Dale Fritz: Aug 11, 1924 - Feb 7, 2013

"So I think I already know the answer to this, but I want to bring it up."

Uh-oh. "And what might that be?" I replied with a smile.

"I just wanted to ask. Were you planning on going to Dale's memorial today?"

Blink. Dale. Dale?

"Uhhh… memorial? What are you talking about?"

"I saw it posted on Pam's Facebook page," she said. "It's today at 2:30. I know you're busy, but I was wondering if you were thinking of going."

Understanding hit me. I looked at the Facebook post she pointed out. Pam posted on February 17th that her father's memorial was on February 21st at 2:30pm.

"Dale passed away?" Yes, it was a dumb question. But I was dumbstruck.

My relation to Dale Fritz is a bit circuitous. He was married to my step-father's sister. So I guess in a way he was my step-uncle. I only ever saw him and his wife, Ruth, when my parents came to visit. I've never been super close to that side of the family -- I only ever saw Allen, Pam, or Rob (Dale and Ruth's children) when my parents were here, usually during special holidays.

There were several times we got together, but two memories stand out. The first was a Thanksgiving when my parents decided we would spend the holiday in Seattle with the Fritz family. I was in high school at the time, and we drove up from central California and stayed several days, as I recall. I remember the scent of Dale's pipe, the close coziness of the house (I had to frequently duck, as I'd grown into my height by that point), and the smell of the rain around their home that was so cliché with being in Seattle. The interaction I most remember with Dale, that first visit, was a conversation we had about computers. This was back when I was excited to have a 1200 baud modem hooked up to an IBM 8088 with a total storage of 1.44 MEGAbytes between the two 720kb 5 1/4-inch floppy disk drives. (God I feel old). I was in to computers even at that age, and loved trying to connect to BBSes (that's "Bulletin Board Systems" for those of you who didn't live through the pre-Internet era -- essentially the equivalent of today's forums but ones you had to dial-up to, rather than click on a link. Now I feel even OLDER). I was excited to talk to Dale about computers. He was a professor at a university, had a Master's degree in engineering, and was most definitely in to technology.

"Do you play any computer games?" I asked him.

"No, I don't play games. But I love playing on the computer. I input all sorts of equations into it, and have it running and running and running crunching through the numbers."

"…" I didn't know what to say. "Uhhh… What?"

"Oh, yeah," he said, enthusiastically. "It's fascinating! I find these really complex arrays and input the numbers into the computer. Then I let it process away. It's really very neat!"

I knew at that point that this was a man who thought on a whole different level. I always wondered what that really meant -- at the time my impression of "equations" was 2+2=4. But he was so confident in his answer, so enthusiastic, so excited, that I couldn't help but admire him. And later during our visit, I saw him sitting in front of his small monochrome monitor in his office, pipe in his mouth, entering numbers into a command line.

Then there was another Thanksgiving. Lisa and I had just moved to Bellevue when I joined Microsoft. We lived in a small two-bedroom apartment (which by our standards at the time was HUGE), and somehow we made the crazy decision to host a family Thanksgiving that year at our place. My parents flew up from California, and my mom and Lisa diligently worked in the tiny kitchen preparing our traditional Thanksgiving fare -- turkey, sweet-potato casserole, mashed potatoes, and I think we even had that crazy Jello salad with the fruit mysteriously floating in the middle of it.

Dale, Ruth, Pam and her husband John, Allen and his wife Arlene and their daughter Pearl all came over, I think. I might be missing some people -- age will do that to memories. But I remember how amazing it was to have everyone together. Growing up in a relatively small family of my parents and my brother and sister, it was primarily the five of us for most of my adolescence. Having so many people, so much FAMILY, all in one place of such disparate ages was totally unusual. And there was Dale, smiling, smoking his pipe (outside of course), and soaking up the atmosphere, clearly loving every minute of it.

I was totally caught off guard when Lisa asked me about the memorial. I looked at my calendar for the day's activities.

"I have two meetings that are pretty important during that time, and a meeting later in the day I should really be at," I said hesitatingly. "I don't know if I can make it."

Lisa nodded. "Yeah, I'm sorry -- I meant to say something earlier when I saw the post."

"I had no idea. I can't believe he passed away. I feel horrible I didn't know."

I sat there for a moment, sipping my morning coffee and listening to the kids grumble about having to come to the breakfast table. I thought about the meetings, which were important to me. I thought about making sure I was following through on my commitments to business, and the value I'd get from the conversations I'd be having during the time the Fritz family mourned the passing of their father -- meetings with leaders of my organization, and discussions I was really hoping to have sooner rather than later.

And then I thought of Dale -- his soft-spoken presence, his constant good humor, his smile, and his intense focus on what you were saying. How he'd changed after a tragic motorcycle accident damaged his brain, but how he'd kept that quiet peace, and that genuine enthusiasm.

Work is important. But it's pretty clear, when you stop for a moment, what's really meaningful. What matters. It's not the business, the work you do, or the kudos you earn. It's the people who touch you, who you in turn influence, and the relationships that bind people together.

"I'll clear my schedule," I told Lisa. "I should be there. It's family."

The memorial was beautiful. There weren't a lot of people there. But the people who attended clearly loved the man Dale was, as well as the man he became after his accident.

I learned a lot about him through the statements his children made. I learned that not only did he have a passion for mathematics, but put himself through school to get that Master's degree in engineering, he was a nuclear engineer, an avid hiker, and once moved their entire house 3 miles down the road to get it out of the way of I-5, taking it apart brick by brick and then putting it back together.

There was a group of eight people there who were in the Happy Hikers Club. I'd never heard of it, but it wasn't an organization -- it was a group of friends who'd labeled themselves. It was a collection of parents of Boy Scout kids who enjoyed hiking and camping so much with each other that they continued to do it among themselves after their kids were no longer in Boy Scouts. They'd remained friends for the decades that followed.

Dale was a quiet, soft-spoken, intensely kind individual. I heard many times from people who knew him about his smile, and how he always had one ready. And it resonated with me -- I don't remember a single time, even when I saw him shortly after his wife of 59 years passed away, when he didn't have a ready smile, a kind word, and a sparkle in his eye like he was just about to laugh with you.

Toward the end of his life, much was taken from him. The motorcycle accident took key parts of his intellect away. Frankly, I don't know how much he understood about what was going on around him. Two years ago, his wife, Ruth, who he clearly dearly loved, passed away peacefully in their home. He required constant care, and the caregivers who were with him these last couple of years in the adult facility he went to were in attendance today. The tears they shed were a testament to the kind of man Dale was, and the admiration he garnered, even from people who knew him for such a relatively short time.

Through all that, I don't remember a single time when I saw him without a smile.

I couldn't believe I didn't know he'd passed away. I couldn't understand how this was something I'd missed. I will admit that I was peeved that no one told me. I knew I wasn't incredibly close, but still. So after clearing my calendar and sending apologies to people I'd rescheduled with, I opened up my computer, and did a search on my inbox for the word "Dale". The mail from my mom popped up. She'd sent an Email to me this past Saturday.

