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November Journal
11.26.03 Thankful

This morning, my daughter asked to come up in my arms, and she snuggled into me for a long waltz around the living room. She pressed herself tight against my body and just spun around with me, eyes closed, just enjoying the music and the moment. This was a first.

Katrina and Violette get along wonderfully. They have a great bond now, after a lot of hard work. They share many great moments, and I'm so thankful for that. I love to see the two of them together.

I have a much more typical Dad relationship. I'm the rougher-upper. I throw Violette onto the couch, cover her with cushions, and then mash her until she shouts my name for me to get up. We do lots of chasing and smooshing, that kind of thing. So, that was a really nice moment today. And I didn't even have to turn on the vacuum to scare her into doing it.

My parents have been really super. They've given a lot of themselves over this past year, and we've appreciated every moment. They went over and above what's expected of grandparents, and they did it all with a smile. For that, we're eternally grateful.

I have a great brother and sister-in-law. They are both caring, passionate, and full of excitement. We had a great meal at their home in October, and it just seems that the more we hang out, the more we find common ground and laugh a lot.

I work in a challenging and dynamic job. Though I often feel I'm not contributing enough, I have almost seven years with this corporation, and I've been involved with almost every major event in those seven years. I'm always looking for the next challenge, but that's a great position to be in. I'm glad I'm not just slogging it, and phoning it in.

I wish you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving (for those of us in the States), and a great Thursday for folks outside the US.


11.24.03 Weekend Update

On Saturday, I attended an AWESOME event. It was one of the best events I've been to in a long time. An old friend from Pittsfield, Maine held a gathering that brought together lots of people I hadn't seen since I was 14 years old.

What was great about the event was this: not only did I get to reconnect with people who were wonderful and who I hadn't seen in forever, but this gathering was VERY kids friendly. In fact, there were scads of little people. There were a few who only had a few months on the globe, and a few who were four years old. It was wonderful. I loved the way all the people at the gathering just took general care of the kids roaming about. It was much more relaxed than the typical party I attend with Violette, because everyone had at least some sense of how to herd children.

The food was excellent, and we were thrilled with the selection. This was a pre-Thanksgiving event, so there was a big fat bird, and all kinds of trimmings. Dan M. made a GREAT selection of pies for dessert. Let's just say, PECAN!!!! Oh man. That pie was the VERY best pecan pie I ever had, and that's saying a lot, because my previous #1 was my grandmother's.

I'm giddy with all the discussions with all these Mainers, because my heart has always been in getting back up there in some way or another. Some of the guys who'd moved to Mass and other areas are considering moving back really soon, at least to southern Maine (fake Maine) around Portland. I think I'm going to at least peek into it.

So, yeah, Kat and Violette and I had an amazing time at this thing. Potato guns and great conversations. Sing Alongs for the kids and a keg of Sam Adams. This was really just heavenly. I hope your weekend was even marginally as good.


11.20.03 I Have An Idea

So, if my contention is that modern American (Western) life has stripped the typical human of several key skills that used to be considered common ability and knowledge, then I might have an idea of my mission. This is sketchy at best, but it does well to wrap all my various ideas together into one model. I hope. I'm going to try this out as a mission and see if it works. First draft.

My mission is to reclaim most of the skills I have previously entrusted to big corporations and government agencies, and then instruct others in these skills as I become proficient. Good. Shorter?

My mission is to become self-sufficient, and then teach others how to do the same.

Good. I like that. It's fair to compare my interest to some of the goals of those PBS programs like Frontier House, or whatever the one in Wales is called. My only difference is I'm willing to use modern tools and skills to do what I want to do. I don't have to be anachronistic, exactly.

What will I need for this mission? I will need to be physically fit. Doing things for yourself might require the ability to handle heavy items, to endure more taxes upon my body. That's a good start. A strong body. See how that fits my fitness goals?

I will need better critical thinking skills. Right? Because I'll want to have the ability to separate what is necessary from what might be engaging but unnecessary. I'll need to sort. I'll need to prioritize. I guess that's still in critical thinking.

