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As I did last year, I made of list of random stuff I’m thankful for beyond the obvious (family, friends, health, warm house, etc.). If you don’t know about these things, go find them and become happier.
- Shiner Holiday Cheer, probably available at your local Tom Thumb or favorite purveyor of adult beverages
- Yoga pants (for the ladies, not for me)
- The elusive no-hitter at work, which entails going an entire shift without a single phone call
- Not having a car payment. My vehicles aren’t new or sexy, but they’re paid for.
- Pandora internet radio. My current favorite station is Indie Christmas.
- Pulp Fiction, partly because it inspires insane awesomeness like this (language warning)
- Living five minutes from Lowe’s while we spruce up our house (and having a handy father-in-law who works for Lowe’s at another location)
- iMessage, which lets me text for free with most iPhone users and even see if they’re currently typing back
- DVRs, which are especially helpful when you have kids
- Getting free Southwest points through my credit card so we can get REAL TICKETS on flights instead of listing ourselves and hoping there are open seats
- Bath soap that smells good. Bath and Body Works sells several scents for men that are great.
- Getting birthday wishes on Facebook. I know it’s kinda cheesy, but it’s still nice to get bombarded with HAPPY BIRTHDAY throughout the day from so many different people from so many different parts of my life.
- My sons’ ever-patient teachers who are helping to teach and shape them into amazing young men
- Whipping cream for my coffee
- Roller coasters
- John Hughes’ wonderfully humanizing Thanksgiving classic Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
What random stuff are you thankful for this year?
I will turn 35 tomorrow. That makes me older than most professional athletes and many of my children’s teachers. But it also means I’m finally old enough to run for president. Sure, I’d never actually do it because I want to stay married to Jenny, but it’s nice to have the option, you know?
We aren’t planning anything crazy (not my style), just a nice dinner with my immediate family and an extended family party on Sunday for a few October birthdays. But I thought it might be a good time to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way.
You Define Your Own Success
I think each person has to define success for him- or herself. You can’t let someone else define it for you. As Bill Cosby said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
For me, success is a matter of achieving the goals you set for yourself. My main goals are to love my family and take good care of them, enjoy the precious time I have on this earth, and leave it better off than it would’ve been without me. No doubt I could do better on all counts, but overall I think I’m doing okay.
Some Battles Are Worth Fighting…
…but most are not. Standing up for those who need help is a good thing. Teaching my sons to be responsible young men, though often difficult, is good thing. Getting riled up with people who cut me off, diss my favorite sports team, or are firmly entrenched on the other side of the political spectrum is a waste of time and energy. The Serenity Prayer is one of the wisest things I’ve ever heard: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Money Isn’t Everything
I’ve worked for roughly minimum wage and far above it, and I am still convinced that money doesn’t buy happiness. Yes, it can help solve certain problems and make life easier in some ways. However, no matter how much money or stuff you get, you will always want more.
That being said, I am very grateful for what we have. Just as importantly, I am grateful that I worked hard to get it rather than inheriting a huge trust fund. It’s satisfying to have a job and provide for my family and share the fruit of my labor with others.
Attitude is Contagious
In interacting with probably thousands of people over my lifetime, one thing stands out: the people I’m around have a large influence over me, more than I want to admit. Attitude is contagious. The world is full of cynics who love to complain and criticize, and some of them don’t even realize it. The more time I spend around those people, the more I become cynical like them, which depresses me. On the other hand, the world is also full of people who look for the good in things. Whether you look for the good side or the bad side of life, you can always find it. Always.
Life is too short to waste time getting dragged down by negative people. I’m trying, with varying degrees of success, to be more positive and spend more time with positive people. That’s why I no longer waste much time posting political stuff or angry rants on here or on Facebook. I would rather stay positive and post things that will make you laugh, think, or appreciate the good things in life.