She'd told me that Dale had passed away and forwarded a note from Allen requesting any comments about Dale from people who couldn't make it to the memorial service, which was that coming Thursday. I'd missed it. The mail was lost in one of the more than two thousand Email messages in my inbox that have gone unread simply because there are only 24 hours in the day, and a need to sleep, eat, and have a family life. Among all the spammy newsletters, status updates, conversations among distribution lists, and commentary about work details, I'd missed the mail that communicated a death in the family.

I'm saddened that I only learned more about Dale, and had more insight into how we was a father, a husband, and a friend, during a service honoring his memory than I'd ever learned while he was alive. I'm saddened that life can be so hectic, so jam-packed with everyday details, that some of the most important little things can be missed in a sea of chaos. I'm troubled by the fact that it's so easy to miss moments when we should look around and appreciate the connections we have to the people that shape our view of our world.

I'm grateful that I work with amazing people who easily adjust to last-minute changes. I'm grateful that I have memories of Dale and his wife Ruth that I can cherish in my own way. And I'm grateful to the family that has always been so welcoming to myself, my mother, and my brother and sister when we joined their family.

Allen, before I left the memorial, told me that he was going to reach out to me directly. But he didn't know what to say, or whether he should, for the simple reason that while I was part of the family, being the step-son of his uncle, we weren't close.  I think he assumed I'd be busy, that I'd have other obligations, and that given my fleeting connection to his father, I wouldn't attend a service at 2:30pm on a weekday. He was genuinely surprised to see me when I'd arrived. There was a part of me that was saddened at how surprised he was, but only because it's so easy to make an assumption that a busy life would preclude taking time to honor an individual. At that very moment, I was grateful for the decision I made that morning. Being there mattered -- to me, and to the children who'd lost their father. I'm grateful to have been part of the sharing of memories, so that I can carry them now too and continue to honor Dale.

Thanks for reading this. If you've gotten this far, it's likely that you have some connection to me, and my life. However remote, however tenuous, it matters. You matter to me, my family, and our lives. And we are grateful for you.

Rest peacefully, Dale. Your life was a non-stop adventure, and you had a profound impact on the people around you. Be proud. You will be fondly remembered.

Dale and Ruth. Thanks go to Allen and his wife for the photo. For memories and photos from her, head here: http://tanglycottage.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/the-passing-of-a-brilliant-man/

Dale and Ruth. Thanks go to Allen and his wife for the photo. For memories and photos from her, head here:


Treadmill Run

It's not a very pertinent or important issue. In fact, it's actually rather inane. But when it comes to wanting to share things that may not be important to others, but are important to you, it's easy to get sucked in to endless debates about how.

So, I ask you: RunKeeper, Endomondo, Fitbit, MyFitnessPal, or Garmin Connect for tracking and posting health-related updates? So very confusing... 

Here is my latest run from Garmin Connect, at least... 

The First Triathlon

Last weekend I did my first Triathlon. The more I think about it, and the more I remember it, the more I appreciate the fact that I did it in the first place, and that I want to do another one. When I first finished, I felt okay. I'd accomplished it, but it felt like a bit of a workout moreso than necessarily a huge accomplishment. Maybe some of that was because of the timing, and the fact that it wasn't feasible to have Lisa and the kids there at the finish line when I crossed. I started with a group of men, but was really alone for the most part. And that's how I finished -- alone. I walked across the finish line and headed to my bike, packed up, got a hot dog, ended up on a conference call for work, and then headed home. That was it.

But the more I think about it, however, the more I think I want to do more of this type of thing. I definitely want my family to participate at the end, but I want to do more. Ultimately, my dream would be to work up to doing something along the lines of a full Iron Man. That's many years in the future, and I'm not sure if my body would support it (I'm already being told by my chiropractor that my hip socket is low on cartilidge, which will limit the amount of time I spend running on hard surfaces). But it's always good to dream.

For the purposes of this web site, however, I did want to capture the recap of my first ever triathlon. The hope is that in the future I will look back on this and say "Wow -- I was a super-slow beginner". But regardless, I do want to celebrate my first ever triathlon. Even finishing is an accomplishment.

Quick background — I have been running consistently for about a year and half, with my first race being the Rock 'n Roll Seattle 1/2 marathon last year (2:15), I hit the Las Vegas Rock 'n Roll 1/2 (2:05) and a week later the Seattle full marathon (just over 5 hours). So I wasn't TOO worried about the running part of the tri — I figured that would be the "easy" part.

I've spent a little bit of time on my mountain bike, riding around 10-15 miles a few times prior to the race. Not intensive training, but at least getting used to things. And I never got around to spending a single minute in the pool or lake, trusting my comfort with the water (swimming since childhood). Plus with work, two small kids, and my own laziness, I just never made the time. That, however, was mistake number one.

I never got a wet suit, so I decided to trust to the fact that I'd be in and out of the water pretty quickly (mistake number two). The day of the race arrived, and I watched carefully how everyone else laid out all their gear, arranged their helmets, and pulled on their wet suit (which I really wish I had at that point).

At the recommendation of someone I knew who I ran into, as well as some helpful folks around me, I decided to get in the water before the race to acclimate. I did this, and got in up to my waist (I couldn't bring myself to dive in fully). When the race started, however, that helped — I was able to comfortably wade out a bit, and then start swimming. What I did NOT expect, however, is how out of shape I am when it comes to swimming. Within moments I was breathing heavily and had a hard time keeping my arms moving. It doesn't help that I normally don't swim with my face in the water, which means I was exerting a lot more energy to keep myself moving forward. I kept having to move into a breast stroke, then a back stroke, and, let's be honest, I think I doggie paddled more than halfway through the quarter mile. I finally got out of the water behind several racers from the corral after mine (and some from the one after that). Lesson Number One: Take swim lessons and spend some time training in the water, for goodness sake!
Swim Time: 15:08

I took my time with my transition (3:20, to be specific), both to catch my breath and to take the time to put on socks and then my shoes (only running shoes — no bike shoes). I almost forgot my belt with my number on it (and discovered after the race I put it on upside down, so the whole time on bike and run it was either hidden or upside down altogether). The ride wasn't too bad — though I was SLOW. I only passed two people throughout the entire race, and got used to hearing "on your left" for the duration as people blew by me. I looked down at one point and saw that my tires also looked a bit deflated. So I was riding a mountain bike, with knobby tires, which were deflated somewhat — in other words, spending WAY too much energy to get from point A to B. Lesson Number Two: Either get road slicks for the mountain bike, or get a road bike. And train more.
Bike Time: 59:30

When I (finally!) got back to the park, I was excited to start my run. But something weird happened — I started running, and I felt like I was pounding my feet two inches into the ground. Where was my smooth stride? Where was my regular breathing and effortless pace? It took me about 3/4 of a mile to feel like I had my running feet on again, and even then I felt like my breathing was way too labored and my heart rate was higher than it should have been as I tried to shake off the exertion of the bike ride. But I was able to maintain a decent (at least for me), if not fast, pace — and I passed a lot of folks that like passed me on their bikes the previous hour. The run was definitely my best segment, but I still learned something: Lesson Number Three: More Brick Training!
Run Time: 27:28

Crossing the finish line was a great feeling — I took on my first tri, I didn't prepare well, but I finished. I certainly was FAR from the fastest, but I wasn't the slowest, and the fact that I still has fuel in my tank afterward showed me that there's a lot of room for improvement. I'm proud of my 1:45:24 time, but it's definitely just a baseline for me to improve upon.

