Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Letter

For those of you waiting impatiently (which, let's be honest, makes the crowd waiting for the final Harry Potter look like nothing)for the Chris, Jack, and Lucy letter of 2010 I regret to inform you that this is it. There will be no hard copy letter printed on acid-free paper for you to archive and keep forever. Actually, this beats my last year letter, which was a Facebook posting telling everyone to review my posts for the year for the annual update. So, consider yourselves blessed to get a little something on this Christmas Eve.

Let's start with Lucy. Those of you who know her, understand that she is 7 going on 17, with all the sass and spirit that entails. She started that only in Austin tradition of kickball this year, with a successful season on the Lightning Strikes!

Another big activity for Lucy has been dance, following in her Mom's tap shoes. She's a big fan of modern dance, and cannot hear a song she likes on the radio without bustin' a move.

Quote of the year from Lucy, 'I want to work as an entertainer in an adult restaurant'. Needless to say, didn't have to have a stress test this year, if I survived that statement, my heart is fine...

Jack had a huge year, with a lot of great opportunities. His singing career took off, with school and church choir. He also got to sing during the Bobby Bones morning show on the radio (starts about 4:25 in the video) so when he's a big star, you can say you knew him when. He's the first soloist, pretty awesome!!

His other big activity was football, yes, Jack played football! He was noseguard for the mighty Murchison Matadors. He really enjoyed it and was pretty good, that's him getting double teamed by the boys in green!

He also made the Theater Production class, which won the UIL competition in the fall. I think he's following in cousin Katy's footsteps, and I've already decided that I'm sending him to New York so she can mentor him in making it in the performing world!

As for me, its been a solid year. Started with Crossfit, ended with shoulder surgery, with some fun in between! The biggest thing for me was coaching the Team in Training Big Bend Hike Team. From June through October I spent Wednesdays and Saturdays with my team whipping them into shape for a 15 mile hike across the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend.

I also did a triathlon, competing against my outlaw Sara Conlee. Needless to say, she crushed me, but it was still pretty cool. Soon after I swore I was done with silly triathlons, but you never know...

So, that's our year in review, hope you enjoyed it! Obviously, this is just a snapshot, but given the shortened attention spans of people today I figured this is the most anyone would read. 2011 promises to be another great year. My family is so blessed to have all of you as part of it! Merry Christmas to all of you, and may 2011 find your family happy, healthy, and joyful!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In Defense of Scouting

I just spent 4 days at Webelos Extreme camp, which was created 5 years ago as an opportunity to introduce Webelos (10 and 11 yr olds) to Boy Scouts and the cool things they'll get to do when they get there. Over 200 boys from across Central Texas participated in cooking, shooting sports, rock climbing, canoeing, and a ton of other activities. Its a really great experience, and I saw a lot of very tired, but very happy boys this afternoon when we had our closing ceremony.

Now, I know that Scouting organization has had its challenges, the adults that have created problems, and so on. I get that, and I also know the lengths that Scouting has gone to in response. I also know that a lot of people thing that Scouts is full of weird kids that don't fit in elsewhere. Here's what I say in response, yeah, there are some kids like that, and I think that is one of the greatest strengths of Scouting. The kids that cannot throw a football may discover through Scouting that he's a great cook, or that he can design and build a 40 foot tower with tree branches and rope, or he can start a fire with battery and steel wool. Or, he may discover that he can organize and lead a group of boys through a weekend of activities. Scouts offers kids an exposure to any number of opportunities they would not have elsewhere. My son Jack is headed to Washington, DC this weekend for the National Jamboree, he'll spend a couple days sightseeing, then 10 days with 40,000 other Scouts at the Jamboree. In a couple of years, I hope he'll go to Philmont for an 11 day wilderness experience. If he chooses, he can sail tall ships in the Bahamas, scuba in the Keys, canoe the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. My brother served as an honor guard and stood on the podium with George HW Bush at his inauguration, I opened doors for people at an inaugural ball. The potential is endless and its not available elsewhere. Scouting is a place available for everyone, you don't have to be an athlete, exceptionally smart, good looking, or anything, you just have to want to participate.

Like any big organization, Scouting is not perfect. However, I don't think there is another organization that provides as much opportunity for the boys who participate in it. No place else will they be able to do so many different things, meet so many different kinds of people and do so many cool things.

I haven't even talked about the fundamental purpose of Scouting which is character development. Young men in scouting learn and hopefully adhere to the Scout Oath and Law to become well rounded men who have led and understand the responsibility of leadership. This is the key thing that sets Scouting apart because no place else will they be surrounded by so many people focused on the same goals, with the same purpose, working together to become men of character.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gearing up for Scout Camp

I'm totally excited for the coming weekend. Jack and I will be out at Lost Pines State Park for Webeloes Extreme Summer Camp. This is a 3 day camp where Webeloes are exposed to life in Boy Scouts. I'll be leading the cooking station, where the boys will get the opportunity to prepare a variety of foods like what they'd cook in Boy Scouts. Its going to be fun, but hot!

It works out that this week is also the week off from Crossfit, so I'm not going to miss any workouts, which is nice. This doesn't mean its a full rest week, there's still working out going on. I've kept on swimming at lunch, which is really the best way to spend a lunch hour. Deep Eddy is freakin' awesome, cold water, minimal chlorine, the perfect activity. I've been getting in a 1/2 mile swim, getting ready for the triathlon. Its going to be fun!

Anyway, that's what's going on...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Still Crazy Busy!!

Well, things haven't slowed down a bit! I kind of miss the slow life I had just a few months ago, but not too much. I like having a lot on my plate, its forcing me to learn organization, focus on detail, all those things I'm not too good at. Never a bad thing to push yourself in new directions and challenge your comfort zone.

