Sunday, December 28, 2008

The future's so bright...

I'm still home. I'm in Denver. I have never lived in Denver, but I'm familiar with the area so I still feel like I'm home. I have lived in Washington, Oregon, Utah and Colorado. Since I've traveled from state to state, I have also spent a bunch of time in Wyoming and Idaho.

As we were leaving Utah yesterday someone asked if I had a map with me. No, I'm going to Denver. It's just like being home, I don't need a map. I could have used better weather, but a map wouldn't have fixed that. The roads were awful in Salt Lake City and then cleared up over the first pass. Then the roads were fine except for some icy spots and blowing snow in Wyoming. It was a little like 'home' was trying to hold us in.

We're spending a couple of days with my dad in Denver before we leave. When we leave, we'll be heading East. I've never really been East. The future lies in the East. I am excited to explore a new area. As I've been looking at the weather for our drive, it looks like it's going to be warm and sunny the entire way. I hope that's a good representation of the future.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Family traditions

I made brief mention in my last post of family traditions that I like during the Christmas season. My favorite is our stockings. I would take a picture and show you (and I still may at some point), but the wire to connect the camera to the computer has been packed and is currently in no-man's land.

The tradition is simple. Each member of the family has an inexpensive stocking. Each year we sew something on the stocking that we feel represents the year. My wife and I started this tradition the first Christmas we were married and it's fun to see the space on the stocking changing from plain red to a variety of symbols that represent our lives.

My stocking has several symbols of college (because that has been a big part of my life for several years). I think my favorite symbol is the slug that I put on in 2005. The slug was the symbol from my first real attempt at gardening. I was living on the Oregon coast and we had a SERIOUS slug problem. I would go out every morning with a spray bottle full of ammonia and shoot the slugs. I counted on an typical morning and I shot well over 100 slugs with ammonia (ammonia kills slugs like salt, but it is better for the garden than salt). I also tried containers of beer to drown the slugs (it works, but yeast and water work just as well). Enough about slugs. To make the symbol, I cut a slug out of a piece of fabric (not an easy task). Most of the time we just find a picture on an old t-shirt or something so it takes minimal artistic ability, but in 2005 I cut the slug from an old shirt that my grandfather had given me because that was the year that he passed away. No, I do not associate my grandfather with slugs, but I truly enjoy the memories of my Christmas stocking.

This year I put a bike gear on my stocking. It was a simple iron-on decal that I ironed onto a toilet cloth (as a symbol of the importance of the environment in my life and my efforts to take action).

My wife sewed on a walking stick because she had some back problems and got around with this old nasty walking stick for some time this year. We called the stick a 'Nancy stick' in fond memory of a neighbor in our last house.

The mugwump (5 year old son) sewed on a plus sign because he started school and he enjoys math. Actually I think he enjoys reading and history more, but we already have a book on there from last year.

Six-Pence (3 year old) decided to have a puzzle piece sewn onto his stocking because he loves to do puzzles. I don't know that puzzles are the most monumental thing in this 3-year old's life, but that is what he wanted to put on there, so we did.

Jaguar (the 10 month old) obviously didn't have much say in what went on his stocking, but we decided to put a musical note because when music starts, he really likes to dance. Of my three sons, the youngest has by far the best rhythm.

So what are your favorite holiday traditions?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pagan Holidays

I don't usually write about religion on my blog, but today happens to be my favorite holiday (If I've said that before it is because I have several favorites). Today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. One of the reasons that I like today as a holiday is that Halmark hasn't figured it out yet (and I would really prefer to keep it that way).

Today is my favorite holiday due to the symbolism. I'm going to be honest, I know very little about paganism and I don't know completely my church's thoughts on my celebration of this pagan holiday. I'm OK with that because the symbolism surrounding today brings me closer to things that are extremely important to me.

When we talk about the Christmas story we say that it's the day of Christ's birth and then we talk about the shepherds in the fields. Ummm... if the flocks were in the field during Christ's birth then it wasn't the dead of winter, it was likely spring. So why do we celebrate Christmas in the dead of winter? I think it is because most Pagan groups celebrate today, the shortest day of the year. After today the days will get longer and longer (until June 21). The Christians of old didn't know the day Christ was born, but the Pagans in the neigborhood had a 'dead of winter' celebration and they wanted something at the same time. (You will find that in the Bible in the book of Sans)

So I like my Pagan 'dead of winter' celebration.

