Monthly Archives: August 2011

30 While 30: Day 173 – Farewell Meat …

So later this week, I will begin my journey down Veggie lane.

I thought I might share this morning some observations in my research and preparation for vegetarianism:

1. Vegetarianism doesn’t mean eating organic or non-processed foods.

This one was surprising for me.  I thought inherently, that vegetarians were also pro-organic, and con-processed (is that even a word).  Having already read In Defense of Food (by Michael Pollan – my review is here), I have an understanding of eating like humans probably should.  A menu full of greens, seeds, and a little meat, and a healthy education on “responsible food buying” (Read: instruction on hormones, good fats, and the like).  But from the forums I have visited and websites I have viewed, this isn’t always the case with vegetarians.

For example, in soliciting feedback on the transition to vegetarianism, on almost every occasion, people suggested that I visited the frozen vegetarian section in the grocery store.  There, I could find things that look like “real food”, but were in fact not meaty.  Chicken nuggets, spaghetti and meatballs, hamburger patties … all totally, 100%, meat-free.  I appreciate the suggestion, and I might even venture in the processed-vegetarian meal world, but I found it a touch surprising, based on my presuppositions.

2. Vegetarians seem to care a lot about animals and them not being eaten.

Photo credit: premiercattleco.co.nz

I know this sounds like something even your run-of-the-mill vegetarian-experimenter would know, but I must say, I thought there might be more info out there about the vegetarian lifestyle as a health-conscious choice.  Everywhere I looked, I read the health benefits as a support for the push to not kill or slaughter animals for food.  This was something that was very new for me, seeing as I am not experimenting with vegetarianism with any real specific “principle” in mind, but thought at least there would be significant support for a “I’m a vegetarian because it is the superior means to eat healthily”.  If there is this sect in vegetarianism, I haven’t really found that vocal group, but I will admit my research may still be incomplete.

3. Vegetarianism seems very gourmet.

So, in my research, I have been doing some searching for what anyone working on a new diet would be looking for: recipes.  Well, I found them.  Lots of them.  With hummus, and olives, and mushrooms, and hummus (see what I did there), and couscous, and agave nectar, and miso, and tofu.

Can someone tell me where the cheesy potatoes are?  Or the 5-cheese mac and cheese recipes?  What about at least green bean casserole, or fried rice recipes?  It never fails that every time I type “vegetarian recipes” or even “easy vegetarian recipes”, there were plenty of selections, but never really things that I would initially … eat.

Of course, that is the point of this little endeavor.  Trying new things, right?  Well, I am working on taking the meat out of some of my favorite home recipes currently (vegetable and potato soups, for example), and working from there.

*    *    *

No real thought or lesson for the day today … just wanted to share with you all some of my thoughts on my preparation into this new world.

On a side note, meat is going out with a bang at my house.  On the 30th (Tuesday), I am having a “Farewell to Meat Extravaganza”.  We are firing up the grill in effigy, having friends bring their favorite meats to grill out as we revel in the joys of “meat games” (ok, so I made that up … I can’t really find any “meat games” to play)

On Wednesday, I’ll share my eating plan for the month, and how I plan to not die of starvation.  Should be fun.

_Thomas


30 While 30: Day 167 – I did it all for the veggies … the veggies …

T minus 8 days, and counting, before I begin what I think may be one of the toughest things on my list:

#24 (Go vegetarian for a month.)

But I am writing about this today, because this item is one of those that falls into that category of “things I never thought I’d do” or “things that no one would think that I would do”.

So why do them?

Well, part of it is the point of this whole list.  I have spent the last 30 years of my life molding myself into who I am today.  There are those things on the list that are intended to start pointing me in the other direction.  There are then those things, which#24 falls into, as something that Thomas would never do.  They are on the list to help me understand and measure myself capable of something that maybe I didn’t think was possible.  Sure, it may be silly to have a goal of not drinking a carbonated beverage for a calendar year … but I’m almost 6 months in.  6 months.  This goal, like the drink goal, is one to have me see what mettle I am made of.

That’s the beauty of this kind of list … of this kind of endeavor.  Some of my stuff is silly to some (I’m looking at you, vegetarians), but it’s new and adventurous, and dare I say, necessary to me.