I've been trying to get my swimming in, preparing for the triathlon. Its nice working so close to Deep Eddy, I can get there, get my swim in, and be back in the office in an hour so I go on my lunch break. The fact that its not super chlorinated, and the fact that I have a buzz cut, means I can get away with just drying off and going back to the office. It can be tough to go back to work after the break, but what are you gonna do?

Looking forward to a great hike tomorrow with the TNT group at Pedernales Falls State Park. Should be fun!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Quick Update

Alright, I need to either keep this blog regularly or dump it. Gonna try the quick hit method...

Totally slept through my alarm this morning, missed the lunge circus at Crossfit, totally peeved about it. Now I get to do it in the heat of the afternoon (as soon as I'm done here actually). Oh well, it happens, as long as I'm getting the workout in right?

On another workout note, going to be at Deep Eddy for laps around 11:30 the rest of this week, open invitation to all. Come on down for a midday cool off and swimathon.

Finally, in the great news column, the Hays County Commissioners Court adopted the Strategic Plan we've been working on for a little over a year now. Yeah, nothing should take that long, but sometimes that's how it goes. Its done, they're happy and I can do other things.

Life is still a whirlwind, got a lot happening, all of it good, which is nice. As I mentioned before its funny how quickly life changes. I'll try and keep this up to date a little better...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Summer of Change?

Things are starting to happen, opportunities are knocking on the door, and I'm thinking I'm ready for it! To update the goods:

Team in Training - I LOVE COACHING!! I may be the WORST. COACH. EVER. but I think
I'm getting the hang of it. Second hike went well, didn't lose anybody! The boot camp
style workouts we're doing on Wednesdays are really cool. I love seeing people who've never worked out like this really get in to it! Yeah, they're moaning and groaning but they're having fun and appreciating the fact that they're being pushed out of their comfort zone. I think its building a good team relationship through shared suffering as well. I think Crossfit Certification is definitely in my future. I'm really looking forward to seeing this group develop over the next several months.

On the day job front, finally wrapping up the Hays County Plan, a project that's been out there over a year. Its been a great project, lots of learning on my part which is always a good thing. Facing a big challenge on a plan we're starting up in a community facing some major issues that I don't even know where to start to address. Love that though because it keeps the work fun.

Had a great lunch with my friend Kristen Carney, co-founder of Cubit Planning. Kristen is such a great inspiration about doing what you're passionate about and also knows the questions to ask about making a vision into something viable. She is very cool, and I appreciate her insight.

Finally, there is a new professional opportunity arising that may be a way for me to have more flexibility to follow the things I'm really passionate about while still paying the bills.

I set some goals at the beginning of the year for the I am Crossfit Challenge, some I met, some I'm still working on, but I know now I'm moving in the right direction. God doesn't always give you an easy answer or clear path, but he always provides a way if you have faith and are willing to work.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer Challenge

Alright, most of y'all probably know about this, but we have ourselves an old fashioned throw down happening this summer. Its a straight up battle of the cults between Triatheletes and Crossfitters! That's right, its almost like the whole Vampire vs Werewolf thing, but totally not cause that's just weird.

My former Sister-in-law has poked fun at me for being in the cult of Crossfit, talking funny, eating differently, working out at odd hours, etc. Well, she's now drunk the Kool Aid of Triathlons and has become somewhat obsessed herself. Given this reality, I offered the challenge in her own chosen sport of Triathlon. I spoke out of bravado and unrealistic confidence. On Labor Day, she and I will face off at the Avia Triathalon to see whose fitness routine will reign supreme!!

So, now I'm pretty sure I've bitten off more than I can chew. At least I now have a goal to work for all summer. I'll be spending some time in the pool on top of the Crossfit and Boot Camp and will need to find time to ride some as well. If nothing else, its going to force me to work my ass off this summer.

So, there it is, will a Crossfit-centric workout be enough? Stay tuned and see how this challenge turns out!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Observations on a Birthday

I turn 37 today, not an exciting birthday by any stretch, but I think they're all downhill after 21 anyway. June is a big month, its my birthday, Father's Day, I got married and divorced in June. I also started my job at LCRA on June 1st. I've been there 11 years, nearly 1/3 of my life and virtually my entire professional career.

I've realized that I need to make a decision about what I do with the rest of my life. Crossfit has introduced me to a range of people who are totally passionate about what they do and have found a way to make their passion their job. I'm completely in awe of people who can do that, people with the courage to turn away from what's easy and comfortable and make a dream their reality.

One thing I'm really excited about is the TNT Hike trip, serving as coach. I'm totally stoked about the opportunity to plan a trip, the events and activities leading up to the trip, and work with the participants to prepare them for it. There is definitely something here, my challenge is to take this kernel and turn it into something bigger. The good news, I've met people who have taken a kernel of an idea and turned it into a business. I need to reach out to these people, learn from them, and create my own future.

So, over the next year, I need to figure out what my passion is and how I can make it reality. It may be staying at LCRA, but if so, I need to regain the passion I once had for what I do. If its something else, I need to figure out what that is and how to make money doing it. I think there's potential with this adventure travel thing, but I need to spend some time and energy to learn about it and what opportunities it represents.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Values Based Planning

I've been working on a plan for the City of Dripping Springs, a town facing significant growth pressures just west of Austin. The public input from surveys, town halls, focus groups, etc. indicate that residents are very considered with this rapid growth and want to preserve the 'small town' character of their community.

This is pretty typical of what we see in these communities. People move out there and then want to close the door behind them. Austin faces the same attitude among its residents. Those who moved here in the last 10 years are often the most rabid anti-growthers. So, this is what we're dealing with.

