Happy New Year. As arbitrary Gregorian boundary conditions go, I've been really looking forward to the end of 2017. And as I've done in the past I'm posting a few thoughts from the year. (Previously: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2011.)
Though I know the machinations of U.S. politics and culture are not a primary concern for many people in the world, it felt like a year where I could not get out from under the dark cloud of the current presidential administration and the things we are naming and learning about ourselves as a society. I'm someone who usually follows news and politics closely, so it was tough to balance awareness, engagement, activism and appropriate amounts of anger with self-care, long-term thinking and finding any kind of focus or calm. I don't think I did very well with that process, and I've watched it take a toll on me, people I love and communities that I care about.
On top of that I spent a lot of time and energy this year accompanying my mom through her cancer treatment and related medical adventures; it was a source of always-present, low-level (and sometimes high-level) stress that was never too far in the background. I was of course always honored to bring care and support where it was needed, but it was hard watching her be consistently miserable while wondering when or how things could get better.
It was a year of incredible growth for our daughter, going from a barely walking toddler with a relatively small vocabulary to a whirlwind of a kid who runs through the house asking us hard questions, telling stories and expressing strong opinions. A day doesn't go by that I don't look at her in amazement, or that my wife and I aren't asking to each other, "did you know that she can do that??" Witnessing and participating in literal child-like wonder has been a special bit of grace in these times.
Oh yeah, and I turned 40.
All in all, it felt like my ability to focus and be fully present to much of anything was severely limited throughout the year. I hope 2018 is better and am taking some steps to make it so.
Continue reading 2017 Year in Review
I turned 40 years old this week.
Friends have been kind to say that "you don't look forty" (whatever that looks like) and thankfully I don't feel "old," even if I don't often feel young any more.
I do notice the occasional sign of what might be aging.
I find myself increasing the font size on my various devices and apps, and at an appointment this week my eye doctor used the language of "you can't outrun it forever" instead of the past variations on "you're young, no worries."
A few weeks ago I butt-dialed two different people over two days.
The distance across which I can walk to retrieve or do something without forgetting why I started walking in the first place is decreasing. If it involves going to a different floor of the house, forget about it.
My hair has more strands of grey than ever before.
And my ability to sleep through the night without needing a visit to the restroom is all but gone.
Continue reading Forty
With another year gone by, I'm again sharing a few reflections on how 2016 went. (Previously: 2015, 2014, 2011.)
New house, staying in Indiana
With a big shift in my wife's professional life and an intentional wrapping up of most of my local commitments that required regular attendance at in-person meetings, this year found me as physically untethered to the city of Richmond, Indiana as I've been since I first came here in 1995. We spent much of the year asking whether we should stay, or take the opportunity to explore living in new places outside of the U.S. midwest. (Someone even started a rumor that we'd already moved away.) I reflected a lot on why I've stayed in Richmond this long, what we'd be giving up if we did go, and what we'd gain by living somewhere else.
There are changes happening locally and regionally that concern us, and there are times we want our daughter to have more diverse experiences than we can find in Richmond, so we know we'll keep considering these questions. But we decided that our wonderful community of friends and family, the difference we feel like we can make locally, and the opportunities we still have to see and live in other parts of the world all added up to staying in Richmond right now.
Continue reading 2016 Year in Review
I thought I'd take some time to reflect back on the last year and share some highlights:
Undoubtedly the biggest change for me in 2015 was becoming a parent.
Friends, there is a miniature human being living in my house now.
There are many things about that experience I could go on about -- the adoption process, being in the delivery room for her birth, the incredible support and help we received from our friends and family, figuring out how to care for a new person and getting some sleep along the way, watching my wife become a wonderful mom and navigating a huge change in our life together, implications for our home automation setup, and much more -- and I'll try to blog about all of that as I can. For now I can say that being a father has been magnificent.
Continue reading 2015 Year in Review
2014 was a year full of change, newness and exploration for me. I looked back over my posts on this site as well as my social media updates for the last 12 months, and here are some of the highlights:
I spent 25% of the year away from my home in the midwestern U.S., traveling ~50,000 miles around the world. Some of it was for my work and related conferences, some of it to visit friends and family, and some of it just to see new places for fun and education. Trips included:
- Central Florida
- Lucea, Jamaica
- Asheville, North Carolina
- Washington, D.C.
- San Francisco, California
- Vail and Boulder, Colorado
- Chicago, Illinois
- Park City, Utah
- Sofia, Bulgaria
- San Francisco, California (again)
- Lisbon, Portugal
- Madrid, Spain
- Miami, Florida
- San Diego, California
- Monteverde, La Fortuna and Mal Pais, Costa Rica
I think that's the most travel I've done in a single year, ever. I wouldn't have previously included "world traveler" in how I identify myself so it's still a little strange to realize I'm doing it, but I'm enjoying it (and the perspective and knowledge it brings) greatly. I feel fortunate to have had these opportunities, and look forward to more of them in 2015.
