Day 289 – Christmas Movie Marathon

2013-12-09 RalphI love Christmas movies.  Whether it is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or a classic like Miracle on 34th Street, they speak to my heart and energize my enthusiasm for the season.

I suppose that is why I try to watch as many Christmas / Holiday movies as possible between Thanksgiving and December 25.  There is something wonderful about a creative story that inspires and entertains.

Today was a marathon of Christmas movie viewing.  I knocked out some of my personal favorites:  Christmas With the Kranks,  A Christmas Story, It’s A Wonderful Life and my favorite, Home Alone.

You might have your own list of favorites and I would love to hear what movie tops your Christmas list.  Take a moment and write to me.  I may need to build my library based on your recommendations!

Day 267 – Past Talents

20131116_Making ProgressIt’s been quite a while since I’ve held an artist’s brush in my hands.  But it sure feels good.  Painting a scene, especially from a photograph that I’ve taken, is a joy I cannot express.

In my high school days, I nearly always drew from another person’s work, whether that was a photograph or painting.  I didn’t know that I could create original works of art.

In college, we worked so hard completing assignments that we rarely had the luxury of taking our time and making a painting or print for pleasure.

Today, I can wander up to the studio and carefully put down another layer of paint, slowly watching the work come to life and enjoying every minute of the process. Sure, it’s no “Bob Ross” but I like it.

Is there something in your life that you do, just for fun?  It will never be a source of income, it might never win any awards, but you love it just the same?  Perhaps it is playing piano or knitting sweaters or cooking.  It could be landscaping the perfect yard or hitting a golf ball close to the pin.  Whatever you love, take a moment today and do that, please.  It will change the way you live and soften your heart.

I promise.

Day 227 – Why I Do What I Do

2013.10.08 - TuesdaySomething amazing happened today.  I was walking into work and someone I’ve known for a couple years mentioned that they follow this blog and have for quite some time.  Can I say that I was completely blown away?  Okay, I will.  I was completely blown away!

I write because it is a form of expression.  Much like my photography and my artwork, my blogs (five and counting) are creative outlets and I can’t imagine life without them.  My writing is a way for me to process my observations.  It is a way for me to wrap my mind around the events of the day, the activities of the world, and the observations I make of people.  I realize people read this stuff but lately I’ve had several people remind me that it impacts their lives as well.

And so, at 7:00 pm on a beautiful evening, I’m writing…In part because Dianna and Annie and Michelle and my therapist say I should.  In part, because it is a balm to my soul.  In part, because I wouldn’t know what else to do with all these thoughts swirling around in my head.

I may not be a svelte 180 lbs of muscle or have the cholesterol of a 20-year-old, but I can tell a tale and paint a picture with words.

And I think I’ll keep it up for a little while longer.

Day 221 – Staying Connected

2013.09.24 TuesdayHere is the truth:  Staying connected to friends is critical to the success of my life.  I’m not a rich man, compared to many, but I have friends and they a the gold in my heart.

While I can meet with many of my favorite people face-to-face, I connect with some via video or phone.  Dave in North Judson, Dan in Denver, and Mac, Rick and Dave here locally…each one challenges me and helps me grow.

Who are you talking to?  Who are the people in your life that move you to greatness?  Perhaps you should take a moment, pick up the phone and reconnect.  It can change your life.

Day 113 – Have Saw, Will Cut

2013.06.14Today was another for the books.  I stepped on the scales and found that I’d dropped to 205 lbs!  That’s a really good thing.  I think the movement, drinking water and eating less is finally starting to pay off.  That’s five pounds down from my previous 210 in February, before I started this who Journey.

For those faithful readers:  Yes, I know I’ve done this before.  Yes, I know I’ve lost that much and then gained it back.  But the days a ticking and I’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there (and suddenly I’m singing in my head the fantastic ’70’s classic, East Bound and Down).