I will need all kinds of practical knowledge, and then be able to extrapolate it and apply it to other tasks. I'll also have to determine how far I want to take this. Is this food, shelter, clothing? Or is this just growing my own food? See how there can be degrees of this?

And how will I teach it? Will I write books about it and share that way? Should I invite students to learn with me after I've reached my proficiency? I hope to do both. I think there's always value in teaching what you learn, but I'd love the interaction even more.

What about inviting other experts to teach me? What if others wanted to get involved with the effort? Hmmm.

I like the idea of this. It matches things a lot better than my previous concerns.


11.19.03 Just What The Hell Am I Training FOR????

Lately, I've been reading a lot of books about military people who have gone through extremely difficult and demanding training to perform jobs that require peak performance. I was having trouble understanding what this was all about, but Kat said a little while ago that maybe I was using the books for inspiration. I think that's true. The question is: what am I training for?

Part of working on becoming successful is having a strong sense of visualization. Ask Michael Jordan (perhaps the most used example of a success) his secret, and he often says it's nothing more than very hard work paired with visualizing the results he wants to achieve. Sounds easy, but of course, like all things that matter in life, the deceptively simple answer masks a difficult concept.

In LEADERSHIP LESSONS OF THE NAVY SEALS, I read that one shouldn't build operations around abilities, but rather, train people to perform the operations that need doing. That's on my mind today, because I realize I'm snatching up all kinds of training in various things without really understanding what "mission" it is I'm training for. I have to really do some searching to try and understand where I want all this effort to go. Without some sense of a direction, I'm just "bulking up" my skull.

I think I've fallen back into the Matrix a little bit. I use that analogy to discuss when one lets life live them. In my case, I have a very good job, and am making enough money to meet the needs of my family. Because of this, I'm letting this job dictate a great portion of the time and effort I put into a day. But, is this what I want to be doing? I don't think so. I enjoy my job. I'm good at my job, but it's not exactly a "vocation" I'm interested in.

The problem comes when I realize that I must make an effort to achieve escape velocity. It's just too easy to be lazy and keep on doing what I'm doing. I have to remember that. I won't change without that first vital ingredient: effort.

I'm going to have to get a better sense of what direction I want to head in, and then direct my other efforts in that course. Effort. Remember to work at it. Man, it is SO easy to just slip back into routines and let life lead you.


11.18.03 Doing the Work

I must constantly remind myself that my self-work is about me. The goal of this work is improving myself. It is not to focus outside of the sphere of me and my family. I forget this often.

When I don't remember this, I get caught up in wondering why people bother to ask me questions about my personal efforts. They seem to want me to say, "This is really easy, and you could do it without even thinking about it." When I get frustrated, it is because I have forgotten that this effort is not about people outside of me.

I have so many failures, so much inconsistency, so many things still left to work on. I am by no means perfect, nor do I intend to be. I merely intend to learn more about myself, remove the external influences from my self-opinion, and form a way to view the outside world that works well with my personal goals and beliefs.

One of these beliefs, however, is that I should be sharing what I'm learning when asked. I don't ever like to preach. I used to do a lot of that in the past, and I know it was wrong. Instead, if someone asks me about my progress, I offer them a little information. If they ask me more, I tell them even more. Where I trip up, however, is that I believe the people are asking because they're interested in putting in similar efforts themselves.

That's not the point. I can answer if they ask, but it's not my concern what people do with the information. My mistake.

I am here doing my work. I wish everyone great peace and success.


11.17.03  Weekend Update

This was one of those weekends out of the Twilight Zone in some ways. One, I ran a mile for the first time. Okay, the pace was more a jog, but hey, I moved my body in a continuous motion for a mile. Second, I bought my first ever pair of running shoes. Whoa.

We had friends by briefly on Saturday, and that was nice. Neither of us are used to getting fit, so these friends were helpful in telling us a little about what they do. I also went with them to this sporting goods store that was having a big blow out sale.