It was an experience, and it was amazingly fun. It'll be quite a while before I'm ready to take on a 70.3 or go for a full IM. But this was a start. :)

Greg's Memorial

Today we went to Greg's memorial service.

The event itself was beautiful. I was amazed at the number of people who's lives were touched by Greg, and who attended the services to share in his remembrances. It was clear from the people who were there, and the way that everyone spoke about him that our feelings about Greg and his entire family are far from unique -- that these people have touched the lives of people around the globe, and that we aren't the only ones to miss him. 

Irene asked me to say a few words at the service. I felt honored and privileged to be asked to stand before everyone who was there and share how I felt about the man she knew as the best friend she'd ever had. I took what I wrote previously on this site and modified it somewhat, edited here and there, and added more to it. I'd like to post what I said during the service here for others to read -- so that you can also get a glimpse of the man who we all knew and loved. Also, below that is a link to the video that my beautiful wife Lisa and I created together to share some of the images we got from Irene that will also give you a view into Greg -- someone who loved his family and loved others. Thanks again for the opportunity, Irene.

Greg was a special man who touched a lot of lives. I know for sure he touched ours. His loss is a blow I think we'll all feel for a long time, but it's important that we remember the spirit of the man and what he meant to all of us. Everyone processes tragedy differently. I do it through writing, and after the accident I wrote my thoughts down, and shared it with Irene. Then I posted it to my web site. I think a lot of people read it, and I've heard that it touched them. And for that I'm grateful, because it gives other people insight into the Greg that we, as his friends and neighbors, knew and loved. Irene asked that I read an edited portion of what I wrote here today, to share my thoughts of what Greg meant to me, and to our family. So here goes. 

If you were in the Seattle area during the past ice storm, or were following the news from the area, you likely heard about the man who was killed on Thursday morning in what the media is calling a "Deadly Ice Storm". That man was Greg Barber, and he lived next door. He and his wife, Irene, have been close friends of ours since we moved into this house six years ago. As a couple who expected to live in a suburban cul-de-sac with a postage stamp for a yard, my wife and I leaned heavily on Greg and Irene for help adjusting, and they became virtually second parents to both of us, as they were the ones we called when I couldn't figure out how to change the water filter, or get our lawn tractor started, or if we just wanted to have some company to eat BBQ and drink margaritas. I had an understanding with Greg -- he would help me with things I didn't understand about taking care of the house, property, and the machines required, and I would help him troubleshoot his computer, software, and wireless Internet connection. 

The last time I saw Greg was Sunday when I took our boys over to his house, where he used his band saw to cut rectangular blocks of wood into race car shapes for my son's Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. That was the kind of man he was -- someone we could call upon to help, and he would do anything he could for us. He was the one to pull out his tractor to fill in pot holes in our dirt roads, or cut down trees that leaned too far into the path of cars.

The news stories imply that he was pulling out his ATV to go for a ride. But he wasn't the kind of man who would just go for a joy ride in the snow. He was the kind of man who would help out the neighborhood by checking out the state of the roads and making sure everyone else was okay. He was on that ATV when the tree fell.

Greg had a hard year, between his own fight with cancer and bouts with spinal meningitis. A friend of Irene's put some of that into a very good perspective -- that he was granted life after those tough times earlier this year to spend time with his granddaughter in Disneyland, to spend time with his family through Thanksgiving and Christmas, and to share in the excitement of his second granddaughter on the way. That second granddaughter, Macy, was born at Overlake hospital on Thursday, the same day he died. He never had a chance to meet her, but he knew she was coming, and he was excited. The last few months of his life were filled with joy, family, and moments spent together.

There's a saying my wife found and shared with me. "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." My goal in life is to have many such moments that take my breath away, and to make sure the people I love have those moments as well. I know Greg did the same.

The time we spend with those who are most important to us matters. We all know, in the back of our mind, we won't always be here. That things will change, and people will pass away. It's important, I think, to remember that our time is limited, and to make sure we focus on our friends, our family, and those who matter most to us. It's easy to get caught up in the daily grind of what we need to do in order to make it through the day. But it's equally important to take a breath.

A friend of mine, after hearing about the tragedy, told me this: "He sounds like a great man. I hesitate to say 'sounded like', because his seems like the type of spirit that will stay alive." I couldn't agree with him more. 

Be safe. Tell the people you love that you love them. Enjoy moments of peace. And plan moments that take your breath away; for you, and for the people around you. 

Thank you.

Here is the video we shared as well. We will miss you, Greg.


Greg Barber

I've learned over the years that I process information and things that happen to me by writing about them. I think the act of putting things down takes the thoughts and feelings out of my head, and it's become a cathartic process. I have a personal journal that I write in from time to time, and often those thoughts are for my eyes alone. But sometimes I need to write something with the thought that someone would actually read it, and maybe either learn something, or get some insight, or somehow benefit from the things that are going on in my own head. I try not to delude myself, however -- I'm writing this because I need to, and I'm sharing it on my blog because that will somehow make the act of writing more meaningful. I hope that my story provides insight, but ultimately, the mere fact that it will be read is the catharsis that gives purpose to the writing.

If you were in the Seattle area during the past ice storm, or were following the news from the area, you likely heard about the man who was killed on Thursday morning in what the media is calling a "Deadly Ice Storm". That man was Greg Barber, and he lived next door. He and his wife, Irene, have been close friends of our since we moved into this house six years ago. We live in a very rural area where you can't see the house next door in the Spring for all the trees around us. As a couple who expected to live in a suburban cul-de-sac with a postage stamp for a yard, my wife and I leaned heavily on Greg and Irene for help adjusting, and they became virtually second parents to both of us, as they were the ones we called when I couldn't figure out how to change the water filter, or get our lawn tractor started, or if we just wanted to have some company to eat BBQ and drink margaritas. I had an understanding with Greg -- he would help me with things I didn't understand about taking care of the house, property, and machines required, and I would help him troubleshoot his computer, software, and wireless Internet connection.

