesn't really convey, this thing was as big as my forearm. . .

And it was delicious.

The reason I mention all of that is to talk about portions.  A few years ago I went on a mission trip to Montana, and came back recognizing just how much I eat each meal.  I go away from dinner full, having eaten two or three helpings.  I mainly did that because I like the flavor so much I didn't want to stop.  So, I tried an experiment (as they say in Sesame Street).

SSPX0026 I used to eat until I was full.  I then decided to eat until I'm not hungry any more.  It's a big distinction.  I found out I was eating almost nothing, enjoying it more than I had before, and having left overs for another night.  The problems with this though is that steak can't easily be saved for the next day (microwaved steak just isn't that good), so I feel I need to eat everything or waste it.

Over about 4 months I lost 20 pounds, and I felt darned good.  I was a little more hungry between meals (instead of not being hungry even when the next meal came up).  I just appreciated eating so much more.

Over the past 6 months I've slipped back into eating my fill, and then some.  Not surprisingly, I've also gained back almost all of that 20 pounds, I haven't been hungry when the next meal starts, and it's been harder to really enjoy eating.

Then I went on an all day fishing trip.  We didn't eat from 8 p.m. Sunday night until 6 p.m. Monday afternoon.  I drank maybe 1/4 of my bottle of water.  While I was hungry by the end there, I realized just how little food I actually need in a day.

I heard recently that you're supposed to eat, at most, the size of a steak that is smaller than your fist.  I've been cutting back on my portions again, and already food is tasting better.  If you're thinking about it, I'm all for going through it with you.  Let's stop wasting so much food on our big bellies.

Peace,
+Tom

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Eat Well

Prime Rib from Flemmings In my semi-daily bible reading (getting better thanks to my friend Mason) I came across this line:

Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best, fill yourself with only the finest. Isaiah 55.1-5 The Message

Obviously this isn't talking about eating really.  It's really talking about listening to God's word and making it a part of your life.  To be really open, the next line says:

Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words. Isaiah 55.1-5 The Message

Honestly though, I think there is something really important to be said for eating well.  I tend to eat just ok.  Believe it or not, that's a step up from when I worked in DC and went to McDonald's every day for lunch.  No, I'm not kidding, and no, I didn't order the salads much, if at all.

Going back even further though, I ate pretty well in high school.  I went vegetarian for a little while, having a lot of Subway veggie subs with melted cheese (I said vegetarian, not vegan).  I ate salads and sushi (rarely the sushi, I was in High School).  While I was eating well, I also felt downright good.

There's a lot more involved in that.  I walked, roller bladed or biked to school each day.  I had more friends than I could count, and I'd begun putting away some of my less acceptable indulgences.

Overall though, when I begin changing my diet to eat more healthy and even eat less, I feel better.  The world seems like a pretty good place, and my place in it seems to just fit.

It's hard to eat well.  We go out a bunch, and most of the food is processed.  Heck, I am slowly getting our Golden Retriever to eat raw food from a natural dog store up the street, but I still eat McDonald's once a week and processed foods more than I'd like to.

I'm wondering what compromises we make for the sake of convenience.  I caught a bunch of fresh fish a few weeks ago, and I swear if Erin didn't get tired of it, we'd have had fish every night.  It felt good to eat and I felt better having had it.

No deep meaning that's different from what's stated.  I'm just wondering whether other people have found eating healthier makes them happier and more in control.  I'm also wondering how you've found ways to eat healthy, both at home and when going out to a restaurant.

Peace,
+Tom

Monday, November 19, 2007

Shhhh

Christmas Music Don't tell my wife, but I've begun listening to Christmas Music.  Both the Comedy Christmas Music channel (some awesome stuff there) and the Rock Holiday Station.  I do love Yahoo! Music, but if my wife ever finds out I think she'll kill me for listening (and enjoying) Christmas music a few weeks before Thanksgiving.  Honestly, I'd have listened all year round if I hadn't lost the link to the station in March.

Does anyone else out there have some odd, secret desires they indulge in regarding Christmas?

Peace,
+Tom

Doggie Jesus

Recently Erin's grandfather had to put down his dog Ruffles.  His quality of living just wasn't there anymore.  Anticipating Grandpap visiting for Thanksgiving, without Mister Ruffles, we wanted to let Rachel know what had happened.  Here's how the conversation ensued.

Dad: When Great Grandpap comes to visit, Ruffles isn't going to come with him.

Rachel: Why not?

Mom: Ruffles wasn't able to see or hear very well.  He got confused a lot and had a hard time going potty.

Rachel: Like Rika?

Dad: Kind of like Rika, but much worse.  So Mr. Ruffles is up in Doggie Heaven.

Rachel: Oh.  With Doggie Jesus?

I love kids!  Since then Rachel has mentioned Doggie Jesus a couple of time.  I like the idea that Jesus becomes whoever we need him to be at the time we need him.

Peace,
+Tom

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Reflections on Dying

I came across this article, "What we learn from the dying" today and found it pretty interesting.  I figured I'd share, there's definitely some interesting stuff.

I'm wondering why my friend David thinks after being in Clinical Pastoral Education (working and pastoring to sick and dying people) for a few weeks.

Peace,
+Tom

Microsoft and Facebook?

Holy freak of everything.  I just found out Microsoft just bought an ownership stake in Facebook, beating out Google in a bidding war.  I have no idea if this means something good or bad, but it sure is interesting.

Here's the article "Source: Microsoft wins Facebook bid battle" from CNet.

Ok, while I don't have any idea, truthfully it makes me nervous.  I keep wondering how much life is left in Facebook, and had expected it to be gone (like MySpace) or completely different in two years.  Now that a large corporation has bought into it, I expect that "completely different" option is off the table.  Large companies just seem unwilling to make huge changes to a product which was successful at one point in time.