Having taken the day off from work, I decided to spend my time doing something that would just be fun and not considered work.  And so I rolled out the table saw and started pulling together pieces of lumber.  Six hours later and I’d created my first Bonsai stand.  I have two other active and healthy plants and will eventually build two more stands that will be staggered and varying heights near this version.  I think I might try to start a fourth Bonsai with a pine later this summer.  If that’s the case, I’ll need to build a fourth stand but it will be a different style and be set in a different area of the yard.

I am anything but a craftsman; the corners don’t all line up and there are gaps in the wood.  I spilled the glue and slopped the paint.  But it was still a fun diversion and that was the goal.

Tomorrow, we visit with family for an early Father’s Day and so it was good to be active without killing myself.

Oh, I also mowed my yard, the neighbor’s yard and I cut down a willow tree in my yard and chopped it into a million pieces.  My kids gave me a grill for Father’s Day but by the time they put it together, it was too dark to get a picture of it. That will have to wait for tomorrow.  Good night.

Day 112 – How Does Your Garden Grow?

The garden is looking good. Lettuce, carrots, peppers and tomatoes are growing very well.

I am happy to report that today was a EXCELLENT day.  It started when I stepped on the scales and they shouted out that I’m down to 206 lbs!  And this was after breakfast!  I am very excited about this as I am ready to start seeing a change.  I’ve worked hard on so many areas of my life and am determined that this will be one of them.

I laced up my shoes and went for a run.  I covered 2 miles in 25 minutes.  Not exactly record-breaking but it felt pretty good.  However, I now believe my problem with my left knee is not my hamstring but my ACL.  Even though I took my time with the jog, it is still a little tender this evening.  I think I’ll have to give it a little rest and try something not as strenuous.  Perhaps I’ll just ride the stationary bike for a few days and do some other exercising.

I puttered with our garden this morning, trimming the tomatoes, arranging our potted vegetables and pulling the two or three weeds that are growing in the square foot garden we’ve created.  Everything looks very good.  Even though its early June, we’ve harvested a few peas, there are tomatoes on the vine, the cucumbers have flowers, and the lettuce has been feeding us for more than a month.  The onions look fantastic and I believe we’ll have full sized as well as little green onions grace our table this year.

The garden is an amazing thing.  With a little work, we see beautiful results.  We plant the seeds and with some water and warmth, they sprout into living plants that grow and produce fruit all season long.

That’s the idea behind this Journey to 50.  I’m planting seeds of health and wellness in my heart and mind.  I’m tending the soil of my body and soul.  I’m starting to see a healthier attitude spring up and am excited about the end result; not because I’m there, but because the possibility is so obvious.  The fruits of my labor are just around the corner.  Each day I see progress:  A little growth here, a little pruning there, a little weed pulling, a little watering…And soon, very soon, it will be something to be proud of.

How does your garden (body, mind and soul) grow?

Day 110 – My Backyard Office

2013.06.11I looked at my calendar and realized that I would have to change my schedule.  And so, given my late evening on the books, I spent my morning at my favorite office location:  My Backyard.

But first, let me tell you that I stepped on the scales and weighed in at a not-so-healthy and not-so-happy 208 lbs.  It’s been three months and I’ve stayed the same despite my hours of hard work in the yard, my attempt to train for the 5K in October and my good intentions.  My hamstring, previously injured in my run last week, is feeling better and I think I can hit the bricks again soon which should help.

But here’s the weird thing, I know I’m smaller than I was three months ago, even if I haven’t lost but a couple pounds.  My shirts fit better.  My pants don’t scream when I put them on.  My belt hangs looser at the same notch.  So I know something is working but I’d like those darn scales to tell me about it.

Okay, back to my office.  Today was fantastic!  Knowing that I would do some real (read Paying) work starting at 11:30, I spent the morning writing for my blogs and for my book. I scheduled some posts for January 1 and 2, 2014, in hopes of getting a daily devotional off the ground for the new year.  I posted on  I posted here.  And, I wrote more than 1,000 words in the first chapter of my novel.

