Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Final Reflection from Running (for Now)

Okay, so I have been thinking quite a bit lately while running.

On Saturday, I was out running and praying again.

The sun helped to mitigate the snow and biting temperature. Originally, when I set out on the run, I planned to run seven miles. However, after a few miles, a quiet voice suggested to run an additional three miles.

As I neared the rec center, I was really ready for some warmth and thought it probably would be okay to run a few miles on the indoor track. Nope, the voice recommended continuing on the outside journey. So I turned north - directly into the wind - and the voice said it might be better to turn around to get a break from the wind. Not a bad idea!

So I'm running along and then the people that I had been thinking about during the run start popping in around me - not physically, but in spirit.

I was offering encouragement to a friend. Jenn swooped in and reminded me that cold toes weren't that big of deal. We were all there running together - offering each other mutual encouragement. The weird thing was that there was this other person running with us, too. He didn't really say too much. He offered an occasional laugh or comment. But there was something different about this runner - a certain lightness to his step, a certain radiance to his presence

Monday, December 20, 2010

Another Reflection from Running

On Sunday, I was reading some more of Dan Miller's book, No More Mondays. I had to laugh when I came across this gem:

There will always be naysayers and whiners; avoid them. Find winners and spend time with them.

On Friday evening, Jenn and I set out for a three mile run in some of the coldest, windiest conditions I have ever experienced out on the pavement. We were running half mile laps in the neighborhood around our house. So every half mile, we were right back by our house - and warmth. As we approached the 1.5 mile mark, my toes were officially icicles. I said that maybe we should head for the warmth of the house. Jenn adamantly replied that we had planned to run three miles and that is what we were going to do. I was a little taken aback by the forcefulness of her reply. Of course, when we approached mile 2, the end seemed in sight. It is amazing the difference that half a mile makes. That is one reason why it is so important to be a part of a team of winners. Winners don't let other people stop early at the 1.5 mile mark just because of some cold toes. Winners encourage each other to perservere through those difficult half miles of life.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


In the basement, a plaque hangs on the wall that is engraved with Romans 12:2.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

I have had this plaque hanging nearby for the last seven years. I have thought about this verse and the preceding verse on numerous occasions. Eugene Peterson offers this transliteration of Romans 12:1-2 in The Message:

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Three Sundays ago, I departed from home for my normal weekly long run. The long run is a time when many thoughts circulate around in my mind. The thoughts often become a jumbled mess with no clear direction or focus. However, as I set out on a chilly run, my thoughts went to a friend experiencing a challenging situation. I found myself asking, "What can I do to help him?" I was a bit surprised to actually hear a response to my question.

The response:


So I prayed:

"Strengthen him.
Encourage him.
Give him peace."

As the miles continued to pass and my mind began to wander, I returned to these three requests and just kept repeating them. Gradually, the run turned into something more. It transformed from a run into a mission. It transformed from my normal, ordinary run into something extraordinary. It transformed the coldness and the fatigue into a gift. Running became an opportunity to surrender the body to God's business.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chili Pepper Lights

Earlier in the week, I took this picture of the Christmas tree in my office but just didn't quite have the words in mind to go with the post. However, after a good work out and shower, the image of a hidden lamp emerged from the depths of a busy day. A hidden lamp is kind of absurd. Lamps provide light in the darkness of the night. It doesn't make much sense to hide a lamp. Yet, in some ways, the red hot chili pepper lights that emblazon this tree were hidden lamps.

These lights hung in the cafe during our days at Saint Joseph's. The lights always made me smile when I entered the cafe. (The smell of bacon wafting through the cafe also made me smile, but I'll save that for another day.) Something about those lights just humored me and grabbed my attention. I didn't hesitate to make this known to others - including the director of the cafe. The director ended up leaving the college. However, before his departure, he gave me these lights. The thrill of receiving the lights still brings a smile to my face. Of course, they proudly hung in our apartment all of senior year. Then, they went into a box for over seven years.

This past Sunday, Jenn and I visited my home church. The message involved light and darkness. My mind wandered a bit to Christmas lights. I decided that my office needed some lights. Later that evening, I went into the garage to get the Christmas lights for the other tree that did not go up this year due to the move. Much to my surprise, the chili pepper lights were situated neatly in the box of lights and ornaments. Unfortunately, when I plugged them in to the socket, they did not light up. Jenn noticed that a wire was actually cut. However, one strand of clear lights also emerged from the box. Furthering my surprise, Jenn and my brother, Troy, promptly sat down on the couch and began moving the chili peppers from one strand to the other. Meanwhile, I was dancing around and acting goofy.

Needless to say, I could barely contain my smile when I carried this tree into work on Monday. A supervisor greeted me with a smile and shaking head. I'm incredibly thankful for the chance to share these lights with others.

I kind of wonder how many other "lights" are hidden and waiting to be shared.

A verse from Mark came to mind as I was thinking about hidden lamps this evening.

He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand?"

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Still Excited?

