Recreational Companionship

Years ago, perhaps when Jenny and I were going through our premarital counseling, I read that one of a man’s greatest relationship needs is for recreational companionship – sharing interests with his significant other. That idea made sense to me. Although I’m not a social person by nature, it can be nice to have company for my various pursuits. Jenny is my best friend, so it seems natural to want to do stuff together. As it turns out, Jenny is a fan of recreational companionship as well.

Here are some of our common interests:

Live Sports – I’m a fairly big sports fan, but Jenny doesn’t generally watch sports on TV. She would rather read or surf. However, actually going to the game is fun for her. Our first two dates were a Mavs game and a Stars game. A few times a year, we get tickets to see a game in person. We’ve seen the Stars, Rangers, Baylor Bears football, RoughRiders, and Tornado, among others. Before we had kids, we even got a Stars mini-plan a couple of years. Usually it’s just the two of us, and it makes for a great date night.

Cycling and Yoga – A couple of years ago, Jenny discovered spin classes at her gym and loved them. She got me interested in cycling, and last month we got road bikes so we could ride together. I have more experience on a real bike, but she knows more about the fitness aspects of cycling from her spin classes, so we can learn from each other. Plus it’s just fun to go ride together. Our first race is in three weeks. We also practice yoga together on occasion, either at home with a yoga video or at the gym. I’ve mostly suppressed my urge to make snarky comments throughout the session.

Video Games – On our first pseudo-date, we talked about gaming. I hadn’t known many female gamers, so she earned instant brownie points there. I do more actual game playing, at least on our PS3, but Jenny is the one who reads Game Informer and keeps track of what’s happening in the industry. When we can find a good two-player co-op game, we enjoy playing together, usually on RPG/adventure games like Baldur’s Gate or platformers like the Mario series.

Travel – Having young kids makes traveling more difficult right now, but we do enjoy getting away when possible. Cruising, hiking in the mountains, camping, lying on the beach, or simply going somewhere for the weekend to see a football game or to race all sound good to us. Once the boys get older, we’ll be able to take them with us and get away more often. We want our boys to see the world and experience a variety of cultures so they know there’s life outside suburban Texas.

What types of recreational activities do you and your significant other enjoy?

Things I’ve Learned Lately

  1. If you ever get overconfident regarding your own abilities, try applying them in another discipline and see how you do. Due to my running and cycling, I’d convinced myself that my legs were pretty strong. Then I went to a hot yoga class with Jenny at her gym. My legs were sore for two days afterward.
  2. My original hybrid bike (Specialized Sirrus Elite, size XL) weighed 27 pounds. My new road bike (Trek 2.3, size 58cm) weighs 21.6 pounds. Jenny’s bike (Specialized Dolce Elite, size 51.5cm) weighs 21.6 pounds as well.
  3. We tried a test ride on Friday right after we brought the new bikes home. I hit 26mph on a flat at near max effort. I never came close to that speed on a flat with my hybrid. It felt like I was flying. I liked it.
  4. If someone can watch our boys for the night, Jenny and I plan to ride the Hotter’N Hell 50 mile race on August 25. It will be a challenge, but with our current fitness levels and ten weeks to train, I think we can finish it. As a warmup, we might do a shorter race in late July at Texas Motor Speedway.
  5. There’s a thing called sprouted grain bread that my friends are eating on their new diet. They say it’s easier to digest and better for your body. Bread made from sprouted grain is more expensive, but they say it’s worth it. According to Livestrong, it’s similar to whole wheat bread with a few added benefits.
  6. A $6 bottle of sparkling white wine can be just as tasty as a $45 bottle of real champagne, maybe even more so.
  7. We don’t use our beautiful wedding-present champagne flutes enough. There’s always something to celebrate if you look for it.
  8. An easy way to feel guilty is to ignore a panhandler on the corner and then drop $4 on a cappuccino at Starbucks.
  9. Gloria’s in Oak Cliff has fantastic Mexican and Salvadorian food and great service. It seems to be in an old firehouse and still has a fire pole. (no, they won’t let you slide down, maybe due to their strong margaritas). We ate there with Jenny’s family for her parents’ 40th anniversary, her brother-in-law’s birthday, and her father’s birthday. The only downside was the forced valet parking. Living in the suburbs has spoiled me in the parking department.
  10. Brenden and Jonathan will be in school three days a week starting in July: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. This will help Brenden get ready for kindergarten next year (WHOA) and give Jenny a little more free time.