We started with a traditional planning approach, identifying goals and objectives based around typical plan topics of economic development, housing, community development, parks and recreation, infrastructure, etc. This follows the pattern we've used on many plans and is the go to approach for many comprehensive plans. Well, to be blunt, this didn't work for Dripping Springs. Working closely with the Steering Committee, we decided on a different approach.

Many comp plans contain vision statements, something I tend to shy away from. Why? Because they tend to be fluffy, meaningless statements along the lines of 'Our Town aspires to be a community of diversity, opportunity, blah blah blah.' About as meaningful as Garrison Keillor's 'Where all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children are above average'. We decided instead of a Vision Statement that wouldn't really drive anything, we would identify key values of the community and use that as the basis for the plan.

So, we have a Values Based Plan. The values we identified include: Dripping Springs is an Active Community, Dripping Springs has a Vibrant Economy, Dripping Springs is a Community that Cherishes its Unique Heritage, and several others. The goals and recommendations of the plan are organized within this structure. Its a little different approach that works well with the community and provides a unique plan for Dripping Springs.

As planners (and with life in general) its easy to get in a rut and turn to boiler plate solutions that worked in the past. Its easier to be uncreative and utilize what worked in the past rather than thinking in a new way and taking a different approach. Our communities, and our profession will be better off if we look to new solutions, new opportunities, and new ways of approaching the problems facing our communities.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Never quit going uphill

'Never quit in town, never quit going uphill, never quit in the rain. If you are going to quit, it has to be on top of a ridge, with the wind in your face. You never walk away weaker, you walk away stronger' This quote is from the book Just Passin' Thru: A Vintage Store, the Appalachian Trail, and a Caste of Unforgettable Characters by Winton Porter. He bought a store on the Appalachian Trail that serves as the first destination for through hikers coming north from the start in Georgia. One of the people highlighted in the book goes by the trail name Billy Bumblefoot and those are his words of wisdom.

When you're hiking 2000+ miles, carrying everything you need on your back there will obviously be hundreds of moments you'll want to quit. When you've just spent a night or two in town, with running water, real food, air conditioning, its easy to think 'why go back out there?' Struggling up a mountain, being soaked and shivering, those are the times its easy to throw in the towel and give up. The challenge is to wait for those glorious moments, when you've conquered the mountain, when the wind is drying the sweat from your brow, that's when you can decide to quit and be able to walk away with your head up and proud. Its when you've reached the top of your game, the pinnacle, that its okay to quit. Most of us won't through hike the Appalachian Trail but we will be confronted with moments we want to quit. On that last set of dead lifts, the fifth public meeting you know only five people will attend, whatever it is, we all face those times we want to give up.

Think about your life and things you've quit on. Did you quit at the point of greatest challenge or at the point of greatest accomplishment?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Irrational Growth or just Free Market at Work?

I read an article in the New York Times online yesterday and it spurred a lot of thought and a lively discussion with some friends on Facebook. The gist of the story is that despite a 60% decline in home prices, nearly 10,000 new homes sitting vacant, almost 6,000 repossessed just this year, Las Vegas is experiencing a bit of a building boom. New homes are being built and sold despite the oversupply of existing homes. On the surface, it seems completely irrational to continue building despite an oversupply; however, if the homes are selling then who are we to stop it? Also, for those in construction, real estate, etc. this is a very good thing because it means jobs.

That being said there are tremendous public costs created by this overdevelopment. The roads, water and sewer lines, and other utilities that were built to serve those now vacant and dying neighborhoods are going to be maintained by local governments (read TAXPAYERS). The public safety issues of ensuring these vacant homes don't become meth labs, etc. need to be considered as well. Detroit is the extreme example of a community grappling with the very issue of how to manage abandoned neighborhoods. It seems to me Las Vegas is creating this exact scenario for itself by continuing to build in spite of the existing oversupply.

So, some questions that I'd love somebody to answer: First, do the buyers of these homes really believe they are going to see appreciation in their home investment? (see Dutch Tulip Craze as example of irrational buying and oversupply)
Second, how is this financially feasible? How does it pencil out to loan money for this kind of project? I would love for a banker to let me know on this one.
Third, how will local governments respond to increasing costs of service on the infrastructure and public safety serving these dying neighborhoods?
Fourth, what about the families who invested in a home in those now dying neighborhoods? Not everyone is willing to walk away from their home and they are now stuck in virtual ghost towns.
Finally, why does the Federal government subsidize this irrationality with FHA loans, tax credits, etc? Homeownership is not a right, but has been treated as such for generations. This is part of what got us into the mess in the first place by making everyone think they 'deserved' a new home whether they really could afford it or not.

So that's the conflict. This is the free market, suppliers (developers) are responding to demand (homebuyers). This is a good thing in many ways and is creating jobs, etc. However, is the market in this case being way too short sighted? What is the proper government response given that the government (meaning TAXPAYERS) are ultimately going to be responsible for many costs associated with this growth? How do we balance the free market with the inevitable public costs the free market creates? Would 'clawback' provisions, like those used in economic development be appropriate? Developers have to post bonds and if their neighborhood doesn't pan out they have to pay to demolish it or mothball it until demand is there?

If I had the answers to questions like these I'd be sitting on a beach not sitting in a cube writing a blog...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Three Leadership Responses to Planning

In the 10 years I've been in city and county planning I've found there are three general types of people you meet in the communities (I'm intentionally ignoring the apathetic, which is the largest group). These aren't the only three, but they are the most common and most elected and appointed officials will fall within one of them. They are the champion, the roadblock, and the cheerleader. I will discuss each in turn and how to manage them.