Last night as we were preparing for the Holy Walk, I asked, "After all of these years, is it still okay to be extremely excited for the Holy Walk?"

This year marked the 30th year of the Holy Walk in my home town, Bremen.

The Holy Walk and I were born the same year.

In fact, the first Holy Walk was at my parent's house.

I kind of grew up with it.

This year, though, was different. On Friday evening, Jenn and I packed the car after work and made the trek to Bremen so that we could could go through the Holy Walk before serving as angels on Saturday night. I have longed to go through the Holy Walk for the last several years but never had the chance due to serving as an angel or working with our youth group at the produce tent.

We arrived in Bremen and headed to the school. Last year Jenn and my sister-in-law snuck into a group at the start of the journey. However, this year, I asked if we could start at the school to gain the full experience.

Jenn obliged and we waited for about an hour and a half before catching a ride on a big yellow limousine to Bethlehem. The time, though, went by fast because we talked with a friend from Horizon and enjoyed watching the other people in the gym.

After the bus dropped us off at the site, we met our guide, James, from Caesarea. We were part of a family of 21 members on our way to Bethlehem to pay our taxes. On the hill outside of Bethlehem, we met a couple, Mary and Joseph. Mary was well along in her pregnancy. They were tired and cold.

As we left the couple, we were enshrouded by the darkness of night.

Soon, though, we came across some shepherds watching their sheep and were startled by angels proclaiming great news of a Savior to be born in Bethlehem.

We hurried on our way.

The innkeeper turned away our cold and weary family.

The Roman soldiers harassed us. I got in trouble for smiling too much.

We unsuccessfully tried to barter for rations and bedding in the village.

We paid our taxes.

Then, about 45 minutes into our journey, we found ourselves approaching the light of a lowly stable situated in the darkness of the night. The calmness of the stable contrasted significantly with the craziness of our journey. Even the wild 4th and 5th grade students that were in our family were completely quiet and still.

Some people were with the animals:



and a little baby,


The story has been the same for the last 3o years.

The story has been the same for the last 2000 years.

Yes, it is still a pretty exciting story!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Love You, Bye

Jenn and I take turns praying at meals.

At one recent evening meal, it was my turn to pray.

Some of you know that when I'm hungry, I tend to get a little crazy. I also tend to get a little crazy when juggling more than a couple activities. This particular night, I was definitely more than a bit frazzled.

So we sat down to eat and I prayed.

Of course, I got to the point in the prayer when it was time to end.




I heard, "Love you, bye," exit from my mouth.

I was thinking, "What in the heck just happened?:
At first, I was a little embarrassed by this. I mean, who says, "Love you, bye" to end a prayer. That is how my wife and I end phone conversations. That is not how you are supposed to end a prayer.

I have wondered about this situation, though, several times since its occurrence.

I mean, isn't prayer supposed to be a conversation with God? So where did the "Dears," "Amens," and other formalities start entering into the picture?

The worship band at Horizon used to joke around quite a bit before church. Then, invariably someone would say, "Okay, it's time to dial up." In other words, "It's time to pray." At the time, this just seemed part of the humor.

Maybe, though, prayer really is more like a phone conversation or a face-to-face conversation - a conversation with a spouse, friend, coworker, or parent.

"Love you, bye."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Action versus Reaction

An action is offensive.
A reaction is defensive.

An action is doing something before a problem becomes a problem.
A reaction is trying to fix a problem after it has already happened.

An action is part of a calculated plan.
A reaction is a response to a crisis.

An action is taking the first step and allowing others to follow.
A reaction is, at best, forcing people to follow.

An action involves forward thinking.
A reaction involves backward thinking.

An action changes an idea into something.
A reaction changes something into something.

An action is a vitamin.
A reaction is an aspirin (or alcohol).

An action is exercise (eating right, getting enough sleep, etc).
A reaction is cold medicine.

Special thanks to my coworkers-in-change, Matt Gongwer and Trent Miles, for their contributions and inspiration.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thank you, God

The past few days have been quite a whirlwind. Honestly, it is wonderful to be sitting here in the living room with my feet propped on the coffee table.

On Wednesday evening, Nick and I ventured up to the chiropractor. (This trip in itself turned out to be quite humorous and featured a vocal performance by Ben. K. To avoid digressing too much, I'll get back to the main point.) Upon returning, I noticed that my brother's car and brother-in-law's truck were parked on the street in front of the house. This is not totally unusual because Jenn makes dinner for them from time to time. However, she typically would have mentioned that we were having them over for dinner. As I walked up to the front door, though, I could see more of our friends through the front windows. Jenn had put together a surprise pasta party in anticipation of Saturday's run. Surrounded by friends and family, we enjoyed some amazing spaghetti, breadsticks, salad, and brownies.

On Saturday, around mile 24, the love and support of my wonderful wife, friends, and family started pouring out as tears. All, I could do was just say, "Thank you, God. Thank you, God."

Later, Jenn asked me about what I thought about during the run.