The last time I saw Greg was Sunday when I took our boys over to his house, where he used his band saw to cut rectangular blocks of wood into race car shapes for my son's Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. That was the kind of man he was -- someone we could call upon to help, and he would do anything he could for us. He was the one to pull out his tractor to fill in pot holes in our dirt roads, or cut down trees that leaned too far into the path of cars. He not only took care of his own property, but he helped everyone in the neighborhood.

The news stories imply that he was pulling out his ATV to go for a ride. But he wasn't the kind of man who would go for a joy ride in the snow. He was the kind of man who would help out the neighborhood by checking out the state of the roads and making sure everyone else was okay. It was a rough night with lots of tree limbs and whole trees falling down, and given our neighborhood, it's not an easy task to make sure everyone is okay. He had an ATV that he used as a work machine around the property, for hauling items, transporting wood, or whatever. He went to the tent in the back of the property to get it started up. Irene was there with him. As he was getting the machine going, she watched the large tree next to him lean, snap, and fall. It landed right on his back, crushing him down onto the ATV.

I was outside looking at some trees that came down on the back of our own property when I heard the crash of the tree, followed by Irene's screams. I ran as fast as I could over to their house, and tried to take in what had happened.

There are sounds and images I will never be able to erase from my mind from the moments that followed. But there was one thing that kept resonating with me throughout everything that was happening: powerlessness. I was powerless to do anything. I wasn't strong enough to lift the tree off of him. I wasn't fast enough with a chainsaw to cut the tree down enough to lift it. There are things that I wish I would have thought of, like deflating the tires of the ATV to see if that would lower him enough to pull him out. Or having our neighbor down the street bring his high-lift jack immediately, rather than only thinking of that long after the paramedics were there and the efforts to remove him from under the tree became a matter of respect for his body, rather than an attempt to see if there was any life left to save. Days later, after thinking about it and reliving it and writing about it, I recently remembered his tractor that he once let me borrow and showed me how to use -- could I have used that and the chains I know are in the back compartment to somehow lift the tree up and off of him? Would it have made a difference?

The most likely reality is that he was dead moments after the tree hit him, as it crushed him down onto the machine. Most likely, there was NOTHING I or anyone could have done -- that he was dead before I even arrived. That thought doesn't help, though, when you're sitting there alone with a man who has become something of a father figure, and something of a grandfather to your children, praying the paramedics arrive and praying that he'll somehow be okay, wondering what you can do. Wondering what you're not thinking of. Wondering if there is something you could be doing that might make a difference in those first few minutes after a horrific accident. Wondering what HE would do if he was the one sitting there, listening to the engine of the machine revving at full power, seeing him crushed under the weight of the tree on his back.

Greg had a hard year. He was diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year, and put it in remission with surgery and treatment. A few months ago he had a seizure related to spinal meningitis and a bacterial infection that got into his brain, putting him into the hospital and robbing him of speech for a time. He fought through all of that, supported his wife through her own rounds of cancer and treatement, and survived some tough situations. A friend of Irene's put some of that into a very good perspective -- that he was granted life during those tough moments earlier this year to spend time with his granddaughter in Disneyland, to spend time with his family through Thanksgiving and Christmas, and to share in the excitement of his second granddaughter on the way. That second granddaughter, Macy, was born at Overlake hospital on Thursday, the same day he died. He never had a chance to meet her, but he knew she was coming, since his daughter-in-law's water broke earlier in the day. The last few months of his life were filled with joy, family, and moments spent together.

The time we spend with those who are most important to us matters. We all know, in the back of our mind, we won't always be here. That things will change, and people will pass away. So it's important, I think, to remember that our time is limited, and to make sure we focus on our friends, our family, and those who matter most to us.

There's a saying I like to think about occasionally, though I don't know who said it: "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." My goal in life is to have many such moments that take my breath away, and to make sure the people I love have those moments as well.

It's easy to get caught up in the daily grind of what we need to do in order to make it through the day. We work our jobs, we interact with people, we do our shopping, cleaning, and other errands. And work is such a huge part of that -- we spend 8 to 10 hours in the office every weekday, with more time spent at home working on Email, or projects that are due soon, or even just thinking about the job or finding solutions. And I think that's okay -- it's something that matters to us, and gives us drive and something meaningful to attach ourselves to. After what has happened, I'm looking forward to going back to work. And as much as increasing shareholder value is important, that's not my goal. My goal is to succeed, to feel proud of what we've accomplished, and to create successes that take our collective breaths away. Not because of the money or recognition or because our business is going to save lives. But because it's something that I'm passionate about, and it's important to ME. And it's important that the time I spend away from my wife and my children is more meaningful than just to get a paycheck twice a month. These are the things that make a difference in our lives.

The questions will always be there. In life or in work, I know there will be doubts. What am I not thinking about? What would be a better strategy to make this business I own more of a success? What would one of the people I respect and learn from at work do if they were sitting in my seat, looking at a problem that needs to be solved, owning the business that I own? How would my brother, who is so much better at managing money than I am, deal with our family's debt? What am I not understanding about the mortgage refinance agreement we're about to sign?

I'll do what I did in the first few moments after I arrived at the scene of the accident; whatever I can with the tools I have. That's all any of us can ever do in any situation. Sometimes it may not be enough, and sometimes we'll think of other things we SHOULD have done in those situations. I guess that's what life is all about -- learning, growing, and gaining wisdom, whether in life or at work. No matter what the decisions, however, one thing is for sure: we are never so powerless or helpless in our jobs, our budgeting, or our relationships as I was on Thursday morning.

Be safe. Tell the people you love that you love them. Enjoy moments of peace. And plan moments that take your breath away; for you, for the people around you, and the work that you do.

Thanks for reading this.

Magical Christmas

When it comes to holidays, there are few as memorable or exciting as Christmas. I was talking to someone I work with today, who was telling me some his earliest and happiest memories were all about Christmas -- the excitement of knowing that Santa was on his way, the anticipation of new gifts, the anxiety of wondering if you got the presents you REALLY wanted.

Celebrating Christmas with a five-, six-, and seven-year-old brings many of those memories back, at least for me. It made me remember the sleepless nights before Christmas morning, and the time that my brother and I got up as early as four in the morning to see what Santa brought, only to be told we had to go back to bed for a few hours (such torture!).

It's the magic of anticipation and wonder that makes the season so very fun. One of the children, my niece Trinity, doesn't believe in Santa. She knows (or thinks she knows) that Santa is her mom and dad, and that the jolly old man with the red outfit and jiggly belly isn't really magic, and Christmas is just about her parents buying her stuff. She tried to tell our sons that Santa didn't exist, and it took several conversations to convince this precocious little girl that it would be a disservice to her cousins to take the mystery and joy away from the season by telling them that Santa isn't real.

The kids will learn that soon enough -- but until then, we want them to hold on to the hope and excitement that Santa and Christmas brings. And after we tracked Santa on NORAD, and Santa brought tons of gifts AFTER we opened all the presents from the parents, grandparents, and friends (he leave his presents on our porch, since our wood stove has a door that locks -- we're one of the last stops on his route, and he normally drops off a bag of presents on the porch after breakfast), we may have just convinced Trinity that maybe, just maybe, Santa is not just a lie told to kids.