It’s necessary to prove that tomorrow doesn’t just have to be a product of the gears moving today.  That tomorrow can take a radical shift towards something different, new, and maybe better.

Science teaches us that by the age of about 25 or so, myelination is pretty much complete.  In biological terms, our brain synapses start to coat themselves in myelin … which in layman’s terms is why as we grow, certain thoughts or actions become automatic.  The term “it’s like riding a bike”, and (in regards to humans) “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” come from this understanding of biology.  So, by late adolescence, we have some things “hard-wired” into our brains.  Thoughts, actions, and attitudes start to become automatic.

Part of this year is dusting off the myelin, so to speak (hrmmm … that wasn’t as catchy as I thought it might be.  Oh well.).

It’s time to do some of the unthinkable things … for me.

but …. I need your help ….

no, seriously ….

I don’t know a thing about vegetarianism, veganism, or octo-something-or-another.

I need some advice.

*   *   *

So, all you out there:

1. Are there websites for information on vegetarianism?  An association site, maybe?

2.  Recipes?  I am committing to NOT eating Tofu, and getting my protein from other sources, but I need options other than just getting the vegetable children’s platter from Cracker Barrell.

3. Communities?  I am going to need some support for this.


30 While 30: Day 166 – Sweet Interruption…

I feel I owe some kind of explanation to the folks that follow this blog.  While back in June, I would have thought I would have been able to cross off #26 (Blog regularly.), it seems that the months of July and August (at least so far) have been fraught with interruptions.  To be honest, I am into the meat of a lot of these things.  For example:

1. I am in the gym at 500am Monday-Friday, doing a myriad of things.  Having finished Belly-Off Diet, and Turbulence Training, for the last two months, I have been to the YMCA a lot.  I am doing interval weight training on my main days, and on my off-days, doing interval running to train for the races.  Days that I miss my morning routine, I generally am there in the afternoons, with the Family.

2. Weight loss has stagnated at right about 21 pounds.  I would by lying if I told you that wasn’t frustrated with that fact.  I can’t seem to figure it out.  I will admit, I have backslidden a few times in my eating plan, and paid the price, but I can’t figure out what’s going on there.  In leiu of figuring out, I am still pounding the weights and the treadmill, in preparation for my first 5k of the season, in September.

3. I have earnestly begun looking through the notes on my Paw Paw’s book (see #29 Finish my Paw Paw’s Book).  That is going to be a feat.  The story has some promise, but at first, I am working on copying the manuscripts outright.  My Paw Paw didn’t have the most elegant handwriting, so it is taking some time.

4. I am kinda stuck in my most recent book, Drive, by Daniel Pink.  About 1/3 of the way in, I am wondering how many different ways he can say how important activating people’s intrinsic motivation is (For the purposes of personal and business success).  I get it.  It’s just a slow read.

5.  I am prepping for September, which will be the month of no meat (for #24 Go vegetarian for a month.).  A post next week on that … but I think the month of September might just be worse than the half marathon, maybe even harder.

So …. I have been busy.  Busy doing the things on the list, and not so much been able to write much about what I am experiencing.

And then there are the interruptions.

-Two weeks ago, a friend from school passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.  I wrote briefly about him here, but find the words lacking.  What resounds more is the overwhelming understanding of how short and how precious life is.

-On the morning after that event, I traveled to Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, TN to be with my family as my grandmother passed away.  I was honored to speak at her funeral, as I had been as well for her husband, my Paw Paw, just 18 short months ago.

-In my line of work, I don’t often work in the evenings, or on the weekends.  There was surely a season of that in my career, but the occurrences are fewer and farther between.  The last two weeks has seen me working and extra 25 hours or so, due to special duties.  Some weekends, and some early mornings (as I tweeted about this past week).

. . .

So even the best laid plans are sometimes impacted by the gears of life turning.

It is easy to be frustrated with little interruptions in life.

The salesman at the door.

The unexpected traffic.

The phone call that you feel you should have just left for voice mail.

It’s easy to be frustrated by these interruptions, because we always seem to have the most well-laid plans.

Regardless of that, I was reminded by a post from a blogger that I follow, Rachel Held Evans, who shares that in our walks, we should embrace the unexpected moments in life.

You can read the post here.

