Monday, December 19, 2011

Where did I go wrong?

It is ironic that I am typing this message on a laptop using free wifi at a Starbucks after spending $5 on a mocha. The only thing I'm missing is a prime location. I'm not sure where I went wrong in my service. This year has been a year of conviction. In the world, I am the 1%. I am the rich man. I am a rich American. I alone make more than twice the national average for household income in the US, therefore my wife can stay home. We live comfortably. We are on track to send our kids to expensive private school. Our house will be paid off in the next 3-5 years. We have a net-worth of a little under 250k. We're doing good. I'm not sure that's the way my life was intended to be lived out. I believed the messages of "needing" Christians who work among the lost but today I am questioning. What really has been gained from that? Have I bought into a well funded and popular lie?

I've always had a passion for those who were hungry or didn't have clean water. I've often thought, I would love to GO, live with and help people learn farming techniques or build wells and clean septic systems or preserve water. I am burdened at the knowledge of people dying from starvation or that their day was devoted to "surviving," that is finding water and food. Each day, working for these things. Vacation days don't exist when you're work is finding your meals. Animals live this way.

In the spring, I competed in several races with the intent to win the races. I trained hard. I spend hours pushing myself, I ate very well. Choice foods and only ate poorly on occasion. I medaled in all three events. One event, where I placed 2nd mostly because it was a tiny race, happened to be hosted by a previous employer. I saw many old friends and co-workers, several of which commented about their surprise at my "success" and current job. One person commented, "that's not what I expected." I knew instantly what he, an atheist, meant. Everyone, thought I was going to go into full-time ministry when I resigned that position. I questioned him, hoping I was wrong.

Fast forward to today, as I was chatting with a co-worker about the Occupy Austin people, talking about how homeless they appear. We agreed,their appearance, was not helping their cause. Instead, it created a large disconnect even with those who sympathize with their message. Many people think they are ridiculous and largely ignore them as they walk by. It lead me to make the statement that I don't believe in anything strong enough to do something like that. Instantly, and I mean instantly I felt conviction.

The really ironic part is that I've long held the belief we have these near religious movements, like Occupy, or Sea Shepherds, etc., etc., solely because Christians have not stood up for these ideas as good stewards of God's creation and instead have been branded as the opposite. Creating a situation that does not lend itself to the message of Christ. Instead of the Church standing UP for OR standing IN for the needs of society and the fight for justice, we've largely let secular groups and governments do the fighting.

Occupy protesters may look ridiculous and seem fanatical but I know they BELIEVE completely in their cause. My well dressed co-worker might agree with them wholeheartedly but I don't see her passion lived out. There is little sacrifice and so her belief in the cause has little impact on me. Occupy has garnered much attention. So now, I sit hear pondering everything. Whether or not I would endure the scorn of passersby, or nature's elements in a near homeless state to Occupy Austin for Christ? Would I give up my goals for a GOOD private education for my children? A debt free life, so insuranced up that I have little to fear financially from catastrophe? Do I give up my fitness goals and my love of WholeFoods for cheaper, lesser, non-organic foods? Do I sell everything and give it to the poor? Will my children look enviously at what their lives could have been? Do I lead a life where I meet every need I encounter with every resource I have been given in the proclamation of Christ?

To be brutally honest, it is easier for me to accept dying for Christ than to Occupy the World for the Gospel of Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:15

Monday, April 11, 2011


I'm not really always convinced I like running, especially when it is running for exercise. Running for exercise is not my favorite kind of exercise. I like to run with friends or my wife but by myself is mostly a dread.

I do like to train for something; there is an end goal. I need something to strive for, something to win. This weekend was my opportunity to test my training for a 5k race. I have been running, pushing myself hard to get my 5k times down to a competitive level. I do need to define the competitive level I’m looking for as average people competitive. You can go run almost any 5k in Austin, and find people in most age-groups who are capable of running in the top tier of any age-group. You’ll have 60 year-olds who can out run most of the 30 year-olds and 30 and 40 year olds who are just as fast as high-school and college students who are in peak performance.