Jumping to Conclusions

Several weeks ago, I started hearing on Facebook and various websites about the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, by George Zimmerman, a Hispanic and a self-appointed and armed neighborhood watchman. Zimmerman claimed self-defense and was never charged. Initially, it sounded to many like a case of miscarried justice. Because the two men involved were different races, people raised questions of racism as well. “Zimmerman killed him because he’s black!” many of us assumed. “This is a hate crime! Justice must be done!” I ran with the idea for a while and read several news articles about the case.

Strangely, I wanted Martin’s shooting to be racially motivated. Why? It gave me a good excuse to get riled up, a clear and noble cause to fight for: an innocent black teenager gunned down by an overzealous, racist weirdo. Who wouldn’t cry out for justice? Despite all the progress we’ve made as a society, we all know racism still exists. I see it in friends, acquaintances, and relatives. I see it at work. I see it in strangers. Racism angers me, but rarely can I do much about it other than try to avoid the people involved. Sometimes I ignore it. Other times I say something that never makes any difference beyond appeasing my conscience a bit. It would be nice to see one of them get theirs for once, and maybe this Martin case would provide an opportunity. To support Martin’s cause, I posted a political picture on Facebook. Yay me, I’m Fighting for Justice on Facebook!

However, one of my police officer friends took me to task for it later. Her objection? Not that I was posting something political on Facebook, as she was used to that. She objected to the way the media and so many people like me, despite being far removed from the facts, had jumped to conclusions on the case, condemning Zimmerman as a murderer and the local police as corrupt racists. Only one living person knew what really happened that night in Florida, and unfortunately he was the suspect rather than an objective witness. Finding the truth would require a real and thorough investigation rather than a hasty trial in the corrupt and ignorant court of public opinion. As a cop, she understood the importance of searching for evidence, talking to witnesses, and building a case rather than seeing a scene and immediately rendering a judgment.

I couldn’t argue with her because she was right.

As you’ve probably seen if you’re following the case, further details are emerging that muddy the waters like a boat propeller. It turns out that Zimmerman has proof that his doctor examined him the next day and found significant injuries consistent with taking damage in a fight, just as Zimmerman has claimed. But a police video from the jail that night showed Zimmerman with no visible injuries or obvious pain. Various witnesses report hearing the two men yelling at each other and fighting, with some reporting that Martin was attacking Zimmerman. Some people say Zimmerman is a known racist, while others say he actively helps black people in his community. And at least one news agency deliberately edited the recording of Zimmerman to make him sound racist. Sure, Zimmerman ignored the police dispatcher’s advice not to pursue Martin, and the whole incident didn’t need to happen, but the case isn’t turning out to be the clear-cut racial hate crime that so many people assumed at first.

What really happened that night? The jury will decide in time. But we were fools to assume we had all the facts just from a few details we read in the news. And maybe those of us who immediately and cynically assumed a racial motivation are actually helping to perpetuate racism. We’re making race a “thing” when it doesn’t have to be a “thing”.

Lessons learned.

Thoughts for 5/9/2012

Look, I threw in a picture! It’s not my picture, but I liked it and stole it from the Interwebs.

Lots of thoughts today, but none big enough to put into its own post (for now). So here are some things to chew on:

  • I am disappointed but not surprised by the victory for Amendment One in North Carolina, which enshrines a ban on gay marriage in the state constitution. However, I am hopeful that if the Supreme Court decides to rule on the issue of gay marriage within a year or two, laws like Amendment One and California’s Prop 8 will be ruled unconstitutional, effectively authorizing gay marriage throughout the country. If Obama is re-elected, I think he’ll fully support gay marriage in his second term. He can’t do it right now because it would cost him some crucial independent votes.
  • During my run, I found a guy letting his dog take a dump in his neighbor’s yard. He walked off like nothing had happened. Nope, not today, jerk. When I got close, I asked if he had a bag. Looking embarrassed, he muttered something and turned back. I kept running, so I’m not sure whether he actually cleaned it up or not. I should have asked him where his house was so I could go take a dump in his yard.
  • Dear clowns who call in bomb threats for flights (if any of them happen to follow all you’re doing is wasting everyone’s time and delaying flights. Real bombers probably don’t bother to call.
  • I’m running about 20 miles a week now and plan to roughly maintain that level through the summer, although not setting any speed records due to the heat. I’m generally doing 6 miles on Monday, 4 on Wednesday, and 10-11 on Saturday. If I run-walk and hydrate enough, which is means a LOT of water for me because I sweat like a soaker hose, I can handle the heat OK even on a long run. I just got a new style of knee brace, a compression sleeve that covers my whole patella, and I’m liking it so far. I might get another one for my other knee. That way I can be symmetrical, and there will be joy.
  • With the possibility of our first family trip to Disney World looming next year, I’ve started thinking about booking flights. I haven’t bought a real airline ticket in 15 years, so it’s a bit odd to think about flights like a normal customer rather than a nonrev. I’m most concerned about price and departure/arrival time and mostly unconcerned with the number of people onboard. It’s completely backwards! Also, it turns out that flying is pretty expensive. Fortunately, I should have enough Rapid Rewards points to get at least three of our tickets, maybe even all four.
  • I am tired of hearing people mention factors like race and sexual orientation in casual conversation when those qualities have zero relevance to the story they’re telling. If it matters to your story that a person is black or gay or Mexican or mentally retarded or whatever, then by all means include it. Otherwise, he’s just “a guy”, not “a black guy”. When you toss in irrelevant information, you’re simply revealing your prejudice toward those people.
  • One of my Facebook buddies is the community pastor at my church. I thought she seemed cool, so I friended her on Facebook. Our main connection is running. Until we raced together last month, I’d never held a real conversation with her in person. Our interaction had solely come through Facebook and an occasional “hi” at church. These are some of the strange types of relationships that social media makes possible.
  • I write one check per month. It goes to my boys’ preschool. I pay everything else online or automatically via my credit card. Checks are not my friend. Unless, of course, someone wants to give one to me. Then they are great.
  • Have I mentioned lately how glad I am not to be famous? No interviews, no paparrazzi, no public scandals, no pressure to please millions of diverse people. It’s also kinda nice not to be rich, either. Being a millionaire would change me somehow, and maybe not for the better. Plus I don’t have to worry about sycophants and thieves who want things from me.

“The Rules” for Couples with Opposite-Sex Friendships

Unless you live in an isolated cabin in the mountains with your significant other, you’re bound to have some contact with members of the opposite sex. Here in America, we’ve developed a variety of rules of engagement for interacting with them to reduce the chance of, or the appearance of, illicit hanky-panky or any other inappropriate relationships. However, different situations and different couples seem to need different rules. Here are some that I’ve observed in others or applied myself.

Social Activities

One-on-one outings with the opposite sex are generally frowned upon. Even if the two people are as “just friends” as two people can be, such outings could give the wrong impression to anyone who sees them or create unpleasant questions in the mind of one or both spouses. Even though Jenny trusts me, this is one rule that I follow for three reasons:

  • There’s already way too much gossip in the world.
  • I don’t want to give Jenny any reason to doubt me.
  • I generally feel more comfortable around women and connect with them better. I don’t want to set up a situation in which I start to develop a bond that is too close with a female friend.

However, I wouldn’t mind if Jenny wanted to do something with one of our mutual male friends. For instance, she and our friend MadBomber are both sci-fi and comic book fans, much more than I am. If they wanted to go see the latest X-Men movie or something similar, I’d be OK with that. I trust both of them. But I would understand if MadBomber or his wife found that weird.

Some people avoid other mixed-gender situations as well. Some refuse to ride alone in a car or meet behind closed doors with anyone of the opposite sex. My pastor at Fellowship Church held himself and the rest of the staff to this standard, understandably so. I don’t hold myself to that standard strictly, though. I’ve carpooled to work with two different girls with no problems. Most people avoid being alone in a home with someone, which seems wise to me for a number of reasons.

When I’m meeting someone new, especially a woman around my age who might have been interesting in another life, I try to mention Jenny and/or our boys to make sure the woman knows I’m taken.


I covered hugging in a previous post.


At church we sit with the same people in the same row every week. Someone, usually a couple, sits down first. Some of our friends, when they arrive next, intentionally arrange themselves so that girls sit by girls and guys sit by guys. If I’m seated and the couple starts walking down the row toward us, the girl might wait until the guy passes through so he’ll sit by me. The same thing happens sometimes in restaurants, movies, or other venues. But other couples don’t seem to care. So it’s either a personal preference or a differing understanding of the “rule”. Personally, I have no problem sitting next to a girl, and Jenny has no problem sitting next to a guy.

Phone Calls

I’ll bet this one depends largely on the nature of the call for most people. I know lots of people who have short conversations with an opposite-sex friend for some specific purpose – where is our group meeting for dinner, where do we park, what does your spouse want for her birthday, etc. But lengthy conversations between the two of you seem to be much less acceptable and something I avoid.