Magic is what you make it. Arthur C. Clarke said that "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." I interpret that to mean that if you don't know how it works, it's fair game to call it magic. I know that a microwave makes things hot when you put items in it and hit a few buttons. I know that microwaves excite the molecules in the material inside the chamber, but I don't understand how they are directed, contained, or managed so that the microwave itself doesn't overheat and melt. As far as I'm concerned, the microwave is a magical box that makes my food hot.

Trinity, when she was staying with us, kept getting really hot at night when it was time to go to bed (she was using a heavy sleeping bag). So I gave her my special "magic cold thing" that stays cold for a really long time. It's a gel pack that we keep in the freezer for icing sore knees and the like. She said magic doesn't exist -- and that it can't be magic.

"So how does it work?" I asked her.

"Ice" she guessed. "It's made of ice."

"Nope," I replied. "If you don't know how it works, it must be magic."

It's a gross oversimplification, I know, but it's something that I'm only just now realizing is important to me -- and I want it to be important to my sons. Magic may be something we don't understand, but we don't have to understand it to appreciate it. Whether it's how food gets hot in the magic box above the stove, or how Santa can deliver presents to all the boys and girls across the world in a single night, there's something comforting and hopeful in the power of magic. It means that nothing is impossible. Nothing is unimaginable, and nothing should be taken for granted.

Without magic, we lose hope. And without hope... well... that's not a world I want my kids growing up in. So whether or not you know that Santa is real, or whether or not you know how an ice pack retains its temperature, or even if you can explain to me how microwaves work -- I don't want to know. Because to me, it's just plain magic.

Slow-Mo and No NaNo

November is always a busy time -- not only do you have Thanksgiving and the initial preparations for the Christmas holidays (it's always a rush to get the shopping done early), but in my business there's typically a lot of holiday activities going around as we try to sell as much as we can of our products to people interested in playing games for the holidays. 

There's also planning for upcoming events that usually take time and energy -- on a personal level, those would be family visits and planning, and for those of us in the tech industry, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which usually happens in early January. All the planning needs to happen in November/December, since no one wants to be working on planning an event over the Christmas holiday. 

This is fairly common for November, though -- and usually quite easy, if a bit frantic, to handle.

This month, however, the Task Fairy is stepping it up and whacking me in the face with her Busy Stick. 

First off, we have MineCon, the first ever Minecraft community event. I'm incredibly excited that we'll be showing the first ever playable version of Minecraft on Xbox 360 at the event, but as one of the marketing leads, the next couple of weeks are going to be crazy as we prepare for the event (happening 11/18 and 11/19). 

On top of that, last year and several years before that, I participated in NaNoWriMo, a global writing event where participants attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days through the month of November. I've done it twice, and succeeded twice. Yet I've never finished either of the two books I started.

Then there's a little thing I decided to in my spare time -- run a full marathon. As I've learned over the past several months, training your body to run 26.2 miles without stopping (or injuring yourself) is no easy feat. It takes time, perseverance, and dedication. But mostly it takes time. And the race happens right at the end of November.

To add to it, there's Movember, the mustache-growing event for men across the world where we all try to groom some facial hair and build awareness (and dollars) for men's health. This doesn't take much time at all (since you're just growing hair), but ideally there's some effort to get people to donate (which you can do for me right here!) I have to say, however, that my mustache is growing in AWFULLY slowly. I mean, I know I usually only shave once a week or so, but this is going to be one pathetic attempt at growing a mo'.

And let's not forget many of the other things I want to sink time in to -- like playing more Dead Souls, and eagerly awaiting Skyrim (which I just pre-ordered), as well as improving upon my SkyRail that I built on our Connected Experiences Minecraft server. And I can't NOT watch the myriad TV shows that Lisa and I enjoy, and the books I want to finish reading, and the work I need to do around the house, and… well, you get the idea.

Making choices about what to NOT do sucks. But what sucks even more is the overwhelming pressure of making sure you're doing everything you need to. So to that end, I'm making some tough calls.

First off, I'm not going to finish NaNoWriMo. 

Well, let's re-phrase that. I'm not going to STRUGGLE to finish NaNoWriMo. I want to continue writing, and I've begun finishing the book I started last year. Of course, that's against the rules, and it's day 5 and I'm only 1,000 words in, but I'm just going to have to be okay with that. 

I'm also going to NOT try to break a 4 hours, 30 minute time in the full marathon, which was my initial goal. I'm going to have to be happy with finishing in general, even if it means walking the last few miles. Crossing the finish line healthy and uninjured is going to be my first priority, and while I'm going to continue to run and train, I'm not going to push it. I'm going to run safe and whole through the Seattle Marathon, and then have fun running the Rock-n-Roll Las Vegas half marathon the following week. That'll be about 40 miles in a single week -- I think that's good enough. Then I can focus on breaking my personal record at the Seattle Rock-n-Roll full marathon in June, when I have a bit more time to focus on speed training (and I'm considering looking at doing a sprint triathlon, to spread out my training a bit -- but that's next year).

The rest -- well, we have to keep ourselves busy with something, right? Clearly the planning and work for business needs to take a priority. The good news there is that it's also fun (the benefits of doing a job you love). 

Maybe I'll hold off on firing up Skyrim until the end of November. Perhaps I'll even get some running and writing in during my travels to Vegas for MineCon. Or maybe I'll just waste the time doing none of these things, and instead write long and overly personal blog entries whining about not having enough time to do other things. 

Lisa once found a quote that has always stuck with me. "Life isn't measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away." 

I'm going to focus on the things that are going to take my breath away -- the moment I cross the finish line after running a full marathon and I see my family cheering me on; the feeling of accomplishment I'll have when I write the last chapter of my first complete novel, even if I don't do it by the end of November; the gratitude of seeing an event well orchestrated and flawlessly executed with 5,000 rabid Minecraft fans playing the game on Xbox 360 for the first time. 

Sometimes you have to pick and choose what matters most, not only to you but to the people around you. You have to decide what's important, and if the result of driving yourself to exhaustion to get everything done is worth the impact on your life and your family. Doing the important things matter -- the trick is just figuring out what's REALLY important. If nothing else, I think this November is going to do that for me. I'll let you know what I find out.

Maybe Someday Someone Will Pick Me

Today at dinner, we were talking to the kids about what they did today. We like to ask them what their favorite part of the day was, so they can learn that every day, even bad ones, have moments that you can look back on and say "yeah, that's a good part of today". 

Lisa's favorite part of the day was hanging out with Evan at the vet, while Tucker was getting his paw checked out (we think he got a slight injury in my last run, when we ran on an all-gravel path for several miles. He's doing better now). My favorite part of the day was the moment of quiet I had when I got home before everyone else and was able to lie down for a few minutes in peace. Evan's favorite part of the day was playing soccer during his team's soccer practice. And when we talked to Aiden, he said his favorite part was running the race at school. But he didn't have a partner. 