Continue reading 2014 Year in Review
I've generally been content not having a physical phone line at home and using my cell phone instead. I'm not much of a phone person anyway, my back yard looked a lot nicer when Verizon cut down the unsightly cable, and it's certainly a cost savings. But sometimes, I still long to have a regular old phone sitting on my desk that I can pick up and make a call on. Recently, for various reasons, I've been playing with having just that setup, but with a twist: my new home phone setup is run on open source software, and the conversations are carried over my broadband Internet connection.
Here's my configuration (perhaps mostly for geeks, but hopefully also for anyone who's interested):
Continue reading My VOIP home phone setup using trixbox
One of my favorite magazines, and one of the only ones I subscribe to, is The Sun. It's an ad-free publication of interviews, short stories, poems, and reader-submitted material that tends to engage the human experience in really amazing ways. It's sort of a hidden treasure in the world of magazines - either people tend to love it, or have never heard of it. They have a section every month called "Readers Write," where they pick a theme and ask readers to submit personal stories and experiences that relate to that theme.
Almost every month, I see the list of themes and think about what I would write about. I start to compose the words in my head. And then I look at the submission deadline for that topic (usually just weeks away) and then at the publication target for accepted pieces (usually many months away), and I tell myself that I'll come back to it later to actually send something in.
I've been a subscriber of the Sun since 1999, and I have not yet gotten around to submitting anything to them. I'm not sure if it's because I can't experience the instant gratification of having my writing accepted (or rejected) like I can with a weblog. Or maybe it's because I still have such a hard time letting myself write about things that other people are writing about. Or maybe it's because I know I would be submitting something for someone else to judge or value, and I'm not confident or vulnerable enough. Or maybe it's pure laziness, apathy.
Whatever it is, it's a form of writer's block that seems ridiculous and intimidating to me, yet very important to overcome.
It was 10 years ago this month that I co-founded Summersault website development with Mark. We're celebrating with some donations to help improve the community, and a look back at our milestones over the years.
It was 20 years ago this month that my father passed away from cancer. I celebrate his life, the family he left behind, the impact he had on me, and the cycles of life that give the world meaning and possibility.
It was 30 years ago this month that I was born into the world. I celebrate the landbase that sustains me, my health, my successes and failures, my friends and loved ones, my past and future, the hope that drives me, and so much more.
And so here I am, in August of 2007. As E.B. White said, "I get up every morning determined both to change the world and to have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning the day difficult."
A lot of people notice that in many settings, I'm a pretty quiet person. I don't mind telling them that I generally have an withdrawn personality, and that I tend to do better in conversations that are one-on-one or with small groups of people who I know, as opposed to large groups or gatherings of strangers. I notice that I can be very outgoing in situations where I have a clearly defined role to play - such as a talk I'm giving on a topic I feel knowledgeable about, or a party I'm hosting. But on the whole, I'm quiet.
It's important to me to distinguish this way of being from the classical definition of what it means to be an introvert, "a person who is more interested in his or her own self than in in other people." I know plenty of people who fit this definition well - they become so occupied with their inner existence and interests that they forget (or never learn) how to respond well to external stimuli, how to be sensitive to the physical and verbal signals given off by those around them, how to communicate well with others. While I understand and respect the ways that someone could manifest that personality, and while I see that they can find other ways to be brilliant communicators or express themselves magnificently, it's very important to me to be sensitive to and interested in the beings and happenings in the world around me, as much as I am in my own self.
So if I'm not a classic introvert, what am I? I think I'm just someone who prefers to be quiet in settings where quiet is not always the norm. I do this in part as a way of bearing witness to the many kinds of ways in which there is not enough quiet in our lives.
Continue reading Why I Am Quiet
On Saturday, February 24th, my cat Misty died after the cancer she had been struggling with had become too much for her to handle. It was a loving and peaceful death, and she was buried near one of her favorite spots in the yard.
Misty had a long life - upwards of 16 years - and was a wonderful companion throughout. I never thought of myself as a "cat person," but I inherited her from other family members and she grew on me. She didn't always have the warmest disposition when you encountered her at first - in recent years I think she had forgotten what her "nice meow" sounded like, so every entreaty or remark, even the happy ones, were done in the tone of a kitty with better places to be. But she made friends with strangers quickly, wasn't afraid to look a little silly in the name of effective and comprehensive play-time, and always knew when it was time to cuddle up. And bless her heart for tolerating my experimentation with various gadgets that were meant to make her more comfortable - the automatic litterbox cleaner, the battery-powered timer-based feeding contraption, the elaborate windowsill lounging surface structures. I think she sensed my good intentions all along, even if she didn't share my enthusiasm. 🙂
If you want, you can make a donation to 1-800-Save-A-Pet.com in honor of Misty - they help homeless pets all over North America to get adopted into loving homes like the one she had.