The explosion of the Internet, particularly Facebook, has presented couples with a new set of situations and potential dilemmas. The ease of connecting and interacting with people of both genders is both a blessing and a threat. It’s so easy to look up old friends from the past, but what if that friend is also an old flame? Is it OK to friend your ex or email with him/her? Jenny and I have done both. Naturally, we keep the interaction someone limited and make it clear that we are happily married and have no intention of rekindling the flame. However, from what little I’ve read, many relationships have ended in recent years because of Facebook reconnections with former lovers.

What about connecting with opposite-sex friends? I doubt many people have a problem with such semi-public interaction on Facebook or Twitter, but what about email or private Facebook messages? Are those OK? If so, how much interaction is acceptable? A joke or random question? A longer email? A multi-message conversation about more personal issues? Where is the line, and how do you know when you’ve crossed it? I’m not sure where people stand on this one.

For us, we don’t have a problem with private messages as long as the content remains appropriate and we don’t get too emotionally involved with anyone. One way that Jenny and I protect ourselves is by giving each other our passwords. At any time, Jenny can check my email or Facebook account and see what I’m up to, and vice versa. So if I’m writing a private message to a woman, I keep in mind that Jenny could read it and try hard not to say anything that might bother her. I also consider the possibility that my female friend’s husband or boyfriend might do the same.

Some of our friends handle this threat differently: by sharing an email address and/or Facebook account. The shared account makes interacting with them a bit more complicated since you never know who’s going to read your message first and sometimes don’t know who is replying. But a shared account does add an extra level of transparency.

The Biggest Threat

A strong emotional connection, to me at least, is probably the biggest threat in a mixed-gender friendship. Especially as a guy who feels more comfortable around women, I shouldn’t allow myself to get anywhere near as close emotionally to any woman besides Jenny. If I’m telling a female friend things that I wouldn’t reveal to Jenny, I’ve crossed the line and need to back off quick. Some friends of ours ended their marriage over such a situation. The guy found himself developing a too-close friendship with another woman. His wife didn’t like it, but the guy refused to end or scale back the friendship, so they finally divorced. I want to make sure that never happens to us, so I keep this principle in mind for all my interactions with female friends.

What are your thoughts? What rules of engagement do you follow when dealing with people of the opposite sex?


About a week ago, one of my favorite bloggers posted a simple, snarky, but significant comment:

“Wow, that picture you shared on Facebook just convinced me to change my religious / political affiliation, said no one ever.” – Rachel Held Evans

Its sentiment had been lurking in the shadows of my mind for quite some time, but I kept smacking it with a newspaper and telling it to shut up. No crusader wants to hear that his war is fought in vain. But let’s be honest – how much of an impact do all my links, pictures, comments, and blog posts actually make?

The answer was easy once I thought about my own habits on Facebook. I pay attention to the people who post things that interest me. Funny stuff is my favorite, followed by interesting news about your life, informative or offbeat articles, and cartoons/articles that fit with my political/religious worldview. I generally don’t watch your videos (too long) or look at your pictures unless they involve my children. If you’re generally negative, rude, or whiney or post lots of political, religious, or other stuff that I disagree with, I hide your posts. I figure many of you do the same. We’re not going to save the world through social media.

Most of us gravitate toward people, articles, and posts that confirm our beliefs and ignore the ones that contradict them.

Scholars call this tendency confirmation bias. We’ve already made up our minds on most issues, whether we’ve chosen a side or simply chosen to be neutral and not worry about it. The status quo is so much easier than carefully considering an opposing view. Let’s be honest – wrestling with something takes time and effort and risk. Changing our minds requires the unpleasant step of admitting, even if only to ourselves, that we were wrong.

I could write the most eloquent blog post in history, or share the most concise and powerful cartoon ever designed, trying to convince you of some position I hold. But unless you’re actively seeking to study that issue, you’ll probably either ignore my post or read it with a closed mind. If it made you mad enough, you might hide all my posts, quit following my blog, or even unfriend me. Despite all my talk about being open-minded, I do the same thing.

Photo Source: No Hope for the Human Race on Facebook

So…I shall attempt to piss off slightly fewer people in the days ahead, particularly on Facebook. I will still explore some controversial issues here on the blog, but I’ll be doing it more for my own amusement and/or as food for thought for my readers rather than an effort to change your minds.