Good Morning.

Back when this blog was “embrace-refrain”, I attempted to embrace getting up earlier than normal for one month.  If I remember correctly, I didn’t do so well.  I had a few victories, but getting up early on a regular basis has always eluded me, unless I HAVE to be up early.  If I have an appointment, a meeting, or I need to be somewhere; getting up is no problem.  But when it is “voluntary”;  to just get up and get a few extra things done or have some peace and quiet before the day starts… well, I haven’t been so successful at that.

But, what the heck… I might as well try again.  As I get older, I see more and more value in getting up early.  That hasn’t made it happen of course, but since I see an increasing value there, I am going to give it another shot.  I simply don’t have the energy anymore to stay up late and be productive.  It’s not so much that my energy has diminished, I just spend more of it during the day, and I am spent by the time 9pm rolls around.   And, with a family of 5 it is harder and harder to find some peace and quiet during the day.  The only consistent time I have for some extra productivity and some time to be still is in the morning.  It hasn’t always been this way, but life changes…

My previous attempts to voluntarily get up earlier than I need to have typically been an all or nothing approach.  I figured that once I got in the habit of getting up early, I would get used to it and after awhile it would become my normal routine.  So when I tried to do this, I would try for 6am EVERY DAY, or something like that.  The problem is, that I still have things in my life that keep me out and up late on certain days.  I have regular events on Monday and Wednesday that keep me out later than on other weekdays.  I rarely get to bed early on those nights.  The weekend is often time to hang out with friends, watch movies… etc, so I don’t typically even try to go to bed early then.  The simple fact is:  staying up late makes it incredibly difficult to get up early!

So… if I am going to have any success getting up earlier than I need to on a regular basis, I am either going to have to change some of my evening routines, or maybe try a less than all-or-nothing approach.  Since I like my evening routines, I am going to shoot for the latter.  Over the next few weeks, I am aiming to get up early 3 days a week.  I am hoping that I can pull this off on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  I am also going to try to get up a little earlier on Tuesday and Saturday, but not drastically.  Sunday… I’m sleeping in.

The goal for me is simple:  I’d like to create space each week for 5-6 hours of work, and 3-4 times of solitude, reading, and quiet (20-30 minutes).  I started this morning by getting up about 40 minutes earlier than normal.  I didn’t get any work done, but I was able to just take my morning much slower and enjoy my breakfast and coffee before the kids got up.  I don’t know if I’d call that solitude, but it was certainly better than rushing around while trying to help get my kids off to school.


Unsettled in the Burbs

burbs8 Years ago, our family of 3 moved to the suburbs of Grand Rapids.  Neither Laura or I had ever really wanted to move here, but at the time it made total sense.  I was working at a church out here as a youth pastor.  With the crazy schedule that I kept, it was smart to be as close as possible.  I had windows of time I could be home even on long days, but with a 30 minute commute I couldn’t make that happen.  When the commute was only 5 minutes, I could jot home just for dinner, lunch, or whatever.  We were expecting our second child, and we wanted to maximize our potential family time.

Fast forward a few years:  we are now a family of 5, and our youngest is in pre-school.  Our two girls are in 4th and 2nd grade, and they fully enjoy school and are doing really well.  I don’t work at a church anymore, but my wife works in the city.  We drive to the city 5-7 times a week, sometimes more.  And…. we miss being in the city.  We are starting to think about moving back.  Actually, we’ve been thinking about this for awhile, but we are now taking steps to actually make it happen.

I have always been a bit unsettled in the suburbs.  I typically have an “I don’t belong” complex (my wife calls it the black-sheep syndrome), but it is stronger than that.  I realize that (generally speaking) the point of the suburbs is relative safety and similarity… but that is what drives me crazy about it.  The safety thing is overblown, and the sameness is absolutely mind-numbing.  I miss the diversity of both culture and experience that you get when living in a city.  We miss out when we close ouselves off from the diverse cultures, experiences, and challenges around us.  Of course, I can go find and be a part of diverse cultures, experiences, and challenges while living in the suburbs.  To some reality we do that.  However, I think one of the main points for living in the burbs is that people don’t want “those things” to encroach on their comfortable lifestyle.  They would much rather engage them on their own terms and I find that very limited.  I love this quote from Shane Claiborne:

I had come to see that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.