Balance is Key
I’ve been a religious wacko. I’ve been an academic workaholic egghead. I’ve been overly preoccupied with grades, girls, money, politics, exercise, the future, other people’s opinions of me, righteous indignation, unions, and my job. None of these things made a good foundation for life.
It’s not healthy to obsess over any one thing. Balance is one of the most important parts of my life. A good day for me includes some time with my family, some time working on something productive, some tasty food and drink, a full night’s rest, some time to think and learn, and some time just for me to relax with a movie or game. Except for the uncommon good night’s sleep, many of my days look like this, which is one of the main reasons I’m quite happy.
Readers, thank you for sticking with me through the changes on my blog. Friends and family, thank you for loving me warts and all. I am grateful for you and grateful for 35 years on this remarkable journey.
Many people have been using social media to share something they are thankful for each day in November. I wasn’t quite that ambitious, but I certainly give thanks for many, many things. Many are a given – family, health, friends, job, etc. Those are too generic and easy, don’t you think? Here are some more specific, random, and weird things on my list, in no particular order:
- Brooks running shoes, particularly the Adrenaline GTS that helped with my knee problems.
- The moment on my birthday last month when I came home from a run and Brenden and Jonathan ran up to me to give me a hug and say “happy birthday”.
- Having parents who are willing to watch my kids so Jenny and I can have time to just be us.
- My talented and amusing coworkers who charge $8.00 for a pack of Zingers and use a well-lit flying pig and pink flamingo as Christmas decorations.
- The way my wife knows, understands, accepts, and appreciates me like no one else can.
- Living in a small neighborhood that gets very little traffic, has no HOA, and has good neighbors
- The fair-trade movement in coffee that strives to pay coffee growers a fair price for their product instead of exploiting them
- The ability to send text messages to my flights instead of trying to track them down on the radio
- McAlister’s sweet tea, tasty sandwiches, and 99c kids’ meals.
- Having a blog where I can be real and talk about whatever I want
- My various iGizmos that keep me connected to my data and people
- The awesomeness of sharks
- Sleeping in a warm bed in a cold room
- E-books. Seriously, give one a try if you haven’t already.
- Live sports. Have you ever really thought about how amazing it is that we can watch a game live from thousands of miles away, often in high def?
- Travel. Not too long ago, many people never ventured farther than 50 miles from their birthplace.
- Good health insurance from my generous employer.
- Lotion for my dry, cracked hands in the winter months.
What unusual things are you thankful for this week?
Inspired both by the US Olympic swimming trials and by my own desire to wring every drop of value from my new gym membership (I finally joined Jenny’s gym), I’ve started getting into swimming. Not the splash-around-with-the-kids kind, but the dive-in-and-haul-ass kind. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- Fitness can be much more activity-specific than I realized. Swimming is a great way to learn that lesson really quickly. I’m in decent shape for running and cycling, but I was sucking wind after ONE LAP in the pool. Oy vey.
- Those Olympic swimmers are fast. Really, really fast. They make it look easy on TV, but when an average Joe like me tries to swim the same event, the differences become painfully obvious. I timed myself on a lap in the breaststroke, and the Olympians are literally going twice as fast.
- Indoor lap pools feel cold when you first get in, but after a lap, they feel fine because your out-of-shape body is already heating up.
- Swimsuits suck. Yes, I’ve already blogged about that, but it’s worth mentioning again this season. It is nice that my gym has water extractor machines that can spin most of the water out, but you still have a damp swimsuit to deal with once you’re done.
- The tight-fitting swim briefs generally (and inaccurately) known as Speedos make much more sense for fitness swimming than the baggy suits that American men are expected to wear. Why drag a parachute through the water when you’re trying to win a race? Yes, I do plan to get a Speedo. No, you won’t have to see me in it. I’ll save it for lap swimming at the gym. (You’re welcome.)
- If you want the lap pool (and the rest of the gym) to yourself, show up at 3:00am. This morning I saw two people in the entire cavernous building that didn’t work there.