Sadly, I expect Facebook will be gone, replaced by some other social networking site, within a few years.

Peace,
+Tom

Views on God

In my many discussions with people, I get to hear a lot of different opinions on God.  I hear a lot of people asking for explanations to answer the question "what was God thinking?"  I've also heard a lot of answers to that question.  "What is God thinking? Why does he let me hurt? Why did He let that happen?"

I recently heard this statement about God and suffering (this is paraphrased).

Let's assume you take a completely literal view of the bible.  If you look at Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, God made a mistake with humanity.  He formed us in a way that man has no knowledge and were mindless.  Then man ate of the tree of knowledge after being tempted by the serpent.  After this God saw his mistake in mankind and threw them out of Eden, and put us into a world where he we have problems and are punished for Adam and Eve's transgressions.  We continue to have those punishments today.

Hearing something like this makes me incredibly sad.  I actually hurt to hear someone feel so sure that we go through hard times in life now because God is punishing us.

I won't go into the arguments about literal translations of the bible since it seems clear that no one can agree on what the bible means, even when read literally.  All I could really think about was that a God who strives to punish us would not have given us his Son and let him die for us.

again and again in the Old Testament, God gives us chances, and we just keep messing up those chances.  Oddly, I don't think this is God punishing us.  while he may be saddened by our situation, I think he's also rejoicing in what He made. 

He made a people who have free choice.  He made us to be like him, not as mindless automatons, but as a people who can choose whether to follow his wishes or go our own way.  Feels good to be trusted so much.

Peace,
+Tom

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sermon Logos

Every now and then I get to do some fun stuff with church and flex my imagination to come up with graphics for sermon series we have going on.  Now, in most cases we take a background from a site dedicated to making them, since they have a bunch of people committed to making great graphics.  My favorite by far is PowerPoint Sermons.  They have listened to subscribers and made changes, including some I've specifically requested.  One of the graphics I got from them was this:

JourneyLessonsSeries

All I had to do was type in the text I wanted.  It would be great if they had even more backgrounds, but this will always be the site I hit first.  Well, now I'll hit SermonSlides by the same company, since we only use 4 slides a year, and this site lets up pay as you go.

In any case, every now and then Rob likes to make up sermon series titles which no one seems to have a graphic for.  Like this one: Deep Shift.  Get the reference?  Remove the "f" and you'll get it.  At those points I get to play around with graphics, fonts and whatever to come up with something like this:

Deep-Shift-Logo

Rob didn't like the brown, spotted one.  Sounds weird, but I definitely enjoy this stuff.  If only I could get paid for it.

Personally, I'd rather do something like this:

Deep-Shift-Poop

But I expect it's not quite appropriate for church audiences (look closely at the image in the circle.

Peace,
+Tom

Friday, November 2, 2007

Fishing

Last Sunday my friend Rob invited me out for a day of fishing in Erie, Pennsylvania.  We headed out at 8 p.m. Sunday, slept in Cranberry, PA for a few hours (fewer hours than I'd hoped, since the fire alarm went off every half hour for an hour, until we pulled the thing off the wall).  At 4 a.m. we met our guide Jim and headed out for the hour and a half drive to Erie, PA.  We started fishing around 6 and didn't stop until 5. No eating or drinking, less time for fishing Rob would say.

It was a great trip, and I'd do it again if my wife ever lets me (so far the outlook looks grim on going again until the kids are in college).  Here are the couple of insights I had that day.

  • I caught 14 fish.  They were huge, and it was so much fun.  Whoever said the reason they call it fishing instead of catching never had a guide as good as Jim helping them catch.  Admittedly, the people around us weren't catching nearly as many fish.  Check out the few I got a picture with.
  • Fishing has so many weird terms, and I never quite got the "fisherman language" down.  When a guy catches a nice fish you don't say "good job" or "way to go".  No, it's more like, "she's a beauty" or "that must be at least 8 pounds".
  • No eating, drinking and very little sleeping makes me quiet and contemplative by the end of the day.
  • If you're freezing, it's better to stay cold than to get warm and freeze again.  Which leads me to the next point.
  • There's something called Frostnip.  It's similar to Frostbite but less severe and goes away after about two weeks of lots of water, raised feet and Ibuprofen.  Who knew?  The doctor didn't.  Which leads to this next point.
  • Creek water is freaking cold.  My toes literally froze and are still thawing from the Frostnip. Which leads to yet another point.
  • Bring along lots of those hot sheets you warm up by moving and regularly stuff them in your waders.
  • While green means go everywhere else, it means stop and be cautious in a lake.  Green means slippery algae.
  • Leaving all of life behind, and even eschewing conference calls scheduled last minute feels great and I recommend it to everyone.
  • If you're driving and tired, having the passenger yell "YOU AWAKE" every 20 minutes or so makes you jump into the roof and gets the adrenaline pumping.
  • Fishing takes an immense amount of concentration.  The only time I appreciated nature was when we were moving or I was (stupidly) warming my feet up.  Otherwise I was watching those fish come after, and avoid, my jiggling lure.
  • Apparently I can do some semi-advanced fishing tactics.  Rob said one thing I did was one of the hardest in fishing, and it seemed to be the only way to catch fish.  All I did was jiggle my hand up and down, who knew the shivering shakes could be so beneficial?
  • Eating fresh fish, especially some you caught yourself, is amazing.
  • Fishing off the back of a boat as lines troll in the water isn't real fishing.
  • Fish are stupid.
  • Friends who push you to do new stuff are few and far between, and need to be cherished.

Peace,
+Tom