More often than not, this is what the suburbs do to us.  They keep us from getting to know the poor.  Of course, I can ignore the poor just as much in the city, but having lived there before, I can tell you it is much harder when they are physically your neighbors.

So that is part of it for our story.  But I think this quote from Shane might be more appropriate for us:

And I think that’s what our world is desperately in need of – lovers, people who are building deep, genuine relationships with fellow strugglers along the way, and who actually know the faces of the people behind the issues they are concerned about.

My wife works for GRPS (Grand Rapids Public Schools), and she is pretty passionate about helping make that system a better place for children to learn.  She knows a lot of the faces and families who are struggling to make that happen as well.  The rub for us comes when we retreat to the safety and ease of the suburban schools, we then cease to be a fellow struggler.  This, I think is the crux for us…

Even though no one reads this blog, I guess I need to add my qualifying statements here.  Of course, I am not saying the suburbs are bad, or that everyone in them is bad.  Goodness, we have fantastic friends here, some of whom have recently played a huge part in helping us come to grips with some of these things we are wrestling with and encouraging us to act on them.  I know people here that do amazing things for the poor and suffering all over the world.  The point for us is not that the suburbs are bad, but ultimately that we are unsettled here, and for a variety of reasons we are drawn to the city.

Qualifying statement #2:  We are not drawn to the city because we want to or think we can “save” the city. I had just realized someone might think that from what I had written so far, so I want to go out of my way to say the opposite.  Honestly, there is a part of this that is totally selfish.  We feel like our lives will be richer by living in the city, both adults and kids.  We also know there are struggles and hardships that we are passionate about in the city.  The two, of course, are connected.  We will have richer lives when we are engaged in bringing restoration… and we are best suited to do that in the places were God has stirred up passion in us.  For us, it is looking more and more like that place is in Grand Rapids.

Republic Wireless -Review

We have been on Republic Wireless for almost a month now.  Overall, the experience has been fantastic.  I would (and do) recommend them to many of my friends.  The phone itself (Moto X), is really quite nice.  I have never had a smartphone before, but I have owned iPad’s, so I am familiar with iOS.  Android, though not as intuitive, does the job well. If I had the choice I would still choose an iPhone, but at $60+ / Month vs. $10, I’ll take the Moto X.  And to be honest, the Android experiencing is growing on me…

It took awhile for us to get our order, but I knew that would be the case and they did get it out in the window that they promised (1-2 weeks).  Once we got our phones, they worked quite nice right out of the box.  We logged onto our WiFi, and they were rocking and rolling in no time.  The first thing we did was port our old numbers over, and once we filled out the form online, it took about 24 hours.  Since then, we have not looked back and have been enjoying our new service and the savings associated with it.

We have had a few glitches here and there.  Once my wife couldn’t write a text.  It kept kicking her into Chrome as soon as she started texting in Messages.  Another time I got a message while trying to make a call, that my number couldn’t be verified on Sprint PCS.  I restarted my phone and I was fine after that.  We have also had some trouble with MMS, but it appears Republic has recently solved this issue.  The biggest complaint for me is new Spam callers and texts.  I get quite a few Spam calls a day, and I only would get 1 a month or so when I was on Verizon.  I don’t get a ton of spam texts, but have gotten 3-4 since we made the switch.  I am not sure why I am getting these, if Verizon does a better job at blocking them, or what?  It is definitely a nuisance and I am currently looking into apps or other ways to block the spam.

Overall, I love the phone and the service.  I have contacted Support twice via the web, and had my questions resolved very quickly.  At $20 / Month… this is really an amazing deal.  I don’t have data unless I am on Wifi, but I didn’t on Verizon either and it cost $70 / month.