The champion is rather rare. This is the staff member, elected official or citizen who is truly invested in the plan, and more importantly, in implementing the plan once adopted (see prior post on importance of implementation). They understand the importance of a good planning process yet realize the real work begins after the plan is written. These individuals need to be identified, supported, and nurtured throughout the process. Provide clear direction and specific action steps to achieving the plan goals. Identify resources that can be accessed for implementation. These people are the real change makers in the community and our role as planners is to give them the tools to be successful. I worked in one county where a passionate group of citizens absolutely took ownership of the environmental projects we identified and are still working that plan several years down the road, in spite of the indifference of the elected leaders. Its a failure on my part that I wasn't able to engage the elected officials more to support the efforts of this grassroots group.

Roadblocks are the naysayers. They're the people who can point to a half dozen dusty plans already on the shelf and say 'Why is this new plan different from all of these?" Often, they have a point, they are jaded because of too many failed plans in the past. Another reason for being a roadblock is a fear of change. This is often a long time City Manager or Utility Director who has things 'under control' and doesn't want a bunch of new work coming down. It may be an elected official who doesn't want to engage the citizens because they really don't want to know what residents really want. Finally, roadblocks can be citizens who are worried a plan will lead to higher taxes or more regulations, or increased growth, or whatever issue concerns them. They often feel the act of planning is synonymous with encouraging growth that will change their community. Roadblocks can be managed by early outreach and honest engagement in the process. Rather than ignoring them, try and bring them on board as members of your steering committee, or at least as a focus group where they can voice their opinions. Be honest and direct and work with them to find common ground. Often, they just want the opportunity to be listened to and feel their opinions are included.

Not to disparage real cheerleaders, but in my planning world, cheerleaders are the absolute worst to deal with. These are the newly elected officials who come in screaming about the need to plan for the future. They probably have no clue that the City Manager is currently working his ass off to implement the last plan that was done. This happened in a community I worked in a while back. The Mayor wanted a Comprehensive Plan. When we talked to the City Manager he pulled out the current plan and walked us through all of the things he was doing from that plan. The worst part was the Mayor had been on Council when that plan was adopted but had forgotten about it. The cheerleaders tend to think that the act of planning is the real goal, and don't look past it to the actual work of implementation. They're the citizens who volunteer to be on the plan Steering Committee, but not on the implementation task forces. They're the Council members who happily vote $100,000 to pay a consultant to write the plan, but won't agree to $25,000 to install landscaping and benches in their downtown to accomplish a plan goal.

So, as planners how do we manage these different groups. In addition to the ideas already discussed I would recommend every plan include some 'low hanging fruit'. These are projects that can be done quickly, with limited resources, and possibly even while the plan is still being developed. This will support the champions and minimize the roadblocks by showing quick success. It may encourage the cheerleaders to stay involved because they get the reward of accomplishing real tasks. Another key is celebrating successes. When a goal is reached or a major project accomplished the community needs to acknowledge it and celebrate it. It doesn't have to be a street party, but it should at the very least include stories in local media, website promotion, maybe a ribbon cutting if appropriate, etc. If people see projects being completed they will be more supportive of government and more likely to actively participate because they know it will lead to results and improvements.

The biggest challenge is capacity building. We as planners need to focus on building the capacity of the communities we work in. We need to help cultivate real leadership and identify resources to accomplish goals. A world class trainer does more than just meet their client one or two days a week and tell them to lift weights. They focus on nutrition, proper hydration, rest, and all aspects of their clients lives to build real success. We need to embrace this holistic approach as planners and foster an environment of success in our communities where residents, staff, and elected officials have a common vision to be passionate about (thanks Scott LeCount for this one) and are willing to work to make that vision reality. That's how to overcome the roadblocks and the cheerleaders by turning them from obstacles into advocates for their community.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Blog Redirection - Thoughts on Planning

Most of y'all that read this post may wonder where the quote at the top came from. 'If planning worked we'd all be speaking Russian'. A crusty old man said that to me at a community meeting in Matagorda (a small, unincorporated community on the coast). I'm an urban planner, I help cities in the LCRA service area plan for growth (or work to slow decline) through their land use, housing, economic development, parks and open space, infrastructure, etc. This blog is my effort to redirect somewhat back to this because it is what I do for money and its something that I know a whole lot more about than exercise and nutrition!

So, the quote, why has it stuck with me for several years? Well, because to a large degree its absolutely true! Why would a planner say this, it seems to discount the point of my profession. I say this because planning in and of itself will not bring about real change in a community. What does that is IMPLEMENTING the plan! You have to work the plan for it to have an impact, just writing a fat plan and putting it on the shelf to gather dust is completely a waste of time and resources. The Soviet Union had 5 year plans that included everything from how much grain would be grown to how many cars would be built. The problem was, the plans were never really implemented. Farms and factories simply made up numbers showing production that exactly matched what was in the plan. Inefficiency and corruption in the system made it impossible to accomplish the already unrealistic goals set in the plan. Based on this than it is true, if planning worked, we'd all be speaking Russian because the plans laid out how the Soviet Union would dominate the world. Lucky for us the IMPLEMENTATION failed!

So, that's the trick of my profession. As a planner, my role in the community is to help them identify goals and objectives to move forward. I can provide expertise and guidance to address the issues that are impacting their city. The problem is that I'm not there to work the plan once its adopted. It is up to City leaders, businesses, and citizens to work together to make the plan a reality. The plan may be the most concise, well written document ever, but if nobody takes ownership and does the work it is worthless. I've had several plans I spent months working with a community to develop end up going nowhere. Several years later the towns are still struggling with the same issues. I've also been fortunate to have many communities embrace the plan and make its vision a reality. They've invested the time and money in to building the future they want to have rather than accepting their fate.