Here are some of the thoughts.

I thought about my wonderful wife and her encouragement. I pictured her riding her bike during training and offering much needed water.

I thought about some of my closest friends and my gratitude for them. I prayed for those struggling with health issues.

I sang "You Are My Strength" and pictured a group of friends singing the same song at a little church in Wisconsin.

I thought about seeing "Marathon" on my mom's refrigerator calendar and "Run, Todd, Run" on the poster in our living room.

I thought about long bike rides with friends in Bremen and Rensselaer.

I thought about running in the mountains of Vermont.

I thought about Kerry, also running in the marathon, and her encouragement.

And yes, by mile 24, all that I could say was, "Thank you, God."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Let's have a picnic."

Friday evening was cold and dark.

Obviously, this was a perfect night... for a picnic.

After putting together a great comfort meal of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, Jenn exclaimed, "Let's have a picnic!"

So we put some blankets down on the living room floor and moved the food from the kitchen to our picnic blankets. We proceeded to enjoy a picnic and movie - a walk-up-and-sit instead of a drive-up movie.

Although this picnic was relaxing, it also left me challenged. We managed to turn an "ordinary" meal into something different, something "extraordinary." What does this mean for the remainder of the day? What other ordinary parts of the day can undergo transformation into something extraordinary? Yes, this left me feeling challenged.

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans, 12:1-2, MSG)

Monday, November 8, 2010


We are very fortunate to have received Fiestaware from many of our friends and family as wedding gifts. This morning, I looked at our breakfast table and was just kind of mesmerized by the colors. It mind sound kind of goofy, but the table looked full of joy. The table looked vibrant. I have learned a great deal from Jenn at this table. Instead of virtually inhaling the food, I have learned to slow down and enjoy the food and company. I usually still have to pause and let Jenn catch up :), but we are so fortunate to eat meals together and just enjoy each other's company.

This morning as I was gazing at this vibrantly happy table, a verse from The Message came to mind:
He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he's there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds it proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross. (Colossians 1:18-20)

God brings together colors in vibrant harmonies.

God brings together people in vibrant harmonies.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Jenn and I recently moved into our new home. Last evening, we went on a trip to Lafayette for what Jenn describes as "retail therapy." For me, this translates to Jenn dropping me off at Starbucks. I read and write. She shops. It works out great. Anyway, she was searching for a few key items for the house.

One of these items was a mat for our precious puppy's food and water bowls. This mat was an issue at our previous residence. While drinking water, Gus would invariable splash some onto the mat. The mat absorbed the water, and, over time, the moisture damaged the floor. Jenn unsuccessfully looked for a mat at Target while I was sipping a pumpkin spice latte.

After she picked me up, we stopped at PetSmart. The mat she found was $10 or $11. She was not happy with this price and was also afraid that it would end up doing the exact same thing as the previous mat. She described what she was looking for in a little bit more detail. She needed something that would protect the floor. She needed something to keep the moisture from getting trapped against the floor.

We went to Walmart and checked the pet section and still did not find anything that would work. I decided that it was time to think outside of the pet area. My first thought was a dish drainer. Nope. My second thought was a car mat. Sure enough, we found this clear floor mat for the rear seat of a car. It is stain resistant rubber so it provides a barrier between the water splashes and the floor. It also captures the water and allows it to evaporate instead of seeping to the floor. Even better, the mat was only about $4.

Problem solved!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Odd Friends

Well, first, it has been quite awhile since my last blog post. Honestly, I wasn't very happy with the direction of the blog, and I'm still not sure of a new direction to take with it.

Today, though, I had the chance to spend a Sunday morning doing what I love to do most on a Sunday morning - drink french pressed coffee and read. (Okay, I also love to eat, and Jenn made these wonderful pumpkin pancakes. They were so fluffy!)

My reading material included Statistics for Managers Using Microsoft Excel and the book of Haggai. The stat book is for the statistics class that starts tomorrow. The book of Haggai... well, I mean who isn't ready the book of Haggai these days, right? (Actually, I recently read Habakkuk and for some reason I woke up this morning wondering about the book of Haggai. I'm not sure what the connection really is between these two books except they are close to each other in the OT - separated only by Zephaniah.)

So anyway, what could possibly be shared by a statistics book and Haggai? Well, the readings this morning both focused on priorities. Levine, Stephan, Krehbiel, and Berenson (2011) discussed the Pareto principle and referred to the "vital few" and the "trivial many" (p. 35). What does this mean? Well, the stat book provided the example of using a Pareto chart to prioritize improvement opportunities. Several improvement opportunities might exist, but the Pareto chart makes it possible to pick the "vital few" that will have the most drastic effect for the effort expended.

Haggai also deals with priorities.

Consider the text (Haggai 1:6):

"You have planted much, but have harvested little.
You eat, but never have enough.
You drink, but never have your full.
You put on clothes, but are not warm.
You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it."