We're pretty sensitive to things like whether or not other kids are interacting with him, and what situations he might be facing at school, so when he says things like this, we kind of jump all over it. We asked him about having a running partner. And he said "I can't find someone to be my partner!" We asked if they normally have partners in gym class, and if he ever had previous partners in previous sessions. His answers were, again, not very clear: "There are partners, I can't find a partner. I wish I had a partner." 

So we took a different approach. We asked him if he plays lots of other games in gym, too. He didn't answer. We asked about maybe dodgeball, or tag, or basketball. He seemed to say "Yeah, sometimes" to dodgeball. We asked him if he gets picked for the teams. "No," is what he said. "Maybe someday someone will pick me." 

Aiden is 7 years old. He has a hard time communicating his feelings -- and whether that's because he feels things differently, or because he's unaccustomed to addressing them, or because he just doesn't know the words, it's sometimes really hard to get a true read on how he feels. Many times we have to ask him leading questions to get some sort of answer, but then we wonder if we got the answer because our questions were TOO leading. 

So we don't know if he seemed to imply that during gym class, he's ostracized and shunned from playing with the other kids, or if this was a single day's incident where there were an odd number of kids and he wasn't matched up for some reason, or if this is a constant thing that happens to him twice a week in gym class where he doesn't get picked for any of the games. We don't know if that's really making him sad or not -- he doesn't SEEM sad. 

But it makes us sad. "Maybe someday someone will pick me." How many times have you said that to yourself? As kids, we say it because we want to be the top of everyone's list -- we want to be picked to go to birthday parties, or for dances, or to play key roles on sports teams, or run for class president, or whatever. As adults we want to be picked for the best jobs, by someone who wants to marry us and have kids with us, as someone who can take care of a situation, or as employee of the month. We all want to be picked for something or another. We all want to feel special, and loved, and included. This is one of the basics of human nature, and what drives much of our social interactions -- the need to be seen, heard, understood, and chosen. 

Lisa, when she was in school, had a much more mature way of looking at things, I think. She was quite athletic, and was frequently the first picked for a team game. But when she was captain, she made a point of picking FIRST the kids who were normally picked LAST. Because, as she says, "It's not fair that they were alway picked last. It's just gym class! Who the heck cares? If you want to be competitive, go join a soccer team or something". 

"Maybe someday someone will pick me." I don't doubt that Aiden's hope, and his ability to see the future "someday", is something that he'll need to hold tightly to during his school career. Children are innocently cruel, and it's tough to defend against outright thoughtlessness. There's always another someday, and always another maybe. And "maybe someday" could be tomorrow.  

We appreciated hearing that his favorite part of the day was the race, even without a partner, and while we were certainly concerned about the implications of his not being picked or not having a partner, we didn't let that show and we focused on the fun he had. 

But we also let him know that no matter what, no matter who else there is to choose from, and what the situation -- he can count on us to ALWAYS pick him. After all, what is a family if not a hand-picked all-star team! And our boys are most definitely All-Stars!

Ten New Things I Learned This Weekend

This has been a fascinating weekend for me. And by "fascinating" I mean "bad decisions accompanied by crappy situations resulting in not-positive results". "Fascinating" was just a much easier way to put it. But in any case, there are ten very important lessons I've learned in the past 30 hours or so:

  1. Cats don't like dogs. Yes, I know that's a rather obvious one and I can't really say I didn't know it prior to this weekend. Also, I don't know if I can necessarily be that sweeping in my generalization. So maybe I should put it another way: Calvin (my cat) doesn't like dogs. In particular, he does not like Tucker (our dog). Perhaps it's the size difference, perhaps it's Calvin's penchant to want to rule over everyone except a slavering beast with far too much eagerness to greet a cat with his teeth, or perhaps it's just in Calvin's nature. But boy, that cat sure does not like that dog.
  2. It is not good to force interactions between two beings who do not like each other. The beings, in this case, are of course the aforementioned cat (Calvin) and dog (Tucker). The two times previously these two have met, there was skirmish that resulted in Tucker having Calvin wrapped around his leg, and the poor dog limped for a few days after that, and the second meeting was when Calvin came out and ended up on a window ledge with Tucker on the other side of the glass licking the window, he was so anxious to say hi to Calvin. These meetings did not go well, and should have been foreshadowing to their third interactions.
  3. Holding a cat while trying to force him to interact with another being he does not like is NOT a good idea. Cats are squirrely by nature. They're also immune to gentle encouragement and soft pets to calm them down. Instead, they like to hiss, spit, scream, and struggle ceaselessly -- especially when a large-ish dog is barking and jumping up at their face while someone is holding the cat. This spells trouble with a capital T.
  4. Cat teeth are sharp. I should have known this -- after all, Calvin was only a kitten when we took him to the vet and he ended up sending one of the techs to the hospital, after his bit the tech THROUGH lead-lined leather gloves. There's a reason they say cat teeth are "needle sharp".
  5. If you're going to hold a sharp-toothed cat known for biting people, while trying to force an interaction with a being he does not like, you could AT LEAST be wearing lead-lined leather gloves. Alas, I was not -- the needle-sharp points of Calvin's teeth sank deeply into the tender flesh of my index finger. Ouch.
  6. Cat bites are one of the worst kind of animal bites, because even if they do nothing but hide in a closet because they're terrified of a dog and eat their own cat food, their mouths are filled with horrible bacteria that cause infections in 80 to 90 percent of all bites. Those needle-sharp teeth push bacterial under the skin, where it likes to grow and fester. And the only way to get rid of it is to load up your body with a full range of antibiotics.
  7. When your finger swells up to twice it's normal size, you can't bend it, and there is a clear puss oozing from several puncture marks made by needle-sharp bacteria-infested teeth, it's time to call a doctor. There' no point in just waiting around to see if it'll get better on its own. The hand is nothing to mess with. 
  8. There something out there called a "super-bacteria", which basically means more and more bugs are becoming immune to normal rounds of antibiotics, requiring more high doses of more powerful antibiotics to be ingested into a human body, to fight off something like the infection caused by a filthy, bacteria-crawling bite of an angry cat.
  9. Super powerful antibiotics that attack a wide range of bacteria in your body also do a hell of a number on your stomach and digestive system, and can really screw you up for a bit. Oh, and you shouldn't operate heavy machinery, especially not dosed up on painkillers.
  10. The most important lesson of all: If, for whatever reason, you decide to take matters into your own hands and try to get two creatures who do not mix to meet one another, and do so while in physical contact with the one that has the sharpest teeth and the greatest fear and flight response -- DON'T. Because if you do, you'll end up with a swollen, painful finger, the threat that if you don't get it treated immediately it could result in loss of functionality of your digit, a story about how you were an idiot and did something really stupid.