It has always been a dream of mine to write a work that would capture an audience and leave them on the edge of their seats (think Grisham writes Grapes of Wrath or Janet Evonavich writes Of Mice and Men).  And so, I’ve started my own great work of fiction based on events in my own life.  It’s called “Burning Trailers” (copyright Austin).  It is a book about a boy who comes of age, experiencing life, love and death in middle America in the late ’70’s.

I’m very excited.

You can look for my second book as soon as I can determine the secret to weight loss.  It will be called “Burning Calories“.

Day 103 – A Fresh Coat

The driveway...Before.
The driveway…Before.

As if I’ve not had enough to do this past week, when I arrived home this evening I started the process of seal-coating my driveway.  The last time I tackled this job was in 2011 and it is pretty obvious that it needs to be done more often.  Either that or I need to buy better materials.

And so, tonight I decided to start the job (using better materials).

Here’s something that came to mind while I spread the black, tarry substance over my drive.

First, you have to prep appropriately.  You can’t just slap on the sealer.  You have to wash, dry, blow, fill the cracks, spread out the juice and take your time.

Second, you have to have good quality product.  The higher the grade of sealant and applicator, the better your results.

And finally, you have to be patient.  Take your time and make sure you’ve covered every part of the surface.  Get the goop in the cracks and crevices.  Drag your squeegee back and forth slowly to prevent lines and drips.

In the end, you get a great looking driveway (look for pictures tomorrow).

Driveways are challenging…As is life.  And the same steps apply to both.  Prep yourself for what is next in your life.  Don’t just blindly charge forward.  Get to know what you can do, where you can go, what you might need along the way.  Have your emotional “toolbox” ready for the little challenges that are ahead of you – the seen and unseen.

Next, the better your character, the stronger your moral fiber, the deeper you go, the better you will respond to the stresses of life.  Sun and heat take its toll on the surface of a driveway.  Your life will have plenty of hardships.  Face them with grace, strength and courage.  If you don’t have those characteristics in your life, find someone who will help you learn how to make them an everyday part of your walk.

Finally, slow down.  You aren’t in any hurry.  You don’t get there in any better shape just because your life is on fast forward.  Allow water to find its level.  Stop and smell the asphalt (or roses…whatever is your fancy).  Pet the dog.  Hug your wife.  Smile at your children.  The slower you go, the less you will miss in the end.

There.  A perfect driveway and a life lesson.  Not bad for an evening’s work.

Day 101 – Reflections

2013.06.02Because all our family pictures are saved on my computer (because I’m the one who takes the pictures to begin with), I’ve been given charge to create the slide show that will run in the back ground during Ben’s graduation party next Sunday.

This has little exercise has caused me to flip through 18 years worth of pictures and many, many fond memories.

While I could get sappy and dwell on the years that have passed much too quickly and how he’s changed right before our eyes and how I’m gonna miss him when he’s gone, I won’t.

But there was a thought that kept presenting itself with each opened folder and every new picture I found: We had a great time together.

I don’t claim to be Father of the Year.  I don’t believe I’ve lived two days in a row without saying something stupid or reacting in a way that wasn’t hurtful to someone.  But we did do some things right.

We traveled near and far.  We made the most of a weekend.  We exposed our kids to opportunities.  We gave them a voice.  We took them to scenic vistas and far-off places.  We showed them that people of another color, ethnicity or heritage are not enemies.  We helped them understand that people with disadvantages and disabilities deserve love and respect just like anyone else.  We taught them that family matters.  We showed them how to communicate their feelings and think through the problems.

We gave our children a good foundation.  As I sort through thousands of photographs tonight, I can’t help but wonder what they will build on that foundation.