- On a related note, 3:00am is also a great time to practice swim skills that are woefully subpar, such as my butterfly. When Michael Phelps does the butterfly, he looks like a locomotive plowing down a track. When I attempt it, no one knows what I look like since I have the pool to myself, but I feel like a three-legged cow that fell into a river. That stroke is pretty much impossible for me. Granted, I never learned the proper way to do it and could certainly improve, but my body just does not want to move in that way.
- My mom was adamant about swim lessons, and I’m glad she was. During the swim lessons of my youth, I learned four strokes: freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke, and sidestroke. The instructors might have mentioned the butterfly, but they didn’t actually teach it, probably because a four-year-old doesn’t have the necessary strength. My favorite stroke is the sidestroke. Unfortunately, the swimming gurus of the world don’t consider it worthy for competition. It’s mainly used by beginning swimmers, lifeguards, and endurance swimmers.
- My swim breathing needs a lot of work. That’s the main reason I prefer the sidestroke: it keeps my face above water. I usually breaststroke with my head above water as well, but I know that’s inefficient. I usually end up choking when I freestyle with my head in the water or when I backstroke. And I just drown if I attempt to butterfly. If I ever wanted to get serious about swimming, some swim lessons would be in order.
- The typical lap pool length seems to be around 25 meters. The pools you see in Olympic competition are 50 meters. So an elite swimmer could go from one end of my gym’s pool to the other in about 15 seconds.
OK, I’ll make you a deal. If I can come up with 10 more random facts about me, you have to post 10 random facts about yourself. Sound good? Great.
- I hate pickles. On occasion I forget to tell the person behind the counter at Chick-Fil-A that I hate pickles, and my chicken sandwich gets contaminated. Then I am sad.
- I judge businesses largely by their websites and their responsiveness to email. If a business is going to spend the time and money to build a website, it should be well-designed, professional-looking, and capable of telling me almost anything I want to know as a customer. If I email the business, I want a response within 1 business day that answers the specific questions I ask. These are big demands, but I’m very impressed when a business meets them. I emailed two bike shops this week, and both failed. One never responded at all. The other responded quickly but obviously didn’t read my email closely. I wrote back but haven’t heard from it since.
- I hate to sweat unless I’m working out. That’s largely because I’m paranoid about body odor for some reason. Please, Lord, let me never be THAT GUY.
- I once urinated in public. Next to a cop car. While on a ride-along with a cop. He was looking for bad guys, and I was about to explode, so I went for it.
- Despite my view that he’s taking way too much credit for our state’s comparative economic health, and largely because many people believe those claims, I predict that Rick Perry will win the White House next fall.
- After feeling convicted during a church retreat, I came home and destroyed my Nine Inch Nails CDs. A decade later I changed my mind and bought back my favorite NIN song (“Wish”) on iTunes.
- When I’m stressed or depressed, I tend to comfort myself with food, especially sweets. Fortunately, I was blessed with my mom’s metabolism and a life that isn’t terribly stressful most of the time.
- Something about the idea of rank appeals to me, especially in a military context. Maybe it’s the chance for a career progression and always having something to work toward. I enjoy studying the military ranking system and comparing it across the different branches, such as the equivalency of a Navy Captain to an Air Force Colonel. Yet I also find a rigid ranking system a bit risky. Being ranked higher than someone else doesn’t automatically make that person right, yet it gives him/her the ability to issue orders.
- I’m really, really glad I’m not a politician. So is my wife. And my mom.
- I wish I could have a Groundhog Day in which I could experiment with all sorts of different interpersonal scenarios and wild adventures, sorta like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. I would definitely do some stupid things like going streaking at a Ranger game or trying to eat the 72oz steak at the Big Texan in Amarillo, but I would also try having the same conversation in different ways to see what works best, how fast I could drive on the freeway without wrecking, and how it would feel to tell off a coworker who gets on my nerves. I would probably drink more milkshakes, too.