Learn from my mistakes, people. Learn from my mistakes.

What's in a Label?

I had a long conversation with the parents of one of Evan's friends today about Autism. As you probably know, since you probably won't find this blog unless you know me, my oldest son, Aiden, is autistic, and he's taught us a lot about what it means to think differently than other people. But part of our conversation was around the labels that it brings. Autism is such a huge label -- it spans the gamut from someone who is socially awkward but can completely represent how they feel and navigate through social circumstances, to completely non-verbal, non-functioning people who need to be taken care of their entire lives.

Aiden's diagnosis is "PDD-NOS", which stands for "Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified". In other words, "He doesn't think the same as other kids, and he'll have a hard time learning, but we don't really know why or how to help him. Good luck!"

There's a lot of positive and negative around that diagnosis. It's positive in that we have an officially sanctioned medical diagnosis to satisfy insurance companies and when we got that diagnosis about four years ago, we were able to immediately seek out support from a much wider range of people who would suddenly make time for us once they knew insurance would pay the way. ABA therapy, Occupational therapy, medical therapy, vision therapy, speech therapy -- we've tried them all at one point or the other.

Of course, it's bad in that we have an "autism" diagnosis for our son, which immediately slaps a label on him and positions him in a certain way at school, among people with passing familiarity with what autism is, and with the rest of the world.

We don't spend a lot of time trying to explain that our son is autistic. We just treat him like any other kid, and we expect others to do the same. He's quirky, he talks super fast, he won't look you in the eyes, he's hard to understand, and he's focused way more on Legos and TV that most other seven year olds. But he's Aiden, and we don't want people to know him as "the autistic kid".

Stats around autism continue to rise. When Aiden was diagnosed, there were an estimated 1 in 150 kids diagnosed with autism. Now the number is something closer to 1 in 65. There are a lot of reasons that could be the case -- it could be that more parents are becoming more aware of things like that, and so they're getting kids evaluated and they're landing on the spectrum whereas before the response would likely just be "he's a quirky kid". It's likely also that the autism diagnosis continues to broaden -- Aspergers and tons of other diagnoses also fall under the "Autism Spectrum" umbrella. But of course, just because you're on the spectrum, it doesn't mean you're like any other kid on the spectrum. And finally, it could be that more kids are diagnosed autistic now because there literally is something in our environment, food, water, whatever that's making the kids more prone to possibly becoming autistic BE autistic.

At the end of the day, doctors and the medical world still don't know what the hell autism is. No one knows why it happens, and no one can solve it. No one could even tell us what to do, specifically, with Aiden once we got the diagnosis. We were basically told that we had to figure it out ourselves, because it's always different for every kid.

I wouldn't change Aiden for the world. He's quirky, he's funny, he's loving, he's sensitive, and he loves what he loves with fervor and passion. Do I wish he had more opportunities, and more friends, and more ability to fit into the social definition of "normal" so that things later in life would be easier for him? Absolutely. But I still wouldn't change him one bit from who he is today. He may be autistic, he may be "PDD-NOS", and he may be on some medial spectrum that no one can really define. What's most important is that he's my son, he's Lisa's son, he's our family, our pride, our joy, and our special little boy. And we'll love him no matter what anyone calls him. So should you.

11 Years and Counting

I just wrote a little blog entry about Lisa, and the amazing 11 years we spent together. Then I decided I didn't need to share such personal information on this blog, and deleted it, instead choosing to write a small paragraph about how wonderful she is, but that the details of that are something I'm going to share just with her. But then BlogPress crashed, and I lost the whole post. So I'm just going to do this.

Lisa: I love you. Thank you for the last 11 years. I can't wait for the many decades we have to go together!

A Day at the Beach

Today we spent another good long day in the sun -- this time, at the beach on Lake Sammamish, specifically Idylwood Park. It was a gorgeous day for time spent on the beach, and the definitive moment was when Evan was joyfully scooping up bucketfuls of water to pour into a moat the Julia had created, and Aiden was sitting between myself and Lisa munching on some green french fries, and he said "This is the best day ever at the beach!"

And so it was. We hung out with Wendy, Julia, and Jamie as well, and the festivities included tossing a football in the water (Evan had some rules for scoring a touchdown, but they kept changing so I just ended up chasing the kids and splashing them a lot), playing some badminton, and munching on PB&Js with juice boxes (and I snuck in a couple of beers for us adults).

I'll probably never stop saying how different things are now with the kids. I remember when Lisa and I took Aiden to the beach for the first time, and he would just squat at the edge of the water scooping sand (he really didn't like the water on his feet, and I'm surprised that first time that he stood the feel of the sand at all -- he'll barely walk on the sand now). Evan was something of the same way -- though now he'll gleefully pour buckets of sand and water onto the ground and walk barefoot in and out of the water.

Every day it's something new, and something exciting with them. We see them grow every day. Aiden sitting with us in the shade of our little lean-to and happily sucking down juice boxes and having sunscreen rubbed all over his legs and feet so they didn't burn was such a far distance from when he would scream and cry because he didn't want to touch the water or the sand. Soon enough, they'll be headed to the beach without us, instead wanting to hang out with their friends.

But they better not sneak in any beers.


Hot But Not Bothered

What a day. Evan just had his first soccer game of the current season. I'm so very impressed by these 5-year-olds running wild over the pitch and having a blast kicking soccer balls back and forth. Then you see them passing to each other, and every now and then a kid doing a breakaway run downfield (if you're lucky, headed the right way) and dribbling the ball into a goal. Precious, to say the least.

It was a great day for it, too -- about 80 degrees, sunny, and just a touch muggy. It was hot enough that the sunscreen we put on the 'cubs wore off quickly, and Evan has a slight sunburn. Aiden just ended up sitting in a chair playing on the iPad, so his only sunburn would be on the back of his neck.

It's amazing, through, how this heat can drain you. Standing in the sun for a couple of hours, cheering on your children as they run back and forth, followed by a celebration lunch at Red Robin, means all I want to do is lay in the hammock and write a blog post, as opposed to playing with the kids outside, or mowing the lawn, or any of the myriad of other things I'm supposed to be doing.

It's a constant surprise to me, though, how our two children differ. Aiden really has no interest in sports -- he'd much rather watch TV or go to Lego.com than participate in a team sport. I think it might be because of how we feels like he can't do anything right sometimes. I think he has a perfectionist attitude -- if he doesn't think he's going to be the best, he doesn't want to participate at all. When he does participate (such as playing badminton or WolfPack Baseball (our own variation) in our backyard) if he isn't the best or if he fails in some way, he throws a fit and starts crying.

This kind of behavior is what really worries us about him and how he will interact with his friends as he grows older. Even now, when he throws a fit in a group setting (like Cub Scouts) the other kids look at him askance and we've heard one or two of them say "What a drama queen". This type of perception among his peers as well as his continued inability to socialize winning and losing the context of how it makes others feel we think is going to be a big struggle for him moving forward.