Day 93 – A Back-Yard Bungalow

2013.05.25A couple years ago I joined my friend and our sons and drove to Virginia to spend some time on the Appalachian Trial.  As it turns out, hiking the AT is really hard and we only lasted one night.  It didn’t help that a storm was blowing through, bringing lightning and torrential rain while we slept.  At some point the temperatures plummeted and rain turned to snow.

Cold and sore, we hiked out the next morning and did a couple day trips after that.

I’ve always wanted to try that trip again, better prepared and lighter packed.  My bride of 27 years would like to do it with me.  To that end, we purchased a two-man tent this year and set it up in the back yard to give it a try.

We’ve claimed this year as “The Year of The Campground”.  Our goal is to set up a base camp in campgrounds and then complete day hikes until we are confident about distances and routes.  We’ll start in Southern Indiana on the KT (Knobstone Trail).  This is Indiana’s version of the AT.  My hope is that we will try to hike the entire trail next spring after we’ve worked out the kinks and bugs of our equipment and processes.  This should better prepare us for a walk in the woods, whether in Virgina or somewhere else along the Appalachian Trial.

My Journey to 50 is a process that will lead to weight loss and so much more.  I want to try things I’ve never done.  I want to expand my mind.  I want to push the boundaries of my comfort zone.  It’s a bonus that my best friend wants to do this with me.

As for my day today, I had to move the tent to mow the yard…BUT I got in three miles of mowing and still had great energy to enjoy the rest of the day.  I ate in moderation and look forward to weighing in tomorrow morning.  I’m feeling fit as a fiddle.  Okay…I’m still flabby and slow but I’m moving forward and that’s what matters most!

Day 92 – Amazing Amazon

2013.05.24Earlier this week, my father-in-law bragged about the health benefits of Sardines.  He went on and on about his search for the perfect Sardine and getting the best deal on shipping.  In that moment, I pulled out my smart phone, opened the Amazon App, and ordered a dozen cans of Crown Prince Sardines.  For $1 a can, I had free shipping and guaranteed delivery.

I ordered these delicious fish on Wednesday evening.  They arrived on my doorstep today.

What a fantastic way to end my week.  Perfectly packed, in beautiful boxes, these little fishes will provide a tasty meal, whether breakfast, lunch or supper.  They are good tasting and good for you.  I’m so excited.

As for my day, let me say that it was less than stellar.  It was long, frustrating and discouraging.  I screwed up a budget for work, I learned discouraging news about our events in days to come and I struggled to keep positive about life in general.  My wife and I cried together in the evening as we discussed upcoming issues and decisions that must be made.  It was a painful evening.

Thank goodness for the Sardines.  They made the day tolerable.

Day 86 – Like a Foreign Language

2013.05.18Today was, to be honest, a fantastic day.  My wife is home from Denver, the yard was mowed the day before, and I ran the first of many prep runs for the Spirit Run 5K in October that I signed up for earlier this week.

To top it all off, my wife and I had a date night of Star Trek and Sushi.

If you ever wanted to be a foreign exchange student but didn’t have the funds for out-of-country-travel, I suggest attending an opening weekend for a movie that has a cult-like following:  Star Wars, Harry Potter, Twilight, or in this case, Star Trek.

We stood in line with people wearing phasers.  We witnessed Klingons enjoying a large tub of popcorn.  We met a professional Klingon translator / webOS Developer.  During the movie, the truly committed (and some of them should be) burst into laughter when the name KAHN!!!! is yelled out.  (This is, of course an homage to Kirk’s later (or earlier) yelling of the same name in a later time but earlier movie).  And, of course, everyone applauded at the conclusion of the film.

2013.05.18aThankfully, those in the theater who came as Enterprise Crew and those who came as Klingons were all able to get along and no one pulled a phaser or a battle axe.  It was a peaceful evening, a wonderful movie and very good sushi.

Day 78 – A High Point of My Week

Mr. White and Ms. Robinson have been fantastic influencers of my son's life and I can never thank them enough.
Mr. White and Ms. Robinson have been fantastic influencers of my son’s life and I can never thank them enough.