So, as a planner, how do I address the issue of a failure of implementation? I think it comes down to capacity building in the community. My role should be more than simply an outside expert bringing knowledge and skills to write the plan. I need to engage community leaders and citizens in more than just a few public meetings to let them say their piece. I have to build ownership of the plan and the concern to actually do the work to make the plan reality. That is my challenge as a planner, to leave more behind than just a book, I need to leave behind the capacity in the community to work the plan.

'If planning worked, we'd all be speaking Russian'. Its true, planning isn't enough, working the plan is what will bring success.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Here's my premise, open to debate and disagreement. There's been a lot of talk about the decline of America in the last few years. I'm still not entirely sure that I embrace this because there is still so much to celebrate and so many great people in this country. The Crossfit Central folks, working to build a business and inspire their clients to embrace a culture of excellence. Anthony and Kristen of Cubit Planning building a business on a great idea and the support of people who saw the potential of their idea. There are many, many smart, creative people doing the same thing, following their passion and building businesses that are the foundation of our future. This inspires me and gives me confidence that the future is still bright and that we are not in decline.

But, and you knew there would be a but, all is not hope and bright futures. We have significant challenges we need to address to continue to be the great nation in the world. One of these is the fact that many people do not aspire to excellence, they are willing to live their lives in complacency and mild dissatisfaction. We know the food we eat and the television we watch is crap and is not good for us, yet we continue to spend our time and money on it.

This is seen in our government as well. Dissatisfaction with elected officials (of all parties) is at an all time high, yet when election time comes we'll still have minimal turnout and the same old same old will be reelected.

I think part of the reason is the complacency history has allowed us to experience. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the great enemy of our way of life died with it. We no longer had the competition from a society that wanted our demise. Think of the creativity and innovation sparked by the space race when we refused to allow the Russians to beat us in space. Once we became the dominant power in the world we started resting on our laurels without the need to innovate and create to compete against anybody. That complacency has to some degree infected our society and led many to feel they are entitled to a high quality lifestyle with minimal effort on their part.

Again, this is not intended as an entirely pessimistic post, there are great people doing great things in this country. New ideas, new products, new businesses are starting in all parts of this country. Smart, creative, passionate people are out there striving to make great things and we need to embrace them, support them, and allow them to thrive. The rest of us, the great unwashed as it were, need to look to these passionate people and know that we too can find that within ourselves and achieve greatness.

Complacency is a choice, we can allow ourselves to muddle through life or we can strive and push ourselves to be better than we are now.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thoughts on an Empty House

Moving Sucks! That's it, enough said, there are no redeeming qualities to moving. I'm not talking about the big sense of moving, I'm talking about the grunt work of moving, packing, cleaning, disposing, loading, unloading, etc. Yes, the opportunity to purge unneeded stuff (and its amazing how quickly it adds up!) is awesome, and starting fresh in a new place is great, but the work of getting it done is unpleasant.

Anyway, the point of this update is to talk about the feeling I had making one final walk through the townhouse I'd called home for a year and a half. It was really pretty sad. An empty, just moved out of house seems lonely and sad to me, yeah its corny, but its true. Its like all the good memories and happiness have been taken out and just the melancholy left behind. This one was a particularly hard move for me because this was the first place I could ever really call my own (as much as you can with a rental). It wasn't my parents, I didn't have roommates, and I didn't have a wife. I'd never lived alone before, and it was an adjustment. I'd never really given a flip about furniture, what went on the wall, and all that went in to making a house your own because I'd never had to. So, this place was the first that I really could put my imprint on, and I really liked it.

The flip side to the melancholy of the newly emptied home is the excitement and joy of the new home. The chance to totally rearrange everything, add new color, new layout, completely start over with what the house will say. Its an empty house like the one you just left, but its like its ready to take the new memories and joys that will be created in it.

I have a few weeks in between the two homes. Staying with my parents because the new place won't be open until May. Its not really coming home for me even though its the same house I lived in when I graduated high school. That's not meant to disparage being here, I appreciate my parents generosity in allowing me to stay. Rather, its meant as home to me has become the place that I make for myself and my kids. We will be getting settled in to the new place soon enough and it will very, very quickly become home for us. Hopefully, we can stay there a little longer than a year and a half.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Well, as my thousands of readers know (ha!) the last week was a struggle. Didn't sleep well, was stressed, and it showed in my workouts. It also showed in my nutrition. I spent 8 weeks of the Crossfit Challenge focused on my workouts and nutrition and saw significant results. Over the last week as I got tired and stressed I let that discipline slip and stopped eating as well as I know I need to.

The problem with this is that poor nutrition completely exacerbates the stress, sleep issues, and poor workouts. Its totally a self reinforcing cycle of bad that I fell into. Stress led to poor sleep, led to lack of discipline, led to making excuses. Now, I didn't totally go off the reservation, but there was more non-Paleo meals and foods than there should be. I shouldn't wonder why I'm struggling when I don't do the things I know are good for me and make me feel better. As a high school PE teacher once said 'I may be stupid but I ain't dumb' which I take to mean you don't have to be smart to stop doing bad things.

So, how to get out of the bad spiral and back into the Circle of Awesomeness? Well, for starters, I'm going back to the yellow book that got me through the Challenge. I recorded every workout and every meal in that book for 8 weeks and now I'm going to continue that. No more slacking, knowing I have to write it down will help me make the right choices. Second, I'm going to take advantage of Coach Zach to keep me honest and look over my journal. Finally, proper preparation prevents piss poor performance. That means taking the time to get my food together the night before so I have good nutrition ready to go. No more excuses to eat crap because I didn't take the time to make food ahead of time. Its not hard to do the right thing and eat well, it just takes discipline. There's venison back strap cooked up, and a sweet potato is in the oven, tomorrow will be a great day of good food, a good workout, and a return to the Magic Focus Laser Intensity (thank you Jeremy Thiel, that will be in my brain forever!).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stress and Lack of Sleep Impacts Everything!