Luckily the cost of most Austin races starts at $25 which is prohibitive for budget, when my wife and I both like running in races. This forces me outside of Austin, where normal people exist and have regular lives where they go to work, hang out with the family and try to fit exercise in as best as they can. Best of all is the cost of races goes down. This weekend, my wife and I ran in the Blue Bell Fun Run. My wife did the 10k and I did the 5k. Our original plan was for me to push Mayzie but since my wife was nursing a neck injury we decided to push our little girl, which turned out great because she fell asleep in the stroller which gave her plenty of time to get a nap something, that she probably wouldn’t have gotten on my short 5k. Both races only cost $15 per person, but included a day trip and lunch with a lot of friends.

I finished with a time of 21:13 which comes out to a 6:50min/mi pace. Overall not bad, that is 8 seconds faster than the previous weeks 5k race in Lockhart. My mile splits were 6:26, 13:42, 20:32. That 2nd mile has always been a slower mile for me. Unless I run with my GPS, I always run a slower 2nd mile. The course was really hilly, which I knew from the previous year, but I still managed to scrape together a 2nd place finish in my age-group (30-39.) I got a nifty plague too. There were 138 men in my age group, and I finished 41 seconds behind the first place guy. There were a total of 1680 people in the race, but they were average people not crazy fast Austin people.

This weekend I’m running in the Dragon 5k in Wimberley. It supports the school I used to work for and will be a great opportunity to try to get my post baby 5k time under the 21 minute mark. My ultimate goal is to get back to the sub 20 minute range, which I hope to do before a race ($15 with Groupon) in Austin this June. I am looking forward to this weekend’s 5k because I have not been back to the school I worked in since 2004. It has been a long time and I can’t wait to see how it has changed, plus I have a long-shot chance at winning this small event. I should at least get a top 5 out of this one.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Having another kid

I think I might have seen a glimpse of what the future could be. Yesterday, my wife helped a friend out by baby sitting her 18 month old little boy. Now, I've kind of figured out that most boys aren't talking on the same level as girls the same age. I see it at church and I see it at the playground and I see it with my friends and family. This boy was no exception. He might has well not have been talking at all when compared with our Mayzie who easily throws together sentences of 7 to 15 words, can easily answer questions, perform complex tasks when asked and tell us what she wants or ask us questions. But she's a girl and girls I've noticed are much more developed in that skill than boys the same age. She recently even started saying, "Yes, sir" or "No, sir" which of course me being the parent thinks is really cute, even though I'm sure nobody else but Aunt Jackie does.

He, on the other hand, says one word at a time and they are difficult to understand. Another attribute of boys you often hear but until you experience it is hard to imagine in a daughter only family is the rough nature of boys. He threw everything. He would push something over just to push it over. He would run as fast as he could everywhere he went which of course was the opposite direction of you. He would run smack into something, an event that would bring Mayzie to tears and ask for kisses, and all he would do is roll over look at you with an "Ouch" expression but get up and start running again. All of my friends boys are just like that.

Now, he and Mayzie are just 4 months apart so it was non-stop the entire time and I found myself counting the minutes or sometimes the seconds until his mom came back. Not that he was a bad kid but really it was full-time the entire time. Mayzie will sit and play independently without destroying stuff for long periods of time. You had to keep your eye on him the entire time. Mayzie has never fallen down the stairs. In fact we don't use our baby gates and really only used them for the dogs, but he fell down the first time he went up. It wasn't a fall down gracefully either it was a, "hey this could be serious if I wasn't right here" type of fall. BTW it didn't faze him at all he wanted to keep going, but up came the baby gates.

My wife and I have talked about having a second kid here and there and we tentatively set the official "try" date as sometime in June. If it happened it happened but June was the "try" date whatever that meant. Anyway, yesterday changed that. I had been thinking that since Mayzie was going to be 2 meaning she was going to be almost 3 when the new baby came we would be able to easily transition to a 4 person family.