As I mentioned earlier this week, my friend Dave suggested I walk each morning.  While I wasn’t able to do this every day (today primarily), I was able to get in a few miles four of the five days this week.  And I can really tell a difference.  So, I would suggest you stop reading this blog and read Dave’s…He’s much smarter than me.

However, since you are already here, let’s talk about the day and how it is going.  I’ve lost a couple pounds this week and I give all the credit to the walking.

I’ve kept my chin up, despite frustrations and tense meetings…And I give credit to the walking.

I’ve made it through several 14 hour days with hardly touching a foot in my house and I give credit to the fact that I’m planning on sleeping a lot this weekend.

Those things are all well and good, but the highlight of my week occurred tonight.

Let’s get one thing clear; my kids are not immortality symbols.  But when your boy is honored by his teacher, in front of several hundred people, it causes a guy’s chest to puff up a bit.  And tonight, I’m extremely proud of my son.

Ben received a big honor tonight from his band director and I couldn’t hold back a few tears as he received “The MVP Award”.

Ben’s a great guy.  He loves music and it shows. That’s why this past year Ms. Robinson took a chance on Ben and invited him to be her student assistant.  And true to form, Ben didn’t disappoint her.  She offered her trust and he excelled in every way.

His achievement serves as a reminder that we all could benefit from a chance now and then.  And if no one will give it to us, there isn’t any reason we can’t reach out and take our own chance from time to time.  It just might pay off.

Day 61 – Working For Fun

2013.04.23I write.  I write a lot.  Besides this blog that journals my trip from birthdays number 49 to 50, I have my primary blog (Austin’s Acre), a prayer blog, a study blog, a video blog, a book review blog.

In addition, I write for and edit a medical malpractice law firm’s blog.

Over the years I’ve become better at crafting my words, selecting my phrases and finding the best way to express myself.

My desk is nestled into the bay window of my living room and overlooks the neighborhood and the goings-on.  While concentration can be difficult as the busy world of my house goes on around me, I seem to be able to carve out many productive hours in this seat.

But I’m not limited to blogs.  While sitting at this seat, I’ve written dramas and skits.  I’ve crafted movie scripts and outlines for future books.  I pour over pages, dissect sentences and tell the many stories running around in my head.

So what will happen to all these words?  I actually have a four-point plan:

1. Write for my blogs every day (Over the years)

2. Submit more of my work for possible publication (Four more competitions this year)

3. Complete the children’s book that I’ve illustrated (by June)

4. Finish my novel (In one year)

Hey…A guy can dream, can’t he?


Day 52 – Shoe Shopping

2013.04.14This was a very odd day.  Because we went to church last night, we had the morning to ourselves.

We knew that a trip to my in-laws was in the plan but I had no idea that we would spend so long in a shoe store, looking for some black flats for my wife.

I needed a pair of new black shoes as well so we divided when we entered DSW; I made my way to the one aisle of men’s shoes and she went to the 32 aisles of women’s.

Three minutes later, I had the box of new shoes under my arm and went over to check on my wife’s progress.  Or, I should say, lack of progress.

One hour later, we were at the checkout line, everyone completely satisfied.

It’s a metaphor of life, I suppose.  Men have fewer options and desire fewer choices.  I need shoes.  Black or brown?  Business or casual?  Size?  Here.  Done.

Women require more selection because they have more variables:  Purpose of shoe.  Possible locations they might be worn.  Number of outfits that might match said shoes.  Do they need to be flats, pumps, heals or stilts?  Will the bangles, bows, sparkles and buckles add to the look or detract?  Colors?  We’re still creating new ones to meet your individual requirements…And on, and on, and on it goes.

The same is true with weight loss.  I want to lose weight.  Done.  My wife is certainly concerned about a few remaining pounds but she wants to be fit.  She wants to have tone.  She wants to be a certain shape.  I just want it gone…Just like I want my shoes.