This sounds like the people are spinning their wheels. They are working hard and not getting much done. They are focusing on the wrong priorities. In the text, the people have lost their number one priority, God. Maxwell (2007) writes that one of the symptoms of this incorrect prioritization is that "they felt dissatisfied in their production" (p. 1148).

The challenge is to choose the correct priorities and focus the most time on those priorities. As Maxwell writes, "It is not about working hader, but smarter" (p. 1148).
Levine, D. M., Stephan, D. F., Krehbiel, T. C., & Berenson, M. L. (2011). Statistics for managers using Microsoft Excel (6th ed.). Boston: Prentice Hall.

Maxwell, J. C. (Ed). (2007). The Maxwell leadership Bible: The New King James version (2nd ed.). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"Keep It Simple"

Jesus now called the Twelve and gave them authority and power to deal with all the demons and cure diseases. He commissioned them to preach the news of God's kingdom and heal the sick. He said, "Don't load yourselves up with equipment. Keep it simple; you are the equipment. And no luxury inns—get a modest place and be content there until you leave. If you're not welcomed, leave town. Don't make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and move on." (Luke 9:1-5, The Message)
I read these verses from Luke while spending some time in my office at Lake Banet. An image from this past week entered into my mind upon reading, "Keep it simple; you are the equipment." On Tuesday, Jenn and I did our normal 4.25 mi run. Lately, I've been running an additional mile after this run. This works out great because we are able to run to the athletic complex on campus. Then, Jenn turns right and heads home. I turn left and take another pass through campus. On this last pass, I took the alternate way around the grotto from our normal route and came across a substantial pile of branches, brush, and twigs. "Hmm," I thought, "that was sure nice of someone to clean up in the grotto." Later, I was so pleased to find out that this was Jenn's work. In reflecting today, I was also excited to think about the simplistic beauty of her actions - of her being God's tool to help in the maintenance efforts of this haven of peace.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

SJC Camping Extravaganze III: Oh Yeah!

This past weekend, Jenn and I joined friends from my college dorm, Bennett Hall, for SJC Camping Extravaganza III. Perhaps, the youngest member of our camping group, Bennett, summarized the weekend most eloquently...

He kept running around exclaiming, "Oh yeah!"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

God's Air Conditioning

Over the past few weeks, Jenn and I have spent several Saturday and Sunday afternoons at Lake Banet on the campus of our alma mater, St. Joseph's College. This past Sunday, Jenn and I sat on our new beach chairs... in the lake. We read our books and enjoyed the silence.

The beach is nestled away from US231 just enough that the sounds of the cars and semis are only barely audible. No houses and yards disrupt the shore-line. Two lifeguards were the only other people at the beach. Okay, another lady is there almost all the time, but she usually is off on her own. So, yes, we were reading and enjoying the silence.

Yet, it wasn't really silent at all. The breeze rustled the leaves. The birds harmonized in the trees. The occasional movement of Jenn's feet resulted in a few happy splashes. The water lapped subtly against the shore.

Later, our friend, Nick, joined us at the lake for a brief respite from the fast-pace of life and the almost oppressive heat. As the three of us relaxed and kept cool in the lake, minnows started nibbling at us. Well, they really started swarming around me. One even went into my pocket. In fact, they kind of swarmed around some awkward areas.

We all laughed.

It is kind of amazing when you think about it. In this world filled with Facebook, Nintendo Wii, shiny vehicles, spacious houses, and the latest trends, three friends enjoyed something a bit more organic.

We enjoyed an afternoon in God's air conditioning.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Depth of Field: The Difference Between Spectators and Converts

This morning, Seth Godin wrote about Fans, Participants, and Converts. One of the differences between spectators and converts is the individual's depth of field. Spectators are just trying to take in everything that is around them. They bounce from trend to trend without any commitment. Converts are able to see the details in the landscape of life - and make a difference. The irony is that embracing this shallow depth of field ultimately leads to deep and expansive focus.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Depth of Field

As previously mentioned in this blog, I take quite a few pictures as part of my work. Pictures are an essential component of my ongoing research project into the causes of discolored copper. However, outside of work, I also experiment a bit with photography. Basically, it is fun to experiment with different camera settings. And the feedback is only a click away! Since receiving my camera as a Christmas present, I have been most interested in depth of field. Depth of field has to do with the portion of the picture that is sharp. Quite a bit more technical lingo in optics more adequately describes depth of field, but the picture above has a shallow depth of field.

Yesterday, I was thinking about depth of field while driving home. It is intriguing. Think about the world that we occupy. We continue to have exponential changes in technology, communication, and the overall pace of life. It would be overwhelming to keep track of all the latest developments. It is often overwhelming just trying to keep track of day-to-day schedules and commitments. It is difficult - perhaps exhausting - to keep everything in our view sharp and in focus. What happens, though, when we let some of the stuff on the fringes start to blur out? What happens when we can put more emphasis on what is truly important while de-emphasizing all of the superfluous background noise?