I had always wished that the big phone companies would offer the option of a smartphone, but with only Wifi coverage.  Most of the places I go have WiFi if I need to look something up, and I can live without connectivity the rest of the time.  Of course, I understand why the big phone companies don’t do this….  $$$$$.   In the meantime, I think Republic is going to carve out a really nice niche with their offering.

republic wireless

Republic Wireless

I’ll be moving cell phone carriers some time in the next month.  I ordered 2 Motorola Moto-x’s, and signed up for a Republic Wireless $10 / month plan for each phone.  Yep, that’s right, $10 a month.  Crazy.  Right now, I pay significantly more than that for each of my phones, and I don’t even have a smartphone.  Of course, with the $10 plan, I won’t get any data unless I am on wifi, but I can live with that for awhile.  I’ve never had data anyway.  I figure the savings can pay for the phone first, and then I’ll upgrade to a data plan.

I’ve been on Verizon for a long, long time.  And while their coverage is great, their plans (especially for smart phones) are just ridiculous.  I added up the total cost for 2 years on a smart phone with Verizon, and my thought was… no phone is worth that much $$.   Since most of my digital world is on Apple devices, I would have preferred an iPhone, but in the end, it’s just not worth it.  I also use Google a ton, so my guess is Android won’t be too hard to get used to.

If your in the market for cheaper wireless, I’d suggest you check out Republic.  They use Sprint’s network, which isn’t the best, but I’ll be saving $50 / month compared to what I was spending with Verizon.  They use an interesting system that prioritizes wifi, so I’ll post again with a review once I’ve been using it for awhile.


Moving things over…

After a bit of work with a new theme, and moving all my content over, it’s time to get started on the new site. I began this blog at  When I started that site, it was for writing and reflecting about a year long project of fasting and embracing new habits.  That year has long since past, and though I still blogged occasionally, I never really kept up after the first year.  I wanted a fresh start, and more generic domain name to post about whatever it is I am thinking about / reading / etc.   So it is.  I wanted to keep all of my content from the previous blog, just in case one of my 10 readers ever wanted to refer back to it!  So here is to a fresh start!

Office View

I was sitting down with my coffee this morning, reading through my RSS feeds. This is a normal morning routine for me, and one of my favorites feeds caught my eye, as usual: Offscreen magazine does a “desktop” series where they feature five inspiring workspaces each week.  They find some amazing, and usually minimal workspaces, many of them with amazing views.  You can check out the series here.  The first workspace picture for today, had a long skinny desk up against a large window with a fantastic view into the woods.  I found myself longing for a view like that.  Then I realized: I already have it.  My primary job is a stay at home dad, where I often go hiking with my son during the day.  Essentially at that point, my office has fantastic views and I get to share them with my son (and sometimes my daughters if they are not in school).  For my secondary job as a web designer / developer… I’d still like to have  a fantastic office someday.  It’s funny though, if I end up with a great view into the woods, I’ll likely be longing to go hiking with my family!

The Sparrow “ding”

Sometimes small details can really make a difference in our ability to be present and focus on what is in front of us.  When it comes to working on anything related to a computer, my ability to focus is, well, almost scary.  The world could be coming to an end, and I might not know it if I am in the middle of building a web site.  However, when I am playing with my kids, or doing some chores around the house…  I can be focused at times, but certain things will throw me off.  The biggest one:  the classic “ding” sound from Sparrow letting me know I have a new email.

In theory, I like having an audible notification that I have a new email.  However, when I am eating dinner or reading a book with one of my kids and that little “ding” goes off, it’s all I can do to keep from checking.  All of a sudden, my email has a tyrannical hold on my thought process.  The sound sits in my head until I check the darn thing.  Our family computer sits in our great room, where we spend most of our time.  If I am home, I’ll likely hear the sound.  Of coure, I usually end up checking it to make sure it isn’t anything important.  Thing is, I rarely have an important email of such magnitude that I would need to check it out right away.  Almost never, really.

I am not sure why I let this go on so long.  Such a simple thing… I turned off the sound notification on Sparrow the other day.  It makes a huge difference.  I still check my email quite often.  But now, I wait until after dinner, or after I am done reading or playing with my kids.   I love it… I changed one little setting on my email client and my ability to be present is better.  Not perfect by any stretch, but better.