Compared to Evan, it's a night-and-day difference. There's a boy on Evan's soccer team who is very shy, and didn't want to play because he was too nervous. With just a little prompting from Lisa, Evan walked over to the little boy and congratulated him on what he did do in the game, and gave him a high-five. Maybe it was my imagination, but I could see the other little boy light up at that -- he was getting positive responses from his teammates, rather than getting ignored or having negative responses.

Parenthood is a long journey where we can only guess at which way we should turn or what steps we should take. When it comes to two very different, very remarkable little boys, who's own paths are so very different, we can just hope we're doing the right things to teach them how to deal with life long-term. I just hope we're choosing the right paths, and guiding them, rather than carrying them, down the way.

The New Blog

I'm constantly trying new things. I love technology and what it can do, and when I think about how far technology has come, I'm stunned. But my desire to constantly do new things leads me to things like this -- writing an entry on a new blog site on SquareSpace, creating the entry via bluetooth keyboard connected to my iPad, which is displaying its screen on my TV via the AppleTV using AirPlay. Did I mention I'm using the Beta 7 of iOS 5 to do it?

The purpose of this new blog site is to get reoriented on the things that matter. I usually don't really think that I have much to say or share, but sometimes I might. I don't expect I'll post here often (I always say that I'll be more regular) but I know I will go through spells of posting a ton, and then will go through times when I won't post hardly anything. But so be it.

Welcome to Wolf Speak Redux.

Over So Quickly

It blows my mind how quickly some weekends go by. It's already getting late on Sunday night, and I feel like we've only just begun to hang out this weekend. Maybe it was because we slept in until about 9:30-10 each morning, or because we spent most of the two days taking Tucker to a dog park and going shopping in stores. But the time went by way too quickly.

Not that there weren't several high points -- watching Aiden get so enthralled with his new paintings was one. Both days at the dog park, he wanted to sit on the bench and color in his pictures. And all of the ones he's done have been visually stunning. Lisa wants to scan them all in and make some sort of big display of them. I hope she does -- the pictures look really good.

Evan, on the other hand, takes too much after his dad. He just wanted to play video games this weekend. He played quite a bit of Real Racing 2 on the iPad, as well as a multitude of other iPad games. I'm convinced that his ability to jump from game to game and never get bored or stuck on any single one is going to change the way developers make, and children today consume, video games and other electronic entertainment.

I can't say I wanted to do much else, myself. I would much rather have plopped myself in front of the TV and played video games all day than take care of shopping. However, it was pretty killer to be able to chill with the little dudes and Lisa, so I'm certainly not complaining.

Here are some pictures showing off what we did this weekend (I'll try to get more in the future):

Aiden and Evan color on the bench at the dog part

Lisa and Tucker getting some cuddle time in before bed.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
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One of the most relaxing things about the weekend is sitting around doing nothing. We're not terribly fond of letting the kids watch TV, though, so usually we end up throwing on some clothes and going out and doing something. Today, though, we're getting a slow start -- breakfast around 10am after the kids got up early and watched TV on their own, and now we're still in our PJs talking about going shopping and taking Tucker to the dog park.

But one of the things we LOVE is when the kids start doing more creative things. Unprompted by us, Aiden decided he wanted to work on his color by numbers book, and Evan is putting together some magnetic mosaics.

The kids sitting at their desks being creative

This is great in that we love seeing the kids' creativity, but it also lets me and Lisa sit around and drink coffee, catch up on the news, clean up a little bit, and check out online sites. Which usually triggers my desire to post a blog. Which is what I'm doing now.

In a few minutes, we'll get dressed and we'll start our day of going out and picking up supplies, taking the dog out to give him some much-needed exercise, fighting the kids on whether or not they can watch TV or watch a movie, and eventually get lunch and then dinner situated. But it's moments like this that make me love Saturdays -- the quiet, the comfort, and the enjoyment of hanging with the family.

Aiden's first work of art, using the color by numbers

Aiden's Second Piece

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
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Tucker Meets Calvin

Tucker Meets Calvin -- Caught On Video!

Today Lisa introduced, in a rather forceful way, our new dog Tucker to my ornery cat, Calvin. Calvin has been hiding downstairs since Tucker first came into the house, barely ever coming upstairs, and begging for attention whenever someone is down there without the dog. But he's never far from his escape hatch now, as he knows Tucker can come down to visit any moment.

Lisa left a trash can in front of the cat door in the closet where Calvin normally runs, and so forced a confrontation.

The good news -- they didn't hurt each other. The bad news is that Tucker doesn't know what to do with a cat other than bark at it, and Calvin had no idea what to do with a dog rather than try to claw its eyes out. But the fact that no blood was drawn on either side gives me hope that the two of them may yet make peace.

Though clearly it will be a while...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
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Success and Victory! #nanowrimo

This is the second time I've attempted NaNoWriMo, and the second time I've achieved my goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. This time I barely squeaked by, cranking out 5,103 words just in this last evening to reach a grand total of 50,009 words. Barely over 50k, but over 50k. And I still have tomorrow to try to raise that total by a bit.

Now, I just have to finish the book. I'll do all the fun stuff of posting my stats, updating my badge to reflect my winning status, and all that good stuff later. Right now, I'm going to sleep.
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Behind but catching up with #nanowrimo

Today's Word Count: 2142

NaNoWriMo continues on, though we're approaching the end of the month very quickly. And while my daily word count has been fairly high (I'm writing longer chapters) I'm still quite a ways behind where I should be. I'll need to manage about 17k words in the next week if I hope to make the goal of 50k by the end of the month.

I was hoping as I was writing that more would happen in my story that would make it easier to write. What's interesting is that I'm actually finding it HARDER to write, rather than easier. Now that I have story arcs, open plot holes that need to be filled, I've introduced things in earlier chapters that I wanted to leverage in later chapters, and elements of the story that have to be wrapped up and ended at some point, I'm at something of a loss.

I think I'm just now getting into the meat of the story, which is good, but the journey here has been so long that I'm curious how I'm going to wrap things up.

In 2007 when I did NaNoWriMo, I hit my goal with several days left to spare. I knew I had about 15-20k more words to write to finish the story, and I left it at a key scene, where the protagonist could go any number of ways to resolve the conflict and discover the answers to the mystery. And I never finished it. With the 50K goal achieved, I never went back and finished writing my story, and that's something that's bugged me ever since.

So while I'm concerned about hitting my word count for NaNoWriMo, I'm more invested in making sure I actually finish the story. And that's why I'm writing about this here. So that hopefully my friends and family can make sure, regardless of NaNoWriMo, that I actually finish the story I'm trying to tell.

The good news is that now I'm really into the meat of things, I have some fun ideas for what's going to happen and what the twist will be. Now it's just a matter of figuring out how it all connects together and actually writing it down.

Next year, I'm TOTALLY going to outline!

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