Friday, July 2, 2010


Today, I received a text from Jenn:

"Pulled out the mixer. Working on surprise #2."

Jenn has enjoyed organizing the kitchen with all of the new items that we received as gifts. Yesterday, she surprised me with Aunt Lois' strawberry lemonade - compliments of the new blender. So this text piqued my interest and the day could not get over fast enough.

I arrived home from work and walked into the kitchen singing, "It's the freakin' weekend..." Then, my gaze landed on the table and my eyes widened. The table was covered in... cookies.

"Ooh, cookies!" I exclaimed.

I heard some laughter from the backyard. Jenn was reading in the hammock.

So I scampered out to say hello and was hopeful that perhaps it would be okay to eat a cookie.

Sure enough, Jenn said to get a cookie.

So I dashed back into the kitchen and inhaled a cookie.

Then, something dawned on me. These were not just any ordinary cookies. These were old fashioned sour cream drop cookies that Grandma used to make. Only, they were different! You see, Grandma only ever made them with white frosting. My initial thought upon discovering the cookies was that they were some great 4th of July cookies. It never occurred to me that these could be the same cookies from years past. But really, they were different. They were red, white, and blue... Jenn made them in her own special way!

(Thanks to Anita for the copy of the Grace United Methodist Church cookbook!)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mutual Encouragement

From July 16, 2008:

"Okay, I've put up a few posts on Vermont (as duly noted by Ben). We also went jumping. (Note the outstanding farmer's tan.) True confession: I was very scared about this jump. (This is not a confession for those bystanders who witnessed this jump.) Why was I scared? The rock wall slopes away from the jump site toward the water. Consequently, I could see the wall below me and was scared that I would not jump out past the wall and into the swimming hole. I envisioned myself sliding painfully down the rock wall and to the bottom of the swimming hole never to jump - or for that matter, do much else - again. My knees were shaking. Each time I tried to take the plunge, I would get right to the edge and then... step back. Finally, after some patience and encouragement from Jim and Ben (Hey guys, can you do that again? I just want to watch - and make sure that you survive one more time), I jumped. Wow, that was a great feeling. I ended up doing it again. Later, I started thinking about my life. To often, I get scared - scared of rejection, scared of failure. The easiest and safest option is to back away and avoid the pain. Instead of diving in, I often try to hedge my position a little bit - try to provide some safety. This time, I jumped."

Fast forward to June 16, 2010:

While in Riviera Maya, Jenn and I went on two excursions. On the first excursion, we took a step back in time and wandered the Mayan ruins. At the end of the excursion, we stopped at a cenote to do some jumping (top photo). My thoughts immediately went back to those jumps in Vermont (middle photo). However, this time, rather than fear, exhilaration pervaded my body, my soul. What was the difference? Well, I knew - I believed - that it was going to be okay to jump. The beautiful thing about this story is that this time Jenn and I were on a trip together and... she jumped. I asked her about this later and she said that she would have never jumped if we weren't there together.
Perhaps this is kind of what Paul referred to in Romans when he wrote, "that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith" (1:12). We can't get too far on this journey of life alone. Yet, together, by trusting in God, we can mutually encourage each other to take those plunges!

Monday, June 28, 2010

And on the fifteenth day...



Sunday, June 27, 2010

Oh, those big, naughty cooking words

This morning proved to be quite an adventure in the kitchen. Jenn decided to try out the new waffle iron, and eventually, we ended up with the most enticing, fluffy waffles. Okay, we also had these delicious little waffle tidbits as an appetizer, but Jenn worked the waffle-making kinks out. As we were eating our waffles topped with blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries (!)and drinking our French-pressed coffee, she dropped the bombshell. Yes, she announced that our waffles were topped with macerated berries. I don't know, this just humored me, and eventually, we decided that maceration is just one of those big, naughty cooking words.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What a difference a year makes/What a difference a week makes

Well, it has been several days since my last blog post. Quite a bit has happened since June 10. That is certainly an understatement! On June 12, Jenn and I entered into the lifelong commitment of marriage. We had a great celebration with many friends and family. We still are in awe of the events of that day and the expressions of love that continue to be extended to us. On June 14, we arrived in Riviera Maya and enjoyed a week in paradise! What a difference a week makes! Last Saturday, we relaxed on the white sands and in the blue waters. of the Caribbean. Today, we relaxed at Lake Banet. Sure, the places are little different (okay, another understatement), but both days are memorable in their own ways.
Today is also another important milestone day. One year ago, Jenn, with tears in her eyes, replied, "Yes." Thanks Jenn!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


On Monday, I drove up to Jenn's house and an amazing birthday cake greeted me - at the driveway. Later, we "enjoyed" a birthday run that included an extra section through the Mt. Calvary Cemetery - the location of perhaps the only hill in Rensselaer. Then, we dined on Greek yogurt, fruit, granola (it really was my choice!). And, of course, some presents followed.
Yet, the best gift of all is Jenn!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Fellows Mass and Luncheon