We should embrace those interruptions because those unexpected moments are often the ones that contain the true purpose of that moment, or of that day.  Not only that, but if you read this and you are a follower of Christ, you also know that Christ often moved from interruption to interruption … and that’s often when he did his best work.  Countless times would he be summoned here or there, and if they couldn’t get Jesus to come to them, they would just bring the interruption to Jesus, even if it meant tearing off a roof, and lowering the interruption right down into Jesus’ lap.

You see, interruptions are at times the lifeblood of what makes life exciting, real, and engaging.  Think about how boring life would be if it all actually went according to plan.

Painful, that boredom.

Well, the fact is that I need to be more accepting of interruptions.  I need to be more open to the possibility that my path may be heading one direction, only to hit a bump and head the other way.  I need to be open to interruptions, lest I miss out on the wonder that today actually holds.

Even if that means the blog doesn’t get posted to, or a goal sets on the side.

Yeah, I said it.

Doesn’t make much sense when this whole year is about accomplishing all these important, amazing, meaningful, or silly things on this list.

Until you realize that it makes perfect sense.

Up until this point in my life, there have been idols, things that have taken the wrong place of importance in my life.  These have been (in no particular order): Work, entertainment, food, laziness, and ambition (and I am for sure I am leaving some out, and I count on my friends to share with me the ones I missed).

If I let this list (for the sake of the list) take up one of those same pedestals, I have missed the point of this entire exercise.

Life is a process, a “going through”.  It is not a checklist.  Granted, I know this seems odd coming from a guy who has openly committed on the internet to complete a list of things while he is 30, but the list was a jumpstart.

The list is me throwing interruptions into my own life.

So, I take no shame if there are gaps on the posting, if I fall off the wagon while dieting and exercising, if I have to walk a little bit on the half-marathon in December.  The story of this blog is not one of a “super-person”, a “biggest loser”, or other sensational story.  This story is the everyman.  The reality that we all face as we look to tomorrow and wonder where yesterday went.

So, tomorrow, I look forward to the interruptions … they are bound to make this story more exciting.

_Thomas


Posts back up on Wednesday –

No, I haven’t gone anywhere. It’s been a hectic weekend, with a death in the family and some extra work duties. All is well, and should be back on schedule on Wednesday!


Goodbye, Mr. Central.

This week, a friend left this world, and traveled to another.

Matt McCurdy, a man who was many things, a father, brother, son, and friend, died in his home, sometime in the morning of August 9th, 2011.  He was 30 years old.  As this post goes live, a celebration of life ceremony is taking place to take joy in all the things in which Matt had a hand in his short time on this earth.

I want to use this simple medium to share what I knew of Matt, and things I think that those that were close to him would appreciate as well.

One of my first experiences with Matt was way back in Elementary school.  Matt and I, along with some other (now old) friends, were members of the same Cub Scout troop.  Even at such a young age, Matt was always full of life and hope.  Always had something funny to say.  Always spoke well of those around him.

We grew up, and to be honest, we probably weren’t the closest of friends in High School.  Regardless, Matt’s character and reputation followed him wherever he went.  This was not a bad thing.  You see, Matt’s character was one of honesty, good nature, dependability, and true joy … which seemed to last in spite of whatever situations surrounded him.  His reputation was one that was never seen finding fault with others, always seemed to have good things to say, and was very rarely (if ever) seen having a laugh at someone else ‘ true expense (he wasn’t one to miss a chance to crack a joke, that was for sure, but the boy was sensitive to who could take it, and who could not).

If this tragedy was the first time that Matt faced death head on, it would be astonishing enough.  But while Wednesday was the day that Matt left this world, it was not the first time he faced the prospect.  While in high school, Matt was involved in a devastating car accident just a mile from his home.  With significant head injuries that needed surgery, there was rumor and conjecture at the school that he might not make it.

Matt was a fighter.  He did make it.  Not only that, but he completed his senior year, and was named “Mr. Central”.