My free XBox arrived. That was a nice thing. I played Halo until my reflexes were jammed up on bust. I really enjoy playing video games on occasion. Poor Kat had to endure me begging her to play a lot, but we laughed tons at different parts. There's nothing like driving your partner over a cliff in a Warthog.

It was a great weekend. We ate some excellent food and generally had a great time with friends and family.

What did you do?


11.13.03 Third Shift

This week, my work life stunk. I worked a day Monday, a night Monday/Tuesday, a day Wednesday, and a night Wednesday/Thursday morning. Can you say "screwed up bodyclock?"

Other than that, I'm really enjoying my job. I've re-invested my attention full bore into what I'm doing, especially around the realm of process improvement. I get the feeling it's  not all well-received, because I think the sense is that there's already lots to do operationally, so why am I recommending so many changes which could be deferred. That might just be me. I don't know. But whatever. I'm enjoying coming up with suggestions and ways to implement them.

When I work third shift, I usually get paranoid by the end of it all. It's good to know what sleep deprivation does to my body. I doubt I could survive something like the Navy SEAL's Hell Week, where they survive on something like five hours for a whole week. I'm sure it'd show me what kind of man I am, and I think I'd come up lacking in that regard. But that's okay. I don't have military aspirations. I'm quite happy messing up the civilian world.

I was just talking with a couple guys who love third shift. I can understand their perspective. In their case, they like the pureness of doing their job at night. They like the "extra hours" it frees up in their weeks. I know what they mean. When you work third shift, it feels like there are more days than when you don't.

I'm glad I don't do this all the time, though. I'll just dabble like I have for the last three or more years. I'm a professional dabbler, I think.


11.12.03 My Folks

Kat and I were talking about just how fortunate I am to have the parents I do. My parents were total and utter LIFESAVERS during our first many months with Violette. They have also been very supportive of me my whole life. We had a great visit with them yesterday and it made me want to write about them.

My parents always believed in me. They felt I could accomplish anything. They were very encouraging, even though I was a flighty kid who wanted something new and completely different from life every day. (Still am). They gave me musical instruments, encouraged me in all (except violin), and attended all my various concerts. When I was growing up, I dabbled in about every creative venue possible, and at all turns, my folks were there telling me I was amazing.

Now that I'm grown up, my parents have been incredible with helping us with Violette. Neither Kat nor I were exactly built to be parents. We had a lot of learning to do. During that time, my parents have been invaluable by their taking Violette for weekends and giving us breaks whenever possible. That's been very appreciated.

I could really fill this entire journal with the good stuff about my parents. My Dad is the funniest guy on the planet. He has a perfect dry sense of humour. He likes to fall asleep at odd moments. When I was a kid, he used to play great games with us, tell us stories, and occasionally bloody my nose with a rubber baseball.    : ) My Mom sang songs with us, sewed us Star Trek costumes, read us stories, and took care of all the details that go with bringing a kid up. All that she had to put up with.. well, I guess all parents have to do that, right?

I guess I'll continue to find out.

So, thanks parents!


11.11.03 Cool Kid

Our daughter has turned out to be really cool. I think I have Kat to thank for all her careful handling and loving efforts. Things used to be a lot harder, but now, we're really coming to enjoy our time with her.

Violette just learned how to say "no" tonight. Before, she'd shake her head and make a little squeak sound. But tonight, she had a lot of fun telling us "no" and shaking her head. If I could record a sound clip, I would.

She's learning how to climb things faster and faster. And I swear she's growing an inch a day or something. Her reach seems to get longer and longer. Soon, we'll be living with all our gear stowed on the top shelf only. It feels like we're preparing for a flood a little at a time.

Katrina's doing a great job of being a loving mom. She has lots of patience, and I think all that built in Mom stuff that seemed so elusive at first. I'm grateful for her efforts, because I still don't have all that Dad patience I'm supposed to have.

Anyhow, this post is for Violette. You're a cool kid.