This shook that thought process to the core, especially if I was considering the 50/50 chance of getting a boy the second time around. Mayzie can tell us what she wants, she understands what we say. She for the past several weeks has been going peepee in the potty and tells us before hand that she needs to go which leads me to think that for sure in the next 12 months (before the baby) we'll have her diaper free. She is easy to get to bed, feed, and she'll tell us about her day and read us books. It is easy, we're on autopilot. I figured it was time for another one because it takes 9 months before you get the second one. My wife and I were non-stop the entire time, until they went to bed. Afterward I was tired, realized if they were both time, I would have had to do it all over again tomorrow and questioning my readiness to embark on having another kid.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A new car! (Well Kinda)

I told my wife that once our 2002 Impala hit 300k on the odometer that I would get another car. We don't buy new cars, because they lose so much value the first several years and first several thousand miles. This helps us achieve another goal of remaining debt free. Since the cars we buy are cheaper AND since we keep them a long time. It allows us to save up cash for the next car.

I had a 1999 Rav4. My wife's parents gave it to us. My father-in-law who really likes nice new cars. It's his thing. I can't fault him, I love sour or hard candies. The Rav4 was given to us so that we could take then proceeds from the sale of our Truck plus the sale of the Rav4 and anything we saved in between to purchase a new car.

The sale of the Rav4 went quickly and easily. The buyers were purchasing it for a 2nd car and to possibly turn it into an electric car later on down the road. [pun intended] I had been asking $3800 for the Rav4 which was the KBB fair condition value since it had 195k and lots of body dings and dents. We settled at $3500 and completed the sale in less than a week. I was thrilled but now had no car. SO the hunt was on furiously I looked for cars, some selling before I had a chance to look at them. I was starting to get discouraged and was considering the fact that we might have to borrow money and buy a newer, but still used, car. Then while I was at work, browsing cars I saw a car I had been looking for. I immediately called and was told it was on a test drive. I told the salesman that if they didn't buy it I would come and buy it from him that day and that I had cash in hand. The car was listed for $7643. He called, so I dropped everything I was doing at work and left for the dealership. An hour later I had the keys and finished up at work to drive home.

I love the car. It is zippy. I was actually very jealous that my wife will be driving it. I do not like driving a standard. Of all the claims everyone has about why a standard is better than an automatic, I could give a rebuttal or equally matching statement as to why an automatic is at least equal. For this car though, I wish it was an stick. The handling was really good and it didn't have near the body roll I was used to with the Impala. It is smaller and more maneuverable than the Impala and the 2.0L engine makes the car sail. It is a great cross between the Rav4 and the Impala. It has a 5 star frontal crash test rating and 3-4 star side impact rating which is similar to what our Impala had. Now maybe I should try to find one for myself.

Note: The picture above is not actually our car, because I didn't have a pic of it. However, it is just like the one above and in very good condition.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Being Daddy

I've done a lot of things in life that have brought some form of joy to my life. I've experienced a lot of things that have made me happy and glad that I had just done whatever I had just done.

In my opinion, there are few things sweeter than hearing your baby play or sing. Yesterday, while I was talking with neighbors, who are moving to South Carolina, my daughter was saying to her baby doll named Susan, "See Susan, See? Leaf! Leaf blowing." Susan replied, "No" and so MGM chased the leaf as it blow slowly across the driveway and again said, "See Susan, See? Leaf!!" and Susan replied, "Leaf blowing!!!" I absolutely love when she has pretend conversations with her baby dolls.

She will also finish songs that you are singing. I call them her songs because she knows the works or tune. My favorite is 5 little monkeys jumping on the bed. I sing all of it except the last line because I love to hear her say, "no more monkeys jump in the bed."

Ever since I got married, I have prayed that if I am going to die that I have enough time to tell my wife and now my baby girl that I love them with everything I have. Maybe if there is enough time left I could hear her sing the "Monkey song" too.

