Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Give Thanks








I have been back and forth this week trying to decide if I wanted to write a post about the things I am thankful for, but since I am currently writing one, I guess I made my decision. It’s not that I have any shortage of blessings in my life. It’s more because I didn’t want to be one of those people who write a post about being thankful merely because Thanksgiving is coming up this week. In the end, I guess I didn’t want my last post before Thanksgiving to be my last post where I talked about how everything I have seems to be breaking. (If you squint real hard and read between the lines on my last post, you will see that there were good things to be thankful for in all the things that needed to be fixed.)


I think the one that really jumped out in my last post was my friends. One of the many things I am very thankful for are my truly amazing friends. I have been blessed to have friends who possess a wide variety of talents. I have mechanic friends for vehicular issues. Computer geniuses to help with my stubborn insistence to continue using obsolete, out dated computer hardware. Fellow parents to compare notes on the joys and trials of being the parents of young children. The list could go on and on, but then I would feel bad if I listed all but a few...so I’ll stop there. The point is clear. I have great friends and I am truly thankful for all that they have done, and continue to do, for me and my family.


I am thankful for the new career I started a couple of months ago. Being able to eat supper with my wife and girls every night and spend every weekend at home with them was a huge win from the start. The fact that I love my job, work with amazing people, commute less than five minutes each way, and work in a booming industry, is all just icing on the cake. I haven’t actually seen any cake at work yet, but there has been plenty of candy....and bananas. You have to appreciate an employer that wants you to be healthy, but still provides some treats for when a little sugar rush is what you’re looking for.


My two little girls have taught me a lot over the past year. Yeah, they’ve taught me how much (or little) patience I have, but they’ve also taught me how to giggle like a kid again. I’m not sure how I went from teaching them to walk to listening to my five year old read a book to me in what seems like six months. Whether it’s something silly they say or their unique take on something they see, they never cease to amaze me and fill me with joy.


My wife probably deserves a post all to herself, but if I was going to do that, I might as well start an entirely new blog site because nobody wants to ready a single 50 page blog post. Once again, I will hit a few highlights and say that this is by no means an all inclusive list of the things I am thankful for when it comes to my wife. She’s an amazing wife to me and mother to our children. She seems to always be doing three things at once including three jobs: Mom, full-time school job, and part-time direct sales job. I’ve never run out of clean clothes or food. (Both pretty high on my list of importance.) She is also a great friend and listener. My life has been better since I met her and for that I am truly thankful.


My extended family is a great source of help, joy, friendship, and love that I am thankful for. I am blessed to have my family and my wife’s extended family (which I have always considered to be my family too). We may be spread out across the country, but we somehow always manage to stay in touch and even see each other fairly regularly....at least regularly considering the physical distance between many of us.


These are all wonderful things to be thankful for, but that has not been the primary focus in my family since the time I was a child through now with a family of my own. We have always been, and will continue to be, thankful to God for all the blessings we have. Those blessings include all of the people and things I’ve already listed above as they are gifts from God. The bigger thing that I am thankful for is Grace. By the grace of God I am saved and will have an even greater joy when all these earthly joys are gone. There is no amount of thanking that can make up for that, but it doesn’t mean I won’t continue to say thank you every day. Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings once again. Until next time....

Friday, November 21, 2014

Broken









If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s a phrase we’ve all heard before. I know I have personally used it numerous times, but more often than not, I have used it in a joking manner. I don’t believe it’s a good phrase to use for a number of reasons. I got to thinking about this lately because I realized that everything around me seems to be broken or breaking and thereby minimizing my opportunities to properly use the phrase.


I love to remodel, update, and improve my house, vehicles, and property. Even if nothing is broken, I still want to “fix” them. A fresh coat of paint on the walls. A few new plants in front of the house. A new stereo in the truck. They’re all things that aren’t broken, but I have a nagging desire to improve them. It would be nice if I had the opportunity to tackle those projects, but here in the real world, everything is breaking before I get to force my own ideas of improvement upon them.


A few weeks ago, I put my hand through the wall in the shower because a water leak destroyed the backing behind the tile and the wall gave out. The good from this is that now I know how to tile a shower wall. The negative is that I didn’t have the desire, time, or money to do it at the time. At least I learned something new and my wife was reminded that it’s nice to keep me around.


Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of riding to the rescue to jump start my wife’s Jeep at her work when it didn’t start. It felt nice to be able to “rescue” her with this simple task...if that had been the end of the story. The next morning I realized that the issue went a bit deeper. My assumption was that one of our girls had left a dome light on and drained the battery. Not so. I am a pretty handy guy, but when it comes to being a mechanic, I’m not afraid to tell people that I’m the guy they put a picture of a gas can on the gas cap for. That’s why I am fortunate to have a couple of good buddies that are awesome mechanics. After a number of phone calls and texts with them, I had removed the alternator and had it tested. Replaced the alternator because it was fine and then replaced the battery because of course, it’s usually the simplest thing. Yippy! I fixed the Jeep without either of my buddies having to get their hands dirty for once. If only that was the end of it...as you’ll read later on in this post.


That same week, I was notified by my neighbor that they were kind enough to close my front storm door for me because it was blowing open in the wind. When I got home from work, I was overjoyed to find out that the storm door had swung open so fast and hit the steel railing on the stairs, that it actually bent the storm door. Not only is our storm door a relatively new and nice door (Read: Not needing to be updated until now), it is also a great barrier against the harsh Minnesota winter wind. One of these days I will have to see if I can fix that because it was one of the few well-sealed parts of our aging house.