11.10.03  Weekend Update

This weekend, we had the little space person, so it was pretty much all family stuff. We did get to peruse a bookstore, where I usually just pick out things I want to borrow from the library. We also got a new pair of pants and a shirt, because I'm growing out of the others. That part didn't chew.

We were a little tight on money this weekend, so it was a time to kind of lay low. That didn't  hurt, either. With the weather going into the freezing mark, it was fun to stay in the house and find things to do there. I finished my book, watched a few movies, and played a lot with Violette. Somewhere in there, I did my parents Christmas card, too.

What'd you do?


11.06.03 Reading

I've been stuck in this situation where I'm reading 95% nonfiction lately. This is from a straight 100% fiction diet. Dear lord, what's happened to me?

Kat mentioned to me that perhaps it's because I have been so hung up on reading not feeling productive. She said maybe it's that I'm considering nonfiction topics to be more "real" than what I was doing with fiction. But man, what a weird string of books I've been reading.

Right now, I'm reading FIRST SEAL, by Roy Boehm. It's about a World War II veteran who became the first ever U.S. Navy Seal. I got the idea to read it when browsing more of the Seal Fitness books. It's a great read. The guy's a wonderful author, and very good at putting things in the human perspective. He wrote about being attacked by sharks, and I nearly wet myself with fear. (Of course, I'm still traumatized over having seen JAWS when I was younger).  

So, I'm not sure what the deal is, but fiction's been much harder to catch my eye lately. I hope this shifts a little towards a balance in the near future. I sure do miss stories.


11.05.03 Check - In

I've been involved in all kinds of self-improvement efforts since July of this year. I have worked very hard on getting to the root of things that have been wrong with me for years, but that haven't been adequately addressed. It's been difficult.

What I found is that I had all kinds of ties to the outside world that I was relying upon to bolster my opinion of myself. I couldn't operate without the good will of people outside of me. It made living difficult, because all those ties eventually get tangled. And mine got very tangled indeed. So, I had to make some cuts.

Now, I'm moving forward with a new effort on keeping "me" in the driver's seat of how I feel about myself. I am building up the parts of me that were in disrepair, including my mind and my body. I have discarded all my old excuses, and operate completely on the requirements of doing things because they need doing.

It's been good. I have the love and support of a beautiful woman. I have a great daughter, and an excellent support system in my family. But most of all, I've rediscovered myself.

That's a great feeling.


11.04.03 Little Landmarks

Today, I'm wearing pants that are four waist sizes smaller than the pants I had on in August. I'm not exactly trumpeting that fact to the world, but I'm feeling pretty darned skippy that I'm at this point. It just means there's more proof that the work I'm doing is paying off.

My boss asked me what'd been going on that saw me in new clothes recently. I mentioned that the old ones didn't fit. That was pretty cool, too.

Does this website's colors remind you of mustard and ketchup? If so, is the stuff on the left relish? I just realized that. Eeek. You'll probably see a color change tomorrow.

I have to do the holiday card designs tonight or tomorrow. I just haven't found the time where I'm not exhausted from my day. Hmmm.

Anyhow, I'm rambling.


11.03.03  Weekend Update

On Saturday, we endured that odd experience of getting family pictures. This was a first for Kat. Me? I've had a few trips to various portrait studios under my belt. It's always a trip.

For one, these studios NEVER are on time. I understand this. The business involves picky humans, tricky kids, and all kinds of variables that muck with things like following a time table. For another, once you're in the room getting shot, YOU are not on time, because you get picky, your kid is tricky, and things just don't work in your favor.

Another thing. The studio was almost 80 degrees or more hot. We were all sweaty and sticky before even getting under the big fat photo lamps. Man, what a great way to feel attractive for a photo: sweat.

But, in the end, there were some passable shots, and we were happy to pitch in and do our bit for preserving holiday traditions. Which reminds me, I have two Christmas cards to draw and one of those corny holiday letters to write. What kind of odd wackiness can I put in there?

What are some of your favorite holiday letter stories? I can't tell you mine. It would betray something. : )