The last three nights have been sleepless, unpleasant affairs. I think its a combination of getting off my sleep schedule while I was off for Spring Break but mostly worrying about my living arrangements. I have to be out of my place by April 15th, and haven't confirmed a new place yet. This is causing some anxiety. I've always been very flexible and go with the flow, but as I get older I get less and less so. This is actually rather heartbreaking for me because I don't want to be that guy who's stuck in his ways and not able to deal with uncertainty. Definitely something I need to work on to regain that youthful openness. I'm in a wicked rut and I need to break out of it. Crossfit has definitely helped, I've met some great people and am learning to push myself harder than I ever thought I could.

So, yeah, I've been stressed and not sleeping and this came to a head in today's boot camp workout. I had a decent run on Monday, burpeepalooza run fest yesterday, so I was sore from those, but still. The last three nights of tossing and turning caught up to me and I struggled from the first exercise to the disappointing end without finishing all rounds of the wod.

Sleep deprivation is a problem affecting many in our go go society. We think sleep is wasting time rather than a key aspect of our health and yes, even our fitness. Adequate sleep has enormous benefits on all aspects of our lives, even helping with weight management. Lack of sleep increases stress and cortisol production, which directly impacts weight loss. Marks Daily Apple has a great post about the importance of sleep.

Here's the bottom line. You may have your diet totally dialed in, you may be totally hydrated, you may have your workouts locked in but if you're skimping on your sleep you're not going to reach your full potential. This can be tough with 5:30 am workouts, getting the kids to bed, chores, etc. but it is critically important to quality of life. Thinking you can make up for lost sleep on the weekend won't cut it, you've got to be consistent each and every night. So, DVR The Daily Show and Colbert Report and get yourself a full 8 hours.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Today was an accomplishment


A strange thing happened today, my reality matched the vision I had. I've kind of poked fun at Zach Thiel who has embraced and is committed to visualizing every aspect of his life. Well, I got a lesson today in how that works. Last night when today's workout was posted I got pretty excited. It was a workout I knew I could take as prescribed. It was 800 meter run, 21 push jerks at 95 lbs, 1000 meter run, 21 push jerks. Not a super heavy weight, not too much cardio. I started thinking time and got 12:26 in my head and thought I can finish this well. As the picture shows, I had the 3rd fastest time in my class. (Like any good blogger I'm going to totally disregard any extenuating circumstances that may have led to this result and just go with I rocked it today) While this certainly isn't as big as placing 3rd at Sectionals, it is a huge accomplishment for me, and a definite sign of the great strides I've made in the last few months. My time 12:28, 2 seconds off the time in my head, I should have visualized sub 10 minutes!

I've never been particularly competitive (more honest would be totally non-competitive) but this morning when Barbara from my class passed my on the run, I got fired up. It got my blood pumping even more to pound out the lifts and get on the rower. This was a great workout, and it was freakin' awesome to be the 3rd person to call time. This is the first time I haven't finished close to last or worse, DFL (Dead #%"&*#@@#$ Last) doing a workout as prescribed.

This was a minor thing in the grand scheme of life, but it totally made my day. Its motivation to keep up the good work, eating right, and pushing myself as hard as I can every single time on every single workout. Its one small step on the journey of fitness, I have many more to take.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Challenge is Over, but the Work Continues

Well, I don't have pics of the EPOC Challenge finale, and honestly, the one I saw of me was pretty awful, so not real sure I'd share with the world anyway. What were the result of 8 weeks of Magic Laser Focus Intensity (thanks Jeremy Thiel)included a loss of body fat, loss of inches, loss of weight, gaining of strength and confidence. Totally rocked the assessment workout, 11' 04" 8 weeks ago, 9' 30" this time. Totally stoked about that. You can see the workout we did done at an elite level on Jeremy's blog at the link from his name.

The biggest change though was mental. I've totally changed how I think about workouts, food, everything. Changing my diet has been so incredibly beneficial. No more chronic heartburn, solid energy throughout the day, no more ups and downs, no more random hunger or cravings. And, I'm eating great food, no deprivation, its not hard to eat well, it just takes changing your attitude about food. Workouts are now just something I do, its not a chore, its not an 'ugh, I've gotta get this done' its just what I do now.

Thanks to Zach and my Crossfit Challenge teammates. Zach didn't let me slack, gave great advice, and really spent the time to make us successful. That's where Crossfit coaches excel, they are sincerely invested in our success, its not just one more person coming through the door. They want us to challenge ourselves and be great, not just show up for an hour and pay the bill. Everyone on the team was great, I've made some good friends from this and expect that friendship to continue.

I took this weekend to celebrate, enjoyed some decidedly non-Paleo foods (yay BEER!!) but will be back on it tomorrow. Workouts and eating right will continue, I've got a ways to go to meet my overall fitness goals, but the last 8 weeks have moved me a long way in the right direction and given me the tools to succeed!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

First Political Blog

Open up the paper and what is it? Politicians acting stupid. This time its Democrats instead of Republicans, but a few years ago the roles were reversed. Every time a party gets in power these things arise. What is it with the people we elect that they get to Congress and lose all sense of responsibility, propriety, and ethics?

I think part of the issue is the artificiality to which we've grown accustomed. We play Wii sports instead of real sports, we eat McNuggets instead of real chicken. We elect empty suits and skirts instead of real people. Yeah, there's an issue of the culture of Washington, the insulation, the lack of real connection with real people, but there is more than that. Politics has become so ugly, despised, and viewed as ineffective that the best and the brightest don't want to be a part of it.