Last week our laptop decided to crash. Normally, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world, but the timing was awful. My wife uses the laptop in the evenings to do things for her side business and apparently it’s not as much fun to do all that typing on her phone. I guess I can’t argue with that since you won’t often find me typing out a blog post on my phone...but I have done it. Fortunately for me once again, I know all the right people. It doesn’t hurt that I work for a managed IT services provider. (Don’t worry, I’m not one of the service engineers. I’m in account management.) So, a few dollars, tips, tricks, and hours later, the laptop was back up and running again. For the record, the laptop is one of the things on my list to update. I just want to do it on my terms.


This past week, I have been driving my wife’s Jeep because there is no heat coming from the vents. For those of you who haven’t been to Minnesota in November, that’s a bad thing. Good thing I’ve got those buddies on speed dial! (After the past couple of weeks, I actually moved them from speed dial to personalized direct dial icons on my Android home screen.) It appears that it is only the thermostat stuck wide open, but I won’t know until tomorrow when we tear into it. We’ll see how that goes. For now, I’m trying not to think about how bad I realized the tires are on the Jeep while driving it this week.


I think I’ve listed enough of my woes to make my point. Any more and it will just start to sound like whining (which I can’t stand). There is a lot to learn about the whole broke/not broke, fix/don’t fix cycle. I have learned that I still enjoy fixing things...even if it’s not necessarily on my terms. I have always loved learning new things, so the more things that break, the better chance I have of getting to learn something new. I have learned that I have amazing friends who always seem to be ready and willing to lend a helping hand and/or a few words of wisdom. It also hasn’t hurt earning all the extra brownie points with my wife for putting out all these fires this month. I probably shouldn’t use that phrase, because I only have a handful of firefighter buddies.


I guess the overall point to my ramblings today, is that I think there are better ways to look at things than “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. For example, better maintenance of my house and vehicles (fixing when not broken yet) probably would have saved me a few headaches this past month. As a manager of 20 plus years, the same can be said for processes in the workplace. Sticking with the same process you’ve always used because it ain’t broke also means it isn’t going to improve either. I could spin this off into a tangent about not wanting to “reinvent the wheel”, but I’ll save you the extra reading.


I will sign off now as I will probably need the rest tonight. I get to grout the tiles in the shower tomorrow (still not really done with that project) and then off to (hopefully) fix the heat in the Jeep. I’m also hoping I can make it through this week without any new break/fix scenarios or else I will be broke. I’m also going to put my own twist on the phrase: If it ain’t broke, it probably ain’t mine. Until next time...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Winter will arrive tonight






I am so utterly excited that winter is finally here in Minnesota! (***Disclaimer: Some content herein is completely false and/or a bold faced lie.) We are expecting the first snowfall of the year to commence in the next few hours. At least it is supposed to be a rather mild snowstorm to ease us into winter. News reports and weather websites are reporting that only 6-10” of snow is expected between tonight and Tuesday morning. I could complain about the snow (and I’m sure I will on numerous occasions this winter), but it never seems to do any good. I guess I am back to my good old standby attitude of trying to focus on the good that will come from winter in Minnesota.
I don’t have to mow the lawn for about five months! That may be a small victory, but it is a victory none the less. While I have to mow every single week throughout spring and summer, I only have to move snow if it actually snows. Then again, it could snow every day for a week straight compared to never having to mow the lawn more than once a week. (I’ll try not to think about that right now.)


With my new job being located right here in town, I no longer have to make the normally treacherous journey between my town and the town I used to work in. I’m sure my dislike for the old winter drive to work is in part due to my being a southern boy. In reality, I actually enjoy driving in the snow as it can be quite fun. The part I didn’t like is the risk of being late for work as it doesn’t take much to put you in a ditch and throw your morning routine out the window. (Don’t get me started on the “seasoned Minnesota drivers” who feel they have the skills to continue to drive 60 mph on packed snow and ice.) I also had the added risk of the road between the two towns getting closed down due to an unfortunate combination of a railroad track running parallel to the highway about six feet higher than the road that creates a perfect snow fence affect. It will dump a six foot deep snow drift on the road rather quickly. So, once again, I can enjoy NOT having to deal with that anymore.


Winter is really beautiful here in Minnesota! Although I do live in a very clean and beautiful town, covering everything with a nice clean blanket of snow makes it that much more beautiful. I love seeing the big snowflakes drift down from the sky and create that blanket inch by inch. It is definitely nicer than a good old Texas ice storm. On a side note though, I do have to say that the day after an ice storm in Texas is also quite beautiful. The ice glistening in the sun makes everything glow. The problem there is that the weight of ice tends to destroy a lot of the trees and take down power lines.


Sledding, building snowmen, and snowball fights are other activities that I have been enjoying more over the past couple of years. Having two little girls that are always itching to go outside and play in the snow really brings out the kid in me. The hill we have in our back yard may not be fun during the mowing season, but it sure makes a nice sledding hill. It does get a little tiring dragging the girls up the hill just to sled down again, but maybe they will be big enough this year to walk up the hill under their own power. As seen in the photo above, I tried to show my oldest daughter how hard it is to pull someone in a sled, but she didn’t get the point. She just thought it was fun “pulling” dad on a sled.


Like I said before, it doesn’t do any good to complain about winter rolling in. After all, I do live in Minnesota and I don’t foresee a winter here without snow. I am loving the fact that there will be no stress involved in making it to work on time this year. I also love the fact that my girls are both another year older and able to better enjoy activities outside in the snow. I guess I will have to wait a few more years before I hand over my snow moving duties to my girls though. Oh well, I’ll focus on the winter fun this year. (Please note that I never mentioned the temperatures being below zero for weeks at a time.) Until next time....

UPDATE: The winter storm completely missed us by a few miles to the north. The fact that the snowstorm missed us only created a much stronger and more fierce storm in our house this morning when my five year old realized that there was no snow. I guess it's a first for me: A snowless snowstorm.