On Saturday, we joined over 300 others for the Fellows Mass and Induction Ceremony. We also celebrated the 100th year of the Chapel. The previous Saturday, Jenn and I helped with the weeding and maintenance efforts in the Grotto. We were delighted that the rain held off and we were able to get some pictures after the luncheon.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Candle Still Burns

As my brother so eloquently stated on facebook, yesterday marked the third year since Grandma Huff fell asleep with Jesus. I have previously shared a picture of the candle that we light at Christmas in her memory. Although she is no longer with us physically, each passing year gives me greater confidence that her spirit lives on in her children, grandchildren, family, and friends. We must never forget this woman - diminutive in stature but mighty in spirit.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

30 (Almost)

Mom thought it might be a good idea to have a birthday party a week early. She thought things might start getting a little crazy in the near future. :)

Jenn took this pic and wanted me to post it!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bringing the self to work...

Over the last week, I have had a few thought-provoking conversations regarding work. One theme from these conversations involves bringing the self to work. A year or two ago, a former employee, Sue, drew three pictures while I was on vacation. I found them this past weekend. They served as a reminder to me of what it means to bring the self to work.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Die Seminar 2010

Yesterday, we hosted the first-ever in-house die seminars (at least since I have been here). The seminar included the Die Wizard software developed by Carsten van der Putten and four stations for microscopic analysis. Each station featured a separate die category. The dies were retained from our processes and exhibited varying wear conditions from new to broken. Production and management personnel participated in the event. The successful seminars were a joint effort between our company and Esteves Group. Special thanks to Gary Kantz, Sales Director at Esteves, for his eagerness to participate in developing and piloting this on-site seminar. Stay tuned for pics from June's seminar on wire breaks!

Monday, May 24, 2010

What's the harm in asking?

Do you ever have an idea or a thought come into your mind? I'm talking about something interesting, potentially positive, legal, different. You have that moment of excitement and then the excuses - not enough time, too goofy, what if no one is interested - begin to permeate the thoughts.

When I was living and working in Bremen, one of the ideas that I had was to do develop an interesting science lesson for the eighth grade science classes using technology. My hope was to borrow the calculator-based laboratories from Saint Joseph's and do a remix of one of the lessons from Mathematics Teaching Scholar Partnerships. I did my student teaching in eighth grade and education is still near to my heart. This seemed like a good way to remain involved in education. Seven years later, I had not done this because I figured it was too crazy to try. Then, I moved away. Well, recently, I finally emailed the teacher and expressed an interest in trying to set something up for this fall. Her response, "I have thought about asking before, but didn't know if you would have the time." I guess that we both kind of missed the boat!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Status Quo Sucks

I received a text message from a coworker that included the picture of the above sign. Fortunately, I was in Bremen and could get my picture taken with the sign. I guess the sign says it all!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Piano Journey

A few weeks ago, I met up with my parents in Bremen and, with the help of Jairo, we loaded up the piano in Grandpa's truck for the 100-mi trip to its new home in Jenn's house. The other evening, I was writing a blog post and Jenn sat down at the piano and began playing. The sounds permeated the room in a cheery, life-giving manner.

Recently, I worked on updating my linkedin page and added interests that included running, biking, piano, and trumpet. However, more than a moment of hesitation occurred as I began typing in these standard inputs. I really wasn't sure how honest all of these items were anymore. After all, I really hadn't played the piano much since last September due to a pretty serious proximity issue. And I do miss playing with the band each Saturday as well.

While sitting there listening, though I began to understand that I am still interested in piano and playing music in general. The wonderful thing, though, is that maybe the expression of the interest is now in supporting Jenn and her music. I can't wait to hear about her piano lessons this summer with the "new" piano. Attending her students' music programs this school year has been a welcome respite from the often frenzied day-to-day life. I really had no idea that events would unfold in this manner when the moving guys transferred that piano through my door six years ago. You just never know...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Big Green Deposit

Okay, so I was doing sit-ups (with the big green ball) and push-ups (no green ball - just regular push-ups) this evening and all of the sudden Jenn runs over to get her camera. She said that I needed to see the muscle sprouts on my back. I was pretty skeptical so that is why she wanted to take a picture. So, in the process of trying to get said picture, she caught me taking a huge green deposit. I suppose that I deserve this considering my overall volatile state when we run.

Take care,

T-Diddy :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Case of Mixed Priorities

I recently joined two colleagues at a day-long Fundamentals of Wire Manufacturing Course. My expectation for the course was extremely high. It sounded like a promising chance to review the entire process in a single day. However, it actually ended up being a bit of a turn-off. Perhaps, I'm being a bit kind.

One of the teachers discussed Steel Rod Technology. I italicized teachers because this ended up being a case of mixed priorities. Numerous times during the presentation, the teacher indicated that if we wanted to learn more, then we could hire him as a consultant. Here's the problem, our company paid for us to attend the class.

So I understand that it might be important to protect proprietary interests. However, it was highly inappropriate in that setting to promote consulting services under the guise of teaching.