Politics used to be viewed as a public service; smart, effective people saw it as their duty to serve the country in elected office for a while then return to their lives. This is no longer the case, we have people coming straight out of law school (or whatever) and getting elected to something. They never hold real jobs, they never produce anything, they're just politicians. We need to reverse this trend.

To do this though we have to make politics less of a blood sport. Why would someone want to run for office knowing every minute indiscretion they (or their entire family) have made will be brought before the world? Its no longer enough just to disagree, we have to personally destroy those who disagree with us. THIS HAS TO STOP!! People can have legitimate disagreements on big issues without being vilifying each other.

Being Americans we want an easy fix. Many think term limits is the answer. On the face of it, this makes sense. My biggest issue is that its fundamentally undemocratic. Arbitrarily saying someone can no longer be in office isn't right. The real solution would be for individuals to take personal responsibility to be engaged, educated, and informed voters rather than just picking candidates by the letter after their name. I don't have a lot of faith this will happen. I hope I'm wrong.

36 Hours left in Crossfit Challenge

We're down to the last day and a half before the assessment workout of Crossfit Challenge. Been pushing it this week, don't know if that's the best idea, but I think it'll be just fine. Mind over matter! Its going to be so much fun, I know everyone's going to be stoked and pushing each other. Who would have thought I'd be looking forward to a workout this much? Total change in attitude, habits, and lifestyle, which was the point of the Challenge.

In other notes, Zach recommended including pics in the blog, which is a good point. But, when you're the Dad, you're always the one taking the pictures, not in the pictures. Plus, despite my stunning good looks (ha!) I'm not very photogenic so its not like I'm all that keen on having my picture taken. I"m still not entirely sure about this blogging thing, I don't really have a lot happening to share with the world. Anyway, we'll see how things go!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Made it through the Week

I've gotta say, the biggest change I've seen over the last 7 weeks of Crossfit Challenge has been in my attitude and energy level. I used to be the typical office zombie, didn't matter how much sleep I got I would just sort of muddle through my day and complain about being tired. Now, with the change in eating habits and a lot more exercise that's totally changed. I've consistently got more energy and a better attitude. Its nice to wake up in the morning refreshed and ready to face the day rather than dreading the alarm clock. Even the mornings I wake up early for a workout aren't the challenge they once were. Love that!

Other than that, there's not a lot going on. Been really enjoying watching the Olympics and will be very bummed when its over. I know its cheesy and trite, but to see athletes from all over the world doing the best they can is just cool. I realize curling has become sort of a cult hit of the Olympics, and I have to say I'm hooked. Its not just the smokin' hot Danish women, there's a lot of thought and strategy behind it. Pretty cool once you get into it.

This weekend was gorgeous, took advantage of it and spent a lot of time outside getting my Vitamin D fix. So that's the update, nothing earth shattering this week.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The week ahead

Its going to be a very, very long week starting Monday. I've got meetings every night Monday - Thursday, including an overnight in El Campo. Its not going to be easy sticking to the workout regime. Eating, I'm a little concerned, but I'll make it work. That's the beauty of making this a way of life, not just a diet and exercise routine that gets thrown off when the routine changes. If you embrace it and make it who and how you are its easy to stay on track. That being said, the EPOC Wod's for this week are intimidating as all hell... Love that I'm getting stronger though.

Today was a lot of fun, got together with most of Team 2, including my peeps from Team Zach for a workout. Brought Lucy and little Lindsay with me and they were so very good. They played and ran a lap with me. When we were done with the workout the girls tried some of the stuff, the rower, kettlebells and pull up bar. Totally cute!

Overall, the week definitely improved from Monday, so can't complain too much! Been able to catch some Olympics coverage which I LOVE!! Totally love the Olympics so that's been nice. Even curling isn't too shabby once you watch it for a little while. All in all, life is good.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Not Feelin' it Today

If the measure of a man is how they perform when they're just not feeling it, I am not a man. The last five weeks have been very high intensity, focused effort, and today it just wasn't there. I'm feeling burned out and it showed in the workout. I picked what I thought was the easier of the 3 workouts (4 rounds for time 20 mountain climbers, 20 plank knees to toes, 20 push ups, 20 painters) and nearly puked. Had an idea of doing a run when I finished but totally bailed on that. The worst part is that it was entirely mental, I just didn't want to do it and let my mind overcome my body.

So, five weeks into the Challenge and my enthusiasm is at a low point. Hopefully, group workout tomorrow will help to reinspire. The company of like minded people is a great thing. Need to do something because Wednesday I'll be doing a solo workout and will need to feel strong.

This is something that I struggle with. Some people have the ability to self motivate, to pump themselves up. I don't. I need external motivation, something to get me rolling from someone or something else. I envy those who have that passion and fire. That I think is the largest goal for myself; to find that passion, that thing inside that will motivate me when I'm not feelin' it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Thoughts on the Halfway Point

Most anyone reading this blog knows I'm doing the I am Crossfit Challenge through Crossfit Central. We're just past the halfway mark and Coach Zach asked us to post our thoughts and progress towards our goals on his blog. Well, I can say that I'm making progress. Haven't done a pull up yet, and need to really practice that over the next 3 1/2 weeks if I want to make that goal. My pants are fitting looser, and I've lost some weight (although pounds is not the focus). Finally, I'm getting faster, I've been able to stay in the same round as the faster people in the group. Haven't kept up, but I'm not getting lapped anymore, which is nice. So, progress is being made.