The reason that I really like this day is because it is the returning of light. Think of light for just a moment. Put yourself in the shoes of an ancient civilization that doesn't live in an equitorial region. What does light mean to you? What does light bring to the world?

Light brings heat. Light also allows photosynthetic plants to do their thing and grow. Plants are sort of important in the world that we live in. We rely heavily on plants for food, and even if you have succumbed to the ills known as the Atkin's Diet you rely on plants to feed the flesh that you eat. So we all rely on light for food.

Oh and something about photosynthesis and the use of carbon dioxide and production of oxygen. Without plants, that wouldn't happen and we wouldn't be able to breath. So without light we would have no food to eat or oxygen to breath. That makes light important for our existance. So I think it's important to celebrate light and what it brings to the world.

More importantly, on this date, this Pagan season for celebrating light, the Christian world has chosen to celebrate the birth of Christ. Christ is the light and life of this world. While I think the early Christians missed the mark by four days, that's OK, today is the real day of Christmas. Today is the day to celebrate not only the return of sunlight, but also the the light and life of the world, Jesus Christ. Like the sunlight that is returning brings all life to the earth, Christ, through his life and death brought life to all who live on the earth.

So today is my Halmark free celebration of light. A day for meditation and reflection of the lights in my life. Obviously I've spoken of nature and Jesus, but also those things that make my life enjoyable like my wife and kids, the oportunities to learn and experience life, and my family and friends that I love and appreciate.

I'm not a big fan of Christmas because I feel that consumerism is working hard to destroy it (although I very much enjoy the traditions my family have), so I want to wish you all (or should I say both of you?) a very merry Pagan celebration of light. Take time to reflect on what light does in your life as well as the sources of light.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


I have been doing so well at my New Year's Resolution for this past year. I am currently at about 4,200 miles on the van for the year. I was really hoping to stay under 5000 miles, but there is no way. Sure, if you do the math it seems like it would be easy. 800 miles for the last two weeks of the year should allow us to use the car extravagantly, but then we decided to move to Kentucky. I've got about 800 miles before I reach 5000 for the year, but it's about 1600 miles to Kentucky and we hope to be there by new years. Unless someone knows a shortcut that is eluding us, I'm going well over my goal for the year.

On the bright side, I still put more miles on my bike than the van this year. Additionally, our apartment that we got in Lexington (actually it's in Georgetown, just north of Lexington) is about 20 miles from my work. If I ride daily, that will be just under 200 miles/week. I am not, however convinced that I will ride every day. While the main reason for the move is to take a job that I feel will better prepare me for a career than where I was previously, I also intend to spend more time with my family. I've had a couple years of 60+ hour weeks and would rally prefer to cut way back on that number. If I add an hour bike ride to each side of my 8 hour workday, it may be a bigger sacrifice than I'm willing to make. I'll try it out a few times and it's certainly something we're considering as we look for a house to buy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sans Couture

Here's a little story to demonstrate how uncultured I am. This is a conversation between me and the guy next to me on the flight home from Lexington KY... Actually I guess Lexington will be home soon, but anyway. Actually it's probably important to note that the conversation started when he noticed I was reading a Kentucky real estate guide.

Him: You lookin' to move out this way?

Me: It looks like it.

Him: This is a great place to live.

Me: I'm excited about it, but really it's all new to me.

Him: What's your name? What business are you in?

Me: They call me Sans, of the infamous blog, Sansauto (I didn't really say that, I just told him my name). I'd be working with the YMCA helping get people going with exercise programs. What was your name, and what do you do?

Him: I'm Eddie and I'm in the entertainment industry

[At this point I was uncertain about 'the entertainment industry' I could be sitting next to a rock star or a male stripper, why was he being so vague?]

Me: Nice. (I think I say that too often)

[Long moment of silence when we didn't know what to say. He listened to his iphone]

Me (as I was looking through my real estate guide): Do you know anything about Versailles?

Him: Brother, I used to play in every Honky-Tonk in Lexington, but I just don't know the area anymore.

Me: That's fine, so you're in the music industry (he wasn't a male stripper, so I dug a little deeper)?

Him: Ya

Me: So what band are you with? Is it someone I would have heard of?

Him: Are you into country music?

Me: Uhhh. Sort of. I listen to it on occasion, but mostly I listen to NPR and they don't play music. WHo are you with?