An additional note...

At the luncheon, one of the event organizers had those of us taking the course stand up. Many other people from the industry were at the luncheon because of various meetings. The speaker then proceeded to explain that a great deal of talent and experience surrounded us and that we should take advantage of it. Hmm, that was an interesting concept. What if we have seen the industry and are ready for wire and cable manufacturing to be something different?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Today would be a great day to...

Fly a kite.
Go for it!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Clothed With Power

The Gospel lesson for today describes the Ascension. On Friday, we dressed up to attend the Scholarship Dinner so I guess clothing was a little bit on the brain still as I was reading the Gospel lesson last evening at St. Augustine's. Our culture puts a great deal of emphasis on clothing. Walk through any mall and you quickly lose track of the number of clothing stores. New trends are always starting. (And yes, sometimes the new trends are actually old trends that went by the wayside but found a way back.)

Clothing is also an important feature of the Gospel reading. According to Luke 24:49, "I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

A few months ago, Jenn and I were out and about and Jenn saw this purple and white checkered shirt that she thought would be a good fit for me. It might sound goofy, but this shirt offers a sense of power - a sense of being cloaked in love. On a recent trip, I specifically packed the shirt so that I could wear a reminder of Jenn and her love. The cool thing is that this shirt has resulted in many positive comments. But the best part is that I get to say, "Jenn picked it out."

This is certainly a material example, but in some ways it starts to address this idea of being clothed with power.

Being clothed with power requires some form of outward expression of an inward transformation. As an outward expression, it is visible to others. Some will accept and encourage the outward expression. Others will reject it. Either way, though, we are able to wear the expression with confident power because of the unconditional love freely given to us.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Offering Hope

On Friday, Jenn and I attended the 2010 Scholarship Dinner and Auction. The purpose the event is to raise scholarship money for students attending our alma mater, Saint Joseph's College. As a grateful recipient of past scholarship funds, I can personally attest to the promise and empowerment that comes with this support. Scholarships change lives in powerful ways and offer hope to students facing an incredible investment in their education. The dinner offers the opportunity to collectively recognize a need and contribute resources toward that need. I offer a personal thank you to the benefactors of Saint Joseph's - both past and present - as they continue the mission of offering hope to students.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Esteves Group

Esteves is our die supplier. Until yesterday, I thought that dies were pretty much dies. I can think of about six suppliers, and they pretty much all supply the same thing - dies. Price and quality are pretty much comparable between suppliers. However, Esteves is taking dies to another level. This guy named Carsten van der Putten has developed software, Drawing Die Wizard, that makes it possible for anyone with a basic understanding of computers to look into dies in a whole new way. The software makes it possible to manipulate variables - nib size, angle, bearing length, etc - and see the results in 3D. All of the sudden, the relatively old concept of the drawing die takes on an entirely new look. I have already used this software to support observations following a recent visit to a supplier. This gives me confidence in asking for several thousand dollars of capital to improve a process. The great thing is the designer of this software is visiting our plant in two weeks for an entire day. He and the sales director are going to teach all of our multi-wire operators and supervisors about dies using this software and microscopic analysis. He is in the process of revolutionizing the die industry. I can't wait to see the ideas that he has to offer us as we show him our facility.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Research Questions

What is your dream?

What is your passion?

Today, I posed the first question to Jenn while we were running.

Her response, "I'm doing it. I'm teaching and coming up with new ideas on how to teach."

A few blocks away from where I am sun-bathing right now, the field-house is packed with students that are graduating from college, parents, families, faculty, and friends. I'm wondering about how each of these people would answer these questions.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"Living the Dream"

The statement has become kind of cliche.

The big question: Are we?

What's the Current Situation

John Maxwell wrote this book, Put Your Dream to the Test.

One point that he addresses in the development of vision is to first recognize where we are.

For me, I’m still kind of a wanderer.

But I believe that is possible to live a life with purpose and direction… and this is what all people long for but most people give up at some point along the journey.

How does this happen? Because as people, we get distracted. We lose focus. We get scared. We focus too much on the short-run with no concept of the long-run. We forget our roots and have no concept of the future. We listen too much to others instead of listening to the inner voice. For forget the awe of childhood. We focus on the material. We stop experimenting. We quit gaining new experiences. We get hurt. We become cogs. We get blinded by money.

I still believe though that in the midst of all of this, if we can peel back the layers, then each one of us can decipher the dream – the vision.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Staying True to Her Art

Yesterday, a group of Jenn's family and friends gathered to bid a fond farewell to Jenn's Grandma J. At the Mass, amidst the the tears and the sorrows stood an artist that stayed true to her art. The angelic sound of Jenn's flute floated down over the assembly as she offered her gift. She accompanied the songs throughout the service, but I looked up On Eagle's Wings this morning to reflect for a few minutes on the refrain:

And He will raise you up on eagles’ wings,
bear you on the breath of dawn,
make you to shine like the sun,
and hold you in the palm of His hand.