The thing that sets Crossfit apart from other workout programs and gyms is that it focuses on improving your whole life, not just your fitness. I don't know if this is just what they do at Crossfit Central, or if its part of the larger Crossfit philosophy (or cult as some would call it). I appreciate the hell out of it whatever it is. The first day of I am Crossfit wasn't a gung ho, let's workout whoo hoo kind of thing. It was a very deliberate exercise in goal setting for your whole life, not just 8 weeks of working out. Yeah, that was part of it (a Magic Laser Focus Intensity), but what they really wanted us to think about was 10 years down the road, what we want to be, and how we can get there. I'm a Planner, I help cities look 10 years down the road but I've never done it for myself until that night. Now, I do have a list of goals, a larger direction for my life that I didn't have before. Crossfit is a tool to help you accomplish the goals in your life, its not the be all, end all of your life, if that makes sense.

That's what sets Crossfit apart, yeah, its a kick ass workout that is more effective than anything else I've done, but its a whole life thing, not just the one hour you're at the gym. The other thing that's different is the attitude of the coaches, they're all wicked fit, but they don't have that cockiness and 'I'm the king turd of poop mountain' you see in a lot of big box trainers. They'll kick your ass and push you harder than you thought you could be pushed, and they definitely don't take whining and excuses, but its about making you better, not boosting their own egos.

Anyway, that's thoughts for the day. I'm beat down today, the Endurance WOD yesterday (4.5 miles of 3 minutes at 80%, 1 minute 50%) and Karen today wore me out. I'm hoping it helps me sleep. Sleep has been elusive the last week or so, taking a LONG time to fall asleep. I'm working out, I'm not hitting caffeine in the afternoons, I'm eating right, so I don't know what the deal is. I guess there's some subconcious thinking happening, but I can't figure out what it is.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

How to Eat

A post on Zach Thiel's blog inspired this one as he made the point to eat Whole Foods. He didn't mean the store, he meant that what we should eat is REAL FOOD. Simple rule for eating, if you can't pronounce it, don't eat it. If the ingredient list looks like your college chemistry textbook, don't eat it!

People can, and do, argue all day about what kind of diet to follow, Weight Watchers, Atkins, Paleo, low fat, high fat, Hollywood cookie, Subway, Taco Bell, yadda yadda yadda. You can find somebody wanting to sell you a book that will justify eating almost any way you want to with 'scientific data' to back them up. Personally, I think it comes down to two things - processing and portions. Here's why...

There's that silly question, 'Why aren't the French fat, they eat cheese, cream, butter, fatty foods, and so on?' Here's why the French aren't fat, nor are the Inuits who eat a ton of fat and protein, nor the folks in Asia who eat a ton of rice, nor the Tarahumara in Mexico who eat a ton of corn and beans. They're not fat because they're eating REAL FOOD, not some overly processed, flavor enhanced, 'vitamin enriched', preserved faux food. Example - Butter is simply milk that lost a fight. Margarine (at least the kind in my fridge) is water, vegetable oil blend, salt, gelatin, nonfat yogurt, natural soy lechitin, vegetable mono and diglycerides (potassium sorbate, calcium disodium EDTA) lactic acid, ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS, Vitamin A, Beta Carotene Its 35% vegetable oil spread, 10% yogurt, what the hell is the other 55% Don't know, doesn't say, but SCARY!!!!

Now, which would you rather eat? How did we convince ourselves to eat this kind of stuff, and how did we think it would be good for us? Why are we surprised when our bodies react poorly??

Second thing is portion control. Yes, there is blame to be placed on restaurant owners who realized they could put 10 cents more french fries in the bag, charge 50 cents more and we think we're getting a deal. My thought on this is twofold. We're eating more because fundamentally our food doesn't taste good so we're not truly satisfied. Example - a really great shot of espresso is just that, a shot. You don't need a giant mug of the stuff. Same with chocolate, a really rich, excellent quality bite of chocolate is enough, you don't need a half pound slab. Second thought on portions - the food we typically eat is so devoid of nutrition that our bodies are eating more and more just to try and get some vitamins, minerals, and nnutrients from the food.

The American export economy isn't dead, its just moved from exporting real products like cars to exporting ideas and culture. Unfortunately our over processed way of eating is one of those exports and people all over the world are starting to get fat. The over processed, poor tasting, nutrient barren food we've been eating for 40 years (yeah, I'm blaming that first Swanson TV dinner here) is taking over the world and its starting to show.

Now I'm not advocating throwing away all your food and only shopping at the Farmer's Market (although that's not a bad idea) I'm just saying be more thoughtful in what you put in your body. Look at the chicken you buy, you may think natural, organic chicken is too expensive; however, typical chicken is often injected with up to 15% 'solution'. 15% of what you're buying is salt water, mmmmm tasty, and a giant waste of money!! Cooking is not hard, convenience foods are not that convenient, and you will feel better eating REAL FOOD!! Don't get caught up in the diet scam, the first three letters spell DIE! Eat REAL FOOD, in moderation, work out, and you'll be fine.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Virgin Blogger

I guess I should look at blogging sort of like an extended Facebook post. I've sort of used Facebook as a 'mini-blog' posting funny things that pop into my head and things that make me say 'Hmmmm' I guess the blog is just another opportunity to expand on that and share more of me with the world.

Most of this blog will probably relate to workouts, eating, and those sorts of things mostly because that's what I'm focused on right now. Don't know how much I'll share about the kids, probably some of the funnier things they say and do, which are frequent. Probably have to throw in some random thoughts, politics, whatever strikes my fancy on any given day. I guess that's the beauty of the blog is that its completely narcissistic and allows me to do what I want. You as the reader can visit and enjoy or not.

I've learned with Facebook sometimes things I think are freakin' hilarious get nowhere, while a totally random post can generate a great conversation. We'll see where this blog goes.