Him: Montgomery Gentry

Me: I think I've heard of him, but I couldn't name a song he plays. Do you play guitar for them or something?

Him: It's a Duo

Me: Right, so do you play the guitar with them or something?

Him: No, I'm a lead singer.

Me: So that would make you either Montgomery or Gentry?

Him: Something like that.

I proceeded to have a very nice conversation with Eddie Montgomery. On my trip out to Kentucky I was on four flights and this guy was probably the easiest to talk to. He wasn't into himself and was far from what I expected from a Music star. We didn't talk the whole flight, but he was really a good conversationalist. (Just in case you were wondering, he was listening to Boston on his iphone). He really seemed interested in why I was there. He seemed sincerely excited about me getting a new job and bringing my family out to Kentucky.

The flight ended and as he got up, he turned and said, "Congratulations on the new job, I think your family will really like it here. It sounds like you're really doing what you love; that's important."

Since he was officially standing, the others on the flight who had been eavesdropping took their opportunity to ask questions like, "When are you going to play in Lexington again?" (Maybe next new year, if not before) and "Did your song reach number one this week?" (yes).

So I yelled up to him, "-and congratulations to you on having the number one country music song in the nation this week". OK, I didn't say that. Should I have?

Anyway, I don't get starstruck. Music stars do nothing for me. They're just normal people, except I perceive them as being more arrogant than the average person. This guy surprised me. He made me feel like a million bucks and congratulated me on my career as he flew off to New York to play on the CBS Morning Show. He was far from arrogant. He taught me a thing or two about humility.

The last I saw of him was entering the Cincinnati airport where he held the door for a line of people who were on the plane with us. Now we're preparing to move to his town.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Success and Failure

I haven't been writing a lot lately. You see, there has been a lot on my mind, so I've struggled to put together blog posts. So this is a sort of catch up blog of what's going on in my life, but also includes some interesting thoughts.

I am currently attending school seeking a PhD. I have finished all of my coursework and have a dissertation to write. I looked around at jobs. I contemplated what I wanted to do with my life. I considered what a PhD would do for me and what jobs would do for me. I thought a lot about success and failure.

What does it mean to succeed in life? Often in our culture we think of the accumulation of monetary wealth as success. The attainment of higher education is often considered success. Accumulating letters behind your name is considered success. Why is it that having more is considered 'success'?

Our culture's definition of success differs from mine. I think that success is doing what God wants you to do. I do not think that God considers wealth as success. Don't get me wrong, I believe that wealthy people could be successful, I even know some, but success does not depend on wealth or status.

I had a decision to make. I am in doctoral program that would lead to a prestigious degree if I continued, or I could take a job and pursue what I really love in life. If I drop out of a doctoral program, is that a failure? According to many it is. On the other hand, is it a failure to pass up what I could consider the best step for my career?

After much thought and prayer I looked at the options and tried to consider what God would have me do. I am going to give up a PhD (although I may pursue an opportunity to finish a dissertation if it arises) and pursue a relatively low paying job in Kentucky doing what I love.

Here's the thing. A PhD will open doors that I'm not interested in. So what is the use of opening the doors? The job opportunity is with an organization that is doing something I've always wanted to do (providing opportunities for physical activity to those who need it most whether they can afford it or not). Sure, the position isn't typically for someone with my education, but it is a position that I really care about with an organization that I'm excited to move up in. I really feel that I would have regretted missing this opportunity and continuing with a PhD more than I will regret dropping out of a PhD program.

Unconventional, maybe even illogical, but I'm going to discontinue my doctoral studies, move to Kentucky and follow my dreams of helping people improve their health. Truth be told, I feel more successful now than at almost any other time in my life.

Hopefully, I'll post a little more frequently now. Although I also need to pack up my stuff and my family and move across the country. I may be busy.

Friday, December 5, 2008

This morning

I was getting ready for my ride into school today when I heard footsteps in the living room. Although it's a little too early for the kids to be getting up, it's not that uncommon. I tried to be quiet just in case he decided to return to bed.

I watched him. He went into the kitchen and was struggling to get into the cabinet where we keep the garbage can. (The second rubber band was too much for him). He was determined and i was really hoping he would go back to bed, so I went and silently helped him.

I opened the cabinet. He wiped the booger off his finger into the trash can and went back to bed.

I have the most incredible wife. She has my kids trained that it is not only bad to eat it, but also that you can't wipe it on random objects. Wow.