It is pretty safe to say that Grandma J. lives on in those who she has left behind. And by sharing in ways that Jenn shared yesterday, the palm of His hand is outstretched...

Saturday, May 1, 2010


This morning, Jenn and I embarked on our Saturday run. The plan was for us to run 4 miles together and then I would continue on to finish out at 13 or so. Sometimes, though, plans just don't work out. We looped around the campus and sawing our friend, Nick Schafer, working in the grotto with a team of other people. They were cleaning up debris from the gardens. So we said hi and continued running. A few minutes later, I asked Jenn what she thought about me working in the grotto for awhile instead of continuing on running at the split point where she goes to her house and I keep running. She said that she wanted to help as well. So on the second pass through campus, we stopped and joined in on the clean-up efforts. We worked for about an hour and had a great time.

This kind of captures what running and biking has meant for me over the last few years. (It is hard to believe months have turned into years.) Sure, it is great for fitness and the occasional race is exhilarating. However, these activities are kind of symbolic for me as well. They are about going out with a sense of expectancy. Much of the time this involves personal awe of creation and the chance to worship. Sometimes, though, like today, something else happens. Today offered a chance to serve. Other times I literally run into people and we chat. Maybe it is just a friendly hello. I think back often to the times that Trent, Ben, and I would traverse the countryside of Bremen and the surrounding communities. Thank God for the air horn to scare the dogs away. I remember the spontaneous singing (yes, singing) and the deeper conversations. In thinking about these times, maybe Trent says it best, " Wow, I can't believe how much I took that stuff for granted."

The pace of our world seems to be increasing with exponential speed. It ends up being so easy to take these things for granted. Yet, running offers this chance to go out and live.

A Focus on the People

The latter part of this week was interesting at work. In the matter of a few hours, a new vision started to develop for our employee training.

I'm still kind of recovering from the shock and my own excitement.

Next week, we are going to start getting out new training materials to our employees. But this is not going to be like the past. Sure, we will still have the work instructions and the process guides. However, these alone just don't meet the needs of the ever-increasing competitiveness of manufacturing. We are going to focus on developing our employees to be active contributors to the organization - not people who are waiting around to be told what to do.

The first segment is going to be on drawing and bunching dies. However, this is not just going to be talking about dies. We are going to have microscopes set up with dies having varying degrees of wear. Associates will actually have the chance to inspect dies. My hope - my dream - is that more and more people will begin to take ownership of their production. Why? Because this is the way it has to be. The manufacturing environment of years past is dead and gone. In fact, some people have said that manufacturing is dying off completely. Maybe we just need to start re-thinking manufacturing.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Making puddles

Last night, Jenn and I had a stepping marathon at the fitness center. While I was in Tennessee, Jenn discovered that reading while stepping helps pass the time. Before heading out to the fitness centerer, she asked if it was okay for her to bring her book along. So I grabbed the iPod shuffle (a wonderful Valentine's gift from my sweetheart) and we headed out to own the stepping machines. Jenn dove into her book, and I decided go all out on the stepper. Soon the puddles formed below the machine. They were the biggest puddles yet. Actually, the puddles really have nothing to do with the post but they were impressive nonetheless.

Chris Tomlin's Arriving is one the the CDs that is on the shuffle. He is a great singer, and I have been listening to this CD while running. Lat night, I kept playing "The Way I Was Made" over and over again. These lyrics capture so much about who I want to be.

"The Way I Was Made"

Caught in the half-light, I'm caught alone
Waking up to the sunrise and the radio
Feels like I'm tied up, what's holding me?
Just praying today will be the day I go free

I want to live like there's no tomorrow
I want to dance like no one's around
I want to sing like nobody's listening
Before I lay my body down
I want to give like I have plenty
I want to love like I'm not afraid
I want to be the man I was meant to be
I want to be the way I was made

Made in Your likeness, made with Your hands
Made to discover who You are and who I am
All I've forgotten help me to find
All that You've promised let it be in my life

Monday, April 26, 2010

Car #5

A few weeks ago I received a call from this guy. In our brief conversation, he told me that I went to school with his brothers and that he was raising money to race in the Little 500 go-kart race. Well, he definitely succeeded in putting together a race team, and as you can see by the t-shirts in the pictures above, he had plenty of "Green Lightning" supporters. Although the race didn't turn out the way that he probably wanted, he really highlighted so much about what Saint Joe is about. It is about bonds and connections that so far have carried on for years. In many cases, they have evolved and deepened since our years on campus. For me, a friendship with Jenn evolved into a proposal and our upcoming marriage. Future Pumas have started to emerge. Family members continue to carry on the legacy of our school. (Troy just shared a great story this week.)

A friend commented, "You know, every time we get together, we end up telling the same stories. But somehow the stories are still funny."

The stories are still funny because they are a glue of sorts that holds us all together.

The wonderful thing is that those stories have not ended. (Car #5 is evidence.) In fact, they have only just begun.