While I am attempting to give his memory honor, let me share with you instead the words captioned on that page:

“Robert Matthew McCurdy is the son of Pam and Johnny Knight. and the late Andy McCurdy.  His birthday is February 11, 1981.  He is the grandson of Robert and Mary Nola McCurdy, and Bill and Ruth Akins.  He has a brother, Butch McCurdy.  Matt is involved in the Calumet – Editor, Honor Choir, FTA, Science Club, Football, Soccer, Track, and Baseball.  He is an Excel Card recipient, coach of the Chiefs football team, an employee of the Catfish House, and was a Homecoming and Sweetheart Escort.  His future goals are to be successful enough to where his kids will have a nice house to live in.”

Well done, Matt.  Well done.

We all lost a brother this week, but rest assured, we will see him again.

May you rest in peace, and not be forgotten.


30 While 30: Day 152 – Are you too old for this?

Just Friday before last, I got to attend my first ever DCI (Drum Corps International) competition.  For those of you unlearned, it’s pretty much the major leagues for marching bands.  The different Corps have their own followings, their own fans, their own T-shirts … their own sponsors.

It’s a big deal.

Now granted, it’s not for everyone.  But for the ones that it is for …. it is the “thing” for them.

The show was amazing.  The music was thrilling, and the formations crisp and precise.  In the process of the evening (because, remember, this is the Major Leauge), the DCI folks had “field-side” reporters interviewing members of the Corps as they completed their performances.  I’ll admit, it was kind of cheezy, until close to the end, one of the color guard (the members that use the flags and rifles in the shows) engaged in this conversation with the reporter (I’m paraphrasing – well, except for the last part)

Reporter:  “So, an awesome show.  What was your favorite part?”

Guard: “Oh, by far, the wobbly-bumps after the dingle dangles” (enter my professional summary).

Reporter: “So, is this your last year?”

Guard: Yeah.  “It is, I age out in November.  I’ve been doing this for a while now, and I can feel it.  I’m getting too old for this.”

I lean in to my friend, and ask “What age do you age out of the Corps?”  He replies:

“22.”

Yeah, you heard that.  22.

This got me thinking (I know, I know … I do think a lot … but seriously…), 22 is too old for something? Well, yeah.  Olympic Gymnasts normally hit their prime age 15-17, heck a lot of Olympians hit their prime by age 30.  It’s not just athletes, either.  How many times did you think to yourself that you were ‘too old’ for something?

To be perfectly honest, when we are telling ourselves we are “too old” for something, we are really saying a myriad of things (not all of which are bad things):

I am too busy for that.

I’m not in shape enough for that.

I have become interested in other things.

That thing is not important to me.

My career goals don’t mesh well with that activity.

I am burnt out from that activity.

That thing was once a joy, now it is a stress.

I want to do something new.

I don’t think I can accomplish that.

You see, whenever we are telling ourselves that we are “too old” (or enter other excuse here), what we are telling ourselves is not that our bodies aren’t capable of the activity (though in some rare instances that is the case), what we are telling ourselves is …

That specific activity, idea, purpose, passion … is not a priority for me.

This isn’t always a bad thing.  Sometimes, we need convincing that certain things in our lives are not benefiting ourselves as much as as they once were, or as much as we desperately want believe them to be benefiting us.  Sometimes, we need the reality check of letting some tasks, ideas, or even dreams go, to make room for what is in store tomorrow.

Sometimes, we need the idea that we are “too old”, to bolster our resolve.  To stop taking the excuses of our physical body, and master whatever it is that we need to master.

So which is it?  Well, if I told you, I would just write a book and become a millionaire.

Just remember, that when you say: “I can’t”,  It always means something, and while you may not be immediately sure what it means, never take that moment of potential insight for granted.


30 While 30: Day 145 – In the most unexpected of places ….

10:15PM, CST

A post at an odd time.  Many of you won’t even see this until the morning.  That’s ok.  This is a bit of a weird post.

That’s ok too.

You see, this was not the post I planned to make.  That one is saved for another day.

You know what else wasn’t planned?

That one of my most popular blog posts was about a little yellow bear, a bit out of his element.

The fact is, that little yellow bear has gotten me more traffic than any other single post on my blog.

Odd, isn’t it?  Also a bit unexpected.

The best things in life are unexpected – because there were no expectations.” – Eli Khamarov

What else is unexpected?

Well, today, of all days, of all times of my wife’s recent encouragement, I picked up my guitar today and played.  Not just played, but played ALOT. … and she isn’t even here, instead is out of town with the boys for a thirty-one party.