Happy 600 days old MGM!!! You're still Daddy's baby.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Gardening in Zone 9

I am excited. We are two and half weeks away from March. March is the start of spring. March is when the sun gets high enough for people and plants to notice that summer is coming.

I can't wait. I've already planted my seeds in my planter although with this cold snap of teens at night I'm not sure they are going to germinate, but next week has highs in the 70's and I'm excited. Maybe I'll build another raised bed this weekend or just start getting the materials.

I'm gonna plant a few new plants this year. Things I've never grown. Sugar Snap Peas, something I think our daughter will enjoy and I want to try out an Avocado tree. I read that they can produce up to 200 avocados per year. Even if I get half that I'll save a decent amount in grocery because those little things are expensive. Supposedly you can freeze them in vacuum bags to last longer so we'll see; if not I'll give them away.

The end of March seems so far away looking at the calendar, but I'm learning that time flies by faster than I think and like a player playing chess, I'm trying to think a few moves ahead.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Disclaimer: I wrote this on a single stream of thought. So it is probably incoherent and full of errors.

I read an article that was meant to help people see where they stack up financially with their retirement goals. It also showed where you stack up with other Americans. We know that even some of the poorest Americans are far far more wealthy than a vast majority of people in the world. This article came with a handy calculator that shows how you compare with people your age and the median average of the entire US population.

I was very pleased to read that we compare well to the median and are doing much better than our peers. All this has been nothing short of God's blessing and I realize that they could be taken at any point in time. I say this because I have more trust in God's provisions than I do my ability or anything else I might say to make it seem like I or WE (my wife and I) have done on our own.

We have less debt, actually we have no debt except our house and even then we have less house debt than the average American. We have investments, college savings accounts, retirement accounts and emergency savings. The only category we were completely and utterly surpassed by our peers is how much our cars are worth. Ours are only worth something to us.

The problem I have is I actually feel broke. It has been a great help that my wife has picked up some tutoring jobs. We've been able to save at a much higher rate than we were previously, and we did just buy a new TV which I got a great deal on for under $400. But overall my spoiled American self wonders why I can't drive new cars. I want an iPhone and cable but I can't make myself spend the money on those things knowing that I could be putting more money to my house or to retirement or to my kids college fund. I can't see how this system can survive when it is so difficult to not spend money on things some see as basics and adequately save for the future.

My financial planner tells me that my daughter's bachelors degree will cost about 230k for in-state public tuition. My AS & BS in Computer Science plus almost completing a BS in Math and including my teaching courses cost about 40k. I've done the math and my degree depending on a bunch of IF's and not really math might have paid for myself. The IF's are usually centered around would I have gotten my current job. Would I have gotten paid at the level I'm paid for my current job. My field does not require degrees. They are nice to have but I work with lots of other IT professionals some with and some without degrees. I could have landed similar jobs with certifications. I know I probably could have landed better jobs with certifications and experience rather than just my degree and experience.

I don't see how a 230k degree, if the financial people are right, will ever be worth it, especially if people have to pay interest on the loans from those degrees. I also have a hard time wondering how people will retire. I again have done math, my financial planner has done the math and based on our current savings we'll live a comfortable retired life. The scary thing is we are miles, if not hundreds of miles, ahead of our peers in terms of retirement. They are no where close to where we are. I'm not bragging, I'm just trying to imagine how a system can function with so many people unable to retire when their bodies start getting old. Will parents get taken care of by their kids or work until they die? Are the kids taking care of them those same kids who either do not have degrees or are saddled with lots of debt not just school debt? If they are paying all their money toward debt how can they buy new things? If they can't buy new things how can the companies they work for make money?

Now I am full of doom and gloom, but this isn't doom and gloom these are real questions for people who don't have savings and drive new cars, with fancy houses and nice iPhones. I'm concerned that the America we know is going to radically change in the next 20 years and that worries me for my kids sake. On the other hand, I guess I'll really find out about God's provision.