Unexpected.

Unexpected is defined as when you hide all the pacifiers from your two year old (when he really only uses one for sleep) and on his second day without one, he waddles downstairs in the morning with nothing else than a paci in his mouth.  Where did that come from?

Unexpected.

Unexpected is putting in your old 4-track CD that you made (in part) for an ex-girlfriend, and iTunes attempts to name the songs … then, somehow … it does … only the titles and composer (not me, by the way, according to iTunes) are in Spanish.  Um …. yeah.

Unexpected.

Unexpected is sometimes is waking up at 30 … or 15 … or 65 … and wondering how you got there and how you might just not be the person you imagined yourself to be all those years earlier.  It is the definition of mid-life crisis.  “Am I today who I thought yesterday I would be today?” … Confusing, I know.  Life can be that way.  Y’know, let me take off some of the burden for you.  Let me share with you who I was going to be at different ages.

Age 8 – In the third grade, we completed these little “life-books” about our interests and what we wanted to be when we grew up.  Me? (and I quote) “I want to be in the Army … and married”.  You must understand that when I was in the third grade, we were going through the first gulf war, patriotism was running high, and being in a military infused community (though my parents were not active duty), made it all more red, white, and blue.  Pictured on the cover, by the way, was an old Game Boy.  Not these new fancy ones … one of the old black and white ones.  Epic.

Age 17 – I was a smart guy.  I mean, in high school, I really didn’t take a book home … ever.  Well, maybe to study for finals.  School just came naturally to me.  I was ranked academically 4th in my graduating class.  Because I was naturally gifted in Math and Science, my Guidance counselor recommended that I go to Tennessee Technological University.  I was going to be an engineer.

Age 18 (6 months into my freshman year at college) – I get a D in Calculus.  Actually, I was sure I had an F.  I knew enough about math to at least do that.  I remember writing my Calculus professor a letter, pleading with him to give me a D, and with a promise to retake the class, seeing as if I made an F, my GPA would fall low enough for me to lose my scholarship paying for my room and board.  An F would have flunked a really smart guy right out of college in his first semester.  I slipped the note under his door after for sure, failing his final exam.  My professor surely showed me grace.  That next semester, I would take a Sociology class.

Age 19 – I would profess in front of my home congregation my desire to go into “full time” ministry.  I was going to be a pastor.  By now, I am leading worship at the Wesley Foundation, and am president of the same organization.  That year, I would fly to a conference in Dallas Texas for up and coming students with the “call to ministry”.  At 19 I was serious about marrying a girl attending school 4 hours from me.

Age 20 – I would apply to Southwestern Theological University … and be accepted.  I would travel with my then girlfriend (who was a keeper, and ended up being my wife) and actually visit the campus in Dallas.  That same year, I would turn down that acceptance.  That year, I would come to a crisis of thought.  I would beat myself up, thinking I was “going back on God” that I was “lying to myself”.  The decision was made, that the path to pastoral care was not where my talents would be best be used.  I would take a job at 21 with the Department of Children’s Services.  This is where my path would begin as a life of caring for the “least of these”.

Age 21 – I would apply to graduate school for counseling.  I would begin a job (at Youth Villages) that for the next three years would do two things: 1) Teach me more things in that short time than I have learned since about counseling, managing people, marketing, clinical supervision, and agency politics and 2) What my limits as an employee, a husband … and within that time, a father, were.  At age 24, I would be one of the youngest (maybe the actual youngest) person within the company to be a Regional Supervisor, being responsible for the implementation of our program over a 15 county area, supervising between 9-12 therapists and 2-3 clinical supervisors in my time.  But that job was not for me.

Unexpected.

Unexpected that today, I am a licensed professional counselor, working with children and families of active duty Army Service Members, that I continue to aspire to work and help those whose only church they might visit is my office (which doesn’t have a steeple, by the way), that I am married to an amazing woman and have the most amazing two boys.

Not to be too cryptic ….

but how unexpected is it that where I am “supposed to be” is right where I am right now?

This week, I encourage all of you, take joy in today.

Yesterday brought you to today, and tomorrow will be cast forward out of it.  What you do in the middle makes all the difference.

And sometimes you don’t know what that difference will be until many, many todays later.